Chad Bowar: What led to Elliot Coleman's departure, and how did you decide on Ashe O'Hara as his replacement?
James Monteith: Unfortunately things didn’t work out with Elliot, mainly due to geographical issues which made writing the new record very difficult. He was in Washington DC and we’re all in and around London UK, and writing over the internet wasn’t working. We also differed on a bunch of musical ideas, which didn’t help. We’re still good friends and will always hook up when we’re in each other countries, though. He’s a top vocalist and a great guy.
We found Ashe via a few friend recommendations, and when we opened the auditions he applied and we were blown away. As part of the process, the entrants had to write vocals to an unheard piece of music. We sent Ashe a few riffs, and he essentially wrote and returned the song “Nocturne.” He came to a rehearsal, did really well, we went to the pub, hung out.. and then asked him to join. Thankfully he said yes.
What led to the decision to move away from harsh vocals?
A number of things. First, harsh vocals just didn’t seem to work on the new material. No one at any point said, “let’s not have screaming;” the music just evolved that way. Whenever harsh vocals were attempted, it sounded tired and like everything else. The only way for us to feel like we were doing something fresh and exciting was with the use of melody. Ashe also isn’t that into screaming, and when you have a voice as dynamic and powerful as his, there’s no need.
How did the songwriting and recording process for Altered State compare to your debut?
Well, it was a lot quicker! The first album was like a compilation of the first seven years of TesseracT, where as everything on Altered State was written in that past two years. As before, Acle (Kahney, guitar) would produce raw demos, send them around, and we’d all comment/contribute ideas, and the tracks grow. Ashe also joined the band in the writing stages, so his vocal work had a strong influence on the overall direction as well.
Recording-wise, we were on a tight schedule and low budget, so everything was recorded in Acle’s studio. Last time we went into a big recording studio, tracked all the instruments the old school way, but this time it was all built from the demos.
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of this album?
For me personally, it’d be when Ashe had finished tracking the “Of Matter” section and the rough mixes were sent around. His vocals blew my mind.
How has the band's style/sound evolved on this one?
The songwriting has matured, the production skills of Acle and Amos (Williams, bass) have developed, and the album has an overall more cohesive feel. There’s a lot more emphasis on melody and the mixing of multiple moods in one sound is more apparent. TesseracT are a progressive band, and the sound will always be evolving, just because we and specifically Acle, are always trying to do something new, and to stay the same is totally boring!
What has the early response been like?
Overwhelmingly good! The fans and the press are both digging it, and there has been a notable absence of internet trolls, which was surprising. There have been a few comments of “where’s the screaming?, etc” but that’s expected.
How was the video shoot for “Singularity”? What's the video's concept?
We’re not in it! The video features a female actor who gets impregnated by an alien. I just watched the first cut and all I can think of is Alien Tentacle Rape. It’s much deeper and nowhere near as sinister as that, but that’s the best I can do at the minute.
How was your European tour with Periphery?
Amazing. It’s always amazing to go out with those guys. They are such great musicians and phenomenal to watch every night, and they’re the best dudes. We had an epic night when our tour bus broke down so we traveled on theirs and partied hard! The audience responses were great too. The crowds were really digging the new stuff and Ashe, which was awesome.
Any plans of a North American tour?
Yes, but nothing 100 percent confirmed right now. We’re juggling offers and hope to have something locked in very soon. I’d say we’re 90 percent likely to come over this year. If not, very early next year.
What's the craziest thing that's happened to you on the road?
In Pune, India, Jay (Postones, drums) and I once got on the back of some motorbikes and went cruising around the city, went to a bar and drank the biggest beer ever. It was like a 10 liter jug. We then went back to the hotel and Jay got in the bath fully clothed. Still not sure why he did that.
What are the largest and smallest crowds you've played in front of?
The largest was playing Karapur in India, which was around 4000 people. Smallest was our first show at the Cellar Bar in Braknell, in front of about 10 mates and the guys in the band No Made Sense.
Where haven't you toured that you'd still like to get to?
Japan and eastern Asia! We’re all massively into eastern Asian food, so this would be a dream come true for us. Oh, and the opportunity to play to new people, of course.
Seen any good movies or DVDs lately?
The new Star Trek is epic.
What's currently in heavy rotation in your MP3 player?
Slayer. I have been mourning the loss of Jeff Hanneman.
Anything else you'd like to promote/mention?
I am doing a 161 mile charity bike ride to Download Festival for Nordoff Robbins (UK), who use music therapy to help treat people with metal difficulties and other ailments. It’s a fascinating and amazing cause, so if you have a spare dollar or two, please sponsor me!