TESSERACT – Exclusive Interview with Acle Kahney on the Making of Polaris

I recently interviewed TesseracT guitarist Acle Kahney about the band’s album Polariswhich is out now.

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Can you tell us a bit about the recording process for your new album Polaris, and how it was different from the previous one?

Well it was pretty similar due to the fact both Altered State and Polaris have been recorded in my home studio (http://www.4dsounds.com). With the album “One”, we recorded drums at Metropolis Studios and we had way more time as a band to experiment with the structure of the songs. With Altered State and in particular Polaris we were tight on time so it’s literally me doing 99% of the writing and all of the production side of things.

On Polaris however we enlisted the help our buddy and live sound engineer Aidan O’Brien. He’d had a little bit of input on the acoustic EP we released and we loved what he’d done. He essentially added a lot of the soundscapes and piano sections. I really enjoyed working with him on this as the sounds he creates are really unique. For example while he was experimenting on the song “Seven Names” …some of the ambience is me cooking in the kitchen and asking him what beer he wants… that turned into the ambience at the end of Seven Names!

What’s one thing you did production-wise on this album that you’ve never done before?

It wasn’t a massive thing but in some of the big open chorus I experimented with two or three rhythm tones. The first being my usual tone. The second a more low gain, warm crunch tone to help fill out the holes in the first tone. The third was similar to the second tone but with a different amp setup. I’d just blend them in slightly to help fill out some of the big chorus’.

What did you use to achieve the guitar tones on the album?

I used the same rhythm patch used on Altered State using an Axe FX Ultra. I spent years getting a tone with that thing. I spent a lot of time twiddling knobs and tweaking new tones but I still went back to my original tone. I did use a mix of the Kemper and Axe FX Ultra/AxeFX II for clean, crunch and lead sections.

Do you have a tone philosophy?

When I was recording One I wanted my tone to sound like electricity. Whatever that means…but generally I always look for the tightest low end possible (of course), smooth top end usually done with lots of sharp EQ notches and a responsive feel.

What will your rig look like on your upcoming tour with The Contortionist, Erra, and Skyharbor?

For the guitars we just use Axe FX Ultras live. Nice and simple and makes touring internationally really easy. The MIDI is controlled by the laptop so there is no tap dancing on stage. We have so many patches for different tempos so it’s really useful having the laptop control the patch changes.

We also use a big in ear monitoring setup now. We bring our own Behringer X32 desk to shows and the small rack version for on stage. It means we can have up to 32 channels in our in ear monitoring mix. So we have all the drums, room mics, guitars, bass, vocals, samples etc all in our mix along with effects.

I hear some Tool influence on “Utopia”. Is this born out of the frustration of waiting on a new Tool album?

I know some of the members of TesseracT are big tool fans but personally, while I think they’re great, I don’t know their music that well. More of a Perfect Circle fan!

Where do you think the pendulum of popular styles in heavy music will swing next?

Babymetal?

What is your all-time favorite recorded guitar tone?

Babymetal! Nah. Yeesh. That’s a tricky one. I used to love Meshuggah’s tones and Sol Niger obviously.Particularly the recent track Fredrik Thordendal did for the Wolfenstein game. Catch 33 has always been a favourite of mine. I’m actually really liking Royal Blood’s tone (and the drum sound!).

Any advice for someone trying to learn one of your songs?

Some of the more spazzy groove parts can sound tighter with little ghost notes in the gaps. Really subtle string scratches. The intro riff of Nocturne is a good example but I use this in the middle section of Dystopia also. I find it helps you keep time and you can get parts really tight as a result.

You guys have an extensive tour itinerary planned. What’s something you always bring on tour that if you forgot, you’d be miserable (aside from your gear)?

iPad for the long flights and drives!

Check out Polaris on iTunes now.

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As Editor-in-Chief of Gear Gods, I've been feeding your sick instrument fetishism and trying unsuccessfully to hide my own since 2013. I studied music on both coasts (Berklee and SSU) and now I'm just trying to put my degree to some use. That's a music degree, not an English one. I'm sure you noticed.