Metal Rules!! Interview
With Kamelot's Thomas Youngblood - January 29th, 2000
GODLY!! That was my
reaction upon hearing Kamelot's latest offering "The Fourth
Legacy." This CD has everything - the fast aggressive double kickers,
excellent lead guitars, great vocals, the melodic, the gentle, the
thoughtful. Upon first listen it's understandable to assume this is a
European band. However, the band are based out of TAMPA, Florida, USA!
They are getting excellent push from their label, Noise Records, for this,
their second CD to be released in North America. So some of
us have some catching up to do. Fans of power / melodic bands should do
themselves a favor and check this band out today!
I was given the honor to
talk with Kamelot's guitarist - Thom Youngblood.
Hey Thomas, where are you calling me from?
From Northern Virginia.
Is that where you're from, or isn't Tampa your home?
That's where I'm living now. I move back to Florida in the summertime.
You'll have to forgive my voice, it's totally fried. I just got back from Europe, did like 100 interviews and
I'm a bit sick so I probably sound like Peter Steel. (laughs)
So is Kamelot based out of Tampa, Florida
Yeah our home base is in Tampa. That's where we started and basically everybody is there except for Roy (Khan) but he's going to be moving to Florida after the summer as well.
Is he still living in Norway now?
Yeah, he lives in Oslo at the moment.
When I first heard Kamelot I thought you were a European
band...do a lot of people assume that when they first hear the music?
Yeah usually. Like I said, I did a lot of interviews in Europe, and a lot of the people thought that we were a European band. My response is usually, most of our influences have been European groups from Iron Maiden to Priest to one of my guitar idols Michael
Schenker or (Yngwie) Malmsteen. I think that whole thing is part of the reason that we get this euro-metal tag.
Do you mind or is that cool with you?
No, I don't mind it. I mean, like I said most of the groups that I like were always European bands so... I don't think that nowadays that there's not any real sound to particular metal
bands. The world has gotten so much smaller and everybody are fans of different types of music so...unless you're from the really early 80's, most bands really have their own sound now.
Is you main fan-base basically in Europe?
Yeah but it's spreading though. The US has gotten much better. Our last record (Siege
Perilous) was released here which was the first time that any Kamelot record came out here. I think this new record is really gonna help us in the US. We've always had fans in Europe and Japan, but with this new record I think the US and South America is going to really broaden for us.
So you expect the new CD will do well in North America?
Yeah absolutely. the last record did pretty well here and I think that this record is by far a better one. The songs are better, we took our time more in every aspect of the production. Roy is a full-time member now and he had more time to contribute and really put his mark on the record. I think if people liked the last record they'll definitely like the new one.
Have you gotten to play in Norway, considering that Roy is Norwegian?
No we haven't actually. The thing is, the Norwegian market is very small and unless you are a pretty big band, it doesn't make sense to tour up there. One day we would like to of course.
Mark Vanderbilt was the vocalist on the first couple of Kamelot CD's and he was replaced by Roy on your last CD
"Siege Perilous." Can you tell me what happened that caused the vocal change?
After we released our second record "Dominium" we had this tour with Virgin Steele and Angra for Europe. Basically two
guys in the group - the drummer and the singer - said they couldn't go like one week before the tour was to happen. We thought this was pretty ridiculous for the rest of the guys in the band and also for all the fans because it was a very short tour and we just kinda felt like they were afraid to play. So we
kind of had to make a decision, it was more of a damage control with the record company than anything else. Actually Mark and I are still really good friends. It was just one of those things that was strictly...I mean for Mark's sake it was strictly business and nothing personal.
So obviously Khan had a bigger input this time around. I guess this input has strengthened the Kamelot sound quite a bit?
Absolutely. He is experienced coming from a group like Conception, he had a lot of experience and songwriting ability and he brought that to the table. As a team, I've brought some things that he never had experienced before. So it was really cool and the combined friendship that we have now really added to the strength of the songwriting and also when it came down to
recording - we had a great time doing it and I think it comes through on the record.
I hear you are still working with Mark Vanderbilt for a project called Monarque. Can you tell me what is the status of this project and could you describe the music?
It's very much on the back-burner right now. I've basically given the idea to Mark and he likes it but it's up to him to really make it happen because he's really the kind of person that you have to push and I want him to just push to make it happen.
We have a few songs written and basically the sound is similar to older Kamelot but Mark is actually going to be playing guitar on it and doing a lot of the writing himself so he's going to bring in a lot of his own influences from what he grew up with which is more like Maiden and stuff like that.
You are a partner or part owner of an indie label named KMI Records??
Yeah it's just a small independent record company that I started and we released Power Quest - The Awakening CD with some unsigned American bands. Right now I really don't have a lot of time to dedicate to it, but eventually we want to start signing different bands and releasing them. Because
a lot of American bands don't get a chance to get heard so we really want to represent a lot of those groups that are like that.
So is it basically a metal label?
Yeah, well the first releases will be all metal but if some artists come to us that we feel is interesting and really making a statement about something, then we would look at releasing their material as well.
What do you look for when scouting bands to sign for this type of label?
I really look at the vocalist first. If they have a good vocalist,
that's the most important thing for any metal band especially. Then I listen to the professionalism in the song-writing and the tightness of the recordings - that type of thing.
You are obviously then a very busy guy then - Kamelot, Kamelot website, the Monarque project, some writing with Ian Parry for his Consortium Project, KMI Records and on and on...How do you find the time, and does it sometimes get too much for you to handle?
Well it kinda is. With this new Kamelot record I put much more time into the writing process and I think it paid off. I think it's important to continue that and keep this standard that we've set and to continue to make it better. Projects like the Ian Parry project and things like that I probably won't be doing as much of. My priority has to be Kamelot and in the end that's what really pays off. If you try to do too much then everything will be done half-assed and I don't want that (laughs).
OK let's talk a bit about the new Kamelot CD "The Fourth Legacy" How long did this one take to write?
I would say it took about four months to write, not really 8 hours a day but just when inspiration hit we would sit down and start working on things...so I would say about four months.
And how long were you in the studio for the recording?
We recorded for two months and we took about three weeks to mix. Also, part of the writing process was done in Norway. Roy and I really work quick together.
So I came to him with a lot of ideas, and he had a lot of ideas written down. Then when we got together in Norway we basically finished the whole record and did pre-production in Florida.
Yeah I heard the the pre-production was done in Florida and then you went to Germany for the recording. Why did you split it like that, why not do it all in
Florida or all in Germany?
Well the producer we decided to use, his studio is in Germany. Everybody was basically living down in
Florida at the time, and you know Roy loves to come over to Florida to get away from the cold (laughs)! So we kind of made it like a working vacation and it was a great atmosphere to do the pre-production. We basically went over the songs and made sure we knew what we were going to do when we actually started recording.
So your producer was Sascha Paeth right...
Yeah Sascha and Miro.
Miro did a lot of the orchetrations and keybords...
Yeah he did all the keyboard parts and orchestral arrangements...an
incredible talented guy. We were fortunate to have him play keyboards. He's probably going to play keyboards on at least our next two records for us.
So how much of an influence do you think both those guys had into the sound of "The Fourth Legacy"?
Like any producer, they have a certain influence on the
sound but we basically went to them with the songs as they are and they kinda made them better in a way...made the production cleaner and more solid. I really wanted a producer that would kick our ass in the studio - and that's what Sascha did. He made sure we
weren't lazy and that's really important because sometimes if you are used to the same producer all the time they kind of let things slide. But Sascha had never met us and he really had a standard that he had set for himself and for other bands so I was really glad to see that.
You used an Arabian musician for "Desert Reign" - the intro to "Nights of Arabia" - did you compose that piece with him, or did he have creative control over what he would write for the intro?
No, most of the stuff I had composed on the keyboards. I use keyboard sounds and I went to Miro and Sascha with this idea and they were really
adamant about making it authentic and I loved that idea because a lot of producers just want to cut corners but they wanted to make it sound as authentic as possible. So they took the basic ideas, which are the same, but it just sounds just so much more authentic now, it sounds real.
"The Shadow of Uther" has a very memorable melody, it's been rattling around in my
head, and I can't get it out of there, for like the past week! I was wondering was this written on a flute or was it written on guitar first?
That was written on guitar actually. The whole ending outro section was an idea of Miro's which we thought was brilliant.
Yeah it's REALLY cool how the song fades and that kicks in...
Yeah but the original idea was written on guitar, it's the type of
melody that you can play it on guitar or flute or almost any instrument and it still has that same catchy kind of melody.
Yeah it's definitely catchy...it's one of my favorite songs on the album.
So what are you going to do now when you play live, is Miro going to be able to tour with you or will you have someone as a hired gun to fill in?
We're not sure. We're going to talk to him about touring but if not we have another keyboardist that will tour with us. As far as reproducing the things live, we're not at all concerned about it. A lot of the things are rearranged for guitar but first we're going to see if Miro's going to be able to
tour. If not we have a guy, who actually used to tour with Savatage, that will probably tour with us.
I assume that with this keyboard thing...is this something where you want to
get a keyboardist in the band, or you're happy with the situation to bring someone out on tour and use Miro in the studio??
That's the way we want it right now. With Dave, after he
toured in 1998 he wanted to take some time off and he's raising a family - that type of thing.
So we totally respect that. Basically we'll continue like we are now and if he wants to come back into the group he's more than welcome. But we feel that the way the chemistry is now where
Roy and I do the keyboards and give it to somebody to record is the best for us right now.
I assume that's you playing the classical guitar sounding
beginning to "Glory"? Did you receive any formal training in that style of playing where it's so different sounding form the
rest of the guitars on the album?
I took classical guitar lessons from a Greek guitarist when I first started playing. He taught me
finger picking styles and that type of thing. That's basically where I learned it from. After about a year though I really got bored with formal training and just started goofing around on my own.
So in the formative years who were your big influences
and who today can you still listen to and appreciate?
I really liked Michael Schenker, I liked Al Dimeola, I liked Malmsteen but no so much for his solos - I really liked him because of the different elements that he brought in to his music and also his style of rhythm I thought was really cool. So that's the guys.
Do you still listen to the new material by these guys?
I listened to the last Schenker record...and Malmsteen, I know he's got a new record out but I haven't heard it actually. I don't really get a chance to listen to a lot of different stuff right now. I listen to a lot of new age music and things like that.
New age music you said??
Yeah actually, stuff like Persian new age music which is part of the inspiration for "Arabia." Also a lot of Celtic stuff.
Well all I listen to is metal so I wouldn't know any of the artists.
What inspires your lyrics? You obviously have an interest in history with a name like Kamelot. Do you read
a lot of history?
A lot of things inspire us lyrically. Some of the songs are about religion and
spirituality. We still have songs that are based in the tales of Camelot with "Shadow of Uther." I think on this record we tried to be more diverse with our lyrical content. We really don't want to be stuck as a fantasy type of band only.
Some of the songs like "Glory" you mentioned earlier is about a crusader who's kind of questioning his faith...he's killing in the name of god. These type of subjects we've really been thinking about. So it's important for us to start infusing different lyrical themes into our albums.
There's one song on there that even for Kamelot is kind of experimental and that would be "Lunar Sanctum." It sounds
different from the other songs on the album. What's the story behind the music in that song.
Mostly that was a song that Roy had. He originally had said 'hey check this song out' and he said 'I don't think it will fit the album.' But I said 'no way we'll use it, it's a cool song.' Even though it's a little bit different, the textures of the song are a little different from what we've done but it's important, for him as a song writer, to contribute to the
music as well. And that's kinda where that came from.
Can you give me some kind of idea on what the song is about lyrically? I read the lyrics and they are pretty
ambiguous as to what exactly it's about.
(laughing) Yeah it was supposed to be that way. We really want the fans to look into the meaning of the lyrics. Like I said, if you take some of the basic threads of some of the songs, and some of the
religious aspects of them, you can kind of get an idea on what the song is about.
So what is your stance then on religion? Like you said earlier about the things people do
in the name of god that is really just an excuse for doing something that is really ungodly.
I dunno, I mean people have kind of gotten away from the different things of religion and
spirituality and things like that. I really don't want to preach what my religious kind of faith is but I think if you read into some of the lyrics you can get an idea as to where we are coming from.
What are Kamelot's plans for the near future, any touring planned?
Yeah we're talking about some plans with Crimson Glory about possibly touring Europe. So we should have some information soon about whether we're gonna do that or not. There's some festivals in the summertime that we're talking about doing. Also with America, we're kind of waiting to see if something really cool comes along because if we're going to tour America it has to be a tour that we feel is going to be worth taking that much time off for because just with it being such a big country you know.
We'd be gone at least three or four months.
Have you been able to
play any shows in the Tampa area where all you guys have basically been based there?
Yeah, last year in late '98, before we toured, we played a couple of shows in Tampa and we'll do the same this year. Especially if we do the tour with Crimson Glory, we're going to do a couple of shows in the Tampa Bay area, probably in late March or April.
Do you think a tour could go over well for the states - because it seems as if a lot of bands tour Europe and if they get over to the States they play clubs with a couple of hundred people.
It's hard to say right now. It doesn't really make sense for us to do an American tour unless it's a big package. I think maybe if some record companies would get together and
put together sort of a festival type of tour with five bands...you know I think that's what it's going to take to attract enough people to make it worth while. So we would be glad to be a part of something like that.
How would you describe the Kamelot sound then - do you think it fits in under the power metal tag or would you just call it metal, progressive metal or just Kamleot?
I definitely don't feel that Kamelot is progressive because I grew up listening to some
progressive bands and we could be ten times more progressive so...I would say that we are more of a power / melodic metal band with some progressive influences. It's hard to say, I mean I really don't like tags and that kind of stuff.
It's a good starting point maybe, but you can't get too hung up on it.
Yeah. And also it puts you in a box. with this new record we really challenge the fans to have an open mind and I think Kamleot fans have always had that - it's great. The record is very diverse but it's still our best so far.
Yeah, definitely...songs like "Until Kingdom Come" and "The Fourth Legacy" are really up-tempo and just awesome. Then you got a song like "Lunar Sanctum" which is different and a ballad "A Sailorman's Hymn"...it's not just straight ahead one type of music, that's for sure.
No, and as musicians that would bore us and I think our fans are intelligent enough to appreciate that as well. There a a lot of
groups that do that - every song is fast or whatever - but that's really not our style. We did intentionally write faster songs on this one, basically because we had a drummer that can do it. It's the kind of stuff we like to play live too.
I just want to make one comment about the album cover. The artwork is amazing.
The only thing I found kinda funny was when I got the album I said 'this looks familiar' - I pulled out my Nocturnal Rites CD and thought 'hmm...same artist?' It has someone walking up the stairs, back on, holding the sword and instead of the "K" in the crest there's a "NR."
I had heard about this and had saw on your website this
ahhhh..."point of interest" thing. I looked at it and Roy and I were talking about it
and kind of laughing because I mean...first of all Derek Gores (the artist we've used for five years now) doesn't even listen to music, much less metal. So there is no way he would know about the Nocturnal Rites cover. Actually the sword was something we added in the end. We originally had the holy grail. I think the whole walking up the steps to the altar thing is very common in fantasy art and also in movies like in Conan I remember this stairway to the altar type of thing. But it is kind of funny, we thought it was really funny (laughs).
Yeah when I got it I was like 'my god...' It's nothing negative, just an observation.
Yeah I think it's funny...I don't know what else to say about it. I know it was
completely coincidence but we're really happy with the cover. It really symbolizes the songs we have on the record and we look at the girl as kind of Kamelot where we are at now, going into the future with this light at the end of the tunnel. A lot of people look at it from a sexual standpoint but that was never the intention. It was always for the beauty of the female, never from the sexual side. I think that's an immature way of looking at it.
Well people will perceive things differently anyway. It depends on where their mind is at...in the gutter or...
Well that's all the questions I had for ya. Good luck with the release of "The Fourth Legacy" in the states and I hope it does for you there what it's been doing for you in Europe and Japan.
Yeah, the reviews have been incredible. Like I said I was in Europe for two weeks and the reviews have just been
incredible so we're really happy with it.
Well as far as I'm concerned, so far this is the best CD I've heard in 2000 - and that's not blowing
smoke either man.
Awesome, cool. Thanks for your support!
Official Website: www.kamelot.com