Thorium is a band from Belgium, they play heavy metal in a melodic way and all members have a long musical history. They will perform at Kracken Metal Rock Fest 6 in Ittre and that is for us a good excuse to sit down with Tom Tas and ask him some questions:
How and why did you all decide to rush into the world of music?
Tom: I think that’s an easy one for all of us: it’s the same reason you get into any kind of sport or hobby when you’re young, whether it be playing football, collecting coins or stamps, or in our case, picking up an instrument. When you’re a teenager and you start moving out of childhood and into something new and different, you generally start to develop new interests. Music, for most people I think, is one of those things that start to draw you in at that point, and I think Metal especially has that effect on a lot of youngsters. When you first hear it, Metal sounds wild, heavy, emotional, theatrical, fast, complex, a bit dangerous even. All too soon you’re drawn to one of the instruments and you start playing guitar or bass or drums, and the rest is history!
Thorium partly has its roots in Ostrogoth, but why did Ostrogoth end?
Tom: That’s kind of a long story... Suffice to say we were writing lots and lots of stuff and desperately wanted to move forward with new material, new songs and new albums. There was some dissent on the direction of the songs, the planning, timing and work schedule we had in mind for a new Ostrogoth record. As sometimes happens, there were differences of opinion and the decision was made to start Thorium, apart from Ostrogoth. Ostrogoth didn’t end of course, luckily; currently, both bands exist happily beside one another.
How did Thorium get formed?
Tom: Leading into this from the question above, I think the material Dario, Stripe and me wrote during our time in Ostrogoth wasn’t anything we were going to allow to just slip away into oblivion. We had more than an album’s worth of stuff in our hands, and we considered every second of it gold. So we decided to form a new band into which we could channel all the material that didn’t seem suitable for Ostrogoth.
Can you say some words about how and why you signed at Empire Records?
Tom: Empire seemed like a very logical choice for us, seeing as how they’d released the latest Ostrogoth EP ‘Last Tribe Standing’ in 2015, with great success we might add. It seemed only common sense to work with them for the Thorium debut record as well. Moreover, Empire has been responsible for launching quite a few Belgian bands in the past; bands which have since become pretty big – think of Evil Invaders, to name just one example.
What does the band name mean, and what’s the story behind it?
Tom: It was our then-manager Christophe “C.J.” Janssens (also head of Belgium’s Rock Tribune magazine) who came up with the name. We’d been throwing around some ideas for band names amongst ourselves for a while, but nothing really seemed to stick. Suddenly Christophe suggested the name ‘Thorium’, and we all loved it. The word refers to an element on the periodic table – one that might actually be used as a future source of energy. The term itself is apparently derived from Thor, the ancient Norse god of thunder. How much more ‘Metal’ than that can you get?
What are the most important differences between both bands?
Tom: I think Thorium ended up being a bit more modern than Ostrogoth was – unavoidably so, of course, seeing that the Thorium material was written in 2016 and 2017 and the Ostrogoth classics were written and recorded in the 1980’s. The production and sound of the album also emphasizes that, seeing as how a present-day production will almost automatically give a record a more modern feel.
You recently got to position 35 of the Backstage top 50 of 2018. How do you feel about that?
Tom: Pretty awesome! The album’s been getting rave reviews from all around the world since its release, both online and in print, and it’s been showing up in a few best-of-the-year lists recently actually! It feels damn good to see all your hard work pay off and to see the reactions from fans and press alike. It really feels like a crowning achievement on all the labour that goes into creating an album like this.
Where did you find the inspiration for this first album?
Tom: everywhere! But to be more specific: I think all of us like to write riffs, melodies and so on whenever we can. Inspiration can strike at any time; mostly when you’ve got your instrument with you and you’re just jamming along or improvising. After that it’s a matter of working it all out, gluing all the pieces together, searching for vocal melodies and lyrics, and getting it all recorded of course.
As far as lyrics go, I personally like to delve into things like history, literature, nature and science, that kind of thing. The best example of that, for me, is our big epic ‘Four By Number, Four By Fate’: it’s all about the number four, and explores the occurrence of the number in all its shapes and forms – from the four seasons to the number of beats in a bar, to the fourth musketeer D’Artagnan, and on to the number four in ancient mythology, religion, mathematics, physics, and so forth. Even the song structure reflects it – the whole piece is divided into four big chapters, separated by short classical guitar interludes.
What is ‘Court of Blood’ about?
Tom: That one’s about the cruel Duke of Alva, who came to our region in the second half of the 16th century. Sent here by the Spanish king, his mission was to restore order after the Iconoclasm. Religious reformers such as Luther and Calvin had turned away from the Catholic Church and were gaining in popularity, especially in this area. Alva’s reign was infamously bloody and brutal, and the story of what happened here in Belgium and The Netherlands during that time is still pretty well-known to this day. The court he established here during his rule was called the ‘Council Of Troubles’, but the people soon gave it a more sinister nickname – the ‘Court Of Blood’, seeing as how the court condemned so many people to death or sent them away to be judged by the equally infamous Inquisition, never to be seen again.
‘All Manner of Light’ brings up an Iron Maiden feeling; where did the inspiration come from for this one and what are the lyrics about?
Kurt: Musically, the main inspiration was indeed Maiden. I had a melody in my head and found it really catchy and very fitting to the song. I wanted melodies that would be recognizable and easy to hum along to, basically. Lyrically, it’s about someone who’s reached rock bottom and is trying to get back on top, as he or she dreams about what might be...
In May you will play at Kraken Metal Rock Fest 6 in Ittre, what can we expect?
Tom: We’re going to do our damnedest to put up another great, tight and intense Thorium show, for one thing! We always try to recreate the studio recordings as accurately as possible, of course, while not forgetting to give the audience a powerful and lively gig at the same time.
Is it hard to find gigs to play with all the financial troubles in the music scene?
Tom: It depends on the gigs in question, and on the scale of the live performances you have in mind. It’s not excessively difficult to get local shows and to get people to attend them, especially where it concerns single gigs. International shows are harder though, and generally present you with more logistical problems. Touring is harder still, as there’s plenty more to take into account, plenty more people to contact and arrange things with, and higher costs involved as well. Luckily we’ve got Dario and David in the band, who are seasoned and experienced where it concerns the booking-side of things, and who arrange awesome things for the band on a pretty much constant basis!
Some of you also play in other bands. Can you tell us something about it? How do you manage to keep it going?
Tom: One, single band demands massive amounts of time and effort already, indeed, let alone multiple bands and/or projects. Speaking only for myself, I know in the past I hugely underestimated what it takes to finish up a record and get it out there. I never could have imagined (or predicted) all the things the recording and releasing of an album presents you with. The work, the time – the editing and communication; the seemingly endless hours... In the end, though, the whole process somehow keeps drawing me in, again and again... It’s highly addictive to see those first, tiny seeds that constitute an idea taking shape and form, finally to grow into a song, a composition, an album...
As for the different bands and projects we’re all a part of, check out David’s Lord Volture and Black Knight for example, or Dario’s S.T.S, Stripe’s tribute band W.A.S.B, Louis’ other bands such as Vermilion, or stuff that I’m involved in such as Entering Polaris, In Motion, 23 Acez, Quantum Fantay, Offworld or Neo Prophet.
If you could go on a huge international tour and you could pick the headliner, who would it be and why?
Tom: Hmm, that’s a hard one... If I let my heart speak, of course I’d say Iron Maiden or Rush or some such – one of the really huge ones. That’s not going to happen, naturally, but one can dream. Speaking a bit more realistically, I might say bands like Blind Guardian, Rage, Gamma Ray,... But even that would be very hard: it’s difficult to push through into that sphere of ‘bigger’ bands, and you’ve got to give your band time to grow if you want to get noticed by some of the bigger players.
What will the summer bring for you? Lots of festivals or working on a new album?
Tom: Both! We’re fully in the process of fine-tuning all the new material we’ve got for the next record, and there are a number of (festival) shows planned for this summer too!
Any last words, or something you absolutely want to talk about?
Tom: Only a big thanks from all of us for this interview, Snoozecontrol.be, and we hope to see you again soon at one of the upcoming gigs!