Only a few days after the release of “Legends Of The Shires” and a few days before their live appearance in Athens, Metal Invader discussed with Karl Groom of Threshold for their career, their albums and the ups and downs, up to today.
Hello Karl and welcome to Metal Invader!
Your newest album was just released, entitled Legends Of The Shires! What are your expectations and what feedback did you get from people who have already listened to it, now that Glynn is back?
I don’t really know to be honest, I don’t watch social media. But from the reviews I already got from the record company, I see that people are really positive about it so far. When we started making the album, we didn’t know that it would be a double one, we felt so inspired so we kept on writing everything we had in mind and wanted to say. We had material of 60 minutes but we had much more in mind, so we thought “Why don’t we just keep on writing?” and let’s see what happens. So when we were done, we were determined to release a double album and we wrote it just before we recorded it, we had been writing for five months. All songs come from the same time, so we had the exact same things in mind in the meantime. For me and Richard (West), it is an album we always wanted to make, it feels complete, just like with “Subsurface” in 2004. The great thing is that it is all about people, not only just us, we wanted people to enjoy our music.
I couldn’t help but notice how beautifully the album cover is designed. Who created it and what was the idea behind it?
The artwork was designed by Helena Dudina, that’s her name I think, she’s a russian artist. We had been searching online for a cover that would suit our music, which is was quite tricky because we couldn’t find the right artwork. We had something in mind but it was already taken. Then we tried an artist to create something for us but it didn’t work. Artists are just like musicians, if you put pressure on them they won’t give the best of result, you take away the spirit and the enjoyment. We decided then to have something that was already complete, but it was a painful process. But we were lucky to find her. If you look on the internet you’ll find many websites with complete artworks for rock, metal, progressive bands. She had done some artworks but nothing regarding our genre, so we approached her and asked about this specific one, if it has already been taken and that was it.
It’s the 12th album for Threshold. When you started the band, when Wounded Land was released, did you think that the band would still be here after 29 years and something?
It’s the 11th album for Threshold, actually. We started as a cover band, as children who just play music, we eventually went to serious music when we were picked up by a guy who was a writter in Holland. He owned a label but also a fanzine, where he recommended us and an English label signed with us called “Giant Electric Pea”.We would sell 2000 copies if we were lucky. They were really interested and were like “we can make an album” and we thought that’s it, just an album which we would put on our walls and show our grandchildren, haha. But it took off and started going well. It was in the beginning of the progressive genre, so it got popular. Then we made sure that we could play live and release some more albums in the future. So yeah, it happened a little bit accidentally. We had a glam metal background but we liked the progressive sound and we thought we could fuss those two together and that would be the sound of Threshold. It was a surprise when we signed. Then we moved to Inside Out music company and eventually to Nuclear Blast. We thought we were never approach a record label. We are not a good band in promoting ourselves so we needed a record label. Most bands put themselves forward themselves but we don’t.
When you first started playing, you used to play covers of oldschool heavy metal bands. What led you to get the band in a progressive path?
As I said we wanted to mix those two together. Today when the term progressive metal comes to mind you have certain expectations of how a band might sound. Threshold were a little different. We put together progressive with our favorite sound, Metallica for example, some classic rock. I suppose we were different. Many bands of that genre fit to the new style of progressive and are different to our technique and what we sound. This doesn’t appeal to me, I just wanted to make music for everyone to hear and enjoy. I don’t want it to just be technical, good guitars with keys mixed peacefully. When we create an instrumental part of the song we want it to fit with the rest of the song, not to sound different from the vocal section.
Your lyrical themes are based on life and every aspect of it, negative or positive. What’s your inspiration in life? Something that keeps you going on?
I think it’s music that keeps me going but also other situations like people, death. When our singer Mac died in 2011 it was a terrible experience for all of us that gave us some specific emotions. I always wanted to express myself within music. It’s good for me to record the songs right after you have written them because you can then capture the entire feeling in the studio as well. If I look back to Threshold’s music, I can always feel exactly how I had felt during the times I was recording it. I can’t leave a song behind. I write the music and Richard the lyrics, that’s how we work. It’s good to express ourselves like that.
What is your favorite record of Threshold? For which one are you mostly proud of?
Until this one, it was always Subsurface. When we were making Legends Of The Shires, we said let’s do it again, just like Subsurface, to have the same content and be a mixture of good songs. We wanted the listener not to just hear the album, but feel every single note out of it. Every song has its place. I love Subsurface and Mac’s performance on it so I wanted to do the same with Legends Of The Shires.
Being an active band for so many years definitely has its ups and downs. Which is the worst and the best moments you have experienced during your time with Threshold?
I think there were many high moments. It’s hard to choose between the good moments because every show is special for us, when you finish the show and meet up with your friends right after is a fantastic feeling. Nothing can replace that. Whenever I play live, no matter how bad things are in my life during this time, negativity disappears immediately. The people in the band are introverts, we are naturally not outgoing, so when we go on stage we go completely different, which is not normal for us at all in our daily life. The singer is an exception of course, he always has to be outgoing, haha. We played in 70,000 Tons Of Metal cruise which was a fantastic time. The lowest moment for me was when we had a show and our singer for some reason was so upset he threw a monitor in the crowd! He threw the speaker and made a huge noise. Luckily, no one was seriously injured but it was awkward, we were still standing behind and he left the stage, so we were thinking what the hell are we supposed to do now, haha. Our bass player walked to the microphone and said “we can’t go on with the show” and we somehow left the stage feeling a little stupid, haha. Our record company was with us, was there to pick up the bill and pay for the equipment. We never played in Barcelona again. We were worried, someone could be killed.
What are your musical influences? What got you into music?
I was always into metal and particularly the mid-period of Testament and I loved the glam metal genre like Ratt. I loved Warrel DeMartini, their guitar player, his style. Any band that had great riffs were ok for me. It was just that, then I learned to appreciate how progressive musicians wrote their arrangements. You can’t always have a verse and a chorus. It was really limited. That’s what I love in progressive, there’s a big expansion, such as in bands like Rush, Pink Floyd. I learned to love them and hate them of course, later on.
Your tour kicks off in November. What are your expectations, are there any new places you’re about to play at?
I have to admit I don’t know where we’re going, but I know we go to Greece and London, I’m probably seeing some family there. We haven’t been in Greece since 2008 and there are a few people I would like to catch up with. We have a very good support band from Greece called “The Silent Wedding”, who are pretty good guys, I’m happy to see them again in Athens, looking forward to going back. Playing live is always a reward for us. I love recording and writing which is really intensive. Lives are an enjoyable process. I can’t wait to go on tour. However, I don’t like sitting on a bus chair for so many hours.
Would you like to send a message to the Greek Threshold fans who are anticipating your show here?
Oh sorry, I forgot you are from Greece! This album was a really difficult process for us to pull off so I hope you enjoy it and people will connect to it. That’s what I love about music, you get to connect with people’s emotions. I hope to see some of you in Athens in November as well! Thank you so much for your support.