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Kamelot is een toonaangevende naam waar het gaat om innovatieve metal; power metal wordt vermengd met allerhande invloeden met als resultaat een zeer sfeerrijk geheel. Een grote bijdrage aan dit succes komt bij zanger Roy Khan vandaan. Ik sprak met hem naar aanleiding van het uitkomen van de nieuwe cd 'Ghost Opera' over de recente Europese tournee, de muzikale en tekstuele ideeën op de nieuwe cd (uiteraard), maar ook onderwerpen als tatoeages en het aanvragen van visa voor het bezoeken van een land als Rusland kwamen nog even voorbij.

Door: Patrick | Archiveer onder heavy / power metal

band imageYour previous albums 'The Black Halo' and 'Epica' were a huge success and were well received by both fans and the press. Does this out pressure on you when writing and recording a new album?
We always approach the song writing process and production as if it was our first album. We always try to do so. And we do not really look back. But hey … you can not really compare these two albums anyway. Of course you can, but the overall idea is so different.

Resulting in a very atmospheric album …
Atmosphere has always worked for us and has always been important to us. But now we seem more able to do what we always wanted to do. It is getting to the point where imagination is the limit. We get better of every aspect of what we do. We keep on trying to improve and refine things. And I mean everything; the art-work, the website, the sound, the production, the melodies, the guitars … literally everything. It is about improving yourself to the way we want to be.

You should feel privileged then as there are not many bands that can say so?
I do. We are really glad we came to this point, to play the music we love at a point when the genre is at its peak. We are very fortunate to be at this position right now; to be one of the spearheads in this genre, right as the whole genre in such is at its peak.

This is the first album on which Oliver (Palotai) is involved as a real member of the band. Before you had guest keyboardists, but he has become an actual member of the band. Was he involved in the writing process of the album and in which things can one hear his influence?
He was a little too late for that as the writing process started really early, even before Oliver joined. He has written some interesting stuff that we are going to use in the future. And I am sure his stuff is going to be an important share for us. But, most importantly, Oliver is a great addition to our live presentation. Obviously he had to be a great keyboard player; being able to be the master of the keys in Kamelot. He can do classical piano, he does solos, he can play great rhythmical parts and he is also a really good performer. And he is very nice, socially. It works out fine with all of us, which is crucial. You can be a great musician, but when things do not match together, it will not work.

The album was yet again produced by Sascha Paeth and Miro. I assume that felt as a logical choice. Why? You are quoted as “They always succeed in getting the best out of us without taking away our typical trademarks.” What is it that makes them the ideal producers for a band as Kamelot?
They are just so good in what they do, you know. Sascha is good in refining the songs. We write the songs of course, but he can come up with some great ideas; like changing a bridge a little. Sometimes we do not agree; Thomas and I are the executive producers and decide everything in the end. But you could say he is a great 'second ear'. And there were some changes he made that worked out fine.
And then Miro has these humongous orchestral arrangements, which … well, it makes no sense for me to sit down to try to do that; it would take forever and it would still not be that good. The role Miro has, is … well, he is the master of the equipment. He knows so well how an instrument works out. He knows how o play the trombone and how it sounds and how the sound will differ when you change it a little or when you change the attack. That is what we pay Miro to do. Ha-ha. We could of course hire other players as well, but compared to what Miro can do … well, there is no comparison.

You could say he is enrichment.
O yes, but it s not something that we depend on. It is just all about how we want to sound. We could of course also do a record with just four cellos or so, but this just fits the sound we want so much more.

You have a couple of guest appearances at 'Ghost Opera'. Who are the people present and what do they add that you as band could not provide?
We took the whole guest appearance down on this record. Simone is once again doing a song with me. She is on 'Blücher', but it is not like a feature part on the last album with 'The Haunting'. And Amanda Summerville, who has been in our choir for so many years, does the female vocals on 'Ghost Opera', the high line in the background, 'Mourning Star' and 'Love You To Death'. She did a really great job on that.

The lyrical content is different from the previous two, which both were based on Goethe's 'Faust. 'Ghost Opera' is different when it comes to subjects. Let me give you an example: 'Blücher' is about a German heavy cruiser which was sunk during World War II. Where did you find all this inspiration from?
Blücher is indeed a submarine which sunk in Norway, in the fjord of Oslo to be exact. This song is a good example of how we let the music inspire the lyrics. We had this riff which had a feeling of something steaming forward and then we added the horns which gave it an even greater feeling of this being something of a ship. That is how we came with the idea about writing about a ship. We were actually talking about the Titanic, as it is the most famous sunken ship, but we came to the conclusion that that would have been to fucking easy. But this Blücher ship was one of the biggest ships in the German navy at the beginning of the war. It was a leading convoy ship which was sunk on the day of the invasion of Norway. This story is extremely famous in Norway but maybe not in other places. It may be so in Germany. It is a very tragic story 1400 young German soldiers were killed getting out to war for the first time and they got sunk two hours before the invasion even started. And the song is about a German soldier standing on the bridge with his thoughts with his fiancée in Germany and he is wondering if she is thinking about him as he is thinking about her.

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And what about 'Love You To Death', which is one of the most impressive songs on 'Ghost Opera' when it comes to lyrics. What is the story behind this song?
Funny that you pick this song as it is another example of how music can inspire the lyrics. It has that oriental sounding guitar thing in the beginning. So we started digging in legends, myths and we found this legend about a young couple, maybe fourteen, fifteen years old. The girl has a lethal disease and she dies. And she comes back to her friend to be a guiding light for him; a very sad, but interesting story as well. And we felt it fits the music of 'Love You To Death' perfectly.

There are ten different songs on the album, which means that there are ten different stories. Where did you find all this inspiration from?
Some of it is experienced by life experience, some by historical happenings, like 'Blücher', some are inspired by myths and legends and some are just stories we make up. But they all have that overall theme of sadness, despair and death, somehow.

You have just finished the European Tour, on which you have been playing some new songs and you have been handing out promos for the new cd as well. How have you experienced this tour, with all these promotional things ahead of the album?
It has been great. First of all we were a bit nervous. Originally we had planned the release of the cd at the end of March. We had some delay with the DVD coming out late and than we had to work on the artwork and than we came in the middle of the production of 'Ghost Opera'. So we needed more time, but the tour was already planned. We had to choose between rescheduling the tour and or actually do the tour without the record being out. And we felt a lot of people must have liked the opportunity to hear some material before the cd was out.

You have brought along Leaves Eyes' and Fairy Land as openings act. Did that work out the way you had hoped for?
That was great! Leave's Eyes is a great band with very nice people. They did a great job, so it was fun to be with them on the road.

You will be playing Fields Of Rock at the 16th of June. How is it to be on the same bill with bands as Megadeth, Slayer, Machine Head and Iron Maiden? I saw at the play list that you, most likely, will be playing the same time with Dragonforce; does it matter to you which and will be playing on the other stage?
Oh okay, that is new to me. Hmm, I am not sure how many of our fans like Dragonforce as well. I don't know. The two bands are for sure quite different. And there are always playing a lot of great bands at the same time at such a huge festival. I can not really say that Dragonforce is a band that pulls away people from Kamelot. But really, we do not really think about those things; then we had to worry all day and that is nothing like our attitude.

Do you like playing huge festivals or do you prefer playing the smaller venues where the contact with the fans is closer?
They are both great, but it is like comparing oranges to apples. They are two totally different things. You do not really get to do your show the way you would like to do when you play a festival. But you get to play in front of more people of course. And what about a steamy hot festival in the middle of summer, the weather is good, the sound is good, that is a great thing. But it is also a great thing to be in direct contact with the great people indoor. For the past tour we have been playing in venues of 1500, 2000 plus, this is really a great size for a venue, even when it comes to contact with the audience.

You were to play a show in Moscow during this tour but this one was postponed; I understood it had to do with problems getting your visa. Is that correct? And which band member has a criminal record that made you not being able to come into Russia?
Ha-ha! No, the guy that was taking care of the visas waited till the last minute as we were all in different places. And we were all to be in Helsinki the day before the show. But what he did not count on was that there was a national holiday in Russia, which was one of the two remaining days we still had. So we missed it and we had to reschedule it.

Your fan base is quite loyal and really into Kamelot. People at your forum where even debating your tattoo shirt. How do you feel about that? How do you deal with this 'stardom' and people 'devoting' you?
Ha-ha. They actually were. Well it is just cool and let me just stick to that when it comes to comments regarding the tattoos. Ha-ha.

With all the touring and eight albums under your belt (Kamelot released ten; on eight of them Khan was the vocalist), how far has Kamelot surpassed your original dreams and what would you say is the most rewarding part of being in the band?
We have always dreamed about being a great band. We always wanted to be the biggest from the planet. So our dreams go pretty far when it comes to that. Ha-ha! But that is not the reason why we are in Kamelot; the drive is our passion for music, the passion for performing it live.
And regarding the second part of your question; it is al rewarding; being able to make records, being able to come up with new songs, playing live in front of a euphoric audience.

The last words are for you Roy. Is there anything you would like to let the people know about or tell to your fans?
I want to say a special thanks to the people that came out to the two shows; the one in Zoetermeer and the one in Helmond. The shows were fantastic to us. Thanks for coming out before the record came out. That was pretty cool. And hopefully we see you guys out there again at the 16th at Fields Of Rock.

Well, thank you Roy. Take care!
Thank you Patrick; it was my pleasure.

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