Interview with Kamelot 1

Source: Lords of Metal
Issue 22 - January 2003

Dutch:

Kamelot mag toch zo langzamerhand gerekend worden tot één van de groten in het powermetalgenre. Hun nieuwe cd Epica is er werkelijk waar weer ééntje om in te lijsten. Progressieve composities, geweldig gitaarspel en wonderschone zang. Die laatste wordt natuurlijk verzorgd door de uit Noorwegen afkomstige zanger Roy Khan, die de LoM te woord wilde staan.


English:

Now that Kamelot is about to release their sixth CD I think it is pretty safe to declare them one of the best bands in the powermetal genre. And their new release Epica is once again a classic of mythical proportions. Progressive compositions, amazing guitarplaying and warm vocals make this one of the best CD’s that you’ll hear in 2003. Those warm vocals are of course done by none other than Roy Khan, who functioned as a sparring partner for your LoM-interviewer.



Text: Ferdi



Earlier this year you cancelled the last show of your tour. You were supposed to play in the Dutch town Zoetermeer. What went wrong?

Well, what happened wasn’t funny at all. We had to cancel the last show of the tour because I had severe troubles with my voice. When we go on tour I always bring some penicillin, just in case I get a flue. This time I got a heavy vocal chord infection halfway across the tour. I used my penicillin for that, but unfortunately ran out of it after a week or so. And because it’s not healthy to stay dosed up on penicillin all the time I choose not to get some new medicine. So at one point I was feeling very positive and thought that I could easily carry out the whole tour. But it turned out that I didn’t feel that good anymore towards the last days. In fact it was so bad, that on the night before the last date I needed to be rushed to the hospital. Two doctors got me all drugged up, so I was able to perform that night. But unfortunately I wasn’t able to do the same thing on the last night of the tour in Zoetermeer. It got to a point where I had to choose between playing a show and trying to save my voice by not damaging it any further. I hope that people understand this, because I still feel very bad about our fans who travelled all the way to see us that night. But I’m no guitarist who can easily replace a bad string. I am a singer and I have only one voice. And therefore I had to choose, and I chose to take care of my voice. It wasn’t easy because this was the first time we ever had to cancel a show.

I was actually there on the night that you did play, and despite your problems it was an impressive gig.

That’s true, it was a very memorable evening. I might have had a better evening myself if I was feeling better. But there was a really good atmosphere that night. The audience was really supportive by helping me out with the vocals, and in the end the people in the crowd saved the gig. I think that that performance was one of the best we’ve done so far, despite my problems. The atmosphere was right.

I’m glad you feel that way. Let’s talk about your new album Epica. It will be released in January next year. What do you think that people will think of it?

I hope they like it. This was a really tricky album to make, and that shows. We normally write music and then we write the lyrics. This time it was the other way around. We had the lyrical concept ready, and based the music on it. All the time we were trying to make a perfect blend of the music and the lyrics, and tried to find ways for the music to support the story. That made it a very complex production. We started the pre-production in March, and finished the album last October. That’s certainly the longest time I’ve been working on a CD.

Lords of Metal

By making a concept-album you’re exploring new territory, aren’t you?

Yes. This is the first time that Kamelot did a real concept-album. We intended to make the previous CD Karma a concept-album, but somehow the concept didn’t came out the way we planned. It did have a red line through the lyrics, but not a concept as such.

Just like the two albums before it, Epica relies on the Kamelot philosophy. What that philosophy is? It’s about developing ourselves as humans, instrumentalists and songwriters. It’s about making your own choices in life, not shutting any doors but keeping an open mind. Everything you do, everyone you meet influences you in a way and gets back to you sooner or later. When you meet a new person, it changes you and enriches your life.

This philosophy is also represented in the concept of your new CD?

Yes it definitely is. Epica is a concept-CD a about Goethe’s character Faust. He is a very wise person, but still not nearly as wise as he wanted to be. He spent his life searching for answers to his questions, answers that he did not find in society, religion or philosophy. So he went out on his own, going out on his own path to find out what he thought was right. We based the CD loosely on this character. I say loosely, because it’s hard to fully explore this character. The story about Faust was Goethe’s lifework, and it’s impossible to do such a story justice in a 60 minute CD. That’s also why there will be a second CD about Faust. At the moment Thomas and I are working on two CD’s simultaneously: on Epica II and a regular Kamelot-CD. The creative process never stops for us. Even when we’re not actually working on songs we’re combing up with useful ideas. At the moment we don’t know which CD will be released first, although it would probably make more sense to release Epica II first and then work on the new Kamelot-CD.

Why did you choose the title Epica for this albums?

There are three reasons for that. The first is the fact that Epica is a physical place, whereto the main character will venture in part two. The second reason is that in his book, Goethe describes mankind’s thoughts, dreams and hopes, and that’s why we call it the epic centre of the universe. And the third reason is to be taken quite literal: this is our most complex album to date, with a really epic approach towards the music.

This album sounds more progressive than your last CD Karma, and is literally stuffed with different things.

We are always trying to bring new elements into our music. We want to express ourselves as musicians within the concept of still being a heavy metalband. That’s why we put a lot of the money we make with the band back into the music. That’s meant as a gesture towards our fans, because it’s thanks to them that we’ve got this far. And Epica is a very progressive album. We’ve added more progressive elements to the music, and also emphasised on the theatrical CD. We’re trying to give the listener a full album where they can hear something new every time, if they’re willing to pay close attention. All of the songs are linked together. That was the whole idea of Epica, to give you a full production with everything on it.

How big was the influence of producers Sasha Peath and Miro?

Very big, I’d say. You can see the progression that we’ve made between Siege Perilous and Fourth Legacy, and that’s mainly thanks to them. When I write music I do it on a guitar and on my keyboard. And when doing so I already try to have in mind what Sasha would do to it and how a perfect string arranger like Miro would handle the arrangements. Those two guys are able to take a raw idea and turn it into something truly amazing. I wouldn’t want to work with anyone else but them in the near future, because they’re right for this job.

Lords of Metal

Your last album Karma was a huge success, both artistically as well as commercially. Did you feel a lot of pressure when you worked on Epica?

That depends what you’re talking about when you say pressure. Of course we wanted to make a great album, and of course we tried to come up with a CD even better than Karma. But we try to be realistic about it. It’s impossible to make every album better than the one before it. That’s a law of nature, that’s physically impossible. Because no matter how good you are, once you’ve made the best possible album you’ll write a lesser album after it. But as always we did our best to make this our best CD. And if you do your best, then you can always be comfortable knowing that at least you’ve tried. And that’s a comforting thought.

Your last album sold more than 100.000 albums in the first six months after it’s release. Looking back, do you think that you had to work very, very hard?

Not VERY hard, but we certainly put a lot of time and effort in making the band what it is right now. And in the end it paid off. But to be honest we also had luck with meeting the right people at the right time. Our aim has always been to be at the top of the genre, although we obviously know that such a thing is pretty much impossible: there’ll always be someone better than we are.

Are you able to live of off Kamelot right now?

Yes. Some time after the release of Kamelot I was able to live from the money we earned with the band, and that’s a great position to be in. I don’t know if I keep on living like this forever, but for the moment it’s a very soothing thought that I’m able to make a living from my hobby. Of course we aren’t exceptionally rich, hahaha. None of us drives a Ferrari, we’re not exactly living the big life. But it’s manageable to make a decent living.

Okay, cool. By the way, did I hear that you were working on a solo-album?

Well, actually I’m a bit tired of working on it right now. I’ve got about 30 to 40 songs finished but I’m holding them back at the moment. Kamelot keeps me very busy at the moment. And, as a main songwriter for Kamelot, I don’t have a lot of things that I artistically can’t put into a Kamelot-CD. And my ego doesn’t need a solo-album... yet. I’ll probably release the songs someday, but how and when is still a mystery, even to me. But there’s certainly enough material. My first solo-album will definitely be a metal-CD, somewhere between Kamelot and my old band Conception. Perhaps a bit less classical than Kamelot is, but similar in most ways.

Talking about your old band Conception.. most people have never heard it. What can you tell us about it?

Well, it was my band that I founded in ’92. We released one album, also at Noise by the way. It was quite successful for a traditional heavy metalband, especially if you consider when it was released. But after that we changed our sound a lot. Too fast said some people back then, and looking back I’d have to say that they’re right. But the album is really cool and it’s still available if you look hard enough. You should check it out, because it has a lot in common with Kamelot.

Okay, that was my last question. Do you have any last things to say?

Yeah, I have something to say especially to our fans in the Netherlands. I still feel sorry about cancelling our show in Zoetermeer on the Karma-tour. I feel really bad about it, because it was the first show that I cancelled in my life. But I hope that you’ll understand that we really didn’t have any other choice, it was the show or my voice. So we promise to make it up to you once we play in your country again! I don’t know yet what we‘ll do, but you can bet that we’ll have something special in store for you next time we’re in the Netherlands.

Okay Roy, I’ll hold you to that!

Epica, Kamelot’s newest masterpiece has been released on January 13. The band is planning to kick off a headliner European tour in March or April.
http://www.kamelot.com/

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