Sometimes you seem to hit the proverbial jackpot in this music thing we do here at Ave Noctum and when you get an artist who gives you something fantastic to work with, in this case it is a wonderful concept album, everything just falls into place.
Vocalist and Mastermind of “Them”, Troy was willing to let me pick his brain over a few simple subjects with questions which dived into the mysterious world of Them, KK Fossor, Concept Albums, trans-continental album creation and the information gained really opened my eyes to the creative brilliance of a man who simply loves music and is already crafting another story for us to enjoy. From King Diamond, Mercyful Fate, Symphony X, Suffocation, The classic range of 80’s metal and modern day thrash offerings, take a walk into ‘Sweet Hollow’ here!
AN: First off, getting all that praise about the record aside, let’s cut to the chase. What was the inspiration behind the story told in ‘Sweet Hollow’ and how long did it take to form the whole tale in your mind before it became real through the medium of music?
TN: The story of “Sweet Hollow” first entered into my brain when Hal Patino previously from King Diamond was visiting with me back in 2011. Hal was in town performing a few shows with the King Diamond Tribute band “Them” and while he was here, he had asked for me to bring him to the Amityville Horror House. I explained to Hal that the House is no longer recognizable since the windows have been changed and the house now looks like every other house in the area. However I can bring you to “Sweet Hollow” Cemetery. Hal liked that idea so a bunch of us and Hal went and paid a visit to the cemetery. Locals here call it Sweet Hollow Cemetery or Sweet Hollow because it is located on “Sweet Hollow Road”. The real name of the cemetery is Melville Cemetery but Sweet Hollow has a nice ring to it. The concept story “Sweet Hollow” is a mixture of fact, some long island NY folk lore and the rest fiction. In reality the cemetery exists, there is a mary and there is a Mt. Misery! After Hal’s visit, I knew immediately I wanted to pen a story called “Sweet Hollow” for the original project “THEM”. It just took a few more years to develop after that. So around the fall of 2013 is when further developing took place. All the while the development of the main character/singer/narrator was continually evolving.
AN: You’ve assembled an impressive line-up of musicians to help you bring this to life, all from well-respected bands and all bringing something different to the table due to the bands they have been/are a part of. How did they contribute musically to the sound you were after?
TN: Riddle me this…What do you get when you combine musicians from Thrash, Prog Metal and Thrash Metal? You get THEM! Ha. All the musicians were carefully picked. Why a death metal drummer? Why not? Kevin is one of the greats and really was interested in the project after hearing it being developed. Mike Lepond was interested years ago when all I had was the title of the album. Mike had seen me perform in a King Diamond Tribute band with the same name and was impressed with my vocal range. Once I approached him about a spin off of what I was currently doing he was extremely interested as long as it did not interfere with his main group Symphony X. Markus Johansson I met through Talley. Markus Ullrich I had met at a business dinner and became friends with shortly after. When the original members of the tribute band decided to part ways with me Markus Ullrich offered to write the album with me and that he did! Richie Seibel came as a recommendation from Markus Ullrich. Spread out between two continents but together we are THEM!
AN: Are there any plans to tour the entire album live, put on a ‘bit of a show’ or to do a special gig which showcases it in its entirety?
TN: We performed a mini tour with the great Helloween this past Feb/Mar 2016. Each show we had theatrical elements added to the show to assist the telling of “Sweet Hollow”. What was interesting was the crowd’s reaction while we were performing as well as once we finished our performance. They loved the show and they had no idea what the story was about. What a great experience! THEM is currently interested in performing on a tour throughout Europe. If a decent tour package can be put together, we will perform. I cannot say how much theatrics will be involved but seeing THEM perform will not disappoint. Ferocious energy is emitted throughout our performance. We strive to entertain!
AN: Moving away from the record and more to yourself. Your musical influences are the next subject and it’s easy to hear the Mercyful Fate/King Diamond influence there, both vocally and musically. Are there any other artists/bands/musicians who have had a major influence on your style and the music you create?
TN: If you listened to some of my other work as a vocalist you would not hear the KD/MF influences. Yes, with this project the listener will hear the KD/MF influence. I pay homage to one of the greatest metal artists of our generation, King Diamond. There are little other tips of the hat too thrown throughout the story. Nods to Evil Dead and Tales from the Crypt can be picked up if you pay close attention. As for the KD influence I never intend it to be disrespectful towards King’s work. He is a master story teller, musician and song writer and my personal dream would be to have THEM open up for King 1 show, 1 time! Aside from any KD influences, I am a Thrash singer. I grew up listening to Maiden, Priest, Metallica, Slayer then dove into thrash acts like Forbidden, Death Angel and Violence. Outside of Metal, Billy Joel and Lenny Kravitz have always been held high in my regard.
AN: How was the transition from tribute band to fully functioning musical project? Also, how has being a tribute performer had an influence in the music you now make?
TN: The transition took time. I knew there had to be a captivating and compelling story line. A character that would always be involved in any storyline. I knew I did not want a trilogy. I wanted a self-contained story from start to finish. If there is a second THEM album, different story…different characters and there will be an evolution of the main character of this story….KK Fossor. I also knew there could NOT be any black and white corpse paint even though earlier sketch designs of KK’s face were drawn with black and white corpse paint. Being a tribute performer conditioned me to expand my boundaries as a performer. It allowed me to perform a completely different sub-genre of heavy metal since I was so used to only singing Thrash Metal.
AN: Going back to the record once again, I mentioned that the tracks “The Crimson Corpse” and “The Harrowing Path” were real stand out moments for the album, but my personal favourite of the release is the epic “Dead Of Night”. Are there any tracks on the album which really shine out in your eyes?
TN: Why Thank you for calling Dead of Night Epic. I appreciate your kind words. My personal Favourites are Forever Burns, When The Clock Struck Twelve and Dead of Night. I particularly enjoy When the clock struck twelve for its theatrical content. I get goose bumps when I hear the climatic conclusion of the song.
AN: Since we are approaching what is always a big time for releases, the end of the year window… Are there any releases which have stood out for you this year?
TN: Megadeth’s Dystopia, Denner/Shermann– Masters of Evil and Death Angel’s The Evil Divide.
AN: What about 2017? Any plans or ideas laid down for the next twelve months?
TN: I already laid down basic conceptual ideas for THEM’s second album. I am also in talks with my boys from Coldsteel to write another Full Length. Talks for now. We are waiting to see initial interest in the “Sweet Hollow” album to gauge a tour package in Europe.
AN: Are there any bands or artists you would love to work with?
TN: As I mentioned before Kind Diamond. I would also love to work with either of my friend Sean Peck’s bands Denner/Shermann or Cage. Being Direct support for Ghost would be pretty cool too even though our music is not even remotely similar.
AN: Finally, to wrap this up, concept albums. Given how ‘Sweet Hollow’ is one, what would you say is your personal favourite concept album?
Couldn’t you guess that it would have to be “Them” from King Diamond? My second favorite concept album would have to be “Abigail” from King and third is “Operation Mindcrime” from Queensryche.