Latest release: Poetry for the Poisoned (Riot!)

With a sound and style that belies their American origin, Kamelot has just released their ninth album, Poetry for the Poisoned. Sam Radojcin decided to catch up to keyboards player Oliver Palotai to talk about the album, ask about singer Khan’s health and see if there’s a chance the band may hit Australia one day.

Q: How has the reception been to Poetry been so far from fans, your peers and critics? Are you satisfied with the response so far?
A: Definitely. We are grateful that in these difficult times for the music business more and more people join our circle of fans worldwide, and that every record was another step up. Also, with every new record we ask from the fans to adjust and have the patience to listen a couple of times before they judge, because we went a bit a different direction every time. Of course we’re then not totally relaxed the first weeks after the release, even if we’re convinced of our work. But we got lots of positive feedback.

Q: Being the ninth album from Kamelot, how do you think Poetry for the Poisoned stands up against the back catalogue? Do you have a personal favorite track off the new album? What have you been playing off PFTP in the live set so far?
A: We played “Hunter’s Season” and “The Great Pandemonium”, maybe because those grant the best access to the album. Personally I would chose the title track itself; it is intricate and sounds very different to any Kamelot song before. In the whole the album is darker than the rest, also reflected by the artwork. We went further down the direction we’ve taken with “Ghost Opera”.

Q: After giving the album a few listens, I found that PFTP is one of the most diverse and heaviest Kamelot albums to date. Did you plan to go in that style of direction or did the material just come out that way? Do you see the band continuing in a similar direction down the road?
A: Before I got an impression during the production how PFTP would sound, I would have guessed differently, regarding the style of the album. After The Black Halo and successful songs like “The Haunting” I even thought we would involve more mainstream elements. Instead it went the other way. The song writing itself was not so different compared to former albums but what we made out of it in the studio. The layers of sound include elements we haven’t been using before. And I guess we will experiment more with that in the future.

Q: In comparison to the Kamelot writing sessions that you have been involved with, how did the writing process go down for PFTP? Was it more individual efforts from single band members or was it more of a team effort? Also, did you contribute any guitar work to the album alongside your keyboard duties?
A: There were writing session where we met personally, and also exchanges ideas via the internet. Since we live in three different countries far away from each other using the internet is often necessary, especially when you refine the songs. The main bulk still comes from Thomas and Roy, while I wrote “Dissection” and “Thespian Drama”. On the latter you can hear me playing guitar.

Q: Over the last few albums, there have been some guest appearances and PFTP delivers some stellar appearances, including Speed Strid, Simone Simons, Gus G and Jon Oliva. How did you come about selecting some of the guests, were the parts created for them in mind and finally, how are you going to pull the guests’ appearances live?
A: I wish we could bring them all together. Some of them will definitely show up during the one or the other show. We know them all personally, met a lot of times backstage or during some festivals. During the song writing process you listen to a part and suddenly somebody says: “Hey, imagine the guitar sound of Gus G. or the voice of Simone Simons over it.” Well, and sometimes we pick up the phone and ask those colleagues if they want to participate.

Q: The band recently created their own record label Kamelot Media Group, why did you decide to go this route instead of going to a major label such as Roadrunner or Nuclear Blast? Is it strictly for Kamelot releases or will you sign other artists down the road?
A: It is meant for Kamelot only. Point is, we’re not beginners in this business any more, crazy for any kind of deal, and we’ve all collected some crappy experiences with labels and managers also. So it’s just that we are much more cautious than in the past what will happen to our music. We’ve decided to keep more control.

Q: Recently, your singer Roy Kahn has been having some health problems causing him to be unable to perform and having to cancel the North American tour. How is he doing and will he be back soon at 100% ready to tour again?
A: It is obvious that the heavy touring and a long CD production has emptied Roy’s batteries. Without seeing it coming, he suffered from a heavy burn out. It is advisable to retreat to your family, into surroundings you know, and so he did. Up to this point it is still pretty much an up and down with him.

Q: Apart from Kamelot, you have been involved with such bands such as Blaze, Doro, Uli Jon Roth and filling in for Epica. How does your experience in those bands differ to being involved as a full time member with Kamelot? You also have your own project in Sons Of Seasons, how is that coming along? Is there a second album in the pipeline?
A: Right this day I am listening to some of the final mixes of the new Sons Of Seasons, and I am really enthusiastic. I guess it is not an exception that the step from a debut to a second album is usually a big one, but here it will be huge. We will present the new album from March on, on a tour in May and as support of bands like Doro, Rage or Epica. It was a bit a problem that people have difficulties to put us into a certain category, but in the long run that pays off, if you go for something new and original. The difference to bands which I just joined in the past, which existed way before, is of course there. Sons Of Seasons is my own child, not just adopted, haha!

Q: A burning question – Is there any possibillity of Kamelot coming to Australia on the Poetry for the Poisoned world tour?
A: I really hope so. I’ve been to Australia with Doro, it was winter, and the visit was short. But I want to return and experience more of the country and the people. Unfortunately it is not just about what the band wants, but if the bookers consider it realistic, so how the offers are.

Q: Overall, how do you think Kamelot have been able to survive in today’s musical world with so many bands and genres coming and going? What do you think Kamelot owe their longevity to? Do you think the future is bright for a band like Kamelot?
A: Regarding the last question: Let’s see how things develop. In my opinion it is all about writing good songs. All the stuff around it matters, but if the good songs are missing, the wrapping won’t change it.

Q: Final question, are there any new albums or bands that you might like to recommend to our readers?
A: In the past months I was with my head full in the promotional campaign of Kamelot and the production of the new Sons Of Seasons album. So I kind of lost track what is happening at the moment. What I am listening to at the moment is totally outside Metal, erasing the white spots on my personal map of late classical music. So I am afraid you have to ask me again in a couple of months.