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Kamelot Interview

A Conversation with Guitarist Thomas Youngblood




SPV Records
Updated October 30, 2012
Silverthorn is the latest album from Kamelot, and the first without vocalist Roy Khan since 1997‘s Dominion. After Khan exited the group, he was replaced by Tommy Karevik, who had toured with the band as a backup vocalist in the past. Guitarist Thomas Youngblood is the glue that holds the band together, the only member to have been in Kamelot continually since 1991. We spoke about the new album and new singer.

Chad Bowar: After Roy left the band, how did you go about finding his replacement?
Thomas Youngblood: Initially we wanted to make sure we found somebody that fit, who had a similar vocal technique but also brought something new. We also looked at it as an opportunity to grow the band. That was our main objective. Not just to replace the singer, but to grow. We started auditioning people and got hundreds of submissions. It was pretty humbling. A lot of people, including some very well-known singers, auditioned for the spot.

What made Tommy stand out?
His voice, first and foremost. His voice is amazing. There’s a similarity to what we did before, but he brings is own unique touch to the album and to the show. I think also his image fits the band perfectly. It was a perfect fit for us. And now that we’ve done some live shows, he’s an amazing frontman. We’re really glad we chose him.

He did some shows with you before he was made the permanent vocalist.
Yes. We didn't want to throw him out to the wolves right away and let him learn and feel his way around the way we do our stuff on stage. It came down to a leap of faith on our side to have him be the main guy all the time, because he never did a full show with us until after the record was done. The first show he did with us was in front of 30,000 people, so it was a good test for him to get his feet wet. He totally knocked it out of the park. It was a great night. That first show was really killer.

How did the writing process for Silverthorn compare to your previous albums?
It was different, but in a way it was a very similar process. Usually it would have been Roy and myself sitting down and working on songs. But this time it was Oliver (Palotai, keyboardist) and I. We gave the basic demos to Tommy and he worked on lyrics and melodies with Sascha (Paeth, producer). They everybody did their parts and we recorded a record. So the process was similar, but the people were different.

Were you planning on a concept album going in, or was that just how things turned out?
We wanted to make a concept record. We talked about it even before we started working on the music. We were talking about doing a concept record for Poetry For The Poisoned, but there was never any inspiration to do that. So with this record, we had a good story, and then we started building on it to make it a great story. From that point on we built the whole album around the storyline. It went pretty quickly, and everybody had great ideas. That was an important part of it, that we were able to collaborate on it.

Does having a concept album make it easier when it comes to song order?
It can make it more difficult. What we tried to do was that the music had the right pace for the album, not to write songs specific for the story. For example, some of the songs in the story go back in time. So we wanted to make sure the pacing of the album, the sound as you listen to it, not only works into the story, but musically is built the right way. With each record we try to do that. We like to come out with something that’s fast in the beginning, then we make it diverse throughout.

You have used a lot of guest vocalists in the past, and some of them return for this album. This is the first album Alissa White-Gluz from The Agonist has appeared on. How did you hook up with her?
The Agonist was one of our support bands on the last U.S. tour. I was really blown away by her stage performance, and she’s a really super-cool person. So she started doing “March of Mephisto" live with us on that tour. When it came time to work on the new record, we had a part for growl vocals. We had always used males to do them, and I thought it would be cool to have a female do them, and she was my first choice. She totally killed it. It sounds amazing on the record. She has also been touring with us, and that has been a great addition to the live show as well.

She’s also in the video for “Sacrimony.”
Yes. She’s in the video with Elize (Ryd from Amaranthe) and the rest of us. The video is now done. It came out killer. It’s always cool to have talented people that aren’t only your friends, but they can really add and contribute to the record. It’s not something we need to do, but it’s something we like to do, and it’s fun. I think as long as we have spots on the records for this kind of thing, we’ll continue to do it.

Your daughter also appears on the album.
My daughter and Sascha’s daughter were part of the children’s choir. It was fun to include family. She’s 9 years old and is definitely a performer. She wants to be in theater and stuff like that. It fits perfectly into her goals. I told her to a get a college degree, and then we can talk about show business. (laughs)

You worked with Sascha Paeth again on this album. Obviously you have a great working relationship.
I don’t like messing with the chemistry of the team we’ve had over the years. Sascha is a great producer and talent. He’s great on honing in on what we do in terms of songwriting. For this record we didn’t want to mess around with the chemistry, and going with Sascha was a no-brainer. We wanted to keep everything as consistent as possible with this record, and that started with making sure the songs were in line with what we had done in the past. We didn't want to have any more major changes. But at the same time we wanted to make sure the album is bringing new elements to Kamelot, and we were able to achieve both goals.

You also returned to SPV/Steamhammer Records for this album. What led to that decision?
We met with those guys when we were on tour in Europe last year. We had a lot of good offers from different labels, but they were the one that not only came up with the right offer in terms of money, but it was more about their belief in Kamelot growing in light of changing singers and all that stuff. For me, they showed the most belief in the band, and that’s why we went with them.

As we speak, you’re wrapping up a tour with Nightwish. How have the crowds been?
It’s been amazing. We have been blown away by the response from the fans. We have our own fan base there of course, but Nightwish fans that have never heard of Kamelot have been blown away. It’s really been cool. All of the shows have been packed. It’s been a blast. We’re happy we were able to do it.

You had a front row seat to all the drama when Anette Olzon left the band in the middle of the tour.
We were pretty much able to see everything that happened, but those are the kind of things you don’t really talk about. Anette is a friend of mine as well. I think it’s kind of sad, but at the same time, if people aren’t getting along, sometimes you have to make those kind of changes for everybody. Floor (Jansen) is doing a great job. I think it’s one of those things that happened, and they will have to rebound from it.

The first show before Floor took over, Alissa and Elize took over the vocal duties for Nightwish after singing with you guys. How did that show go?
That show was epic. They had five minutes to prepare to go on stage with Nightwish, and they killed it. It was awesome. I was standing there watching. It was historic.

You’re next heading to Europe for a headlining tour. Is Kamelot better known in Europe than North America?
Definitely. Doing a support tour like this, which we have never done before, is something that can help us grow here. Europe is definitely our mainstay, and has been for years. But you never know. Markets change, things shift. We’re excited about growing more in North America. We’ll probably come back next spring and do a headlining run.

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