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TesseracT | ‘I Think If Bands Are Charging Just For You To Come And Shake Their Hands That’s Bollocks’ | Interview

We sat down with TesseracT’s James Monteith over a plate of Nandos to discuss their recent tour, the return of Daniel Tompkins and paid for meet and greets.

Source: Kristell Gothaye

TesseracT’s blend of prog and metal has been steadily gaining them both fan and critical recognition and cementing their reputation as a formidable live act. We met up with guitarist James Monteith just before they played to a sold out Scala to chat about the return of vocalist Daniel Tompkins, their recent travels and work on the follow up to Altered State.

HTF: How have the shows in Europe been so far? Do you have any particular highlights from your time out there?

JM: It’s been an amazing experience. We’re on a co-headline with Animals As Leaders so it’s the first time we’ve gone out being one of the main bands. The response has been amazing everywhere, about half the gigs have sold out. All have been well attended. Varying degrees of excitement from the crowd, but I think that’s a cultural thing. For example the Germans don’t really move, whereas the Italians go crazy. It was great to get out as far as Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary and to see some amazing cities. We saw Prague which was beautiful, Budapest had some amazing bars. Jay (Postones, TesseracT drummer) and Matt (Garstka, Animals As Leaders drummer) nearly got arrested in Warsaw for drunkenly wrestling in the street.

HTF: Who won?

JM: Well the police because they stopped them. But it’s been a crazy experience but well worth it.

HTF:  You’ve sold out a lot of the dates on the tour, and not just the ones in the UK. How does it feel, does it seem like your fan base has grown?

JM: Yeah it’s amazing. The first time we had the sell out shows was this time last year when we did a short headline run of the USA and that was like two hundred capacity rooms. That was the first time that really happened so it was like ‘wow, that’s insane’. But to come back to Europe and be suddenly tripling the people turnout to gigs is amazing. The fanbase has definitely grown. I don’t know why or how but in the last year things have really picked up, word’s spread, people like it. It’s an amazing feeling. Obviously we don’t take it for granted, we’ll keep working and work hard on the next record and hope people like that as well. Selling out the Scala is insane.

HTF: How was the US when you went earlier this year? It seems like it wasn’t your first time playing there?

JM: No it was actually the fifth tour, we’ve been there loads. The first time was about four years ago, we were very lucky, we managed to get a support slot for Devin Townsend. That essentially started out our American career. We went back six months later and did Protest The Hero support. Then we went back and did Between The Buried And Me and Animals As Leaders support. We went back this time last year and did Katatonia, Cult of Luna and Intronaut. The tour this year was the sixth, but it’s the first proper headline. I wasn’t actually on that tour, I sat out and was replaced by a backing track, but from what I hear it went really well.

HTF: Jay and Dan have done some drum and vocal tuition sessions on the road. What’s the reasoning behind this? Is it partly to give something back to fans who might also want to learn from you?

JM: Dan’s a professional singing coach, that’s what he does for a living. Jay and myself ,we’re not professional teachers, but I think there’s still a lot you can show people. In the guitar lessons I’ve been doing you get some really competent guitar players, but they’re not familiar with the techniques we use, so some of them pick it up really quickly and some take a bit more work. It is partly a way to give a bit back and show people exactly how things work and how they’re constructed. But also, to be entirely honest, it’s another revenue stream, a way to help pay the bills at home.

HTF: Rou Reynolds (Enter Shikari) recently wrote an article in AltPress criticising the trend for bands doing paid meet and greets with fans. On this tour you’ve provided some paid for VIP packages which off this: What’s your reaction to the article? 

JM: In principle I agree with what Rou Reynolds is saying. Charging people ‘X amount’ of money just to shake your hand, who the fuck do we think we are to do that? And I think that goes for all bands. The way we do it essentially, the ticket price covers all the merch; you get a t-shirt, you get a bag, you get a signed poster … I think you get two t-shirts actually, one of the t-shirts is exclusive to VIPS as well. The cost of the package is what you’d buy all that stuff for anyway. I guess in a business sense it’s a way to shift ‘X amount’ of merch guaranteed, but I think it’s a fair deal because you do get exclusive stuff, and the meet and greet bit is just a nice little bit on the end, it’s not the main sell. I think if bands are charging … just for you to come and shake their hands that’s bollocks, I don’t agree with it.

At the end of the day you’ve got to figure out ways to make money because bands don’t make much money, contrary to popular belief. Everybody in our band has a job of some sort, anything that the band can bring in is a bonus. We do the band because we love it, it’s a passion.

HTF: Dan has come back into the fold. How have the shows been with him? Has it been like old times or do you feel like it’s a new chapter for you all? 

JM: Obviously it was sad and disruptive when Ashe (O’Hara) left, but it was something that had to happen for various reasons. When Dan said he was available to come back it was like ‘wow, how would this work, would it be alright?’. We were quite nervous about it, especially before Sonisphere we only practiced the night before. But then he came back and it just clicked and it was like no time had passed. So on the live front it felt great, and the writings been going really well, Dan’s been putting a lot of time in. There are probably about seven or eight bare bones of new songs for the new album already, I would say about half the work for the new album has been done. On this tour Dan’s been sitting in the back of the bus just writing vocals and sharing ideas. There’s a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm. We couldn’t have asked for a better situation.

HTF: With his return will we see any harsh vocals appearing on future songs? You have said previously that you’ve shifted away from that for good.

JM: I guess if a part really needs it. I don’t think we really want to do it that much and Dan doesn’t enjoy screaming. On the first record we were kind of a ‘heavy band’ and we kind of thought it was necessary. I think in places it does work, it’s a dynamic tool, but I think if you scream constantly it can kill that power. I think there may be odd moments where its super heavy and there may be a place for like this burst of aggression , but I don’t think there’d be any long passages of it.

HTF: As renowned audiophiles do you find it difficult to replicate the dynamic sounds of your recordings in a live environment? Do you prefer playing in the studio to get the best quality?

JM: Acle (Kahney, guitar) and Amos (Williams, bass) are professional level engineers. All our guitars run direct so we have less variables than a lot of other bands, so we can produce near-record like quality. Obviously it depends on how well we play it, that’s the big thing. But it’s definitely achievable. And Aiden, our sound guy is quite a big part of the whole process. He is very meticulous in his engineering, so we do strive to make it as good as possible.

HTF: Both your previous records have had sections that are made up by individual tracks, is this a purposeful thing?

JM: It’s just what happens. Especially with ‘Concealing Fate’ it was just this song that got longer and longer and longer. Bits got added on, bits got moved round, and it just grew into something that was half an hour. The same probably goes for the second record; ‘Of Matter’ is like fifteen minutes. I remember when the first master of the album came back it was only six tracks long and we had to chop it up so that it was ten.

HTF: Do you have any firm plans for when you’re going to start the recording process for the new album? 

JM: We have to have it handed in by May for a September release, so as soon as we’re back, we’ll finish the writing and get it all down and sounding as good as possible.

HTF: Is it a quick process for you or do you spend a lot of time in the studio?

JM: It can vary massively, some things turn around really quickly, some songs take years. A lot of it is done in Acle’s shed and not much of it is played straight, a lot of it is made in chunks so it’s copying and pasting and juggling things. It’s quite funny because once the song is finished we all have to learn it. *laughs*

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