TESSERACT’S ACLE ON THE BIRTH OF TESSERACT AND THE DJENT MOVEMENT
The “djent” / bedroom producer-musician scene has gone from a tiny niche community on the Internet to a worldwide phenomenon in just a few years; in 2010, it’s a serious presence in the scene that any metal fan can feel. But how did it all get started? No one would know better than TesseracT guitarist Acle who’s been there since the very beginning. To that end, here’s Acle with a quick little history lesson:
It was probably back in 2002 / 2003 when the online community of producer-musicians who spawned the bands of this new wave of progressive metal, or “djent”, began to come together. A key unique factor that set this community / scene / then-to-be-genre apart from others is that it had no geographical base; people from all over the world were (and still are) sharing ideas, recording parts for each other and even jamming via the internet. Like punk came from the bars, clubs and rehearsal rooms of New York, this scene started in chat rooms, forums and home studios. This made it easy for many like minded people to find each other, something which would have been impossible without the internet.
Before I really had any recording experience I’d occasionally check the Meshuggah, Toontrack and Harmony Central forums. I’m sure there must still be some ancient posts on there! They were good places to pick up guitar technique tips, achieving certain tones and basic recording things. I learnt Meshuggah’s famous “djent” chord on their forum which is basically a normal power chord with an added 5th which gives that iconic “djenty” Meshuggah sound. The term “djent” just meant the sound of this “meshuggah chord,” not a scene.
I kept on recording ideas and I’d post some of them on the forums which is how the Tesseract name grew. Around this time Fredrik Thordendal from Meshuggah had a quick listen and posted “Nice tone!!! All the demos you’ve uploaded on the Toontrack forum are amazing!!!” which obviously motivated and spurred me on!
Tesseract, Fell Silent (my then other band), Bulb/Periphery (Misha Mansoor) and Chimp Spanner (Paul Ortiz) were all very much in their infancy and were constantly posting up clips online as well. I remember Misha asking me to program some drums for him eight or so years ago on the Meshuggah forum but nothing really came of it. This was at a time when we were both learning the ropes of mixing and developing our styles.
While I was developing my musical and producing skills I was also on the hunt for musicians to form a full band. Attila (Julien Perier) became the first real vocalist for Tesseract around 2004-2005. He just emailed me with some vocals he put over “Sunrise” which I loved and I suppose that was the first modern Tesseract song. This was the first complete finished song and started to get Tesseract noticed beyond the forum geeks, although I hate the song now that I’ve heard it so much. We did a few songs over the internet but due to him living in France it was too difficult for him to really be part of the band – one major disadvantage of this global community! I also had a few jams with Stef Broks, the drummer of the Dutch band Textures. While we’d known each other previously from when they did their first tour here in the UK, we went over a lot of the music online before meeting up and jamming. Originally we (TesseracT) intended to get Stef to do a track on the album, but again the distance involved made it unfeasible. Maybe that’s something for the future… who knows!
A key technological development for the community was good-sounding affordable home studio gear. About eight to ten years ago I was using Toontrack’s Drum Kit from Hell 1 which was the first good sounding drum machine I can remember. I then moved onto Superior Drummer 1 and 2. I’m pretty sure the same goes for Misha (Periphery) and Paul (Chimp Spanner). Now we’re all Toontrack endorsees; I wouldn’t have imagined that was possible all those years ago when I was first buying Drum Kit from Hell 1!
The old POD Pros were revolutionary in terms of convenience and the quality of sounds they could produce. For the first time you could create decent rhythm tones without using an amp. I also used to mic up my ENGL Powerball with a Neumann TLM193 and SM57 and just experiment with different settings and mic placements. A big part of the Tesseract sound is the clean guitar tone which I developed on the old POD. While it has evolved slightly now, it is in essence just a very glassy and sparkly sound which really sticks out yet fits in the mix when done right. I use Fractal Audio’s Axe FX a lot now when recording (as well as the POD Pro XT) but it’s a tweaker’s worst nightmare with it having hundreds of options! Chatting and sharing ideas on the forums definitely helped me to evolve and grow to try new ideas tonally and technically. I’d always be experimenting with different amplifiers, cabinets, microphone placements and different ways of mixing too.
It’s great to see that some of the original forum guys, namely Paul and Misha, have formed bands and are going on to do even bigger things. Monuments are another good band to break out of the forums and into the real world. They were born out of my then co-guitarist in Fell Silent John Browne’s side project; go check them out!
Tesseract’s debut full-length Concealing Fate comes out on October 12th in the U.S. Take a gander at some music on their MySpace page.