Hi! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some of our questions again! Last time we spoke was in 2015, when you guys had just released ‘Polaris’. How’s life been treating you since?
Life has been pretty intense. With every new album cycle, there are new adventures both personal and professional; and the Polaris cycle was definitely an adventure. Wild things happened both in the public eye and behind the scenes. I’m very much hoping that the ‘Sonder’ touring cycle is no less exciting.
And now, two and a half years later, it’s high time to congratulate you on the pending release of ‘Sonder’. You guys have released some material from it already (with singles ‘Luminary’ and ‘King’ most recently). Have the reactions been as you predicted?
I suppose you hope for positive reactions to everything you do, but I’m not sure you ever go into the studio with the mind to create positive reactions. Especially in progressive music, each song should almost be a shot at something new, and experimental to some degree. That being said, we felt very positive about the album, and I think the good sign was that each band member had a different favorite song; which should translate to the album being generally well received by a wide proportion of the public. Which it has!
I feel the musical direction has been shifted a bit on ‘Sonder’, with a focus on continuity and composition more so than on previous releases, but I might be wrong. If you had to describe the planning and writing phase of the album in two words, what would they be?
Panic followed by Elation. Each time you’re working on a track you always hit a slump in confidence and enthusiasm. If you don’t, then as an artist I suggest you may want to check your ego and make sure you’re not surrounded by sycophants. So, especially with new TesseracT material where there is this constant looking back at the relative success of the previous material, you do sometimes wonder if the moves and decisions you are making with new material are the right ones for you.
’Sonder’ will be you guys’ fourth full-length, but it all started with ‘Concealing Fate’ in 2010. How do you look back on that EP and that time now that almost eight years have passed?
It really is a wonder that it is only eight years! That period of time was quite stressful, but quite wonderful as well. All experiences were new experiences at that time. We started with a tour supporting Devin Townsend through North America, which for a bunch of guys like us was wonderful. Driving yourself around the vast expanse of such a continent is daunting in and of itself; let alone having to get to a show each night and play like your dinner depended on it (which it did!) Things are easier now…in comparison anyway. And although we are growing with each show, things have settled down somewhat.
It’s also remarkable in a time where lineup changes seem imminent and ever present that Tesseract has been in the same formation (outside of vocalists) for all that time. Are there specific things you attribute to that?
A better system of working behind the scenes, defined goals, and empirical evidence of persistent progression. Whilst I would love to say that we do this for passion and for the love of music, it takes us away from everyday real life for such a long period of time, that it has to pay it way, so to say. In order to be an internationally touring band, we need some recompense. Otherwise we would all end up very single and very lonely very quickly haha.
I’d love to go in-depth with ‘Sonder’ for a bit, if you don’t mind. ‘Luminary’ was chosen as the lead single and it opens the album. What made you choose this song as the opener on the album and the lead single?
It has an immediacy that mirrors the temper of the song. This very accurately reflects the first step towards that moment of epiphany that the word sonder attempts to describe. It’s the reference point through which we need to start from in order to view the world from a singular point of view.
’King’ is a standout for me personally, with its incredibly infectious groove and the glorious return of Dan Thompkins’ screams (with them coming back on ‘Smile’ as well). It also features some stunning lyrics like “Bow down submit to me and kiss the ground / Until it’s safe to breathe and coexist again”. Are there certain lyrical themes that persist throughout ‘Sonder’?
I think it is fair to say there are strong themes of isolation, longing, and looking towards a place/moment of solace. I tried to represent this in a very literal interpretation in the artwork. Using busy city scenes with ignored and forgotten people, as well as resolution scenes that mirror the staple TesseracT uplifting outro chorus. We are always using themes of duality and isolation is the easiest one for us to springboard ideas from. Whilst we get more crowded we somehow lose that sense of community. The contradictions that we all experience, that bind yet separate us all.
’Juno’ has one of the “djentier” main riffs on the record, yet as always you guys never lose sight of melody. I felt this song was most akin older Tesseract material. What can you tell me about its writing process?
It’s a song of two halves, literally. We have been separated by about 6000 miles for most of the Polaris writing and release schedule. This extended into the writing period of ‘Sonder’, so Acle wrote the first half of that track, and I wrote the second half and for some reason the seemed to work together. I personally love how that song spins on a spot and completely changes everything with one small moment in the middle. It’s very much like a life changing incident, but still somehow flows back into the original theme at the end.
’Beneath My Skin’ and ‘Mirror Image’ are a stunning display of what emotion in metal can evoke. I was incredibly impressed with Dan’s vocals on this song and they carry the song in my opinion. Dynamically, the song shifts a lot – now a staple of the Tesseract sound. Do those dynamic shifts in heaviness, sound and tone come natural to you after all these years or do they still require a lot of effort?
The persistent dynamics are an example of restlessness, and the need to be spawning something new to keep the mind from wandering perhaps. We nearly always have to have a few rounds of adding repetition into tracks, otherwise you end up with spending six years writing a track, like the case with ‘Concealing Fate’!
Am I wrong in asserting that ‘Beneath My Skin’ and ‘Mirror Image’ hold ties to each other by the way?
Those two tracks worked well together from a presentation point of view, as with ‘Altered State’, where the order became a very significant part of the delivery of the album. And ‘Mirror Image’, although I believe to be actually older than ‘Beneath My Skin’, was actually thematically ‘corrected’ by ‘Beneath My Skin’, as it was recorded after ‘Beneath My Skin’ was finished. TesseracT is always about what preceded the now and how that affects your opinions, but conversely, and confusingly, we often think about what is coming next, and how what we do now will affect what’s coming next, whilst also changing what follows to increase what proceeded…if you get what I mean, hahaha. It’s a vicious cycle that has a big impact upon our choice of set orders, track listings.
What can you tell me about the gear used on the album?
The main change was the switch from Fractal Axe FX guitar preamps, to Kemper Profiler Amps. The Kempers are very realistic processing units that give us flexibility and the chance to have models of hundreds of amps and preamp options for the guitar tones. This definitely had an effect upon the direction of the album. Leading us down a heavier path.
You’ve stated your influences time and time again, so I won’t pester you with a standard question. However, if you would be able to form a supergroup with musicians from all over the world stemming from your favorite bands, what would the lineup look like?
Personally, I am much inspired by the ‘flame’ of inspiration and inventiveness that some musicians exude. Imagine sticking Doug Wimbash, Marcus Miller, Jaco Pastorius, Victor Wooten, in one room. With just a bunch of instruments, and see what they could come up with after a few hours. It could be gnarly, but it would be new, fun, and inspiring for sure.
With 2018 already underway for over three months, what are some albums / artists you’ve been enjoying as of late?
I am currently stuck, I often get like this when working on new music. So, I have had to move away from music, and am lost in literature at the moment. Specifically, a Chinese author Cixin Liu and his series called The Three Body Problem. I tend to only experience new music at concerts, and well later this year I get to hear Automata 1 by Between The Buried And Me as we tour with them throughout Europe. So, that will be awesome!
That’s right! You guys are hitting up Europe with Plini and Between the Buried and Me later this year and pass Nijmegen in november. What can fans expect this time around?
We have a sense of urgency about us, as reflected in the album duration, perhaps. We’re hoping to maintain this feeling of unbridled energy and translate that to a somewhat more energetic performance than previous years. TesseracT is like a fusion reactor at the moment, so hopefully we will be able to share that feeling with you in Nijmegen.
Now, I’d hate to end on a sad note, but I feel it needs to be addressed. A lot of “heroes” have died in rock and metal last year and 2018 has already taken its share of victims, with Dolores O’Riordan impacting me most personally. Which passing (if any) affected you most?
Stephen Hawking left me with a strong sense of loss. For as long as I could remember he was present in my education path, and was the gateway for Carl Sagan and Richard Feynman for me. So, I feel like this demon haunted world has lost a candle bearer.
I want to thank you again for taking the time to answer some of our questions. Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?
As always, it is quite something for anyone to take the time to read about us, take an interest in us. We all have such diverse, distracting, and demanding lives, that is wonderful that people choose to spend some of that thinly stretched time with us.