Artist: Kamelot: Roy Khan & Tom Youngblood
Label: SPV Records
Interviewer: Ken Pierce (copyright 2005) for PiercingMetal.com
Interview Date: 11/21/2005
The Melodic Metal powerhouse Kamelot was finally going to be playing in New York City to support the release “The Black Halo”. Thanks to the folks at SPV Records I was able to sit down with lead singer Roy Khan for a few minutes before he was set to perform. I have to say that backstage interviews are both fun and stressful at the same time. Remember you are making the musician focus on something else when they are often trying to get into the performance head. Based on this I tried to keep the questions brief and topical as much as possible. Below is our transcribed conversation.
PiercingMetal: - Roy welcome to New York, how long has it been since we have seen you here in terms of shows (at the moment I was unaware this was the first time).
Khan - Oh I’ve never played in New York before.
PiercingMetal: - Well that makes sense for while I enjoy the music I wondered why I could not recall the Kamelot name after all the shows I have been attending. So let’s blast through some questions for the readers. The new album "The Black Halo" is one of the bands most polished and adventurous albums yet-how has the fan & critic reaction been to it so far?
Khan - It’s been outrageous – I mean really, really good and I don’t think I’ve seen one review that is like bad at all. Critical response has been really good and the fans have been praising it. I mean it that it has just been a blast. I’m kind of speechless when it comes to that part of it. I can just say its been really good.
PiercingMetal: - Can you talk a little bit about the story behind the lyrics? "The Black Halo" is a pretty intense production overall with lots of guest singers-can you talk a little about how the band put this all together?
Khan - Well everything started when I got this really fat book called “Faust” which is written by a German writer named Goethe. We started this in like 2002 I think. It was an idea I had to do a concept album but we didn’t really want to go ahead and do a concept album before we really had a concept. Meaning we just didn’t want to “just do it” because a lot of bands are doing concept albums these days and we wanted to have something that we felt was worth doing and something that we felt was us. Then all of a sudden one day I just pulled this book out. It was actually my girlfriends and I started looking through it and saw it had some clearly separated parts and I started reading it. Then I read about it and it just seemed to fit very well with what we are and the themes that we had dealt with in the past. We were talking about a two part concept just sort of to mirror things or yin and yang because we have always been very concerned with opposites. Black and white, left and right, up and down whatever you know and this book is that kind of a story. The first half is written at the beginning of his life and the second half is written at the end of his life. It took about 50 years to write and to be honest I don’t totally get it because it is extremely complicated and there is a limit of how much you can get down in a 60 minute CD. What we did is we sort of used the same framework and built our own life story and used little fragments from our own life into the story. It seems like people like it so that’s good.
PiercingMetal: - Speaking of light and dark what was it like working with Shagrath from Dimmu Borgir for the songs "March of Mephisto".
Khan - (laughs) It was really cool to do.
PiercingMetal: - How about Simone Simons from Epica.
Khan - Both of the guest artists were great to have for this as we are dealing with opposites again. We have Simone who is very much like Light and beautiful with her voice and her whole charisma and character. She fits very well for the character that she is portraying in “The Haunting” while of course Shagrath is supposed to be Mephisto or the Devil’s true face and he fits that character perfectly.
PiercingMetal: - Do you think we shall see any Roy Khan contributions on Dimmu Borgir or Epica as a result of this? (at the time of the interview I had not known that Khan performed on the Epica album “Consign To Oblivion”)
Khan - Actually we are talking about some stuff but it’s not like a tradeoff thing. I think it is much more natural for us to use him on The Black Halo. I don’t see why we would have used a Black Metal singer for any other album really. That song demanded somebody like that and I think he was perfect for it. It’s not like we had a collaboration going.
PiercingMetal: - So the album is once again produced by Sascha Paeth who’s worked with Rhapsody and Angra among others. Do you think that would be the perfect producer for the Kamelot sound? What does he bring to the table for you guys?
Khan - Well Sascha has been perfect until now and I don’t see any reason why we should change that team. It’s a team that works very well and we have become really good friend as well. It’s not only about work and business but it’s also about Friendship and having a good time. I actually think that this shines through when you have the final or finished product. I think the vibe that was going through the production is there. With that said it doesn’t mean that we are not going to use anyone else ever because we might want to try somebody else or do something different just for the sake of doing something different. Each producer brings their own sound and its something we might want to try sometime.
PiercingMetal: - What’s the feeling of playing this kind of music for the US audience against playing in the European Countries?
Khan - You know what it seems to me is that people like it everywhere. Fans have been supportive all over the world and I am not saying on one specific market. There has been a good reception to it all around and with this last record “The Black Halo” we seem to have more doors opened up for us in the US. But you know I don’t really see the humungous difference it seems that people who like Kamelot like Kamelot.
PiercingMetal: - Speaking on that, the people who like Kamelot will support the band no matter what and in a headlining show you are essentially "preaching to the choir" and face playing for people who already know about the band. If you had to tour as support for someone else who is the perfect band and the perfect tour for Kamelot to support to reach an even wider crowd.
Khan - We just want to reach out to as many people as possible and there are tons of bands out there that would be perfect. We’ve been touring with other bands that have been totally different style wise from what we are doing and that has worked and there is also the chance to work with people who have the same sort of style. Mainly I will say that we want to aim to getting new ground covered and that’s part of the reason we chose to work with both Shagrath and Simone. These people are in bands that have totally different audiences.
PiercingMetal: - I have another quick one or two for you. I know its hard to get the singer to talk a lot right before the show and this is why I am trying to be real brief and to the point here.
Khan - It’s ok but when I am sick….
PiercingMetal: - If you’re sick I am not doing interviews with you in a small room (laughs) Ok, so at ProgPower you did the Conception reunion go at ProgPower this year? So how was that and what was it like to be part of the band again.
Khan - It was a blast I mean we are all good friends and they are excellent musicians. Since its such a friendship kind of thing it was great being back up there with the guys. We hang out once in awhile and once we had even rented a house for like 2 years and it was cool. Its not like when people ask me are we going to do another album and blah blah blah but stuff like that would not make any sense for me right now.
PiercingMetal: - Given that thought, what would be next for Kamelot and I mean beyond “The Black Halo” which I realize is still new. What’s the next vision you are having?
Khan - I don’t know – a lot of people are expecting more you know. More choirs and more concepts, more complexity. I don’t know as I think maybe we have reached a peak as far as that goes. Who knows as we might want to go more simple. I really have absolutely no idea because we have been working on “The Black Halo” since January of last year and we’re still working it since it is still selling so good. As a result we have not really had the time to sit down and discuss the framework of the next production.
PiercingMetal: - Who inspires Roy Khan?
Khan - Nowadays nobody (laughs) but that is because I cant really say that I listen to a lot of music these days. It’s been awhile since I have bought a CD. When I buy a CD it’s because I want to check out the production or check out the DVD or stuff like that. It’s been a really long time since someone else actually inspired me. I like silence sometimes and also listening to the stuff that my Parents used to listen to like Pink Floyd and Abba or Simon & Garfunkel. As kids you don’t realize it but over time you realize that they have influenced you more than you may have thought. Those came to be my main influences but I just didn’t see it. Of course I like Geoff Tate & Queensryche and some other great Metal bands.
PiercingMetal: - Do you think we shall see this on a live album? Or perhaps a live DVD?
Khan - We’re talking about doing a live DVD in Norway in February and we have been working on that idea for about a year. We talked about doing it in Brazil, in Canada and in Holland but we came to the conclusion that we have to either do it in Florida or in Norway so we can have 100% control over it. The whole stage set and props and for example when we tried to plan this in Brazil the communication was not good. A deal is definitely not a deal down there if you make arrangement to have one thing and when you get there it is something different.
PiercingMetal: - OK I will let you now take your next interview but please kick some ass tonight. I am really looking forward to it and the crowd is building up outside for you. Any surprises you want to share?
Khan - No, there is no real surprise, the set list is pretty much the same. We are playing three songs that we have never done before and we are also trying to do most of the songs that will be on the DVD so that is probably not going to change too much.
Khan and the guys went on to perform a kick ass set that while melodic in its nature was still quite powerful in its level of Metal delivery. After the show I somehow found myself talking to some people and as a result ended up chatting with guitar wizard Tom Youngblood. Since the recorder was with me I asked him if he wanted to share some brief thoughts with me and he was glad to. Here is the very spontaneous and unplanned discussion.
PiercingMetal: - We are now backstage with Tom Youngblood, lead guitarist of Kamelot. Tom what did you think of Kamelot’s first ever performance in New York City?
Youngblood - : It was fucking killer man we had a great time. The fan response totally blew me away and they were singing songs that we haven’t even heard people in Europe singing. So definitely an eye-opener for us and a reason to come back. It might have been the first show in New York but it is certainly not going to be our last.
PiercingMetal: - How do you find the response overall for “The Black Halo” against that of some of the other Kamelot releases.
Youngblood - The response has been great and the reviews really good. The sales in America has doubled, tripled from the last record so it’s good to see that our market in America is growing. So we are excited about the future because the record continues to sell really good every week and that makes us look forward to the next record coming out to some big acceptance.
PiercingMetal: - Regarding US Power Metal vs. Europe’s brand of the genre like Sonata Arctica, Nightwish and EdGuy where would you think that Kamelot fits in to the larger picture.
Youngblood - I don’t really think about that and we do what we do musically. What’s important for me is that we sound like Kamelot and not like someone else. I would say that this is the most important thing and we’re not trying to say that we are a Power Metal band, or Melodic, or Progressive. We just do what we do and we have all different types of elements in our music. So the most important thing for me as an artist is having a unique sound and I like to think that we have achieved that with the last few records.
PiercingMetal: - Looking back on that statement what does Tom Youngblood find as influential and allowing you to be inspired and create the Kamelot music.
Youngblood - Well in terms of the songs and the subject matter its always personal things that come into play but musically I’m always looking for new kind of influences. I mean I think on the last couple of records there has been some Arabian and Celtic influences, some Middle Eastern stuff and I’ve been listening to a lot of different music now that I think is going to be in touch with the next record. It’s hard to say but I am always looking for new influences outside of the Metal kind of backbone. I think that’s important to not repeat ourselves or sound like other bands.
PiercingMetal: - Is the next record already being theorized and discussed a little even though “The Black Halo” is currently being toured.
Youngblood - Yes definitely, I have already got a couple of ideas for the album title and some of its content. It’s definitely going to be a darker record than “The Black Halo” was. Another step towards that direction and we’re excited. We have a lot of ideas and we’re just getting started.
PiercingMetal: - I asked Khan this before the show and now I will ask you the same thing. How did you like working with Shagrath from Dimmu Borgir and Simone Simons from Epica?
Youngblood - It was great we did and we did the video for “March Of Mephisto” in Sweden and Shagrath came in to do that with us and he is a really cool guy. Simone happened to be in the studio at the same time as we were and we flew into Sweden to do the video for “The Haunting”. They’re all very humble but their also very professional and its nice to work with those kind of people.
PiercingMetal: - To close this out, Khan had mentioned briefly that there was talk of a DVD coming out from this tour.
Youngblood - Definitely and we are hoping to shoot the Norway show in February in Oslo. That’s the idea right now, Patrick who did the two videos is putting together the whole budget for the shoot and we’re excited.
PiercingMetal: - Any last thoughts for fans of Kamelot and Power Metal.
Youngblood - Thanks for your support, we had a kick ass night tonight and we look forward to coming back
We then toasted the night over a few beers and then the band was on their way into the night to their next destination. Reviews of the show with photos as well as “The Black Halo” album review can be found elsewhere on the site. The CD will blow you away and the idea of a live DVD is very exciting.
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Official Web Site: www.Kamelot.com
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