KAMELOT // Characters In The Dark

Since forming in 1991 in Tampa, FL, Kamelot have explored, taken apart, and redefined power, symphonic and anthemic flavours of metal, inspiring countless others in the process.

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Leave it to the Americans to take Euro-metal and refine it beyond all recognition. Now the melodramatic cast of Kamelot are preparing to visit Australia once more with pounding new LP The Shadow Theory in tow. Co-founder and guitarist Thomas Youngblood took some time to talk through the band’s philosophy on staying present, the drummer question, and what fans can expect in the Aussie setlist.

HYSTERIA: How are you, and where are we catching you?

THOMAS: I’m at home in Tampa, Florida at the moment. It’s awesome, I’m hanging with my daughters, playing sports—it’s good, I can’t complain,

You’re the guy who drives the music, but also all the behind the scenes stuff. How do you remain present at home and not become distracted by all the work that goes into making Kamelot what it is?

You must have a webcam on because that’s been my last week! I’ve been working from eight in the morning to nine at night. It’s hard, but I have to say that when I have time off, there’s jobs that I always have to do, but I can still be freelance and go to my son’s school for things if I have to.

There are so many people that you’ve had to work with. How long does it take now, given how many members have passed through Kamelot, to establish a good sense of band chemistry?

You have to pick people that are cool and have similar interests. Our drummer Johan Nunez for example got hurt, so we’ve brought in Alex Holzwarth, who’s played with Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody of Fire, and we’ve known him for years. So he’s one of those guys that we like the same music, into the same hobbies, so those people are easy to tour with and discuss ideas with. It’s been the same with Sean our bassist, and all the guys.

I was keen to talk about Johan, because he only came in this year!

Yeah, our old drummer Casey Grillo started playing with Queensrÿche, plus he had his own company so he’s not able to do the same kind of touring. Johan hurt his leg right before the US tour kicked off, so Alex swooped in and he’s gonna finish off the touring this year, and then we’ll have to make a decision for the near future. Alex is great because he can just step in and we can just carry on.

We’ve had a philosophy from the beginning that with each new record we play four or five new songs minimum, because we don’t wanna be nostalgic. Any band that’s been around for ten years, there a pressure to either live in the past, or embrace the present, and I think we’ve achieved the latter.

Regardless of what happens in the future, what new voice did he add to this musical conversation, and where has Kamelot more broadly arrived with the new material?

I think everything with Shadow Theory started with songwriting, which is myself, Oliver [Palotai, keys] and Tommy [Karevik, vocals], and for many years, we’ve done the drums with superior drummer before giving the drum parts to the drummer to play, so that’s why people didn’t sense a big difference with the drums for this album, because we’ve written the drums basically from the beginning with the first record the same way. With any member though, there is a fresh sense of excitement, Lauren Hart (Once Human) for example, who’s been singing with us and will be coming out on touring with us, every day has been fun for her and she’s really been enjoying it. It’s infectious, so it’s one of those things that reminds you that this is such a special thing that we can do.

How does the international collaboration look for you guys?

We’ve done it that way for the past 15 years. My co-songwriter in the past was in Norway, so we sent stuff back and forth. There’s no replacement for getting together in the same room to work, which is what we’ve done since Haven. I would go to Germany with Oliver to work on song ideas, and you get that instant feedback and you can build a song almost in one day as oppose to emails going back and forth, That works for lyrics or ideas for an album or song title, but when it comes to writing, the best way is always to be in the same room together. It eats into the budget, but that’s all part of the journey.

So looking back on the writing process with The Shadow Theory, has that core writing element felt as authentic for you?

We’ve done some pretty massive touring already off the back of it. US and Canada was our biggest run to date, and we’re coming back to Europe in August, but songs like MindFall Remedy that we will integrate at some point into the set, so we still have a good year and a half that we want to get out of touring this album, plus we have a DVD that we’re gonna shoot in September in Tilburg which will come out in 2019, so there’s tonnes to be explored in this chapter.

On live DVDs, what goes into the thought process for you when deciding when to do it, and what concept to do it around?

The live DVD has been about the budget for us. We had a really good one that we did with One Cold Winter’s Night, so we wanna raise the bar. We’ve been talking about it for five years telling them what we need, what the production needs to be, four or five special guests, and now we’ve been able to achieve that with the tour coming up. It’ll be very unique and special for sure. I can tell you that the guests….one of them has the initials A.W.G, Lauren Hart is confirmed, but we have a few more that we wanna hold onto. It’s not gonna take away from the rest of the tour, but if you’re a hardcore fan, it’s definitely something to attend. There’s only a handful of tickets left, but we’re really excited to be able to do this at the scale that we wanted to do it at.

What are some live DVD’s that have inspired you personally over time?

I’ll be honest, I’ve never really studied them. I remember getting the Europe: Live VHS, which dates me, but that was such an amazing and fresh tour, given it was with Final Countdown. You’ve got Rush, all their stuff is amazing. I try not to look to much at what other people do though—which applies for music. We don’t go out of our way not to listen to other band’s, but I listen to all kinds of music, so when I think about what I want Kamelot to have, I really wanna raise that bar we’ve already set.

At this point with the live show, how much of the new material are you gonna showcase in Australia?

That’s a good question. We’ve had a philosophy from the beginning that with each new record we play four or five new songs minimum, because we don’t wanna be nostalgic. Any band that’s been around for ten years, there a pressure to either live in the past, or embrace the present, and I think we’ve achieved the latter. That’s why we have a fanbase that scans from 13 year olds to 50 year olds, because we stay relevant, we play the new songs—you’ve gotta meet the wants of the old fans sometimes, but sometimes only them and five other people in the crowd know it. We need to stay within the realm of where we are today though.  

You’ve been playing this style of music for two decades now, which has obviously developed in it’s own way nicely. What keeps you coming back to this epic metal sound at the root though?

I think that power metal isn’t an applicable tag to us- but of course we have those elements. We’re a very symphonic and melodic band, as well as progressive and modern rock elements. In the beginning we were more ‘power’, and I try to stay away from labels, which sounds so cliche, but honestly I think it’s hard to categorise us which is good, because you might see a fan that has us and Evanescence as their favourite band, or us and Hammerfall, so there’s such a diversity that reaches a lot of different people, which I really love. //


Monday, 3rd December // The Triffid, Brisbane
Tuesday, 4th December // Max Watts, Melbourne
Thursday, 6th December // The Basement, Canberra
Friday, 7th December // Manning Bar, Sydney

Tickets available via OzTix

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