Many bands have done livestreams over the past couple of years since they have been unable to properly tour. Tesseract took the concept to a whole new level by producing the cinematic P O R T A L S event. P O R T A L S was ambitious concept created to offer an escape in a time of isolation. The live cinematic experience fused live performance with beautiful lighting and striking effects, brought together by chaptered screenplay. By taking their most daring steps as a creative force, the band offered the viewer a completely new and unique experience.
TesseracT performed songs spanning their entire catalogue. Highlights included “Nocturne” off their 2010 debut EP, Concealing Fate, and continued with “Eden” (One, 2011), “Of Matter” (Altered State, 2013), “Tourniquet” (Polaris, 2015), and “King” (Sonder, 2018), with the whole performance capturing 14 songs over 2+ hours. The show was a phenomenal success and garnered praise from fans and media worldwide (Check out our own review of the event here)
Now, Kscope is proud to present this unique event to a wider audience for the first time. The film and soundtrack will be issued on an array of formats including Blu-Ray, Triple LP soundtrack, and as a limited edition deluxe 4-disc book edition on August 27. The P O R T A L S included a crew of 45 people that was planned over several months. The show features the band playing live against a backdrop of a well-choreographed laser and light show along with a running narrative of filmed sequences that ties the retrospective set together nicely.
P O R T A L S can be pre-ordered HERE.
Contributor Rick Atkinson spoke with bassist Amos Williams about the concept of “Portals” and the general state of “Portals”. Continue reading for their full conversation.
Tell us about the origins of “Portals”. One thing I noticed in the end credits is that you are credited with the design and concept for the project.
Yeah, sure. I was looking for a stage design for when we were coming out of the pandemic and thinking, we’ve got to hit the ground running. I really wanted this to have an impact. And I knew that we wanted to develop a video aspect of what we were doing, but I also knew that I really disliked the massive TV screen look behind the band that people use. So I really wanted to play around with that aspect. And, concurrently, we had the idea of doing a stream as well at the same time.
And so these things kind of mounted together. Obviously, all it did was flip the screen on its side. And that was lighting up little bells here and there. That’s just how my brain works very much like that you drop a pebble in and a thousand ideas come from the ripples. And often the hardest element is trying to get it all down quickly before they disappear. But with this one, nothing else was kind of distracting me at the time. I was in the middle of the countryside in France for the last couple of years. And it’s really meant that I couldn’t go out and do things, especially during the pandemic. I was inside. And so I had my pen and my paper and the stage just came out really quickly. It was really, really easy.
And the idea of having a retrospective style stream needed a connecting point and nexus and a doorway made sense, but rather than call it doorways, “Portals” made more sense. But we also wanted to have a staging for a narrative that was connected to the performance and it was almost as if it couldn’t not be this. And it seemed like the only choice and just made perfect sense. And because it was so bold and singular, there was no need to mess around with it. And everything from there was just following the footsteps of that initial idea.
How did you come up with the track list?
It made sense to have these things collected together in a temporal manner. So things from “Altered State,” because we were trying to get that attitude and that vibe and what that album meant. We would put that together and things from the first album, One, we put that together and “Polaris” because the songs they work very well together, but there’s a tone of those tracks. That, to us, are singular and it’s the same with “Sonder.” But interestingly, “Sonder” is the only one that we didn’t necessarily want to put a contrasting track. Because if you look at each Act, there is a track at the end, that is like the end of a paragraph. When you’re writing, you lead to where you’re going in the next paragraph. It was like that. So it was like writing a novel, you’d explain your topic, you’d have your resolution, but then you’d have your leading sentence.
And that’s how we were treating the last track of every Act. So it was very much a case of just using these snapshots as a means of traveling personally to these different time periods, but then mixing it up by having a contrasting element that was applicable just to those songs. So not like something that would lead you to the next, what was happening after, but more to add like a dessert almost for that particular section. It was quite easy in the end because we asked ourselves the questions, what songs do we wish to play? What do we wish to perform? And that sounds quite selfish, but this was almost a celebration of us creating and playing music. We were trying to explore and to share what we really love about being in Tesseract. But we did get to the point where we also said to ourselves, well, we’ve got to give something to the fans.
So we had a collection of songs in the back of our heads that we knew they wanted, that we knew our audience had been asking for. And for whatever reason, we just had never got around to performing those songs. So that’s what the last Act was about. It was very much a case of an encore almost, but we never really do encores. So it was a case of, we’ve said what we want to say now here’s a little bit of surprise.
So was Eden one of those?
Yeah and we had the whole of ‘Of Energy’ (Altered State”), which is great. Then the last track, ‘Seven Names’ (“Polaris”). And these are all tracks that are never performed live, but we had no excuse now.
You guys seem to hit all the highlights, though, I’ll say you did leave out ‘Smile’ (“Sonder”). I was curious, that’s one of my favorites. Why did it not make the cut?
I think just because we performed it quite a lot and, to be honest, it didn’t really fit with the section that we’d kind of set aside for “Sonder,” but it certainly was on the original list. And, in fact, we were going to do ‘Smile’ into the ‘The Arrow’, but we had earlier in the year filmed and released a Live in the Lockdown. We felt it was too much of the same thing. And we wanted to do a little more, but we obviously did duplicate some of those tracks, but some of those tracks we just couldn’t leave out.
As far as the recording, did you record it in chunks? Was it a song or a group of songs at a time?
So the recording was dictated by the staging. When the stage changed. So Act Two had a bit of a change in it. We had to stop it after the ‘Concealing Fate’ (“One”) section. And when we were switching out a microphone stand, which had a light effect on it, and I think some additional lighting that was just for that section. So elements like that, basically it was a 20 minute chunk, which was fairly difficult to be honest, we did a couple of different angles since it was quite hard to have so many cameras. We only had six camera operators. So we couldn’t really do much more. And there was this jib, which is like a boom arm that comes across that I actually really didn’t want at all. But everybody around me was like, we have to do this. It makes it look pro. And, personally, it’s not my favorite thing. I don’t know why it just doesn’t work for me. It kind of takes the magic out of it. But I understand there’s lots of reasons for something like that and the people that know better, the camera operators, the director, management and label, they were like, you’ve got to have it.
Well, it looks fantastic. So what are the moments you’re most proud of the experience?
Camaraderie, like the achievement or the sense of having created something as a group that we all worked really hard on, not just the band, but the other 45 people involved with the whole production when we got to the end of it, we all felt like we’d done something that we were happy with, which is quite rare for Tesseract. Proud is never a word that I use because it doesn’t fit with my emotions with this, but something that we can look back and reminisce about and go, wow, we’ve essentially done what we would do in a long six, eight week tour condensed right into this time. And we’ve got memories and stories that we’re going to hold onto and cherish. And it was just really cool to have that more than the achievement of producing something itself.
Was it all filmed in one day?
Yes, it was, I think we started at midday and we must’ve finished in eight, nine hours later.
And there were no real breaks. And to be fair, it must’ve been super hard on Dan singing for that long, but he’s been doing a lot of training over the last few years. But even more so on Mike Malyan, the drummer, who was standing in for Jay (Postones), and I could tell Mike was losing his mind in the last Act because I think one of the last tracks, ‘Eden’, has the weirdest groove that Tesseract has ever done. But the final Act also has the most complicated song in terms of parts and memorizing, which is the whole ‘Of Energy’ (“Altered State”). It sounds really simple, but that last section, ‘Embers’ that I still don’t, I can’t conceptualize it. I can’t work it out intellectually. I can only feel that track. And even after eight years, it makes no sense to me. I just don’t quite get it, but it sounds really simple.
Yeah. That seems like the toughest gig in the world for Mike because your music is so complicated. And, to have to step in and do that. How was it for you as a bass player working with him?
We’ll have the reference click track, but I have it at a level that I only notice it when the drum is out. When I’m working with Jay that never really happens. I can’t actually think of a time where Jay is ahead or behind the beat to a point that I would notice the click. With Mike it was exactly the same. He’s a machine. So the only thing that was slightly different was Mike was maybe a little more ambitious with some fills and we just let him go with that because it gave him ownership. And that’s quite important for a musician, I think. Otherwise, you might as well just have a backing track.
Yeah, you don’t want a robot back there.
It was a unique show, a unique event and therefore it needed Mike‘s personality on the drums. It’s interesting to hear the difference actually, and, for him, I think it will change Mike as a drummer and his approach to music. But I think it might change Jay‘s attitude within Tesseract. I think he’ll have more confidence. I know that sounds strange.
Well, you probably learn something from hearing another drummer play your music.
Yes, I should not step out a little more, but I should I should add some more to it. So I’m really looking forward to getting on the road with him (Jay) again.
I noticed there were a few songs that seem tweaked to me where either it was Dan changing the lyrics around or sometimes he’s a little more aggressive with the vocals and then just certain things just sounded different.
I think that’s a representation of Tesseract live. Things are just a little bit turned up, be it more aggressive or more melodious. And we just evolve and they change depending on the tour because it’s about us. And with each moment that we perform, we’re slightly different people. So we have different attitudes, they change over time. And also we prefer to kick some different ideas, not to keep it fresh so much, but simply it is who we are. It’s an honest representation and we change over time.
Speaking of Dan, I think he’s really kind of grown and matured as a singer through the years. And you could certainly see that in this performance. What are your thoughts on his performance?
I was just super happy to see him feeling free and confident, especially at this particular moment in time, where the spotlight was very much on the performance of us individually. We’d never really expressed this performance in such detail before. So it was really good for him to just be performing with such freedom and to be so relaxed. And it’s it’s wonderful for his confidence and his approach for the demos that we’ve been doing for the next album. He’s just matured so much as a musician and stepped into his own shoes, if that makes sense.
Yeah. I’ve been a big fan of his White Moth Black Butterfly project and other work. It will be great to see where he goes with Tesseract with the next album. Speaking of that, what can you tell us about Tesseract 5?
Yes, we’ve done lots of demos. We’ve got some other projects that we’re putting together now, and we are having a long term look at things and, in terms of releasing an album, I think it’s worth waiting for the right time. So we’re not going to rush into the studio right now because we don’t see the support of the industry being there for another 12 months or so, because of the pandemic. I’ve seen a few bands put an album out and I’ve just felt they should have held on to that. There’s nothing happening. You’re not going to increase sales. You’re not going to do anything except maybe further your contract, which maybe that’s the reason why, perhaps there was a financial reason, which is extremely valid for all musicians right now.
But I feel that if the album’s great, hold onto it and put it out when you can go out there and tour to support it. Otherwise, it might just disappear. I also think Tesseract is a band that is influenced very much by the period of time they’re working in. And I, quite frankly, do not wish to look back at an album and remember these last 18 months, because that’s what will happen. You know, I will not only have the feelings that I have right now, but I’ll have like real vivid smells and emotions will just all be tied into those songs and it will suck performing those songs for the next tour.
Looking forward to that when you guys make it back to the states, for sure.
It’s going to be so good to tour again and we miss it.
So how else have you been keeping yourself busy in the lockdown? I know “Portals” was a monumental task to deal with. What else have you been doing?
Well, looking at the door that “Portals” has opened for us, which is a narrative concept, looking at the way to expand upon the creative output of Tesseract. So we have things like Twitch streaming, which a couple of the band members have been doing. And now the rest of the guys, we’re all going set up an account in the next couple of weeks and get that launched come September, which is fantastic because that is part of the reason why Dan, for example, has blossomed as a vocalist because he’s working really hard each day and it’s enabling him to focus in such a way that he’s never had before. Same with Jay. His drumming has improved over the last couple of years because he’s had this other element in his life now.
We’ll see what we can do with another creative output like “Portals”. It won’t be “Portals” 2. It’ll just be something else like that. And I can’t quite say what it is yet because it’s in development and it’s been in development for six months, but it doesn’t have a final shape yet. So it’s really exciting. I’ve put a bunch of work into that and it ties in with the next album. So if it doesn’t happen, at least we have another album. Tesseract is a rare band that it can get away with doing things like that. And nobody seems to mind!