Interview conducted March 20 2015
Interview published April 23 2015
With Kamelot's new effort, Haven,
coming out in a few weeks, Metal Covenant met up in Stockholm, Sweden,
with guitarist and founder Thomas Youngblood
and for the second time lead vocalist Tommy Karevik
to basically have a few words about the record and the band's current
Tobbe: All right guys, let's get this thing
going. If we compare the new album to your latest one, Silverthorn, what
do you see personally as the biggest difference between these 2 albums?
Tommy: We had more time this time to elaborate
a little more. We tried a little bit of new things here and there. It's
a more industrial kind of thing. A little bit heavier at times, but
also a little bit more uplifting at times, so it's a little bit more
of everything I would say. (Thomas:) I
would say, the way that everything kind of started was similar, you
know. I mean, a basic kind of framework of songs. Then sending those
over to Tommy and working on melodies and working with Sascha [Paeth,
producer]. It was important to change too, 'cause you don't wanna keep
putting out the same record. The bands that do that, they disappear
really quick, so we've had a really good track record of making sure
we make a Kamelot record, but had new things, like Tommy was saying,
some industrial stuff. There was folk influence on the record, and there
is always classical stuff. So that to me is some of the differences.
And I think mix-wise, it's got a little harder in your face-mix, you
know, and the mastering by Jacob [Hansen] I think gave the record a
little bit more of a modern sound.
Tobbe: Yeah, but still very much in the
Kamelot vein though.
Thomas: Yeah. (Tommy:)
Yes, that's good.
So Tommy, did you put more pressure on your performance this time, compared
to what you did on Silverthorn?
Tommy: Well, on Silverthorn we wanted to play
it a little bit safe, because it was my first record. We had pretty
much Kamelot standard songs back then too, but I would say this time
I had a little more freedom maybe, because we also wanted to see if
we could change it in a way.
Tobbe: Did you write more vocal melodies
Tommy: No, basically the same as the last time.
It was a little bit of a special task last time to also introduce myself
as a singer. I didn't want to deviate too much from the Kamelot standards.
(Thomas:) I think with Haven, he's been
able to kind of add more of his own style and also you get to hear more
nuances of his voice. A song like Here's To The Fall has an awesome
vocal performance, so when fans hear this record they're gonna definitely
get to hear more of Tommy's kind of repertoire, so to speak.
Tobbe: All right. So what has Tommy been
able to bring to the band, besides the recordings?
Thomas: I think, you know, having that fresh
injection of youth to the band. We're on tour now and on stage it's
just a blast, you know. You see five guys that wanna be there, so a
totally positive vibe always floating around.
Tobbe: If I look at the live performances,
there's a big difference between him [Tommy] and Roy Khan [former vocalist],
like in movement and interacting with the audience and stuff. It's definitely
one of your strongest assets, to interact with the audience.
Tommy: Yeah. I would say that this is what I
was growing up thinking. You know, when I was going to shows I thought
every time maybe the singer looked at me or you got something in return,
that made my day. It really made everything worth it and that's what
I wanna give back, you know. I can look at someone or I can take someone's
hand and make them feel like they're part of the thing. (Thomas:)
It shows definitely more interacting between us and the fans now. I
think, when you see the show, it's a more unified band presence. Yeah,
the dynamics of our shows now are so much bigger and stronger. It's
a fun thing, I mean, I like watching it sometimes. If I have like a
part where I'm not playing, it's cool for me to sit on the side and
watch, and taking a zip of beer or something, and see what's going on.
Tobbe: And Sean [Tibbetts, bass player]
gives quite a big impression on the shows too. He's very theatrical with
the audience as well. You're [Thomas] more the cool guy, the cool guitarist.
Thomas: Sean is like a beast on stage. Sometimes
he runs into us a little bit, but
But his hair looks awesome. His braids, like Wow! It was really cool
watching him record the video. We were in Serbia recording the videos
for the album and it was really cool to stand and watch him doing his
thing, you know.
Tobbe: You've written a lot of music for
Kamelot at this point. This is the 11th album, so what do you do to try
to stay relevant still and to compose stuff that hasn't been done before?
Thomas: I think an important aspect of Silverthorn
and to a larger degree Haven is having new people to work with, collaborating
with. Tommy and Sascha [Paeth, producer] are involved now with the songwriting
and Oliver [Palotai, keyboards] too to a very large extent, so it takes
a lot of pressure off me. And we also have a couple of people that have
co-written some songs with us, so for me it's nice to kind of take a
bit of a side part and work with other people and that also I think
helps bring in new ideas. And the cool thing is that Kamelot has a certain
sound that everybody that we collaborate with understands, which is
a nice kind of luxury to have, I think.
Tobbe: Is it important for you to have female
vocalists involved with your albums or is it just a thing for the diversity?
[Haven includes guest appearances by Charlotte Wessels and Alissa White-Gluz.]
Thomas: We just hate hanging around a bunch of
guys all the time. [Laughs] There's gotta be a girl around, you know.
I'm a big James Bond fan. No, we started doing that with The Fourth
Legacy actually. A lot of people forget about that, but that was 15
years ago. We had 2 female vocalists on that record and I guess the
difference now is that the ones that are on the album are more well-known
and people know them. We're kind of fortunate to have some talented
friends that wanna work with us. In my opinion, none of the guests are
necessary. The record would be just as strong without them, but it's
just a cool thing that we've been doing, you know.
It's a texture, it's another flavor, which I really like personally.
I've always been working with female singers and I really like the mix.
On this album with Under Grey Skies, when we sing the last chorus together,
I really like how it interacts and mix. A distinctive sound which I
really like. (Thomas:) And it paints a
kind of a picture in your mind too. Probably when we do that on the
show, with Charlotte being there, that'll be a really nice moment for
Tobbe: You're working with Sascha again,
for the 8th studio record straight, so what's so special with his involvement?
Thomas: He's like a sixth member, honestly. He
was one of the first guys to really take the original Kamelot and then
help us to kind of hone our sound. The first professional producer I
think we worked with. He also really cares about the band and also making
sure the record is Kamelot. What's cool about Sascha is that if there's
something that I'm not really sure about, like a part, he kind of represents
the fans in a way over the years, to go "No, trust me. They're
gonna like this." and that's kind of a cool thing.
Tobbe: That was a big leap, from your 3rd
record [Siége Perilous] to The Fourth Legacy.
Thomas: Yeah, I think that that was a big turning
point in the band's career, going to Germany and working with those
guys. Who knows what happens in the future, but for this record, we
wanted to work with Sascha. You know, there's a lot of things involved
with it. Loyalty, friendship and of course what he brings to the table.
(Tommy:) One thing that's very important
is that he actually cares about the music. You're very close with the
producer and the producer is like a member of the band and really cares
about the outcome. He doesn't wanna let it go before he thinks it's
perfect, you know. Which is also very cool, because if you don't have
a producer for example, it's also very hard to get that objective look.
Tobbe: This is Kamelot's 11th album, so
why should any fan buy this album instead of something from your back
catalogue? Why Haven and not one of your other releases?
Thomas: Well, they should buy both. (Tommy:)
They should buy all 11. (Thomas:) I mean,
it's gonna be the new songs that we play live of course and it's Kamelot,
but it's different, so there's gonna be a lot of music on this record
for the fans to get into and they're gonna listen to it 3 or 4 times
and still haven't heard half of it.
Tobbe: Yeah, I've listened to it 7 times
and soon I'm about to get into it.
Tomy: They should also buy it, because we put
a shitload of work into it and we're really proud of it. It was really
many months of blood, sweat and tears and we really want the people
to know the songs when we get out there. (Thomas:) Another
thing too, like I think fans might not understand is that buying records
has a lot to do with touring. If you go to a promoter, for example Sweden,
and they go "Okay. What did you chart? You charted at the Top 10?
Yeah, we're gonna definitely book you.". You know what I mean?
Even though you might have illegally downloaded 10 times more than some
other band, they don't care, because they can't bank on that. You know,
they can't depend on that, so I always try to urge the fans to go out
and get the record and get it the first week too, for those chart positions.
I mean, for us, there's no ego thing about it. It's about making sure
we come to play where we can, 'cause I hate it when fans go "Why
aren't you coming here?" and I go "Did you buy the record?",
I and a few people I know still buy records.
Tommy: Well, actually metal fans and hard rock
fans are some of the last outposts of people that really buy albums
anymore. They care about having something psychical to look at and to
read the booklet. (Thomas:) Yeah, the new
booklet is like slamming. I mean, we have also this earbook that has
48 pages. It's really well done and the art is one of the things that
we put a lot of energy into. I go crazy when I hear some artist saying
"Nobody buys records anymore", because that's not true. At
least not for Kamelot fans. They still buy the records and as long as
they're buying records, we're gonna make everything as good as possible
Tobbe: Is it tempting to use too much of
today's technology during recordings? Like overuse stuff, or do you try
to keep it on a decent level?
Tommy: It is tempting, but that doesn't mean
that you should do it. We think about it all the time, if we can do
the things live. If not, then we shouldn't do it, because we're still
a live band and we wanna keep playing live and present the full picture
to the audience. (Thomas:) I have some
friends that are in bands and when you listen to them live, it's like
crazy how much stuff that's coming from the backtracks, like massive
stuff. But I think we still wanna have that metal show, so those little
things like big quires or symphonic parts, they're still there, but
it's not like it's overpowering the PA.
Tobbe: So what's the biggest challenge of
singing Kamelot songs and especially the new ones?
Tommy: Learning them, 'cause I have a memory
like a goldfish memory. No, I mean, the new ones, I'm definitely learning
them, because I have spent so many hours standing in the studio and
thinking about details and then you back off a little bit and see the
whole picture and learn them in its entirety. The older songs, I mean,
they're challenging, because Roy was a great singer and I have to push
myself to really make them shine. So far it has been working and I really
enjoy singing the old songs as well, because I think they're really
awesome songs and really good melodies.
Tobbe: Speaking about old songs and your
setlist. You have played Karma, a few songs from The Black Halo, Center
Of The Universe, and Forever, and maybe Ghost Opera and Rule The World
quite a bit at this point. Will you try to change to different songs from
Thomas: Yeah, I think it was a comfort level
too, with Tommy coming in, and not changing too much, but with the new
tour coming up we're gonna have of course 3 or 4 brand new songs from
the album Haven. Yeah, it's time to shake up the setlist, you know.
I was talking to someone yesterday in Finland and the guy wants us to
play the whole Haven album live and it's the first time I actually thought
that was something we could do, because I think all the songs would
be really great live. Then I asked "What do we do with songs like
Center Of The Universe or March Of Mephisto?". "Yeah, yeah.
You can throw those out." he said. I told him we're gonna come
out with March Of Mephisto, which is a song we always ended with.
Tobbe: Yeah, I remember asking you that
last time, if you were gonna end your shows always with March Of Mephisto
and you told me that you didn't actually know.
Thomas: Probably, the show in London [March
14th] was the last time we did that. I mean, except maybe for the DVD
So when will we see another DVD from Kamelot?
Thomas: I'm hoping on this tour coming up, that
we're gonna shoot it. Where and when, it's all debatable. We're also
processing and talking to different record labels about, you know, giving
it to them. It's something that we wanna do. We were talking about doing
it on Silverthorn and it never happened. There's a good chance it could
be like different shows. We might shoot the show here in Stockholm or
in Gothenburg and then the Oslo show. That would be really cool to have,
like something different, so it's not just like one show. (Tommy:)
That also costs more money. Also, like you mentioned earlier, we never
wanna repeat ourselves. When we do something, we wanna do it better
than before, and different. It's also challenging in planning something
like this, to really make it stand up.
Tobbe: It's good to have a goal, but it
can be challenging indeed to always improve. You put maybe too much pressure
Thomas: Yeah, and sometimes if you put too much
pressure on it, then it might never happen, so you gotta at some point
go "Okay, this is what we gonna do and we're gonna make it
That's probably what'll happen. Maybe picking 2 shows and then I wanna
make sure we have some cool guests like Alissa and Elize [Ryd] or if
I can get Shagrath [Dimmu Borgir] to show up.
Tobbe: Elize is not on the new album.
Thomas: It's a matter of timing and also her
schedule with her band [Amaranthe] made it pretty much impossible.
Tobbe: So Tommy, how do you combine your
work nowadays, with Kamelot and Seventh Wonder?
Tommy: It's hard and I also have a day job. I
have to combine 3 full-time jobs into one, so it's really hard. Kamelot
is more traveling and more of everything. Every day just has 24 hours
and I try to divide it into periods of time, so when I do Kamelot, I
do Kamelot and after that I try to recoup what I missed on the other
stuff. But it's hard. It's a really big challenge, I would say.
Tobbe: If we take a look at the whole Kamelot
experience. Has the development of the band been intentional or does things
just come natural from your side?
Thomas: It's a mixture of both, I think. Hopefully
it means that we're growing as artists. We also know that we'd like
to develop our sound and change and evolve. Adding some modern metal
elements to Haven, I think is part of that evolution for Kamelot. It's
what we wanted for this record, bring things a little more into the
present and future, versus the 17th century type of story. It's gonna
be fun, I think, when the videos come out. And the tour. You know, we
can have a little bit different kind of stage setup. It's gonna be exciting
also: review of the album