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A Different Perspective: TesseracT On 'Sonder' and The Quest To Keep Moving Forward

Friday, 27 April 2018 Written by Guy Hirst

They started life as the bedroom project and Myspace page of guitarist Acle Kahney, but now Tesseract are credited with pioneering the madly expansive djent genre, have a intercontinental following, and can be safely regarded as one of the UK’s biggest names and exports in prog metal.

But for vocalist Daniel Tompkins, who came back into the fold in 2014 after a three year hiatus, there’s still work to be done. For TesseracT to reach their full potential, he believes, their writing must be even more collaborative and done less remotely. In this regard, their recently-released fourth album, ‘Sonder’, is definitely a move in the right direction, while offering their most cohesive and brooding concept to date.

What is ‘Sonder’ and how integral has the concept been in making the album?

Sonder is the awareness that people around you are living equally vivid and complex lives. It’s a word created by John Koenig in his Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. It’s a fantastic idea because it can make you feel one of two ways. Initially it can make you feel quite small and insignificant, because you suddenly realise you’re very much a small part in a much bigger story.

But on the other hand I find it quite empowering, because if you look at life from the very microscopic to the macro level - the planets, galaxies and beyond, the more incredible and significant we become. You realise how amazing it is to exist, to have a consciousness, to actually be. So if there’s one objective this album has it’s to make people aware of that, to step back and encourage a different perspective.

How do you feel ‘Sonder’ represents “TesseracT and its history” as an album?

If you listen to each TesseracT album you’ll notice there are drastic differences. What we’ve inadvertently done over the years is create a fanbase for each album, for each particular era of TesseracT. I thought it’d be really cool to take an element from each album and create a hybrid Tesseract sound.

I think it’s the first album we’ve written in a long time that has a really cohesive concept, not just lyrically but musically. Albeit very compact and concise, I feel as though it’s probably one of TesseracT's strongest records. I think the best is still yet to come, but it’s definitely a springboard into that next evolution.

How do you think TesseracT will achieve that next evolution?

I feel like the best album is gonna come when we get together in an environment where we can just jam new ideas. We’ve done it quite separately in the past. And even on ‘Sonder’ it’s still been quite sporadic. We often do a lot of file sharing and write in our own little hubs. And we haven’t had real drums on a record ever, which is something we were desperate to do, but finances kept us at bay from doing that. So hopefully, if the planets align, the next album will be the pinnacle of TesseracT’s career.

The writing has been more collaborative on ‘Sonder’, that seems like a step in the right direction...

The whole process changed, instead of Acle writing an instrumental demo and giving it to me to put vocal on, we actually started to write a year and a half ago with little seeds, which would be 30 seconds to a minute long ideas. And from the very first moment, I was creating melodies to those from an early stage. So as the songs have developed there’s always been a vocal foundation to work from.

If there had been ideas that weren't in the right key or things that needed to be changed, that was the right point to make those changes, as opposed to establishing a full instrumental hoping someone can do their thing on it. It’s very unrealistic sometimes to take that approach. This is why [it’s] our most cohesive album to date.

From a technical perspective how have you changed your approach in singing for TesseracT?

When we were first signed to a record label we were pressured to go to the studio, finish the album and start campaigning. There was never really any consideration of how that was going to translate live, especially from my perspective. I was quite an inexperienced singer, especially in the the studio, so I did things that were far too unrealistic to achieve live. It made the experience of going onstage quite a negative one because there was a lot of apprehension and uncertainty to get through the set or sing certain parts.

That was a big learning curve for me, and inadvertently that’s the same thing that Ashe [O'Hara, former vocalist] did when he came into the band. So when I came back into the band again, I had to come back as a stronger singer to do my own stuff, and I had to retrain to sing Ashe’s stuff because he has a very different timbre to his voice. When it came to ‘Polaris’ that’s why there’s a lack of screams in individual songs, which is far more achievable to sing live. So now it’s about creating achievable, emotional, passionate vocals with a strong single lead. Everything now is a lot more focused.

In your Spotify podcast, the Metal Talks Playlist, you mention learning a lot from Devin Townsend. Who else have you been inspired by out on tour?

I’d say from touring with a band like Gojira, we saw a very different live approach. The music was just so full, and loud, and abrasive and in your face. The impact of that was something we were quite struck by.

We’re normally quite a clean band, and we have a very polished sound live because we’ve got an amazing front of house engineer. But I do think that it’s influenced the heaviness on ‘Sonder’, especially from a tonal perspective, we’ve changed guitar equipment from Axe-FX to Kemper. We’re always influenced in some way, but [this time] maybe from a subconscious perspective.

You’re on tour in the US now, where in the globe do you want to take TesseracT?

We do feel like, on a level, we’ve broken America - not in a huge mainstream success, just because we’re now on TesseracT’s 10th US tour. America is quite a hard place to get good opportunities and it's quite expensive to tour over here. Luckily we’ve worked hard over the years and built a good reputation. America’s great for us. It’s a growing market, it’s never stopped growing.

TesseracT have a big following in India and Australia, we’ve toured there a lot, and obviously I was part of the Indian rock band Skyharbor. Japan is a place I’ve toured twice with different projects but TesseracT have never been. I’d love to get them out there. Certain parts of China we’d love to go. TesseracT have been on a very steady gradient of growth ever since we started and it’s not looking like it’s slowing down, and we’ll do our best to keep it going.

'Sonder' is out now on Kscope.

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