We chat to UK metal band Tesseract ahead of their first gigs in SA

2017-04-05 05:02

Cape Town - UK progressive metal band Tesseract will be playing two shows in South Africa at the end of April. 

Their shows will be in Cape Town at Mercury Live on 28 April, and in Johannesburg at Rumours Rock City on 29 April.

Tesseract consists of Daniel Tompkins (vocals), Acle Kahney (guitars), James Monteith (guitars), Amos Williams (bass) and Jay Postones (drums).

Channel24 had the chance to chat with James Monteith, guitarist of Tesseract, about the balancing act of touring and family, the departure and return of vocalist Daniel Tompkins, their tour with Devin Townsend Project, their upcoming album and their first visit to South Africa.

Check it out here:

So Tesseract is finally coming to South Africa, with shows in both Johannesburg and Cape Town. Are you excited?

Yeah, very much so. None of us have been before, so we're all really excited and can't wait to see what the South African metal scene is all about.

Are you planning to stay on after the shows, or coming through before hand to do some tourist activities, or heading straight back home after the shows?

We're heading there only for the shows, but we'll have the days free beforehand. So we're going to try and cram in trying to see as much as we possibly can. We have a very short time there, so we just have to be disciplined and get up early, so should be good.

Most of the members in the band are married, with the exception of Acle. How do you balance your touring life with family commitments?

It's a difficult balance, but we're not a hard touring band. We're not one of those bands that lives on the road for 9 or 10 months a year. We pick and choose what we do, so when we do go away it's tough on our families at home.

But I guess you can liken that to loads of other jobs where people have to go away for long periods of time. It's difficult, but it's manageable.

There was a time where we had to take every opportunity we could and that was a real strain, lots of touring the United States. I missed a tour and a half because my family was struggling at home, so I sat out of it. It has been quite tough in the past, but we're kind of over that hump now, which is kind of nice.

Your vocalist Daniel Tompkins was initially part of the band, and then he left, and came back again. Is everyone in good spirits and getting along since his return?

Yeah, we're probably in the best place we've been in a long time. It was quite turbulent when we had various singers come and go. It was just balancing real life with the band, and that's the main reason why Dan left in the first place, as he was struggling with the touring.

It's difficult, especially when we went to the United States. Luckily we're in the position now where we can headline shows and it doesn't bankrupt us. It's a very expensive and difficult thing to do in the early stages, which is why most bands don't get to go there unless you have a label that is willing to essentially fund you. It costs a fortune.

So to catch a break over there, you have to go there and work really hard and get the label to invest, which is ultimately your debt and you don't see any money at the end of it. Since we did the groundwork, we are in the position to go there and bring a little money back, which is nice. But yeah, it's pretty relentless.

You are departing on a tour with Devin Townsend Project, are you excited for that?

Yeah, it's going to be good. It'll be our third tour with Devin Townsend, (singer, guitarist and songwriter of Devin Townsend Project), and every time we've done that it's gotten bigger. It's pretty amazing to see how much his career has progressed. He's an amazing performer and entertainer.

What amazed me about touring with him is his show changes every night. His jokes are different. His banter is different. He's very off the cuff and a very likeable and funny man. The music is obviously excellent, but I think his personality just takes the experience to the next level.

The last album you brought out was an EP called Errai. Are you busy planning your next full length album yet?

Yup, we're working on that right now. We're not quite sure when it will be released yet, but over the next 4 to 5 months that is our prime focus.

Is there any particular theme for the new album, like all albums before it had a central theme around it?

I think there probably will be, but we don't know what it will be yet. At the moment there's a mountain of ideas and thoughts, so we're very much in the process of putting it all together now.

We have about two or three songs which are close to completion, but nothing is in its final state yet. But also, Acle in particular is a constant tweaker, so he's always striving to refine things and make them as good as they can be. So nothing ends up being in its final state until we're told: "Right, time's up, hand it in."

Do we have any chance of hearing any new material at your show in South Africa?

No, I don't think any of it is quite that ready yet, but we will be playing a mixture of stuff across all three records, so it will be an overview of everything we've done to date.

When Tesseract started, the sound was a bit more heavy and included more aggressive vocals, and in the last album there was almost a complete departure from aggressive vocals. Are you planning on bringing that back in the new album?

One thing we always try to do is not to repeat ourselves and do something that we find interesting and different. It wasn't a conscious decision to reduce the amount of screaming and aggressive vocals, but it was something we found to be a bit overly done, and we weren't feeling it when we tried it.

Never say never to aggressive vocals. On the last record there was a little bit used, more as a texture rather than a lead vocal part, and I'm sure there will be more of that. If a part calls for it, and it works, then maybe there will be a very heavy screaming part. Ultimately we just want to make music that sounds good, and if it doesn't excite it then we won't use it. And I guess the majority of us are kind of sick of that sound. Sick might be a bit of a strong word. It just doesn't do that much for any of us anymore.

In your time with Tesseract, what has been your favourite album to record?

I don't really know. I suppose the first record (One) might have been the most exciting, because it was a mixture of material from the very beginning of the band, we had a lot more time and there was a lot more jamming as part of the process, whereas the second (Altered State) and third (Polaris) records were a bit more regimented and we had less freedom to mess around. Having said that, I think the second and third record sound a lot more like actual albums, and are probably better for it. I suppose the nostalgia of thinking back to that time when we did the first record stands out a lot.

You are trapped on a desert island, but luckily you have been stranded with your iPod. Unfortunately, it only contains music from one artist / band. What is your desert island band?

That's really difficult. I think that whatever it was, I would probably get sick of it really quickly. Maybe like a classic Pink Floyd album, like Wish You Were Here, because their solid rock songs, so they can inspire other ideas as well. Because ultimately if you are stuck on a desert island with only one thing, you'd have to probably start making your own music to stop yourself from going crazy.

What stands out as your favourite show to have played with Tesseract?

I'm not really sure. Some festivals spring to mind. I remember in 2011 we played a tent in Sonisphere, which is a UK festival and it was amazing. It rained, so that helped, but we packed out our tent, I guess that was one of our first really good festival experiences. We played Download festival last year, that was pretty awesome. We've been going to see bands in Donington (the park in Leicestershire, England where Download Festival is hosted) since 1995, so it was quite an honour to be able to finally play in that place after 21 years.

How do you like smaller, more intimate shows?

We are fine with those, I mean that's where we came from. We still play lots of smaller shows. On the Devin Townsend tour we're doing a few tiny headline shows in very small rooms, so we're pretty familiar with that environment. I'm looking forward to it, sometimes it's quite nice to be in a hot, sweaty box.

Anything you would like to tell your South African fans before the show?

If you listen to our records, please come down and check us out live. Hopefully you'll enjoy it. If you're new to the band, please check us out, give us a go, and hopefully you'll like us as well.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us James. I’m really looking forward to your show, as I’ve been a fan for a long time, and I’m really amped to see Tesseract live.

Thanks, and see you there.

Tour details:

Cape Town
Date: Friday 28 April
Venue: Mercury Live
Time: 21:00
Tickets: R450

Date: Saturday 29 April
Venue: Rumours Rock City, Johannesburg
Time: 20:00
Tickets: R450

Tickets are available from Computicket.

Read more on:    cape town  |  johannesburg  |  music

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