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Thomas Youngblood – Guitars for Kamelot

Date: 05/25/07
Interviewed By: Rich Catino



1. I hear on the latest album “Ghost Opera” a few new sounds and instruments. Can you tell us about them?

THOMAS: Yeah I mean every record we try to do something different with each one, we keep some elements and change others. Its what we like to do. We experimented with a few industrial ideas this time, some ethnic ideas too. We also used the orchestrated elements in a different way to make for a darker sound both musically and lyrically. Even the artwork is a bit darker. If you look at each album we do its like everything changes a bit even the look of the band, “Epica” we had all this leather and stuff, “Black Halo” we went for something else, and then with this one “Ghost Opera” the clothing is a bit darker. Its fun for the fans it keeps them guessing what’s next and for us as well because we never know what we are doing next until we start working on the album.

2. How about your guitar sound? That also has a grittier tone to it.

THOMAS: We used the same amps but went for a rawer feel and weren’t so meticulous about a perfect sound, we wanted a grittier more live feel to it. I mean its really all about the songs in the end but yeah the guitar tone is a bit edgier.

3. What did keyboardist Oliver Palotai bring to the songs on “Ghost Opera”?

THOMAS: Oliver is an official member now. He didn’t really get a chance to put too much into the record because we were done with the writing at the time and he was still a member of Doro. He did get to do a solo on there and some keyboard stuff, he has a lot of great musical ideas that we will use in the future. The great thing about him is he brings a great dimension to the live show which we never had before really. We co wrote a song together, an instrumental, that we do live now that may be a bonus track at some point. He has his own recording system so he could pretty much put a song together and send it to us to check out.

4. Is “Ghost Opera” a concept and if so what is it about?

THOMAS: Actually this is the first one since “Karma” that is not a concept. Its ten individual songs on the record that have their own story really. They all have a darker atmosphere to them and a less happy vibe.

5. How would you compare “Ghost Opera” to “The Black Halo” or even something older?

THOMAS: I think “Ghost Opera” is a mixture of newer stuff like “Black Halo” and stuff we did with “Karma” but I don’t know, I don’t like to compare too much because each record has its own thing. People like to compare to what you did last time but we like to take it for what it is. We just try to do the best we can with each record.

6. Do you prefer to write Kamelot music in more in the Power Metal style or do you like where you are taking the music now?

THOMAS: I like both really…..its not really about a direction where I take the music. If every record was a direction then every record would sound like “Fourth Legacy” you know. I mean it gets kinda corny and old to do all fast double bass songs with a sing along chorus. If we can’t do fast songs in our style then I don’t want to do it. Songs like “Karma” “Forever” double bass songs we have done before fit into the Power Metal genre but are also different than the typical Helloween clone. So its important we write good songs and not just fast ones.

7. What do you think are the key ingredients to Kamelot’s music because you do have your own sound and style?

THOMAS: Well it is very important to me to while writing great songs is having our own sound. I think there’s a certain melody/riff style to the writing, I think Roy’s voice adds some uniqueness to the music. I don’t know you really have ask the fans what makes us different from other bands.

8. Does everyone in the band get to collaborate with you during the song writing and arranging process?

THOMAS: Yeah pretty much at some point but some people don’t want to get involved at all in the writing, they are just happy with their position in the band as is. The door is always open for collaboration.

9. Tell us about the special edition DVD that comes with “Ghost Opera”?

THOMAS: Well I don’t know about for the States but it comes with the full version of the “Ghost Opera” video and a making of/behind the scenes thing that shows a lot of the CGI effects that went into it. There is also some multi media stuff, an extended booklet. Its really cool for the hard core fans and I don’t think its that much more than the cost of a regular cd.

10. What do you have planned for the live shows?

THOMAS: Well we just got back from Europe which went great we did about two months of shows. We do some pyro when we can, we have a bigger stage with some stairs, the female vocalist. We will try to do the same for the U.S. but it depends on the size of the venue really. We like the show to match the music so its real important to create a certain ambiance plus we want to give the fans something more than just showing up with t shirts for sale and a back drop.

11. Well what I recognize in your music is some similarities to Queensryche, not that you sound like them, but a similar artistic vision.

THOMAS: Yeah definitely we are all Queensryche fans and we have become friends with the band. And you know with the whole female vocal thing a lot of people who never knew Kamelot before say “O you have the female vocals is this some kind of trendy thing”, but we had female vocals back on “The Fourth Legacy” from 2000 when you never really had of all these bands who use the male female complimenting thing. But yeah I think that influence comes from “Operation Mindcrime” when they had Pamela Moore singing and its nice, it adds a flavor to the music especially if you have a song that has a story to it. �It gives people more of a cinematic picture of what you are trying to say. Its something cool we have been able to do and now we hired a full time female singer that goes with us on tour which makes everything more consistent. These shows we have done recently have been amazing and we are really looking forward to play back in the States.

12. Are you happy with your response from the American fans because I know it took a while for Kamelot to tour the States?

THOMAS: Yeah totally. �We just got word the new video is gonna get some airplay on Headbangers Ball so that will open up a lot more ears to this type of metal. Its just in the U.S. you know its more about people finding out about the band’s name and not necessarily about the music always. I mean “The Black Halo” is still selling the same amount it was two years ago, every week the same amount so that tells you new people are still finding out about it.

13. Well its very trendy here in the U.S. so it makes it a little harder for people to catch on.

THOMAS: Yeah that’s the thing and unless you have big media coverage and support from a label its more of a slow grind. �But the fact that we can headline now and the band is getting a good reputation for live shows is more than a good sign. Sure it would be great to put a record out when nobody knows you and the all of a sudden you are selling a million records but on the flip side I would rather grow and build a strong fan base then not have any at all.

14. Have you seen an increased interest now in the United States for melodic Heavy Metal?

THOMAS: I don’t know all these bands touring now have different things going on whether its us, Nightwish or something else. But we have fans that like Ozzy, Iron Maiden and then something like H.I.M. so I think the young kids are not so worried anymore about genres and styles they just know this type of sound is something new to them because they didn’t grow up on Helloween and bands like that. So we play shows with young girls in the front row with Kamelot girlies on and they are totally digging “When the Lights Go Down” which is really cool.

15. How about from the press’ point of view and the critics. Are they starting to recognize this music more which also adds to more success?

THOMAS: I think the writers in the magazines basically work off stuff that’s selling really. I mean people though are always pushing stuff they like. There are bands now that in Europe aren’t doing that good but because they are getting pushed in the U.S. they are blowing up, so that shows in the States it is important to have that kind of coverage. And if you have a good band and that kind of coverage then skies the limit.

16. What is Kamlot’s touring schedule like for “Ghost Opera”?

THOMAS: Pretty crazy really like I said we started in April and did some new territories, we went to Finland, Eastern Europe and all the shows were either sold out or close to. Now we are off until we do the festivals over the summer, then the U.S. tour, Canada which is about four weeks. Then we come home and go back to Europe and do another two weeks like in Spain, Holland, and France and then we go to Japan. Then we will take the winter off start again in spring 2008 and do a full European tour and probably come back again to the U.S. and in spring early summer for a bigger tour hitting more cities.

17. Did you pick Leaves Eyes to open up for you on the U.S. tour?

THOMAS: Yeah we did they actually just did all the shows in Europe and luckily we get along with them well because we did book a lot of shows with them (laughs). They got a little different thing going on which is good, you know the female fronted band thing is kind of a trend now but Leaves Eyes do bring a different fan base into the venues. I mean we did that before with Epica and that went well too. Its good to open your mind to different sounds and styles. I really wouldn’t want to tour with two or three bands that were all too similar to each other.

18. Have you ever considered going back and rerecording some of the older songs off the first two albums with Roy Kahn singing?

THOMAS: You know we get asked that a lot but those songs are on a different record label and technically we don’t have the rights to rerecord them. So we are talking about a lot of time and energy and we really wouldn’t see anything from the re releases of those albums. I mean we have so many songs now and Roy has been in the band since 1998 that’s almost ten years, so to go back and rehash those first two records doesn’t make a whole lot of sense now a days because the majority of the Kamelot fans probably don’t own those records.

19. Roy came in on “Siege Perilous”. How do you like album?

THOMAS: I like it. I know some fans find it funny and stuff but I think it has a different vibe. I wasn’t happy with the mix, I took it to Germany to Tommy Newton and I thought it was going to be great because I have outtakes from Morrisound Studios that sound incredible and punchy but for some reason it got really compressed in the end. I think its an interesting album in the whole Kamelot discography.

20. Do you ever get to play any of those songs live?

THOMAS: We use to do “Where I Rain”, “Expedition” for a while. But when we go back to play those songs live, even some from “Fourth Legacy”, there are a lot of blank looks on people faces. But I think we are going to play “Fourth Legacy” for the U.S. tour we haven’t played that song in a while. I really like that album I mean there are some real clich� things on their but you can also hear some trademark things emerging as well. “Alexandria”, “Lunar Sanctum” are killer, there are some more mid paced songs too. My favorite album still is “Karma”. I mean all Kamelot fans have their favorites, some even like “Siege Perilous”.

21. If you had the opportunity to go back and rerecord, re arrange, some older songs which songs would you particularly like to do?

THOMAS: I would change some arrangements from “Siege Perilous”, maybe take out some extended parts but to go back and analyze that would not make a whole lot of sense now really because it shows regret I think.

22. Working on any side projects outside of Kamelot?

THOMAS: Right now I am working on some songs for Tarja’s (ex Nightwish singer) solo record but those have to be submitted yet. But I am thinking about some other stuff, some other ideas we didn’t use of this record that need to be out there in some form but my schedule is so busy now. I mean every musician wants to live off of his music so I can’t complain. It depends on what time I have but I am working on a studio here at my home which will make it much easier to work on songs and demo stuff.

23. Closing comments?

THOMAS: Well we are really looking forward to the U.S. tour we are hitting some places we didn’t before like Texas and it will be great to be back in New York last time it was pretty close to be sold out so maybe it will this time. See you all there!!

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