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THRESHOLD Keyboardist Discusses Singer Change, 'March Of Progress' Album
- Dec. 6, 2012
Anthony Morgan of Metal Forces recently conducted an interview with keyboardist Richard West of British progressive metallers THRESHOLD. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
On the late vocalist Andrew "Mac" McDermott leaving THRESHOLD in 2007:
Richard: "We were just about to go on tour to support 'Dead Reckoning'  when when our old singer Andrew McDermott sent us a message to say he wasn't coming. It was the day before he was supposed to come over and rehearse with us in Germany, and I think we had maybe five to six days until our first show. It was a really big surprise. He didn't even explain why; he just said in a message that he had to get on with his life, which was weird because we thought THRESHOLD really was a big part of his life. We were quite surprised, because he had made it very clear that he was really excited about the new album and everything we were doing. We were totally surprised, and really shell shocked."
On former vocalist Damian Wilson returning to THRESHOLD:
Richard: "We didn't want to cancel shows, because that's just not a good thing to do. Fans buy tickets, book flights, and book hotels. We did talk very briefly at the time about having vocalist auditions, but we didn't have very long. Over the years we've had three singers, which is ludicrous for any band. Your dream is that you have the same line-up for your whole career, so the fact that we've managed to still keep our fanbase is quite fortunate. The thought of having a fourth singer… We thought that would just be a bit of a joke really for a band. We might as well have just called ourselves a project or something, so we really thought that it had to be Damian or Glynn [Morgan, vocalist on 1994's 'Psychedelicatessen']. It was so obvious to go back to one of those two. Luckily, I had been working with Damian about a week before in the studio on another project, and he had spoken about THRESHOLD. He said to me, 'I really miss the band. If there's ever an opportunity, I'd love to have another shot'. A week later he got a phone call [laughs], and he came back in. He was the hero of the hour, and we did the shows. After that he then did a tour, and some more shows. With every show we did, he just became more and more part of the band. There was never a day where we said 'We don't have a singer again'. Slowly he made his way back in I think. To be honest it was down to timing though; Damian was here and he was ready, and he was available. We didn't actually have a way of getting hold of Glynn at the time, so it was a pretty easy decision. If it was another month it might've been Glynn who came back."
On latest album "March Of Progress":
Richard: "It goes back a long way back, back to 'Psychedelicatessen' , the second album. With the first album 'Wounded Land' , it was all written by the three founding guys, Karl Groom, Jon Jeary, and Nick Midson. With the second album suddenly I was writing and the new singer Glynn Morgan was writing, and it really changed the flavor. I think that's why Jon Jeary called it 'Psychedelicatessen', because it was like a delicatessen. You can go in there and choose all of these different flavours, and it feels a little bit like that with 'March Of Progress'. It just opens up the perspective a bit. There's a little bit more diversity in there, but that said I think it's a very coherent record. It doesn't sound like a compilation; it does sound like one body of work."
On his keyboard/piano work:
Richard: "I have a big love of piano in rock just because not many people do it, and when you can do it in a way that works I love it. Not the old honky tonk kind of piano, but just atmospheric riffs and that kind of thing. I've done a bit more of that than usual. Songs like 'Colophon', for example, have quite a bit of piano, and 'Staring At The Sun'. I really enjoy getting that to work, and also I'm a big fan of those old, big Gary Numan sounds from the late '70s and early '80s. I've never really gone there so much in the past, but I'm going there more now. I think 'Hang on… that's the stuff I love, so let's try it out'."
On many progressive metal bands arguably attempting to emulate DREAM THEATER:
Richard: "I remember in the 90s when DREAM THEATER first got big. Loads of bands started and they only had one influence, and you could tell it was DREAM THEATER. If you're a musician and you've only got one influence, then you're stuck aren't you? That's what you're gonna sound like. If you're a musician who has 20-30 influences and you just let them all be a small part of what you do, then you're gonna create something new. I think that's what we've always tried to do with THRESHOLD. I think that's one of the reasons we sound a bit different than other prog metal too, because we're British. Pretty much all of our influences are British. I know prog metal isn't specifically a British thing, but I think what we do is though because that's where we come from."
On late vocalist Andrew "Mac" McDermott, who passed away last year:
Richard: "He was a phenomenal singer, and in equal parts phenomenal and infuriating I would say. I think it's pretty well documented he had a pretty serious drinking habit, and you can imagine that that causes all sorts of difficulties and problems. Whether it was in the studio or onstage, you just never quite knew what you were gonna get. Some days he'd be quite brilliant, and then the next day he couldn't remember anything. Alcoholism is a terrible thing, and as far as I'm aware that's eventually what killed him."
On the reissue of THRESHOLD's past albums:
Richard: "They're just a practical thing, really. We've moved to Nuclear Blast. All those old albums were released through InsideOut Music and those contracts have now expired, so those albums are no longer available. That's obviously a silly thing to do if you're a band, so we needed them reissued. Nuclear Blast have taken on the job, and have released the Definitive Edition series. Obviously from Nuclear Blast's point of view, they wanted to make them as appealing as possible. We've crammed them full with as many bonus tracks as you can fit on a CD, so they really are definitive and good value for money. The mastering's been tweaked a little bit, so they sound slightly better in some cases and hopefully they really are the definitive editions."
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