September 20, 2013 Interview – James Monteith of Tesseract
Progressive metal has produced many talented bands in recent years. One of the brightest stars of the movement are British band TesseracT. Having formed in 2003 the band has sustained 4 vocalist changes in that time. Finding their stability with their current line-up the band released their highly anticipated 2nd full length album Altered State earlier this year. Making waves with their broad metallic sound the guys have built a strong and growing fan base worldwide. Recently we state down with guitarist James Monteith for an intimate look at the passion behind the music, their up coming tour in North America, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – TesseracT has been together for a decade now, and the band has released two EP’s and two full length albums in that time. There has been a few changes in the line-up over the years especially in regarding to vocalists. Is changing the band’s vocalist for each record something TesseracT plans for each time you work on new material or was it just a series of unfortunate departures over time by vocalists?
James Monteith – It’s definitely the latter. The idea of the band has existed for 10 years. I think we have only been an actual physical band since 2006. The first complete releases were with our singer Dan. Then he left and on our next EP we had another vocalist and for one reason or another it didn’t work out. Now we have Ashe. I think it’s just a series of unfortunate situations. We have our fingers crossed now that our current vocalist Ashe is here to stay.
CrypticRock.com – It is good now that you found that stability. How do you feel with the current line-up of the band, and do you think this line-up will be for a long duration of TesseracT?
James Monteith – Yes definitely. When Ashe joined he literally had no time to write and record vocals for the album. He did such an exceptional job and it really invigorated us. It made us feel much stronger than we’ve ever been. His outlook is incredible, his writing has loads of great stuff on new demos and he’s been excelling. He seems up for it and enjoying it. He doesn’t seem like he’s going anywhere anytime soon.
CrypticRock.com – That is very good to hear and fans will be happy to hear that. The band’s songs always seem to progress from album to album and incorporate different influences each time. Briefly tell me about the writing and recording process of the band’s latest album Altered State?
James Monteith – For this album we actually had to produce it quite quickly. We didn’t have the luxury of the last album with a big studio. All the tracks are pretty much developed from their demo form. Acle is our guitarist and main song writer and they were developed in his shed basically. All demos basically evolved in the actual album tracks. Parts we recorded, parts we had written and re-arranged it went from something like raw ideas into things forming in one day, there was no kind of demo process. The final recording was just a continued thing from the original ideas.
CrypticRock.com – Interesting. It really kind of happened rather quickly for the band?
James Monteith – Yes basically that was it. We had deadlines to hit and budgets were tight. It ended up all being done essentially as a bedroom job. Fortunately it turned ok I think.
CrypticRock.com – Yes it did, fans are receiving it very well. Throughout your career TesseracT has produced, mixed, and mastered all the material yourselves. You have absolutely refrained from the loudness wars a lot of records get into now a days. Tell me more about the band’s approach to production and recording?
James Monteith – Well Acle and Amos, they’re very keen producers and outside the band they record and produce other bands. Production is as much of a passion to those guys as the music itself. It’s funny you mention the loudness wars because the earlier stuff we did very loud and brick walled like the first album and early demos. I think as Acle ‘s ears mature a little bit you kind of get tired of that ridiculous loudness and crave more dynamics. Once you’ve tried enough loud stuff you are like hey I really want to hear stuff that has dynamics and that’s been an important part of the production. To be fair our records are still quite loud. If you put on a jazz record there is a massive difference. I think compared to more metal it’s a bit more dynamic.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, absolutely. When it comes to recording it seems like a lot of bands now a days, they just turn the volume up on everything and there is no dynamic. With the way TesseracT is approaching it there is loudness but you turn up the volume on your stereo and everything will sound evenly just as good.
James Monteith – Yes, I think the trouble with loudness is it has instant appeal, especially to a younger audience. They are very excited very quickly and it’s a very instant hit and you have something pretty cool. I think that is why a lot of bands do it because you have that instant appeal and that is especially what some of the younger kids like to listen to. I think we are kind of tired of that sound, I think a lot of people do eventually. People want to listen to something else that doesn’t batter their ear drums.
CrypticRock.com – Of course it’s part of progression as an artist and listener. You are going on tour in North America with Katatonia, Cult Of Luna, and Intronaut this fall. That is a pretty great line-up of metal bands. How excited is the band about this tour?
James Monteith – It’s going to be incredible. Katatonia and all the other bands we are all really into. Katatonia are one of the prog-metal bands that stand out to us. Cult Of Luna are just insane. I’ve never seen them live but I have heard amazing things. I’m really excited for Intronaut as well. It’s going to be a real challenge to make sure we can keep up with those guys, but I think this is a challenge we are looking forward to.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and it’s going to be a great tour. A lot of times when they put a tour together the bands don’t really mix and it’s a strange dynamic. This is a very good dynamic and it’s nice to see this line-up was put together.
James Monteith – Yes, and I think it was kind of unexpected as well. When we were looking at tour options some stuff kind of made sense but when this came up it was like oh that’s a bit different and interesting. I remember one time we went out on tour with Protest The Hero and Maylene And The Sons Of Disaster. That was completely 3 different bands and the variety made it interesting. I reckon this tour has the same thing going for it.
CrypticRock.com – It definitely does. TesseracT has absolutely built a strong fan base over the years internationally and many are excited for this tour and the awesome bill of bands. You also will be embarking on a Headlining tour at the end of that tour here in North America in October. That has to be exciting for yourselves and fans. How does the band feel about the opportunity to play a full set here?
James Monteith – It’s very exciting but it’s also very nerve racking, let’s hope some people turn up (laughs). I think it’s a real milestone, we’ve been to the states 3 before and this is our 4th time in the states. I think it’s now a good time take that leap and see if we can manage to headline a few shows. Also we are going out with Scale the Summit which are also a great band. To play after them every night is going to be a challenge but we are really excited.
CrypticRock.com – As you should be. I believe it will go over well and it’s a great step for the band. When you look at the metal scene in general there is an oversaturation of sound-a-like bands, what is the key for TesseracT to keeping things different and fresh for yourselves as musicians and for fans?
James Monteith – Trying not to sound like everybody else. I think it’s just actually doing what you really want to do, not what you feel you have to do. There are various points in our process that I really like. We really want to do this but is that the right thing to do? For example we dropped all the aggressive vocals in the second album. That wasn’t a conscious decision to say let’s just have melodic vocals. Basically we only ended up with melodic vocals and at one point we thought oh wait a second should we be having screaming? Then we thought we are only having that conversation because that is what we think people think we should be. So I think just stay true to what you really want to do and not really worry about what is going on around you. As long as you are happy with what you achieve. Just because all the other bands are doing breakdowns doesn’t mean you have to, but by all means if you want to do breakdowns do it. Maybe I am just talking rubbish.
CrypticRock.com – (laughs) No that makes perfect sense. The bottom line is you have to stay true to what your artistic vision is and just hope people like it. I wanted to ask you what are some of your musical influences?
James Monteith – I guess collectively our influences are really vast. I grew up listening to a lot of metal, so did Acle, and Amos was kind was into metal but was also into kind of funk and jazz. I think Jay’s favorite artist was 2PAC until he was about 18. We always listen to a lot of stuff from jazz to metal to electronica. For years I was massively into UK drum and bass. We also like a lot of old prog bands like YES and Pink Floyd. A matter of fact Pink Floyd has a massive influence on our music. I think to be honest if you listen to some Tesseract and Pink Floyd you will realize we have probably ripped off quite of lot, fortunately a lot of our fans don’t listen to Pink Floyd and we get away with it.
CrypticRock.com – (laughs) Those are all some interesting influences and it’s good to have dynamic taste in music.
James Monteith – Yes totally. I think it’s always good to listen to a wide variety of music. If you only listen to say metal chances are the only music you will make is metal. I think it’s good to find things you like outside of our world.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely, it’s important to be open to different forms of music. My last question for you is regarding films. Crypticrock.com is a rock/metal and horror news site so we like to focus on all genres. Are you a fan of horror films and if so what are some of your favorite horror films?
James Monteith – I don’t have any modern horror films. As a kid I really loved the Nightmare on Elm street films. I know they are a bit silly now a days but as a kid I was obsessed with them. Freddy was like the most frightening guy in the world. Things like Day Of The Dead and those sort of classics.
CrypticRock.com – You mention those older films like Nightmare On Elm Street and Day Of The Dead. As a passionate horror fan personally that is the pinnacle of when horror was at its best.
James Monteith – I think it’s also because that is when you got into them, it was into your mind and nothing has matched it (laughs).
CrypticRock.com – (laughs) Yes, but I think it also has to do with the direction horror has gone in the present day and the overdone CGI. What do you think of that?
James Monteith – Yes, I think the best thing about horror for me is suspense, it’s not actually seeing anything gruesome but basically knowing something frightening can happen. Basically if there is tons of suspense then I think it’s amazing. It’s easy to fall back on graphics and that sort of thing. That is not completely shocking, your brain tunes into visual things quite quickly. It’s when your imagination is allow to run wild that is when horror is really truly frightening.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, hopefully there will be some sort of revolution in the future in mainstream horror and they will go back into writing good stories.
James Monteith – Yes totally, and Poltergeist was another one I loved as well. That was really creepy.
Check out TesseracT at , on facebook, & twitter. North American tour dates are as follow:
TesseracT w/Katatonia, Cult of Luna and Intronaut:
9/23: Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club
9/24: New York, NY @ Irving Plaza
9/25: Philadelphia, PA @ Theater of the Living Arts
9/26: Pittsburgh, PA @ Mr. Small’s
9/27: Toronto, ON @ The Opera House
9/28: Detroit, MI @ Harpo’s
9/30: West Springfield, VA @ Empire
10/1: Cleveland, OH @ Peabody’s
10/2: Chicago, IL @ The Bottom Lounge
10/4: Denver, CO @ Summit Music Hall
10/6: Los Angeles, CA @ El Rey Theater
10/7: San Francisco, CA @ Slim’s
TesseracT Headline tour with Scale the Summit
10/9: Vancouver, BC @ Tom Lee Music Hall
10/10: Edmonton, AB @ Pawn Shop
10/12: Calgary, AB @ The Gateway
10/13: Regina, SK @ The Exchange
10/14: Winnipeg, MB @ Union Sound Hall
10/16: Minneapolis, MN @ Skyway Theater – Studio B
10/17: Lawrence, KS @ The Granada Theater
10/18: Indianapolis, IN @ Emerson Theater
10/20: St. Louis, MO @ Fubar
10/22: Ft Worth, TX @ Tomcats West
10/23: Houston, TX @ Fitzegerald’s – Downstairs
10/24: New Orleans, LA @ One Eyed Jacks
10/25: Atlanta, GA @ The Drunken Unicorn
10/26: Tampa, FL @ Orpheum Theatre
10/27: Greensboro, NC @ Blind Tiger
10/29: Brooklyn, NY @ TBA