Tesseract is one of the most interesting bands around right now and we were very eager to ask them a few questions. James Monteith (guitars) answers our questions about the djent phenomenon, the upcoming debut album "One", the band's influences and how Tesseract managed to achieve so much before even releasing an album.
jupitreas: Tesseract is constantly on tour, you recently played in India for example. Any fun stories from your stay in India?
James: Yeah, a ridiculous amount. We've actually been to India twice within a month. We went out to play India Rock Festival in December 2010, that was with Meshuggah and Enslaved, on three dates. That was just incredible - playing with Meshuggah, for a start, who, as I'm sure you can tell, are a massive influence on us. It was just mindblowing.
Are there a lot of people in India who listen to this kind of music?
Yes! It's surprisingly really popular. Each gig there are about 1000-2000 people per night, I guess cause its quite a new scene developing there. They are very enthusiastic and we were transported out of our everyday lives into this sort of "rock'n'roll god" status for a few days, which was bizarre but lots of fun at the same time.
You have also been on tour with Devin Townsend, are you fans of his?
Yeah, we're massive fans of Devin Townsend. When we found out that we were touring with him, we were over the moon, it was incredible.
Were you inspired by his music in any way?
Maybe not directly in guitar-playing ways but I think very much in ethos and approach to things. He very much does what he wants and this is something that we try to do as well.
Hmm, I thought I heard some similarities in the more atmospheric stuff that he does and what can be heard in Tesseract as well, but I guess this could be a coincidence as well.
I think a lot of us have grown up listening to him, so I guess the rest of us bring a little of Devin to the music but Acle, who is the main riff-writer, isn't really inspired by him.
I understand. You already mentioned Meshuggah as an influence. Currently, there is a lot of talk about the 'djent' genre and it has become a bit of a phenomenon. What is your opinion on this?
I think that basically if any scene or any style of music catches a wave, or catches some peoples' interest, it's a great thing. Obviously, the word 'djent' basically just comes from a way of playing a power chord. I think it came from a Meshuggah forum, where somebody asked "How do you get that 'djenty' sound". Its basically just an onomatopeic way of describing the sound. It has the 'djin' of a typical metal chug, but also has that 'int' of a top end chug <laughs>. It has obviously evolved past that into an entire scene, which isnt necessarily representative of the music, because lots of the bands are quite proggy.
Do you think it can be considered a distinct genre or is it just words that people like to use?
I think its definitely just words that people like to use because us, along with bands like Periphery and Textures, Monuments, Chimp Spanner, bands like that, we never set out to be like this, we all existed as bands before this word came along. I guess we all just play modern-day prog rock.
Is that what you consider Tesseract to be: modern prog rock?
I guess so, yeah. Its quite hard to describe exactly and if people like to call it 'djent', I am quite happy with that, but yeah, its modern day prog rock.
I find this phenomenon very fascinating. Tesseract are often cited as the leaders of this style. How long have you been playing this kind of music?
The project was actually started by Acle, the other guitarist, back in 2003. It was basically a bedroom project, where he was basically just recording stuff and posting clips online.
There were no vocals, I suppose, back at this point?
No vocals, although he did do some work with a couple of vocalists over the Internet. The first Tesseract vocals were done with a guy called Julian Perrier, who actually lived in France, and they recorded a few demos without even meeting, they just did it all online. And that is actually how the whole scene developed, there was obviously Misha from Periphery, he was doing that as well back then, and Paul Ortiz from Chimp Spanner.
So it was all basically talented guitar players recording stuff in their bedrooms.
Exactly, yeah, and posting on forums and I guess the scene was started literally by that, by people getting to know each other online and sharing tracks. I mean, this is how I found out about Tesseract and then coincidentally, I got involved, along with our bass player, when we met Acle when we were playing with other bands, and it went from there.
When did the current lineup solidify?
For the musicians, it was back in 2006 I think, it was a while back. Jay, the drummer joined in the beginning, Amos joined that summer and I joined a few months after. But the current lineup didn't actually come together until summer 2009, when we found our vocalist Dan Tomkins. About a year and a half we've been this lineup.
Concealing Fate, the EP, was recorded by this current lineup, right?
Yes, yes it was.
Lets move onto the upcoming full length album One, due to be released on March 22. Is "Concealing Fate" on One different in any way from the version on the EP?
On the actual album it's not, its exactly the same. Basically, the reason for the EP ultimately so that we had something to sell on the road in America. It was actually only an American release. Still, to make up for that, since obviously we've realized that fans have already bought half of the album, we've re-recorded the entire thing live in a studio setting. We basically miked up guitars, drums and vocals and just blasted it out live and its basically a bonus DVD that comes along with the album. It sounds quite different, it sounds far more raw, far more like a live band, as opposed to the clinical Pro-Tools, chopped up kind of thing that most metal sounds like nowadays. So - yes and no to answer your question - its the same on the actual album but there is also a live version included on a bonus DVD.
So "Concealing Fate" was released just to have something to sell on tour in the US?
Yeah, thats one of the reasons. The other reason was that, we actually finished the album last February, its been finished for a year. Our fans have known that the album was already finished for ages and were demanding to hear something. When we signed to Century Media, they said they would not release it till 2011, so we wanted to give the fans something.
How does a band with no studio output get signed to Century Media anyway?
Yeah, I know, its been a bit crazy to us as well, to be honest. I think its just been a slow, slow build. We've always been very pro-active at marketing ourselves. Because we've come from an online scene, we're very adept at working online. We've been very good at promoting ourselves on social networks, getting people to listen to our stuff. We also started hassling magazines, making them cover us. Basically we just took it all upon ourselves to do absolutely everything and so we managed to get ourselves to a level once we've finished the album, where we developed enough of a buzz about us that Century Media were willing to take us on. We've been incredibly lucky. A lot of it is hard work and I believe we've written a pretty good record, but its also luck as well.
I've heard the album and it sounds really amazing. Where did you get the funds for such a production, since you recorded it before you signed to Century Media?
We are very DIY. When it comes to all the studio stuff, we did the drums and all that, we did it in studios that pop stars use. Our bass player, he worked at those studios. We did all the drums for free during down-time, we did it during weekends, night time, stuff like that. All the amazing studio stuff, we did entirely for free. All the guitars and vocals were done at Acle's home studio and he produced the record himself with Amos, our bass player.
You mentioned being proactive with marketing. I have noticed that pretty much the entire band is active on Facebook and on forums. Do you think you owe some of your success to that?
Oh definitely, 100%. I think in the early days, forums like sevenstrings.org, the got-djent.com forum and also ukmetalunderground.co.uk, all those forums have really helped spread the word. Also, Facebook - I don't know how the world has survived without Facebook! Its incredible for virally spreading things. Another little funny thing actually, which helped raise our profile massively in the states, which I think Century Media were impressed by, was a group of fans who worked in Subway. They made a video of themselves rocking out to our music in Subway. It got picked up by the Washington Post, it went massively viral and all with our soundtrack to it!
The rock musician status is associated with a certain mystique, do you think that being active on social networks counteracts that?
Not really, I think we're all very down to earth guys. When I say we were treated like rock stars in India, there wasn't any sort of worship or anything like that, everybody just treated us really well and that felt like something different. We are all open, sort of honest people who try to not be pretentious and I guess it would be nice if we could keep it this way. When crazy fans begin hassling us, I think we may need to change our system but it seems to work for us for now. (laughs)
Since you are so active on the Internet, you must be aware how easy it is to download stuff illegally. What are your thoughts on this, does piracy harm music or might it be helpful in some way?
That is a really tricky question, there is no real answer to that, I don't think... Obviously it harms us financially because back in the days, the 80s and 90s, when all you could do is buy records, people made a fortune from record sales, whereas that just doesn't happen these days, even with the biggest artists. But, if it wasn't for music being shared and virally spread, I don't know if we would have got to the stage we were before we signed to Century Media, less people would know about us. I think nowadays, when music is shared, it just gives everybody a fairer chance, everyone has an opportunity to get their music heard, whereas once upon a time, that wouldn't happen. I'm actually very much in the school of thought that that's the situation and there is no point in fighting it. To survive, we must look at other revenue streams, like touring, merch and licensing music for games. There are lots of opportunities out there, record sales just isn't one of them anymore.
So, I suppose you must have considered releasing "One" as a free download, or perhaps with an optional donation?
Totally. Radiohead did that as well and I think they did OK.
I believe those experiments were quite successful, but then again, Tesseract is not Radiohead or Nine Inch Nails,yet...
Exactly. I think you need to be very established to be able to do that and to be honest, we wanted to release the album really properly, through a really good label that is ready to get behind us and willing to get us known worldwide.
Besides, Century Media helped you out with touring, right?
Yeah, they are the ones who hooked us up with Devin Townsend and also our next US tour, which is with Protest The Hero.
What do you think of them?
They are a great band and I'm really excited to go on tour with them. I wouldn't say they are a massive influence on us since we just discovered them recently, but they are great musicians, a really great vocalist and its gonna be great fun!
We'll looking forward to that for sure!
Posted on 18.03.2011 by
With Metal Storm since 2002, jupitreas has been subjecting the masses to his reviews for quite a while now. Privately not actually an asshole, he lives in Warsaw, Poland, where he runs his small graphic and web design business.