Interview with Kamelot – Thomas Youngblood

A while before the release of their new album, a few members of Kamelot spent a day in Amsterdam. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to speak to to them, so Michael sat down with lead guitarist Thomas Youngblood to discuss touring and ofcourse their new album, Haven.

Michael (M): Thank you for your time, you’ve picked out a great location and great weather to accompany it!
Thomas (T): Great to see you again. This place is amazing and the weather is beautiful.

M: So lets dive into things about the new album, Haven. How did you come by that name?
T: I don’t remember the exact day or time when the title “Haven” came up, but I listed different titles. “Elysium” for example was one of them, as well as “Haven” and some other tracks of the album. But the title “Haven” kept coming up when we were doing the cover and I was asking friends and family for their opinion. Not only that, but I was also not sure about some titles because they would be translated in different countries. When we saw the cover with “Haven” on the bottom, it fit in with this whole sort of geometric futuristic theme.

For me it also makes sense, since I was hoping to make something of a record where some fans would be able to get lost in. That they would have their own Haven, so to speak. To get away from their stressfull life. When I was a kid, I had some albums like that, for example Iron Maiden’s “Number of the Beast”. That was definately a haven for me, I would come home from school in a town I just moved to. I didn’t know anybody, so I would listen to this Maiden record and I would pass time. Eventually we moved to a city where things were better, but for that time, that record was like a haven to me. I think everybody needs to have a haven like that and if even a few people would find that in this album, that would be great.

M: Going back in time, you’ve had a lot of inspiration from books and stories, for example Faust and the Zodiac Killer. Where did you get your inspiration for Haven?
T: A lot of it is just looking around, things that are happening today with technology, corporations, government stuff. Looking around and watching people with their mobile phones, walking while looking down on it. It’s almost like a second brain for a lot of people. I don’t know how bad it is in Europe, but in the US it’s crazy. So we wanted this album to have this dystopic vibe to it about today and also the future. In movies like “The Island” for example, these modern movies about super rich people and their super poor counterparts and the huge contrast between them. That has also been an inspiration for our ideas and even some video’s that we’re doing.

M: To me, the album sounded a bit more progressive, do you think that this theme had an influence on that?
T: I think it has different elements, like some industrial stuff. Some songs are even more straight forward, like “Veil of Elysium”, which was not progressive at all. We didn’t really think about it in those terms.

M: Do you think your music is evolving into more genres, more diverse?
T: I hope that we have been able to make a genre where we have our own sound. It’s not just symphonic metal, not just power metal, nor progressive. It’s unique in a sense, I hope.

M: Thats what I feel about “Haven” as well, there is a song for everyone.
T: Maybe, if you take “Insomnia” for example, it’s something you might hear on the radio in the US, but it still has some progressive elements to it. It has some signature Kamelot things in it which makes it a Kamelot song. But it’s definately a diverse album.

M: You have collaborated with different artists once again. How did you arrange that?
T: Alissa (Arch Enemy) has been touring with us for a while and we had some growly vocal parts which fitted her well. But I also wanted to showcase that she could sing clean parts as well. So that’s what we did in “Liar, Liar”, where she is doing both. To me that is one of my favourite tracks of the record. It mixes the speed from our “Fourth Legacy” record with the progressive stuff from “The Black Halo”. The mid section of the song is super heavy where Alissa did some really low growls which we haven’t done before.

M: Do you have any artists who you would love to work with in the future?
T: There is one Russian singer, I don’t want to say her name, but she is kinda famous in Russia. In the future I want to go for something unique with artists which are not that well known worldly. But with this record we were fortunate enough to work with unique people like Alissa, Troy (Nightwish) and Charlotte (Delain), but a lot of people in our genre know them already. We have toured with Delain a few times and got to know them. I think Charlotte has a special voice that stands out in the whole sea of Female Fronted bands. It fits perfect on the ballad. To me it has been one of the coolest Kamelot ballads in a long time.

M: I have see the setlist from the gigs in England. How did the crowd react to the new song?
T: Amazing. They didn’t know the song ofcourse. Usually your brain kind of compensates for the things you aren’t hearing. The melody of Veil of Elysium is so strong, so it sticks in your head. That was one of my favourite shows in a long time, definately my favourite London show.

M: But you have done that before, with the previous album?
T: Yes, we played Sacrimony before the album came out, at first at a festival about 2 months before the song came out. It was crazy.

M: Of course the setlist will change later on. Is there any chance that some older songs will be played?
T: The problem is that you get new fans with every album. We have a singer that has been on only two records and we want to make sure we showcase him as well. My plan is to add three or four songs from “Haven”, maybe one song from Silverthorn, one song from The Fourth Legacy or that era. We will definately change the setlist as well. This might be the last time we played March of Mephisto as the last song on the list. I want to shake the setlist up a bit.

M: I think I also missed Karma?
T: (laughing) We didn’t even realize that until the show was over. We were like: Did we play Karma? The problem with that show was, and hopefully people in the UK will read this, was that we had a really strict curfew at ten o’clock. We had to cut the show short with two or three songs. Normally we play around an hour and forty-five minutes and now we had ninety minutes. When we realised we had time for one more song (backstage), we decided it had to be “Human Stain”. Then at the end of the night we found out that we didn’t play Karma and that felt so weird. It has been such a long time since we didn’t play that song.

M: I don’t think I remember it not being played
T: That might be good as well. Sometimes people complain about certain songs always being on the setlist. So maybe it is good that some songs are not played.

M: Have you ever thought about fans deciding the songs for the setlist?
T: We do that all the time. It’s always all over the place. Ocasionally songs like “Memento Mori” which we have played a few times are named, but we don’t feel like it’s that well fitted for live shows. So we still ask and take that into account. We have grown a lot with the Silverthorn album. Fans that have never heard about Kamelot before and we hope the same will happen with Haven.

M: It must have been a real thrill to you that the fan base grew so much with that album, especially after such a rough period.
T: It was a stressful time, but at the end of the thay, you must always go with your gut feeling. We were able to play in new coutries where we haven’t played before like Australia and Korea. New cities in the US and Europe.

M: It must be hard to decide which cities to go to in every country.
T: A lot of it you can tell by the offer they make for a show. The Netherlands is one of our top two countries to play. Right now we are right at the corner of Paradiso, we have sold out that place a couple of times. I remember seeing the cue going down the street and I shook my head in amazement. It is always a night to look forward to, because the fans are part of the show. Never a lame experience while playing here. Somehow the Dutch fans get the whole message that we try to portay with the album. That it’s not just guitars and keyboards, but it also has a meaning about life.

M: What can we expect for the special show in October?
T: Some special guests for sure. I have already sent some emails out to some of my friends that I want them to be there. If things work out, I would really like to shoot the dvd there, but that is not quite sure yet. .
M: I think you have been planning that for a few years now?
T: Yeah, but if it’s not this time, it will definately be the next time in The Netherlands.
M: You kind of promised that to us during a few shows
T: The fans here deserve that. But maybe it will also be in the Heineken Music Hall. That way we can bring out fans from all over the world.

M: What happened to 70.000 Tons of Metal 2014?
T: Was that the year that they’ve put our picture on?

M: And you’ve said in an interview that you would be on.
T: First there was the problem that they were not supposed to announce that we were going to do it. When they did, there were some issues with planning, because some members already had other plans booked. And at that point it looked like we were cancelling 70.000 Tons of Metal, but that wasn’t the case. Then we tried to do it again this year and at some point we didn’t hear anything back anymore. We loved playing there, it was awesome though. I would love to be back, but those things have to be planned,confirmed and finalised. That’s how every show is for Kamelot. If it’s too loosy-goosy and it’s nothing that is really firm, thats when problems happen. It’s not just one show, it’s a whole week. When an offer is not finalised, even when people have taken those days off, then you have a whole week of nothing. But it really is a cool thing. We love meeting the fans, walking around the boat and stuff.

M: Is there anything specific you remember from previous shows? Like special moments?
T: We played in Dublin for the first time in seven years and the show we just talked about in London was amazing. We also played ni Wales for the first time, so that was pretty cool. There was a special vibe there. Not everybody know who we were because it was a festival. But once we started playing, the people got the whole interaction. I remember this one guy in the front who was crying. The whole Silverthorn tour cycle has been an amazing experience, but I must say that nearing the end we needed a break because a lot of stuff was going on.

M: If you had to pick certain bands to play with on a future tour, who would it be?
T: I would like to play some more shows with Delain. It would be nice to have Charlotte and Tommy share the stage. I have met these guys from a band named “Nothing More”. They did a TV show in Paris and they have a really cool thing going on and I think it would be fun to have them as a special guest at some shows. There is this band called “Beyond the Black” from Germany who we might bring with us on some shows. It has to do with timing as well.

M: Any expectations for “Haven”?
T: With every record I always say I have no expectations. We just do our absolute best. So far the reviews and fan reactions have been great. We have let a few of our really close fans listen to the record and they have been blown away by it. So we’re happy.

M: Thats about all the questions I have. Do you still have anything to say to the people who will read this?
T: As usual a big thanks to all the fans out there for the support in the past, present and the future. We are really happy with the way things have turned out with “Haven” and we’re looking forward to the massive “Haven” tour coming up in 2015/2016/2017.

Once again we want to thank Oliver, who we talked to about games a bit, and Thomas for their time and we hope to see them soon in The Netherlands.

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