Heart of Steel: Interviews

Interview with vocalist Roy Khan

Interview by EvilG
Transcription by Waspman

I've interviewed Kamelot twice in the past and both times it was with guitarist Thom Youngblood. This time I got the opportunity to speak with the voice of Kamelot - Roy Khan.  I mainly spoke to Roy about the new Kamelot album EPICA, but I also snuck in a few questions about his past with Conception and some other tidbits of information about the band's future plans.

Roy at Wacken 2001Let's start out and talk about EPICA, your new album. I just want to say that it's my favorite Kamelot album so far, and it's awesome! You did a really great job!

Oh, thanks man!

How do you think the band manages to be so productive and yet so creative and surprise fans while having and album out almost every year?

Hmm, I don't know! All I know is that we try to make sure that it's interesting to ourselves. We always try to find some new challenges or pick up new things and that makes the whole thing interesting to us. If people out there like it, that is a really cool bonus.



When you set out to begin the new album, did you originally plan to make a concept album?

Yeah. That's also what we said before KARMA, though that didn't really turn out to be a concept album. We actually started right after THE FOURTH LEGACY, and it's been cookin' over the last two-and-a-half years. It wasn't until the production of KARMA that we actually found a concept. We're extremely happy that we manages to fulfill our vision of making a concept album that was really different from many of the ones you'd hear these days and make it really visual and theatrical.



So who read the book Faust ( J. W. Von Goethe) first? Was it you? What about it caught your attention to make it the basis for EPICA?

I read it ten years ago, and I guess it wasn't until the KARMA production that I suggested that Faust be the background for the concept. I don't know. It's one of the biggest classics, and it's got a very clear definition between evil and good, and the grandness of it. The guy spent his whole life dealing with themes that pretty much line up with styles of lyrics that we've written in the past.


I like the fact that you've chosen something that sets you apart from the demons, dragons and wizards.

We talked about doing some sort of a Tolkien thing at the beginning when we were first discussing it. We threw that one away.



Before you started writing, did you guys re-read the book, or do much research? Did you really want to closely follow the book?

Well, I re-read it, and there was some research, definitely. We also combined or tried to use other things, we didn't stick 100 percent to the story.



In a nutshell, what is "EPICA"?

Well, first of all, it is a place in the story. That's where we get to in part two. It's also describing the inner universe or the epicenter of the universe. It's also describing the most epic Kamelot album to date.



What does the word "epic" mean to you and how do you think your music fits into that description?

At least in the lyrics...they're dealing with universal kinds of questions. To me that is epic. Also, the use of big choirs and heavy symphonics.



Sascha and Miro again produced for you guys, and I was wondering how much of an impact they had on the realization of songs that you hear at the end of the day?

It is more hearable on some songs than others. For example the song "Helena" it's extremely properly arranged. When we wrote it was way simpler arranged than what you hear on the record. Other songs sound more or less exactly like on the demo, structure-wise and melodies.



At the beginning of "Edge of Paradise" there's an interlude there that begins with some sort of, I assume that it's Latin, do you know what that translates into in English?

That Latin is just there, to sound Latin, it's woman saying something about God, and love.

Does anyone in the band speak any Latin?

No, no. I called my mother from the studio, and I told her what kind of syllables that I needed, and that it had to be kind of serious.

So your mom speaks Latin?

She's a professor in French, so she has at least a little bit more than me (laughs).



At the beginning of one of the other interludes, there's a narration part that begins with someone's voice saying "Make way, please make way". Right after that, I couldn't make out what is said, do you happen to know? I've turned it up about 19 times trying to figure it out! (laughs) It really bugs me because I don't have the lyric sheet yet!

Um, oh yeah, "Our host is making his entré".

Ah! Oh, OK. I was wondering what that was.  Is that your guest "vocalist" speaking that part?


Is there a reason why you got him to speak as opposed to singing?

No, not really. Just to have a different voice. The part of the town crier has a very powerful, strong British accent. He's a pretty good actor. We had a lot of fun with him. We just wanted him to do this, town crier kind of thing and it sounds great.

Kamelot itself to me, to everybody obviously, is quite a diverse band. I was wondering what style do you think best describes your sound or do you detest labels on music?

To me it's really melodic power metal with progressive elements.


That sums it up pretty good I think. Some bands - you ask them what style of music are you, and they'd say "metal". That might be OK to someone who's into the band, but someone who's never heard the band might need a frame of reference. One of the other staff members here at Metal-Rules is a big fan of your previous band Conception, and he wanted me to ask you about the end of Conception. He hasn't read much of why the band ended.

Yeah, we were going on tour with Stratovarius and Elegy, and somehow four or five days before the tour was supposed to start the label called and told us that we were thrown off the tour. That was one thing. Me, and Tore, and Ingar were all doing projects on the side. It felt kind of right to take a break at that time. At least that's what we thought it was back then. We'll see.



Do you keep in touch with the former members? Specifically I was wondering if you keep in touch with Tore, and what he's been up to since Ark disbanded?

Sure, I still talk to all of them.

And is Tore doing anything new in terms of a new band?

He's working on Ark.

I thought Ark disbanded?

No, I don't think so. Jorn quit, but they're still going on.



I've also read where you mentioned that maybe the Conception breakup wasn't really that, but more of a "let's stop for now". I know you're obviously very busy with Kamelot, but do you think the idea of another Conception album might be realized one day?




When you originally got the offer from Thom to join Kamelot, did he know you from Conception or did the label recommend you?

He knew about us. I think he read about us on the Internet. He got my father's phone number or something.



I've also read that you've had ongoing plans for a solo album. Is there any new news you could give us on that?

Not really. The problem is that I'm way too busy. When you've got a five month production behind you, you don't really feel to eager to start a new one.

In terms of other power metal bands that are similar in style to you, do you listen to those types of bands or keep up with what they're doing? Or do you distance yourselves from that?

Well, I get CDs once in awhile, and that's pretty much the only way I keep updated in this genre. I don't really buy, or listen to music the way I used to.



Is there anything that you are listening to right now that you've bought or received, metal or otherwise that caught your attention?

Right now? Not really. Maybe something jazzy.



Do you listen to your own work with Kamelot or Conception after you've recorded it?

Yeah, I still listen to it.



Your vocal style is also unique. A lot of singers just emulate singers from the past. With your voice no one can say "well, he sounds like..." You sound like yourself. I was wondering who have you have been inspired by, or who you think has been an influence on your voice?

I would say that the two most important bands or artists are A-ha and Geoff Tate from Queensryche. The first one, was the first one that made me see that I like those kind of high shining vocals and melancholy lyrics and melodies. And RAGE FOR ORDER in 1985 was great and they were up until 1990. Of course, a lot of other artists from pop and jazz. I had my classical period.



Do you do anything special to keep your voice in shape? Are there things you don't do?

Not really. I mean, I don't do anything.

You don't drink special herbal teas or something? (laughs)

I drink a lot of green tea. But, I don't really do anything special.


Thom at Wacken 2001

Back when you first started singing, did you take any formal vocal lessons or are you self-taught?

I went to school to begin with. Then I had two or three years of lessons from opera teachers in Norway.

So you can sing more of an opera style?

Not really. (laughs) I could, more or less, but it's a totally different direction.



In terms of the upcoming tour, are there any new countries on the tour list that you'll have a chance for new fans to see you?

I hope so! I really think so. It looks like we'll be finally playing down in Brazil now, and we had a request to play in Japan, Canada seems likely, Finland.

You're playing in Sweden at the RockFest.

Yeah, Sweden. Norway also.

Have you played in Norway before?

No, actually, not with Kamelot.



You're from Norway. Is Kamelot well known over there?

Well, it's well known in this small scene mostly. I'd say that Norway is pretty much like America maybe, and not really much into melodic metal.



Do you still live in Norway? Or do you split between Florida maybe?

No, not really. Last year I spent most of my time outside of Norway.



Do you have to work outside of Kamelot, or has your business and your hobby become one?

No, I don't have to work now. Other than doing interviews (laughs). That doesn't mean that I don't want to work though. Working on new songs. I really like doing something totally different. I've had all kinds of different jobs along the way, that I could do once in awhile. I just don't want to get stuck with music being my job, that wouldn't be any fun.


Obviously I assume that it's still fun for you?

Oh yeah, absolutely. I think that's extremely important.



All of the reviews that I've seen listed on Kamelot.com have so far rated EPICA very high. So far, is this your highest rated album by the press?


Do you think, it might be too early to tell, but are initial sales seeming to be pretty strong?


That's great. Hopefully it will outdo your other ones in terms of sales.

Yeah. I mean, we know that for sure already.



One quick question, your last name, or your first name, Khan. Is that your real name?

No, it's like the first half of my last name.

You're not a descendent of Genghis Khan are you? (laughs)

(laughs) No, not that I know of.



My last question, you may not have an answer for, but basically, Kamelot has continued to grow and evolve over the last few years, and things have gotten a lot bigger in the last 3 or 4 years. Where do you think things will go in the future? Do you even look to the future, or do you just take it day by day?

I kind of take it more day by day. Of course, there are a lot of plans in my life, at least the goals that we set and the way we plan to get there changes all the time. We just want to make it happen.



The last time I interviewed Thom in 2003, he mentioned that Kamelot would be putting out a DVD. I was wondering if that was something that was put on the backburner, or will it be out this year or next year?

We're talking to the label right now. Well, we'll see. We'll definitely want to...we're thinking that EPICA is only part one, there will be a part II, so whether a DVD comes out now or after that doesn't matter. We might wait until after part II to do anything serious when it comes to something like this on stage.



The last song on the album is "III Ways to Epica", and the liner notes mentioned that it closes part 1 of the concept. Does that mean that there will be three parts or just the two parts?

The idea is to; this part of EPICA is based on the first part of Faust. The first part being the description of the inner universe or the micro cosmos, the second part being the opposite of the ego, of the individual, about the outer universe and society and such.

EPICA Strikes Back? (laughs)

(laughs) Just part two.



OK, well that's everything I had, is there any closing words or anything you'd like to mention?

Ahh, not really. I hope that we get to play some more in America this time. Cross your fingers!

You have played in Florida before right?

Yeah, we played there, and also headlined ProgPower 2 years ago with Symphony X.

That would probably a good match-up for you guys, Kamelot and Symphony X.

Yeah, that would be great.



Do you find that the market and fan base is growing for those styles of bands?

I have absolutely no idea about America. I know it grew some from SIEGE PERILOUS to FOURTH LEGACY, and from there to KARMA. Right now, I don't think it's out in America yet.

It comes out in February. Hopefully people will be excited and go buy it!

Yeah, for sure!



Thanks again for your time.

It was a pleasure.

And thanks for the album, I looks forward to many more.

Me too (laughs).


Official Website: www.kamelot.com

Kamelot reviews in Metal-Rules.com
The Expedition
The Fourth Legacy

Past Kamelot Interviews in Metal-Rules.com
Thom Youngblood (May 2001)
Thom Youngblood (Jan. 2000)


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