Latest release: Silverthorn (SPV/Sony)
Florida based power metal band Kamelot have been steadily releasing music for many years. With festivals, headlining tours and filling supports for more globally well known bands, they are finally making the epic trek to Australia. Loud caught up with guitarist and co-founder Thomas Youngblood to find out what fans can expect.
The coming tour marks the first time that Kamelot have come to Australia?
Yeah, we’re really excited about it. It has been a long time in the making. The fans always ask why we haven’t got there but finally it is happenin. We’ll be ready to kick some ass once we get down there. Missing out before was that promoters have to make offers and I think up until this point, we’ve never really had an offer that worked for us.
Are you bringing much equipment with you?
No, usually what we do with festivals and fly-ins is we have a rider that specifies what kind of equipment and the lighting that we want to have. We bring our stage backdrops and things like that. Logistically, to fly out all of our stage gear would be very expensive. The rider makes the show as uniform for each region as possible. My guitar effects are a Boss pedal for delay and an Ibanez wah pedal. I try to pick amps with a nice distortion tone. For me, the best is to be able to plug in and play.
You’re still using ESP guitars?
Yeah, I’ve been using ESPs for about ten years now. They are great guitars and perfectly balanced. I’m going to pick up a new one when I go to Japan so I’ll probably have that with me in Australia. They made a custom Eclipse for me about a year and a half ago but so far I have not taken that out of my house but I might on the next tour. It helps lower costs if you can get your endorser to provide equipment. By playing their instruments we hope to promote their brands and in return, they support us on tour. If we have contests to give away a guitar in Finland or Germany, they’ve been really good about it.
Kamelot has played a lot of festivals. How was Wacken in Germany?
That one and Rock am Ring in Germany are the two biggest festivals we’ve played. When we played Wacken it was in front of between 80 to 100,000 people. When you look out, it is just people. Those shows are awesome but it is also really cool when you play a small gig which is packed and everyone there knows the songs. It can be super hot with the walls sweating. We like the venue to be warm as it warms up the band and it gives some extra energy between the fans and the band. Doing festivals is a test as you’ve really got to go in there and kick ass in front of people that have never heard of you.
Talking of club shows, how has your new singer, Tommy Karevik, gone across for all the hardcore fans?
He is absolutely amazing. He brings a different dynamic to the show now too which is a little bit more in your face with the fans. I wasn’t sure how that was going to work out as he’d done a couple of songs as a back up singer on one tour. Making him the man and saying, ‘this gig is yours’, opened up his confidence. His pitch is perfect every night and he has this super connection with the crowd plus the chemistry in the band has everyone having a great time. He has exceeded my expectations.
For songwriting, are you still the core songwriter?
Up until this point it was myself and the previous vocalist, Roy Khan, but with this record, Silverthorn, Oliver Palotai, our keyboard player and I worked on the majority of the music. Also, Tommy, the vocalist, worked on vocal melodies and lyrics along with our producer, Sasha Paeth. It is a little bit different but bringing in Oliver as one of the songwriters has been really cool for me because as a well trained musician I can give him ideas and he can translate that to a keyboard or orchestral part. In the past it would have been something we had done later on in production process with our keyboard arranger, Miro [Michael Rodenberg]. I’m looking forward to writing the next record. This one wasn’t rushed but was a bit faster than normal. A lot of times that is how things get done.
You’ve been doing it for almost twenty years.
You’ve got to write a song no matter what kind of technology you have. When I first started I had a little four track recorder and a drum machine. I did everything on that, bouncing tracks down to make more tracks available. That is how the first few albums were written. The Fourth Legacy was written on a four track but after that I started working with computers and using Sonar and then got Pro Tools. Everything we were doing was recorded in the final process with Pro Tools. So I got a Pro Tools rig and I use Superior Drummer. It is easier now to copy and paste verses to avoid redoing things again but you’ve still got to be able to write a song.
Is technology a hindrance at all?
I don’t know, there are so many good productions but at the end of it, is it a good song? Is there a good melody from the vocalist? You can fix the pitch of the singer but do they have a good timbre to their voice? Does it sound original. You can’t fix these things with technology. I hear so many bands that are ripping off so many other artists and it just drives me nuts. A lot of fans may not know that a certain band did something five years ago. The cream of the crop always rises though and you have to try to be original, be fresh and be true to your core but you have to grow. That is what we use as a motto for each record. We want to be different but we don’t want to lose that backbone of what we started. That is really important for us and the fans.
What were your influences starting out?
I was big on Michael Schenker. I liked the scales he was playing and he didn’t have to play fast. Every note had meaning and feeling in it. I then started getting into classical music and didn’t listen to metal for a while. My influences have changed a lot. I was into bands like Rush but now I’d much rather listen to heavy stuff. You change over time.
Poetry of the Poisoned had a lot of guests on it. How did that concept come about?
We try to have a few guests on each record and started doing that back with The Fourth Legacy to spice things up with little parts. We might bring in Gus G for a guitar solo or Bjorn from Soilwork to do some vocal growls. It is a luxury that we have knowing these cool people and it is a fun thing to do. I think the fans find it interesting.
As a producer, does Sasha Paeth [Avantasia] crack the whip?
Yeah he is definitely tough and it doesn’t help that he is an amazing guitar player either. Over the years he has loosened up a little bit. In the early days everything was precise to make a statement. But over the years, we feel more groove and so don’t want everything to be perfect. He has grown into that having worked with different types of artists so the real strict technical side has loosened up. Sasha is one of my favourite guitar players and is also a sick bassist but because I work with him so much, it is taken a bit for granted.
Does freeing it up lend itself to solos since power metal is notorious for technically proficient guitar solos?
I think that with Karma we started trying to bring in more tribal things. I have always liked this groove element that we’ve been able to integrate. It is an important element that we don’t have this stereotypical power metal album. The album should be diverse with one or two good ballads. It should be slow and fast with something weird on it.
Being Florida based, do you bump into death metal players and would you say they influenced your music at all?
Sometimes I’ll see the guys from Morbid Angel and Cannibal Corpse around. I’ll even catch up with someone from Deicide so you do see them occasionally. The whole scene has gone from here, we all just live here now. There is no real music scene here in that way. It is a great place to live but growing up in Tampa, the bands that I was watching were Savatage, Crimson Glory and Saigon Kick. I was never into the death metal scene. We had a really killer metal scene back in the day. That is where I started cutting my teeth and where I got the inspiration early on.
Kamelot is touring next month with Hemina:
4/6- Hi Fi, Brisbane QLD
5/6- Governor Hindmarsh Tavern, Adelaide SA
6/6- Manning Bar, Sydney Uni NSW
7/6- Hi Fi, Melbourne VIC