Tesseract’s James Monteith on Developing ‘War of Being’ Game With New Album – ‘It Was Massively Adventurous’
TesseracT guitarist James Monteith was the guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show, dropping by to chat about the band's latest album, War of Being.
The group has taken an ambitious turn with their fifth studio album, developing a desktop game that gives listeners another layer to the story and themes of their latest release. Monteith delves into the process of expanding their world to include a gaming concept, while revealing how they added touches that made it truly their own.
In addition, he addresses how their new album is translating live and the new songs he's most enjoyed performing. And James also speaks about what it's like to be a touring band in 2023. Check out more of the chat below.
On the show with us this week, we've got James Monteith of TesseracT. TesseracT have taken things to a new level this time around incorporating a desktop game that helps tell the story of their latest album, War of Being. James, can we talk about the development of the themes for this record? And did you always have in mind to take this to something bigger by including the gaming element?
Very good questions. I think the concept itself developed in the studio and very much came from Amos [Williams], the bassist. The general concept is based on The War of Being, about the conflict within yourself and trying to understand yourself and better yourself. And then it sprawled into a much larger concept and with tons of detail which we probably don't have time to go into right now, but definitely worth having a look.
The game sort of happened side by side, so this concept developed. During Covid times Dan [Tompkins] had built up a huge, a really big Twitch following, including some game developers. He basically started casually talking with a few of them about developing some kind of VR project, wasn't quite sure where it would go, and it very quickly turned into the game. And so Dan was the one who spearheaded the whole kind of game idea. And at first we thought it was massively adventurous. We didn't know if he would pull it off and then yeah, he did it. He basically made a crazy VR game that goes alongside the album.
TesseracT, 'War of Being' Game Kickstarter Announcement
James, can you speak about the challenges that came with writing to a particular visual gaming idea that still needed to be developed?
Dan would be the best person to answer that, but I think he would probably say that quite a lot of it happened organically. When Amos came up with the characters of the story of the movie he helped sort of visualize what they would look like, sketches and computer illustrations. And then that was taken to the developers with Dan and then they brought 'em to life and Dan also added in lots of personal elements.
His son Jack actually voices a few of the voices in there. So I think a lot of it was just literally just going with the ideas that existed at the time mixed with the resources that they had. And yeah, luckily he was working with some very talented developers who managed to bring it all to life.
One of the great things about the game is that it builds a sense of community and the fans have gotten involved through Kickstarter funding while the band has made it a family affair. Pulling from Amos's writing and having Daniel's son Jack voice some characters, what have you most enjoyed through the process of creating the game to go with the album?
I think a big part of it would've been, as you just mentioned, bringing in the community and like the Twitch fan community all played a big role in that. And obviously as you mentioned, there was the for the initial phase of it, which is available now I forgot what the technical term of it is which happened before the Kickstarter. Basically when fans got involved, they just paid $5 to play the early version of the game, with early access. And they've also been giving feedback and helping, yeah helping I guess with the development in that sense. And, so now as you also mentioned, there's the Kickstarter, which has developed the full game that's sort of already had a lot of support and yeah, it's been a wonderful experience to really engage all the enthusiastic and brilliantly nerdy fans.
There are elements of this game that deal with fantasy, horror and puzzle solving. How do you find the gaming world and the music world overlap? Are there games that imprint on you? Like what did this opportunity provide you in being able to tell your story?
I think there is a big crossover between gamers and people who like progressive music a lot. A lot of people into those things are kind of quite deep thinkers and also like to spend a lot of time at home in their bedrooms. And I guess that's sort of, that's where those two worlds meet and like across the band obviously classic games like Doom are a big inspiration, but also more RPG type games like Rust and you know, lots of puzzle solving, bits of action, really good animation. I think that was a really key thing that I know Amos was keen to work with Dan on, is making sure that it visually stood up and I feel like that's, they're gonna take it to the next level when they develop the full game.
TesseracT, "War of Being"
There's some absolutely epic material on here from "The Grey" to "Legion" and of course the title track. While the game gives you one representation of the song, the concert stage is a whole other thing. Which new songs feel particularly good to you right now and how they fit into your set and will they vary any of what we hear on the new record?
We're actually playing a lot of the new record on this tour. We were very pleased with this record. We spent, as you probably know, five years on that. I think Covid played a part in that, but it actually brought us more time to really make it the best it can be. So we felt that we should make "War of Being" quite heavy. And personally I absolutely love playing the title track "War of Being" you know, it's really nice to play something that's a really big long chunk of music. It's quite a challenging piece to play as well. It's technically challenging. There's a lot to think about when you're playing it and that's sort of fun.
Then tracks like "The Grey" you mentioned, that's just, that goes down like a storm. It's big, and it is a good live hit with the fans I think. And it's been really nice to be playing all this new material off so long and we've also got quite a big light show that goes along with it. So we're trying to really ramp things up and make the experience as exciting as it can be for anyone who comes to watch us.
TesseracT, "The Grey"
James recently there were headlines talking about tip money for merch vendors. I'll open this up to a broader topic with it seeming that bands are facing more and more challenges in the current touring climate. What are some of the biggest challenges you're facing as a touring band in 2023 and what would you like to see happen to make this a more rewarding experience for all involved?
Just to tackle the first point very quickly there was quite a lot of misinformation about what Jay [Postones], our drummer, was trying to say. And although I guess he didn't put it over in the most tactful way, I think he was basically trying to highlight what seems to be a bit of an imbalance in earnings across the board through I guess a cultural difference, which we don't quite understand.
He didn't at any point say that we want to take tips away. He did make a suggestion of how things should work, but that was a suggestion, which obviously wasn't a band line and anyway, it's been an interesting couple of days. But yeah, I think for us that was also a massive learning experience because you know, in Europe, our culture's very different. We don't have tipping really, so it's something we don't fully understand, but yeah, it's been eye-opening and we want to apologize to anybody who may have been offended by that.
But secondly, yeah, touring is much more expensive. Costs have gone up, but I mean, I think we all find that inflation has been crazy across the world. The cost of everything is much more expensive. I think it's just more of a general world problem. Also post Covid prices have gone up a lot, but then I guess again, that's a general world problem. I'm probably not being that articulate on this point, but things are tougher. We're all in the same boat and we've all just gotta go out there and do our best.
The new record from TesseracT is called War of Being. James, a pleasure to catch up with you and wish you the best of luck on this campaign.
Thank you very much. It's been great talking to you.
Our thanks to TesseracT's James Montieth for the interview. The band's 'War of Being' album is out now and available to pick up here. And you can learn more about the development of their game at this location. You can stay up to date with all the band's happenings through their website, Facebook, X, Instagram, YouTube, Spotify and TikTok accounts. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here.
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Gallery Credit: Lauryn Schaffner