Prog-metal heroes Between The Buried And Me have experienced something of a renaissance of late, with last year's epic rock opera Coma Ecliptic pushing the band further than ever before. Similarly, guitarist Dustie Waring's playing is undergoing a somewhat transitional phase.
"I find myself really focusing on dynamics and taste more than shredding lately," he admits. "I'd rather hit eight or 10 of the 'right notes' than 1,500 pointless ones. I find that lots of country players have it figured out!"
The North Carolina native certainly knows what he's talking about. Since joining BTBAM back in 2005, Dustie has been an integral part of the band's ceaseless sonic shape-shifting, and his hometown playing background goes some way to explaining that versatility.
I've purposely put lots of effort into being comfortable in many different styles of music
"I've purposely put lots of effort into being comfortable in many different styles of music," he explains.
"I come from a town full of incredible musicians and graduates from the school of the arts, so I get to practise my improv skills and just absorb lots of different styles. It's been helpful. I'd say I'm well-versed at this point."
Case in point is BTBAM's 2006 covers album, The Anatomy Of, which found the band reimagining tunes from Metallica and Soundgarden to Depeche Mode and Counting Crows - getting into the mindset of so many different guitarists wasn't a problem for Dustie, but his taste in music has certainly changed since then.
"Lots of thought went into the list of artists we chose, so I think we were ready for it," he recalls. "I'm sure we'd heard those songs and air guitar'd all the parts a million times by the time we chose to record them."
We have all grown so much and really settled into our own stylesâ¦ we are a different band nowadays
"It was a cool experience, but I kind of wish we had done it later in our career, because we have all grown so much and really settled into our own styles, and it may have been way different and better, in my opinion. We are a different band nowadays."
Whatever lies ahead musically, BTBAM are set to headline the Sunday night at the UK's premier tech-metal festival, Tech-Fest, and they're bringing an appropriately intricate live show.
"There's lots of stuff going on!" Dustie exclaims. "We try to execute our recorded material as perfectly as we can, so you can really absorb all the elements and layers that you may not hear on the recordings.
"We're all about our live sound, not a ton of samples and tracks going on: just dudes playing instruments."
As well as his DiMarzio and Floyd Rose-loaded signature PRS, you'll find Dustie perfecting his playing in front of few new toys on stage, too.
"I'm using the Fractal Axe-Fx II XL+ through a Mesa/Boogie 2:90 power amp," he reveals.
"We also use the amazing Port City Wave cabs, so we've got about the best setup we could have for convenience and tone."
We're all about our live sound, not a ton of samples and tracks going on: just dudes playing instruments
That said, one valve amp in particular has impressed him lately - and it comes courtesy of one John Petrucciâ¦
"I'm pretty fired up to own a new Mesa JP-2C head as well," Dustie enthuses. "I did a demo video with one recently and was completely floored!"
Besides playing to an enthusiastic crowd, Dustie's looking forward to Tech-Fest for one other reason: it gives him the opportunity to embrace an old touring mate or two.
"Animals as Leaders are some of our best friends and we've toured the world together," he says, "so I hope I get to see them and give them big hugs."
Between The Buried And Me headline Tech-Fest on Sunday 10 July - tickets are available now.