It’s obvious, isn’t it? It’s certainly nothing you didn’t know before, anyway.
A guy from a band releases his second solo album and he talks about how he was more focused this time round. He talks about how he learnt a lot during his first foray into writing songs alone and how he’s used that experience to make this album a better version. He talks about how it’s different without his bandmates around. Simpler, perhaps. When we speak to Tommy Giles Rogers Jr. of Between The Buried And Me from his home in Los Angeles, he says all of these things. Now, to get him to elaborate…
The topic of conversation is Modern Noise, his second solo album under the moniker Thomas Giles. Anyone who has heard his 2011 debut solo album Pulse will know that it’s an excellent slice of experimental rock, but this follow-up is so much better. Modern Noise is more well‑rounded and comfortable, an album of incredible variety. On the music alone, it looks like all those statements he made earlier are already proven to be true.
“I wrote most of this record on the road with Between The Buried And Me and it was my schedule every day to wake up, get ready and start writing, and sometimes even after the show,” he explains, before telling us how every song on the album has its own style. “Every day you’re surrounded by something different and every day your mindset is different.”
The heaviest track on the album, Siphon The Bad Blood, was written in an opposite fashion to anything with BTBAM. Instead of five insanely talented musicians throwing their tuppence into the metal melting pot, it’s just Rogers and a couple of riffs.
“I spent a lot of time in the studio with [producer] Jamie King just getting what needs to happen in that song as far as tone and background vocals. That was a conscious decision to take a bare-bones song and raise it to this level,” he explains. “I tried to really focus on melody with this and just write good, simple rock songs. That was the goal. Not too over-thought, not too technical, just listenable.”
It’s something he’s achieved. The styles veer from classic and hard rock to blues, with even some electronica and plenty of spacey vibes.
Rogers has certainly worked hard on the album, writing and recording everything bar the drums, bringing in BTBAM’s first drummer, Will Goodyear, for that. There’s also one solitary guitar solo from current BTBAM member Paul Waggoner. Rogers’ day job of Between The Buried And Me is still a major influence on his solo work – they are one of the premier progressive metal bands of their generation, after all – but one thing that’s completely absent here is screaming, and it’s something the singer is very conscious of.
“That’s been a constant struggle since I started screaming in hardcore and metal bands as a teenager. I didn’t know how to sing at all. At all!” he freely admits. “It’s something I definitely wasn’t born with, but then in BTBAM it’s something we incorporated a lot of into our songs and then, slowly, I just became a stronger vocalist and more in touch with how my voice works. With these solo records I do like to focus more on the singing aspect than the screaming. It fits the songs and I’m a strong believer in doing what’s right to fit the song.”
Rogers is currently back in the studio with BTBAM, writing the band’s seventh album, the follow-up to 2012’s concept album The Parallax II: Future Sequence. Bassist Dan Briggs has spoken about writing a rock opera in the past and band photos taken in the studio have been posted to social media and humorously tagged with #rockopera, but the reality is slightly less bombastic.
“I don’t really even know what a rock opera is, first of all!” Rogers laughs. “The things that the band and I do can be very big and theatrical but in my mind we’re just writing songs.”
With regard to how the writing is going, he reveals: “It’s very different. I know we always say that, but I feel like this is the biggest stylistic jump since the Alaska to Colors transition, but I don’t think it’s that drastic. It’s not as in-your-face, as brutal. It still sounds like us – a natural evolution of us. I think our fans will really enjoy it – it’s the things we enjoy the most about our band, but more.”
You may have gathered by now that Rogers is quite a busy man. Right now he’s shut himself off from all extracurricular musical activities in order to concentrate on the new album with his band, but back in 2013 he even scored a movie with an hour-long piece of music.
“It’s been on the back-burner as far as releasing the movie goes – I’m hoping to release the music for it next year,” he explains. “You have this other person and it’s their say and that’s hard to get used to. I’d spend four hours on a piece and send it to him and he’ll say it doesn’t really work.
“I’ve never worked on anything like that before – writing music for something visual. You just have to step back and think outside what you always do. Starting a song is so much more different because you have visuals and a mood you need to create. As a person in a band, you want to write something that grabs someone’s attention – a big song – but this you need to be in the background. You don’t want to take away from what’s happening in the picture. It’s still very me in that it’s odd and very, very dark. It’s a lot of different moods but it’s instrumental.”
Rogers talks about how much he learnt creating the soundtrack, but he also says that the score was the most work he’s ever put into a project – it was genuinely outside his comfort zone. He talks of his admiration for the likes of Mike Patton and Trent Reznor, who have come from a band background to be acclaimed composers of film scores. He also says that, like Modern Noise, he wrote much of the score while touring. The reason? He has a child, and working from home is much more difficult with that particular distraction.
Rogers’ solo album embraces fatherhood in its own way, though. The final moments of M3 has the sound of a child’s burbling and gurgling – his child. The next song’s title is an unpronounceable jumble of letters and symbols_ _that Rogers’ son wrote on his phone. As it turns out, his son was just as much of an influence on the music as his band.
“I knew I wanted to write a song for him and I wanted to write something that he could look at down the road and be appreciative of,” Rogers explains. “A lot of the record is influenced by him, for sure, but that one is for him. There’s The Devil Net which is about the fear of him getting older and going to school and having to deal with psychopaths in the world – paranoia as a parent. Those things don’t cross your mind until you have a kid.”
Is this increased productivity a direct result of fatherhood? Does he feel extra pressure to succeed now?
“I think it makes you get better at every aspect of yourself,” he says. “It’s definitely at the back of my mind that the more I do, the more I build the brand of my name, and hopefully that’ll make me more financially stable. The fact that I get to do this as a job is a blessing, but I’m 33 and this isn’t a hobby any more. I have another life to support so I have to be better at what I do.
“What we do as musicians now lasts a lot longer than we actually do,” Rogers adds. “This record is my modern noise. It’s what I’m doing while I’m here on earth. It’s my legacy.”
Modern Noise is out now via Metal Blade. For more information, see http://www.thomasgilesmusic.com.