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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 activities.

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.

Tobbe: 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 this time?

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. It's cool.

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… (Tommy:) 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.

(Tommy:) 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 the crowd.

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?", you know.

Tobbe: 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 for them.

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 those albums?

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 shoot.

Tobbe: 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 on yourselves.

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…killer.". 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 for everybody.

See also: review of the album Haven

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