For Milton Keynes’ progressive metal act TesseracT, Sonisphere 2014 marked a new beginning for the quintet. Having parted ways with Ashe O’Hara weeks before the band’s appearance, the band have been re-joined by former vocalist Daniel Tompkins and are now set to tour the UK and Europe later this year before beginning work on album number three.
As Already Heard learned, the future is bright for TesseracT as new material promises to continue the band’s evolution to becoming more melodic yet as intricate as ever.
Fresh from opening the Apollo stage on the second day of Sonisphere, we spoke to bassist Amos Williams for a detailed talk on how the band reunited with Daniel Tompkins, their third album and their upcoming UK and European tour with Animals As Leaders.
AH: Can we get your name and role in the band?
Amos: Hey whats up. This is Amos. I’m the bass player in Tesseract.
AH: So how have you found Sonisphere so far?
Amos: Sonisphere is probably the best festival, well for me at least the best heavy festival that you’re going to get in the UK. It is just really well laid out, you go from one band to another. There is a lot of variation as well. It is not like the same old stuff, and they tend to get quite exciting bands as well but different acts from all over the world, so it is fantastic to come here and see. Tomorrow (Sunday) is awesome, you’ve got Devin Townsend, Protest The Hero, Karnivool, and Dream Theatre; it is going to be such a good day.
AH: Have you had chance to watch any bands so far?
Amos: Today I’ve had no time at all. I turned up at 6am, that was annoying, and then I was playing at 11am and then I’ve had no time at all to see anybody. I;m maybe going to catch Slayer later. Last time I saw Slayer was fantastic. Unfortunately Jeff Hanneman has died since then, so that sucks but it’s still Slayer though. Obviously Dave Lombardo is not going to be playing drums but it is still Kerry King and Tom Araya. Slayer was a big thing for me when I was a kid. So hopefully they’ll be good.
AH: Are you going to be here tomorrow as well?
Amos: I’m going to try and come back tomorrow. I just want to see my buddies in Devin Townsend Project, Karnivool and Protest The Hero. I hate to say but I’m really not that fussed about seeing anyone else. It is just that when you’re a touring band, you make friends, really good friends with people. Like today, some friends of ours, The Safety Fire, were playing, and I had no time to see them because I was just too busy. I love hanging out with my friends. You get to see them once every six or so months because you’re working so you try and make as much of the opportunity. I just saw most of the Devin Townsend Project, I was like, “Ok dude stay here. I’ll be back in 4 hours when I have finished with press, and I will come and see you.” We only see each other at random places. Last time I saw them was in Norway 4 months ago, and we spent about 10 hours together. Just hanging out and having a good time. They are like family to us, but because obviously they’re Canadian and we’re from the UK, we rarely get to see each other but only on the road. You’ve got to make the most of the chance.
AH: Is that what you enjoy about festivals most? That you get to see friends you don’t see often?
Amos: Yes that is it. It’s my favourite thing because random people you haven’t seen for a couple of years is perfect.
AH: You played early on the main stage. How did you find it playing so early?
Amos: We were really surprised. We were thinking “the weather is a bit bad, it’s really early” but we had a massive crowd. Even more so, it’s light so you can see them. In the dark you can’t see them, only 10 or 20 rows. We were lucky. There were thousands upon thousands people there, and we had quite a few fans which is even better. It’s really nice to see people wearing our t-shirts, so that kind of makes you think you’re doing something right. Main stage is an achievement in itself, but playing the main stage with people watching, wearing your t-shirt, singing along, that makes you feel like you’re doing something good.
AH: Because you only played for half an hour. Do you think that is enough time to make an impression?, especially on those who aren’t familiar with Tesseract?
Amos: Well yeah, I kind of hope so. That is what a festival is all about, it’s playing to the people who don’t know you, especially when you’re on the main stage. Because I’m sure most people there are like “I want to see Iron Maiden. I’m waiting 10 hours to see Iron Maiden.” So you’ve got to try and really slap them in the face, and be like “Iron Maiden are cool but what about us?” So hopefully those guys enjoyed what we did. We certainly tried our hardest. Today was cool. It was a bit stressful back with the new/old singer, so it was fun. It was stressful, but a lot fun.
AH: You mentioned Dan (Tompkins) rejoining the band. How did that come about?
Amos: It just wasn’t working with our previous singer Ashe (O’Hara). We were getting to a point where he was unhappy, we were unhappy; creatively and on stage. It is really difficult to put somebody into a situation that is very established because vocals are something quite universal. Everybody is in to vocals straight away, then there is the guitars, then the drums. It has always been quite hard for someone to take over Dan’s role when he left. Fortunately we’ve stayed very good friends with Dan. When it came to the point thinking it wasn’t going to work with Ashe, we managed to say, “Ok your life is now in a certain situation where you’d be happy to try and work with us again, so lets do it.” And we were so lucky we picked up where we left off. It is almost like the last 3 years haven’t happened. Things are very comfortable. We know each other extremely well. We’re able to make those little jokes with people you know really well. It was just so much fun on stage. We were just lookign at each other, me and Dan, all the way through the set saying “this is good fun” and smiling.
AH: Just good to be back together.
Amos: Yes really exciting. It is very promising for the future.
AH: How has Dan adapted to the songs from ‘Altered State’? Because obviously he didn’t sing on that album.
Amos: Yes. He’s comfortable with it. ‘Altered State’ is a lot less “metal” than ‘One’. From one respective, it is actually quite difficult because there is a lot of intimate stuff, so you have to have a lot of control over your voice for that, but in other respects it’s easier because he doesn’t have to do a lot of screaming and all that. We kind of always wanted to move away from that, the heavier vocals, and now that we are established with Altered State’. Dan is quite excitied about that. The rest of the band have been into the idea of moving away from heavy vocals, but Dan is very much not interested in it. We don’t want to sound like Meshuggah. If anything we want to sound like Duran Duran, just to drag that out into the ether. We’re more interested in melodic, clean vocals.
AH: I’m guessing you’ve began work on the third album. How has it been going along?
Amos: We got about 4 or 5 tracks. We might release something in September. We’ll see. We’re going to spend the next couple of months working on stuff, and then probably start recording in January. So hopefully we will be able to do something soon before the tour later this year. We’re touring in September, October, November throughout Europe and the UK with Animals As Leaders, so hopefully we can release something in September. We’re thinking quite early in September but we’re not going to fix ourselves to that. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen but we would really like it to happen, just to reassure people that we’re still Tesseract.
AH: In terms of sound, it is going be along the lines of ‘Altered State’?
Amos: No it’s going to be more along the lines of album 3. We will probably release a track that is quite similar to ‘Altered State’ just to make it easier for people.
AH: To sort of bridge the 2 together?
Amos: Yeah, but the next stuff will be whatever we decide to do. It’s not going to be fucking Fear Factory or Slayer, we’re still going to be fairly epic, fairly melodic, but it will probably be slightly different to ‘Altered State’ in the way that record was different to ‘One’ but it still sounded like Tesseract.
AH: Like you mentioned you’ve got the UK and European tour in the Autumn. Are there any countries or cities you’ve looking forward to going back to?
Amos: It’s going to be awesome. I’m really down with France. My fiancée is half-French, half-Belgian so I’m so looking forward going back to Paris where her family is from. I get to hang out with them again. I’m also looking forward to going back to Belgium where she has family. Belgium has the best beer seriously. Beer, food, chocolate, there is nothing in the world that beats Belgium. I could stay there forever. I’ve done a small beer tour, pub crawl of Belgium. I say small, it took me about 2 weeks but it was amazing. Antwerp has the best bar in the world. It is a place called Kulminator. It is just perfect. They know how to live, but also Italy. I really love the food in Italy. I engage how much I enjoy a place by how good the food is. I’m not been keen on Germany, the food is not that great. German fans are amazing, really loud but I kinda prefer France, Belgium, and Italy. The food is absoultely awesome and the beer too.
AH: It’s all about the food and the beer.
Amos: Yes absoultely. Perfect.
AH: You’re touring with Animals As Leaders. Are you friends with them?
Amos: Yeah we’ve actually done about 2 months touring with them in North America. It was us, Animals As Leaders, and Between The Buried and Me. It was a fantastic tour, so cool but so hard as well. Everyday doing a show then travelling for hundreds of miles but they are really cool guys. I got on really well with Animals As Leaders and Between The Buried and Me. I did some voiceover work on ‘The Parallax’, Between The Buried and Me’s last album, and on their live show they had me introducing them in every city, and the last DVD. They’re the best guys. They’re so cool. It is a shame we’ve not done anything with them over here, but I’m really looking forward to working with Animals As Leaders again. We were in LA, where they are based at the moment, a couple of months ago and they came out to our show. We were like “this is cool, lets do some touring again”, so it is going to be fun. Show them Europe, show them all the sausage Germany has to offer, all the crabs France has to offer, and all the shit food England has to offer.
AH: How do crowds differ in North America to over here?
Amos: We’re so much bigger in North America its ridiculous. We sold out a show in LA recently, a massive show. We are so lucky we get to play normal shows in New York. It’s weird. We’re just bigger in America than we are over here. I guess America just gets progressive metal. They like it, where as over here it is a bit more underground. Then you go to Europe, we’ll be headlining Euroblast in Germany and that is a couple of thousand people, so it’s pretty cool. Hopefully doing a show like this, to how many thousand people it was today means we build a reputation over in the UK. It is just sad that it is our home, we just do so much more in LA six thousand miles away. I’m not kidding, LA is fantastic and I love the fact that we can go over there and play to huge crowds but it’d be nice to do it in the UK as well.
AH: What size venues are you playing in the UK?
Amos: In the UK, it’s going to be anywhere between 500 and a thousand capacity venues. London is about a thousand, that should be pretty cool. It is just weird that the last time we played in New York, that was about 16000, it so weird.
AH: To finish this off. For people reading this, why should they come and see Tesseract in the Autumn?
Amos: Well we will really work as hard as we can to give you the best show possible. It’s weird because we are quite relaxed but at the same time we’re quite interested in the details, so I can guarantee you will not see anything like we’ve done before. Hopefully it will expand your horizons of music. What we do is influenced by other people but what those influences are, aren’t that mainstream, so I hope we can share really cool music with other people who like Meshuggah, Pink Floyd, Deftones, Tool, or Jeff Buckley. So if you’re going to stick them in a blender, mix it all up, then hopefully we’ll show you something you’ve never heard before.
TesseracT will be touring the UK in November. Support comes from Animals As Leaders and tickets are on sale now.
3 Talking Heads, Southampton
4 O2 Academy 2, Birmingham
5 Sound Control, Manchester
6 Scala, London
7 Cathouse, Glasgow
8 Rescue Rooms, Nottingham
9 Thekla, Bristol
Words by Sean Reid (@SeanReid86)