I decided it was long overdue to have a conversation with my friend Pete Morten who is not only in prog metal titans Threshold, but he also has his own band My Soliloquy PLUS a third band NightMare World. Pete is also a very talented graphic artist who has designed many album covers and artwork. So here’s my talk with a modern day Renaissance man!
Pete, it’s been 8 years since you joined Threshold! Can you believe it has been that long? Since I actually don’t know how did you get the job in the band?
In January 2007, I was down at Thin Ice studios (Karl’s studio) recording the 3rd My Soliloquy E.P. ‘Esoterica’ and we got chatting about Threshold. He mentioned Nick (Midson) had left, and rather out of character, I just piped up and said “well if ya need any help, I’d be honoured”. Shortly after, I got an email, and was offered the job. No audition. Crazy really, but ya know, at that point in time, I’d already recorded with him twice, on two My Soliloquy E.P.s, ‘Lateral Thinking’ 2005 and the aforementioned ‘Esoterica’, so we knew each other quite well by that point and as we got on great, I guess it made sense. Rather prophetically, I remember the band driving to an early My Soliloquy rehearsal in 2004 and the bass player had the song ‘Pressure’ playing from ‘Subsurface’, and I was like, whoa, who’s this, it’s great ha ha. I’d never heard of Threshold until that point.
It must have been a hectic time since Mac had just left and Damian was rejoining. How did you all mesh on that first tour?
It was a great tour actually. I spent a good 3 months priory to rehearsals, getting to grips with like 3 hours of material, learning way more than I needed to. I guess they wanted to keep their options open regarding set lists, for Damian. Obviously too. I was having to learn a different style of playing, plus a whole load of solos, so it took time. Everyone was very welcoming.
Now, you’ve played on 2 studio albums with Threshold and even written 3 songs for those albums, all of which are amazing. Since Richard and Karl have been the chief songwriters, what is it like for you submitting your songs for consideration?
Well, I spend a long time writing a song and demoing it, so when it comes to submitting anything for a new Threshold album, I’ve already sat with it a decent amount of time and feel confident in the material I’ve got. I also write and record the full vocals, keyboards and bass parts too, so it sounds full and convincing. ‘Siren Sky’ and ‘Coda’ are pretty much the same on the albums as they were on my demo’s, just switch out my vocal for Damian’s and the obvious great production of Karl and Rich and ya there. The only possible trip wire is that I’m having to augment my writing style to fit the Threshold format. I guess I’ve been lucky thus far ha ha, but it has helped that I’ve played A LOT of their songs over the past eight years, so I’m able to use that knowledge to my advantage.
Threshold has a live album coming out on November 13th called “European Journey.” What can you tell me about the gigs when it was recorded?
The tour was long and like the tour before it, I got ill… again ha ha. Totally sucked. But beyond that, for my part, I’ve noticed on the last two tours that some fans have really started to accept me as a member of the band now, and not just Nicks stand in, so that’s good. At any one point in time, one of us is adding to our live rig. It’s nice now on these tours that we all have great gear, so from a tech point, we’re really looking and sounding great. Rich and I went to In-ears on the March Of Progress tour and haven’t looked back. They’re amazing, and recently Karl has joined us too. We’re always looking for ways to improve our live setup that makes it easier for us and in turn easier on the audience. There’s nothing worse than listening to a band with uncontrolled, noisy rigs having tech issues in stage.
How were the songs chosen for it? Do you guys tend to vary the setlist?
Karl and Rich spend time organizing the set list before rehearsals. We will some times drop or add the odd song here and there, but nothing too drastic. We’re all so very busy outside of the band, that we simply don’t have the luxury of learning lots of material just in case we might decide to play it. That said, we do always vary the set list slightly for each festival show we play.
You have your own band called My Soliloquy which you play everything except for the drums, including being the lead singer. How is the follow up to “The Interpreter” coming?
The new album is sounding so good man ha ha, I’m totally excited by the prospect of finishing it. Sadly I’m doing everything myself again on this record, save for the drums, so it’s exhausting, I don’t mind saying, but thoroughly satisfying. All the writing is pretty much done with almost all the rhythm guitars tracked, and keyboards too. Aiming to have all the guitars, bass and keys recorded by the end of October. At which point, I’ll send the songs over to Damon so he can write and record his drums early next year. It works, cus I’ve already set up all the tempo/time signature maps and guide drums, for him to work from.
How different is the new material from that of the first album?
It’s definitely recognizable as my writing, with all the usual quirks and inventive spirit. So it’s not like I’ve gone and done a crazy U-turn or tried to sound like Threshold, for instance. There are three songs at almost 10 minutes each, so that’s a bit different from the first record and conversely there are 3 short tracks too, with the remaining 3 around the 5/6 minute mark. What’s different too, is that this is all new, previously unreleased material. The first record had three older songs on it. This one feels really fresh and new and is probably a little more prog in its leaning, but most definitely baring my unique stamp. As with ‘The Interpreter’ I’m not interested in sounding like anyone else.
When do you think it will be finished?
I’m defo aiming for mid next year. That will mostly depend on finances, as I’m paying for this myself again, and the availability of producer Rob Aubrey. That said, I WILL be releasing it next year, one way or another.
As if two bands weren’t enough, you are also the lead vocalist for NightMare World! That band released its first full length this year called “In the Fullness of Time.” How did you wind up being a part of this band?
Sam Shuttlewood (lead guitarist/principle song writer) contacted Karl, at his studio, in 2007 as he wanted to record an E.P. And asked if he knew any singers. Karl put my name forward and so Sam got in touch. I was hesitant at first, and in truth didn’t really think much to the demo he sent me of one song. I think it was due to the vocal on it, not my cup of tea really, but I could see the potential for sure and as Sam said I could write and change things, I was happy to help him out. I looked at it as helping out a fellow musician really, not thinking of it as joining a new band. The lyrics were already written, so I just wrote new vocal melodies and changed the arrangement in places slightly. Sam said he wanted to record three tracks with Karl, and so Sam and I started to work together. It turned out we worked really well together, and got on great, so it was very enjoyable. We formed a great working relationship on the ‘No Regrets’ E.P. Of 2009, which carried over to the album. I think the album is a testament to that. I’m really happy with how it came out.
Not only are you in all of these bands but you are a very gifted graphic designer for Vanity Graphics. You’ve done the artwork for both My Soliloquy and NightMare World plus many other bands. Tell me some more about what got you into this line of work and also what types of work Vanity does.
Ah cool question Rob, thank you. Straight out of school I studied Graphic Design for six years, at three separate art schools culminating in a degree from Loughbourgh University. After that I spent only one year working for a design company, then left cus I was useless in an office environment and disliked working for other people in general.
My constant love since 5 years old was always music, so I decided then, in 2000, that my focus would be to concentrate on trying to build a music career for myself. I basically left design behind me for 2 years and did odd jobs, one of which was working in a guitar shop for a year, which you will not be surprised to read, I hated too ha ha.
Anyway, in 2002 I began designing again and started work on the CD artwork for what would become My Soliloquy’s first release ‘The Creative Principle’ 2002. Since then, I’ve set up my own freelance business in Vanity Graphics and have expanded my portfolios with lots of work for other bands including the Threshold box set ‘Paradox’ and lots of corporate stuff too.
It works out, as I am a free agent to go off on tour and spend weeks recording, which I could never do, holding down a normal office job. Just a shame that music simply doesn’t pay enough to be able to do it full time.
Pete, thank you for answering my questions. I am not sure you have enough time for any more questions since you are so damn busy! Are there any other bands you’ve formed since we started this line of questions? HA HA! Where can people find out more about you and your work as a multi-talented artist?
Thanks Rob for a cool interview. Nice one man. Well the usual channels, Facebook, Twitter, for My Soliloquy, Nightmare World and Threshold. My company site is www.vanitygraphics.co.uk if there are any bands out there looking for artwork. To close, I’ve definitely NOT joined any other bands ha ha, three is MORE than enough, although at one point in 2009/10 I was in 5 bands ha ha. RIDICULOUS RIGHT? Haha! Keep up the good work with Progressive Music Planet!