Interview with Tommy Karevik (Kamelot)
On a rather nice March afternoon in London DPRP have travelled to London to interview Tommy Karevik, lead singer of the band Kamelot before the band play their only UK date on their current tour at the O2 Islington Academy. We talk about the new album Haven (released May 2015), touring and life outside music.
TK: I joined in the summer of 2012 after Roy (Kahn) left so it is coming up for 3 years now.
PC: After 3 years do you still feel like the new boy in the band?
PC: It’s funny how that seems to work in bands that the last person in can be considered the ‘new one’ for years
TK: Yes exactly! It’s like my main day job (I’m not a full time singer/musician) as a Firefighter back home where I have been the youngest one for the last 14 years. Finally there is a new guy so I’m no longer the youngest Firefighter or the new guy (laughs)
PC: Yes I read that you were a Firefighter. How do you manage to balance being a Firefighter and the lead singer of a band?
TK: Actually, it has worked out really good. The Fire Service has been really good with giving me time off to tour and play with the band etc. which I’m so pleased about. They have been very supportive.
PC: So Kamelot can safely use Pyrotechnics on stage then with an expert on stage.
TK: Funnily enough I have had an incident on stage with Pyros. I had a Pyro go off in my face on the first tour I had with Kamelot. It was in Oslo and it was stupid. I did burn my face.
PC: I think that your stepping into Roy’s (Kahn) shoes has worked really well. You do not have a dissimilar voice and sing the older songs perfectly. Do you think these similarities were a big part in you being asked to join the band?
TK: No not at all. I was asked to join on the basis of my singing abilities in my other band (Seventh Wonder). I have tried to do justice to the older songs and was able to sing them in a similar way which of course was a plus but not the underlying factor.
PC: I think it’s a compliment to you that you have managed to put your own stamp on the vocals as well as keeping true to the older songs. Were you not a stand in before becoming a permanent member of the band?
TK: Yes I was. I sang on a couple of songs at Prog Power Festival where there were other guest singers. This was just after Roy left the band which of course was a strange situation at the time.
We were playing on the same bill and so Thomas called me and asked if I would learn a couple of songs and guest to help them out. A couple of days later I joined them on stage and that was the beginning of where we are today.
PC: Did you know Roy or ever meet him at all?
TK: No I didn’t. Our paths never crossed.
PC: So the first album you featured on was Silverthorn. Was that already pre written and recorded before you joined.
TK: No I joined and that was the first thing we did was to write and record the Silverthorn album. It was a good experience and a process I enjoyed being a part of. I hadn’t even fronted the band at that time.
PC: How was your first gig fronting the band?
TK: Perfect! It was a bit nerve wracking but an awesome gig. It was the Monsters of Rock in the Czech Republic in front of 30000 people. It went really well and the other guys in the band were really happy with it too. It was a really cool experience.
PC: Ok moving on to the new album Haven (for release in May 2015)… Tell us a bit about the album?
TK: Yeah Sure…. In my opinion it’s a really great album that has fast metal, to melodic songs and soft ballads. Its dark & melancholy but can also be uplifting at times. It takes through a field of musical emotions. It has a bit of everything I’d say. The album has 13 tracks that I think really give a great balanced view of who Kamelot are and what we are about.
PC: Have you been involved with the writing process?
TK: Yes and it’s been so cool. I have been involved with writing lyrics
TK: I would say about 12 months in all. It takes time to find inspiration then write and record music. Plus there is the travelling back and forward across the world meeting one another.
PC: Following on from what you said about travelling, I see the band are spread across the world with 3 being in the USA, you in Sweden and Oliver (Palotai) in Germany. How does that work when it comes to writing, recording and rehearsing?
TK: We have lots of Skype meetings… the internet makes the world a much smaller place. We use a common software for recording so we can do a lot in our own homes… it’s like a virtual recording studio which has been rather cool and extremely helpful. Plus I have travelled down to Germany to meet Oliver and our Producer, Sascha Paeth, for some recording and writing. We also send files back and forth to each other with ideas etc…. it all seems to be a bit chaotic but it works. As for rehearsing, the only time we rehearsed, for real, was before the Silverthorne tour as we needed to get things right as it was my first tour. Since then we just turn up and play and tweak it and get it right as we play our live performances. Rehearse on the road as it were.
Of course I have a day job to think about and I can’t just take off time as and when I want it so we have to work it out the best we can with the time allowed. It hasn’t caused us a problem yet.
PC: So why tour before the album release?
TK: I think this tour was booked while we were still recording and writing and the release timings were not set in stone at that time. Obviously timing this tour with the album release would have been great but we just had a bit too much to do. We will be touring throughout the year though to support the new album so plenty of time to promote it and play the songs live.
PC: We will you playing anything from Haven in the set tonight?
TK: We will have to see. We haven’t decided yet whether to put one in yet or not… but if you are coming to the gig you will find out (laughs)
PC: I see you have a gig in the USA in Columbus, OH, on the same day as the release in the USA… 6th May. I take it that will turn into an album launch party.
TK: Oh really… I didn’t realise that. I actually don’t really know… I don’t know what will happen that day regarding that. I’m sure though nearer the time we will think about it more and try to do something to mark to occasion.
PC: So far with your touring experience where have you played where you came away with a major WOW factor thinking… that crowd were amazing? (don’t say UK just because we are here)
TK: The crowd reaction and feedback in South American countries is always crazy and totally amazing. There are times when you can’t even hear yourself at all because of the noise.
Japan was really cool too, but for different reasons, just culturally so different to any other audience, so into the music and extremely appreciative. The Japanese though are dead quiet between songs as it seems they are generally interested in what we have to say which is nice but on the totally opposite end of the scale from South America.
PC: I know you have only been with the band for coming up to 3 years now, but Kamelot’s success seems to have accelerated in the last 3 to 5 years. The band have actually been going for 20 years so why do you think the last few years have been their most successful?
TK: Well it seems that the band have grown in popularity since the release of Black Halo which was actually 2005 so that’s 10 years ago. I think the band had a subtle change in style / direction by becoming a bit more modern metal and appealing to a wider and younger audience. I think the songs have a bit more of a melodic feel but the music is a bit darker since the Black Halo. A change in record company can also be a big factor in that as well as extensive touring.
PC: Of course I think Kamelot falling under different genres must help. I have found Kamelot branded as Symphonic metal, Power metal, Melodic metal, Progressive metal and having a multiple genre identity must be good for the fan base.
TK: I think you’re right we appeal to young and old alike and we appeal to varying types of metal fan. This isn’t something we have done consciously and of course we have no control into what genre we may be categorised but the music is what it is and as a band what we want to do. It is a good thing for us to be categorised so widely.
PC: Were you a Kamelot fan before you joined?
TK: I knew a couple of songs, I had come across them as we sometimes played the same festivals in my other band (Seventh Wonder, whom I still play with now). So I knew of them, I hadn’t really met any of the guys previously. When I was given the opportunity to sing for them obviously I went back across their back catalogue to listen to their music and just thought.. Wow this is amazing… I’m really going to enjoy being a part of Kamelot.
PC: We spoke previously about your Firefighting as a full time job. Do any of the other band members keep down other jobs outside of music or are they all professional musicians?
TK: Thomas, Oliver and Casey are full time musicians. They get involved in other projects plus they teach as well. Only Sean and I have other work involvements outside of music. Sean, ironically enough, is involved in the Fire Alarm business so our jobs have a common theme.
PC: Just away from Kamelot…. Who in the world of music do you admire.
TK: I’m a big fan, when it comes to singers, of Russell Allen and Jorn Lande. Both of these singers are really cool with great technique and powerful, strong unique voices. When it comes to song writing I would say Queen are my ultimate inspiration. I didn’t really get into metal based music until later on in my life so I have a lot of catching up to do.
PC: …and away from music… what do you love to do?
TK: I am a big keep fit fanatic. I love exercising and working out. Luckily enough my job as a Firefighter keeps me fit and what with 2 bands, travelling, writing recording etc. and holding down a full time job I don’t really have much time for anything else.
PC… are you a Sport fan?
TK: Before I got involved with music I always used to play football (Soccer to some) and Hockey 7 days a week but I got into music and that all came to a stop….
PC: Music has a habit of doing that…
TK: Yeah.. it does indeed (laughing). One good thing about music is that you can carry on doing it for longer in your life. Sport only has a short career in comparison. I hope to still be playing and writing music when I’m 80 years old.
PC: Well if you can maintain that great voice of yours at an age of 80 you’ll be doing really well (laughs)
TK: Ok maybe you’re right… maybe I won’t be able to keep doing that (laughing)
PC: Ok Tommy thanks for your time and I just want to finish off the interview with a little novelty piece I tend to end with. Do you know any well-known people that you share your birthday with?
1st November, if I’m correct?
TK: Yes that is correct and no I have no idea… I take it you know?
PC: Well… you share your birthday with Rick Allen – drummer Def Leppard, Anthony Kiedis – singer Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Dan Peck – vocals/guitar (America) and a Scandinavian connection with Magne Furuholmen – AHA
TK: Ohh that’s cool… I know of Aha but don’t really know their music.
PC: this is who the rest of the band share birthdays with…
Thomas Youngblood – 29th May
Blaze Bailey (former Iron Maiden singer)
Sean Tibbets – 13th Oct
Margaret Thatcher (ex British PM)
Casey Grillo – 16th Oct
Flea, [Michael Balzary] Red Hot Chilli Peppers
C Fred Turner – bassist/vocalist (BTO)
TK: Cool… that’s a bit of fun trivia.
PC: Well thanks for taking the time to talk to DPRP and we are really looking forward to the gig
TK: Thank you and I hope you enjoy it.Needless to say Tommy was one of the nicest people anyone could wish to interview. Very courteous, friendly, genuine and down to earth. We remained for the gig, after the interview, and it’s fair to say Tommy commands the stage and the crowd with complete ease. His voice is amazing, he has fantastic stage presence and does all this with a genuine smile on his face with sincere appreciation of the fans who stand in front of him.