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Stereoboard Chat To TesseracT About Touring & Second Album ’Altered State’ (Interview)

Tuesday, 21 May 2013 Written by Jonny Rimmer

One of the most impressive progressive acts to emerge in recent years, TesseracT are back on the road ahead of the release of their superb second album Altered State, which is reviewed here. Jonathan Rimmer chats to guitarist James (aka Metal by his peers) before their scintillating​ Glasgow performance.

Welcome to Scotland! How’s the tour been so far?
Amazing actually. This is our third date, and the first two shows were great. The crowd have really reacted well and Ashe [the new vocalist] has performed really well.

Your sophomore release 'Altered State' is on the way. Can you describe it for our readers in a few short words? 
Ooh, I’d call it: melodic, atmospheric and emotive. 

That definitely describes it well, although they’re not exactly the most ‘metal’ adjectives! 
I mean, we have that side to us, of course, but I’d not consider us a metal band first and foremost. We’ve really focused on the textural side to our music with this new album, and I’d say we have definitely matured with our song writing. 

Has there been any specific change in that regard? Can you expand? 
I’d say that the way we write riffs has evolved somewhat. Alec, or ‘Acle’ as we call him, has a few riffs on the new record that sound more simple, but when you go back, you hear the different layers and ideas at work.

Altered State certainly has some interesting new features; I’m definitely thinking of that saxophone solo for starters! On your next releases will you be incorporating different instrumentation and experimenting more in that area? 
I’m not really sure where we’re going right now. It sounds really clichéd but we don’t want to stay in one space. We are a progressive band and want to keep each album fresh and original; its own piece of work.  

Djent has sort of exploded as a scene and genre/sub-genre over the past couple of years. Do you feel part of that? Do you embrace the label? 
To be honest, we can’t really reject the tag because we were one of the first few bands to be given it! It really doesn’t define our music or the way we write though. We’re friends with several of the bands that are given the label, and it’s nice to be part of the community in a way. Occasionally, you do get the sort of elitist metal fans that crop up and look down on “djent” or our sound as a whole. Saying that, on this tour we’ve not heard a single bad word about Ashe’s almost entirely ‘clean’ vocals, for example. 

When writing your songs, do the polyrhythmic grooves and irregular rhythms come first? Or is it the more melodic aspect that you start working from?
When writing, songs usually form in two ways: often Acle will start off with a riff and jam it along with Jay on the drums, and then the rest of us come together and experiment until we’re all happy; other times, songs just come from unused ideas we have lying around from old projects anyway.  

You guys are now on your fourth vocalist. I don't want to dwell on Dan and Elliott's departures too much, because I'm sure you're sick of answering, but what effect has losing so many vocalists had? Do you find it easy to pick up again?
Well, actually, we’re technically on our fifth! We had a fella called Julian way back when we first started the band, before many of the current group were even a part of it. But yeah, it’s very difficult. Obviously, we’ve lost both Dan and Elliott in the past couple of years, and that was quite hard to work around and come out of with optimism and focus.  

We have to regain our confidence as a band – that is always key – but what is most difficult is retaining the support of our fans and the industry, because naturally they can lose faith. Right now, we’re very happy as a band but there’s still that feeling that we have to prove ourselves to labels and booking agents etc.  

For what it’s worth, you’ve found an absolute gem in Ashe! He’s also quite reminiscent of Dan [vocalist on the first album] in particular. 
He’s been great for us! Yeah, he does have some tonal similarities. Dan had a real knack for pop hooks, I guess you could say, but Ashe has a very soulful quality to his voice, so there are differences too. 

You said that you don’t necessarily consider yourselves a metal band. What are your overall influences as a band, would you say? 
Metal-wise, Meshuggah are obviously the primary influence. They influenced the rhythmic side of our music most significantly. But outside that, there’s a very wide variety. Pink Floyd are a huge influence for a number of reasons: they were very revolutionary in their song structures and how they wrote, and that’s prominent in how we make music; they were also very conceptual, of course, but they were very blues inspired and didn’t necessarily conform to progressive “conventions” in the same way more technical bands like Rush did. Apart from that? Electronica, jazz, you name it.  

What about vocally? I certainly detect a whiff of Jeff Buckley with Ashe’s vocals on the new record?  
Of course, and he’s a big influence on all of us. I’d actually say Elliott was most evocative of Jeff actually, and we covered ‘Dream Brother’ on thePerspective EP he was a part of.  

Are you touring anywhere particularly new/exciting this year? Any festivals in the pipeline?
Not too many shows, sadly, and no real festivals as of yet. Oh, we are playing Tech Metal Fest, which should be fantastic! There’s some great little festivals in the UK at the minute, actually. [I mention 2000 Trees and Arctangent] Yeah! 2000 Trees is actually on the same weekend as Tech Fest sadly, which is a shame because we know people that really love that festival. Unfortunately, this all goes back to what I said about industry motivation – we still need to convince a few heads to some extent. But we’re certainly happy with how the new stuff sounds live, we’re pleased with how Ashe has fit in and we’re happy with the album, so there’s lots to be optimistic about! 

'Altered State' is released on May 27th, 2013 via Century Media Records.

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