C/O Andy Ford

Interview: Tesseract – James Monteith “I Think The More Progressive Side Of Metal Is Really Finding A Massive Audience Right Now.”

It’s a bleak rainy day in Manchester, and we’re all in dire need of a giant neon flood of colour to brighten up these late winter blues. Luckily, the Tesseract bus has rolled into town, bringing our sci-fi progressive metal friends and their tales of other worlds and dystopian drama in glorious Technicolor. On the Tesseract bus, we find ourselves chatting with the ever-awesome guitar genius, James Monteith, for a debrief of their giant world tour and the recent unstoppable rise of progressive metal. Whilst getting ourselves settled into the lounge of the rather swish bus, it does occur to us that progressive metal is a much bigger prospect these days; maybe the rise of bands like Sleep Token is paving the way for a broader appeal; we’ll get on to that later, we think. First, we have more local matters to attend to…

The big news this week, and we’re here in Manchester, is that you guys are doing what Sleep Token did last year. You’re headlining Radar festival this year! That’s big news!

“Yes, definitely.”

So, for your band to be following into those arena spaces as well and having the global appeal that you’re having these days is quite tremendous.

“Yeah, I feel like it’s been a slow burn, a slow climb for us. It’s like there’s never been any massive peaks, no kind of hype and growth. It’s just been steady, steady, and obviously a bit of a bump, but it’s still quite steady. It’s like there’s no kind of…I don’t know what the word is; it’s hype. It’s just solid, and it feels good.”

We feel like Tesseract’s fans have been there for the whole journey. The band first came into our consciousness about ten years ago. There’s been a lot of change in music since then, but we feel Tesseract’s been one of those bands you can rely on; you don’t alienate anyone or dumb down the music either, which is very interesting. 

“But also, in heavy music and all music fashions come and go, the things that are the sound of the moment and we’ve never been that we’ve never been the in sound, we’ve been sort of doing our thing on the periphery, no pun intended, of what’s going on in popular metal and I think that’s basically what we can continue to do.”

We totally agree Tesseract are one in a league of one; even though you’re attached to a wider scene, I always think of the band as being your own guardians of your own part of it. Meanwhile, the ‘Djent’ scene has a lot of similar bands. Tesseract is its own thing. I don’t want to say the Genesis of metal (cue laughter, honest!), but like that band, you’re your own thing,

“You know, Tesseract is just Tesseract. I think a key part of having our own identity is, yes, the influences are from the roots of the band, and now it’s basically just evolving what we have rather than being inspired by anything current. It’s an evolution of where it began.” 

We ask James if he thinks it’s a testament to experience. Risk-taking, knowing your parameters, and knowing exactly what you do comes with a career of 10, 20 years plus?

“It means that you don’t really have to care about the training too much because you know what you do, and you do it really well.”

On this leg of the tour, Tesseract has brought out Callous Daoboys and Unprocessed as support acts. Both are very exciting for very different reasons. Why did you pick these bands?

“Well, for these tours, we get given a bunch of options, and the agents and managers saying these could all work. We all agreed on these bands for a number of reasons. I mean, Unprocessed, in terms of the whole kind of progressive take on metal, is literally at the top of the game in terms of performance skills and style with great hooks and songs, and they’re phenomenal. Playing after them every night, it keeps us on our toes, making sure we play properly. They’re absolutely an excellent band and it’s a real privilege to be out with them. And then, Callous Daoboys is a slight wild card because, with an opener, you can be a bit more experimental. I loved their album last year; it was phenomenal. I remember when they were given as an option; I personally really jumped on that! I was like, absolutely, if they want to do it, let’s do it! Because it’s math metal, crazy sort of off-the-wall stuff, but then they’ve also got a brilliant sense of humour with it and, again, good songs. Each band is very different, but it all works together quite nicely.”

It’s a great package to have Callous Daoboys as the party starter announces the night.

“Yeah, absolutely. They do. They get the party started every day, yeah, and they’re lovely people.”

We ask James, where to next? Are you finishing in the UK? We’re sure Tesseract has been everywhere by now!

“Yeah, we’ve done well. We did all of the US and Canada before Christmas. Now we’re just wrapping up the European leg of the tour, I’ve got a few more UK dates, and we’re doing Dublin, and then that’s done. Then the next thing is Asia and Australia; we’re doing that in April and May. Then, after that, we’re doing Radar, which is now announced. And then in the autumn, there’s some more stuff to be announced in other parts of the world.”

It seems that Tesseract continued to hit the ground running. The second the album came out, it seemed that they were on tour after only just a few weeks…

“We announced the tour ahead of the album. We just basically said, yeah, it’s like 90 dates. I think we’re about two-thirds of the way through that.”

Staring down the barrel of all those dates must have been crazy.

“It was pretty crazy. Yeah, it’s great, even just looking at one leg of it. It’s still massive. So, when you put it all together, it was just…”(exhales deeply)

One thing that we heard was that Latin America was massive for Tesseract.

“That was amazing! We did that about this time last year. I think it was in March last year. That was a wild time. We’d never been there, so we didn’t know what to expect, but when the first show, we played in Sao Paulo, sold out, a 1500 cap room, and it just went off! Crazy. Then, we played another Brazil date, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and Colombia. Yeah. And all those shows were incredible!”

It seems that those areas of the world are responding to this sort of music. Then you’ve got bands like Exist Immortal, who are going on Japanese tours now. 

“I think the more progressive side of metal is really finding a massive audience right now. Yeah, interestingly, India was one of the first sort of new markets that was unexpected. But we first went to India, I think in 2010 or something, and we played this massive Festival with Meshuggah and Enslaved, and it was huge. It was wild, and we’ve been back to India a few times now.”

Is that something that has to do with the rhythms of India? They may pick up on the polyrhythms a bit. 

“Maybe, yeah. And it’s slightly more interesting metal. Maybe it’s a bit more intellectually advanced musically.”

Absolutely. Well, yeah, most of the rest of us are on 4/4 beats.

With showtime approaching, it’s time for us to exchange spicy treats with James, as is customary and make our way to the photo pit. With James’ thoughts ringing in our ears, we wonder if the recent rise of progressive metal results from the audience getting smarter or if we were actually clever in the first place, and it just took a band like Tesseract to inspire us…

Tesseract Facebook

Interview By George Miller – https://linktr.ee/601music

Photos C/O: Andy Ford