THEM. Since I listened to their debut album, “Sweet Hollow”, my dreams and nightmares, inspired by the story they tell, are recurrent: I only hear voices of every range and guitar solos from every shadow. THEM was orignally a tribute band to the great King Diamond, but thanks to the metal gods it has grown into the mosnter it’s now, producing killing songs by itself. And they will carry on with it, but…what the hell!, you can read it by yourself in this awesome interview with Troy Norr, the mastermind behind this project, and a great vocalist too.
Hello Troy and congratulations for your fantastic debut album “Sweet Hollow”
TN: Hello Alberto and thank you for your praise! We are all very excited for the release of “Sweet Hollow”
Initially Them was created by you, Troy Norr, as a tribute band to King Diamond repertoire, right?
TN: Yes, THEM was originally “Them – The King Diamond Tribute”. The tribute version had completely different members except for myself and stopped performing in May 2011.
In fact, it’s easy to imagine that the band’s name has something to do with Kind Diamond’s discography, am I wrong?
TN: Yes, the name THEM was greatly influenced by King Diamond’s 3rd solo record with the same name. When it was a tribute band the name “Them – The King Diamond Tribute” was chosen because the “them” album was my favorite KD album of all time. When it came time for the original version to form I felt the name “THEM” kept to the roots of the band’s origin. I also worked on having the logo developed by 2 different artists to make sure it would be a killer logo. The name THEM also is very simple and easy to remember!
A great point, indeed. How long was Them touring around in the early years and which were the biggest shows you made?
TN: “Them – The King Diamond Tribute” performed over 20 shows from the years 2008 through 2011. The original “THEM” performed their first tour early in 2016 as direct support for Helloween on their 2016 USA/Canadian Tour. The biggest shows for the Tribute version were when Mike Wead and Hal Patino performed with us. Mike Wead performed a few songs with us for a Halloween Show we did back in 2008. Hal performed 4 shows in the span of two weeks with us back in 2011. For the original version of THEM, all the shows performed so far were big since we were on tour with Helloween and the crowds came early to watch THEM perform. It has been great so far!
It was somenthing not to miss, sure . In terms of line up, what difference exists between the Them of the beginnings and the 2016 Them line up?
TN: The musicians that comprised the tribute band originally consisted of 3/5 of the band held so close to my heart growing up, COLDSTEEL. I knew putting a tribute band like this together needed to have great musicians otherwise it would not sound right. As for the Original version of THEM, I believe we raised the bar a full step upward. Again, stellar musicians from around the globe come together to write and record something we are all very excited about. So the main difference is the distance. With the tribute band, I used to have to drive about 1.5 hours one way to rehearse. Now with the original band, most of us have to fly on an airplane to rehearse!
The current line up is really awesome, full of guys from the champions league. So, the question is: there will be a second part with this line up? Or it’s a take it and run story?
TN: “THEM” is a band consisting of musicians from other bands. Everyone part of this lineup would definitely have the choice to continue being part of it. If not, then not. Right now, we are discussing the basics for album #2. But keep this in mind. “Sweet Hollow” and any album afterwards will be a selft contained story. “Sweet Hollow” has a definite ending and it isn’t a pleasant one. Each Album would introduce a new story with new characters. However, that does not mean there might be a tie in to a character or place from a previous album at a later date. The only character that exists in all the stories is my character “Klaus Konig Fossor”. As time goes on the listener will see and hear how KK evolves.
Awesome, it seems you have dedicated a long time to think and build that frame. In what moment did you take the decision to leave the role of a cover band and started creating your own songs and why?
TN: Back in 2010, I truly believed the members I was performing with were more than capable of writing an original offshoot of what we were doing cover wise. When Hal Patino visited and performed with our tribute band, Hal wanted to visit the Amityville Horror house in LI. I explained to Hal that the windows in the house were changed so it looks like every other house in the area. I offered to take Hal to “Sweet Hollow” Cemetery instead and he thought that would be awesome so we went. “Sweet Hollow” is what the locals call the cemetery but the real name is “Melville Cemetery”. The cemetery is on Sweet Hollow Road in Melville and locals call it “Sweet Hollow” probably because it sounds better than Melville Cemetery. So after our last show in 2011 which was with Hal, our drummer had hurt his ankle so it was time to write an album. That fall, interest in the resurrection of Coldsteel (Even for a brief moment) started brewing with the re releases of demos and the debut album “Freakboy” so we shelved the “Sweet Hollow” album and worked on an EP for Coldsteel called “America Idle”. The original members decided to part ways with me in 2012 when Coldsteel were offered to tour as direct support for Helloween throughout USA and Canada. I accepted, the other members refused so then we parted ways. I had met Markus Ullrich at a business dinner a year before and we became friends. When I told Markus what had happened he offered to write the album with me. I instantly agreed and the rest is history! I met Kevin through a friend and Kevin was interested in the project after having heard the material Markus and I had demoed. I met Markus Johansson through Kevin. He had performed with Kevin on the Sylencer album and was very interested in the material and concept. Mike Lepond had seen me perform a few times in the King Diamond Tribute band and was interested years before we even started writing! Richie Seibel came as a recommendation from Markus Ullrich since he performed with him in Lanfear.
Well, another proof that good things attract good things. That decision has proved to be very right, because “Sweet Hollow” is a monster of an album. Did you ever imagine you would complete so a great album?
TN: I always envisioned that “Sweet Hollow” would be my personal opus and it is. I was planning on only writing this last piece and calling it a day. I knew it was good and I was 100% happy with the outcome. I have accomplished so much in my life as a musician and a person and at this point was comfortable walking away from music after the release of this album. However, me stepping down is not going to happen anytime soon. I am 47 years old and just getting warmed up! Many reviews so far have called “Sweet Hollow” an opus, epic, and a masterpiece! I call it our vision!
A great vision. How long did you work on “Sweet Hollow” and how was the composition process?
TN: “Sweet Hollow” took about 2 years to finish. Mainly because it was my first concept album and on top of that we needed to develop my character KK Fossor as well as the band’s logo. The writing took place between Markus Ullrich in Germany and myself in NY (USA). Markus would write the music and I would write the vocal meldoies and patterns. Finally the story and lyrics were developed. Solos were recorded in Germany and Chicago, IL. Drums were recorded in San Antonio, TX. Rhythm guitars were recorded in Germany and so were keys. Vocals and bass were recorded at the same studio in NY. The entire project was mixed and mastered by Dave Otero from Flatlineaudio.com in Colorado. I flew out to Colorado for a few days to sit with Dave and see him mix over 300 tracks! It was insane.
I do believe you, but the final result deserved that effort. For those who has not listened to “Sweet Hollow” I would say it’s a heavy metal work with all the mistery and darkness of Kind Diamond’s legacy…
TN: Yes, I agree with your comment. There are influences of King Diamond but it is 100% original with a complex storyline. 3 separate stories merge and all characters are original. Aside from the homage paid to King, I have paid homage to some of my other favorites such as the movie Evil Dead as well as Tales from the Crypt. The story of “Sweet Hollow” is part fact, part Long Island, NY folk lore and the rest pure fiction. Look up “Sweet Hollow” and you will find very interesting reads on the internet.
Maybe, there will be those people that think that your sound is too similar to King Diamond’s, do you care about it?
TN: There are some people that think we are flat out copying King. That is just not true. A lot of what I/We have done has been out of homage and respect to King. There is only one King Diamond now and forever. I/We are not trying to replace him. We just felt it would be interesting to go into a heavier and more dynamic original direction. Some unsupportive comments bothered me a little bit initially but I realized that people have the right to criticize however they want. I know that I had a vision and I brought that vision to fruition with everyone’s help in THEM. I am 100% happy with how everything turned out and looking back I would not have done anything different.
I would like to talk a little more in detail about your sound and songs. How many voices in the album are from Troy Norr? Because we get almost every kind of range….
TN: Actually I never counted the different voices. What a good question. There are 3 similar voices that King uses but the rest are mine. I even use a clean singing voice at times. There was a reason for all of these voices. When writing a concept album the music and tone of the voice helps direct the mood of the current chapter of the story. If I sang the same way throughout the album something would be lost. The feeling would be lost. I never sang with this many voices before. As limited as it may sound, I am a Thrash singer. There really is not much diversity with Thrash singing. If you compared the last Coldsteel EP “America Idle” to the THEM “Sweet Hollow” album you might think there are two different singers. It has even been noted that it sounds like there are multiple singers on “Sweet Hollow”. I assure you never once has anyone else recorded their voice or were there ever use of any Harmonizers on “Sweet Hollow”. In some cases there were over 20+ tracks of vocals with each part being Quadrupled! The only voices on the album that are not mine are the ones record by Amanda Norr, my daughter who played the role of Miranda/Mary and Henrietta who was played by Angela Deritis. There are some angelic voices that may appear to be female on the record in some songs such as “The Quiet Room” and “The Crimson Corpse” but in fact are mine!
Really crazy! I just can say congratulations for the big vocal execution. Although heavy metal is the dominant style we are also gonna find some other approaches, as the speed metal in The Harrowing Road to Hollow, the thrashy riffs in The Crimson Corpse or the progressive touch in Blood from Blood…
TN: You are correct! The reason being the mood. The entire mood of the record was structured out before a single note was written. As songs were written, I knew which position on the album they needed to be in. Musically they were not written in the order they are listed. THEM has been tagged as a Power Metal band by many critics. I am not so sure that is accurate. I think THEM is more like a heavy metal opera. Especially with the live theatrics we induce into our live show.
That variety apart from the heavy metal core of your sound only makes your album more and more enjoyable. I suppose it is the consequence of the different visions and contributions from all the guys in the band, right?
TN: Not really. Like I said, when writing the album the speed/tempo/mood was determined as how the story would flow. Yes, with each musician contributing his input and his person vision to his performance helped sculpt the mood even further.
I would like to mention the weight in the band of Lanfear’s guys. Especially Markus Ullrich has been in so many projects this year… what happens with this guy? He can stop time at his will or what…?
TN: Markus Ullrich is a song writing machine! He released 3 fantastic albums this year. Both of which I personally love and not because he is my friend and co author of “Sweet Hollow”. Richie (Keys) added a whole other atmospheric element to the record we would not have without his presence on the album. Richie’s role was so important for this concept album. As for Markus, he will not stop anytime soon. He is writing a follow up to the Septagon album and starting the beginning process for the follow up to “Sweet Hollow”. The man is never out of great ideas!
We will have to interview Markus again hahaha. Troy Norr, you, was another big surprise, where were you hidden all these years?
TN: I stopped singing in 1993, developed my career in Information Technology and created a family. I started to sing once again in 2004. I did not really get involved in originals on a more serious note until 2011.
Never late to be back if it’s for good, as fortunately it happened this time. By the way, I think the album tells a whole story, following the tradition of Kim Bendix’s bands, can we talk about a concept album?
TN: Yes, Sweet Hollow is a concept story told in a horror fashion. Like I said previously it is 3 stories that merge.
The cover art is just perfect, who made it?
TN: vancekelly.com created the artwork. It came out just as we requested. Vance is great!
Before starting the composition of “Sweet Hollow” did you have some talk with Mr. Bendix, kind of we are going to make your legend bigger or something…?
TN: No I didn’t however I did meet King in the fall of 2015 and told him about THEM as well as handing him a cd containing 4 songs from “Sweet Hollow”. I am not sure if he listened to it or not but I explained to him that in no way was this created out of disrespect.
If you have to choose between King Diamond or Mercyful Fate, what it would be?
TN: I would choose King Diamond. I like the more progressive nature of his solo work a little more than Mercyful Fate material even though MF rules!
After listening to your album many people will be wishing to see you on the road. It would be memorable to see you playing, any gigs around for this 2016 or 2017?
TN: Like I said we performed early 2016. Our booking agent is putting together a European tour for fall 2017. Perhaps a few festivals thrown into the mix? We are open to all.
Great! Would you play the whole album from beginning to the end? Any covers in the set list?
TN: On our planned fall tour in 2017, we are headlining so yes we would perform the entire album in it’s entirety the way it was meant to be heard. If we are direct support or performing on a festival we will be performing key songs only.
A show to attend, no matter what. Troy, what are your plans for the future?
TN: Write another THEM album. Possibly write another coldsteel album. Go hiking in the mountains!
Hahaha, we will be here to tell it. Thank you very much Mr. Troy Norr for your attention and we wish you all the success you deserve
TN: Thank you so much for the interview and we hope to see you all on the road in 2017! \m/ \m/