Return to Sweet Hollow... Klaus Konig Speaks Out.
Them are the band put together my former Cold Steel vocalist Troy Norr A.K. KK Possor, with members of Lanfear, Demolition Hammer & Symphony X. This band have been around since late 2014/ early 2015 when 'Them' was merely a King Diamond tribute that soon became a proper band that started to write their own material.
The band released their debut album 'Sweet Hollow' in 2016, an impressive and powerful album that saw the band receiving some outstanding reviews. It wasn't long before the band recorded their 2nd album for Steamhammer/ SPV entitled 'Man or the seven Gable' in 2018. This became more than just a project or tribute and the band soon released their new stunning album 'Return to Hemmersmoor' recently which yet another fine album is this trilogy album set.
I managed to chat with long time friend Troy (KK Possor) to talk about why Cold Steel broke up and how Them became King Diamonds little brother I guess you could say. Here is what he had to say about both bands. If you don't own the new Them album make sure you grab a copy soon.
Well it's to finally do an interview as we have known each other way back in the 80's when you we're the singer for 'Cold Steel', a great New York band, but we never got to an interview, so I will start by asking you how did you become a singer? Also did you play any instruments before deciding to become a singer?
"Yeah Jason we have know each other a very long time. To answer you're question, I played the trumpet for 13 yrs in various concert bands and I was pretty decent at it but I always wanted to sing. So when I was about 15 or 16 and I was going to get tickets for my 1st band and my step father was driving me to get the tickets and we got into an accident and my face hit the dash board and the injury was on my mouth and so I could not play the trumpet anymore. So I took up been a singer.
So who inspired you to become a singer?
"Well I would have to say Bruce Dickinson, Ozzy, Rob Halford, pretty much most of the singers from you're neck of the woods. And then when Metallica came out I got into James Hetfield and that style which was kind of like British Metal but heavier."
Moving on as you we're the singer in Cold Steel, was that the 1st band you were in or was there another band?
"Well I was in another band before that called 'Overdrive' and that was a high school band and at one point there where 3 bands in our area that were Cold Steel, Kronin, Overdrive and Cold Steel was formed by the original drummer from Kronin called Dom Mincieli and Cold Steel became very popular in New York in the 80's. So when I left school the original singer for Cold Steel Greg who also played bass quit the band and they needed a singer and at that time guitar player and bass player and so they asked me if I was interested in joining the band.
So they took me and the guitarist from Overdrive to join the band and we got Rick Lopez to play the bass who later on went on to play with Merauder and he played on the 'Dead by Dawn' demo tape. He had a lot of success with that band in later years. We did one album with Cold Steel as you know and I didn't sing for 8 yrs after Cold Steel broke up, and in my 30's I started to sing again in a covers band a few tributes and when one of them turned into an original band which is 'Them'."
When you look back at the Cold Steel demos I mean 'Dead by Dawn' had an awesome production whereas 'Perfect Peace' was a little dyer in production.
"Well the 'Dead by Dawn' demo was recorded at 'Monkey Hill Studios' in New York and I remember it been such an amazing time because we were pumped up and ready to go and to do something special. So the funny thing was that we had zero experience recording in the studio and back then we didn't even use a click to help with the recordings. I remember I wasn't there for the full recording of the basic tracks which included the drums, bass and scratch guitar and so when I came back to listen too it they had played it twice as fast so it became Speed Metal somewhat.
So it was doe by accident and it wasn't done on purpose I think the band were more excited to be recording a demo they got carried away (laughing). At 1st I couldn't even sing them because if the speed of the songs, it took me time to figure it out and do my parts, yeah it upset me at 1st but we got there in the end. So we made a professional cassette as we were getting a lot of attention locally, and 3 days after it's release sadly Dom got in a car accident and passed away.
After Dom's death we didn't know if we wanted to continue with the band or not and so we tried to practice in his house and it just didn't seem right with Dom been with a new drummer and his parents getting upset when they heard us practicing. It was just awful time for us.
When then released 'Freak Boy' album which wasn't what I expected and I think back in the day we were had just released that album and the guitarist were writing songs which were more alterative so half the record is old stuff and some new stuff which was ok as I pretty much liked it but it just killed the band off in the end."
Why didn't you go back to the studio where the 1st demo as done at 'Monkey Hill' and record the album there as the album had a really dry sound.
"Yes I totally agree with you Jason, it was mixed and mastered the same way as our 2nd demo but it wasn't recorded in the similar way and when we recorded 'Freak Boy' was recorded at Minot Sound Studios with the recording done by former Kiss manager Billo Coin and it came out the way it did and I got to revise some of the re-mastered and re mixed format of that album that 'Battle Cry' records put out at a later date. I even got to sing on 'Crack Down', which was a tribute to Dom himself."
Why did Cold Steel break up? And how did 'Them' come to be?
"Well I think it was the right time as the Grunge scene and nobody wanted to continue playing what we were playing. I actually wanted to play heavier music and the whole situation with 'Them' ties into each other in some degree as of when I started singing again 8 yrs of been away from it all I started playing in a local cover band I thought it would be fun and at that time I and we were called 'Anger Management' , we did covers by Metallica, Slayer, etc.. which was fun and we had a couple of original songs too. One day I heard them playing a King Diamond song and our guitarist at that time was called Rob and he was playing 'The invisible Guest' and I love King Diamond.
When I use to paint jackets I would listen to 'Abigail', 'Them' & 'Conspiracy' albums all the time allowed me to be in a different place and that's how I connected with King Diamond. So when I heard Rob doing that song it was he was warming up and asked the band why don't we do a King Diamond cover song?
Those guy would not play it so I said to Rob why don't we do a Halloween show and play some King Diamond and it was good fun to do & Rob agreed with me. So we got other guys together and it just so happened it was members of Cold Steel that wanted to play in a King Diamond tribute band.
It was Hal Aponte the last Cold Steel drummer, Greg the original bassist and singer for the band and I thought it was funny having 3 old members in this tribute band. And so the name 'Them - the King Diamond tribute' name came to be.
We actually played 3 shows and we met up for dinner after we played the 3rd show and without saying much we really enjoyed playing together and the songs live we knew something special was going to happen. We had 2 guys who came to see the show who actually bowed at my feet which was rather funny but kid of weird at that time.
They thought I was amazing vocalist and we also had 1 guy who came a long way to see the show who also said if he closed his eyes he thought King was actually singing on stage. We heard a lot of comments like that, so 3 shows turned into 3 years and after 3 yrs we sat down to dinner to talk about continuing this as a real band.
I ask the guy to write an original song and I was dying to do original music again and they were not excited about it ad they didn't want anything to do with it, so I convinced to write a song and they agreed to it and in the end the songs were never finished. A resurgence to re-release 'Cold Steel' came about so I put everything on hold to do with 'Them', and released Cold Steel EP 'American Idol'.
After that was done I went back to the 'Them' project but the guys we're any further ahead in the writing process, and the funny thing was it was pretty much the same line up in the 'American Idol' CD and they could not get their acts together for some reason.
We ended up supporting Helloween across the U.S. which was awesome but these guys didn't want to do the tour so I actually went on that tour with another band called 'Sanitarius'' a NY thrash band and they toured with me as 'Cold Steel'.
I came home from that tour and spoke to the members of Cold Steel that were originally going to be doing the 'Them' project and I asked if they wanted to do this project, they said only if we do King Diamond cover tunes. I was shocked that they didn't want to write their own material. Yes there are some original material and if it wasn't for 'King Diamond; there would be no 'Them'."
How did the logo come about?
"Well when we first started this project I had Travis Smith do the 1st logo, he had worked with Death, Nevermore and loads of bands. It was a black on white and white on black logo and that was his work. We ended up with a stone type logo which was done by Jan Yrlund made a more stone effect logo and so I had the logo before any music was written or any concepts and I had the cover done before anything else. Before the 'American Idol' came out I had a meeting the label manager Andy from 'Battle Cry' records in Germany and he is a collector and he also likes to re-release old releases and he did 'Freak Boy' re-mastered.
He called me out of nowhere and said he was in New York with 2 members of Landfear with him and asked if we wanted to meet for dinner, and so we did and I had no idea who these guys were and we got talking and we hit it off pretty well and they had just played the ProgPower festival here in the U.S. and I showed him my ideas for the band and he said I had to get it out asap as it would sell really well.
So Markus Ullrich from Landfear was sat there and we became friends on fb after the meeting and I told him if we wanted to do the 'Them' record with me and he agreed to do it with me and that is how we wrote the 1st album."
So when did 'Them' actually for as a real band?
"It started as a recording project back in later 20014/ early 2015 and we didn't become a band until 2016. We got together with a number of people who had recorded the album and Mike LePond who did the 1st 2 albums but just didn't have time to anything else with us as he was so busy with other bands and projects. So our bass player Alex Palma was doing most of the live stuff as Mike couldn't do the live shows and he was playing Mike's parts live so we asked him to join the band, he recorded the last album.
Our original drummer was Kevin Talley who had played with tones of bands like 'Dying Fetus', 'Devil Driver' and many more and he was another one we could have in the band when we played live. So we got Angel Cotte on drums and when we joined the band he just joined 'Demolition Hammer' so it was a secret we had to keep until later on."
Moving on let's talk about the debut album 'Sweet Hollow', it seems to an album which is hard to find. Tell me about the whole concept of the albums.
"Well it was on a small label when it 1st came out and we are going to talk to SPV about releasing all 3 records next year as whole package thing with a story as I am working on a graphic novel as it is intended to be read. If you look at all 3 record each one is independent of one another, there is a definite beginning and ending. If you took all 3 records and out them all together it is one continuous story. At the end of the 1st album for the song 'When the clock struck 12' we added samples to indicate something is happening and continue on the next record 'Manor of the seven Gables'.
The character KK Foser is a grave digger by trade and a warlock by face and he is exorcising an evil spirit corpse and out of this girl called Marry and he is successful at the end only because he had to kill her and sacrifice her in order to save her body and soul.
However at the beginning of 'Manor of the seven Gables', you will hear kids playing a game called 'Ghosts in the Graveyard' and it takes place in a cemetery and in another part of the cemetery where the sacrifice was taking place the kids stumble upon and the story continues. At the end of 'Manor of the seven Gables' KK's so called nemesis which was Peter Thomson which hails from the UK and he was hired by the towns people of 'Sweet Hollow' to hunt down KK and bring him to justice for all the killing that had happened and he was not responsible for all the deaths.
KK is tracked down my Peter Thomson and on the 2nd record and he is put on a stake and Peter tells him he was the one who killed his wife and daughter which happened on the 1st album and he tells him to give his regards to his family and does he have any last words? And so he lights him on fire and that's how the 'Manor of the seven Gables' ends.
At the beginning of 'Return to Hemmersmoor' Resen who was sent to escape the manor and in the song 'The secret Stairs, KK instructed him to leave and finish what we started. So he goes back to 'Sweet Hollow' and escape in his secret stairwell before Thomson and his crew surround the manor. It is a long story but a very interesting one, but it is best to hear all 3 albums back to back."
What songs from the new album 'Return to Hemmersmoor' do you like and why?
"Well I actually like all the song and this album to me and a lot of people say to me it's the heaviest of the albums. I really enjoyed writing them and recording them and we recorded them during the pandemic which wasn't an easy task to do. I think my favorite song on the album would be 'Waken' because I usually create a vocal pattern and how is the song going to be executed will be it be sung high or low and it is going to sound. So it is sound 1st and then the lyrics are written to the sounds, that is how I always write, so I went into the studio and hoped for the best, if it didn't work out 1st time I would re-record the vocals. I also like the songs 'Field of Immortality' , 'Age of Ascension' & 'The tumultuous voyage to Hemmersmoor' and that is because I like diversity in the music and lyrics and that song has a marching drum part in it and I really like breaks in songs."
As the album was recorded in lockdown was it hard to record and what is done on 'Pro-Tools'?
"The album as recorded in 2 different places in Germany and the U.S. guitarist recorded his part in his own studio at home in Chicago and I recorded my part with Joe Cincotta who had done the last 5 Suffocation albums and it just seemed so right to record there as its only 15 minutes away from my house, I am good friends with Suffocation guys so that helped. The drums where recorded by the actual producer of the album Dave Otero in Colorado in January before lockdown. Dave then took all of our tracks and mixed and mastered the project. It was recorded with Pro-Tools and Cubase, and I love the production."
Moving on how long does it take you to get the make up put onto you're face?"Well it takes me about an hour and a half to put on, its make up and an facial prosthetic which was designed by a two step process. It involves Bobby Lucas from the band 'Attacker' who actually drawed the designs that were used to create molds for the facial prosthetic. My prosthetics were made by a company called 'CX' who do the 'Game of Thrones' masks and prosthetics. It is rather hard to perform with that on for sure."
Has King Diamond heard you're music and what does he think of it?
"I actually met King and I sang to him and we all had some laughs and I gave him some songs from 'Sweet Hollow' as it wasn't ready at that time and he has reached out to me and through interviews he was asked that he thought of the band 'Them', he has said he has never heard of them. That is cool with me and I am sure he is following what we are doing."
Who did the artwork for the album? Are you happy with the way it turned out?
"Well it as done by Mario Lopez, and he has done the last album too. We used in the past a guy called Vance Kelly but he was way too busy so it just seemed right to use Mario and really we should of used Mario the 1st time around."
How many videos will you be doing for the album?
"Well we did one as a lyrical video for the song 'Free' and the other one was for 'Battle Blood' which is a regular video."
Well thanx for the interview, keep safe please. Do you have anything to say before we finish the interview off?
"Yes thanx to our fans for their support, we hope you like the new album. If you haven't heard us before please check out our previous albums too. Keep safe everybody and thanks for the interview Jason."
Thanks to Roland @ Workhard & SPV for setting the interview up.