If there is one thing that djent bands are very adept at it is their ability to lose vocalists, so much so it seems to be a rite of passage amongst bands of this ilk, from Monuments and Periphery to The Contortionist. TesseracT it is well documented are no slouches in this department, seeming to change as much as the WWE attitude era Hardcore Championship. Still in the touring cycle for previous album Altered State(Century Media) and on the eve of the summer festivals, came the news that Ashe O’Hara had left the fold, and the welcome surprise that talismanic vocalist Dan Tompkins (at the time also singing for Skyharbor and his own project White Moth Black Butterfly) had assumed his old role.
At the time it seemed completely out of the blue for Tompkins to return, but as Jay Postones explains, he was always the right man for the job, it was circumstances that played their part: “We always kept in contact with Dan and he just couldn’t do it back in the day, when we were touring it was a bit much for him really. But now we are in a much better position, more stable financially and we are able to do it as a proper band. He’s always been able to ride to the music very easily, he’s always been a part of TesseracT, really it’s just the right time.”
In that time, as Postones states, they were always in contact, and during his absence Tompkins had kept very busy with other bands and projects and has been a frequent part of the scene so the idea of rust wasn’t an issue. With so much time passed however you’d expect a settling in period of sorts. As it turns out, this wasn’t the case: “There was no need for integration at all. The hardest thing was getting all the legal stuff right because he had been screwed over before with record labels, management etc, but in artistic terms of what we were trying to create; our vision and his vision align so it was spot on as it’s always been…It was very simple, he came back in and started writing and it was seamless. It’s just great to be working with him again.”
Talking with Postones it is abundantly clear that the band are extremely happy to welcome their old singer and brother back in, in part due to the memories of those early and older tours that they were so fond of. His return brought back that sense of nostalgia as well as the lease of life to move forward: “One of the cool things was that we had a lot of material and demos written from about 2011/12 when he was with us before that we were able to revisit; there were some riffs that we started for Polaris (Kscope). It was really nice to start at that point because a lot of them were written on tour, Dan would be singing along in the van when we were driving past things like crazy, massive lakes in Canada and places like that, and it was nice to be able to start and think back to then.”
Looking back at début album One (Century Media) and Tompkins’ other projects he has done it is clear that he is quite simply a phenomenal talent, but as Postones explains about the singer’s learning curve, frighteningly he is just getting better: “Everything he has done has improved his abilities, he can sing higher that he could before which is just insane because he could reach some stupid notes when he joined is. Everything he has done has helped him develop his voice to a stage he can effortlessly do stuff on Polaris without over shooting himself, and the reason I say that is because if you play an absolute blinder on recording, you have to do it live as well, especially for a vocalist, so what he has put down, every night he’d be fine.”
The impact of Tompkins’ return has not only seen his performance on the microphone skyrocket, but has also made an impression and effect on the rest of the band, rejuvenating them all to a whole new level: “I think the level we had come to expect, I think the bar was raised when Dan came back to us. He was able to absolutely fly with the material. Seeing him nail it every night made us up our game and it was inspiring to see.”
There is the old adage about people or things fitting together perfectly like a glove, and of course it is always cliché for bands to say this about any member when they are together and then that changes when they depart. With Tompkins’ back in the band however, the obvious connection amongst the entire unit and the bond they have shared even when apart suggests that this is the definite incarnation.
“We are all a similar age and we get on really well on tour. You’ve got to be a band of brothers when you’re in a band, not just a touring business which it is for some bands. You can spot the bands that aren’t going to make it more than a few years because there’s arguing, bitterness and egos. The thing with this band for me is that there is none of that. If you need space you get space, we all know each other really well now and can support each other when having a bad time.”
Even the issue of distance between the members (mostly all scattered around the UK with bassist Amos Williams now residing in Shanghai) does not prove too much of a burden for TesseracT, with them all making sure the communication is still going, and the unity they have as a group: “There’s a lot of conversation, the amount of emails between us is ridiculous, like about 100 or so a day. But other than the time difference in Shanghai it’s the same as it’s always been. As well as the emails there’s the usual stupidity between us all, we are a band of mates which is great, and I hope it stays that way.”
WORDS BY CHRIS TIPPELL