Karl Groom (THRESHOLD) on Rock Overdose:’ ”Legends of the Shires” is about individual or political concerns’.

British progsters Threshold released their 11th double album ''Legends Of The Shires'' and Rock Overdose managed to learn the last details. Dimitris Aloras as a big fan of them, came in touch with guitarist Karl Groom, who tells us that the new album is already deep inside his heart, while he gives us incredible details for the album's creation and remembers their live show in Larisa in 2008, and also their trip to Leptokaria for a swim!




Rock Overdose: First of all, I’d like to know your feelings about the previous album “For The Journey” and what was the response for it. It sounded a little less progy, but I believe it has a deeper vibe in it, melancholic at parts, but finally redeeming.


Karl Groom: You recognize some of the feelings well in ''For the Journey'. I dedicated the music for ''The Box'' to the memory of my mother and father in law, who we lost within one year of each other. There were good tracks on the album, but there lacked a homogenous link between all songs. With multiple writers who were not connecting a theme musically or lyrically, it was a collection of songs and that is something we set out to put right on ''Legends of the Shires''.



Rock Overdose: New album out, the 11th in a row. And what was left out of the Threshold catalogue so far? A double concept-based album! You are surely full of surprises. Did you create it from the first moment to be a concept and that long, or did it come up in the process of the making of it?


Karl Groom: We certainly didn’t plan to write a double concept album when we started to compose for ''Legends of the Shires''. It was a totally organic process that ended up with 83 minutes of music.


When Richard and I began to write for a new record we didn’t reach a situation where it came to natural conclusion at 50 minutes to one hour. In fact we spoke about this and decided to keep writing while the inspiration kept coming. At some point we decided it would be a double album and wanted to make it our first concept record since ''Clone'' in 1998. The music will just fit onto a double LP and crucially, the tracks will still be in the correct order when transferred to the four sides of vinyl.



Rock Overdose: It feels to me that you believed so much in the material this time, that you put almost anything you had, an 83 minute album is something we don’t get to see that often. Were any ideas left out of the final outcome, or did you finally use all the songs you wrote?


Karl Groom: The way we work doesn’t really bring this question into the process. Both Richard and I filter out songs that are not right for the feel of the album before we present anything to the band. At an early stage in a composition I will usually take a rough mix of the song and listen in the car to see if it inspires me in a different environment to the studio. If I feel strongly for the music, or it gives me a reaction of excitement, I know this is worth working on.


If there are ideas left over, I will not use them again for a studio album. For me, you have to write the music in the period of time that the album will be recorded and released. Bringing back old songs will make an album lack a cohesive sound and I always want a record to flow well; it needs to be a valid piece of music if listened to as one piece from beginning to end.



Rock Overdose: Talking about material’s belief, the first single was the 10 minute “Lost In Translation”, I don’t remember such a lengthy first sample of an album for years, even from bands with exclusively long songs. Risky but surprising, we’d like to know some details about choosing it.


Karl Groom: Originally ''Small Dark Lines'' would have been the first song out, but we could not co-ordinate the filming early enough and Nuclear Blast needed a track for the pre-order date. I know the choice of this song must have been a worrying experience for the record label.  As far as I know ''Meatloaf'' was the longest single I recall and we thought it would be an interesting idea for a 10-minute release. Also, it represents the fact that we are progressive metal and this is a double concept album.



Rock Overdose: On the other hand, the next single was for “Small Dark Lines”, a catchier and shorter track. I liked very much the concept of the video, about people drawing a line on their body for all the bad things they did and regret about it. Where did you shoot it and how long did it take you?


Karl Groom: We went to Bolton, which is near Manchester to film the clip. All recording was done in one long day with both the band and extras. Then the editing was completed within the week.


We had asked fans to come as extras and some had travelled from as far as Sweden. What we didn’t envisage was torturing them when washing the body paint away with cold showers. There were nine people from different backgrounds in the video and we thank them for a great job.


The singles are deliberately showing varying sides to the music on the album and should give listeners an idea of what is to come.



Rock Overdose: It’s been 23 years since we last heard Glynn in a Threshold album, to me and most people I know, the best you ever did, the mighty “Psychedelicatessen”. He sounds amazing once again, how well did he adapt to the new material and which were your expectations when you chose him again?


Karl Groom: It is no secret that I always liked the rougher side of Glynn’s voice that he had on ''Psychedelicatessen''. It brings such warmth and dynamics to the music of Threshold. What I didn’t expect was how he had developed other tones and was able to convey emotion so well on ''Legends of the Shires'' too. The classic Glynn appears on tracks like ''Small Dark Lines'' and ''The Superior Machine'' particularly, but check out his range of work on ''The Man Who Saw Through Time'' and it is possible to see how he approached this record so well.



Rock Overdose: I feel like Threshold are a closed club that only trusted blood gets inside. Damian was in the band twice and he returned once more, now Glynn comes back after so much time, do you prefer to work with people you already know through the years when the need comes?


Karl Groom: It is always easier to work with people we know instead of going through a process of auditions and taking the chance. I knew exactly what we would get from Glynn and his qualities. Also, Glynn made it clear that he was very enthusiastic about the band again and has a good character to work with.



Rock Overdose: How long did it take you to write the whole album and create it? Since it’s a very long one, I guess it must have been one of the most demanding moments for you in the studio, when you finished the whole procedure, did you feel relief and completeness more than any other time?


Karl Groom: Legends of the Shires took about 5 months to write and arrange all the songs. Then it probably took another 5 months to record and mix. That is hard to quantify exactly, as we had some points where we had to wait for availability of band members. Although it was time consuming to write, I didn’t feel there were points where it was weighing us down though. At every stage the inspiration kept flowing. However, there are no real shortcuts to finding good arrangements and this will always take time to find the best way to present the songs.


Now the album is complete, I am excited about its release. I really hope it connects with fans of the music and everyone finds something special in the album.



Rock Overdose: I had read some years ago that your favorite album was “Subsurface”, do you believe that “Legends Of The Shires” could take this place in your heart through time? How has the press reacted for it so far and which are the common comments you hear about it?


Karl Groom: ''Legends of the Shires'' has the same qualities for me as ''Subsurface'' in that it is complete as an album. The running order is perfect and I hear an album that is good to listen to in one sitting. ''Subsurface'' holds special memories because I think it was Mac’s finest album. This new release finally shows the best of Glynn and personally I am very happy with the composition and band’s performance.



Rock Overdose: You know the case with concept albums, everyone tries to imagine the story. I like the feeling of double interpretation I got, a nation standing on its own and interacting with other ones, or a man discovering life and what lies ahead for him. Could we have a more in-depth meaning of the concept or the lyrics please?


Karl Groom: The album is about individual or political concerns about how we find our place in the world and the ways in which we relate to others. There are certainly recent parallels in the real world on the political side with the UK leaving the European Union.


The lyrics on State of Independence deal with this and the personal reference would be someone going through a divorce. Small Dark Lines also represents the borders between countries and on the personal side it is about having a dark side and regrets about wanting to get ahead at the expense of others.


Having a dual concept was appealing and there are a couple of interesting ideas within the lyrics that further lent the album to the progressive genre. All of the song titles coincidentally begin with the letters L, O, T or S - the acronym of ''Legends Of The Shires''. Also on ''The Man Who Saw Through Time'' the song's initials TMWSTT are also the initials of the days of the week used in the song to imply time travel (Thursday, Monday, Wednesday, Saturday, Thursday, Tuesday).



Rock Overdose: Creating an album sometimes gets affected by the music the members listen to. I don’t know if you listened to more progy music while making it, but I was wondering if you keep following the rock and metal scene. Which new albums or bands have caught your attention?


Karl Groom: Nobody in Threshold really listens to progressive metal with any conviction. The sound of the band arrived because we decided to pool our influences and preferences for musical taste. Some like metal and others like progressive, so we made our own blend and that was an easier process when the progressive metal genre was in its infancy. I think that today it would be a lot harder to ignore the scene.


Personally I like to observe music from different genres to make improvement to my writing and arrangement skills. I particularly like the electronic period of Mike Oldfield’s music, because he understands so well how to build the layers and present the song to its best. Of course I still love the music of Testament and other metal bands that use riffs as the basis of their music.



Rock Overdose: Except Glynn coming back, we have a cameo by John Jeary on “The Shire (Part 3)”. Do you keep close contact since he left the band? What were the feelings of having him in the studio once again and what did he tell you about the album in general?


Karl Groom: Jon and I remain friends since he left Threshold and often meet. He left Threshold in large part because of the touring commitments, but I know he still supports the bands and loves to play music.


When we made the demo for ''The Shire (Part 3)'' I said to Richard that I could hear Jon singing that vocal in my head. He appeared quite a bit on our third studio album singing vocals and I decided to ask him about performing on the final recording. Jon was delighted to be asked and did a great job in the studio. He is now eagerly awaiting his copy on vinyl, which should arrive soon!



Rock Overdose: I was one of the very lucky ones to be in Larissa in 2008, in your first show in Greece. 9 years have passed and we still talk about it to be honest. On November 12th you are visiting Athens, we’d like to know if and what you remember from the first Greek encounter of yours.


Karl Groom: This is a gig I remember well and was great weekend away. We had a summer of really nice locations to go to and even managed to get the train to Leptokaria for a swim. What a shame we didn’t make it back when we had a Greek support band (The Silent Wedding) on the tour in 2014.


If I recall, it was called the No Budget festival and it was in an oval open-air venue. I spent most of the weekend walking around the town and it is special because Larissa is the name of one of my children.



Rock Overdose: Speaking of the gig, I will be honest. Glynn’s comeback has raised the demands of the fans to listen something from “Psychedelicatessen” (especially “Sunseeker”), since the first time you didn’t play anything from it. Is there a chance we’ll be awarded and what should the fans expect from the gig in general?


Karl Groom: There certainly is the chance. With the return of Glynn, we will perform a couple of songs from ''Psychelicatessen'' (including ''Innocent'') that fans have wanted to hear and many from the new ''Legends of the Shires'' album. Of course there will be some live favourites and many have expressed an interest to hear Glynn perform songs originally recorded by Mac. His voice compares to some extent and ''Dead Reckoning'' was never heard live with Mac.



Rock Overdose: I would like to thank you for your time and for finally coming back to Greece in this tour. Add anything you feel that was missing or we forgot to ask you. Since we never saw any Threshold merchandise here, what will you bring with you so the fans should know? See you in Athens!


Karl Groom: I think it is a gig we will fly to because of the distance, so merchandise is always a difficult thing to organize then. It will be great to meet up with some friends in Athens when we come for the show.




For Rock Overdose


Dimitris Aloras