MOUTHY ISSUE TWO
THRESHOLD Richard West
interview by Ian C Stewart
Is there anything you're feeling particularly mouthy about at the moment?
Yes, I'm enjoying life right now, that's something to get mouthy about. I'm in the Czech Republic with my wife and we're surrounded by snow every day at the moment. In England it never snows much so it's a nice change. Some of the locals here have been skating on the frozen lakes, so we might have to try that sometime if we can find a patch that doesn't look too thin! Also things are going well with Threshold, we had a good year last year and we're looking forward to seeing what 2003 brings.
Who does what in the band?
That could take a while, as there are six of us. I guess that aside from our instruments, Mac does headstands, Jon Jeary comes up with the album titles, Johanne James wins best drummer awards, I do the website, Nick Midson helps us look vaguely metal and Karl Groom always gets the final word.
Where did the name come from?
The name arrived before I did so I'm not sure, but I think it was inspired by the Moody Blues.
When did the band form?
Originally in 1988, although the lineup in its current form has been together since 1999. We've had a bit of a turbulent history with our line-up, but the last few years have been remarkably constant.
How do your songs come to be?
Each of us tend to write separately, Mac and me will come up with complete songs, whereas Karl and Nick tend to just write music and get Jon to write their lyrics. Personally I just like to be somewhere quiet, working on ideas until something arrives and starts going around in my mind. Then I just keep adding to it until it's a full-blown composition, it's a bit like having a recording session going on in my head. In the studio things sometimes get changed around a little to suit the band's style, but mostly what's written at home tends to be what ends up on the album.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
As a band, Threshold grew up surrounded by great British music, acts like Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Rush, and the whole scene probably helped to shape the Threshold sound. My early musical input mostly came from the Top 40, every Sunday afternoon I would be glued to the radio, I don't remember ever missing a show. When I started hearing bands like Queen and Genesis on the radio, they seemed to have so much more to offer than the other bands, it was like they took music to new levels. I became totally immersed in Queen, bought all their albums, my only regret is that I never got to see them live.
What made you decide to start making music of your own?
I played piano from an early age, and by the time I was 12 I'd started writing songs and I knew it was all I wanted to do. I used to have two tape recorders and I would record myself singing and playing piano, then play that back while I bashed out some drums on old cardboard boxes and a tambourine, while recording the overall sound on the second tape recorder. After a while I got more adventurous, adding extra vocals, an old ukelele and even a cello, but you could only go so far before the quality got so bad that all you could hear was hiss! Fortunately things are a little more professional these days, I'm not sure our record label would be too interested in many of those old recordings.
How is the current label situation working out?
They're doing a good job, we moved to Inside Out in 2000 and last year we scored our first chart success with them. We've known the main guys there for years, so it's nice to be finally working with them.
Will there be a DVD of your stuff?
We're hoping to do one this summer, we're just making the arrangements at the moment so hopefully we can announce something soon. We did a poll at the end of 2002 and a DVD was our fans' number one dream release for 2003, so we're doing all we can to make it happen.
What's the strangest recording session you've been part of?
A few years ago me and Karl Groom got involved in a session for a local jazz composer. We were supposed to play this piece of music that changed style at the end of every line, sometimes to ragtime, sometimes to avant-garde, it was all a bit odd. Later when we were asked to add spontaneous solos to music that jumped around randomly over chords we'd never even heard of, we had to admit defeat and get our coats!
Have you been on tour recently?
We did a few dates in Europe last autumn, followed by our first US festival last November. That was fun, we flew across with our friends from Pain of Salvation who were also playing at the festival. They toured with us in 1999 and it was quite a surprise to find them on the same plane. Because it was our first show there we weren't sure what to expect, but it was a great event and we had a good time.
Where are your biggest markets?
Germany's always been our best market followed by Holland, but recently America has started to open up for us and is growing nicely. England's picking up slowly but the scene there is quite different, it's dominated by the pre-teen market so progressive metal is mostly ignored.
What's the biggest audience you've played to?
Probably Wacken Open Air in Germany in 1999, there were several thousand fans but I didn't have time to count them.
What's your favorite place to play live?
I guess it would be England, somehow it feels more real that the rest of the world. Doing well in Europe is wonderful, but having grown up with the British music scene that's the place where it counts the most.
Funny band story?
One of my favourite moments was at the Bospop festival in Holland in 2001. Our singer Mac had drunk quite a lot and during the last song he climbed the huge lighting rig, shinned across a horizontal scaffold frame until he was about five metres above the centre of the stage, lay down and sung the final chorus. Half way through it suddenly seemed to dawn on him what he'd done, and he looked down at me with this prize expression on his face which said "How on earth am I going to get down!"
What's next for you, musically speaking?
We're about to release an acoustic album through our website www.thresh.net, it's something our fans have been requesting for a while, and we had fun playing through some of our old songs in a new way. After that we'll be getting ready for some more live shows in the summer, and hopefully recording one of them for a DVD and live album release later in the year. But after that, who knows.
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