UK’s TesseracT are proof perseverance pays off. A revolving door of singers, the band now appears locked in and settled. Having released new sophomore album, ‘Altered State’ recently, Killyourstereo.com chatted with guitarist James Monteith about the full-length, recruiting a new vocalist and plans for the year ahead.
Hi James, how are you?
I’m very good thanks, how are you doing?
Not too bad thanks. Appreciate you doing the interview, which is tonight for us here, but I’m assuming afternoon over there for you?
Morning actually, 11am (laughs).
Personally, how are you feeling, big period for the band with the album coming out?
It has come around really quickly. The album was actually finished at the end of January. And, having a release date in May it seemed like forever – but time has flown and here we are. It is really exciting. It has been really great that people seem to like it too.
Just on how you were saying everyone seems to like it. You had the album stream on YouTube and now since listening to the physical copy, I’ve really enjoyed it too. I was wondering as a musician, how much notice do you actively take of the response to it?
I think it’s quite hard not to notice [responses] in this modern age of social media. I guess you can make any effort to not read comments, but it’s quite difficult not to (laughs). I think we do pay attention. Obviously bad comments we don’t take personally. I think just by the nature of today’s world it’s hard not to take notice.
Obviously this album being the sophomore release and it being the second time around, you’re probably a bit more experienced having the debut album under the belt. What was the difference between writing and recording ‘Altered State’ as opposed to ‘One’?
With the debut album I guess the band had been in existence for seven years by the time that was finished. I guess the debut album was like the best bits of the first part of the band’s existence. This album, the writing process was a lot quicker because it had to be. Unfortunately, one of the problems we had this time is we didn’t have as much chance to jam live and work stuff out. With the older stuff, Acle [Kahney, guitars] produced demos and took them to the rehearsal room, and we jammed them out as a band then put them back onto the computer. Whereas ‘Altered State’ was pretty much written and recorded, and finished entirely on computer. That’s probably the major difference.
Like you were just saying, there are probably pros and cons to it. With the first album you said you had been sitting on it for about seven years and working on it, whereas this one it has been just under two years. How much did you feel you benefited this time from the fact that it was a bit quicker in terms of writing and recording?
I think the album benefited. I don’t know if we did? There was quite a lot to do in such a short period of time (laughs). I think the album as a result, to us, it feels like an actual album from start to finish. Every track works very well. Whereas, the first album was a mixture of different periods in the band.
Also, another thing in terms of the mindset with this one, the first one was so well-received and this time you’ve probably got a larger fan base and a lot more listeners eager to hear it, how much pressure did you feel when it came time to record this album?
I think the pressure wasn’t so much about worrying about what people think. There was definitely a pressure to do something we were happy with. I think musically, we were confident with the output, but I guess the real pressure was trying to find a suitable vocalist – that was very difficult. Obviously though we found Ashe [O’Hara] and he did incredibly well. Once that came together we just got on with it.
That was going to be one of my questions later. I remember when you got Ashe into the band you posted a statement on Facebook saying how you took a bit longer this time because you’ve gone through a few vocalists so you really wanted to get it right. Tell us how the decision came about.
It came through a number of routes actually. Partly through a few recommendations from people we know saying, “Check out this guy, he is really good.” Acle actually got in touch with him [Ashe] directly and asked if he would be up to do an audition, and it turned out Ashe was also really into the band. So, he jumped at the chance, which was great. We actually started out with auditions. The audition was pretty much just a cover of one of our tracks and his first audition was great. So we sent Ashe a piece of unheard material, so we could test his writing ability and he essentially wrote the song ‘Nocturne’, and sent it back to us – so we essentially had to give him the job (laughs).
You’ve been down to Australia once before with Periphery. I remember those shows were really good. What were your highlights?
It was amazing. It was a bit of a whirlwind because we came to Australia for just three days, which is a bit insane considering how far away it is (laughs). It was the first time many of us had ever been. For a start, all the shows were amazing. The crowds were great and it was good playing with Periphery again. But also, I think it was really exciting being in Australia. Even though we were only there for three days, we managed to squeeze in a bit of tourism. We saw the Sydney Opera House and stuff like that. I think the whole experience was amazing. I wish we could’ve stayed for longer. Fingers crossed we’ll get to come back soon and get to see more of the place.
And speaking of that, are there plans in the works to do more extensive touring in Australia later this year or early next?
I really hope so. At the moment we haven’t been told anything, but they know we are keen to go back. Doing those [previous] dates was actually meant to be a warm-up for us coming back and doing something bigger the following year, but then our singer [Daniel Tompkins] left and we lost momentum, and nothing came of that particular opportunity. But I think, depending on how the album is received in Australia, we’ll be able to come back next year. But, we don’t know yet.
In terms of Australian music, are there any Aussie bands you really dig?
It was the first time I saw Twelve Foot Ninja actually [when we came to Australia]. They played at the Melbourne show and they were amazing. I’ve gotten into them ever since. There are loads of Australian bands we like. Karnivool are an obvious one. I can’t wait for their new album, which comes out later this year I think.
Yeah, everyone is definitely keen for that one here.
Dead Letter Circus are really great. Also a band called Circles. There is loads of good stuff. Australia seems to be producing a lot of the really good melodic and proggy bands, which fits with what we are doing. It’s another reason for us to come to Australia (laughs).
Absolutely. I think all those bands would be a perfect fit on a line-up with you guys.
You are renowned for having polyrhythms and odd-time signatures. I know you don’t consciously go out of your way to make it as complex as possible, but when it does come time to play these new songs live, how hard is it in terms of playing attention and locking it all in?
It’s not really that much harder [to be honest]. I think basically we’ve trained ourselves for it to be second nature. Quite a lot of the patterns we play aren’t’ necessarily odd-time signatures, they are just odd-phrases, put together in slightly odd ways. I remember when I first joined the band I found it a real nightmare (laughs). I’ve gotten quite used to it all and it has become second nature. It is just a case of learning [the songs] and relying on your brain to recall it when the time comes (laughs).
The fact that you say it is probably a bit more easier to grasp, just generally in itself you probably don’t have the repetition of playing them regularly yet, is that a stretch too – getting familiar with the new songs in a live setting?
I think some stuff it is and some stuff it isn’t. I think it’s not necessarily the stuff with weird timing, it is more with the grooves that are quite odd. I think playing the actual parts on our own is the easy bit. It’s locking in together and making it sound the best it can, that’s the tougher bit. There are definitely some new songs where we have to concentrate a bit more to make sure we are locking in with one another. But, that just comes down to practice. With more touring that should eventually become second nature.
What is touring life like for a band like TesseracT?
It’s quite tame. Quite laid back. The last few tours have been pretty good fun. We are not particularly mental (laughs). We have our moments where we like to party a little bit, but we are no Guns N Roses (laughs). We are generally just laid back people, so we just get the job done and enjoy ourselves. A few of us work day jobs as well, which we can do remotely…quite often actually. In the day time there’s lots of working. It’s like a work hard, play hard, chilled out environment (laughs).
That’s interesting point you bring up. A lot of musicians even in this day and age make the remark you need your day jobs to survive as a band. How hard is it being a full-time band, but also having those jobs?
It is definitely time consuming. It’s essentially like holding down two jobs at the same time. But, if you’re lucky enough to find a job where you can work remotely and work from home or work 20 hours then it is a lot easier because you can manage your time. I think it’s particular difficult if people have to go into an office or into a place of work for eight hours a day, Monday to Friday. I think that’s next to impossible. So if you can find jobs that’s flexible [it makes it easier]. It’s difficult holding down two jobs, but it’s definitely manageable.
Were there any final words you wanted to pass onto readers before I let you go?
If it’s your first time reading or hearing about TesseracT please check out the album. I hope you like it and if you do tell your record label you want us to come over to Australia because we are desperate to come.
Well put. Like I said I really dig the new album and equally hope to have you back in Australia soon. Really appreciate the chat today James.
No problem. I appreciate you wanting to chat with us and help promote the band, it’s great. Thank you very much.