Tetrafusion's debut album was an instrumental record, now the follow-up has vocals - at least at most songs -, but still offers instrumental passages to satisfy fans of their debut. Time to learn more about Tetrafusion! Bassist Mark Michell was so kind to answer my questions.
Please tell us a bit about the beginning of Tetrafusion! What does the name mean?
Believe it or not, this band was originally intended to be a jazz side project with a horn section playing jazz and that sort of stuff. At the first practice, Gary walks in with a synth riff that was totally out of character, and that completely changed everything right then when we wrote Inertia from our first album. We had no guitarist, but after writing off of that progressive-sounding riff, we inducted Brooks into the band, and the rest is history really. As far as naming the band, you know, I don't think anyone is good at it (we certainly aren't). It's like naming your child or something... it's a very permanent thing that sticks with you, so it took us awhile to come up with something. We finally gave up on being creative with it and just decided to be technical. 'Tetra' is the prefix for 'four' (there are four members), and we were going to be a fusion band (at the time), and there you have it. It rolls off of the tongue well, so we just decided to stick with it.
Your debut album Absolute Zero was an instrumental piece. Are you more into instrumental music? Or was it the lack of a suitable singer?
Instrumental music is great in all forms, that is for sure, whatever style it may be. Everyone has this idea that vocals are a mandatory thing in music, and it's pretty far from the truth. A voice is an instrument too. That being said, we really have no preference and enjoy both. The only reason our first album was instrumental is because we wanted someone who could solely sing and not have to worry about another instrument. After searching for so long and evaluating a few people who didn't work out, we just decided to utilize Gary and sort of sacrifice his keyboard role just a bit. Give some to get some, but it ended up balancing out just fine since we have a lot of instrumental sections as it is.
By now Gary Tubbs handles the vocals, how come?
When we decided to change direction into a metal band initially, we had always wanted a singer but just took the instrumental route at first since it was coming naturally, along with the fact that we wanted someone exclusive to the role. The stuff we were writing left really no room for vocals, so we took the baton and ran. It seemed right at the time, I guess. The longer the band was together, we realized the harder and harder it would become to add someone to the formula, so Gary ended up being the best choice all along. He has a great deal of experience singing and is really solid, which made it a much easier transition.
As the debut was an instrumental album, did you have doubts about how they will react to an album with vocals?
Oh, of course. Vocals are the most viciously-criticized element of a band. Establishing ourselves as a metal band, I'm sure plenty of people expected harsh vocals, while many hoped we didn't as it would 'ruin the band' to them. You surely cannot please everyone with vocals, it's simply impossible. However, we've really had more people enjoy them than not. We're having people absolutely love them, and people absolutely loathe them and then give up on us. It's just a fact we had to face and a beating we had to take, it's part of being in the entertainment business, not everyone will like what you do.
Are you satisfied with the feedback you got so far for Altered State?
Sure thing. The only downside sometimes to progressive albums is that you really don't get much feedback until many months later after it soaks in with everyone. Unlike pop albums which are pretty instantly gratifying, these take awhile to absorb. However, everyone has taken it well and we hope the trend continues there.
What inspires you musically? Lyrically?
Our guitarist Brooks writes pretty much all of the core music, so I can't tell you unfortunately! He just shows up one day with half a song written and it sounds amazing, and he just shrugs when we ask where he got the inspiration or idea for it. So, I think I'm asking the same question as you are.
Who had the idea for the artwork? And what is it showing?
Gary's brother is a professional art designer, and he hand-drew the front and back covers of the album. The back cover of the album is really the 'first part' of the artwork. It's simply a guy lying on the table ready to receive an MRI, or PET scan, CAT scan, whatever you want to call it. The front cover is the 'result' of the test, if you will. It is depicting a PET scan of a schizophrenic brain, implying the 'guy' has schizophrenia (which is correlated to the track Monologue). Each lyric in our songs revolves around a central, understood 'guy' telling a story, with some songs being in first person or third, so it's sort of like you’re looking into his mind on this album.
You have the booklet as a free download for fans who bought the digital copy. Is this something you also miss in digital releases?
Well, we had an overwhelming amount of people messaging us on various sites asking for lyrics. Rather than going to some lyric website and submitting them, we felt it'd be neat to just offer the booklet in digital form for free so they can see the artwork and everything (which we put a lot of time and thought into). Digital releases take away the vibe and message of an album sometimes, so we’re doing all that we can to allow everyone to experience it to some degree.
It seems that your fans are trying to get every detail of Tetrafusion's music. You released a tab book for Altered State, had you planned this from the beginning? Or have the fans keep asking for it?
Again, this was another thing that was a result of people requesting it. We had always given out the tabs to Absolute Zero for free whenever people asked them, but we decided to go all out for this album and print tab books. They’ve sold well since we released them, so I'm glad people are receptive to the idea.
You also have a YouTube channel where you keep your fans informed about the progress of recordings, etc. Will you do some instructional videos too?
We sure hope to. I've uploaded a video of myself playing through Monologue so far as a simple 'play-along' video, but the longer the album is out, the more those types of things permit themselves. I've received a lot of praise and great feedback on Shadows, which involved a fretless bass part with a long solo and a lot of really melodic, lead bass playing. Had a ton of fun writing and recording that one, so that will probably be my next video to create if I decide to.
What about live shows? Anything scheduled?
We played our official album release show locally about six weeks ago, and that was a great turnout of a show, we were really excited about it. Since then, we haven't really planned anything. Still shopping for some bigger opportunities for next year, so that's really what we’re focusing on for now.
What's on your schedule for 2011?
Unfortunately, your guess is as good as mine! Aside shows/touring, we filmed our first, official, high-budget music video to Monologue about six weeks ago as well and should be releasing that very soon. We're really excited to promote that and get that out there. Continuing to promote the album and aim for some tour opportunities for next year is next on the agenda for us, so we'll see!
Can't wait to see the video and perhaps it helps them to get some more attention and so gigs... We'll see.