Kamelot - Interview

About Kamelot’s "Karma" I think I said it all in my review, so there is no need to repeat myself here. It’s a brilliant, simply outstanding piece of work, which is a mandatory purchase for any metal fan, that will quickly reach the top spots in any power metal music charts of 2001. So how in the name of God could I miss the chance of talking to the mastermind behind this opus, guitarist Thom Youngblood? Never, not a chance and here is what he had to say...


3 albums with this same line up really pays off. Without a question your best release to date and I dare to say one of the best power metal CDs of this year...

Oh, thank you very much. We are very happy with it for sure. I think the change that we made back in ’97, I guess, was instrumental. The people that we chose obviously were the right people.

Without detracting value from your previous album, "Karma" beats "The Fourth Legacy" almost in every musical aspect; arrangements, perfect balance between melody and power, even instrumental and vocal skills improved a lot... how would you comment on that?

First, I would say thank you. There was a lot of pressure, to be honest with you, about doing the next record after "The Fourth Legacy" and we really knew that we are continuing to grow as musicians and songwriters. I think our production team with Sascha and Miro knew that we could do a better record. That’s the most important that you always have that drive and that vision to continue to do something at least as good. A lot of things have to do with interpretation, maybe somebody might think that the record is better or worse but it has a lot to do with each person.

Can you definitely say that now you’ve found your sound?

Yeah, without a doubt. I think the start of it was probably the end of the "Siege Paroles" and really working with Sascha and Miro, they helped us define what Kamelot sounds like. Also the songwriting team between myself and Khan is basically the main difference between the old Kamelot and new Kamelot. We seem to really think alike when it comes to working together and things come together really quickly. We are best friends now and I think that’s really important as well. We don’t really have any jealousy about who writes what and things like that and I think that kind of element in any band is not really good.

From the production point of view, you stick with the same producer, same studio, cover designer... Does it mean you found your perfect working environment?

I think with any kind of successful entity you have a team of people that you have to rely on. Deryk, the cover artist, has been with us since "Dominion" and we continue to challenge him to kind of like make sure he does the cover as good or better than previous one. To be honest I was a little bit worried at first, but in the end I feel like the "Karma’s" cover is the best one we’ve done. The same goes for the production team. It really comes down to a lot of different things even the travel agent that we use. Making sure that flights are all done properly and all this sort of circle of good karma is an important element in what we do.

So, what did your last two years look like? Did you do anything differently than before, like more rehearsals, a changed composition process...?

The composition process it totally different than the way we did things before, that’s for sure. Basically myself and Roy work together two or three times a year and all the other times we work alone. We work alone on songs and then we come together with ideas that we both have and collaborate that way. Then when we have songs that we feel are ready to be presented to the band we do that and we rehearse before we go to the studio. And than we’ll send tapes to Shasch and let him check it out before we actually come to Germany. So, the process is a little bit more technical. It’s not so much being in a rehearsal room and just going through songs, we are really trying to work the songs out ahead of time. Of course there are always little things during the recording process that we add. The best example I can give you it’s like the ‘Nights of Arabia’. The female part in the middle of the song was never planned until we were in the studio. I mean there was a section there that was going to be like a guitar solo and I thought maybe it would be cool to have this sort of female voice since the story is about queen Sheherazade. So, that was like a good example of what we thought of doing right there in the studio. It was never planned and to me it’s one of the coolest parts of the song...

Does the fact that Roy lives in Norway and the rest of the band in Florida cause any problems during the song writing process?

Not at all.

Do you feel it’s better this way?

I almost do. I was a little bit afraid when several times Khan was talking about moving to Florida. That would be cool if he did but on the other hand there are a lot of bands that live together in this same town and they don’t even get together but maybe once or twice a month. I think the way we work now works and that’s really the most important thing. To try to change that and to have everyone in this same town I don’t think really would make that much of a difference. To be honest, the element of being able to travel to Norway and Roy to come here adds certain pressure on us. We really make sure we work hard and concentrate on every detail. It really works perfect this way.

How would you like the description of "the best American power metal band that plays a European power metal style..."

[laughs] Well, the way that I look at that is as complement because most of the influences for my own personal style have been from European musicians whether it’s classical or the guys like Michael Shenker or the band Iron Maiden. It’s only been really two American bands that I like, that could have been any kind of influence that would be Queensryche and Dream Theater. So, I don’t really have a problem with that statement.

Sometimes I get this feeling that you guys should live in Europe... You have a European style, you tour more in Europe than here, albums are first released there but most of you live in States. So, maybe you guys should move to Norway rather than Roy to here. Is that a possibility for you?

[laughs] It would probably be Germany if we did anything like that. I’m sure the record company would love it cause they wouldn’t have to spend so much on flights. I guess that’s part of what makes us unique as far as American metal band. When I think of American metal band I kind of think of Iced Earth or somebody like this. I think there is certain elegance to European metal that American bands sort of lack. I don’t know if it’s a respect to classical music or what but there is certain elegance that I think maybe Kamelot brings to the American metal scene that’s different from most of the American metal bands. And that’s good, that’s part of what we strive for us to be not only different from American metal bands but also have a certain class that we can be proud of.

Why "Karma"? It’s not like you were dead for the last 10 years...

In America karma has a lot to do with aura, how you are perceived by others when you meet them, how you are perceived by other people in the way that, the vibe you kind of put out. Several times in life you go out you meet someone and you say this person gives me a bad karma, there’s something creepy about this person. And I think karma the way we live our lives and treat each other, treat the environment is really important how we are in turn treated the way our live turns out. I think it’s really important that the way that we do things definitely comes back to us.

How do you choose stories for your music? For example, are you interested in the 14th century or did you just pick the Elizabeth Bathori story to fit the album’s concept?

We wanted to do a three part song, we had the music and we were looking for the right sort of inspiration lyrically. So, I was going through this medieval magazine and I read the story about Elizabeth who killed 600 plus virgins, and in my ignorance I’ve never even heard of her before. I’ve talked to people that told me there are bands that have done this story but I’ve never heard of her. Our intention from the beginning was to really portray her more from the human side of it not just vampire thing but maybe look at her why she was like this. I think it’s interesting that the story of it, the whole vanity thing of staying young is really something that you see today on TV and real life. You can’t go buy a magazine without almost every picture of the women or the men being perfect. I think it’s a sort of appropriate story not only for that time but even for today that shows how bad the vanity can be for our society.

For those of us who have no idea who Elizabeth was can you tell us something about her?

Elizabeth Bathori was a Countess in Hungary and she was having her hair brushed by one of her servants and I guess the servant did something that really pissed her off and she ended up shanking her. The blood from the servant landed on her hand and she thought that the skin in that area had really looked young after that and she kind of snapped. She would have virgins from the village come in, murdered and she would bathe in their blood. She really thought that this was making her young. She started with just the villagers but then virgins from nobles were being taken and that’s when she was finally caught but they say that over 600 virgins were murdered by her.

Got to ask this... Why out of three concept songs 'Requiem For The Innocent' is printed in red on the album’s cover?

There was a rumor that the ink was made with blood but I can’t really say that it’s true [laughs], but basically the song is the place where those murders started happening and we wanted to have this sort of visual comparison to lyrics and the music.

Is this the label idea to add those bonus tracks? To me 'Fall From Grace' is a perfect, powerful ending to a great CD...

That was basically because European release has been out for two months already and fans in America had to wait for two moths if they didn’t already buy the import and we wanted to have something on it that is at least collectable, something different. I think it was a way of giving the fans a little bit something extra for waiting.

How do you handle the keyboards on the road? Although you use them very heavily on the album you don’t have a permanent member... Have you ever thought of adding a fifth member?

Not really. We have Günter Werno (Vanden Plas) who plays with us live and he’s a very good keyboard player but we really don’t think it would make any sense to add another member. We feel like chemistry is perfect now. Working with Miro as arranger and having him do the keyboards we feel is perfect. Khan and I do keyboard parts for the record and then we give them to Miro to come up with proper sound, change some arrangements but general ideas for keyboards come from Khan and myself.

Maybe Miro could stop producing your music and concentrate on performing it?

He’s kind of an enigma. He’s an incredible keyboard player but he doesn’t really play live and he’s to busy as a producer to really hit the road for few months. There might be a special event that we could have Miro play but he just doesn’t have the time to do it regularly.

Are we going to see you on American tour anytime soon?

We are working on some kind of a tour package for the US but it’s going to be the right one for the fans and for Kamelot. We want to make sure that the package that we put together will make sense and the fans will get their money’s worth. So far we really haven’t been presented with something that we feel is good enough and for now we are only doing the festival in November called a ProgPower in Atlanta, Georgia.

Anything would you like to add?

Nothing except thanks for your support and your kind words about the album and to urge everybody out there to go buy the new record "Karma" and hopefully we’ll soon see you all on the road.

Entered: 7/25/2001 5:24:41 PM

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