Heart of Steel: Interviews

Interview with Thomas Youngblood of KAMELOT

Interviewed by EvilG

This is my second time interviewing Thomas, the first being for the release of Kamelot's THE FOURTH LEGACY, and now for the promo of their new album KARMA. Although this band plays melodic / symphonic metal...they have a sound all their own. In this interview we talked about the new CD, the meanings of some of the songs, DVD plans, touring, guest musicians and for educational value you can find out just what a Shakuhachi is!! So read on and enjoy.


How's everything going?

Oh, I canīt complain. The new recordīs doing great. We entered the German charts in the top 100 and we have some cool festivals weīre going to do this summer. Weīre getting ready to start writing for the next record too.

Already? [Yeah!] (laughing) Thatīs good. Itīs good to have a band youīre into thatīs busy. [We definitely stay busy...] Not like SLAYER with ten years between albums, eh? (both laughing) Iīd like to jump right in to talk about your new cd "Karma". First, I must say itīs an excellent follow up to "The Fourth Legacy" and very fitting follow up at that. Iīd like you to tell me a little about the title "Karma" and what significance it has to you?

Well, we didnīt come up with the title until we were halfway in the middle of actually recording the songs. Kahn and myself are like basically best friends. We have to be because we spend so much time writing and then you know when the band tours and stuff. I think for both of us we started analyzing kind of the way things are going in our lives and we really feel that, I mean, it sounds a little bit corny but we really feel the way we treat other people has a huge impact on the way our lives turns out and the way things go for us. We want to be on that side of having good karma, you know. Itīs really true, it really fits perfectly into the musical theme that we have for the song 'Karma' and itīs sort of the whole kind of feeling we had during the recording process, songwriting process so it was like a perfect title for us.

 

I donīt guess either of you are Hindu or Budhist, right?

No of course not.

Thatīs where it originates from...

As far as religion goes we donīt really subscribe to any particular religion. The way god is represented but I donīt really subscribe to any particular religion. I basically feel that organized religion is more about separating than bringing people together, showing differences instead of what everybody has in common.

 

Right. How do some of the songs on the CD relate to the title "Karma" and would you say itīs somewhat of a theme that shows up in some of the songs besides the title track?

Well, "Karma" is definitely not a concept record but I guess with that mindset when youīre writing songs theyīre going to filter into the other songs. I mean, I think it is a song about trying to get the best of any situation thatīs handed to you and make the absolute best out of it. Thatīs any person or company that keeps you from your goals that you want to accomplish in life. Then you could look at the flipside with a song like "Elizabeth" about how this race against time and vanity is really destructive and really try to understand that life is not only about being beautiful and things like that.

 

In the song 'Karma' the line: "Who will trade his karma for my kindgom". What specifically was meant by that line, I was wondering?

Well, itīs hard for me. Iīm not really sure because that particular line was specially written by Kann. Itīs from a Kingīs perspective where heīs gone through life really treating people terribly and in the end he knows heīs going to die and he wants to trade this basically bad soul for his kingdom to make sure he doesnīt end up burning in hell or coming back as somebody. I think thatīs the viewpoint from that lyric.

 

Right. Very cool. Why did you decide to end the album with the three song trilogy about Elizabeth Bathory? I guess one  reason I wondered why is because of a lot of other bands, not necessarily Melodic Metal, but Black Metal type bands seem to love to sing about Countess Bathory. So why did a band like KAMELOT decide to cover that in a storyline?

Well, basically it is coincidental that other bands have done it before us because our personal viewpoint.. I have never heard of Elizabeth Bathory or even heard about the subject being sung about so itīs totally a sort of ignorant standpoint when we first started writing about it and I had said... initially talking about the idea of doing it. This song Elizabeth Bathory and later on we heard from different journalists about this band or here that Black Metal bands did this song. Not the song but they did this lyric. I found it kind of ironic but at the same time we knew that whatever, of course weīre not going to copy Black Metal bands. [No... laughing]. Weīre really proud of the song. So, it was just coincidence. I guess its a really cool thing for if you want to do a dark subject its really appropriate.

 

Yeah, definitely. The first time I heard it was of course VENOM 'Countess Bathory'. Theyīre the band that I originally heard it. I remember copy cat bands...

I heard of a group called BATHORY and I never really knew what that meant. Then, like I said after we had done some interviews regarding it I heard about VENOM and CRADLE OF FILTH. Thatīs not the worst company I mean weīre not into Black Metal but those are bands that are doing things...

 

Yeah, cool. I assume the woman on the cover of "Karma is supposed to be possibly Countess Bathory?

Yeah, thatīs KAMELOTīs version of Countess Bathory. (laughing)

I wasnīt sure at first but when I noticed she was standing in the crimson blood...

Itīs kind of funny because we got a little bit of flack for "The Fourth Legacy" but you know at the same time there was tons of feedback on the cover, especially the guys loved the cover of "Fourth Legacy". Uhm, it wasnīt really something we planned to do with this cover to have this beautiful woman on the cover again but it was just appropriate and doesnīt really hurt of course. In regards to KAMELOT we all love women. Weīre not going to put an ugly woman on the cover, it doesnīt make sense.

(laughing) True, true, plus it wonīt sell albums, eh? Some guy flickinī through cds is going to stop when he hits this album cover.

It doesnīt hurt but thatīs definitely not our plan from the start.

Oh, I know. It works on more than one level. (laughs) One of my favourite songs on Karma is "Across the Highlands'. Could you tell me the story behind that song?

Yeah, I mean I think itīs just basically taken from the story of Highlander. Thereīs a guy thatīs immortal and he kind of goes through centuries of being with people that he learns to love and know and the mortals they die on him as the years go by and he continues to live on. I think eventually he decides "look I want to see what this is about. I donīt really want to go through all these different lives around me dying on me without dying myself". Thatīs kind of where the viewpoint comes from.

 

Yeah, I thought it might have been about or related to the movie or your idea might have come from Highlander because I love the movie. That was my first thought especially with the line in there about "I am immortal".

Yeah, I mean, I guess we would never know unless we were immortal ourselves but Iīm sure just like everything you want to experience different things and you go through life, centuries of life with people dying on you it canīt be all that great.

No, I guess itīs got itīs good and bad, eh? (laughing) Probably more bad as the centuries go by.

I know I donīt want to be alive in 150 years. I donīt think I would like the way the world will be then, you know.

Youīre a pessimist? (laughs)

Well, Iīm not a pessimist I guess Iīm more of a realist. I think if If you look at the way history is and see the way things are going with commercialism of everything and love for materialism and money, things like that. Hopefully maybe there will be a renaissance to change it but I donīt think it will be within a hundred years.

(laughs) Hey man, youīve got to watch some Star Trek. That will give you a better outlook on the future! We wish! Another thing I notice about some of the songs on here is that there are a few songs that deal with "loss". For example the story about your dad "Donīt You Cry" and then thereīs "Forever" thatīs also about someone whoīs passed on. What message would you hope listeners would take away from the lyrics or listening to such songs?

Well, Iīm not really sure that weīre trying to send a message out. Both of those are kind of personal for Kahn and I about, I think the thing thatīs different about "Karma" is that weīve opened up a bit in our personal lives. With 'Donīt you Cry' itīs a song about my father that, Iīve never really expressed anything to basically any of my friends or anybody about the way I feel about this sort of guidance. Even though bad things do happen to me things seem to work out somehow, I donīt mean like the normal kind of way. Even in the worst situations things seem to work out. Even though I donīt really believe in angels. It seemed appropriate for the melancholy feel of the music. Really thatīs what inspired the lyrics for that song. With 'Forever' is taken from the viewpoint of someone that is dying but itīs actually more about a relationship that you have to ask the person "will you be there when I die" Thatīs what the real essence of that song is about.

Right. Interesting but both are true stories, obviously 'Donīt You Cry' is but 'Forever' also true. Itīs  based on something that actually happened to Kahn I assume?

Itīs based on a girlfriend Kahn has had for years and of course 'Forever' is about my father.

Right. Is there a song on "Karma" that is about the Camelot, King Arthur Knights of the Round Table deal or is this something you stayed away from this time around?

Thatīs a good question. I guess the closest thing would maybe be, well, actually we did a song on the Japanese Bonus disc that we did not put on the European release called 'Future King' which is about King Arthur. That song, you know, it just didnīt fit into the whole spirit of the record in a way. I mean, Iīm sure youīve heard with these Japanese releases you have to put these bonus songs on there. Even though the song is a good song from our opinion, but it just didnīt fit the spirit and just to put it on there just for the sake of the Camelot theme or King Arthur thing wouldnīt have made sense. Itīs hard to say. I think the style still captures the sort of thing about fantasy. The song is kind of a tribute to the people that really want this escape from the every day kind of life. The guys that are into fantasy and RPGīs or thereīs Star Trek like you mentioned. Things that are not of this world and thatīs kind of what that song is about. I guess itīs not any real reference to Camelot.

 

Is this something that youīll return to maybe on another album  [If possible] or is it something you personally wish you never started because you felt you had to do it every now and again?

Nah. I definitely donīt wish we had never started. I think hopefully the name, not the name of the band but the name Camelot transcends just the story of Camelot and King Arthur. I think itīs been used for different things and thatīs kind the way we want to use it as a band name. The next record we plan to do is going to be a full concept which will not be based on King Arthur so I can say that 99 percent that it wonīt be on the next record but I canīt say that it wonīt....

Any details being given out on what the concept is yet or is it still too early? 

No. We have the idea and thatīs what weīve been waiting for. Weīve been waiting for the right inspiration and you know weīve talked about doing a concept record and we finally feel that we have the right story to start with. I canīt really, I donīt want to elaborate on it yet because itīs still in the starting phase.

 

Yeah. Ok, thatīs understandable. I wanted to ask you about "guest musicians". There are a number who appear on your cds. Do your producers Sascha and Miro pick many of these musicians, or do you guys request who youīd like to show up on the cd yourself?

Itīs a combination I think. With the string players, the quartet guys (we didnīt know any quartet players), the violin players, our cellists. So Miro was basically totally in charge of finding people for that. When it came to background vocalist I suggested Olaf Hayer and Roy also suggested this girl from Norway. I canīt remember her name right now but.. (laughs)

She was the one who also sang on Luca Turilliīs album?.

No, she hasnīt sung on any Heavy Metal records. Sheīs a samba vocalist from Norway and her name is Liv Nina Mosven. So those are two people that we definitely wanted to have and you know Miro and Rizzo and Robert Rizzo they basically work with Sascha for a lot of projects and they kind of round out all the background vocal sessions anyway.

 

Can you tell me what song is Olaf Hayer doing backing vocals on?

Iīm not sure. [laughing] I would guess probably on 'Wings Of Despair' and 'Forever' and I think that might be the only two. Thatīs the only two I really hear good choir vocals on. Maybe 'Across the Highlands' too.

 

So you guys requested him yourself?

Yeah. Well he lives right there and basically in the same area as Sascha, so we knew that he was a high quality vocalist. So we wanted to have him on the record.

 

Cool. I wanted to ask something about an instrument I noticed in the list that Iīve never heard of probably because itīs a Japanese or something instrument. Itīs the "shakuhachi"? [shakuhachi, yeah] What is a "shakuhachi"?

Itīs a type of flute I think... (at this point something interrupts and heīs got to yell out "Heelllooooo! Iīm doing an interview!!") (both laughing) Itīs a type of flute that Iīm not sure I think itīs used in the middle of the ballad that we have and itīs also in the intro. 

 

And that leads me to my next question which is the orchestration, the guest musicians, the different instruments that you bring into your albums... Can you ever see a day when KAMELOT will do an album without orchestration or has this become such an integral part of your sound that it would be hard to dispense with using it?

Itīs hard to say. I mean, basically weīll probably always have a keyboard player and those are basically sample sounds of an orchestra. Thereīs not a lot of difference between the two other than thereīs a realism to using real strings and real orchestra compared to the synthetic, you know. I think if we were to use just keyboards a lot of people wouldnīt notice the difference really. For us we like to really try to do things now at a different level.

Right. I donīt think your fans would be too happy if you decided to drop it all anyway.

Well I mean it might be cool. I think thereīs some songs here actually where there is just a guitar, bass and drums. Thereīs a lot of different parts and thereīs not always strings going on, you know, which is if you listen to "Expedition" thereīs a lot of more raw sounding. I really like that sound too. Itīs different.

Youīre live album you mean? [Yeah] Yeah, right. Thatīs another thing, you guys have been pretty busy in the past couple of years. "The Fourth Legacy" being released in January 2000. Then you toured and released your "Exhibition" album in 2001 and here we are still in 2001 and we have ANOTHER album. So at this pace can the fans expect another studio album in 2002?

Uhhh, definitely. Weīll be in the studio probably March 2002. We do what we do full time now so itīs a little different then it was four years ago when we all worked and KAMELOT was more of a hobby, you know. Now this is what we do full time. We put all our energy and passion and time into what we are doing. Thereīs really no excuse not to do a new record every year. Except for Laziness.

 

(laughing) Yeah, true. I was wondering do you guys plan to pull an "ICED EARTH" and re-record your earlier albums or maybe just a couple of the songs with Kahn on vocals?

I wouldnīt mind doing a few songs. I wouldnīt want to do a whole album. I think thereīs something about the atmosphere and the time that those records where done that make it a special release for me. There are some songs that I think Kahn could have done better especially with that style that maybe where written more for that style of singer. But itīs going to be up to Roy if he wants to do that because you know, I donīt think heīs really inspired to go back and do old KAMELOT songs. I donīt blame him but it might be something we do as bonus tracks here and there.

 

Youīre about to begin a tour and there is one date in June in Florida and I read you are going to film the show, or at least one of the songs, for a video. So I just had a question about that regarding is it the full length home video you want to do or is it a one song video deal?

Well, what weīre going to do is weīre going to release a DVD called KAMELOT Raw. So weīre going to pull out a lot of videos from the last tour. Weīll pull out videos from the recording sessions of "Karma". Weīre going to take video from the Tampa show, kind of behind the scenes, rehearsals, all these little things that hopefully KAMELOT fans will find interesting and put that on DVD. So thatīs part of what the tapingīs going to be for that.

Excellent. Any idea when you might have that available?

Were looking for January 2002.

 

I think every band should have a DVD. I just got the STRATOVARIUS home DVD. Itīs excellent. Itīs kind of like what you said, like you get to see what the band is like. You get to see a bit of the off stage on stage. Itīs very cool.

I think especially for fans in North America maybe they donīt understand the Situation is different and Eruope and other countries but compared to here Itīs kind of hard to see that without actually SEEING it. Festivals are better over there with 50 thousand people or whatever. We just donīt have that sort of thing over here. I think it will be kind of neat for the North America fans.

Yeah, definitely. Weīre not spoiled by that stuff.

Speaking of that actually, the US version of "Karma" will include a bonus track and also hopefully the fifth CD weīve put together a little clip of some of what "KAMELOT Raw" is going to be and also some live footage from Greece. So thatīs going to be on the American version of "Karma".

Oh ok, wow, Iīll have to pick that one up for sure then. The version I got I guess is the European version with 12 songs, right? [Yep] I know Europe has to be the location of your main fan base but the past couple of years I assume things must have been improving for you regarding fan base in the USA and Canada.

Yeah, definitely. Itīs something weīve been waiting for and hopefully with "Karma", you know the promotion is going to be bigger. I mean, you can only do so much with the record and you can only produce so much with the record, it kind of takes the record company to help us get the name out. And I think with "The Fourth Legacy" that started and we really got a lot of great response from fans in North America and especially in Canada. I would be really happy to do some shows in Toronto and up in Montréal. [Yeah, definitely] I love Vancouver.

Thatīd be excellent. So is your only confirmed date for North America right now this show in Florida?

So far. Weīve been asked to do a festival in Altanta probably for November. Weīll probably do that. And I know that our record company in America with Century Media is really working on trying to get a tour package together for us and for the fans. Something thatīs going to give the fans a really big bang for their buck. So weīre working on that too, you know.

Well hopefully something happens because we donīt get much over here, right? (laughs)

Right, exactly! Its kind of cool like down here in the Tampa area weīve got some shows coming through. NEVERMORE was here the other day and SAVATAGE is coming and so I think its coming back slowly, you know.

Yeah, definitely. ANGEL DUST toured with Opeth and Nevermore and PRIMAL FEAR actually showed up at the New Jersey Metal Meltdown in April. [OK] That was their first time in North America. [Yeah] I actually went to that it was amazing.

Thatīs pretty cool. PRIMAL FEARīs a really good live band.

 

Yeah, Theyīre really good live, definitely. I know, youīre doing a few shows in Europe with MEGADETH coming up. Do you find that kind of an "odd pairing" maybe, KAMELOT / MEGADETH on the same bill?

Yeah. I mean, itīs going to be interesting. Weīre not really 100 percent sure about what to think about it. Obviously weīll be playing in front of a lot of people and hopefully we can convert some of the MEGADETH fans into KAMELOT fans, you know. Obviously our style is totally different but it still represents metal. Weīre on the same label now basically with MEGADETH and so weīll see what happens. Itīll be interesting.

Yeah, definitely. Well, Iīm a fan of both bands but I like a lot of stuff. Iīm sure there will be some MEGADETH fans who wonīt know who KAMELOT are.

Yeah, probably not and hopefully we can make....

Thatīs the point. Will you tailor your setlist to probably try to please those guys? Like you wonīt play 'A Sailormanīs Hymn' for them maybe? (laughing)

We probably wonīt play that! (laughing)

Yeah. Not that thereīs anything wrong with that but you know! (laughing)

Well, it takes a certain, I mean, weīre lucky because we feel that KAMELOT fans are very open-minded. They understand when we do a song like that or 'Donīt You Cry' that itīs not "uncool" you know, itīs not wimpy. Itīs part of being a person. We donīt want to be bogged in to Melodic Metal songs only. We feel that as a band with diversion and our fans can appreciate that, you know. Obviously we donīt want to introduce ourselves to heavy metal fans playing sissy ballads.

(laughing) Yeah, gotcha. Can you tell me what is new with KMI records and is there anything new with that? Are you still actively working with that and are there any new releases or things happening?

Right now everythingīs kind of been put on hold. With 'The Fourth Legacy' a lot of things happened for us and new opportunities making us busier than ever. So, really nothingīs happening right now. Iīm looking at doing this PowerQuest for Europe. Itīs really hard to find the time to do it and do it properly, you know. So I would say basically nothingīs happening right now.

 

Youīre too busy with KAMELOT obviously. Is there any other news happening with KAMELOT that you would like me to pass along to people?

Hhhmmmmm. Well, letīs see. I think we pretty much covered everything I mean, weīve got the new album with the bonus tracks. [Right] Thatīs pretty much everything.

Thatīs good. Well, the most exciting news for me is the DVD because Iīm a big fan of DVDīs [Cool!] and especially METAL DVDīs!!!!

(laughing)

Itīs going to be like I said. Itīs going to be called KAMELOT Raw so its not going to be this polished kind of video thing. Itīs going to definitely be this handi-cam footage of a lot of stuff. I think itīs going to be interesting and not overpriced. Itīs definitely going to be a good value.


Transcription kindly provided by Skyklad from
The Metal Gospel!!!!!!!


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