Interview with Khan (vocals)
Interview conducted by Sargon the Terrible
Date online: July 30, 2007
These days, Kamelot need no real introduction. All I'll say is that I was very happy to get a chance to talk with singer Roy Khan, who was a very cool guy to chat with.
Khan: Hi this is Khan from Kamelot.
Khan: Hi, is this Paul?
Sargon: Yes, yes this is. From Metalcrypt.com.
Khan: Nice talking to you.
Sargon: Very nice talking to you. I have been a big big fan for many years.
Khan: Cool, cool. Where are you at?
Sargon: I'm in Oklahoma actually, Tulsa Oklahoma, middle of nowhere.
Khan: Huh, our drummer Casey (Grillo) is actually from Oklahoma, originally.
Sargon: Yeah, I think I remember reading that. But of course, that was a long time ago. You guys are based in Florida.
Sargon: You've been living in Florida yourself for what? Six, seven years now?
Khan: No, I live in Norway. I'm Norwegian.
Sargon: Oh, I know that (laughs)
Khan: I've never lived in Florida, the rest of the guys live there though.
Sargon: Okay, I remember reading years and years ago that you were going to be moving to the US, but-
Khan: I talked about it, and I thought about it for a long time. But I have friends and family here, and the climate...I just never took the step and moved over.
Sargon: Yeah, Florida is kind of a big climatic shift from Norway.
Khan: Ohhh yeah. It's the opposite: flat, ocean all over the place, and the temperatures of course are...different.
Sargon: Yeah, those Florida summers are kind of a lot to take if you're not used to it.
Khan: Yeah, I think it's a little bit too much for me, the heat down there. I'm all right indoors of course, because everybody has air conditioning, but being outside...errr, it's a little bit tough on me.
Sargon: You doing a lot of interviews today?
Khan: Ummm, every night. We do a lot of interviews about a month before the release and then a couple of weeks after, so I'm getting used to it now.
Sargon: Right, I have to remember that Ghost Opera just got released, what? A couple of weeks ago? I had a promo so I've had it in continuous rotation for like a month now-
Sargon: So, let me ask you some questions here. This is my first live phone interview, so you'll have to forgive me if I'm not as pro at this, but I'll give it a shot.
Khan: Go on.
Sargon: I'll try not to ask too many questions you've been asked a million times, but let's talk about your background a little bit. I know you're from Norway, I know you studied opera for some time...so what was it that first made you want to be a singer?
Khan: Ummmmm. Well, I started playing the clarinet when I was like nine years old. And I both attended the school core and took private lessons. And then I started playing piano when I was 12-13 years old. And along the way I, you know, sang in the shower and in front of the mirror, like a lot of kids I guess. But it wasn't until I tried to attend this musical school with piano as my main instrument, and that didn't work out because the competition between piano players was really, really tough. I simply hadn't played piano enough, or long enough, to cut it. But they asked me if I liked singing - and I'd always liked singing - so they advised me to try that instead, have vocals as my main instrument. And that worked. So then I started singing classical, and people told me that I had certain talent and I should go further with it. So after that I took a year and a half with classical and a year and a half-two years maybe, with private lessons. And then I joined a metal band here in Norway, and had to choose: opera or metal. Because my teacher told me that I couldn't do both of them - at least not at the same time.
Sargon: Despite that some people do-
Khan: Yeah, yeah some people do. The way I sing in Kamelot, is pretty different from the way you do operatic vocals. The whole form of the opera is a bit stiff, you know? And I like heavy guitars. I had a chance to join a band that was playing the kind of music I'd been listening to for years, so...my choice was pretty simple.
Sargon: The band has changed and developed a lot, just since you joined Kamelot with The Fourth Legacy. Is this the direction you've always consciously wanted to push the band in? Not just you, but the whole band.
Khan: Oh yeah, absolutely. And of course the difference between Fourth Legacy and the earlier albums is one: me being part of the songwriting from day one, and it's also that we found Sascha (Paeth) and Miro, our producers. But Tom (Youngblood - Guitars) also wanted to take the band in a different direction. And me joining as the singer gave the band a different dynamic - just working with new people inspires you to write different stuff. So, I think the direction we've been going is the thought both me and Tom had.
Sargon: So: Ghost Opera. I've listened to the new album a lot, and I've noticed it's not as dense as Black Halo, is that something you wanted to do on purpose?
Khan: Hmmmm.(makes thinking noises) Yeah...we don't really approach the songwriting as analytically as some people tend to think. I think it's a natural development in our songwriting. The only thing that we knew was going to be different when we sat down and started writing it was that it was not going to be a concept record. Which meant we could just sit down and throw out all the ideas that we had, musically, without having to worry about the lyrics, or the lyrical theme before we did it, and I think that we all found it amazingly refreshing. I think that in itself led us to try out different things - for sure it made the songwriting process more free, in a way. And much more directly than ever before we let the music inspire the lyrics.
Sargon: Yeah, I noticed that the lyrics -again - are not as dense as before.
(minor technical difficulties ensue)
Khan: Where was I? Oh, lyrics. Yeah, the lyrics are - on almost every song - directly inspired by the music. And that might have changed the lyrics slightly...I'm not sure, actually. I have a certain style of writing, and it's not too different...but then I haven't really sat down and analyzed it. Of course you don't have this big story that has to...we didn't have to make sure every song fit, and make every song part of the whole. There are no interludes, and the album's a little bit shorter...
Sargon: Yeah, I noticed that too, that the songs were of a more uniform length. Was that a reaction to playing live so much? I know you guys toured a lot for the last album.
Khan: I think it was more a reaction to, y'know, the last two albums that we did - Epica and The Black Halo - the whole concept thing was something that we wanted to not do this time. And we always had a song that was either several parts or very long. And not that we didn't want to do that this time, but there wasn't really any need to do it.
Sargon: You don't want to force it, you only want to do a song like that if it just comes out that way-
Khan: Exactly! The perfect thing is...a lot of our songs start with me on keyboards and Tom on guitars - that's how we write mainly. And very often a song evolves just from a little thing. We might just sit at our instruments and play around - have fun with them. And all of a sudden there's a little melody or a little riff or a little something that sparks off and we just start adding to it and try to get to the point where the song starts writing itself. Which is a very interesting process, when things just flow - and I really feel that was the case on most of these songs.
Sargon: They seem looser, not as busy.
Khan: Yeah, yeah, absolutely.
Sargon: It sounded like you were having more fun with it. I mean Ghost Opera is serious, but the last two albums were serious with a capital S.
Khan: Yeah, and again it's the whole storyline thing, the whole idea was so grandiose, and we had all this...every time we wrote something we had to think what the music was going to emphasize. There were different characters to worry about and the fact that the whole thing was going to be one piece in the end. So that whole process was quite different.
Sargon: So when do you get back on the road?
Khan: We've actually done two legs already in Europe, two three-week runs before the record came out. It wasn't planned like that, actually. The album was supposed to come out a couple of months earlier. But we had a lot of...I mean the DVD (One Cold Winter's Night) took a lot of time. Finalizing the booklet and the graphics, and not least the bonus section of the thing took just forever. Having everybody go through all these tapes with our bullshit personal handicams was a nightmare. And so sometime before Christmas we realized we needed more time to finalize Ghost Opera, and we had to choose whether to do the tours before the record came out, or cancel, and we didn't want to do that at all.
Sargon: No, you don't want to just cancel stuff-
Khan: No! And I think people took that as a nice opportunity to hear some of the new stuff anyway, and the tour was extremely successful so I guess it was the right choice.
Sargon: You didn't have a lot of break time between the last tour and the new one, did you?
Khan: The last three years - since we started working on The Black Halo - have been extremely busy. But it's all good, you know? We're definitely steaming forward. I mean the more we have to do the more the band is having success. . . and it feels good too, it feels all right to work that hard and that much when you feel that you're going somewhere. If our records were not as good as we feel they are, or if people felt they were not good...success definitely feeds your stamina. I think the next few years are going to be pretty busy too, because the promotion for this album - the whole promotional machinery is much bigger this time. I guess we just have to be careful we're not burning out, but up 'til now it's been a lot of fun. As long as this thing is interesting to us and the band keeps rolling and we're having fun, I think we're gonna keep the pace.
Sargon: I think it's pretty remarkable that since you joined there hasn't been a change in personnel. I mean you added Oliver (Palotai), as a keyboard player, but you haven't lost anybody. Not many bands can go six-seven years without losing a band member, so you guys must be pretty tight.
Khan: You know, I never thought about that, but yeah. Everybody in the band is happy about their own personal situation. Both me and Tom are happy to have been able to take this - take our hobby - to this level. I mean it's every kid musician's dream to be able to live off of music-
Sargon: Every artist's dream-
Khan: Yeah! Exactly, and here we are. Of course there's a lot of factors that count in that. It's not just me and Tom, it's the whole band. And producers, engineers, the people that do backup vocals and guest instruments. Webmasters, promoters, the label - there's so many people working on this and a very important task for me and Tom is to make sure everyone has the same focus. To make sure everyone is focused on the same goals that we are aiming for, because otherwise there's going to be conflicts.
Sargon: And when you're on the road or in the studio as much as you guys are, you don't want conflicts.
Khan: Yeah, I mean we spend a lot of time together, and it's important to make sure everybody's happy, and make sure that everybody's work situation is good.
Sargon: So something I've always wanted to ask you about: There's a lot of themes, in your lyrics, of loss, especially lost love and similar things-
Sargon: I've just wondered does that arise from your personal life in some way?
Khan: Yeah, that's personal. Ummmm. I went through a relationship that lasted - oh, years, I think it was ten, eleven years. And there were like ten ups and downs - we were together nine times I think, and I wasn't really with anyone else in between either. And we did manage to keep it together. That relationship is a big inspiration for me in all these songs -
Sargon: Whew! I'm just glad nobody died, because some of your songs -
Khan: No, nobody died. But it was dramatic enough, at the beginning, and it hit me hard. I think a lot of people have that kind of experience, and I don't know if my personal story is extraordinary, but it was quite traumatic for me, and left some marks on my soul, or whatever you want to call it.
Sargon: I've always wondered about that. It's unusual - especially for a metal band - for lyrics to be so personal. Kind of off that subject, what are your favorite songs to actually perform live?
Khan: Welllll, we've reached the point now where almost all of the songs are a ball for us onstage, but "March Of Mephisto" is always euphoric ummmmm, uhhhhhhhm...there's so many.
Khan: I can't really pick, but "March Of Mephisto" is one I always love to do. Ummmmmm. No I can't really pick any others.
Sargon: Are there ones you like to do that are technically difficult, or challenging to do?
Khan: Uuummmmmmmmmmmmmm...not really. If anything, the old stuff, the really old Kamelot songs. There's a couple of reasons why we don't do those old songs, first of all, those songs were written for Mark (Vanderbildt, Kamelot's old singer) and you can say whatever you want about his voice, but the songs were written for him, and I don't have exactly his voice. I don't have that high kind of growly voice. When I sing high it's really high and shiny, not growly. And there's the fact that honestly, it's not that interesting musically to do the old stuff. When I take part in writing I of course make sure the music is music I like - but I do like some of the old stuff, it's not bad. There are some songs, it's more of a matter of being in shape - I might be sick one day, or maybe I'm not in top shape, for some reason. Maybe I didn't practice enough or whatever.
Sargon: Living on the road is hard.
Khan: It is, especially being a singer. If you tour in the winter, for example, you can be sure somebody's going to get the flu. And if somebody gets the flu on a bus with fifteen people-
Sargon: Everybody's going to get it.
Khan: You can't really avoid it, and the whole bus gets sick. But being a singer and having the flu is a very bad combination. And that sucks, those nights are hard. But aside from that I really enjoy being onstage.
Sargon: Do you have stuff you do on the road expressly to keep your voice in shape?
Khan: Um, I drink a lot of water, during the day. And at least one hour before the gig I start warming up. I jog, I do pushups or situps, just to get my body warm, and then I do my little warmup exercises - preferably in the shower, not necessarily in the shower but in a room where there is a shower to keep the hot water steaming. I just stand there like I'm in a sauna. And I drink a lot of hot tea with honey, just regular stuff...oh and I like to brush my teeth just before I go onstage - that's kind of an odd thing.
And you have to adjust to the sound. Every venue, every monitor, every PA system has a different sound that you have to adapt to in a way. And you have to feel out the audience and all that - it normally takes a couple of songs to get into it.
Sargon: So is this, right now, where you wanted to be, when you started as a musician?
Khan: Oh yeah, absolutely. Of course every musician wants to play arenas. But our main goal is that we keep feeling that we've developed, that we've managed to keep the whole thing interesting to ourselves. And that we're having fun - that's also very important. And deal with people who know what they're doing, and are, you know...just nice (laughs). We spend so much time together and we try to work with people that are nice to work with.
Sargon: So I was going to ask 'what is your greatest satisfaction as a musician?' but that's obviously what you're doing right now. I've heard some talk about you maybe doing a solo album, is that a possibility?
Khan: Absolutely. All of the songs are there, and of course a lot of the songs end up - either the whole song, or parts of the song from my solo thing, end up on Kamelot stuff. But I've got plenty of songs, and a lot of it is quite different from Kamelot. Being the singer, and being such a big part of Kamelot, it will be hard not to make it sound like Kamelot. But the main reason I haven't gone ahead and done it is that Kamelot keeps me so busy. And right after you finish with a big production like we do, you don't really feel like heading into another one. And there's not really that much space between each project or each tour. So it's an energy surplus thing and it's also that I get really artistically and musically satisfied in Kamelot, so there's not like this big urge to do it. I'm sure it's going to happen at some point, but I don't know - I've been talking about it for years. We'll see. (laughs)
Sargon: I figured it was just a matter of being busy, you haven't really had a break for the last 3 years or so.
Khan: Well when I had three weeks off I could have gone ahead and started. But I just needed some time to recharge my batteries.
Sargon: Looks like you're not going to get that anytime soon-
Khan: Well, umm. I think the next record will be...I think we'll wait a little longer with the next record. So maybe next year or something, I don't know. I know Tom is thinking about something, but of course it makes the most sense for us to make sure Kamelot is running well and healthy. But as soon as there's time and energy, I should start on it, at least.
Sargon: I read a long time ago that Tom was going to try and do a project with Mark Vanderbildt - the old singer, but I never heard anything else about that.
Khan: No, I don't think that ever went past just the idea. I don't know, but I don't think that's something Tom is thinking about anymore.
Sargon: Well that's too bad. I don't think Mark compared with you as a singer, but I still liked him.
Khan: Yeah, absolutely. Actually I have no idea, I've never met him. I don't even know if he's still singing. I know he came to a gig of ours in Florida once, but I didn't meet him, he never came backstage.
Sargon: Is it true they made you skydive before you could join the band, or is that just a rumor?
Khan: (Laughs) Yeah, I mean obviously that was a PR gimmick. But we did skydive in Florida. It was a pretty scary experience, and actually it was only me and Tom and the keyboard player that ended up doing it. It was pretty cool, don't know if I'll do it again though.
Sargon: So is there something you never get asked that you wish people would ask?
Khan: (Laughs) Not really. I get a lot of different questions, but now, I think that pretty much covered it.
Sargon: Okay! Thanks for talking to me today.
Khan: All right, take care.
|Other information about Kamelot on this site|
|Review: The Expedition|
|Review: The Fourth Legacy|
|Review: Siége Perilous|
|Review: Ghost Opera Tour|
|Review: One Cold Winter's Night|
|Review: The Black Halo|
|Review: Ghost Opera|
|Review: Poetry for the Poisoned|
|Review: Poetry for the Poisoned|
|Review: Poetry for the Poisoned|
|Video: The Haunting|
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