Hello, Internet! I’m Jake, and The Circle Pit has invited me to interview one of my favorite local bands, “Tactus”. Working closely with The Monteith Brothers and The Underground Alliance, I work as a small time recording tech, working freelance with a handful of local musicians around New Brunswick, Canada. Not Tactus though, their guitarist Adrian has some recording and production chops that need no hired help. A little IT, networking, and programming knowledge, and that’s me! Now sit back and enjoy the tune. When it’s not smooth and silky, it rips.
Greetings to Tactus; A Maritime local favorite among metal fans, known for laser precision, fast moving prog metal that never forgets to be catchy. Today, I’ll be picking the brains these 5 prog-shredding gentlemen about who they are, the upcoming album, and all associated hot goss. With Bending Light, their debut album hitting the world a little over a year ago, we are right on schedule for the next dose of groovy high-tech shreddage.
Jason McKnight – Vocals
Adrian Barnes – Guitar/Vocals
Alec Dobbelsteyn – Guitar
Ben MacLean – Drums
Steve Parish – Bass
Before we dig into the meat of the upcoming album, let’s get to know the band.
Jake – According to your bio, Tactus formed in 2011 when three St Thomas University music students (Adrian, Alex, Rodney) found out how seriously fun writing and jamming was. Fun turned serious, and now you’re gearing up for your second full length album to be released. When did you take on the name of Tactus, and why was it chosen?
Tactus – That’s an amusing story actually – Adrian, Alex, and Rodney were all studying composition and analysis together, and would be frequently showing each other their own songs they’d been writing in Guitar Pro to get some peer feedback. One day, their professor was discussing the term “tactus” with the class (tactus is an archaic term that refers to the “pulse” of the music where you’re tapping your foot/nodding your head). Thinking it was a super cool word, the guys joked that if they ever started a band they’d have to call it Tactus . . . a few weeks later the three of them were jamming. The band was actually named before it was even formed!
Jake – Why prog metal? Is that where the band started?
Tactus – Naturally the songs we were writing on our own at the time were essentially just rip-offs of all of our favourite music that we were listening to. I think all of us had been fans of prog for ages, and we were all listening to Periphery, SikTh, Between the Buried and Me, Dream Theater, Protest the Hero, etc. So the music we were writing was coming from the things about those bands that were getting us excited. “Prog” is a label that’s slapped onto music that doesn’t fit easily into one category and that doesn’t always stick to traditional song structures. We have always been big on pushing limits, experimenting, and mixing genres, and “being a prog band” allows us the freedom to more or less do whatever we want without feeling like we have to confine ourselves to a certain audience. It’s always been about writing music that gets us excited, no matter what that is.
Jake – Do you think you’ll be touring anytime soon?
Tactus – It’s hard to say. We’ve played plenty of one-off shows, but we haven’t been on “tour” since 2014 with Protest the Hero and Intervals. All of our members have families and/or full-time jobs. Obviously one of our favourite things to do is to perform live, but the market in Atlantic Canada is not especially nurturing for metal bands. To really get out and get heard we’d need to be able to commit to a couple of weeks of hitting the rest of Canada, which for the time being doesn’t appear feasible. We frequently try to book short runs around The Maritimes and into Quebec/Ontario but it’s really tough to get that stuff lined up when you’re a small band from a small town and you all have serious commitments. We’re all a bit disappointed that we didn’t get to do a short tour to support Bending Light, but it just wasn’t in the cards so we focused our energy elsewhere.
Jake – As someone who has personally had your band play to about 2 dozen showgoers, what keeps the band going? Metal can be a tough sell around our province, is it just that fun?
Tactus – Part of it is just how much we love to play and how much we love spending time together. Everyone in the band is fairly close and we enjoy each other’s company. The excitement of getting together with some of your best friends to make music that you love really is a reward in itself. Being in a progressive metal band definitely is a labour of love, but we do love doing it so as long as we’re able, we’ll keep on trucking.
Jake – Now, for the juicy exclusive on the tunes to come; How are you guys approaching this album differently than your last one? While Bending Light had a lot of motion from feel to feel, this new song is a little more of a trip than any single song off the last album. Is that to be expected from the rest of the new songs?
Tactus – This is a can of worms! One way we’re trying to approach it is to be as collaborative as possible. Bending Light has so many ups and downs and so many changes in feeling, and part of that is because so much of it was written by individuals away from the group. We often find that our best material is the stuff that has the most hands on it. Also, the next record is a concept album, so it needs to be more unified, but still show variation in a way that it’s obvious that the music is telling a story. We’ve been working on the songs since before Bending Light was released, but late in 2016 when it became apparent that we wouldn’t have the time to finish it and record it in 2017, we decided to release a “prequel” single using some of the ideas we’d already come up with. Glass Atlas still needed to be its own thing, so we tried to make it a strong, structured, catchy single – but when you hear the next album you’ll be able to tell that some elements are shared.
Jake – On Feast or Famine off of Bending Light, you come out of left field (maybe even the field beside it) with some snappy upbeat jazz. Do we have similar momentary ventures into unexpected genres planned for the new album? How about a hint as to what metal-foreign sounds you’ll be touching on?
Tactus – We don’t want to give too much away, but because of the nature of the concept album it’s less likely that you’ll hear such deep forays into other genres as Feast or Famine’s jazz and Kind of the Sky’s pirate circus interlude – however, we do love to keep things dynamic and we love to incorporate different styles, so you can expect to have some variety for sure.
Jake – How long will we be waiting for the new album to be written and released?
Tactus – Good question! Luckily a lot of the material is already written. We’ve entered the refinement process, after which we can begin writing the lyrics and recording the instruments. The story is already mapped out, which is helpful. Unfortunately, we’re all at the mercy of our adult responsibilities, so it’s hard to speculate how much time we can realistically make to work on it together. Hopefully by the end of 2018.
Jake – This will be the first album fully produced by the band. After having Jamie King (Between the Buried and Me, The Contortionist, Scale the Summit) assist on the mix/master on previous Tactus works, What are some of the challenges you have run into producing the new material entirely in house?
Tactus – Well, we’re used to recording and editing everything ourselves in a little bedroom in Adrian’s apartment. He recently moved into a house and built a proper studio room, which will only make things better. The only real challenge comes in mixing and mastering something of such length and density, especially when it’s you who’s recorded it and listened to it already 10,000 times. It’s easy to get attached to things and to get used to a certain sound, so it will definitely be interesting to try and separate ourselves from our biases and just make the best sounding album we possibly can. Comparison and referencing is key. The beauty of mixing your own music is that you already have an image in your head of how you want it to sound. You get to realize that image yourself without having to communicate it to someone else who may be totally different from you artistically and have a totally different skill set. We were lucky with Jamie King because he “got” the music (which is a big reason we approached him, based on his experience with our style of music), but it hasn’t always been easy in the past. Doing the album ourselves is a lot more work but might bring us as close to our vision as possible.
Jake – That will wrap up our time with Tactus today, keep a keen ear to the ground for the new tunes coming in from The Maritimes. A big thank you to the band for the insight into their work, and to The Circle Pit for having me as a guest interviewer. Tune in next time, and keep it heavy!