TesseracT interview

"We're very happy to be a part of the djent scene but don't want to be limited by it"

27/05/2013 @ 16:53
I can't even describe how jealous I am of those being able to watch the tour with Periphery and TesseracT, the two leading bands of a new generation of progressive metal music, called genre. James Monteith, the guitarist of TesseracT, was kind enough to let us know what he thinks about this genre, the aforementioned tour and gave us all the details behind the band's impressive sophomore album "Altered State". My bet is that these guys are going to go far and we'll have plenty of opportunities to discuss with James in the future. Let's just hope not for any more lineup changes...

TesseracTIt was two years ago that we talked and you analyzed the forming of this new genre called 'djent' and how everybody was talking about it. Two years later I can’t even count the bands and the albums that have emerged out of it and TesseracT are considered one of the main reasons. How do you feel about it?
Yeah, the sound has really taken off over the past few years, which is amazing. It’s very flattering that people reference us as a big influence, but at the same time it’s kind of odd, as we’re not by any means a ‘big’ band. We’ve only had one album! 

You know, even though Periphery put out a record before you and Meshuggah are considered the root of it all, it’s TesseracT that have been established as the leaders of this genre. No matter how big or small, being considered the point of reference for a whole genre must be something, isn’t it?
Really? Is that true? I didn’t realize, haha. I think Periphery are probably more the leaders in my mind, at least in the sense that they are bigger and actively promoted the word with their got-djent merch etc. We just think of ourselves as a prog rock / metal band really, especially with the direction of the new album. Meshuggah created the basic sound and rhythm guitar playing style, but I guess they’re the god fathers and above it all! They are their own genre.

TesseracTThen, I sometimes give an extra attention to how the band is presented by its label and I have the slight impression that your label also wants to categorize you as a progressive metal band and kind of avoid the djent term. Would it be because djent may be a trend that will go soon and being considered progressive is something steadier for you? Or maybe am I over analyzing it with genres and labels?
We were a progressive metal band before the djent term was popularized, and were during the hype and we still are now. We’re very happy to be a part of the djent scene but don’t want to be limited by it; this band is constantly evolving, so I think progressive is a better description of what we do.

Now, you’ve already written a couple of interesting chapters for the future biography of the band. One could claim that you’ve been quite unfortunate with singers. Really now, what do you put them through, haha?
We’re all ass-holes!!! Haha no. We’ve just been a bit unlucky to be honest. Julien was an internet member who recorded with us, but wasn’t ever fully involved, Abi wasn’t able to commit, Dan didn’t enjoy the touring side of things and Elliot lived in the USA. Let’s hope Ashe doesn’t run off any time soon!

TesseracTIs Ashe the perfect fit for Tesseract’s music after all? He’s just a young Brighton guy, so tell us how you found him and if you had other interesting choices apart from him.
Yeah, Ashe has turned out to be the perfect vocalist for where we are now. His not only an incredibly strong vocalist, he brings an element of soul and groove to the mix that we never previously had. Acle actually found him as his other band was recorded by a producer who lived nearby, and sent around some of the stuff for us to listen to. And then by some crazy coincidence Ashe submitted an audition, which was a cover of "Concealing Fate - Part 2". We then sent him the instrumental of a new track to test his writing ability, and he sent back the song "Nocturne", pretty much complete!
There were a few other contenders, but he was by far out favorite.

TesseracTHis voice reminded me in some parts of alt-prog bands from Australia, like Dead Letter Circus, as I am a big fan of the scene down under. Are you aware of it and if yes would you agree that Ashe’s voice has something 'Aussie'?
Yes, I can see that. We’re all fans of Dead Letter Circus and Karnivool etc, so it’s a massive complement.

One thing I really like is that you want a full melodic singer for your music. Almost every band in this style tends to get a singer that mostly screams, rather than putting vocal melodies and harmony. Did you think of that option for the new album?
We did try some more aggressive vocals in places, but every time it sounded tired and like everyone else. I have to be honest I’m really bored of screaming, as you say everyone does it. Ashe also has such a great range and is full off melodic ideas, we want to explore those more than force screaming, just because it’s expected.

TesseracTAs fans of this music may be used to more extreme voices, could there be a possibility that they’ll find Ashe a little bit mellower than they’d want to?
Quite possibly, but I’m hoping that we’ll also open those people’s minds to the idea that melody is great too, and that screaming isn’t always mandatory.

Music wise, which differences from "One" would you point out as the most important ones? How much do you think your sound has evolved?
"One" was a mix of songs spanning the band’s first six years of existence, so is a bit of a mishmash of styles, whereas "Altered State" was all written within a much shorter space of time and therefore flows much more naturally. It feels more like an actual album to us. It’s also more mature, and well, an evolution from where we were a few years ago.

TesseracT - Altered StetePersonally, I really enjoy the album. I always have concerns about bands with so characteristic sound as yours, that they may be trapped inside it and replay it over and over again in future releases but you seemed to have passed over this obstacle easily, while keeping your identity. Was it a challenge for you?
Not really, the demos and ideas are always evolving, as to make something that sounds like our previous work doesn’t interest us at all. Plus, Ashe brings elements to the band we didn’t have before.

Also, I adored the parts with the saxophone. I couldn’t imagine that saxophone would fit so well over djent riffs. To be honest, I liked it so much that I ‘d want it to have a bigger part in the album. Do you plan to experiment with such instruments in the future?
Quite possibly! The sax idea is one we’ve had for a long time – ever since Acle recorded a more metally track with sax on it around 2004, before we were a band. It was only at this stage that he wrote a track were we really felt it would work. We have a million other ideas like this with all sorts of instruments, but we will only do it if we can figure out a way for it so sound great, and not done for the sake of it. So I guess the answer is yes, but I don’t know what yet!

TesseracTYou’re currently on tour with Periphery and I can’t tell you how much I’d like to see you both playing live, but I know that this is just wishful thinking in my country. How’s the tour going so far?
Tour is great thanks! We’re playing our third show tonight and I can’t wait to get there (editor : the interview was made during the tour). The crowd responses have been awesome, and it’s always great to play with Periphery. They’re such great musicians and fun guys.

TesseracTHow challenging is it to perform your music live? I bet you need a crystal clear sound that demands a hell of equipment. Is, really, the venue playing a big role to the overall sound?
Well, we know the old stuff so well we can probably play it in our sleep, but good sound helps us to enjoy the show. If it sounds bad and you can’t hear anything we’ll still play ok, but will look like miserable bastards! However the new stuff requires decent sound as we’re still new to it, and some of it is quite tricky!

From all these bands that have emerged the last couple of years from the djent scene can you tell one or two that made the biggest impression on you and why they made it?
I guess the obvious one is Periphery. They are top class musicians and one of the first bands to start playing the sound. Chimp Spanner is also one. Again, he pioneered the sound, but also has his unique jazz-fusion take on it, which rules!