10 questions for Threshold’s Karl Groom

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As far as British prog goes, Threshold are one of its longest-serving bands, with a near-three-decade history behind them, and an 11th album ahead.

That release is Legend Of The Shires, a double-album of suitably epic proportions, which features vocalist Glynn Morgan resuming singing duties for the first time since 1996.

As always, founding member Karl Groom provides a wealth of guitar tones and textures, spanning metal chugs to crystalline arpeggios.

We quizzed the long-serving guitarist on his first guitar, essential instruments and one fateful gig he’d prefer to forget…

1. What was your first guitar and when did you get it?

“A Minns Music nylon-string acoustic from my parents when I was around 10. I didn’t take playing seriously until a friend asked me to play bass in his band at the age of 16. He gave me just two weeks to learn the instrument, and that sharpened my mind about guitar, too.

“The acoustic disappeared sometime in my 20s and recently reappeared at a friend’s house. I left it with him years ago and don’t have the heart to take it back now.”

2. The building’s burning down – what one guitar do you save?

When we fly for shows I take my amplifier as hand luggage in a small rack, and the guitars take their chances in the hold!

“Most of my guitars are Ibanez because I had an endorsement deal for quite a few years. They are all consistent and great to play, so I’m not attached to any particular one. When we fly for shows I take my amplifier as hand luggage in a small rack, and the guitars take their chances in the hold! Also, only being able to take one guitar on a plane means I have to use one without locking tremolo, so I am often using different instruments.

“I think if I had one perfect guitar it would make me nervous whenever it left my house, so this situation is probably for the best!”

3. What's the one effects pedal you couldn't do without?

“Delay is my must-have effect; a solo is just too dry without one. I mainly use the delays inside Pro Tools for recording, as this gives me greater flexibility later. Live it’s whatever is in my rack setup, which is remotely changed by computer.

“This was a real game-changer because we don’t have to worry where I am on the stage when a patch change comes, and it’s much more enjoyable to play live now. Lately, I use the Kemper, but also still have a Rocktron Prophesy II and a Marshall JMP-1 with Quadraverb.

“In terms of actual pedals, I like my Ibanez TS9 if using amp heads, or the Boss TR-2 Tremolo. I have tried other versions of the Tube Screamer, but the standard version works fine for me.”

4. Is there a guitar, or piece of gear, that you regret letting go?

“I most regret selling my Charvel 375 Classic with the ’80s-style crackle finish. It had a wonderful-sounding J-90C pickup in it, and it’s hard to come by without the guitar attached.”

5. What’s your favourite chord?

“I love it when a diminished chord fits into an instrumental section seamlessly with the rest of the piece. It can sound great tonally in a solo.”

6. Is there an aspect of guitar playing that you'd like to be better at?

I like to watch great players, but I have noticed that the guitarists that resonate with most people have some limitations in their technique, much like many popular singers

“It’s best to concentrate on your own strengths, really, and not get too hung up on deficiencies. I like to watch great players, but I have noticed that the guitarists that resonate with most people have some limitations in their technique, much like many popular singers. It’s something unique and recognisable as your own playing that will set you apart from the crowd. Having said that, I would love to be a better acoustic player.”

7. If you could have a guitar lesson from one guitarist, dead or alive, who would it be?

“Well, I’d be interested to watch English guitarist Andy James play, as I find his playing fluid and melodic. Also, Joe Satriani looks like a nice guy to sit down with and learn. The truth is that I’m not good at taking lessons, though, and prefer to try and find that elusive idea in my head to transfer it to guitar.”

8. What item of gear would you take with you to a desert island?

“It would have to be a coffee machine (ignoring the electricity problem). I guess an acoustic is the only instrument worth taking, though.”

9. What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you onstage?

“In our early phase, turning up for a show in London that had been cancelled without letting the band know was bad. Nick and I had even broken down on the way to the show, but were determined not to let the band down.

The singer decided to throw a large monitor speaker into the crowd while it was still attached to the PA. He was angry at the sound on stage and just lost it completely

“Probably the worst moment onstage came in Barcelona, Spain, back in the day, when the singer decided to throw a large monitor speaker into the crowd while it was still attached to the PA. He was angry at the sound on stage and just lost it completely. Luckily, nobody was hurt as the front few rows divided in a hurry, but as he left the venue and ran off to the beach, we were left to face an angry promoter and crowd. Fortunately, our label head was travelling with us to pick up the bill!”

10. What advice would you give your younger self about playing the guitar?

“Try to avoid band politics and remain un-opinionated would be good advice. To others, I would say, write some good songs before obsessing about becoming the ultimate guitarist. You can always devote more time to that once you have an audience. And just make sure that you enjoy your playing at every opportunity, as it’s a privilege to make contact with others through music.”

Legends Of The Shires is out on 8 September via Nuclear Blast. Threshold play HRH Prog on 17 November, and headline Islington Academy on 10 December.