The British progressive/djent band TesseracT return with their latest album Sonder. Guitarist James Monteith gets us up to speed on the new record, touring, the changing music industry and other subjects.
Chad Bowar: Was there anything unique about the songwriting process for Sonder compared to previous albums?
James Monteith: Sonder is definitely our most collaborative record to date. Acle has been and still is the main songwriter, but there were a lot more ideas that spawned from the other members than on previous records. We all work in our home studios and save demos in a shared drive. An idea can be started by one member, and then another takes it and adds to it and it grows from there. All ideas are then finished off by Acle in his studio. Our engineer Aidan O’Brien also contributed to the songwriting on this record, and he also did a lot of work on the atmospherics/ambiance.
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
Writing and recording are almost one and the same, so I guess my strongest memory was hearing back when Acle altered a section of opening riff to “King” to follow Dan’s vocals, which creates one of the heaviest moments on the album. It totally blew my mind and is one of my favorite moments on the album.
What inspired the album title?
Sonder means the realization that everyone around you has a life that’s as interesting, detailed and complex as your own. It’s a message about not being self-centered.
This was your shortest album so far. Did you plan to make a more focused album going in, or is it just how things turned out?
It just turned out that way… there were more ideas that we were playing around with, but it just worked as these 8 tracks.
How has your sound progressed from Polaris?
Polaris is was very much us getting back on the wagon after Dan rejoined, and Sonder is us hitting the ground running. Polaris was very song based, whereas Sonder is more conceptual, and many tracks flow from one to the next. In all honesty, it feels like a stepping stone for where we’ll be going next.
How much attention do you pay to reviews?
I read them, it’s good to know what people are thinking. If there are criticisms, we pay attention and it’s also reassuring when they are positive.
You have a North American tour coming up. What are your most and least favorite things about touring here?
Favorite things: Triple deep fried pies, chicken biscuits, bacon maple doughnuts, great beers and enough sugar to get you high.
Least favorite: Long night drives in our bouncy vehicle and border crossings.
How does the band’s level of popularity/venue size, etc. in North America compare to Europe?
We’ve been steadily growing here, which is awesome… I’d say it’s on par with the UK in terms of venue size, and a little ahead of the European mainland. I’d say this is almost like a home from home gig wise.
Where haven’t you played live that you’d still like to get to?
Eastern Asia. We’ve not been there at all and it’s been a long standing ambition of mine to play there.
What’s the coolest site/attraction you’ve seen while on the road?
On our first tour we took an 8-hour detour to see the Grand Canyon, which was incredible.
You released a video for “King.” How important are videos these days?
Very. People live on their phones and the internet, so any means you have to reach them through the noise is important. Videos are great as they add an extra dimension to catch the attention of the potential listener.
What have your learned promoting other bands in your job as a publicist that you’ve been able to apply to TesseracT?
To manage expectations. Certain types of bands get certain types of coverage, and appeal to different types of media. For example, we get lots of attention from muso and more nerdy outlets, and less in more youth/mainstream focused outlets. Many bands think they should be covered everywhere and that’s just not the case. Every band has its own audience that the media caters for.
What impact is the move from CDs and MP3s to streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music going to have on artists’ bottom lines? Is metal different with more emphasis on physical product that many other genres?
Since the population of the internet, the record sales income has rapidly diminished. However, it was at its worst around a decade ago when MP3s were popular and easy to illegally distribute. Streaming is the current solution to piracy and although it doesn’t pay out a huge amount, it’s a lot better than nothing which was the case a decade ago. Since Spotify, Apple Music etc. have grown in popularity, music torrents have pretty much stopped being active. It’s cheap for the consumer and the artists do see a little kick back. It’s not loads, but it’s better than piracy. People want to consume as much as possible, and these services provide that. Spotify is also a great promotional platform for artists. Getting into one of their playlists and the chance to reach new fans is huge.
What 2018 releases are you most looking forward to?
Black Orchid Empire – Yugen (killer UK 3 piece with big riffs and melodies), The Dali Thundering Concept (French prog metal) and Plini, who are rumored to have a new release later this year, can’t wait for that!
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
US tour is underay, please come check out our show!
(interview published April 20, 2018)