Getting Sophisticated with Tesseract's Amos Williams

Audio surrealism and classical music...we're very cultured here at Metal As Fuck

Tesseract are on fire, obviously not literally but figuratively - they’ve just played a massive gig at the UK’s Sonisphere festival and are preparing for their Australian tour with Periphery. It’s going to be huge and I’m excited. Amos Williams (Bass/Vocals) spares some time between gigs and rehearsals for a catch-up.

How was the Sonisphere gig in England? “Sonisphere was amazing.  We were really lucky; the weather was really nasty so our tent was absolutely rammed. Security actually closed it off and wouldn’t let anyone else in so there were as many people outside as there were inside. It was a shame because a lot of people were quite angry because they’d come a long way to come and see us...I guess that’s just the way festivals work these days – there are just loads of massive bands and most people that are on there [festival line-ups] are really popular bands. Sonisphere in the UK is incredible...we’re so lucky just to get these amazing festivals - though I hear Soundwave is pretty good down your way?” Indeed, we like it a lot.

I’d have thought that the Sonisphere gig Tesseract’s biggest gig so far but Amos tells me that the band played a festival in Karagpur, West Bengal at the beginning of the year: “We were headlining that, and that was actually bigger.  It was five or six thousand screaming Indians which was insane. It was at a university there at something called Springfest. It was just incredible.”

The band were pretty tied up doing the press rounds at Sonisphere and they didn’t get to catch up with any of the bigger acts but Amos did manage to catch up with one celebrity; “The best thing was having dinner...I was sat down next to Bill Bailey the comedian, which for me was just incredible. That was who I wanted to see that weekend!”

We talk about Peripery’s output and their plan to release two albums in the coming year – do Tesseract feel the need to match that? “Not at all, man, not at all...I found that quite funny when I saw they were doing two albums, I was like ‘Alright. Nice one, guys’. As it is, we’re going to be spending the next year focusing on touring.  Periphery released their debut album about ten months before we did so they’re kind of on the next stage of things anyway. Even though Tesseract and Periphery both started around the same time, like six or seven years ago, and we’re very influential on each other; they’ve always raced ahead and done their thing with far more output and we’ve always taken our time.”
So the album One - how has it been received in the UK and Europe? “It’s been fantastic; particularly in the press as well, everyone’s really got behind us and is really pushing us. It’s only been out now for about three months and it’s just done phenomenally well.  In the States too... a lot of our focus will be in North America for a little while, just to capitalise upon that interest. We’re just so lucky, everyone has just been really positive about it. It’s had one or two bad reviews but most of them have been absolutely fantastic – it makes you feel really good because we did put a lot of hard work into it and made a lot of sacrifices so it’s fantastic to see it all paying off.”

There are a lot of diverse descriptions of the band but how do the band see themselves?
"We try not to get in a funk about it – people will always call you what they will, and the whole ‘djent’ thing is the scene where we’ve come from but it’s also progressive metal, progressive rock...I guess ‘progressive’ is the real word that you have to use, regardless of whether we’re tech or math, because to be honest there isn’t really any design going into it. We’re not sitting there going ‘Right! We’re going to make this particular bit fit into this many bars with this many notes’ – it’s definitely not in any way math. It’s quite amusing when people say we are, simply because we don’t consciously think about what’s going on; it’s mainly an after-thought as to whether we understand what the musical elements are; whether it’s 5-4, 11-4, or 9-8, whatever the time signature is. To us, the most important thing is that it’s got a pulse - that it makes you want to nod your head and also that it makes you want to feel things.”
"When you’re making something, you’re unable to fully appreciate what it is – you can’t see the wood for the trees and all that shit – it’s only when you have a bit of time or when you have a totally unconnected viewpoint of it that you’re able to see what’s going on so maybe it is mathematical, maybe it is complicated but we’re certainly not in a position to appreciate that.”

We move into a discussion about Tesseract’s distinctive sound; the switches from clean to dirty vocals and time changes; is this something the band are keen to continue? “We’re actually kind of evolving; certainly with the newer stuff there’ll be less of the death metal style growling. We really like switching that contrast and that dynamic that you can create but it’s a fine line though, isn’t it? I mean, you can’t just do a heavy chorus and a clean verse or the other way round because then you start to become a bit formulaic. It’s basically wherever the song takes’s a bit of a weird one because sometimes it could be a nice punchy verse and then a soaring chorus but then we don’t really do the verse/chorus thing either.  It’s literally a case of if it feels like we should do something, then we put it in.”

The album has Concealing Fate, Parts 1 to 6 – what’s all that about? Why not call the album Concealing Fate and be done with it? “We just let it carry on really.  We didn’t get to a point where we looked at the clock and said ‘Wow! This is ten minutes long – we’d better finish it up’ – we just let it continue and it goes where it goes. That’s one of the few songs where there’s a tiny element of design in it, right at the end where we said ‘OK, let’s put an actual musical full stop on this and do something called a recapitulation where we were bringing in elements from the beginning [of the song]back in; they’re transposed and slightly different.  It’s almost as if there’s a question and an answer.” It’s a technique not dissimilar to one used by the surrealist art movement; the use of repeated imagery (in Tesseract’s case, the use of notes instead of paint), does the band draw inspiration from the classics?  Amos vigorously agrees: “I think it comes from the fact that I studied classical music when I was younger and this is what has been done in classical music for four hundred years and modern music hasn’t really caught up with that yet, so we’re kind of just introducing those ideas. The problem with classical music is that it often just pleases itself...but we just really want to have a party and make sure that everyone else can enjoy the music as much as we do so we’re constantly battling against how to keep it – not dumb it down by any means – ‘digestible’ for everybody, not just musicians.”
Tesseract and Periphery hit Australian shores at the end of July; will the band get some relaxation time in before then? “There’s a tiny break, and I say a tiny break because we have rehearsals for the Australian tour next week, so we’ve got this week off and that’s it.”

And what about the next album? Surely you can knock another album out to match the boys from Periphery? “We’ve got an awful lot of demos for album two; maybe 20 demos ready for it – the thing is we’re going to spend 12 to 18 months touring this album so it’s going to be the end 2012 at the earliest before we release the second album.  We have actually been recording while we were touring in America; you know – you’re sat in a bus for 12 hours so you might as well do something good!”

Amos Williams, truly a charming man.  Tesseract, truly an awesome band.