Progress in Time - Karl Groom speaks Out.
Threshold are a band from the UK who started out back in the late 80's by guitarist Karl Groom who was heavily influenced by not only metal but Progressive Rock with such bands like Genesis and many more. Since forming the band the band recorded their debut album 'Wounded Land' through Electric Giant Pea records, the label that was original put together for the band IQ and with this album been released the reviews for a debut were fantastic. Showing that they had great potentials and were a band that could grow into something bigger and in time this did happen for the band. They released their next album 'Psychedelicatessen' back in 94 and further albums soon followed. The band were picked up by Inside Out, the label who brought you Symphony X, Evergrey, Enchant and many more... Not only that did they support Dream Theater, Psychotic Waltz, Ark (Jorn Lande) and many more. I managed to have a chat with guitarist Karl about the new album and the sad passing of ex singer Mac in 2011 and how Damien returned to the band. Here is what he had to say. In the meantime check out 'March of Progress' on Nuclear Blast record.
Well it is a pleasure speaking to you once again Karl, it has been 8yrs since the last interview so there's a bit to talk about. First of all congratulations on the new CD, a great album indeed. So let's start the interviewing off by asking for what reason did Mac die of, it was such a shame that a great singer died so young.
"Well it's a pleasure doing another interview with you. Yes it was a sad time within the band, Mac died of kidney failure and it wasn't something we could see coming but in the end it wasn't a surprise either as he had some health problems before. We thought that we or some of his other friends would help me and try to get past all his problems and to get back on the straight and narrow. He had left the band in 2007 and it was just before we were about to do the tour for the 'Dead Reckoning' album he sent a text message saying he was leaving the band. the festival said if we didn't turn up to play we would be fined 3000 Euro's so we had to find a singer immediately so that is when Damien came back in the band. We tried to get a hold of Mac and we heard nothing at all, it is strange because we got along really well and he would stay at my house and I have some great memories of us in the space of 10yrs he was in the band. Last August we found out he had died in 2011 it sent me cold and I could not believe it and I had regrets having not spoken to him before he died. I think he died through alcohol and I think people knew this because sometimes he would sing amazingly live and other times he would fall over on stage and I think that caused a lot of tensions within the band which left to a couple of band members leaving because they could not take it anymore. He needed help and it was impossible for us to help him and we had long talks about it and he said he would mend his ways but in the end his health let him down. It was a sad ending for us and his family, he was only 45."
Was it difficult recording the last album with Mac?
"Yes it was, we had him in the studio for 3wks and most of the time he would be sleeping, some times he would do some great takes. In the end we sent him home to Germany where he lived with his girlfriend and then he would come back a week or so later to finish off his vocals. We tried to edit what we could and also tried to put some vocal effects on his voice to cover up the mistakes, which didn't work too well. I didn't dislike Mac for trying that, and when he was drunk he was never aggressive just a bit useless at times and I have some very happy memories of him and he and some great talent."
After Damien leaving the band he did his own band and also the Star One project, what did you think of that band and who did you get him back in the band?
"Well he left the band to do his own band 'Mindfeed' which he got a lot of money for and they did really well and when things went wrong he ended up doing stuff in the West End of London. We were always in contact with him even when he left the band and I ended up doing recordings with him for several other things and he was around when Mac sent us a text saying he was leaving the band. So we asked him if he could cover these 2 dates we had line up so he came to our rehearsals and we did some songs from our 1st album and he sang them perfectly and with the newer songs he learnt from reading them off paper sheets but yeah he did a great job. So we did the gigs and we were impressed with him and like wise and we just asked him if he wanted to join the band, he agreed and I guess the rest is history. Arjen is a great person and fantastic musician and I am not sure what I think of 'Star One' as it is almost retro (Ed: kind of reminds me of Blake 7 music in a way) yeah it does actually and I think it is well written and there are some great musicians and singers on those albums."
Is Damien doing any other projects besides been a full time members of Threshold?
"He as a acoustic project doing Iron Maiden covers, I think there called 'Maiden United' with Dutch musicians and I think they have made a couple of albums too but I am not sure."
So you have just released the new album 'March of Progress', so why the title? Was there any other titles in mind? Also any other artwork involved in this album?
"Well the artwork we are very pleased with, it was the same artist we used for the last album 'Dead Reckoning' Davide Nadalim and we just showed him the lyrics and there are 3 lyricists within the band. This time around and we were trying to tell him that our lyrics were about personal strengths and weaknesses and how people build some things up and how easy they can let things slip away and that is what we were talking about. The end results came back fantastically done & this album is based around melodies and harmonies and you feel a lot of colour in the sound and riffs and the full production and he captured that in his artwork. He can be a pain in the ass as he is hard to get in contact with as he is so slow and difficult but he really has a talent and in the end it worked out really well. I'm not sure what other bands he has worked with he is an Italian artist. Well the title was originally was actually the title for 'Ashes' but it just fitted the lyrics and we thought maybe the cover is more of a theme that we were working on anyway. Richard was writing a lot more lyrics so I guess it was down to him so we decided to find a different title for the album and we couldn't think of a album title and in the end we decided that this would be more suitable for the album."
Could you please tell me what the songs are about briefly?
"I could tell you briefly what they are about, the song 'Ashes' is about how we are doing in society and how long it will last, 'Return of the thought Police' is about watching our freedom slip away, 'Staring at the Sun' is about standing for what you believe in. Next is 'Liberty Complacency Dependency' pretty much summons up the album really which follows the theme of the songs that have come before them and captures the whole album really. Next is 'Colophon' which is about somebody else's war were you are trying to find your own way home, 'The Hours' is about been persistence really and trying to sort something out when things are not going right for you, that was written by Damien and it is about putting a price on our progress. Next is 'Don't look Down' is which Pete wrote and is about personal strengths and weaknesses and there is a verse in the song which goes on about Mac to what happened to us and him last year just a few word for him really. 'Rubicon' is the epic at the end which is pretty much about looking back at Threshold's history and saying thank you to our fans. That song also has some interesting quotes from our early albums in that song."
So how do you see each album as a progression over the years?
"Well you can see that over a long period of time I have become better at writing music and arranging it & Richard has become better with his lyrics and we have just learnt more as we have gone along. My productions with working with other bands have certainly improved and I think we have just matured as song writers as well. When we 1st started with Nick & John and we love metal music so we decided to create our own music and most of the bands in the 80's had awful melodies, other than Whitesnake the heavier bands had dreadful melodies and they never wrote good lyrics. So the bands I was listening too were based around love & girls which was dreadful. I love Vicious Rumors and I loved their melodies and guitar riffs but for me as a musician it didn't capture what I wanted. John & I also love Genesis because we liked the way they moved with their different arrangements and the complete freedom when they put their songs together. I loved what they were doing but the music was too soft for us so I decided to incorporate what they were doing in different styles. Back then there wasn't a Prog Metal band in the UK so we decided to mix the sounds what we wanted to do and it worked for us and the Prog Metal scene was really starting to pick up back then and so we were lucky to get a deal."
So how long did it take to record the new album?
"Well we started in September of 2011 and I finished mixing in May of 2012, it was the fact that Damien was a little bit ill from November to March he had a bad chest infection and when we came to record he could not reach the top notes and there wasn't really any sparkle in his voice and I know how good he is we had to postpone the album. When he finally got better I could hear the real Damien coming out in his vocals and I knew we had the perfect vocals to record. We lost a few months which was frustrating but in the end the results speak for themselves really."
So why did you leave Inside Out Records? Do they still exist?
"Well I think their disturbers have gone, we had a deal with them to do 3 albums and we did not have an ideal working relationship with the label and I was starting to think that all record labels are like that. When it came to the end of the deal we were thinking would we ever want to do another deal? In the end a friend of mine contacted me who is the guitarist for the band 'Eden Bridge' and he knew somebody at Nuclear Blast who was asking about Threshold. I said it was ok but I wasn't sure about them at 1st as they have a lot of Death Metal bands on their label, so I wasn't sure how we would fit in. In the end Markus the label manager contacted us and said they were interested in signing us and after a bit of talking we did a deal with them but we stated that we had total freedom to do what we do best and have complete control over our music we would sign with them, so they agreed. They have been totally fantastic with us and they have been completely honest we are happy with them. We have a 3 album deal with the label so far with options in we wish to stay with them."
Are they re-releasing any of the previous albums which were hard to get a hold of?
"Yes they are, they plan on re-releasing all of our albums because all of those albums came out of contract and I didn't want to sign a new contract because I didn't know who was going to have it and I think after Inside Out we were contracted to Century Media but I just got fed up with been moved about. So we kept the rights to the albums ourselves for some time which were only available on I Tunes. In the end we wanted them to be available to the fans once again, so Nuclear Blast have re-released them all. We did not have the intention of re-releasing them again to rid off our fans, they were re-released because we wanted our new fans to be able to get a hold of them."
So what plans do you have going on right now? Tour or new material?
"Yeah we have some new songs we are working on right now, as seen as the last album took so long we now feel it is time to start writing new material. We have a tour in March of 2013 and we did plan on touring in October 2012 but Johanne our drummer had dates with his other band 'Curb Grinder'. Damien also has some dates with his other band so there was no way we could tour with other things happening. We have some summer festivals line up for next year."
Have you any plans to play Bloodstock next year? It's been a while since you last played their, the indoor one right?
"I think there might be some offer to play next year yes, but it's not confirmed yet. We will be doing 'Rock Hard' in Germany."
Well Carl, thanx for taking your time out and doing this up date interview, do you have anything to say before we finish?
"Yes thanks to our fans for their support and for waiting so long for the new album. I hope you like it and will come and check us out live next year."