Threshold's For The Journey will no doubt be regarded by many as one of the top releases for 2014, and rightly so as it's yet again another fine album by the UK progressive group. Sea of Tranquility's Scott Jessup recently had a chance to interview Threshold guitarist, composer and producer Karl Groom to talk in-depth about the new album (a joint release by Metallville & Nuclear Blast in North America) and much more!
SoT: For The Journey is such an enjoyable release- Threshold would have to be one of the most reliable progressive metal bands while many others struggle to be so consistent... what's your secret?
Karl: Between Rich and I, stop anything that is not 100% at the demo stage. I have written all my material for each album during the few months before recording as well. This makes sure that I don't re-work a composition that was not good enough before and keeps the album sounding cohesive. I like to represent what is happening at that particular time in music for us.
SoT: Threshold seem to have a formula they stick close to and it works, you aren't the sort of band that delves into over the top extended/mind bending instrumentals like some. More so catchy very accessible melodic and always tasteful songs with a great balance of riveting vocals and appealing music. So many people that I play your albums to are impressed and age is no barrier. I know from my experience we can't possibly go on a long family excursion without Threshold on the playlist, you must have a wide age range of fans?
Karl: Melody and harmony are strong elements in our music and the song is more important than individuals showing off. I guess that might go against what modern prog metal stands for, but it is our trademark if you like. I also work very hard on arrangements long before the rest of the band are involved, as I want them to understand the mood of the track before playing their parts. The aim is to cover every eventuality and not find something I will be disappointed with after the release.
SoT: Speaking of vocals, how much time do you spend on these when recording a new album? They are always such a wonderful part of that Threshold sound.
Karl: This can vary on each album in the recording stage and much depends on how the singer feels. A lot of the work on vocals is done before we even start on a session with the vocalist though. We have a full demo with all backing vocals completed before entering the studio. Again, I don't mind if Damian finds a few different ways of delivering the lines, but all melodies and parts are there for him to learn first. About half the recording session is spent on tracking the vocals and then the second half is all about editing and choosing the best performances.
SoT: How has the writing/recording process changed for Threshold since the early days?
Karl: Our first album was recorded on 8 tracks and had serous technical limitations due to such a small budget. Now we have unlimited tracks and oodles of processing power. The strange thing is that it still comes down to creativity in the mind. I do love good production of course, but you still need originality to capture attention.
SoT: How have sales been? It's obviously so much tougher these days, and who knows what the future holds.
Karl: Quite a depressing question really for anyone involved in the music industry and I try not to think too much about it because there is nothing you can do about what happened in the last decade. We have kept about the same sales since Hypothetical, which can be seen as something of a success whilst world sales decline. When we moved to Nuclear Blast sales rose by about 20% I think and that would be down to being a bigger label probably.
SoT: If you could choose any, which band would you like to tour with?
Karl: I think we are most comfortable playing our own headline shows. On the few occasions we have made support shows, I never noticed any benefit. The fans there would be waiting to see the main event and our own people are unlikely to turn up for a short gig. When you have such a large back catalogue it is hard enough to fit into just two hours, let alone 30 minutes.
SoT: What tour plans does Threshold have?
Karl: We are currently on our European tour to support the For the Journey album and about halfway through. Here are plans for more dates in spring, autumn and a few summer festivals, but it can be difficult with some band members availability and not a lot is confirmed at this stage. I guess most dates are on the website before I know they are definite!
SoT: How widespread is Threshold's fan base, and where would you like to have more exposure?
Karl:I always prefer the dates in Europe and would be looking to include more of Scandinavia and other countries we have seen less of. When we play outside Europe it is always more travelling than playing and it seems that visa processes are getting more expensive each time.
SoT: Any new progressive groups that you are fans of?
Karl: I quite like Scar Symmetry if that can be called progressive or new in any way?
SoT: Which are some of your all-time favourite progressive metal releases?
Karl: I have to admit it is not my style of music when choosing to listen. This is probably because Threshold is not quite fitting into this category. If pushed to name some, it would be bands that I worked on production with because I became so familiar with the music. Edenbridge - The Bonding was a good album.
SoT: What other kinds of music does Threshold's members listen to?
Karl: Threshold started playing our style of music to include the influences of Testament, Metallica, Genesis and Rush. It was simply the bands we liked at the time between Jon, Nick and I. More recently I appreciate the albums of. British band My Dying Bride for the way they capture such emotion in the music. Also Mike Oldfield in his electronic phase is very good. It is important to draw influences from music outside your own genre in order not to sound like others.
SoT: Thanks so much for your time and feedback Karl, and another great Threshold album. Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Karl: I hope that For the Journey will connect with people on a personal level, because that was the intention in writing the album. It is a joy to see some of those fans enjoying the live shows now.
(Click here to read our reviews of For the Journey )