With a new album and Australian tour just around the corner, TesseracT are finishing 2015 strongly. Bassist Amos Williams sat down to talk to us about his musical influences, his favourite time signatures and all things prog.
What have you been up to in your time off, Amos?
Oh, there is no such thing as time off. It doesn’t exist. You do things in front of the scenes like touring and recording. But behind the scenes you do a bunch of stuff as well, like film and videos to release online, like we did today with some play throughs, and a bunch of other stuff. Even filling out tax forms! Visa applications and things like that. It’s a constant job.
Do you enjoy those jobs?
I enjoy the fact that they get done, because it would be quite terrible to turn up one day and find that tax forms were not done, for example. I enjoy the fact that I can work with peace of mind. You don’t know to do these things until you become a little more successful, and then people start come knocking on your door.
Is that paperwork stuff, behind the scenes, the kind of thing you prepared for when you started the band, especially after playing in front of thousands of people on tours?
It’s a tough transition because you don’t think that you have to do those things. It’s not just a case of getting on the plane and travelling. It’s quite a bit more difficult in terms of logistics. As long as you get your head around it quickly, you’re fine. It’s a good feeling when you get it all done.
How are you feeling about Polaris and how the fans will receive it?
It’s hard to know how it will go down with the fans before release, but it’s very nice to know that it has been going down well with those who have heard it. We have had some fantastic reviews and big thumbs up from everyone. There is excitement building up to it. Ticket sales are going really well and we are looking to launch tickets for another tour sometime this week. It’s all very exciting with these things going on. [It’s] all very positive when you feel that all the energy you put into the project is warranted. You also know that you are going to have a great time travelling, and that the next couple of years are going to go well regardless of the sales of the album or how it is perceived.
How many reviews do you guys read of your own work?
You don’t really get the time to sift through the internet. If you do, then that must mean you have nothing else to do. There is quite a lot out there, and they range from very small sites to very big sites. They all tend to just copy the press release and publish that. Even in reviews sometimes, you think “Hang on, didn’t I write that myself about 4 months ago in the press release?” It teaches you to be very careful about what you say because it will be repeated a thousand times by someone else. I try not to get bogged down in what people say, because good reviews are almost as bad as bad reviews. They can give you a false sense of self, and make you lose perspective on why you’re doing it and how you are doing it. Having people say good things about you makes you feel good. When people are not saying good things, it can have far more impact than it should.
That’s an interesting take on the idea that a good review is dangerous. How do you maintain that perspective about why you are doing TesseracT?
You have to remember why you chose to do it. The simple answer is that it’s fun. As long as it is fun from a musical point of view, and you are doing the music that you enjoy, and I’m feeling that more so than ever, then you are doing a great thing. You have made the right choice being in a band that takes you away from your family and friends and normal life for months. As long as it is for the right reasons, it’s a good perspective to keep.
The TesseracT sound has, arguably, pioneered Djent. How far does the music push you technically, and do you feel like you have adjusted to the odd-time metre music?
It takes a long time to really become comfortable with the nuances and the details. I suppose what TesseracT is, at least to Jay and I, it’s about getting the not so obvious aspects of the performance right. If you don’t do them it sounds terrible. That’s the key to remember to do that every night. It’s really quite taxing mentally. The music definitely isn’t physically technical, well not much in comparison to Animals As Leaders. They are almost athletic rather than cerebral, not meaning to put them down, it’s just very difficult music. I think it’s definitely more about the details for us, like how we move from one part to another and getting that precisely right within the groove, the pocket that is going on. It’s difficult for me to communicate that sometimes, and it’s something that you almost learn. It teaches you, rather than you being fully in charge of the music. You almost have to listen to it a thousand times to understand it.
Before TesseracT began, did you listen to technical stuff?
There were definitely technical bands like Tool who were high up on my influences. I’ve also been into a lot of classical music, some really out there stuff. Like mesmerising sonic planes. Also jazz and funk were big influences on me when I was a kid learning how to play the bass. Also learning how to play drums and other instruments, it was always a big thing for me to get lost in the world of the jazz and funk standards.
Is there a time signature that you particularly enjoy playing in?
We like to explore the triplet feel in 6/8 time. It’s quite common, but within the music we try to take the stress on the groups of threes away, and almost turn it into three groups of two. Then just trying to obscure the feel a little by adding accents and playing the equivalent of say four quavers [that] would be at a different tempo over the 6/8, whilst using the 6/8 quaver. Metric transformation is quite a common theme. Often though the music is in 4/4 but without the pulse, so it just feels like 1, 1, 1, 1. We try to remove the obvious feel that you get from 4/4. We try to take the backbeat away to free you from the restrictions from what 4/4 should be. That’s the reason why we do metric modulation. It’s why we have different parts of seemingly different tempos and metres, but in fact all at the same tempo and metre, just syncopated differently. That’s the real fun element- making things sound crazy, when they are quite simple.
The band has said in the past it is more about fitting the groove as opposed to being technical. But would the band be able to write a simple, straight ahead song given the bands technical trademark?
I think if it’s right for the song then it’s right for the band. When you step into the studio as a musician or step onto a stage, it’s a very difficult thing as a musician to take away any ego from it. There can be a subconscious ego composing under the TesseracT name, or an intellectual ego whilst trying to be smart. Sometimes we do things because we want to be perceived as clever, but hopefully we mostly try not to do that. Not to avoid being seen as clever, but hopefully we won’t do something clever in order to look clever if you see what I mean. We could go out there and do a Bon Jovi track and it could be awesome if that is what the music calls for. Technicality is not the be all and end all.
How many new tunes are coming down to Australia?
Definitely three [songs], because it’s quite hard to do a new album on a new tour. People come to see the old stuff, you have to accept that. Maybe the two singles and one that we are feeling that will go down well live, to drum up the energy.
‘Polaris’ is due out September 18 via K-Scope/Rocket.
Catch TesseracT on tour, with guests Caligula’s Horse, this October. Tickets via Destroy All Lines.