Interview with Kamelot (Roy Khan)

KAMELOT - The Black Halo



MER: You have a new album out. Unfortunately I have not heard it yet, what can I expect from it?

RK: If you’ve heard our earlier works we haven’t made any radical changes, think of it as a mix of Karma and Epica – the production is closer to Karma, with even more guitars and power, but still the story is part 2 of the Epica story and the album is similar to that one in format, with the interludes and so on.

MER: How was the songwriting process?

RK: Well, pretty much as it always has been. Some of the music was written on tour, but for the most part it was Thomas (Youngblood, guitars) and me working on our own and then coming together and arranging it with the band. Some of the music was also written in the studio – we make music and come up with new ideas during the entire process.

MER: When you were composing music for this album, was it your intention to use some of the themes from Epica to make the story sound as a whole?

RK: Yeah, although it’s not easy to recognize them there are both chord progressions and melody lines from the previous album in there – usually twisted and turned to make them sound different, yet the same. This is very common in musicals, for example, where the composer often takes melody lines and turns them upside down and alters them in other ways. Also the lyrics are connected with its predecessor, as it is two parts of the same story so that too makes the two albums relate to each other.

MER: Speaking about lyrics, is there anything you want to say with them – do they have any sort of meaning behind them?

RK: Basically no, they’re just plain bullshit (laughs loudly). No, they are centered very much on what we’ve always written about – that we all decide for ourselves what to do and that we all are in command of our own lives. This is all pretty pompous stuff – the meaning of life etc, but these are topics artists have cared about in all times.

MER: Zillions of albums are released each week, what makes The Black Halo stand out?

RK: Well (he clearly didn’t like this question very much), the album definitely sounds different – we mix in all the different metal genres into one; Shagrath of Dimmu Borgir and Simone of Epica – a band which by the way named themselves from the Kamelot album with the same title both guest sings on the album – and these and other elements make the album sound unique. Still we haven’t made any giant leaps from our earlier efforts, but The Black Halo is a natural successor and the logical next step for Kamelot to take.

MER: Kamelot has always had big and pompous productions with lots of keyboards and orchestral elements involved, have you ever thought of doing more back-to-basic stuff with just guitar, bass, and drums?

RK: Yeah, we have talked about that. That’s a phase pretty much all bands in our style goes through, and we will probably do something like that sometime. Still, I don’t think that bands should alter their sound too much, but everything’s possible. For example, we could begin doing keyboards ourselves – we don’t necessarily have to hire people to do that – we’re not THAT lost, haha.

MER: Speaking of hiring people, how much do Sascha Paeth and Miro have to say on the final product?

RK: Well, very much indeed. They play a big role in the finishing process – the soundscape and how things sound, the details and small bits and pieces which make the album sound fresh.

MER: You’ve been in the band for some time now, what would you say that you have brought into the band?

RK: That’s maybe difficult to say, but personally I think, in good ways and bad ways, I have brought a more commercial aspect to the band. Also, I think my lyrics have a quite huge impact on how the melodies are structured. I think I write different lyrics from very many others. Although Sascha and Miro do help on some of it I mostly compose all my vocal lines myself, and obviously every singer has a unique way of approaching them and that has quite an impact on the overall sound.

MER: To change the subject a bit, I’ve heard that there will be at least some touring to support the album?

RK: We have never been a band that tours for years and years, but there will be some gigs yes. We’ll possibly do a tour in Central Europe, as that’s where we are biggest, and a trip to Japan too, I guess. Also we HAVE to play in Norway now…

MER: Yes

RK: …and concerning the summer we have already received some offers for festival jobs, but we have refused them so far. We played the entire summer last year and it would be very nice to have the summer off this year.

MER: When you go onstage, what do you want to present – what do you look for in a Kamelot gig?

RK: That’s a thing I really never have thought of. As far as I can remember I’ve always been satisfied when we’ve gone off stage (laughs). For my own part I just really love to sing and I guess that shines through. That probably goes for all singers, but I really love presenting the songs I’ve been writing. Also it’s great to have a good crowd. Norway and Holland are countries where the crowds are much less reserved than for example in Japan, but still the Japanese crowd is great in another way. Also, in countries like Spain the crowds are completely nuts, but it’s really difficult to compare.

MER: Will you ever try to incorporate any theatrical or conceptual elements into your live show?

RK: No, I really can’t imagine that. We will use video and visual elements to some extent, but nothing big. We don’t feel that we have the need for that, although I agree that it could fit in with the music. We know we have to have a certain image, but it’s the music that’s in focus. Usually we let others take care of that, although it is funny managing the “business” side of things. Concerning that we’ve learned a lot lately.

MER: If you could pick freely, which band would you like to tour with then?

RK: Well, I don’t know, that really depends on what benefits the band. Should we do a headliner tour or should we do a support tour for a really huge act. That’s the kind of questions I ask. It’s not a decision we can make solely on our own either, the business aspects rule in such discussions.

MER: Are you one of those who still hang out at gigs and buy records?

RK: I have to admit I’m very lazy in that department, I’m more like one of those guys who listens to radio and don’t really care what’s on (laughs). Still I do listen to some bands, Dimmu Borgir for example, which I find very cool. I’ve not heard very much on that genre earlier, but they are one of those bands which I think have brought some cool elements into a genre which I really didn’t think had that much potential to begin with. They have also managed to make the genre eatable for a larger group of listeners, and I really can’t see what’s wrong with that. In my opinion there’s nothing wrong in selling records, and there’s nothing wrong in wanting to sell records either. You can still have your integrity. It’s no coincidence that it’s Shagrath who does the BM vocals on our album, it was he who was in our minds all the way and I’d be very disappointed if he’d said no. He does a lot of different things with his voice and sings very cool.

MER: To change the subject a little, what is your view on the future of Kamelot and Metal music in general? It’s been enjoying good times lately, do you think it’ll continue to increase in popularity?

RK: I don’t think the 80s will ever return as big as they were during the 80s, but it’s no doubt that heavy music is rising again. Bands like the Darkness are enjoying great success – they are also very directly inspired from the 80s – and other bands like Nightwish and Within Temptation are also selling a lot of records. Evanescence (God forbid! – MER) is another band that’s paved the way, and that’s only a good thing as far as I can see. But about the future of Metal music I have no idea in terms of style and sound. If you begin thinking in those ways as a creative performer you tend to dig your own grave – if you begin thinking about what may become trendy in the future you’re doomed to fail. That’s why I’m very proud of Kamelot too, although we do try to sell as much as possible we’ve never been a trend band and have established a big and consistent fan base by delivering good gigs and albums. Concerning Kamelot I really don’t know either, but there’s little doubt that the music we make in five years will sound different from what we made five years ago. I have no concrete ideas, though.

MER: What do you enjoy the most then, the creative part and studio work or playing live?

RK: Both, really. Or recording in the studio isn’t that much fun, but I really enjoy the creative process. That’s maybe what I enjoy the most – sitting alone at home creating music. The live side of things is completely different though, and also something I really enjoy. That goes for the size of the venue too, that’s completely the same. Both large halls and small clubs are fun, but the sound matters. The sound has to be good.

MER: Have you ever thought of getting a day job and reducing music to a hobby thing?

RK: I guess every musician has, but really this is what I’ve always dreamed about doing and I should be very satisfied now that I can make a living out of it. Still I do miss having a workplace with colleagues – especially the social part – as I do spend very much time alone. The rest of the band of course lives in the US so they’re a bit out of reach, and although I have the time for it it’s no chance I’m creative all day either so I do get a lot of time on my own. It’s not that I don’t have things to do – I enjoy reading, working out, spending time in nature, hanging out with friends and such, but still. I do try to get up in the morning and maintain the same rhythm during the day as my girlfriend to try and lead a steady life like a normal person. That’s also why I honestly don’t think it’s as fun going on tour now as it was when I was younger. I always get ill while on the road – I practically never get ill but when on tour I tend to always do – and sleeping in a bus with 20 people really isn’t very hygienic. In the morning you wake up drenched in sweat and roll out of your bed gasping for air and to be honest this isn’t as charming anymore.

MER: Do you have any tips on preserving your voice under such living conditions?

RK: No, not really other than that you have to get enough rest and also practice sufficiently. Resting can be hard to do when it’s a thousand degrees hot in your bus and you end up under your bed with the entire crew on top of you but it is indeed very important. I think very much more of this now than I did before.

MER: I have to ask about this, as I guess there’s a lot of people both in Norway and elsewhere that are very curious – what’s the deal on Conception nowadays?

RK: We’ll actually have a couple of reunion shows later this year. We’ll be playing at the ProgPower Festival in the States and also do a gig in Norway. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens after that.


  • Torgeir P. Krokfjord

    Torgeir was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio. After hearing Malmsteen's "Vengeance" on a guitar mag CD at the age of 12 or 13, he began doing hopeless interpretations of Yngwie licks and it just took off from there. After shorter stints at other zines he was snatched to Metal Express Radio in 2003. Alongside Yngwie, Savatage, WASP, Symphony X, Blind Guardian, Emperor, Arch Enemy, In Flames, Opeth, Motörhead, Manowar, and Queensrÿche are a quick list of musical faves. Torgeir is also guitarist in the Heavy/Prog/Thrash outfit Sarpedon.

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