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My top FIVE most difficult live songs (and why they’re difficult)

In my first blog I touched on the fact that I don’t really consider myself to be a ‘drummer drummer’. I don’t know the names of loads of other drummers. The only drummer career I follow is my own and when I come home from tour, unless I have a specific gig or project coming up, l won’t touch my drums for weeks. This last point is absolutely what keeps me on my toes with TesseracT and most of the time, just on the edge of my comfort zone.


There’s a few songs that we perform live regularly that still require an awful lot of focus. What I’d like to do with this blog is talk about each of them briefly and go through my pain points with each one.


So let’s jump right in.


1. Nocturne.

Top of the list and probably always will be. It’s a song that requires a crazy amount of stamina to perform anything even close to the programmed drums on the record. Acle wrote the main drum ideas for this song alongside the guitar parts so immediately the first challenge for me to overcome is guitarist-drummer syndrome - being in a band with a guitarist who writes more difficult parts than the drummer.



Surprisingly, the intro is the easy bit. The stack pattern is playing on the ‘1’ of a three count and this pattern follows the intro all the way through to the verse. The first small hurdle is realising that this pattern doesn’t restart halfway through the intro on the fourth bar (as would feel natural), it carries on through. So for the second load of ‘DUNnnnn DUn’s, the stack is still hitting on the ‘1’ of a three count but in relation to the groove, it comes in on the ‘3’ of a seven count. Have I lost you yet? To be fair, if you read that and understood it first time, your brain is as weird as mine.


I count the intro as eight bars of seven - well, I don’t actually count when I’m playing. I also work out the patterns my left hand and right foot are doing in kind of a weird way. I hear the first ‘DUNnnn DUN’ as a pattern of seven:


K s s K S s s


That’s: Kick ghost ghost Kick SNARE ghost ghost.


Then the following two DUNnnnn DUN’s I count as six with the final one being a five, then a four:


K s K S s s, K s K S s s, K s K S s - K s K S (repeat)


I know - this is a dumb way of working these things out but it’s how my didn’t-go-to-music-school brain works. At least, it’s how my brain works when I’m trying to explain this stuff. I actually don’t count any of it in reality, I just feel it out - but that’s not an interesting explanation.


The verse in Nocturne is the real pain in my ass. Acle had this stroke of genius to program constant and perfectly dynamic 16th-note ghost notes throughout the entire verse. The only way I’ve been able to play it verbatim is by crossing my hands over between right and left on each of the hi-hat hits, and playing paradiddles between the hi hat and the snare. This looks completely stupid and doesn’t sound good either - at least, not when I play it (Luke Holland did a great job of playing it like this though!) - So I humanise the groove.


I play:

R L R L L - L L - I drop the ghost note from the sixth beat which enables me to just about play the groove consistently. If I attempt to add that sixth note in, it all falls apart. I have a minor internal tantrum on stage, the groove is non-existent and Acle’s face ages a few days through unnecessary cringing.


The rest of the song up to the bridge and outro is mostly a variation of the verse groove but hitting cymbals rather than keeping the groove on the hats. I use the same sticking as above. It’s more about stamina here. If the song is placed toward the start of the set (which currently it is) then I’m fine. When it’s the last song in the set, as it had been for a long time, then I struggle.


I feel like I need a kit to really explain the other sections and fills - and in my defence I’ve had three hours sleep today so I’m not firing on all cylinders - as we had to wake up super early to go collect our HOPEFULLY fixed tour bus from Calais. Guess I’ll find out in a couple hours.


2. Concealing Fate - Part 6.

What? But it’s so simple Jay, compared to other Tess' songs…


That is precisely what makes this song an absolute nightmare for me. It comes from a much younger TesseracT where perhaps our ideas weren’t as fully formed. I’ve always struggled to connect with this song live though and all of my on the spot ideas for the mid section have never done the song justice - in my opinion. We rarely perform this song live these days anyway so I’m not too concerned with learning how to perform it better.



The song starts after a small swell, on the ride cymbal - keeping a fairly fast groove. This isn’t so bad but collectively, we struggle to hit the ground running with this groove.


Most of the song for me is a collection of awkward grooves which just don’t feel natural to play. For the time being it's not in the set - and I'm ok with that.


3. Exile



I love this song. It’s got some of my favourite ever grooves and melodies, and Ashe’s ideas over the middle section are fantastic. It’s made this list though for ONE section in the song which we clearly weren’t thinking logically about when writing the drums. If you have access to the track, I’m speaking specifically about 7:22 - 7:59.


No, no no no no.


I basically play my own version of this section live and to me, it sounds as though someone took the basic ideas from the original groove, put them in a blender, threw that blender down the stairs, emptied the contents into a car crusher, set the car crusher on fire… you get the idea. It’s never been fully realised live and that’s down to my lack of ability to focus on my least favourite part of the track in personal rehearsal time. Also, it’s not in the current live set so I think I’ll focus my efforts on Red Dead Redemption 2.


** We interrupt your scheduled blog to bring you this breaking news **


The tour bus isn’t fixed after all. I’m not even surprised. Based on the track record of the last few days and the bus company’s amateur correspondence, there was no way we were getting our bus today. Fortunately, again, our Tour Manager Bryan is pulling more than double duty - driving, TM’ing and running merch - until we have a new bus.

Resuming schedule:


4. Lament

We could never play this song well. It was a last minute addition to ‘One’ and as such, we didn’t really have any time with it in rehearsals. We did perform it live quite a lot over the first couple of years. There’s one video in particular from our first ever performance in Switzerland where it actually looks and sounds half decent, but this is the only time I can remember performing it and not hating it hard.



5. Eden.

The sad thing about this is that Eden should be a song that we delight in performing live. It’s catchy all the way through and our fans still call out ‘EDEN’ in the ambient sections between songs, expecting us to drop into it. I’m going to have to let you down, this probably isn’t going to happen any time soon.



When Elliot Coleman was in the band we went into Sphere Studios in London to record Eden V2.0 which was a far better version of the song in my opinion. It cut off a load of the fluff, added a tighter mid section groove-train and made the song an achievable live option.

Even so, something about it still didn’t quite work live. We started a US tour a few years back with Eden V2.0 in the set and quickly cut it out after two shows. It was horrible!


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All of these things come down to one thing which is fundamentally a lack of individual and group rehearsal. With enough time invested, we could comfortably introduce any of our previously unplayed songs into the live set. We also know from the experience of many live shows that some songs work better than others, and the order in which to play them makes a huge difference too. I think until album 5 at least, we have a pretty strong live set now which includes a personal favourite from Sonder: Juno. Which is an absolute beast to perform. I may re-write this list in a years time to include Juno but for the time being, it’s the difficult but manageable new song.


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Back to the BUS SAGA. We finally have a tour bus and the tour is going amazingly well. I've documented the last few days in this short Vlog:




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