Interviews : Kamelot – “I guess you just have to take the good with the bad and embrace it” (An interview with Thomas Youngblood)
Kamelot – Thomas Youngblood
Florida based power metallers Kamelot have been at the forefront of the symphonic power metal movement for over 20 years, and are currently promoting their tenth studio masterpiece, ‘Silverthorn’. The band were recently in Australia last month for their first ever tour of the country.
Metal Obsession has the pleasure to speak with guitarist and founding member, Thomas Youngblood before the band’s final Australian show at the Hifi Bar in Melbourne.
Metal Obsession: Tonight is the last show of the Australian tour. How have you found the Australian crowds so far on this run?
Thomas Youngblood: It’s been fantastic really. It has well surpassed our expectations. We’ve heard a lot about the Australian people before we came out here but you really have to come out here and experience it for yourself. All the shows have gone off great so far and the crowd seem to really be enjoying it. We even had crowd surfing in Sydney which we don’t normally see. We’re really amped to see what Melbourne is going to be like after waiting so long on both sides and everything we’ve heard.
MO: After 20-odd years Kamelot have finally made it to Australia. What took the band so long to get over here given each release was steadily gaining the band a larger fan base especially over the last decade or so?
TY: Really quite honestly we haven’t ever been asked to come out here. No promoters (until now) have ever really reached out to bring us across. We have always wanted to come out here though and have tried hard in the past to make it happen. Still, now with these promoters everything has gone so great, we’re glad we finally made it out here and we’ll definitely be back as soon as we possibly can.
MO: I’m always interested in what artists were doing before becoming full-time musicians. Going back to the very start of Kamelot, what were you doing before forming / joining the band? Were you always involved in music from the very start or was this a hobby you had on the side that turned into a career?
TY: Man, going back to pre-Kamelot I used to work in selling sportswear and sporting goods of all things. Back then Kamelot was something we used to do outside of working and it just kept getting a little bigger and taking up more and more of our time. We’re not complaining at all about that by the way. There came a certain point where we decided we really needed to give this as best a shot as possible and give it 100% and that’s what we ended up doing back then and it seems to have worked out pretty well so far. We’re doing what we love doing and doing it for a living is just an added cherry on top really.
MO: Just touching on the new album, “Silverthorn” is the first record with Tommy on vocals. How was the recording process for this album compared to the past? Did Tommy have a lot to do with the writing of the record or was it basically written before he joined the band?
TY: Most of the record especially musically was written before Tommy joined. It’s something that we had been working on and off with for a little while and toying around with song ideas. The concept and style that we were going for was something that we knew we wanted from quite a while ago so we were pretty advance along the track when Tommy came in. Still though, we had an idea about how we wanted it to sound and when Tommy came in a lot of that changed for the better we think because he bought things to it in terms of melodies that we didn’t even think of the first time around. So really, Tommy had a lot to do with the record especially in regards to lyrics and melodies.
MO: Musically I think “Silverthorn” is Kamelot getting back to what you do best and moving away a little bit from the experimentation that we heard on albums like “Poetry For the Poisoned” and “Black Halo”. Was that a conscious decision and effort to get the band back to the more “classic” Kamelot sound or was that just how the album evolved?
TY: To be honest I don’t think you ever really think of that at the time. We knew the structure of how we wanted the album to sound but it was never really a conscious effort to move away from one direction and into another direction. We’ve obviously gone through some line-up changes so you really work with what you have to work with and Tommy and Sean bring something different to the band so in a way that’s going to come through at some point too.
MO: You’ve done quite a few concept albums or at the very least albums that follow a theme (Epica, Black Halo, Silverthorn, Poetry For The Poisoned). What are some of your favourite concept albums to listen to or albums that inspire you?
TY: I guess the main one would have to be Queensryche’s “Operation Mindcrime”. I remember listening to that and being blown away by it at the time. It’s still blows my mind and has stood up so very well over the 25 or whatever years. Another one would probably be Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” record which really was one of the first concept type albums I really got in to. If I had to choose one though for Kamelot, it would have to be “Operation Mindcrime” hands down.
MO: As a Long time follower of the band I think “One Cold Winter’s Night” was probably one of the best concert DVD’s in this genre. Are there any plans to do something like that again in the future with the new line-up especially given the strength of the material that band has released after that last live DVD?
TY: Oh definitely! This is something we have been working on behind the scenes for a little while now. We’re just scoping it all out. Actually, we recently decided where we are going to film it….but I can’t say much more than that about it right now (laughs).
MO: It really goes hand in hand with Kamelot’s style, but have you ever thought of extending even further and doing something like Avantasia / Trans Siberian Orchestra where you get a host of other artists to come in and “play a part” so to speak on a record / project? You’ve touched on it by having other artists come in and sing parts in the past but have you ever thought of taking that and making it a full-blown metal concept album (either as part of Kamelot or outside of the band solo)?
TY: Yeah I’ve thought about that quite a bit in the past but right now my priority is with Kamelot and giving 100% to that. Still as an artist you’re always looking to get challenged and do something new every now and then so really on that front…never say never…let’s just say not right now.
MO: As we mentioned earlier this is the first record with Tommy in the band. What does Tommy bring to the band that was missing in the past whether it is with Roy Khan or Mark Vanberbilt? Correct me if I’m wrong, but from watching the studio clips and the behind-the-scenes clips for the new record, it seems like a more “unified” band now when you compare it to the footage off the live DVD.
TY: Thanks for that. It’s nice to hear that and I agree about the band being more I guess first and foremost we were looking for someone that could fit into the band on a personal level and Tommy is just a really great guy to have around with his energy and passion. He’s also a fantastic songwriter in his own right which is great for us. Some of the things he has already come up with for the record after this is really phenomenal stuff. Really that’s just another feather in his cap so to speak. I guess the main thing he brings to the band is that he’s a fantastic vocalist and front man. You’ll see that tonight. I think the band is better now onstage, on record and off stage than it ever has been.
MO: Do you think there has been a renaissance for the type of music that Kamelot plays due to social changes? For example the #1 TV show in the world right now is “Game Of Thrones” and (in my mind) there are similarities between what we see happening on the screen every week and the Kamelot style/ lyrics / imagery.
TY: Wow…..I’ve never really thought of that. Maybe there is some link between what we do and what people are getting into nowadays who knows. Really, we just do what we do and hope it sticks. That an interesting comparison though
MO: With the members of the band being so dispersed geographically, how do you overcome some of the challenges that brings like not being able to get in the same room and rehearse / write with the rest of the band?
TY: Well there’s a lot of emails and file sharing and air travel involved! Really though you just have to prepare yourself as best as you can and make sure you know your stuff before you go into a studio to record. We really just focus on our own game when we’re away to learn the set / new songs / etc so when we do finally all get together we can hit the ground running and at that’s point its more just a matter of ironing out the kinks more than anything else. So I guess it really comes down to preparation and keeping in contact as much as possible throughout the process. It can be done!
MO: Given this band has been around for over 20 years now you would have seen the music industry and landscape change quite significantly over that time with the introduction of internet and all the good and bad things associated with that. How have you had to change as an artist to remain relevant in today’s industry? Is it more about touring now to make a living out of music as opposed to relying on album sales?
TY: I guess you just have to take the good with the bad and embrace it. I mean the Internet thing for all its drawbacks has had some really huge advantages for a band like us. Like you said earlier being in different parts of the world the Internet has helped get us together more often and quicker than might have otherwise been possible. It’s also allowed us to connect really closely and communicate with our fan base which is a huge deal for us. Really we have heard people say it but we believe it that without the fans we wouldn’t be here so that’s been a great benefit for someone like us too. It’s not all doom and gloom. Sure there’s a downside to it all but all you can ever do is your best and that’s what we try to do with everything we approach in this band.
MO: Time is fast running out. Thank you for taking time out before the show for this chat. Is there anything else you would like to say to the Australian fans and readers at Metal Obsession?
TY: Thank you man, it’s been a pleasure. Well firstly thank you for making this tour so fun and great to be a part of. We’ve really enjoyed all the shows and the Australian crowds in all the cities. Thank you for all the support and all the emails and everything to try and get us down here. Now that we’ve been here I can promise you we will definitely be back.
Check out Kamelot’s brand new studio album, ‘Silverthorn’. Out now via SPV/Steamhammer Records.