Up close and personal

Thomas Youngblood, Kamelot’s mastermind

When he started Kamelot back in 1992 guitarist Thomas Youngblood had a vision. Now, twenty-four years later his vision is still expanding and the band is still growing. Recently they released ‘Haven’, their eleventh studio album and the second one with new vocalist Tommy Karevik. Time to let the man speak.

Photo by Tim Tronckoe

Why is ‘Haven’ Kamelot’s best album?
,,I don’t know if it is because I don’t compare albums. It’s not sports and each album has it’s own energy. We try not to get caught in this competition. Is it different? Yeah! Unique? Yeah but I’ll never say it’s the best ever, that’s a music industry cliché. I like to let the fans decide. At least in terms of reviews, charts, sales it’s our biggest album to date.’’

Is there something on this album you couldn’t have done let say ten years ago?
,,I think so, take the song ,,Insomnia’’ for example, ten years ago we probably wouldn’t have tried it. We reached a point were fans are more open-minded and we, as musicians and songwriters, do whatever we want like a modern like lyrical direction versus ‘Silverthorn’ the nineteenth century concept album. Bands that grow up should do different things so also about present and future.’’

Does this also have to do with confidence as long as you don’t drift away too far from what the fans expect?
,,That’s a smart model for anybody to go after. Don’t abandon your core sound but to keep growing and keep the fans interested you have to shake things up a little and with ‘Haven’ we have done that.’’

What is the secret of the ever-growing popularity and success of Kamelot?
,,I think a few different elements. Main elements are really hard work and dedication. Making sure the album is as divers as possible, pay attention to every detail to give the fans value for money. Second component is having an amazing fan base that’s open-minded. Many are with us from day one and are part of the whole journey. Those are the main elements for not only still being around but also still growing.’’

Is there a template for a good Kamelot song?
,,Yeah, we always try to bring a certain melodic sense to the songs, a certain musicianship and we try to forge this unique kind of sound that hopefully is signature to the band’s DNA and also intelligent lyrics are an important factor.’’

It’s twenty years since `Eternity’ saw the light. Your reaction when people twenty years ago would have said you’d still be around in 2015?
,,Haha, I don’t know, time has flown by. We have eleven records out and I can literally remember every little part of the songwriting of each record like it was yesterday. I probably wouldn’t have believed that we’re still doing what we’re doing but as long as we continue to have ideas that need to get put out and have fans to support that, we easily can continue ten more years with Kamelot.’’

When did you know that this would be your life?
,,Probably around ‘The Fourth Legacy’, around 2000. Kamelot was more of a hobby at that point and if we wanted to go to the next level we should take it more serious and that’s when it started to take off for the band.’’

Does Kamelot live the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle or has it become more work?
,,To a certain degree on tour we enjoy the sort of perks of what we do. Get on the tour bus, drink a little bit and don’t have to worry about driving. Going out and having a good time with the fans we do but we’ve never been the mega party kind of guys anyway. Maybe that’s one of the reasons for longevity as well; staying under the radar when it comes to doing stupid things on tour.’’

What is your biggest achievement professionally?
,,The fact that the band is still growing. We just signed a new record deal and so many labels wanted to sign Kamelot, which I think is a validation for the band and their hard work. Just still being able to do this and enjoy this is a huge achievement.’’

Being the main creative force and founding member comes with huge responsibility. How do you cope with that?
,,Actually I don’t mind that. I enjoy that kind of pressure and also the trust that my band mates have. I don’t take that for granted and I also use it as a fuel. Over the years I’ve been able to do things a certain way that people can respect. It’s never easy but I enjoy that role.’’

Are you a control freak?
,,Maybe a little to a certain degree. Over the past four years I try to delegate things differently. Oliver Palotai, the keyboard player being more a main songwriter and also Tommy now certainly taken a lot of pressure off my shoulders. Yeah to a certain degree I would like things to work and it worked so far so trying to maintain a certain standard is something I try to do.’’

Photo by Tim Tronckoe

Who is making the final decisions concerning Kamelot?
,,As part of the management team it’s my role to make sure things get done but I always try to get as much feedback from everybody in the band when making those kind of decisions.’’

Are there any challenges left?
,,The challenge nowadays is finding the time to do the tours I want to do and also balancing that with family life because it’s important to maintain the healthy family lifestyle and that’s something I keep telling the other members of Kamelot as well. I really don’t know how other bands do it: tour two months straight at the time, take a week off and than tour again. It’s difficult when you have kids because they change so much over a month’s time and you miss all this. We never tour more than four weeks at the time and than usually take one or two months off between each tour to make sure we balance the time away and the time at home. It keeps you humble in a way. On tour you live in this unreal bubble and it is important to come home and remember what reality is like.’’

The more albums you release the more difficult it is to put a set list together?
,,Really difficult. Especially with the new album again we have to pull old songs out and make some tough cuts for the European tour. The set list is always an issue because people will say you’re playing too many old songs and others say too many new songs so it’s a tough situation to balance. End of the day we do what we think is right and hopefully the fans agree.’’

Are there any rituals before you go on stage?
,,Me personally, I’d like to warm up for at least half an hour before a show, maybe have a beer, relax a little and than the band get together and we have this special handshake we do before each show.’’

Is there any superstition involved?
,,This handshake if sometimes if we accidentally we do it twice we have to go back and do it a third time to cancel that out. My only superstition is that sometimes I have a shirt I like to wear that’s super comfortable sometimes it might mess with my head when I wear a different shirt, sure it’s totally in my head. However, the handshake thing is real and we definitely can’t do the handshake twice otherwise we have to do it a third time.’’

‘Haven’ is Kamelot’s eleventh studio album, you still have a long time to go but how would you like Kamelot to be remembered in the future?
,,Hopefully as one of the bands that set the bar as high as possible for progressive symphonic metal and hopefully a band that influenced a lot of other bands. That would be a nice legacy.

Photo by Tim Tronckoe

Official video of the song ,,Insomnia’’ taken from the new album `Haven’

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