I had the pleasure of catching up with Dan Briggs for an interview about his new experimental jazz/fusion band Trioscapes.
Hi Dan and thank you for taking the time out to fill in this email interview for Planetmosh.com. Can you explain why you picked the name Trioscapes and what does it stand for?
Naming the group was a little weird because it really felt like it was going to be a one off thing. It could have been “The Dan Briggs Trio”, “Briggs/Fancourt/Lynch”..one show, so who cares?! But, then it became obvious it was going to be something more than that so a real name had to happen. Trioscapes I view two ways; one that it kind of symbolizes the music and the soundscapes that we can create with only three people. We’re all used to playing in bigger groups, so it was real important from the get go to really showcase what we could do with three people, a looping pedal, and a percussion midi pad. And two, I see it also symbolizing an escape for the three of us. This is different territory for all three of us and something I’m sure none of us imagined we’d be doing.
I had been a fan of Matt’s drumming for years and knew he had gone to school for music and could pick things up quickly (we had about a month to get a set together before our first show), and Walter I had some brief encounters with, always talking about music and fusion and movies and whatnot. I had the summer off and it was just the right time to get my creative juices flowing.
How would you describe the band?
It’s a fun mix of whatever is going through our minds at that time. We have a lot of progressive rock and fusion influence, but I think what we stumbled on is something kind of fresh and different.
What are your musical influences?
I”m all over the place…two of my favorite composers are Danny Elfman (early Oingo Boingo era especially) and Freddie Mercury. Just as much as I love those artists I also love Frank Zappa and King Crimson. Some of my favorite classical composers are Bela Bartok, Giovanni Bottesini, and Modest Mussorgsky.
What equipment do you use?
With Trioscapes I use Spector Euro 5lx basses, as opposed to the Spector 2000/5 basses I use with Between the Buried and Me. I have the same Sunn 300-t amplifier that I’ve used on everything I’ve done since 2005 and an Ampeg 8×10. For pedals, I have a Boss RC-20xl Loop Station, Line 6 DL4 delay, Boss TR-2 tremelo, Boss PS-5 super shifter, Boss DD-3 delay, Electro-Harmonix Micro Synth, and a modded Ibanez TS9DX Turbo Tube Screamer.
What kind of response did you get from your Between the Buried and Me fans about starting an experimental jazz/fusion band?
The reaction’s been great so far. BTBAM’s an experimental band as well and I think the fans like a bit of that “anything goes” musical approach. That mixed with the fact that both bands have a solid foundation in technical playing and whatnot, that’s a pretty easy thing to realize and get into.
Any particular gig story or memorable experience you would like to share?
Each show thus far has all been a learning experience and a step closer to feeling completely comfortable playing live with this group. Every show is super fun and a bit of a blur haha. Get back to me a year from now…
What was the inspiration to record this instrumental album?
Well, we had 40 minutes worth of music…seemed like it was time to make a record! It didn’t feel like we needed anymore, we just wanted to capture our writing sessions from over the summer. The whole time I was in Europe in September I was getting so antsy to get home and record, I don’t think I could have waited longer to write more music haha.
This was the first tune I worked on with Walter and Matt. I had the whole thing laid out, and then Matt played me this wild beat that he wrote that we turned into the post-solo section outro. I love this tune, it’s really a little bit of everything we do.
The monster of the album…we’ve played this song first at all of our shows so far, the beginning is very ominous when the sitar like drone starts and then the meandering bass lead, you really have no idea what’s about to happen. It’s funny because the whole song stemmed from two small melody lines that Walter played for me that were in an E gypsy scale. Just based off hearing those notes in two different melodies I went nuts and wrote a whole ton of stuff and we had fun arranging it. Matt uses his midi percussion pads to play some xylaphone in this song, very awesome. Crazy high energy tune to play live, I don’t think I breathe until the solo section and not again until the song’s over with.
Curse of the Ninth
This song is a nice change of pace live, it’s pretty chill for the most part. The middle section gets a bit wacky…It’s probably easy to tell that this was a bass tune from the get go. I came in with the composition all put together and had fun working on the loops in the beginning and the end. Matt did some amazing drum work on this song, one of my favorites in that regard. The end of the song showcases the side of his style that I first fell in love with in his old band Eyris, just super solid tasty beats. I had no idea what a maniac he was until we started jamming haha.
One of the last songs we put together. I had a blast writing this song with the guys. The intro melody I wrote on fretless bass, the only thing I thought of going into this song was that it would be great to write a song in Bflat, which is what Walter’s horn is naturally tuned to. From there it was very wide open. Matt does great midi pad drumming with tablas and congas and what not in the verse. The song also has our one “jazz” moment where it comes down and we swing it out for a second. That happened naturally but in looking back now was kind of poking at all the people saying “oh you have saxophone, you must be in a jazz group!”. We play that part and then all hell breaks loose and there’s just a fucking freakout. I love that balance, I’d say it’s our “Naked City” influence.
Celestial Terrestrial Commuters
This is the tune that brough us together, the Mahavishnu Orchestra classic. We painstakingly learned the head of the tune, and I learned Jan Hamer’s keyboard solo verbatim, and from there we knew we wanted to add a bridge to it or do something. The whole bridge section came out of just jamming the song for hours at the rehearsal space. I love the way it turned out, I can listen to our version and not even think of it as a cover song, we definitely went out of our way to make it our own even though we still retain all the parts from the original recording….just slightly rearranged. John Mclaughlin would probably not approve at all haha.
A tip of the cap to 80’s King Crimson. “Discipline” is a VERY important record to me. If you take that away, you have to remove a lot from the BTBAM catalogue haha. Selkies” wouldn’t have happened, that’s for sure. Anyways, I built the bass loop at home and looped it with a simple whammy lead over top of it and let it run for about a half hour. My room mate came home and I was just completely spaced out with this loop going on. I knew it would be something, I just didnt know what. Walter had the great bridge section written and from there it was just a bunch of jamming and seeing what felt right. I’m not even sure if we talked about it being a flute piece, it just seemed assumed that’s what would happen. More great electronic tabla playing by Matt. I love this song and I’m so excited to finally play it live.
What are the plans for the rest of this year?
Touring! We’re working on a bunch of different things right now. I basically want to be busy nonstop this year between BTBAM and Trioscapes. It’s going to be so much fun; I know the guys are excited too. New music will happen eventually, little bits are written already. But for now, it’s just all about pushing “Separate Realities” as hard as we can. It comes out May 8th and I’m so excited for everyone to finally hear it.
Some random Q’s! Your favorite..
Cartoon character – Archer
Food –Sesame Tofu/Chana Masala…not together though!
Drink – Chocolate Silk (our soy milk brand for those non Americans out there)
Movie – The Godfather is up there. But so is Karate Kid and the first X-files movie of course.
What is your all time favorite song or album? Oh jesus…”Scenes From a Memory” is a very important record to me. I’ll just leave it at that.
Last song you heard – “Secret Harbour” by my talented friend and UK musician Becca Cole (aka Becca de la Musique)
If you could be your own superhero what name/ alias would you use and what special power would you have? – Dingus Dan….inside BTBAM joke. I’m sure my super power would be talking about baseball and progressive rock to anyone that would listen. It kills conversations very fast haha.
Are there any messages that you would like to pass on to the readers?
Thanks for the interest in Trioscapes! The UK has been great to BTBAM and I’d expected nothing less from everyone over there. Trioscapes will get over there before long, no worries!
Thank you Dan.