Roy Khan interview
By Steph Perry
May 16, 2009
Kamelot’s tour for their latest album Ghost Opera is soon coming to a close, and they are already busy working on their next album due out early 2010. Roy Khan spoke to me recently by telephone from Norway and we discussed the Ghost Opera tour, the new album, some of the inspirations behind their songs, and much more. Khan admits that he performs each show as if it was his last, much to the worry of his band-mates. Roy is very thankful of fans who request Kamelot on the radio and said that “our fan support in that regard is so important”.
So you’re on a short break from the tour right now?
Yes we came off the tour about a month and a half ago. We’re working on the new record, and have some more festivals and shows in Germany and Norway. Then at the end of the summer we’re going to get back into the studio and continue working on the new album.
How far along are you with the new material?
I would say about one-third.
Congratulations on the release of the new video for the song Love You To Death.
Hey thanks it came out about two days ago.
Do you want to talk a little bit about it?
It came out pretty good. We had been holding it back for a while, we weren’t totally sure what we were going to do with it. But eventually we just thought we’d release it. It’s close to summer now, so.
Where was it filmed?
In Serbia, same place as the other three videos.
Do you get involved with the artistic side of the videos?
Absolutely. It’s always a collaboration where people throw the ball back and forth and try to help out. We’re all throw our ideas in, and whatever me and Tom think sounds or looks cool we try out.
Who is playing bass in the video?
That is a Serbian bass player. The thing is, Glenn couldn’t show up for the filming of Rule The World, so he’s not in Rule The World either. It’s not as evident as in Love You To Death where you see the entire band in one scene. But in that clip we had to get a bass player in just for the look of it. And he happened to be blonde, and he just kind of looked down [laughs]. It’s sad that Glenn couldn’t do it, but that’s how we had to do it when he couldn’t.
Is Sean [Tibbetts] permanent now?
If he’s a permanent member of the band, no we haven’t made that decision yet. But he is doing the tour right now. We have no idea how we’re going to do the bass thing for this new record. We have our ideas but we’re not totally sure what it’s going to be. Glenn is real busy with his job and he can do a little bit here and a little bit there, but it’s not really sufficient for what we need at this level. I don’t know but that’s a decision we have to make this summer.
How did you go about writing songs for Ghost Opera? Is it very different from when you wrote The Black Halo?
Very different, because The Black Halo was a concept so the lyrical ideas had to come first. The Epica album and The Black Halo were concepts so the lyrics or the lyrical ideas had to come first. But with Ghost Opera we just sat down and started playing around on our instruments and pretty much just started working on stuff as the ideas came along. So it was written much faster. It doesn’t mean it’s less complex but of course the whole thing with the through-going story in Epica and The Black Halo made it take more time to make. Because you had to think about everything being connected and stuff, but I would say that the music itself is still pretty complex although it’s more down to the point on Ghost Opera.
And it’s charting very well throughout the world, are you very happy with the fan and critical response to this album?
Yes absolutely. The band keeps growing. There are many reasons for that. We keep delivering quality. The whole metal genre as such has had a revival, at least over here! We just try to develop each little side of our little business whether it’s the live side of it, or the graphics, or the videos, or the music. One of the things we really focused on in connection with Ghost Opera was the videos. We made four high quality videos off that album which is really quite rare for any band in any genre really, but definitely for a metal band. It’s really hard to judge whether that’s something that pays off but the band is growing and we get to play with all this imagery. You know making a video is a lot of fun for us, so we’re having a lot of fun which is a very important thing when you’ve been doing this for a long time.
I think you’ve also set a standard in the live concert DVD market with One Cold Winter’s Night.
Thanks. We put a lot of energy and money into that DVD [laughs].
It never ceases to amaze me when I watch it, I feel like I’m there. I’ve never had that feeling when watching a video of live music.
That is really great to hear. That was the whole vision that we had. We wanted the DVD to be a representation of what we are live, to people that have never seen us live or to people who have seen us in concert before. The whole making believe you’re there was the thing that we were trying to go for.
And the movie quality production is wonderful.
Oh Patrick [Ullaeus] did a wonderful job around the technicalities around that DVD. With the video footage, color, direction, and editing, everything is classy and there’s not one shot too much or too many. It’s cool!
With the festivals and shows already scheduled, and plans to go back into the studio at the end of the summer, will there be any more shows in support of Ghost Opera?
The last gig we do will be the Metallica support thing in Holland on the 20th of June. That will be the absolutely last gig. We have had a lot of offers for festivals and other gigs later this year but we just gotta find a point where we say ‘no more, now we have to focus on the record’. To be quite honest we should have started earlier than we have. From July we’re going to focus a hundred percent on the record.
When do you plan to have the new record done?
Well it’s going to be released next Spring, that’s the plan.
Would you mind if I step back in time a bit? I’d like to talk a little bit about your lyrics. In the song Abandoned, I’d like you to talk about your inspirations and specifically the line, ‘why oh why my God have you abandoned me in my sobriety’.
At that point in the story Ariel, the main character in that story, feels that his collaboration with the evil forces, or Mephisto, has taken him in the wrong direction. And through the whole thing he’s trying to find back to his earlier lost love. The story in Abandoned, he is…I can’t really say that he can be perceived as a religious person. He is spiritual but not really religious. And when he tries to talk to God it’s not necessarily a Christian God, if you know what I’m saying. Was there anything specific about the song that you wondered about?
The reference to sobriety in particular.
Well he’s at a point where he’s trying to get rid of Mephisto’s influence over him and the sobriety part is a metaphor for anything that could be looked upon as addictive like drugs or alcohol. At this point he’s trying to get rid of the evil influences in his life and even then God seems to be absent.
Can we talk a little bit about Memento Mori? I think of that song as Kamelot’s Bohemian Rhapsody if you know what I mean?
Well to me it’s a signature Kamelot song that shows off the many facets of your writing and performing.
It’s definitely a song that contains a lot of different parts and different aspects of Kamelot. You got the slow parts that are more balladish, and you got the real heavy and quite fast parts, and there’s the odd time signatures that gives you a very proggy feeling I guess. And the lyrics of course are more than ever dealing with the big universal things that we always seem to write about.
In the song Temples Of Gold, there’s the lyric ‘little did we know that they were life itself, the days passing by’. That’s just pure poetry. You don’t even need a song behind it, it’s a piece of poetry that will stick in my mind forever. How does it feel to touch so many people with your words?
The lyrics have always been really important to me. There’s so many bands that, I don’t know how they feel about it themselves of course but there’s a lot of bands that I feel don’t put enough into the lyrics. They focus on the music and song and everything’s great but the lyrics seem to be lacking something. There’s other bands that have brilliant lyrics too and much better lyrics for that matter. In our genre I feel there’s a lot of lyrics that definitely could have been more worked on let’s put it that way. I guess it’s just that I like to play with words, I like to say things in ways that make people stop and think. It’s very important to me. I really like writing lyrics. It doesn’t always take that long though, even though people may think that [laughs]. A lot of my lyrics are written like the day before or the same day that I’m going into the studio. I seem to be working the absolute best while under pressure. So that’s most often done very late in the process. It was a little bit different with The Black Halo and Epica because the story had to come first of course but on a lot of the songs we just had the lyrical idea not the whole song written out word by word but we just had rough ideas of what the song should be about.
I think it’s cool how you use operatic vocals in some of the songs, it comes up and you don’t expect it and it just blows you away. Not many bands are willing to take the time to carry on these old traditions and it’s great that you do.
Well both me and Tom love classical music. My plan was to become an opera singer before I started singing metal, which I’m glad I didn’t by the way! But it’s always been there, you know.
Like in the song Edge Of Paradise and you start singing in another language, that’s really cool.
That’s Latin. It’s supposed to sound like a Gregorian choir. It’s actually only me doing all the voices in the background [laughs]. In the choir in the background I sing in an operatic type voice. Same thing with Ghost Opera, the choir in the background there, we had a whole choir try to sing like opera singers which is a totally different sound. I can’t really explain how you do that but it’s a different sound.
What was it like to play at the main stage at Wacken last year?
It was a blast, it was really really great. I think we had seventy thousand people or eighty thousand people. It just looked like an ocean of people. It’s the biggest crowd we ever played for so that was great.
What is the strangest thing a fan has done or said to you?
[Laughs] Well we get a lot of obscure mail but I’m not sure I want to quote any of those [laughs]. We do meet a lot of enthusiastic people out there.
And you guys routinely take the time at shows to do meet n greets with fans?
Yes but the sad thing for me as the singer is it’s not very smart. When you live with 10 or 15 people on a bus, it’s hard not to get sick. It’s a very exposed position being the singer so I’m really trying to cut down on that but we’re doing our best. It’s really hard for people to understand that a little bit of talking can be that bad…but it is after singing for an hour and a half. It’s like running a half marathon and those people don’t go out and jog after that. To me it’s really bad for me to be out there when I should be resting so I’m really trying to cut that down…I really do try to put everything into the show. Even if I’m sick I still sing as if it was my last show. And that’s something that both the booking agents and the other guys in the band have talked to me about, you know ‘try to hold back’ but I simply can’t. It’s just hard for me not to totally fall into what I’m doing there and then. So that’s actually a problem for me to hold back when I really should.
Well I’ve kept you for a very long time here so I’m wondering if there’s anything I haven’t touched on that you think I should have?
Not that I can think of. We have the album coming out next spring. I would say the next US tour is gonna be in 2010.
Well thank you so much for everything.
Take good care.