We had the chance to speak to TESSERACT guitarist James Monteith before they hit the stage at this year’s ArcTanGent Festival (read our review here). We had the chance to find out what sort of crowds the band prefer to play in front of, as well as some information on their upcoming new album. Being such a technically sound band, James also give his opinion on whether knowing musical theory is even worth the time.
Now that TESSERACT have played a large number of festivals, which do you prefer, the smaller ones like ArcTanGent or bigger ones like Sonisphere?
James: I love them all! I love playing club shows to a hundred people, I love playing arena shows to 5000 people. They’re all very different, have their own challenges and experiences but I love playing them all!
Do you find TESSERACT’s sound translates well from stage to stage and isn’t restricted to sounding especially good in certain conditions?
James: We have got quite a wide spectrum of sound in what we do. In smaller club shows perhaps the heavier sounds come through a bit more. We like to explore quite low end synths and I think on the big shows, where Aiden our front of house, has a lot of room to work with, lots of the other areas that don’t shine out in smaller rooms come through, so I like to think we can work in both environments.
Alongside the new song Smile can we expect any other new songs in your set?
James: We haven’t actually finished any other songs yet! Well, we have 3-4 that are virtually finished, but not entirely.
When Smile was released it came with an in depth description of what the song was about, would you care to talk through that explanation?
James: Bloody hell, you’ve put me on the spot! I think it’s an exploration of the human condition, and it’s an ironic name because it’s more to do with depression, and the mental condition and its fragility…I think! Dan would’ve been better to answer that question.
How do you come up with concepts like that?
James: Dan and Amos come up with most of the concepts, Dan being the man lyricist. He often reflects on his own personal experiences or just his own thoughts about the world, life, society.
How do you balance the ideas musically, or is the music purely a vessel for Dan’s lyrical ideas?
James: I think it’s far more the latter. The music and lyrics aren’t written together, although I guess the music might inspire Dan to write something sometimes. Generally, they’re not entirely related.
Are you conscious of maintaining the balance of sounds that make up TESSERACT or is it done naturally?
James: I think at the end of the day, we all like songs, we like things that are simple and easy to listen to. This combined with our drive to do interesting things ultimately results in that outcome. We like choruses and whilst we don’t like traditional song structure, we like melodies and we like hooks, things we can latch on and sing along too!
Does knowing musical theory elevate your music?
James: I think it’s a tool that can help you, I don’t think it’s the be all and end all. I suppose in our band we have varying degrees of people who have studied, some quite deeply and others not at all, and I guess when you work collectively as a team it does help to have someone with that knowledge. It’s not vital, I think sometimes if you know too much theory it can be restrictive creatively because it limits your thinking.
Coming back to the writing of the new record, how is that coming along?
James: It’s good, there’s a massive mountain of ideas, we’re just seeing what works, but we have to have it done by November, so it’s crunch time.
How is it working to a deadline, especially when writing such technical music?
James: I think the pressure might be necessary otherwise we’d never get anything finished.
Speaking to a lot people it would appear that the reason ArcTanGent Festival is so popular is because people are here to listen to the music. Would you rather play to a small crowd of devout fans or to a massive crowd where the majority of people don’t know who you are?
James: Playing both is very important, but If I had to choose, playing a show where people are actually enjoying themselves as opposed to not is always nice. We just did a tour with MEGADETH and MESHUGGAH and a lot of those crowds were very challenging, I guess they weren’t really sure what to make of us. It was really good though, introduced us to a lot of new people, but the crowds were always tougher to get along with.
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