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Interview by René Janssen with Richard West of THRESHOLD

Threshold

Richard West Well, after my decision to leave the DPRP-team because some other projects in the prog(metal)-scene takes too much of my time, I was honoured that Henri Bos (CDelight and NLgigs) asked me for a favour. Henri asked me to do an interview for DPRP with Threshold, because he thought I knew more about the band than anyone else in the DPRP-team at the moment. Because I am a fan of the band from the beginning (I still think "Wounded Land" is one of the best debut albums ever), and in this way I still can give my contribution to the DPRP website, I decided to do it. I emailed Threshold's keyboard player Richard West and asked him if he was interested to do an interview for DPRP, and, friendly as ever, he was of course more than interested to do so! The result you will find on this page. Hope you enjoy the interview; for me it was a pleasure to do and I would like to thank Richard West for his time, and of course also the DPRP-team (especially Henri Bos) for asking me "back". It was an honour, and I hope to do a few more interviews for DPRP in the near future. But that is for later. Now enjoy the interview with Richard West of Threshold, without doubt the best progmetal band from the UK at this moment.

THE NEW ALBUM "HYPOTHETICAL"

RENE: "First of all congratulations on the new album "Hypothetical". Is the band satisfied with the final result? Different feelings about this new release compared to your previous releases?"
 
RICHARD: "That's a difficult first question René, because while you're producing an album you spend most of the time listening for mistakes and things that can be improved, so once you're into that way of thinking it's hard to just listen for pleasure again. Karl has a good approach of not listening to the album between the final mastering and the release date, and I can see his wisdom. Coming back to the album with fresh ears, I have to say I'm very satisfied with the results. For me personally, and I think for the whole band too, the songs, the performances and the production have always taken a step forward with every album we produce, and I think that's also true of "Hypothetical". I hope so, anyway!"


Hypothetical RENE: "And it's finally an album with the same singer as on the last album "Clone". The band received a lot of negative comments using different singers from time to time. How does the band look back on this subject?"
 
RICHARD: "I think we've all become very resigned to it! Obviously it looks better if a band always has the same frontman, and most bands take a few months before they find the right line-up, but I guess we just took a bit longer! Our first singer Damian Wilson wasn't really a band member in the fullest sense, because he was always looking for something else to do. And although he loved to sing, he was never really into the progressive metal scene. So it wasn't surprising that he left, first to join a rock band with a promise of big money, and later to join the theatre, where I think he fits much better. And for our second singer Glynn Morgan, again he wasn't really into the progressive side of things either, so it was a logical step for him to form his own band doing straighter metal. As far as the negative comments you mention, I think we've survived quite well! For every person who says they preferred the voice of Glynn or Damian, there's somebody else who says that Mac sounds better, or that he is the best man on stage. To be honest, we were fortunate to find three such talented British vocalists, and I think the one we have now probably suits Threshold the best."


RENE: "I guess songwriting was different for the new album with Mac on vocals and Johanne on drums. How did the songs come along compared to the songwriting for your previous releases?"
 
RICHARD: "I think our songwriting is different mostly because we've developed as musicians, and not so much because of Mac or Johanne. Historically our singers and drummers have never been too involved in the songwriting, although Glynn wrote a couple of great songs for "Psychedelicatessen" and Damian co-wrote one of the ballads on "Extinct Instinct". When we write Threshold songs it's important for us to remember the limitations of the musicians, and with Johanne and Mac that's easy - they don't really have any! Johanne's been our stage drummer since 1997, and we're always blown away by how good he is. With Mac, when we recorded "Clone" he was a stranger to us, so I think it was hard for him to settle in straight away. He did a good job on that album, but by the time we recorded "Hypothetical" he'd really become part of the band so he was able to go a lot further with us in terms of performance. As for the songwriting, we deliberately cut back the style of the band for "Clone". We originally thought of doing just a straight metal album, but in the end we opted for a more direct sound without losing the progressive overtones. It was a refreshing thing for us to do, and I think "Clone" was a very coherent album for that reason. With "Hypothetical" we wanted to keep that coherence, but at the same time build more of our progressive side back into the compositions. As a result I think it's probably our most diverse, and probably most mature album so far."

MOVING TO INSIDE OUT

RENE: "Personally I think the only reason why the band did not get the attention you deserve is because of the unstable line-up. Do you also think that was the main reason, or do you think you did get the attention you deserve? (probably hard to say for your own band)"
 
RICHARD: "I'm not so sure. Before now, I think our greatest success was in 1995 after "Psychedelicatessen", having already had two singers and three drummers! Certainly Damian's disappearance didn't seem to bother anybody, and we had a great summer touring with Dream Theater and doing a video. To build on that success, we probably should have recorded "Extinct Instinct" at the end of 1995 with Glynn singing, but of course the band had internal problems and didn't release anything new until 1997. But I think the biggest problem was the size of our record label. Until now we were on a small UK label with limited resources, so we were never fully able to build on our success. Now that we've moved to Inside Out our potential is much greater, and early sales of the new album already look much better than for any of our other albums. Also, now that Mac's sung on two Threshold albums we're a much more stable band, and the attention we're getting now is more positive than ever."


RENE: "As you already mentioned Threshold moved to Inside Out and the new album is your debut on Inside Out. Although the other albums were distributed by the famous German label, how did the new deal come along? Was it a logical step when you decided to quit with GEP? Don't you think you should have signed to such a label at an earlier stage?"
 
RICHARD: "We've known the guys at Inside Out for a very long time, they're good friends and a good company, so it was always a sensible option to sign to them. We thought about it for a long time, and the timing was probably just right for us. The "Clone" album and tour allowed Threshold to become more stable and more mature, and I think that's something we had to go through before moving labels."


Inside Out


RENE: "What about other countries than Europe? Are your previous albums available in a lot of countries or will that just happen now with the new deal with Inside Out?"
 
RICHARD: "Threshold's main fan base has always been Europe, with the main emphasis being on the more central countries such as Germany, Holland and Belgium. For the new album we've been doing interviews and promotion all across Europe from the Croatia to Slovakia, so it looks like things are growing a lot over here. As for other countries, our early albums were also released in Japan, although the market over there has changed a lot in the last few years. With the new label we'll also be released in the US, so it'll be interesting to see how "Hypothetical" does over there. They're also going to be re-issuing all our old albums, and we're currently looking at things we can do to enhance them. One suggestion is to totally remix "Psychedelicatessen", as we now have the technology and experience to make it sound the way we originally intended. We still have all the master tapes, so it'd be wonderful to go through and improve the sound and overall quality of the mixes. The plan could be to release it as a double album with "Livedelica" on disc 2, with a whole load of extra stuff including our "Innocent" video, a live video of "A Tension Of Souls", as well as extra photos, sleeve notes and a multimedia section. That's a release I'm really looking forward to!"

TOURING / PROGPOWER

RENE: "What about touring plans? The last tour was a little bit disappointing for you concerning the crowd that showed up (or did not show up). What are your expectations this time? Will you do a headline tour or support for a really big name?"
 
RICHARD: "The crowd wasn't really such a big disappointment, although some of the shows were obviously a bit smaller than we were hoping for. I remember Biella in Italy being rather small. First of all most of our equipment broke down because of a bad power circuit, and then hardly anybody came to the show. I think the place has closed down now, but I remember at the end Mac called the whole audience onto the stage to join us during the song "Paradox", and they all fitted with no problem! But I think that happens on any tour, and for every low point there's always a high point. We had a fantastic time later in the tour in Holland and Belgium, especially as we'd grown together more as a band by then. The early shows in England and Germany were tough going, I think it was hard for Mac to settle into the band, and also hard for Threshold to get used to Mac! But by the end of the tour things were great, and later when we played Wacken it was one of our best ever shows. So we're really looking forward to going on tour again, either late in the summer or in the autumn. We were hoping to do some more festivals this year, but this year it's more important for us to focus on doing a good tour. We don't know who we'll tour with yet, there are so many excellent bands around at the moment, so we're just waiting to see who looks like a good choice nearer the time."


RENE: "Your last gig in Holland also got some different reactions. You know I am talking about ProgPower 1999. I think a lot of fans had a great time, but the press was not that positive about Mac's singing and stage-act. They all said he was way too drunk to sing. I have seen some postings on the internet about this, what was the reaction of the band? How did Mac react on these comments?"
 
RICHARD: "We were so honoured to headline that show, so it was very disappointing to do a poor performance. Obviously our fans and the press want to know we take the band as seriously as they do, so it was a shame what happened. Although a lot of the show was fine, the image that sticks painfully in my mind is of Mac lying on his back with a very big smile, holding out the microphone for a fan to sing one of the songs! Mac was very apologetic afterwards, I know he'd been going through a bad time and during about 12 hours of sitting backstage waiting to perform, a lot of beer was drunk. It was a shame to end the year like that, especially after such a good show at Wacken in the summer, where Mac was voted the best frontman of the whole festival. I don't think he got the same vote at ProgPower!"


Threshold live RENE: "Concerning ProgPower, as one of the organizers I would like to know what you think of such an event. Would you like to headline the event again someday? And what about ProgPower USA, any chance to see you playing at this festival or at other places in the USA in the near future?"
 
RICHARD: "I thought ProgPower 1999 was very well put together, there were some great bands and a great atmosphere. I really enjoyed watching Superior and Pain of Salvation especially, and the only problem for us as the headline band was probably starting so late, when people were already tired and some had to go before the end to catch public transport. But of course we'd love to come to ProgPower again, and we're looking forward to doing some more shows in Holland when we tour later in the year. Touring in the USA is obviously another hope for us, although we'll need to see how "Hypothetical" is received over there before we can consider it. We've had a couple of offers recently to tour South America which sounds wonderful, as well as a lot of interest from fans in North America and Canada already, so maybe ProgPower USA could be a possibility for the future."

SOLO & SIDE PROJECTS

RENE: "I know you are also busy with a solo project with your wife Farrah West, what can you tell us about it? When can we expect the release of this solo project? Who will release it and is it only meant as a studio project or will you also go on stage?"
 
RICHARD: "Well, we started recording together a couple of years ago, with Ian Salmon of Arena joining us on guitars for a couple of songs. The style is quite different to Threshold, although lyrically the songs tend to explore the same life-meets-faith territory that I've been covering when I write for the band. My wife has got a wonderful voice, and we're hoping to have something ready for release later in the year, although it probably won't be destined for Inside Out as it's not really their style. At the moment we just want to focus on recording the songs, and then see what happens after that."


RENE: "I also heard Mac will release a solo project, what about the other Threshold members? Are they busy with solo projects or any other bands/projects they play in these days?"
 
RICHARD: "I know Mac's been working on a solo album in Hanover where he lives, but nothing has been released yet. I think someone from Judas Priest is also involved but I'm not too sure of the details. He told me it was more along the lines of his old band Sargant Fury meets Bon Jovi, but he hasn't let us hear any of the songs yet. I asked him about it last month when I saw him in Germany and he said he's still recording. Karl's also busy, but as a producer rather than a guitarist. Recently he was working with a couple of new bands such as Dragonheart and ShadowKeep, and he also just produced the new Pendragon album Not Of This World."

THE FUTURE

RENE: "Going back to the new album, the reactions in the press are great. Did you expect such a positive response?"
 
RICHARD: "You know, Threshold have somehow always had good reviews and I think I kind of got used to it. But this time it was different for me and I was quite nervous. Possibly because it's been a while since we released Clone, so I was worried about our fans all drifting away, or possibly because I've become a lot more involved in the writing than I used to be, so now I take the reviews more personally than before. So when the reviews started to come through and we saw how popular the album was, it was a great relief and exciting too. Discovering that "Hypothetical" was album of the month in the German magazine Rock Hard was probably the turning point, that was when we could stop holding our breath and knew that things were going to be OK."


Threshold


RENE: "Personally I really like the album very much, but I think "Clone" deserved a much better response than it really got. Do you think the more positive response is also because you signed to a bigger label? Or is the album so much better in your opinion?"
 
RICHARD: "Honestly, I think it's our best album so far. But also honestly, that's what most bands will tell you about their new album. With every album you pour in your whole heart and soul together with the sum total of your ability and experience, so if you feel like your new album isn't as good as the old one then there's got to be something wrong. I thought "Clone" got a good response from the press, although our fans were probably more critical as it was a bit of a departure from our normal sound. Our fans have always been our hardest critics, wanting more long songs on "Clone" or more traditional power ballads on "Hypothetical", but we've never been a band to follow the popular view, otherwise we wouldn't be playing progressive metal in the first place! As for the new album, I don't think the size of the label is related to the quality of the review, or it would only be bands on labels like EMI and Sony that got a good response."


RENE: "What can we expect from Threshold in the near future? Live album?? Live video?? Or also a DVD like many other bands release these days?"
 
RICHARD: "Obviously, something Threshold has never done is a definitive live recording. We released the mini-album "Livedelica" in 1995 to accompany the tour, and more recently we recorded our London show in 1999 with the hope of releasing it through the fan club after the popularity of our other fan club album, "Decadent". Unfortunately the master tapes were a bit distorted on some tracks, and also the bias of songs leaned too heavily towards "Clone", so we eventually decided not to use it. Now that we've moved to Inside Out our main focus is to tour "Hypothetical" and then start working on a new album. Maybe after that will be the time to start thinking about a live release, and I don't see why that couldn't include a DVD to accompany it. Personally I'd like us to be the first band to play in space, but I think there's a lot of competition for that one! All I know is that right now the future looks very good for Threshold, so who knows, all things are possible!"


RENE: "Richard, thank you very much for your time, I hope you enjoyed the interview. Good luck in the near future with Threshold and your solo project together with your wife Farrah West. The final words are for you..."
 
RICHARD: "I could be really contrived and quote a Threshold lyric, but really I'd just like to offer a big "thank you" to all our fans, we're constantly amazed and humbled by your support."

THRESHOLD INFO

Richard West
Richard West
keyboards

 
Karl Groom
Karl Groom
guitars

 
Jon Jeary
Jon Jeary
bass

 
Johanne James
Johanne James
drums

 
Nick Midson
Nick Midson
guitars

 
Mac
Andrew McDermott
vocals

 


Wounded Land
"Wounded Land"
1993

 
Psychedelicatessen
"Psychedelicatessen"
1994

 
Livedelica
"Livedelica"
1995

 
Extinct Instinct
"Extinct Instinct"
1997

 
Clone
"Clone"
1998

 
Decadent
"Decadent"
1999

 
hypothetical
"Hypothetical"
2001

 
 
 


  Threshold at DPRP:
 
 
CDelight "Hypothetical" : http://www.dprp.vuurwerk.nl/cdelight/0113.html
 
Review "Hypothetical" : http://www.dprp.vuurwerk.nl/reviews/0112.htm
 
Review "ProgPower 1999" :http://www.dprp.vuurwerk.nl/concrev/progpow.htm
 
Artcorner "Clone" : http://www.dprp.vuurwerk.nl/artcorner/4.htm
 
Review "Clone" : http://www.dprp.vuurwerk.nl/reviews/9810.htm
 
CDelight "Decadent" : http://www.dprp.vuurwerk.nl/cdelight/cd9920.html


© April 2001 - Dutch Progressive Rock Page