We had the chance to meet Dan Briggs, known as the bassist in Between The Buried And Me and Trioscapes, as well as his new project Nova Collective with Richard Henshall of Haken! We met in Amsterdam at Melkweg, some hours before the last show of their tour was about to start. Our writer Tyler Caldas also got the chance to shoot Dan some questions via mail. Talking about how Nova Collective came together, Dan also gave us an insight in his normal everyday life routine, as well as how he discovers music!
It Djents: Hey Dan, how are you doing? It’s March 10th today, which means release day for Nova Collective’s debut The Further Side. How do you feel about this?
Dan Briggs: It is, I know! I feel very excited. These things take a little bit longer sometimes… The time we start sharing musical ideas until recording it and the time it comes out… Because of the schedule that Rich has in Haken and I have in Between The Buried And Me! It just worked out that we recorded it beginning last year and it’s coming out now. It’s exciting, it really is!
ID: When did you first come up with the idea for Nova Collective?
DB: I guess it was a year before, right around fall when we have been writing Coma Ecliptic. Rich and I were writing each other and I was creative and excited because of writing the new BTBAM record. He sent me a couple of small ideas and we just got this going.
ID: What was your inspiration for deciding to move forward with a project like Nova Collective, and in what ways did the conception of this project differ in comparison to BTBAM or Trioscapes? (Tyler Caldas)
DB: The opportunity to create something with Richard was really exciting, I had been listening to the Haken album The Mountain pretty much on solid repeat for a little while and knowing he was kind of the main composer in the group at that time I knew we had a lot in common and that we could do something really interesting. I had no idea that it would turn into the thing it did with the addition of Matt and Pete, it still totally blows me away. Those dudes are just total monsters! The conception wasn’t much different, they’re kind of all bringing some people who know each other together with some people who don’t, but there’s the tie that binds and makes for an exciting creative endeavor. With Trioscapes I knew Matt and Walter, but they didn’t know each other; with Nova I knew Matt, had just met Rich via email and Rich knew Pete haha, so through me being like ‘Matt is the dude’ to Rich and him being like ‘Pete is the dude’ we had a lot of trust.
ID: And tell me, how long did you actually work on this record?
DB: Rich and I wrote I think two songs (“Cascade“ and “Dancing Machines“) right near at the end when we’ve been writing Coma Ecliptic. This was awesome, but I got bumped in breaks, because I gotta finish this BTBAM record.. he was cool with that. Then we got it going probably around March. I think March 25th to April/May we finished the record. Just sharing files and working on it, we weren’t under any pressure or studio time that we had to get. We finished it in spring and recorded it the beginning of the next year.
ID: So did you write in person, or was it only online?
DB: We wrote the record in constantly sharing ideas. The americans know each other: me and Matt, and Rich and Pete know each other, two British guys. I didn’t meet Rich until BTBAM and Haken toured together in 2015. that was crazy because we wrote a record together and then we met each other and thankfully we liked each other,, haha! He’s a very cool guy and I met Pete on that tour, he is great as well! It was so fun to be able to be in the studio together for like 10 days, for us to hang out, to see we are getting along. Obviously we have a very creative chemistry.
ID: The style of music on The Further Side – and oftentimes in Trioscapes music as well – seems to explore complex music in a structure uniquely distinct from a traditional metal approach. What is the writing process like for this kind of music, and how does it compare to work on BTBAM? (Tyler Caldas)
DB: Well, for the Nova record it was all done by sharing Reason files, they made it incredibly easy for us getting everyone set up on the same software and we could send files back and forth from the US to the UK and dig in with ease. Songs usually started with an intro and verse, getting a vibe and going from there; sitting on it and feeling out if anything felt weird or needed to be shaped a little differently. Really it was all capturing a burst at a moment in time which I love, that’s more my approach writing for the last few years and I love it. The song “The Further Side” was a piece Pete came in with that was a solo piano piece, almost more in classical structure, so I printed out the score and boxed sections and labeled them ‘verse’, ‘ELP groove’, ‘Gershwin finale’ etc. and then went about arranging it in a way that felt more like the songs we had been writing up to that point and adding in a little funky groove and then everyone working their parts around the piano and that was a really fun way to approach writing a tune.
ID: So as the name is Nova Collective, are you thinking about getting more musicians involved in this project?
DB: That could be interesting. When we first started writing, we actually had written some horn parts. We aren’t limiting ourselves and we dont really know what we are doing, just writing music and having fun. I think that could be fun. But in the media it’s important for us to get us out as a four piece, the ‘Nova four’ it is for now.
ID: Have you ever thought about adding some vocals to your music?
DB: Nooo, i think if we did… I don’t know and can’t really imagine what it could be when adding some. But i think it wouldn’t be in a normal lyrical sense. It might be more like mimicking, like Indian music. Takatakakatakakata.
ID: That sounds like an interesting aspect! Are you also thinking about touring with this band or is it like only a studio project?
DB: We would love to play live for sure! We posted a video of us playing “Dancing Manchines“ in the studio. It was fun for sure, getting together to play it. The plan right now is; when we have free time in our schedules to get together and just do it. We are hopefully able to do it this fall. We are throwing our name arround and trying to spread the word. And if any tour appears to need an opening act, we could just jump on!
ID: So we can also expect more music coming from Nova Collective?
DB: Oh totally! There is a very exciting creative energy. I think for me everything I have going on, it fits like a cool space in my musical world, and there is a lot of room to grow. I would like to be ale to write together tho, that would be fun.
ID: So Dan, tell me, what are you doing, when not doing something music related?
DB: When I am at home, I kinda fall into routine pretty easily. Wake up, take the dog outside, start coffee, breakfast, watch sports news and do emails and stuff. Then I usualy end up in my office, listening back to what I was working on the day before. Doing some light improvisation, and having fun. And especially now there is no pressure in writing music, it’s just a break after two years of touring on the Coma Ecliptic record. Six weeks away over here. My girlfriend is big into yoga and she works as an instructor. We do yoga together in the house, which is fun, and I have done zero yoga since being on tour, haha. That’s kinda nice, and it’s also spring time in North Carolina, early spring. So we are gonna get the garden going – I just bought a house in August, so we are trying to see where the best spot is for sunlight, once the trees are fully in bloom.
ID: That sounds lovely! I remember you keep posting your top records year to year. Once it has been Steven Wilson’s The Raven That Refused To Sing. That time I wasn’t into him, but checked it out and liked it!
DB: That’s a deep dark hole you gotta end! You just discover Porcupine Tree then. I guess I found out about him years ago, maybe around 1999 2000 because he worked on Blackwater Park with Opeth – he produced and mixed it and also sings on it a little. Everytime I listened to it I was like ‘who is that voice’ and so I got into Porcupine Tree etc.! We got to play with him at a festival in Barcelona last summer, at Be Prog My Friend. Absolutely incredible, mind-blowing, so cool! Because the space is outdoors, it’s in a kind of boxed in courtyard, it was gorgeous, so cool!
ID: As we already scribed it, do you have a favourite record?
DB: Ever? That’s hard! I get asked, every year…I feel like to do some sort of my all time fav records I always kinda change it into the now. To what I am listening to at the moment. Right now I am really digging this American trumpet player, Christian Scott. I like him a lot he is doing some neat stuff. I like the Donny McCaslin record. That shit is really cool, new jazz stuff, they were like Bowie‘s band on the Blackstar record. I love this David Torn album, Cloud About Mercury, he is just a really cool guitarist, within New York jazz, like avantgarde scene. And it’s such a cool record from 1986 or something. I am just always digging backwards. There is always some new stuff that excites and interests me, but I am still digging back through these records like: You think you’ve heard everything from the 80s. Then you discover something and you think ‘I had no idea that this was even here!’ What I love to do for years, is the website allmusic.com, it’s like the imdb for music.
ID: So that’s how you discover music?
DB: Yeah, you go on and type in a record, drummer or some guy, you click on that one and read and you click on that one, who produced it, etc.! Before you know it 2 hours have passed by. I also do this on Youtube, read something on Wikipedia and checking out the record…. oh shit there is even a live record! That’s fun now. I am in a sponge mode, trying to soak up everything I can hear. Every fun and weird thing, cause we work on new BTBAM material, and Trioscapes is definitely writing a new record this summer, hopefully. It’s a great time to hear new sounds!
ID: That sounds interesting! But could you even imagine a life without music?
DB: That’s hard, I think I would still have a creative mind and make something, even if it was like furniture or home renovation, or maybe cooking. I enjoy cooking. It’s hard to say though, I don’t know, that’s like everything for me. Maybe I’d be a professional baseball player, haha!
ID: And what do you personally prefer, the studio time or the live shows?
DB: I like a balance. I like being at home and writing music, the studio’s fun, as it’s fun to see that the thing come to live. To hear the recordings mixed, like polished and done. But after being home so long, it’s fun to be on the road again. I have a balance in the livething, playing at the Melkweg with BTBAM, big shows, but then you are playing on a coffee shop with Trioscapes, which is something small and intimate. Where the barriers are kinda broken, there is no divider between crowd and group. That’s a totally different vibe and I like that, I enjoy both of these. So another reason I am so excited to get Nova Collective off the ground for sure!
ID: Is there something that you really miss while being on the road for six weeks?
DB: Well, girlfriend, dog, cooking… I miss my fav Chinese restaurant ‘Golden Wok’. I miss my routines I was talking about. Waking up, coffee, emails, sports news, I love that shit. I can’t watch the real news, ’cause its fucking weird in America, so I wanna watch sports news, that’s it! I am excited to get home and watch basketball and baseball. The season’s starting. Sports and 80s jazz records, that’s all!
ID: And is there anything that you love most on tour, that is like an essential for you?
DB: Probably the phone! We have these data plans and can have unlimited data for like 10 bucks a day! That’s sooo worth it when being over here. You can keep in touch to your home, telling them that you are alive, but also stuff like when being into a foreign city. We’ve been here (Amsterdam) like a million times, so we know where to go and what’s around. And coffee is very important to us, our guitarist roasts coffee, so it’s nice for us to travel and try local coffee places, that is exciting for us. Also three of us are vegan and so we are looking for good restaurants that are around and I love record shopping. So I am always going to town, getting a coffee, I look for food, records and bookstores. Bookstores in Europe are a little tricky if you only speak English. You only read english, but it’s fun. I went to a cool German bookstore in Berlin that was all sci-fi, and they had some english stuff. But they had those collections of sci-fi books from the 60s, and the artwork was so cool…. I was trying to justify buying a couple of them only based on the artwork, because obviously I couldn’t read German, haha.
This is the first part of our interview with Dan Briggs, speaking about Nova Collective as well as his life as a musician. Make sure to not miss part two, where he is talking about Between The Buried And Me and their tour with Devin Townsend Project and Leprous!