In wake of their celestial flavoured new LP, ‘Sonder’, and on the verge of another Australian visit this September, it’s fair to say there’s been just a little bit of interest in our fine country surrounding djent pioneers TesseracT lately. It was timely therefore that I caught up vocalist Daniel Tompkins of the eve of the band’s album release and month-long US tour to chat balancing family life with the band life, how he keeps himself afloat nowadays, and why the band’s new material just sounds so pissed off.
KYS: So Daniel, where are we finding you at the moment mate?
I’m just at home working on different projects, teaching people how to sing and being Dad because I’ve got 2 kids I’ve got to look out for in addition to being on the road!
KYS: How do you balance fatherhood and being in a band like TesseracT?
You’ve gotta be super organised, to be honest! I’m kind of a part-time stay at home Dad, and my wife also works part-time, so we have to split the week in half. When I do get time to work I have to shut myself away and get on with it. It’s hard going on tour and leaving them behind though, there’s a few of us that have kids, but you just get used to it. The more you do it, the better you get at it.
KYS: How though do you switch into creative mode and balance out being a father while composing and doing all the ‘band stuff’ that so many people do when they are in a different life stage?
I do miss the freedom of being able to drop everything and sit in my studio, but you must reprioritise. Having a family does come with a huge sense of responsibility, but also respect because you begin to see things in a totally different way. You see things through a kid’s eyes and become more responsible as an adult, and you become more invested in that time you do have free. I do miss the freedom though of shutting off for a night and not having anyone screaming in my ear! The great thing about my set up is that we have a great house that I have an actual free-standing studio within a room, so I can shut the door so it’s complete silence.
KYS: So with ‘Sonder’ then, what life contextual things coloured this record?
It always does. When we started writing, my youngest had just been born so there were a lot of times that I was up at 3 or 4 in the morning rocking a baby and listening to songs. For me, that was the biggest part of my life that changed dynamically. For the rest of the guys though, Amos [bassist] had a big move. He was living in Shanghai for a while and he’s come back to the UK, whilst Acle [guitarist] has moved property as well, so there were significant things going down. Luckily, we’ve created a way to sustain a life within music because it hasn’t always been that easy. We’ve inadvertently created other ways of surviving which has ended up being great for all of us: Acle mixes and masters, Jay’s got rehearsal studios, I teach, and James works in PR. Everyone has got things going on but it’s awesome.
KYS: With your teaching, what inspired that? Do you do it on tour?
I took a big leap when I was 26. I had a very stable career with the cops, but I was always singing and networking. The big goal was to be a singer, but having an important career, you’d think that’d be the most important thing, but it was a plan B for me. It got to a point for me where I had to keep asking for career breaks because of tours, and the job was declining for whatever reasons, so I just decided to leave. I was on the top pay scale, could have retired at 49 with an amazing pension, but I sacked it all off. That first year of being self-employed I earnt very, very little, so that was a shock to the system. I had to find a way to develop a business to be self-employed, and very quickly I realised there was a very big market for singing coaching. People very rarely have access to a singer who is touring and, on the road, teaching and gigging together. I managed to fit my way into this niche and it grew from there. Now it’s at the point where it’s less of a necessity to teach. We were coming away from an 8-week tour a while ago with a couple of hundred dollars, and that was when we started to think “we have to be clever about this. How can we make money off this?’ It grew to a point where I didn’t have to teach anymore, but I’ve created a website called Daniel-tompkins.com, and it’s a fully educational resource, so that’s freed me up to have more time to be a creator again.
KYS: The sound of ‘Sonder’ was far more guitar-heavy than ‘Polaris’ almost like you guys where in a shitty mood! What’s going on with the mood of the band now?
The biggest shift tonally is the fact that Acle has altered his guitar rig. He no longer uses AX effects, he uses Camper, and he’s all about finding new tones. There was a desire to bring some heaviness into the music, so that’s true. I may have been an instigator here, but I wanted to bring an element from each record to create a hybrid TesseracT sound that we could carry into the next record. I mean, the way we’ve progressed, every album has been naturally different. I don’t think you can pin us down to specifically. Inadvertently, that’s created a fan base for each record. You always see people arguing about the best record, which is cool, but it also means it’s time to try and mould that all into one sound. I don’t think that this is TesseracT’s best record to date, but I believe that the best is yet to come, and Sonder is a way to try and find that sound.
TesseracT’s new album ‘Sonder’ is out now – read my review of it here.