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Interview: TesseracT

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TesseracT guitarist James Monteith sits down to discuss the progressive rock band’s rollercoaster 2015, and their plans for 2016.

Tesseract

“What’s been your favourite moment of 2015?”

Normally, a fair question. But when your last twelve months have been as hectic and rewarding as TesseracT enjoyed, that is an immensely difficult query to find an answer to.

“It was definitely busier than the previous year,” Monteith recalls through the loudspeaker of my mobile phone, “the early part of the year went into the new album.”

The result of the band’s work at the start of 2015, their third studio album Polaris, went on to be released in September. It was a different album to its predecessors, with shorter songs and a continued emphasis on dream-like, ambient melodies.

“It wasn’t a conscious decision. It’s more of a reflection of where we are at, both musically and creatively. They just turned out like that," he explains of the new direction.

“The writing for all the albums has always been very similar. Acle [Kahney, founder and guitarist] produces the raw demos which then get worked on over email between all of us, and just evolve from there into the songs that now exist. That’s the way it’s always been with the band, the process hasn’t changed.”

A new direction can often prove controversial for a band amongst its fanbase (Trivium’s Silence in the Snow is testament to that fact), but TesseracT – after abandoning the heavy metal mainstay of screamed vocals from their formative years with both Polaris and their prior album, Altered State have proven an exception to the rule.

“I didn’t think people were ever really sure about the screaming: that wasn’t an element we were ever truly exceptional at. There is the odd moment on the new record where there’s some mild screaming and some effects but it’s not really at the forefront as much. Every now and then there’s some heavier stuff but, in the end, we’re only gonna do what we’re gonna do: if people like it, great; if not, sorry.”

Monteith’s answers suggests a band that is both defiant and determined, who aren’t afraid to change, challenge and experiment. And change is precisely what they did, as Polaris showcases the return of vocalist Daniel Tompkins – also known for his work with Skyharbor, White Moth Black Butterfly and the new project, Zeta.

“I guess towards the end of the time with [previous singer] Ashe [O’Hara], he didn’t really like it anymore. Enthusiasm and morale was kind of low,” he describes.

“So when Dan came back in, and he started working, especially on demos, it definitely brought everyone back up again, and it made it back into the efficient machine that we were used to it being before.”

The revitalisation process TesseracT went through with Tompkins on the mic definitely had visual effects. Back in March, the group braved the elements, playing an hour-long rock concert on top of an ice hotel – affectionately dubbed the “Gigloo” – in the middle of the Finnish wilderness at sub-zero temperatures.

“That was through Jägermeister, they sponsor us. And they have a thing called ‘Ice Cold Gig’, where they take a band and challenge them to play in freezing conditions like that,” James elaborates, “it was a definitely a strange but unique experience.”

With a list of possible choices that stellar, how can someone pick out their best moment of 2015?

Finally, James brings forth his answer: TesseracT’s headlining tour of the US, with The Contortionist, ERRA and Skyharbor in tow.

“Probably one of the gigs from the States,” he ponders. “We played to sold-out crowds, they were really enthusiastic and it was great fun.”

And clearly, TesseracT and The Contortionist had an especially good time together, as the two bands are reuniting and currently preparing to tour the UK next month, before moving on to mainland Europe.

The Contortionist he explains: “I think they’ve shaped, musically, very well, and we toured with them in the States so we’re kind of continuing where we left off. It’s a really good fit: they’re different than us, and they’ll bring a lot of fans that don’t know [TesseracT] to come to our shows as well. It’s a good match all round. And they’re just really great guys, we had a lot of time with them in the States so it’ll be good to see them and hang out again.”

He said that if he had one word to describe the music of TesseracT, that word would be “progressive”. So if you are a fan of music – not just metal, but music in general – that is adventurous, unpredictable and ambient, this is your band.

“Come and see us live in February!”, the guitarist adds eagerly before signing off.

Enough said.

TesseracT is touring the UK with The Contortionist in February. The band’s third album, Polaris, is available via Kscope Records. Their live CD/DVD, Odyssey/Scala, is out now through Century Media Records.

Image by Tom Barnes.




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