My first exposure to the band Kamelot would be with their stellar release “The Black Halo” and since this was their fifth actual album I am still considered somewhat of a newbie to what they have been doing for Melodic Metal music for oh so many years. Despite this, I immediately became a fan with this album and in the three years that I have been following them – I have aimed to bring their adventures in music to these pages in terms of concert coverage and photography along with reviews of their music and interviews with the members of the group. Upon their return to New York City to support their newest album “Ghost Opera”, I had been scheduled to meet with both Roy Khan (their vocalist) and Thomas Youngblood (their guitarist) to discuss their recent travels and how this new music was being received, but all best laid plans don’t always turn out that way in the end. Scheduling issues and needing to run off to the venue for sound check caused Tom to be in one place while Roy the other, so Tom suggested we do the questions and when Roy arrived he could chime in. The idea was perfect and so we began in the back offices of B.B. King Blues Club as the musician and I caught up. Below is our entire conversation.
PiercingMetal: Once again we are finding the mighty Kamelot returning to NYC. I would like to welcome you back to the Big Apple. Now you guys played Poughkeepsie last night so could you please just tell us how that went.
Youngblood: Oh it was great and I think it was our second or third time there. It’s always been great even from the beginning, even in Port Richey which we’ve never played before. So there was more people this time around which is great and its nice to find this when we are supporting a new record.
PiercingMetal: When we first met, the band was touring for “The Black Halo”, an album that became a fast favorite in the Melodic Power Metal fan base. Now that you can look back on it’s release and the tour that supported it, I wonder if you ever thought it would receive such acclaim and be the Kamelot “band defining statement” that it ended up becoming?
Youngblood: It’s kind of hard to say because the same thing happened with “The Fourth Legacy” and the same thing happened even with the “Epica” record so we really don’t try to think about that sort of stuff and instead try to do the best that we can with each record and let the chips fall where they may so to speak. With every record there is something about it that we are proud about and it also depends on the fans. For instance if this was the first record that you bought by the band it might end up being your favorite because that is your first taste of that band and while you might go back and like some older stuff later on it will always tend to be that first album you tried remains your favorite.
PiercingMetal: 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 getting?
Youngblood: Yeah I would say so because it is still selling and in the US it is still selling as much today as it did when it was released. On a weekly basis it is still selling a lot in addition to “Ghost Opera” and I think going forward that “Ghost Opera” is going to eclipse the sales of “The Black Halo” eventually and maybe within this year hopefully. So yeah its great to have two records out that are still selling like that.
PiercingMetal: The band then decided to record and film the performance in Oslo, and the end result was one of the more popular DVD and live CD’s to be released that year and I am talking about “One Cold Winters Night”. Was it always the plan to deliver this piece of music as a live DVD and CD when you toured for “The Black Halo” or was it one of those battlefield decisions that you made based on how good the album was being received.
Youngblood: Uhm, it might be a mixture of both because we felt the timing was right in general to do a DVD as we had never done one before. It was also something that the record company came to us about and said “hey guys do you want to do this” and then we tossed around a ton of different places where we wanted to do it and everywhere from Sao Paulo to Belgium were considered before we went with Oslo. That ended up making the most sense for us because of the logistics and we were just now starting to grow in that market and the shows now in Norway are incredible so this was a good decision based on the whole feel of it and the fans that were there and all the rest. It was something that we really put a lot of time and effort into.
PiercingMetal: So you were pleased with the decision to do it then?
Youngblood: Yeah definitely.
PiercingMetal: So let’s move on to the new album – Khan had mentioned to me that first time we met a couple of years ago that some of the inspiration for the album came from his reading of books like Faust. So I’m just curious about what inspired the tales that we find on the newest epic “Ghost Opera”.
Youngblood: It’s a mixture of a lot of things really because we read a lot and we watch a lot of movies and there are personal things that have happened in our lives over the past couple of years, there are historical events and there are always touches of religion on our records that we put into certain songs. With this record we wanted to step away from the concept record so it was kind of refreshing to just write about anything that you wanted because there was no guideline for what each song had to have a subject about. So there are various things that this record is about. When you talk to Khan you will probably be able to go a little deeper into that.
PiercingMetal: Ghost Opera has also received a lot of rave reviews and is truly a powerful piece of Metal music that is quite strong on the melody. Was it difficult to get this one put together based on the studio release before it? What I mean by this is – was the bar set by “The Black Halo” so high that you looked at the new album and said “wow, how do we top this one”. Would the success of that last record make you wary when creating the new music?
Youngblood: No because I think it’s like what I was saying earlier where the record before or each previous one has sold more copies or have garnered positive reviews which we are very happy about and we never take that for granted. We always work as hard as we can and it’s our philosophy with everything – live shows, writing songs or the business side of it. In everything we try to give 100% and if you do that you can never look back with regrets and that’s what we always try to do. So there is never really any pressure on our side to top anything. We’ve been fortunate with the reaction like I said because in Europe, “Ghost Opera” has already sold more copies than “The Black Halo” and in the US that album has been out over two years so we have already almost hit the halfway mark for that record with “Ghost Opera”. So, it’s just a good thing for us to have a record that opened a lot of people’s eyes so when the new record came out we already had a new fan base to start with and this album out we are finding a lot of new doors opening for us in terms of a fan base. There are a little bit more varied types of songs on this record that maybe “Black Halo” didn’t have.
PiercingMetal: Which leads me right into my next question. As I listened to “Ghost Opera” I was happy to find that I was not listening to “The Black Halo” Part 2 and instead this was 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?
Youngblood: No, because we kind of know when we are writing the songs if we have what we need and even a bad mix cannot destroy a good song. After that it’s more up to the record company and the people who make videos and show videos, and the journalists to get the word out about the band and so far I think the record company has done a great job of working the album and getting people out there to know about it. The videos we’re doing are helping and we just finished a video for “The Human Stain”, which is going to be coming out and we just got the approval to do the rest of the videos that we want to do. So we’re really happy with the cooperation of the record company right now and that’s really an important thing – to have their belief and support.
PiercingMetal: Two part question. What are your favorite songs on the release and why as well as what are the most fun to play live?
Youngblood: Favorite songs “Ghost Opera”, “Love You To Death” and I think the funnest one for me to play live is “Ghost Opera” and perhaps “Mourning Star” because it’s really heavy and has a lot of head banging stuff
PiercingMetal: OK, this is a tricky one because right now Kamelot has been appearing to full rooms and sold out houses which I think is a great thing but the curiosity is do you feel you are “preaching to the choir” now – and I mean that everyone at a show is a Kamelot fan and there’s always a wonder if there is any new faces in the audience. Now of course there are going to be a few at all times but does it cross the bands mind much that you are more preaching to a choir of believers as opposed to reaching new fans.
Youngblood: No because each time we come back there are more people so that’s a whole new thing you know. We find that we are meeting new fans at every show so if we were playing to less people then logic would dictate that you are not really playing to anyone new. So the fact that every time we come back to a city there are more people tells us that our fan base is getting broader and that is really the goal of all musicians. To have more people.
PiercingMetal: I had come up with that question because another band I talked to once said that at this point they felt that they were preaching to the choir based on the shows that they were doing at the time. Now my logic says if you are playing to a full house there has to be at least a few people who are new to the band. I myself was new, and I even brought people who have come back on their own since that time so it’s a bit of a cycle.
Youngblood: Ironically, we have fans who want to hear old songs and then we play an old song – for example we played “The Fourth Legacy” for the first two shows of the tour and you could tell that a lot of the people hadn’t heard the song. So for us it doesn’t make sense to do songs like that when you’re promoting a new record. Instead you want to play songs that people will know and genuinely want to hear. This also tells us that our fan base has shifted and is always kind of evolving.
PiercingMetal: Are you happy to be back at another sold out night in New York City? Third time in a row if I am not mistaken.
Youngblood: Yeah I am hopeful that it will be sold out tonight.
PiercingMetal: I understand that it already is (this was about 6:00 for those interested)
Youngblood: Yeah New York is one of those cities that when I think about special cities and fans and stuff New York definitely sticks out. I remember the first time we came here that we were totally blown away by the crowd reaction. It just makes our show funner and better you know when the crowd is so totally into it with us.
PiercingMetal: Do you think it Is better at this point for Kamelot to perform continual headlining gigs in a region like the states or try to get on some massive tour like the Ozzfest? Now bear in mind that I do know that these things cost money already to join in on, but I wondered if some sort of major package deal would help the band and make you all say “wow, I am totally reaching people that we would have never reached had we not done this”.
Youngblood: Yeah well those kinds of opportunities we would certainly welcome but it just has to make sense for us both musically and financially. The record company has to be willing to pay for it if it’s a “buy on” or whatever. Yet I wouldn’t just do this in any market because Ozzfest would be something to look at because you can see how that really helped bands like Dragonforce in the US. So it just depends on what it is and what the opportunity is because we have no problem opening up for bigger acts and stuff. Yet until stuff like that comes to us we are happy enough to headline places like this in the States because this is something that we didn’t think we could do five years ago.
PiercingMetal: Who is inspiring Kamelot as a band today that you have either performed with or just listened to.
Youngblood: Hmm. I don’t know because I don’t listen to a lot of bands. It’s hard for me to say because I am more inspired by theatrical things like Circe De Soleil has been a big influence on me in terms of the music and the theatrics of those shows. I would love to put on a Kamelot show that incorporated more theatrics. So as far as bands that are out today, I really don’t know much about any of them. The bands that I grew up with like Queen and stuff like that remain my favorite.
PiercingMetal: Speaking of the production, the band definitely shows, each time I see you live there is a tightness and togetherness that shows me as a fan of the band and not only in this role that I serve in Media, is that the band is together. You seem very in synch with each other so I wonder if you find this easier because of the lineup that Kamelot has as opposed to other bands.
Youngblood: Well, I obviously can’t speak for other bands but as far as we are concerned I would say yes because we have been playing together for so long and before this tour we only had about two rehearsals and that is really nothing compared to what a lot of bands do. So I think that the rhythm section of the band is really tight and the rest of the things just come with experience.
PiercingMetal: Your guitar playing on the album is continuing to impress as a shredder above par so to speak. Was it easy for you this time around or should I say it like this, was it even easier for you to come up with the guitar parts you would be doing for “Ghost Opera”.
Youngblood: Yeah and I would say that its more about improvisation usually and I never approach anything from a shredding aspect because with me it is always about the songs as opposed to showing off by doing tricks and things like that.
PiercingMetal: I didn’t mean the term in the negative sense.
Youngblood: Oh yeah I understand but just for clarification it’s not really my goal when it comes to guitar playing as its more about writing good songs and the guitar becomes more of a tool for me to be able to express myself. I also play a little keyboards and I do a lot of drums in terms of the rhythm. It’s all about composing the right piece. Tonight we will be doing an instrumental that everybody gets to kind of do their thing during.
PiercingMetal: Do you think we shall see this album released as a live DVD, since many bands seem to be recording and delivering such a thing for each tour that they do, like we see Rush and Iron Maiden doing. Now I know that these are heavy hitters with a lot more money at this stage of the game but outside of them we still see a lot of bands doing an album, then a live release, another album, then a live release. It’s almost commonplace so do you see this happening again possibly?
Youngblood: Not as a total concert but perhaps as bonus tracks for re-releases or something like that. We’ve already shot a lot of video from the European tour from places like Switzerland and this is the full production with pyro and stuff like that so I can see us using that kind of footage somewhere. You never know because if the record continues to sell like it is and the snowball keeps going then it might make sense to schedule a special concert and perform all the songs and record it.
PiercingMetal: It’s probably too early to ask this 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 for a particular album.
Youngblood: Usually we only write what we will need for the album and we don’t really have a lot of leftovers but yeah I am always thinking about what I want the next record to be directionally so yeah I can say that I have some ideas for that already. We have a little break between the Japanese tour in October and the next European tour so we’re probably going to do a writing session during that break and start working on new stuff.
PiercingMetal: Not that I think you have a lot of it but how about spare time what are you guys doing during your real time off?
Youngblood: Well anytime where I have spare time I like to spend it with my family and we will go off to the beach or Disneyworld or whatever. I really try to spend as much time as I can with the family.
PiercingMetal: Over the course of time when we both first met and talked, we have found Internet mediums such as MySpace.com and YouTube.com becoming juggernauts of media attention. How are you finding these particular mediums affecting the life of Kamelot?
Youngblood: I would have to say that I really don’t know how much that stuff actually helps bands but it is kind of fun to see your friends grow or finding people adding me. I think that any kind of extra exposure is always positive if it means 100 CD sales or 1000 but its hard to say and you can’ really put a number on it. Having a great looking website or just an ok one is not important as long as it has the information on it that people need. As a band we have always tried to embrace any kind of technology when it comes to the Internet or videos – and we have our own MySpace page and our own channel on YouTube, so we work really hard at promoting all those avenues that we can.
Editor’s Sidebar: Click on the site names to go to them: Kamelot MySpace – Kamelot YouTube
PiercingMetal: We continually hear that Heavy Metal is dead music and that no one is listening to it anymore but bands like Kamelot and their audience continue to prove these nay Sayers wrong. In Tom Youngblood’s mind what is the state of Heavy Metal music today.
Youngblood: Well I think that it has definitely come back up at least in the States because five years ago I didn’t think that any of the bands who were headlining Europe would be coming over here to tour and now they are. It’s great to see it and the fan base is a lot younger now and since they don’t always know a lot about this style of music, it is very fresh to them. They like to hear some great musicianship. Will it be like it ever was well I don’t know but it’s definitely a good start of getting this style of music back to where it should be.
PiercingMetal: A lot of people think that the way it used to be as we are referring to now, is that it’s more underground than ever before, and Metal is generally at its strongest and more so than many would believe it to be based on the following it has kept. Is it better to remain underground or is it the other way around.
Youngblood: Well when I am speaking of that time I am thinking mainly about the video channels when they actually played videos. You would see bands like Whitesnake and everyone else, and it was not only Metal bands but all kinds of bands, yet the videos were shows whereas today they aren’t as much if at all.
PiercingMetal: Yes, not just Tommy Lee on Cribs.
Youngblood: What I think what happened was that it got so silly and became a bit of a parody of itself. The bands like Queensryche and others like them got lumped into that mix whether they wanted to or not, and you had these shows like “Beavis and Butthead” which made fun of every Metal guy and I just hope that something like this doesn’t happen again.
PiercingMetal: What is the next step for Kamelot, as we are seeing this ever-climbing rise in band status.
Youngblood: We’re just doing as much touring as we can and like I said earlier we have booked a whole new European leg that is going to last about 4-5 weeks and bring us all over Europe to play at some very big halls.
PiercingMetal: I’ll go along for the ride if you guys want me to.
Youngblood: (laughs) and hopefully we’ll come back to the US for more shows because the promoters want us to come back as soon as possible, but right now if it’s the right time to do it. There are a lot of cities that we have not being able to hit on this tour so the idea is to come back and do a whole new US/North American tour.
PiercingMetal: Any closing comments.
Youngblood: Thanks to everyone for the support and I am looking forward to kicking some ass tonight.
If you read this from the beginning you might be wondering what happened to Roy Khan’s chiming in but since he did not arrive at the venue while Tom and I did this interview that plan was a bust. Tom and I toasted the event over a cold beer and then he went off to do his prep for show thing while I figured out how to meet up with Mr. Khan (with it being close to doors for the audience my time was running out on doing this in relative quiet). I did catch up with Roy about 20 minutes prior to their set and we decided to do this after the performance. Soon after, Kamelot would go onstage and kick the ass that they were hoping to much to the delight over about 1000 Metal hungry New York City fans. For the interview with Roy Khan keep watching the site.
Official Website: http://www.kamelot.com