Chatting to James Monteith from TESSERACT

TesseracT are known to invite listeners on an expansive, esoteric, and atmospheric journey, constructing unique and immersive worlds within their music, all of it drenched in swirling layers of sound, distinctive melodies, and unapologetic experimentation. Last week we caught up with James Monteith from the band to have a wee chat ahead of their South African tour.

A trip to South Africa, have any of the guys travelled to South Africa before?

First time for all of us actually, very very exciting. We’ve never been anywhere like South Africa…we can’t wait.

Expectations…about the country and the fans?

We’re cat people, well at least I am and Acle as well, we love cats, so it’s just like the cats are bigger there right  😉

I don’t know what to expect really because it’s not a part of the world that I have ever been to. Generally pretty much everywhere you go in the world it’s very similar – the fans are very kind, nice, interesting people. Im very much expecting South Africa to be like that as well.

Is there anything on your bucket list to do while in Africa?

We are going to go on a safari, I think when we are in Cape Town. So I would love to see some of the wildlife and the scenery. I’ve seen photos of the landscapes in South Africa and they’re absolutely stunning, so it will be amazing to see that. I also want to try some of the craft beer.

One of the founding members of the band, when you started off 14 years ago…what was your dream. Was it just to escape Milton Keynes?  😉

I guess I’m a founding member of the band when it became an actual band, but it actually started a bit earlier by Acle (our guitar player) as a side project, a solo thing. At the time when he started that project he was playing in another metal based band. So this started off as just something for him to experiment with.

Basically the first members of the original lineup heard the music through the internet and we all got together eventually, we felt there was something in it that was really unique. All of us wanted to be a part of helping to develop this idea that existed on the internet into a real live band.

I don’t think there was any real agenda, other than we all fell in love with the idea Acle had and we all felt that it was exciting and interesting. We wanted to get involved and develop it, and see where it took us.

So lets’ talk a little about your home town. The National Bowl – it has had many big names play there over the years. What has been your favourite performance that you have got to witness there?

I went to see Ozzfest – a long time ago now, 2002 I think. It was headlined by Black Sabbath with Ozzy Osbourne’s solo project playing support, I think Tool also played and Marilyn Manson. Yeah it was amazing – loads of great music and it was great to see Black Sabbath (obviously it was after their prime) but they were still giving it their all. So it was great to see them live – brilliant!

On the topic of your home town…. the fancy grid road system (V roads, H roads). It seems lots of smart and geeky (scientific/maths stuff) emerging from this town?

They like to be precise, they like co-ordinates. Basically when you’re in a regular town you ask somebody where they live they’ll give the post code and the address and you’ve go to look it up. Before the days of Google maps it was quite complicated, where in Milton Keynes you’d say ‘Oh yeah I live by the H75’ and everyone knew exactly where you lived.

I think the designers of Milton Keynes were looking to the future and had a great vision – but maybe since Google maps has become a thing it’s not so important now.

The people who created Milton Keynes were visionaries.

You have had many changes in vocalists over the years. How much of an influence would you say has that had on your sound each time?

It’s kind of hard to say, I think the music would have kept evolving in the direction its going. But I think where the vocalists really contributed is not only in terms of their own sonic style but in the overall tone of how the songs turned out. Ash’s sound is very catchy, very hooky. He had quite a high range and he was quite angelic. Very clean and quite sheeny. Dan has a grittier rock voice, so he has a wider spectrum of sound. When we were with Elliot we aimed at an acoustic feel, he had the jazzy voice which was the other end of the spectrum to Ash.  Ash had the super clean purer voice whereas Elliot had a very unpredictable – in a good way – voice. Quite unique.

With that said – has this shaped or altered the song writing process at all?

A little bit. It set us back a little bit working well as a unit.

Why so many changes on vocalists over the years?

All of it just comes down to life circumstances. Work / life balance…with family and touring it makes it very difficult. Also when you’re touring and at the end you have made absolutely no money, in fact sometimes lose money…you take those hits.
But ultimately bad luck and bad timing.

This is what we are in for South Africa

 

You have always produced your music yourselves, which is great as it allows you the freedom to achieve your vision. Do you feel there is any downside to that?

I suppose sometimes its good to have outside input, but no I think it worked to our advantage. Acle and Amos do most of our producing along with Dan, and Acle does final mix and mastering. I guess it comes down to it originally starting off as Acle’s solo project, so there is still that element that he wants that final polished sound to sound exactly like he wants it. The other advantage is the expense.

The term Djent is so nonchalantly thrown around,has it lost its meaning. Did it ever really have a meaning?

I don’t know, we were a band before that word even existed. A few years ago there was a massive backlash against it, everyone hated it. I think labels, music and music audiences are always evolving.

Milton Keynes has a LOT of roundabouts. As South African drivers are useless when it comes to (we call them traffic circles), can you give your Saffa fans some tips on correctly using them?

In Milton Keynes we put roundabouts everywhere to keep outsiders out…we don’t want people coming from all round the world. We want to keep Milton Keynes all to ourselves so we’d rather you not learn about roundabouts.    ;p

Not only a great musician but also a wicked sense of humor…we love it!

Super excited about this band hitting our shores in a few short weeks!

NOW ALL YOU NEED TO DO IS…

1.) Listen to the interview
2.) Get well excited
3.) Go buy your tickets!

You don’t want to be the loser that misses this one baby!

 

Interview by The Original CC