The chicken-fried steak stories were a good clue as to this column’s future but TesseracT guitarist James Monteith has checked in with so many stories from their current US tour that we’ve had to split his third column into two parts. We’ll start with the useful stuff: guitar lessons, shooting Maylene and the Sons of Disaster with BB guns and… what’s that about a second album? OH!
We’re a month and a bit into our North American tour. We’ve played over 20 shows, made some great new friends, seen all kinds of weather conditions, I’ve grown a full beard, shaved it off, and started to grow another again. It’s been eventful.
I’m sitting in another launderette, this time on 8 Mile in Detroit, absorbing the culture. Clothes washing is seriously the best thing on tour. Seriously. I can’t tell you happy I am that I don’t have to recycle pants for another week. If you’re in a touring band, you’ll know exactly what I mean. If you’re a girl, you’ll be hideously grossed out. I’m pretty certain that when my wife, Hannah comes to meet me at the end of the tour, she will bin all my clothes and make me buy a whole new wardrobe in Walmart.
Aside from massively missing my family, I’m having a great time, and I can’t express how amazing it feels to be so far from home and being welcomed by the American and Canadian people as we have been. It’s the accents I’m told…
We’ve also had some great news on the road. Some I can mention, some I can’t just yet. One of the most exciting is that we’ve been booked to play Sonisphere Festival with among others the big four this year! Our new friends Protest The Hero are also playing, as well as Periphery and fellow Londoners One Minute Silence, so we cant wait! Anyway, I thought I’d write a little about what we’ve been up to over the past month on tour…
This may seem a little obvious, but the actual reason we’re in America only makes up 35 minutes of our day. For the most part the shows have been great, with the standouts being Montreal, Chicago and New York. The audiences were great and the stage sound on those dates had everything required. We can’t quite afford our own sound guy yet, so it’s been very hit or miss, which ultimately depended on whether the house guy could be arsed or not.
We’ve found that the quality of stage sound is directly proportional to our enjoyment, which makes sense I suppose. Plus trying to play tight riffage without hearing the kick drum it’s a little tricky… but then we’ve played these songs so much we’re getting away with it. However we’re almost definitely going to invest in a sound guy next time. We’ve had a few equipment failures – mainly in the amp department – but the Maylene guys saved us on those occasions. If it wasn’t for Chad and Jake’s generosity with their amps, we’d have missed about 10 shows on this tour! More about this later.
Strangely, being first on of three is quite nice, as you have the whole evening to chill by the merch and drink the rider, eat dinner, browse the net, and chat to people. We’ve had a few celebs turn up to shows – The singer from Divine Heresy came to San Diego and God Forbid drummer Cory came to Philly. Both were really cool guys, and Cory actually helped us out with getting a drum kit here, which was awesome of him. Oh and Machine Head came to San Francisco, but they prioritised drinking Protest’s rider over watching us – which is totally understandable. Protest have a good rider.
I also love chatting to fans as many of them are music geeks or really into guitars and are generally really cool. I met a guy who had just started building guitars and he brought down his first prototype which I tried out at the merch desk. It was based on the Ibanez RGTs from around 2005/06, and he’d done an awesome job – great natural wood finish, comfortable thru neck and well-fitted hardware. Pretty impressive for his first attempt and that he made it in his shed.
I’ve chatted with a few guys who had recently bought awesome boutique guitars which was cool, and I even chatted to someone who was starting to build his own stop boxes in his bedroom. At one show a TesseracT fan couple (of which there seem to be a few now!) told me that they love to “Fuck to TesseracT”. Even though I was prudishly grossed out, it was a nice compliment I guess. A few nights later we were staying in a motel where I received a disturbing phone call, which made me think back to this moment. To be continued in #3b…
Quite often we get emails asking how to play our music as well as general music questions, so we figured that we should start teaching on the road. I personally enjoy teaching as it’s a great way to recap various techniques that I take for granted, and it’s always great to teach people who are keen to learn. As we’re second support we don’t usually have a sound check, so we generally run lessons from around 4 to 6pm, and usually find a space in the venue.
I use my pod and two pairs of headphones and can set up pretty much anywhere which is great. Guitarwise people typically want to learn the rhythm guitar techniques we use and my guitar tips on writing irregular timed and polyrhythmic riffs. Regular advice I give for the former is to not limit yourself to 4 or 8 bar loops, try various combinations of phrases and make sure you keep a pulse, so no matter where the riff goes, it still grooves.
Jay mainly teaches rudiments on his drum pad, as well as discussing rhythmic patterns and grooves. Without the need for power or quiet he can set up anywhere. He’ll even give lessons at the merch stand if you ask nicely.
By far the busiest of all of us in the lessons department is Dan. Dan is a vocal coach at home, so he’s probably the most qualified in the TesseracT school of rock. Whereas the rest of us mainly teach the usual nerdy musos (like us), Dan gets a wide range of clientele. He has even taught girls – a rare demographic at our shows.
If you’d like a lesson from any of us, check out our tour schedule and drop us a line at email@example.com.
Demoing on the road
Modern technology is amazing. Not only does it aid laziness enabling our band computer to take over pedal switching duties for myself and Acle, but it’s also allowing us to make the most of the time on the road. The drives in America are long, so what better way to spend them than recording? Well Dan specifically has been doing exactly that.
Armed with his laptop and an M-box audio interface, he has been writing and recording vocal ideas on the demos for album two, and despite the background noise of the van, it’s sounding pretty good! There are probably about 20 or so song ideas for the next album, and some of them are really coming to life now.
In fact, Dan is recording behind me as I write this… He’s been repeating the line, “Maybe we won’t fall,” for ten minutes now, trying different melodies, adding harmonies, and he’ll probably play it back on the stereo in a bit for us to check out and discuss. Once the vocals ideas are there the songs start to take shape which help form the arrangements. Hopefully album two will be half finished by the end of the tour.
Tourism and culture
Beavis and Butt-head Do America is a very educational film and taught me all I know about American geography and the sights. I learned about the Hoover Dam, The Washington Monument, Butte city and of course the Petrified Forest. So if you want to learn about America, you’re into toilet humour and have a minimal attention span, go watch it. Now.
When you’re on tour far from home, it really is worth making the effort to see the sights, and in America, there is no shortage of things to see. As I mentioned we managed to swing by the Hoover Dam, which is an incredible feat of engineering, especially when you take into account that it was build in the 1930s. It holds back 35,200 cubic km of water creating a huge reservoir and agricultural land in the desert on one side, and generating 2080 MW of electricity via a hydroelectric plant on the other.
We’ve seen a mini tornado tearing up fields in Colorado, the vast expanse of the Arizona desert, the mountains and frozen lakes of Canada. Jay went for a walk out onto a frozen Lake Superior, which was quite incredible to watch, especially from the warm safety of our van.
The food, once you get past the dirty convenience of fast food, is pretty good too. My favourite meal so far was in a little restaurant in Texas where I had cajun spiced catfish and corn with black eye peas. Seriously good.
I do love the variations on language between the English and the Yanks too. I love the the American prudishness about the word “toilet”. Americans generally talk a lot straighter than the British, so why cant they bring themselves to talk directly about the place where we piss? Acle has been caught out by the chips-crisps thing a few times which has been amusing. It was especially funny when for the third time he ordered steak and chips and got a side of Ready Salted.
There’s a fair bit of down time on the road, so we spent a bit of it getting to know our new friends. We has a hilarious night in Austin on the Protest tour bus. Mo (drums) had acquired a selection of BB guns and we got stuck into some fairly serious target shooting. As more booze was consumed we started to be a little less careful, and it wasn’t long until we were shooting each other. I’m not sure what hurt more the next day – the hangover or the bruises from the bullets.
Not that I want to give the wrong impression – Protest aren’t a violent outrageous bunch, in fact they’re very chilled and well behaved. Maylene on the other hand are crazy… if only for the reason that they don’t seem to believe sleep is necessary to function. I think they’ve stayed in literally three or four hotels on this tour, and the rest of the time power napped in the van. Hardcore. Lovely guys though and a lot of fun, and their music inspires whiskey drinking… well I like to blame them for when I may accidentally drink too much any how.
James will be answering a couple of questions in each column so email firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions or leave it in a comment below! Ask him whatever you’d like to know. It could be something about TesseracT, his guitar technique, the djent genre or more stuff about James getting drunk and eating bad, bad food.
TesseracT tour photos courtesy of Kristell Gathoye.