PiercingMetal Talks To Kamelot’s Roy Khan (8/19/2007)

In my introductory comments for the interview with guitarist Kamelot’s guitarist Thomas Youngblood, I mentioned how singer Roy Khan was supposed to join us. Unfortunately he was not at the venue until shortly before their set and one cannot expect the singer of the group to be able to sit and chit chat with that little time available before they hit the stage. We decided to do this right after the show and after Khan and company destroyed the sold-out room with an evening of killer music we found a secluded spot in the venues back halls to sit down and talk about the new album, the DVD as well as the night’s performance. The show was great and I was happy that Khan still wanted to talk with so little rest after walking offstage. We found some space away from the crowd of well wishers that had gathered backstage and pretty much ran the same exact questions by him. I had to admit that it was interesting getting another viewpoint on the very same topics so please read on for our full conversation.

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PiercingMetal: It seems that we need to start this one off a little differently since we didn’t talk before and are now catching you just some twenty minutes after performing to a sold out show in NYC. What are your immediate thoughts on the show you just walked off the stage from?

Khan: It’s great, it really, really is. It’s been very special to us since the first time we played here because it’s New York and B.B. King’s is a legendary club and we always have a really good time here. There’s a little bit more people every time and it’s just nice to see that we are headed in the right direction.

PiercingMetal: Now I know you hit NY up in Poughkeepsie, at the Chance, are there any highlights from that show?

Khan: Uhm, that was a great show too, highlights it was just a good show but had its own moments. As each show ends you realize that. It’s different each time.

PiercingMetal: It’s not New York….even though it is New York, it is not THIS New York.

Khan: No, not at all.

PiercingMetal: As you know I interviewed Tom before the show so we only could assume how the night would be, but later in the evening as I watched and stood off to the side stage as you were gearing up the crowd for the final numbers you could literally feel the energy in the crowd. What does that feel like to you up on the stage?

Khan: I like that very much, especially the first time and today, it was very intense.

So the first time that we met the band was touring for “The Black Halo” , an album that really became a fast favorite in the Melodic Power Metal fan base. Now that you can look back on its release and the tour that supported it, I wonder if you ever thought it would receive the acclaim and be the Kamelot “band defining statement that it ended up becoming?

Khan: With “The Black Halo” we pretty much felt that we really did it this time and I have to say that. We were also extremely confident when the album was about to be released. It’s not like we cared that much really about what everybody else is going to think. Of course it’s a great, great bonus the fans like it but its all about keeping the whole thing interesting to ourselves. As long as we manage to do that I know that we are going to be able to do another one and that is such a great, great passion in my life. To write songs and to sing them and as long as this whole thing remains interesting to ourselves I know that we will continue on doing this. I wouldn’t do a lot of albums were I felt that we had to compromise the band and I wouldn’t want to let the record company start working around in the song-writing and stuff like that or tell us what to look or sound like. Hey wait, what was the question again (heartily laughs)….

PiercingMetal: I think you got to the point of it, and there is no right or wrong about your view of that stuff. I guess what I am leading into now is another fact about “The Black Halo” album again. Would it be safe to say that “The Black Halo” continues to amaze you in terms of the bands catalog insofar as reach and the attention that it still receives?

Khan: Are you talking about me, or about the people out there?

PiercingMetal: It’s all you Roy.

Khan: I’m pretty happy with all the albums especially “The Black Halo” and “Ghost Opera”, and the DVD “One Cold Winter’s Night”.

PiercingMetal: We’ll get to all of these as we go along. I’m just leading you into it a little bit.

Khan: Ok, so yes, absolutely – it is even an album that I still play a lot actually. There are of course certain songs that I like to play on the other albums, but when I am just sitting down home in Norway, this album is something I just dig. Even though I have heard it quite a few times and am probably one of the people who heard it the most I am still enjoying it.

PiercingMetal: So after “The Black Halo”, the band decides to record and film the performance in Oslo, and the end result was one of the more popular DVD and live CD’s top be released that year and we mean of course “One Cold Winters Night”. Was it always the plan to deliver this piece when you toured for “The Black Halo” or was it one of those battlefield decisions that you made based on how much good the album was getting you.

Khan: This was actually the label’s idea about whether or not we wanted to do a DVD. So we said yeah sure, but we need a good budget so this way if we are going to do something we are going to do it right. So we were able to negotiate a good budget and go ahead, but that DVD kind of exceeded our expectations I have to say that. Also because we never did a DVD before so we really didn’t know what to expect.

PiercingMetal: So it’s safe to say that you don’t regret the decision to do it. Let me jump ahead a little here and ask you about this. As a lead singer, I watch you and I see that you are a very dramatic vocalist. You are along the lines of a Geoff Tate in Queensryche in regards to the level of drama, intensity and mood that you portray onstage. You almost seem like an actor at times when you are singing. I wonder does this come naturally to you.

Khan: Yeah it’s actually way more natural than you think it is. I don’t really think about what I am doing onstage and its not like I am rehearsing moves and such, I just go along with the music and let it do the work but of course sometimes I will do something really awkward but I really just try to shut my brain off . When I start thinking, that’s when I really start fucking up.

Let’s move on to the new now, looking back on when we first talked, you mentioned to me that a lot of the material that you did on “The Black Halo” came from the reading you were doing in the book Faust. So what inspired Khan to come up with the tales that we find on “Ghost Opera” – let’s talk a little about the stories on this one.

Khan: Well, right off “Ghost Opera” is not a concept record as opposed to “Epica” and “The Black Halo”, so we have ten songs that have significantly different lyrics. For the first time, no that’s not correct since its not the first time that we did a regular studio album, but for the first time since like on “Fourth Legacy” or “Karma” but we weren’t as conscious about that back then. This time around we sat down and just did the music and didn’t have to worry about the lyrics first and instead let the music direct and inspire the lyrics. Just the fact that we didn’t have to worry about the words before we did the music was very refreshing and I think this led us to write slightly differently than we have done over the last five years.

Now “Ghost Opera” as your newest record has been receiving a lot of rave reviews and is truly a powerful piece of Metal music that is quite strong on the melody. My question is was it difficult to get this one put together based on having “The Black Halo” before it. What I am getting at here is did you feel that the end result that “The Black Halo” achieved for Kamelot, that it raised the bar higher for the creative process.

Khan: Absolutely and that’s good. This is too, man these wings are good (Khan was finally eating a plate of them after the show and decided to announce it).

PiercingMetal: So are you living here now in the US?

Khan: No, I am still in Norway.

PiercingMetal: I thought you would have moved to New York by now (ha-ha).

Khan: I’ll say that if I was to move to the US I would definitely prefer here than to Florida. So back to the question, and yes, absolutely is the answer. I’m not going to lie about it, because its done a lot for us and gave us the chance to do things we had never done like the DVD and all. We don’t actually look back however when it comes to us writing new material and this is the same thing this time around. I think actually it was quite quick and probably the most effective song-writing session that we have ever had. We felt right away that this was going to be a good album and I don’t know what it is about it besides that me and Tom are a very good combination. There’s a special feel with all the guitars and drums and for me with the harmony and lyrics – it just works.

PiercingMetal: The great thing about “Ghost Opera” is that as you listen to it you are not going to find “The Black Halo” Part 2 because it’s instead a new and exciting piece of music in the chapter of Kamelot’s own Metal book. Did you feel when you listened to the final mix that lightning had struck twice for the band and that another winner had been unleashed?

Khan: Absolutely, and despite this there is always going to be people who have something to say, and we found this even on “The Black Halo” , where people are like “oh this is too different from what you did in the past”. I can only assume that everyone who hears us wants it to sound like the band they first heard when they first discovered it. Now along this line, I would love for Queensryche to sound like they did on “Rage For Order” although I kind of think that “Operation: Mindcrime” is a better album, but it was just at this time in my life that the album was very special to me. I’ve always wanted them to do more stuff like they did on “Rage For Order”.

PiercingMetal: This aspect makes me come up with a question as well. Given Kamelot’s status as a Power Metal band, whether you like the term or not because in the larger sense you are a Power Metal group to most people. What is your own “Rage For Order” and your “Operation: Mindcrime”.

Khan: For Kamelot? Wow, I wouldn’t be the right person to ask, that’s up to the listener.

PiercingMetal: So you are leaving it up to the world to determine this one ok, fair enough. Moving on and this is a two-part question. What are your favorite songs on the new release and which ones are the most fun to play live.

Khan: That’s really, really hard to tell but I love “Love You To Death”. It’s just a song that I really, really like. “Ghost Opera” kills……dude, I really like all those new songs that we played. I love them and I guess its just……well, we’ve gotten to a point where we can choose only songs that we absolutely like. Of course at the ending of a live set, we have “Ghost Opera”, “Karma”, Love You To Death” and “March Of Mephisto” and there is a reason that we placed them at the end. It doesn’t mean that I don’t love singing the other songs but I guess that those last songs are the right combination of what we like and what we know gets the people going and that together makes them be in that position.

PiercingMetal: Right now we are looking at Kamelot appearing to full rooms and sold out houses and this is a great thing. But the curiosity that I have is do you feel that you are “preaching to the choir” in the sense that everybody in the room is a Kamelot fan already as opposed to someone who is new to the band. Do you even worry about this.

Khan: This doesn’t bother me. I mean there is always going to be new people where someone brings their girlfriend or boyfriend or a group of people bring someone new because they liked what they saw the last time. It keeps adding to the existing Kamelot fans. It’s not really something I tend to worry about

I’m not asking that to make you worry, its just that I have heard in the past from some bands who feel at these headlining shows that everyone in attendance already is a fan who has seen them before, and has the CD, or the T-shirt. They tend to think that there is not a lot of new people coming. Yet the conclusion I come to, and Tom tended to agree with me is that if you are playing to a full room this is not at all a bad night.

Khan: No, I agree as well, and I know for sure that there is a lot of people out there who discovered about Kamelot on “Ghost Opera”.

PiercingMetal: Yet I remember this very well, for it was when you first came through here for “The Black Halo”. We sat and we talked not too far away from where we are now at this same venue, and you told me that you were surprised that the venue was full.

Khan: Well, it wasn’t as full as these last two gigs but it was really good for a first time and it did surprise us. In the end it is just something that we don’t worry about that’s for sure and as I said I know for sure that a lot of people have discovered us at these shows. You either have to be friends with someone who already knows about Kamelot or you gotta come here as a friend of somebody who is coming to the show and recommended Kamelot to you and convinced you to come to the show. Or you discover the band with that last record and then you are a new fan. I mean how else does it happen.

PiercingMetal: The other question I have is could it be better for Kamelot to have these headlining gigs in a region like the states or trying to get on some sort of massive tour like an Ozzfest. Please bear in mind that I know about those kinds of tours costing a lot of money to be on.

Kamelot: I really wouldn’t mind doing that but I am not sure about how much a show like that actually affects us sales wise. I have no idea but probably quite a bit, yet like you said they cost a lot of money. This is not only about the money to be paid to do it, because a lot of people decide who is actually going to end up doing those shows and in what area. I wouldn’t mind doing it but I have a great time doing what I do now and eventually maybe we will do something like that but if we don’t – I don’t really care.

PiercingMetal: Who would you say inspires Kamelot as a band today?

Khan: I don’t think that there have been any artists in years have been doing that for me. I tend to listen to my old CD’s from time to time for certain atmospheres and all, but nothing really affects the band or the song-writing. That doesn’t mean I don’t listen to other bands

PiercingMetal: Given the success of “One Cold Winters Night” and given that we often see bands doing a tour, then a DVD, another tour, and then another DVD. Do you think we shall see “Ghost Opera” released as a full DVD as well.

Khan: No, definitely not. We are however talking about doing videos of all the songs and we are a little bit closer to getting there. A full live DVD is not going to happen because we don’t want to re-do something like “One Cold Winter’s Night”. That thing only came out last Christmas so it will probably be a long time before we release another live DVD again.

PiercingMetal: It’s probably too early to say but are you thinking of new music for the next record already, or are you the kind of band that writes more songs than you need.

Khan: We haven’t started thinking about the next record yet because it’s been so busy since last Fall.

PiercingMetal: Not that I think you have spare time, but what are you guys doing in it when you even have it.

Khan: We do have it sometimes but with me traveling abroad so much that when I am home, everybody wants a piece of me – My Mom, my Dad, my Grandparents and friends. My Wife of course and our new little six-month old kid. And when I am home, I don’t just get to sit there either because my wife wants to go out and get some vacation or see friends. I get stuck in that eternal struggle against time and I understand them because I am always away from home. For like half the year I am gone.

Would you say that you were listening to anything in particular today as far as music is concerned. What about TV?

Khan: Well the last CD I bought was the one by Amy Winehouse – I also like the last Dimmu Borgir CD “In Sorte Diaboli”, but its not like I get to listen to a lot of music.

PiercingMetal: Thoughts on the internet mediums for a band like Kamelot and I am referring to the My Space or You Tube stuff.

Khan: They have been a big help from the beginning and I am not even sure that the collaboration that we have in Kamelot would have even been possible without it. While there are also a lot of people against things like the downloading and stuff I think there is some chance for great promotion out there.

PiercingMetal: What would you say is Roy Khan’s view on the state of Heavy Metal today and looking ahead

Khan: It’s quite interesting actually because of all these markets like the US, Norway, Sweden, Finland, UK, Holland, and Belgium that traditionally weren’t too hot on the type of music that we play and over the last few years we have seen it really picking up. It’s kind of a natural development I guess with people getting tired of hearing the same style over and over again, year after year. It’s been quite a few years now where I am not even going to say or mention the style of music but it all comes in waves.

PiercingMetal: What’s the next step for Kamelot in the ever-climbing rise in band status?

Khan: Well we still have the bulk of the US tour left. After that’s done we are going to have a couple of weeks for vacation.

Editor’s Note: This was the fourth date for those at home who might be interested in knowing that.

PiercingMetal: Isn’t it sad that all the shows are not going to come as close to as how great New York just was.

Khan: I don’t know about that (laughs)

PiercingMetal: We’re just proud native New Yorkers for ya.

Khan: Of course its always special and while I cannot say that out of fairness to the others I can say that there is a definite interesting fact about the fans from New York as opposed to other areas. They seem so much more stable than some of the ones in the Northern Countries or Southern Countries of Europe. So after we leave the US and do our vacation, we head back to Europe and Japan. We might take the Winter off since that’s what we really want to do and if we don’t there is a chance that we will tour America again. There are also some releases that we are going to do which I really can’t talk too much about. However I can say that I am going to be very, very busy for the next couple of years.

PiercingMetal: Closing thoughts or anything else you want to put out there for readers.

Khan: Thanks for the support as always. We’ll see you on tour soon.

Roy then mingled with others who had been waiting to see him and to pose for some photos. It was another night of success in Kamelot’s personal diary for them to remember forever. I look forward to many more. Make sure you check out “Ghost Opera” if you haven’t already done so.

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