For the last 20+ years, guitarist Thomas Youngblood has been pouring his blood, sweat, and tears into his symphonic, epic metal band Kamelot. Over the years Kamelot has released some highly fan and critically acclaimed albums such as Epica, The Black Halo, and Ghost Opera. After the departure of long time vocalist Roy Khan many wondered what would come to be of Kamelot. Kamelot returned to the top of the hill boasting a new vocalist in Tommy Kaverik while also boasting a new found energy all the while keeping true to the Kamelot legacy. In October, Kamelot with release their 10th album entitled Silverthorn and the first to feature Kaverik on vocals. On a recent tour stop I had the opportunity to speak with Thomas on the phone and we talked about the excitement surround the new Kamelot album, his enthusiasm for this new chapter in the Kamelot history, and his love for Queensryche among other things. This was a great interview and I really enjoyed getting to know more about Thomas Youngblood. I hope you will too. Enjoy.

Thomas thanks so much for taking the time out to speak with me today.

Not a problem Don. Thanks for doing this.

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I caught the 2nd sold out Atlanta show with Nightwish and I was made a fan right away from seeing show.

That’s really cool to hear. Thank you so much. That was a great show. That was the beginning of the tour and it’s just been going really well. The tour has been great so far.

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Every time I mention Kamelot around my wife, she always says, “Kamelot with a ‘K’?” That sparks the question why a “K”?

[laughs] Well, we just wanted to do that to separate it from the whole Camelot tales and what not. For us, we were going for that European market in the beginning and that spelling kind of gives it a German look to it. We just wanted to set it apart from the typical “Camelot.” Also, a long time ago there was a record store called Camelot Music so we wanted to separate it from that so that when it came to internet searches, Kamelot with a “k” was pretty unique.

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When I first heard Kamelot, I was shocked to find out you all were southern boys.

[laughs] Yeah, we hear that a lot.

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Have you always been inspired by that European style of metal that you guys seem to play?

Yeah. Well our influences are everything from Classical music to European bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and even some of the European influenced American bands like Queensryche. Growing up I was definitely influenced by the European rock and metal stuff more than any of the American stuff. I think that bled into what we were doing. We were also able to bring in some classical elements to take it to another level.

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As opposed to sounding like a lot of the more modern symphonic metal bands, Kamelot seems to have this old school vibe that really connected with me.

Thanks Don. At first, we really didn’t know what we were doing. The first few records were basically just us trying to find our identity. When we got to the album Karma, we really found our niche and our own sound. We were blending those classical influences with some new age influences and making the record really melodic yet also dark and melancholy. Those were the key identifiers with the band from that point on and with each record we just wanted to grow and try different things. We have the luxury of having open minded fans who are open to change and that’s important especially with the changes that have happened recently.

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The change you’re talking about is the changing of lead vocalists from Roy Khan to Tommy Karevik. That’s 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?

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.

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How did you guys actually find Tommy Karevik?

Actually, it was the year before our ProgPower USA performance in 2012. Roy had quit so we brought in Michael Erikson 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.

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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.

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.

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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.

[laughs] Oh yeah. Hundreds of YouTube clips, emails with videos attached to them and I listened to every single one of them. You can tell usually in the first five seconds of 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.

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Kamelot is based out of Florida. Why go with a European vocalist?

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 (Khan; previous vocalist) but we just felt like that it wasn’t good for him or for us to find someone who was basically a clone.

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That makes a lot of sense because you don’t really want to back step. You want to progress and go into a different realm with a new vocalist.

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% 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.

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Kamelot is about to release its 10th album and first with new vocalist Tommy Karevik. You must be both ecstatic and nervous at the same time.

I’m not nervous at all. I’m really happy with the record and reviews so far have been amazing. I know that the songs are killer and there are some amazing choruses on this record. I’m not really nervous about it. I’m excited and looking forward to it finally coming out. I wish it was coming out now instead of October 30th [laughs]. It’s exciting. As long as you do your best with a record and put a lot of hard work into it, you can’t really worry too much about it. If you know you did your best, stressing over the potential reactions isn’t really helpful.

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What role did Tommy play in the creative process behind Silverthorn?

It started with me and Oliver 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 Sasha 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 Sasha 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% 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.

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It’s got to be great to feel like you can relinquish some control to somebody knowing that they have the best interest of you and the rest of Kamelot in mind.

Yeah, definitely. That’s the cool thing about having people around that are super talented and in some aspects more talented than me. Bringing Oliver in as one of the songwriters now is a really cool thing because now I know the future of the band, in terms of songwriting and bringing in those classical elements, will be secure.

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Kamelot’s albums in the past have seemed to work around a particular theme of sorts. Will Silverthorn be based around a concept or theme as well?

Silverthorn is based in the 19th century and it revolves around this family that has experienced a series of tragic events that are wrapped up in mystery and betrayal. I don’t want to tell too much about the story but it’s a concept record and one of the things we will be offering the fans is a limited edition 44 page book with the full story which is really cool. We always try to make sure that the fans who are buying our records get everything that they can for their money.

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I was a huge of those thematic and even conceptual albums growing up and I still am. Were you a big fan of those kinds of records growing up?

Oh totally and even so with great album covers. I used get lost in great album artwork like those Iron Maiden covers. I was a huge fan of Operation Mindcrime. Those kinds of records are an escape just as long as you make sure the songs are strong and not too abstract.

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What do you think is the greatest concept album of all time?

Oh man. I don’t think I can say that there is one great one. Of course I like The Wall and Operation: Mindcrime. I love Kamelot’s Black Halo [laughs].

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For someone who is just discovering Kamelot, where would you say would be the best place to start listening to the band?

I would say start with Silverthorn since this is going to be the sound of the band for the next many years. Start with that one and then I would say go back to Karma or Black Halo. We’ll see how Silverthorn stacks up. I mean, I think it’ll be cool for the fans to hear it and decide where they want to place it but the record really came out great and I’m super proud of it.

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Thomas, let’s learn a little about you. What made you want to be a musician in the first place?

Um, I kind of needed it at the time. I had lost my father and I didn’t live with my mom so I kind of got lost in music and then I just lost myself in playing the guitar. It became an escape for me and it kept me from taking the wrong path. I started doing it purely for the escape p art of it and at some point I felt that I had a knack for making unique riffs. I formed a band and from the beginning started making original music. I worked a day job and did Kamelot as a hobby but that was the reason I started being a musician.

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What was the first band you ever had?

Oh man, I had a little band that played some cover songs and I can’t even remember our name. It was just a band with a couple of fans of mine and actually the original drummer for Kamelot was in it. It wasn’t like one of those things where I was in like 10 different bands before I formed Kamelot.

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What was the first concert you ever attended?

I went to a Yes concert when I was 12 years old and it blew my mind. They had the round stage in the middle of the arena which was really unique back then. That was my first concert and then my second concert was Styx. I was a little kid listening to some odd stuff [laughs].

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Did those early shows play any part in inspiring you to do what you are doing with Kamelot now?

Oh sure. Also, my cousin is a Grand Ole Opry guitar player. He’s been playing there for years so he was also an inspiration for me to go into music. He toured with Johnny Cash, Jerry Reed. His name is Kerry Marx. He’s like Mr. Nashville Guitar Player [laughs]. I grew up watching him and being around him playing gigs was a really cool thing.

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I’ve heard that you are a jazz fan. Besides jazz, are there any musical acts that we would be surprised to hear you were a fan of?

Oh yeah. I have a lot of diverse interests. I like new age music, film score music, and even some pop music. I don’t really dig too much country and I don’t like rap [laughs]. Other than that I’m pretty open minded to different types of music.

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If you could play guitar for any band, of any era who would it be and why?

Oh man. I wouldn’t mind playing with Queen when Freddie Mercury was alive. Queen was one of my favorite bands growing up and Freddie Mercury is like my all time favorite vocalist.

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Mercury was so amazing and Brian May never ceases to amaze me. It’s amazing how much of his influence I can hear in some metal guitarists.

Yeah. He’s so understated which I really dig. I like that approach where he wasn’t so flashy but he was so unique. To me, that’s more important than anything.

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If you had to be remembered for ONE body of work, what would it be and why?

Probably is The Elizabeth Trilogy. Being able to blend all of the elements that are essential to the band, I just feel that it encompasses everything that is Kamelot.

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In your opinion, what is the ultimate heavy metal album? One that, in your opinion, best defines the genre?

There’s not just one [laughs]. For me, I think it was Piece of Mind by Iron Maiden, Operation: Mindcrime, Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force. Those were the kind of albums that were groundbreaking albums.

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So obviously you’re a big Queensryche fan. I’m curious to hear another fan’s opinion on the whole split up between the band and Geoff Tate and now having two Queensryches.

I’m not sure man. I’ll have to see how that whole thing plays out [laughs]. It’s a weird situation for me because Kamelot has gone through a similar thing. I know Todd and he’s a super passionate guy and I know he’s going to give 100%. I want to hear what the new record will sound like. I mean, I still miss Chris DeGarmo. Stuff happens and sometimes people just don’t get along anymore. It’s part of the business where people are accepting change more. I was more surprised at how accepting the Queensryche fans were regarding their change. I think people just understand more that it’s not just about the singer but about the whole band.

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If Kamelot could tour with any band, who would it be and why?

Probably Iron Maiden. We did some shows with Maiden and I think a full Maiden tour would be a blast.

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A buddy of mine and I were joking earlier that it would be funny to see Kamelot and Holy Grail tour together and we could bring a bunch of killer bunnies to the shows.

Oh yeah [laughs]. That’s pretty funny.

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When on the road, what is your favorite food to indulge in both here and in Europe?

Man, here in the US I try to eat healthy because there’s so much fast food here. In Europe, you can never get a good burger so if we always try to find a Hard Rock Café in the major cities and have a good old American style burger.

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Do you have any words of advice to anyone out there with dreams of pursuing music as a career?

I would say to make sure you don’t put all your eggs into one basket. Try to be as original as possible and learn your craft. Learn how to write songs. It’s a tough business so make sure you have a “Plan B.”

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Finish this sentence: If I wasn’t a musician I would be….

An architect. I was actually going to school for architectural engineering so I would probably do that if I wasn’t playing music and doing what I do now.

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So speaking of, are we going to see another Kamelot tour in the near future?

In 2013, I think in May, we’ll be coming back for a North American headlining tour so we’ll be coming back to Atlanta and all the major US cities.

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Thomas, that sounds awesome so when you’re back here in Atlanta, I’ll buy you a beer.

Yes, I’ll definitely take a beer [laughs].

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Thomas, thanks so much for taking the time out to talk to me today and best of luck to you.

Thank you for doing this interview. I appreciate your support and I’ll look forward to seeing you in Atlanta.

For more on Kamelot, check out http://www.kamelot.com and https://www.facebook.com/kamelotofficial.

About The Author

The Brainfart

Don (aka. The Brainfart) has been a heavy metal fan since hearing it for the first time in 1983. Don is also repsonsible for all of the typos, shitty grammar, and kick ass content on this site. Don likes cheap beer, whiskey, Coca Cola Icees, going to shows, and hanging with his kick ass wife, two cats (Drusilla & Coltrane) and dog (Cassie). He originally wanted to name his dog Shandi but his wife said, "No fucking way."

Blaque Smith says:

Never been to this website before, but LOVE IT! Rock on fellow metal head!!

The Brainfart The Brainfart says:

Thanks so much Blaque and welcome aboard! I hope you’ll stick around a while!