I receive questions on a regular basis from TesseracT fans all over the world and I try to reply to as many as I can, but I figure this blog might be a good place to start answering some of them in detail, to share the potential assistance and insight my answers may give. So, here's the first one.
This comes from a fan on Instagram, who asks:
"Jay, was there a moment in your life you felt that chasing music and drums was the right choice? Or was it something more you fell into? I have a deep passion for playing but am not sure about how to feel beyond that for a life plan. I don’t mean to drop a bomb of a question on you but I’m curious what your perspective is on that. You and TesseracT are a huge inspiration to me and I really wonder if there was a moment you decided to go for it rather than “ok I guess this is my gig”. Happy new year and best wishes."
First off - thank you for the question.
My answer to this is simple. I've always known that I was going to be a drummer in a band. From a very young age, I knew that I would be a musician. Don't ask me how I knew - I don't have the answer to that, but I can tell you that in my eyes, there was literally no other option for me. There was nothing else that would tick my life-satisfaction box, other than music.
In school, I was interested in one subject - music. I was quite stubborn with it too. I would only pay attention to the specific things which, I felt, applied to my own style of playing and my interests in recording and learning music. I wasn't interested in theory, or in reading music. I didn't want to be a session player, I didn't want to record anyone else's music. I very specifically wanted to drum in a band that writes my absolute favorite music. Through a combination of stubbornness, dedication, right-place-right-time luck and absolutely, being born to supportive and open-minded parents, I have ended up in the very situation I aimed to be.
After high school, I stayed on for an additional two years (it's called A-level in the UK) and ended up only studying music technology. I either ignored or struggled through the stuff I wasn't interested in, spending every available moment recording my own music - and keeping well out of the way of the sixth-form head (the person responsible for the A-level students). I'd not turned up for register in over a year, and word was, that he was asking after me. I remember literally hiding under a pile of coats and bags this one time when he entered a small on-site recording studio, specifically looking for me. I've never been so quiet and still in my life as in that moment.
Anyway, I then went to college... for a grand total of two weeks because I knew right away that it wasn't for me. The college was awful - they had a room of computers set up with Fruity Loops.... and that was about it. No thanks. I'll be seein' ya.
Instead, I joined the masses and got a 9-5 job in the civil service in Birmingham UK. I had to do SOMETHING while plotting my 'inevitable' musical career, and this would work for the time being. It was mindless admin work but it had it's up-sides... I could listen to music for at least an hour in the mornings on my way into work, through my lunch break and on the way home too. This was my own form of education as I was spending a lot of time with bands like Meshuggah and Dillinger Escape Plan - getting my brain around the crazy time signatures and rhythms. I'd spend a lot of my lunch breaks at the local music stores (anyone remember Sound Control?!) checking out gear and deciding what to spend my next month's salary on (or what to immediately put on a credit card, as was more often the case).
I was maybe a year into this job when, out of the blue, I was kicked out of my own band. I was 19, the other guys were 25+ and I think it was as much of a personality clash than anything else. Either way, this hurt me a lot at the time. I used that hurt to quickly go find another band that would keep me energised and creative. I kind of knew this band wasn't the right fit, but I was on the rebound and desperate to stay creative. I spent the next 6-8 months practicing three to four times a week with these guys, attempting to mold them into the crazy tech-metal band of my dreams. This didn't work - everyone quit the band instead and I was momentarily back to square 1, or so it seemed. Nothing is really a failure though right - I'd learned a lot from this experience. Mainly, to pursue the right opportunities, not all the opportunities. It wasn't the right fit, musically speaking, but I'd made some great friends and I definitely grew as a drummer.
'Can you come down for a jam?'
I get a message from the guitarist of the band that had rejected me a few months ago. I really did want to play the music these guys were creating, so as much as my dad protested and as much as I was still feeling the pain of the previous hurt, I went back for a jam. They'd been working on new material and had gone through ten drummer auditions (or so they said), with no luck. I mean, the band was based in Wolverhampton and I'm pretty sure they had only auditioned drummers from Wolverhampton... so...
I didn't struggle to play the new material. With that one jam, I was back in the band. Within a few months, me and the bassist were leading the writing and planning. We were even building a brand new rehearsal studio for us to keep our gear set up 24/7... we had a plan! But, it didn't quite go as expected. We were running ahead of the guitarist and vocalist, who quit a day or two after we'd finished building the rehearsal room. Both myself and G (the bassist) admitted to each other that we both secretly wanted this to happen, so our plan had kind of come to fruition.
We next connected with a couple of guys, Ali and Mikey, down in Reading, UK. They were friends of G's from his home town and were in a band called 'Arija'. The music was literally perfect for me at the time - and they were two guitarists looking for a bassist and drummer. Fuck geography, we're 2-3hrs drive away, so we decided to make it work. For the Americans reading this, 2-3hrs drive in the UK is an eternity. People don't drive more than 70 miles for anything other than to get to an airport or a beach.
After a couple of months of rehearsing in Wolverhampton, myself and G decided Wolves' was a shit-show so we decided to move to Reading, taking our rehearsal studio with us. This became Studio 1 at The Rhoom Studios - which is alive and strong to this day. It has expanded somewhat since then, under my watch.
After a couple of years of writing, rehearsing, and playing shows with Arija, I was introduced to the very early TesseracT demos by one of Arija's guitarists - and the rest, as they say, is history.
So, I would absolutely say that I've always known I would be a musician. I appreciate that may sound naive and for some people, maybe it is. BUT I do firmly believe that if you plant your intentions in creativity and commit to the thing that you truly enjoy, the artist within you, the child desperate to play - and allow that to express itself behind a musical instrument or a canvass, you will absolutely nurture something fulfilling. You will become accidentally happy, you'll leave behind stress, and with time, it can grow to a point where there is potential for money to also be made, turning it into a career.
It takes a leap of faith to take it full time, and if you want a life of unlimited creativity and to also be financially rich, then there will very likely be some trade-offs that you will need to make. Ask yourself whether you can stomach the short term (ish) pain to perhaps obtain the long-term creative goal and the freedom that comes with it.
The big leap of faith with TesseracT came when we all had to quit our full-time jobs in order to go on our first North American tour in 2010. As it so happened, everyone in the firm I was working for at the time was made redundant just a couple of weeks before that tour happened, so I quit my job with a nice little redundancy package instead of leaving with £0! I like to think the universe had my back on that one.
I had NO IDEA what being in a 'successful' band looked like when I started out. When I joined Tess' my idea of success was selling a CD at a show and having a t-shirt available for people to buy. Now - I couldn't even tell you how many hundreds of t-shirt designs or items we've sold. It's not even a thing I think about now. The goalposts shifted to 'touring America' - then after a couple of tours, it shifted to 'tour America comfortably' and then 'tour America comfortably and come home with a bit of money too!'. Success is subjective. The goalposts move as you grow and now, my own idea of success is far grander than where TesseracT is at the moment, or where we'll likely be in two or three albums time. We all have much bigger plans for this band and for our careers as musicians.
Believe me - as someone who has toured extensively for the past 11 years, this life is not for everybody, but it is for me. I am always learning, I am always creating, I am constantly seeking and finding new and bigger opportunities because I am in a position to ask for them.
My final thing would be to say that you're never too old to start living your dream. If it matters to you, then please yourself. Don't wait. We get one go at life unless, of course, you believe in reincarnation - but you'll likely struggle to find creative success in your next life as a carrot (or if you're very lucky a grackle!).