In the current episode of The Top 10 Albums Of series, we will look at diverse taste of a guitarist of one of the most innovative progressive bands on the scene. James Monteith from British band Tesseract also fits well into the behind the scenes concept of this website. As, instead of grabbing a beer during a free time of the tour, he sits behind a laptop to promote other bands within Hold Tight! PR. When I reached James, he started his list with this comment: “My albums are selected in order of time rather than preference!“
Michael Jackson – Bad (1987)
The first album I bought was Bad by Michael Jackson. I don’t remember my exact age but it was a 12 inch vinyl and cost me £5, so it was definitely a long time ago. Every song on that album is hit-worthy; they’re all constructed with the highest level of detail, yet delivered with simplicity that appeal to everyone from little kids through to musical intellectuals. The album is also richly diverse – there are aggressive & edgy tracks, beautifully melodic tracks, groove driven funky tracks – and yet somehow Jackson manages to combine all these elements into a sound that’s distinctly him. Absolutely incredible!
Guns N’ Roses – Use Your Illusion (1991)
Although my dad brought me up on a lot of guitar music, it was the Use Your Illusion double album that made me fall in love with the instrument. It’s obviously a collection of really great rock songs, but what got me hooked in was the raw and huge guitar tone, the emotive solos and tonnes of attitude. After getting lost in this album I knew that I wanted to pursue the guitar properly, and even to this day when I stick this on the nostalgia comes back and I become reenergised to play.
Metallica – The Black Album (1991)
Following on from my love of G n R, I discovered Metallica, and this album was the one that introduced me to metal. Again, I was at first hooked by the huge and heavy guitar sound, the use of chorused cleans, shedding solos and the sound of metallic palm mutes. When I first heard the end of the Enter Sandman riff the palm mute tone blew my mind and I set upon trying to replicate that sound (probably unsuccessfully!) on my Strat copy at home. This also opened the door to the world Megadeth, Slayer, Carcass and many more for me, so it’s vitally important.
Pantera – Far Beyond Driven (1994)
The discovery of Pantera was a huge revelation for me, at it introduced me to groove driven metal riffing like I’d never heard before. Dimebag’s soloing technique was also so unique. He had a very laid back bluesy feel yet was a precision master and his use of vibrato to and the whammy bar to create unique sounds is still unrivalled. His super tight transistor guitar tone – whether you like it or not – was revolutionary and really made me think more about rhythm playing as an art in itself. He was also the pinched harmonic master, some of the best squeals known to man are to be found on this and all over Pantera records. Absolutely incredible!
Dream Theater – Images and Words (1992)
This album properly introduced me to prog, and the idea that songs aren’t just limited to the constraints that music puts on itself. I remember hearing the end of Pull Me Under and thinking the CD skipped. It wasn’t only until I paid proper attention that I realised they had written in an unusually abrupt ending. But when I did, it made complete sense to me in the context of that song. This opened the door to a whole new and exciting world of prog.
Bad Company UK – Inside The Machine (2000)
In my 20s I became tired of metal and started exploring a lot more electronic music, and Bad Company were the gateway into Drum n Bass for me. They play a particularly dark style of drum n bass which is fast, aggressive and heavy – it appealed to my metal music tastes, but was presented in a new way to me. Since the release of this record D&B has got a lot harder and heavier, but this was a pioneering album and also the one that got me into the genre.
DJ Shadow – Endtroducing (1996)
Another pioneering album in the field of instrumental hip-hop album in the 90s, DJ Shadow created all the music entirely with other records. That might not sound quite so impressive on paper, but have a listen and you’ll see why it’s so great. It’s dark, melodic, the beats are top draw, and it’s one that I return to regularly.
The Cinematic Orchestra – The Man With A Movie Camera (2003)
Leading on from DJ shadow, TCO are a full live Jazz orchestra who play down-tempo hip-hop inspired music, and this album is a true work of art. The detail in the instrumentation is phenomenal, creating an all encompassing atmosphere, and the recording is so dynamic you almost feel like you’re in a room with the band. I’ve decided I’d like the song All Things at my funeral as it’s one of my favourite songs of all time.
Tool – Ænima (1996)
Tool are one of the most important heavy progressive bands to have every existed and the Ænima album was another record that changed the way I thought about song structures, but also space. The subtleties in the instrumentation are was make this album (and all of Tool’s work) truly special, and combined with Maynard’s pained and heartfelt vocal, makes this one of the deepest albums around.
Meshuggah – Obzen (2008)
Although not one of the classic albums, for me Obzen is the band at their very best. The riffing is ferocious, the inventive use of rhythm are at their best, and, well in my opinion it’s the heaviest album I’ve ever heard. Meshuggah are the most important metal band of the last 20 years, without them I’m sure the musical landscape would be entirely different.
Give us an idea about your early nu-metal days and how you joined forces with Tesseract?
The first band I played in that had some success was a rap metal band, we toured the UK for 4 years or so but never made it out of the country. Amos from Tesseract also played in the band, and we focused on big grooves and bouncy riffs… it was a lot of fun! However, that ran its course and we all became hungry to try something more interesting. Our band played a show with a band called Fell Silent, which had Acle on guitar, John Brown of Monuments on guitar, and Noddy of Heart of a Coward on drums. We call became friends and Mos and I started jamming Acle’s Tesseract ideas with him. The rest is history.
The last time I saw you live was in Vienna. How do you judge the EU tour with The Contortionist? Bigger venues, better backstage quality? Toilets?
The tour with TC was awesome… bigger rooms, more people… the backstages varied as much as usual, but it was generally very good!
Are you happy with the reactions of the fans on new Tesseract album and how do you judge the current phase of the band? (Daniel back in the band, finally stable touring plans…)
The new album material has gone down very well. The fan reaction has been great and as we’re playing to the biggest crowds we’ve ever done before, I like to think that the new record has increased our audience.
We’re playing to the biggest crowds we’ve ever done before
How do you as a Slayer fan enjoy the development of the band over the years and Daniel’s progressing singing style?
I love it. He’s experimenting with new things and trying to push himself as much as he can. The key thing for us is to keep things inventive and interesting, and I think he’s doing just that.
On the other hand, your music range is much bigger, including The Algorithm. Could you also mention some other surprising music interests?
As you’ll see from my top ten I’m a big fan of Drum N Bass, electronica and I also enjoy classic progressive rock music.
Music & Life
How do you manage to combine music life with the private one? (Family, touring, finances…) Did you manage to find a right balance, same as Daniel with singing lessons: Tour/play and support family budget with a job at Tight! PR?
When I tour I work on the road, so the work never stops. There’s a lot of time travelling and waiting around, so I get everything done in the van or backstage. The hardest thing to juggle is family. We rely on a lot of help from friends and family to look after the kids when they can and give my wife some respite.
I do miss corporate money, haha
What are your main tasks as a Print / TV specialist in Hold Tight! PR and who are you main partners? (Sumerian Records, Basick?)
I generally oversee all the campaigns, so from winning business to liasing with clients to making sure reports are being done. I also do the print pitching, so trying to get as many of my artists reviewed and interviewed in as many magazines at possible. At the moment we’re also working with SPV/Long Branch, Good Fight, Eone, Siege Music, Stay Sick, Victory, Fearless and more.
Since high school, I was dreaming about a job in a music industry. On the other, even an ex CEO of Sony for twenty years in Czech Republic, over a family friend told me: “You would have been a perfect candidate, but those days are gone.” So I went plan B – Marketing in a corporate company. and doing music journalism on a side. Don’t you regret choosing a music life and what are the main challenges of this job?
I don’t regret it no. I’ve also worked in the corporate and charity worlds in Marketing and PR, and although they were very valuable experiences, my passion is in music. I do miss corporate money though, haha! The hardest making sure we stay financially afloat, All our work is short term contract based so there’s a high job turnover, and we don’t have much booked in beyond 4/5 month time. However we’re now a team of 4 people and have a lot of retained clients, so we much be doing OK!
Could you also give an update on your gear collection? Any new cool discoveries?
My gear hasn’t changed much in the last few years. I have a new Ibanez LAC. Like my old LAC it’s based on the RGD shape but is 27’ long, and the pick ups this time are bareknuckle black hawks. I have them wired so that they can be coil tapped, and it’s god a beautiful green burst finish. I’m still playing on the AxeFX ultra… one day I might upgrade but I’m pretty happy with it for now.