Interview: Kamelot’s Thomas Youngblood talks ‘The Shadow Theory,’ lineup changes

Posted by on May 8, 2018

Florida/European power metal titans Kamelot released their overall twelfth studio album The Shadow Theory last month via Napalm Records. To celebrate the record’s arrival, they’ve embarked on a North American trek. Somehow during their busy schedule, we were lucky enough to have guitarist/founding member Thomas Youngblood take some time to speak to us about topics including philosophy, technology, their incredible live performances, and more.

Can you tell me more about how The Shadow Theory came together?

We started working on the album about a year ago. We were tossing around different ideas, and I was kicking on this shadow aspect from Carl Jung. We also wanted to marry that idea with AI (Artificial Intelligence), and the transference of human thought and the brain to an AI being. That was kind of where the whole genesis of The Shadow Theory started. And then, once we started putting together all the song titles and the ideas for the album, I think we finished probably about, November of last year. And, that’s the whole layout for the record.

You also mentioned on Carl Jung’s theory about everyone having a dark side?

The shadow aspect from Carl Jung is this, everyone has a shadow in them, and if they don’t, sort of, identify with that, it can consume them. Or, you know, can grow even darker. There’s kind of a dark side that we all have, and I think we can all relate to that in some way or another. Maybe it’s also some kind of a burden that you’ve been carrying your whole life and you never really addressed it, those kind of things.


That’s very true. And if you don’t acknowledge, it stays in the dark.

Yeah, it can consume you and fester. I think we all have something like that. So, we tried to make the album something that is relatable, without having to adapt to a full concept. Every song has its own, kind of life force that I think people can relate to, which is very important.


What was your first thought when Casey (Grillo) decided to leave?

We weren’t really surprised. We kind of had a feeling that his schedule would conflict with what we were doing and, you know, he’s been our buddy for 20 years, and he’s still our really good friend. He’s actually still part of the preparation for our tours and making things for the stage. So, it’s been, like, the most amicable kind of thing you can imagine.


That’s good to hear. Sometimes people unfortunately leave on bad terms, so it’s good that this was amicable.

Yeah, you know, we’re a pretty drama-free, band. We don’t really feed on negative press, even though some people think, any press is good. It’s not our style. We like to do things professionally. I mean, Casey gave 20 years to the band, and, most bands aren’t even around more than 10 years. We can’t really complain, you know?


Well said. You guys do have quite a significant amount of lineup changes over the years, and I was curious, how has it affected the overall creative process?

In a way, it kind of helps, because, a lot of times when there were changes, you have new opportunities with different individuals. What they’re capable of, those kind of, aspects always come into play. I know that one of the main songwriters now would be, is Oliver (Palotai), our keyboard player. Before Silverthorn (2012), he hadn’t really contributed to any of the songwriting. I think it opens new doors and new ideas, and everyone has kind of a feel for what the Kamelot sound is, and what it should be, and that’s really cool. Because we also use outside songwriters sometimes, like Bob Katsionis from Firewind has written songs for us on the last few records. And he’ll come up with an idea, he’ll say, oh, this is a Kamelot kind of song. So, he’ll send it to me, and, we’ll take it, adapt it. And so we’re kind of fortunate that we’ve been able to sort of forge a specific kind of style and sound just to Kamelot, which makes it, in a way, easier, no matter what happens with the lineups, you know? (laughs)

It sure does give everyone a chance to hold the pen.

Yeah, I mean, it opens up new avenues and I think that’s important. When anybody that you see in Kamelot or on stage with us is there because, they want to be there. It’s not something that they feel they have to do it for money or whatever. That’s also important for the live show. I’m just happy, because like I said earlier, a lot of bands aren’t even around more than 10 years, so we’re actually still growing at this pace and we’ve been around for 15 plus years. It’s a testament to having great fans, but also working hard and maintaining a relevance within each album. Not relying all that we did, five years ago. We really focus on the present and look forward to the future.


You guys definitely know how to add somebody to collaborate with including bringing a special guest on stage. I remember at 70000 Tons of Metal last year, you had two vocalists Alissa (Arch Enemy’s – Alissa White-Gluz) and Elize (Amaranthe’s – Elize Ryd).

Yeah, we had Alissa and Elize on the cruise, and they had toured with us several times, and it was really great to talk. Their, bands were out on the cruise as well, so that worked out really perfectly. We’re doing a DVD/Blu-ray, coming up in September and they’re going to be attending that show as well, which is really great.


Awesome. And, speaking of collaboration, how was it working with Jennifer (Jennifer Haben – Beyond the Black) and Lauren (Lauren Hart – Once Human) for the new album?

Awesome. I mean, right now, Lauren’s on tour with us for North America, and she’s just killing it. I met her for the first time through, our good friend, Kobra Paige, Kobra and the Lotus. We did a show with Iron Maiden in California. And she said, hey, you wanna invite Lauren to do some of the growl parts? And I was like, yeah, let’s have her on. And we met her, and she’s just a really positive spirit, and she’s great to have on tour. With Jennifer Haben from Beyond the Black, I’ve kind of been following her career for a few years and she’s also friends with Sascha Paeth, our producer, so I really wanted her on our record, because I love her, her particular style of vocals. And I think it was perfect for the ballad that we did.


Are there any other artists that you wish you could collaborate with and haven’t yet?

Yeah, it’s funny, like Tina Guo, she does Hans Zimmer tours and I was contacting her about working together. She’s super busy right now. She’s a cellist. I would love to work with Marion Raven. She’s a vocalist from Norway. She’s kind of more on the pop side. I have a list that I always kind of have in the back of my head with each record. I start reaching out to different people. And depending on the song I think fits their vocal styles. But, we always reserve the right and the idea to never use a guest, but it seems like it always works out and we always have these cool people around us that we want to include on the record.


And it helps keep it fresh, in a way.

Yeah, I mean, people have asked us before, oh, why don’t you add a full-time female singer? You know, that just adds a-whole-nother element of complexity when it comes to scheduling and lineup changes. We have the freedom now to bring someone in with each record, with each tour. And it’s never an issue. So, that’s one of the cool things about the way that we’re doing it.


Technology is insane these days. For instance, I’m not sure if you know, Barbra Streisand cloned her dog twice and essentially, anything is possible these days. I was curious how you think these technology changes could impact recording music?

Well, it’s definitely changed, the recording industry and the music business in general. I mean, with all of the downloading and streaming now, it’s a total different model. The recordings, for example, that bands are doing now would have cost, you know, $400,000 in the ’90s. So, from that aspect, it’s helped, in terms of cost, bringing cost down. But, you know, you’re never gonna see a band, selling two million records like you might’ve saw in the ’80s and ’90s. That’s kind of sad in a way.

The good thing, I guess, for us, and one of the reasons you don’t really hear anybody in Kamelot complaining about technology is, we love the tool. We love the live experience and, even if there’s somebody in the crowd with Facebook Live going on, you still can never, replace or download that experience. And I think that’s the saving grace for all bands. And that’s probably why there’s so many tours going on now. You can’t download that live experience.


Nope. I was at your New York City show, and you guys rocked it.

Okay, cool. That was fun, oh my god. (laughs)


I saw you guys here around three years ago at Webster Hall’s Marlin Room and now you sold out Irving Plaza. How does it feel to have a larger audience since the last time you were here?

It’s great. I mean the, the Marlin show was actually sold out in advance. I think some pop singer was in the big room. We were originally supposed to be in the big room, and then we sold out the small room, and I was telling the promoters, I said, you guys should’ve kept with the original plan. But, and then to do Irving Plaza and to sell right out, it’s a great signal that, we’re something’s working, and we have a fan base that’s growing. I hope you were at the show.


Yeah, you guys were awesome and you guys never disappoint. Never.

Thank you. Thank you. That’s good to hear.


Always on the point, and I’m not just saying that.

Cool, cool. Were you one of the crowd surfers?


No, I don’t do that. I’m on the sidelines watching the crowd surfers. (laughs)

All right, cool. Yeah, that was fun.


I was curious, I know you’ve worked with Charlotte (Charlotte Wessels – Delain) before, but what made you bring both Delain and Battle Beast on the road with you?

The idea of bringing Delain was kind of early on. They had toured with us in Europe a couple times and they did a North American tour with us once. But I really liked the idea of bringing Battle Beast, ’cause I’m a fan and they’re a growing band and, the package has been really good for fans of this genre. So it was brought up to me that maybe we could get Battle Beast. I said, let’s make it happen. So, we did. It’s a great lineup for the fans.


Yeah, it is. There’s something about the three of you back to back together has made it a really good show.

You gotta have to be ready to kind of call in sick the next day, I think, after our shows.


(laughs) Is there anything you’d like to add or say to your fans?

Thanks for everyone’s support. It’s been amazing and inspiring, and we’re having a great time on this North American tour right now. The shows are all packed and we’re going to be planning our second leg very soon, probably for May of next year. It’s an exciting time for us and for the fans, and, I just look forward to meeting everybody on the tour and continuing on.


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