Don de Leaumont of The Great Southern Brainfart recently conducted an interview with Thomas Youngblood of American/German/Swedish symphonic metallers KAMELOT. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
The Great Southern Brainfart: The changing of lead vocalists from Roy Khan to Tommy Karevik is a huge change for any band to undergo. Has the addition of Tommy to the band opened doors to some new fans that may have been somewhat on the fence before?
Youngblood: When a band has to change a singer, it’s hard. It is becoming more common now and I think people accept it more than they would have, say, 15 years ago. From the day we knew we had to make this change, we looked at it as an opportunity to not only continue at the same level, but to grow as a band. Bringing in a guy like Tommy is not only going keep a good percentage of the older fans, but he’s going to be part of building a new fan base for KAMELOT for the future. We didn’t want to just rest on our laurels. We wanted to keep the door open and grow.
The Great Southern Brainfart: How did you guys actually find Tommy Karevik?
Youngblood: Actually, it was the year before our ProgPower USA performance in 2012. Roy had quit so we brought in Michael Eriksen from CIRCUS MAXIMUS to do that show, but I wanted to bring in some different singers for the set to make it a unique experience. I found Tommy, who was singing for the band SEVENTH WONDER, who was also on the bill. From that point on, he was on my radar. We brought him on as a guest vocalist for our European tour and he did backups and did one song a night. Once we started to write the new album, we sent him some tunes and told him we wanted to have him put his own vocal melodies and his own lyrics to the songs, and he just knocked it out of the park. That’s when we knew we had our guy.
The Great Southern Brainfart: I can totally understand how great this was for you because in addition to being able to sing the songs, you really want to have someone you can rely on in the creative process as well.
Youngblood: Absolutely. First and foremost, we wanted a guy with a great voice, which he has. It’s a superb voice and it’s unique. Second, the fact that he can write is a great asset to have. For me, I always want the vocalist to write the melodies and the lyrics if possible because they can convey the message better. We were really fortunate to find someone with all of those aspects in their toolbox.
The Great Southern Brainfart: You actually went through a lengthy audition process to find a vocalist before choosing Tommy Karevik. I’m sure you heard/saw some pretty interesting submissions.
Youngblood: [laughs] Oh, yeah. Hundreds of YouTube clips, e-mails with videos attached to them and I listened to every single one of them. You can tell usually in the first five seconds if it’s even someone worth listening to. There were some interesting ones. [laughs] I mean, I don’t want to be disrespectful to anyone, but there were some that were really, really good and some that were really terrible. [laughs] There were a lot of really great singers, but then it all came down to if they could speak English, where they live, is it logistically possible for them to be in the band. These kinds of things are very important factors on top of just being a great vocalist.
The Great Southern Brainfart: KAMELOT is based out of Florida. Why go with a European vocalist?
Youngblood: Well, being that our previous vocalist was from Norway, Sweden really wasn’t that much different. Why we decided to have singers from two of the most expensive countries in Europe is a whole other story. [laughs] There’s just something about the Scandinavian approach to vocals. There’s just something about the way that they sing that has this really nice melodic feel to it. I think that’s what attracted me to the Scandinavian vocalists, even though we listened to everybody from everywhere in the world. There was even a guy in Greece who sounded identical to Roy, but we just felt like that it wasn’t good for him or for us to find someone who was basically a clone.
The Great Southern Brainfart: That makes a lot of sense because you don’t really want to backstep. You want to progress and go into a different realm with a new vocalist.
Youngblood: Exactly. We love what we’ve done, and it doesn’t make sense to try and change it too much, but we also want to make sure we aren’t repeating ourselves and that we are adding new twists to the new lineup. It’s a little bit of a balancing act, and I think we were able to really get it perfect with Tommy. The vibe of the music is still 100 percent KAMELOT. We didn’t intend on re-inventing the band. That wasn’t our goal at all. The approach we had from day one was that we looked at it as if any other member of the band had left. It doesn’t matter who sings for KAMELOT. We’ll always be KAMELOT.
The Great Southern Brainfart: What role did Tommy play in the creative process behind “Silverthorn”?
Youngblood: It started with me and Oliver [Palotai], our keyboard player, working on songs. He came to Florida for a few weeks and I went to Germany for a couple of weeks and we started working with our producer Sascha [Paeth] and going over arrangements. Then we brought Tommy in to start putting down vocal melodies and lyrics. That was the basic way that it works. In the studio, it was mainly Tommy and Sascha working on vocal melodies and they actually worked on some songs together as well. It was a really great and cool kind of collaboration of the creative forces of the band to make this record. This was nice for me to kind of not have to be 100 percent involved with every single aspect of it. It’s a little bit of a nice luxury to have these people that I can trust to work all these things out.
Read the entire interview from The Great Southern Brainfart.
“Sacrimony (Angel Of Afterlife)” performance (September 12 at Center Stage in Atlanta, Georgia):