Roy Khan: Exclusive-Interview with Kamelot Germany
I had the pleasure and honor to do an interview with Roy Khan before the concert in Pratteln on April 1st, 2010.
Please note that this is NOT an interview about the new album. There are some tiny news inside, but not much. My goal was to ask questions that do not appear in every other interview, so I hope you enjoy reading it!
The New Album
Kamelot Germany: Thomas said in an interview that the overall sound of the new album is very Kamelot like, but the lyrics are much darker, even darker than on “Ghost Opera”. What is it that makes darker themes more interesting to write about than positive and uplifting stories?
Roy Khan: It has more to do with the music which is even more melancholic and darker in its expression. Not way more though, it’s still very Kamelot, but the themes this time are spinning around serial killers, hell, failure…it’s just a slightly different thing. And sometimes things are not really planned out, they just happen to be the way they are coming up. That’s how we write our music.
KG: But what makes it more interesting to write about dark themes?
RK: It’s not really more interesting although it has always come quite naturally…it’s about making it fit an athmosphere that is already there.
KG: What do you think are the main differences between the new album and the previous ones?
RK: I would say that “The Black Halo” and “Ghost Opera” and the new one are not too far from each other. There is no humongous difference. Except for the fact that The Black Halo is a concept album, of course. Maybe the main difference, at least from Ghost Opera, is that there are quite a few guest artists this time. There’s also a 10 minute piece I think people will love.
KG: There is an interview with Jon Oliva on the internet where he says he will be on the new album too.
RK: Yes, he’s one of the guest guest artists.
Kamelot In General
KG: Which songs of Kamelot do you like to sing the most? Don’t say all of them, there have to be favourites!
RK: I love our ballads. That also has to do with the fact that I can hear myself properly on stage. When the double base is going and all the instruments are playing, it’s really hard for me to find my way through the sound picture sometimes, but I really like all the songs. Playing live is a trip especially now that we have so many albums to choose from. We all like all the songs. Of course “March Of Mephisto” is a favorite. The crowd participation is always humongous. So many songs I like…there’s not one that stands out as my favourite. I can’t give you one though, when fact is there is not one that stands out in this regard.
KG: And which one is the most challenging?
RK: In general the older stuff is harder for me to sing, but we can always tune everything down anyway. Like the other guys can tune their instruments down, so it’s not really about that. The ballads are easier because I can hear myself better, but it’s not like there is a song that is very different in difficulty for me to sing.
KG: I have a question regarding a song that you wrote quite a long time ago. It’s the song “Will You Remember”. It’s one of my favorite ballads from Kamelot and I only stumbled across it accidentally, when I got it as a bonus track on the Japanese version of “The Fourth Legacy”. How did it happen that such a beautiful song was never recorded as a studio version, but only as a live version for a bonus track?
RK: We just happened to do that in Germany. It was recorded at a really small Café in Wolfsburg. Well, not exactly Wolfsburg, but in the little town where the studio is. Almost nobody there. I don’t know why we never took it to the studio, it’s just one of those things. Nobody there knew us, it was just an intimate fun little thing that we did and then we just left it like that.
KG: I just think it’s very unusual to play a song live that you haven’t recorded.
RK: It is…Kamelot is also an unusual band.
KG: Which Japanese legend is “Love You To Death” based on? Can you tell us its name?
RK: It was actually Thomas who found it and he just gave me that idea for lyrics for that song. I don’t really know too much about it. It’s like famous, well actually I don’t know how famous it is, I never even read it. Thomas just explained to me what it is about and the story is very simple.
KG: Kamelot have a very unique style when it comes to stage settings and clothes. Do you have someone who develops and coordinates these things or do you guys do that yourself?
RK: We pretty much do that ourselves. I had a designer guy in Norway that had opinions of course, when we were making a new jacket or I had stuff modified, but it’s all basically stuff we either pick out or change the way we want it to be.
KG: Your new coat looks really great.
RK: Thank you. Yeah, I like it too.
KG: What fabric is it? Leather?
RK: No, it’s… I’m not sure what it is. More like…I’m not sure what it’s called.
KG: Are you still in contact with the other band members from Conception?
RK: Oh, yes, constantly. With Tore I talk every week. The other two also a little bit now and then, but not so much.
KG: Conception did two or three concerts in 2005. How are the chances for more concerts in the future?
RK: No, we haven’t planned anything.
KG: Do you know who owns the rights for the albums of the band since Noise Records is not existing anymore?
RK: They are owned by Universal now.
Future Solo Album
KG: You’ve been thinking about doing a solo album for quite a while. Are there any concrete plans and can you tell us a bit about them?
RK: There has not been time nor energy. I mean…the production like the one we just did takes a long, long time and then there is touring, videos and festivals. I write stuff all the time though. The songs are just stacking up. Like I always say, at some point it just has to come out, but right now it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.
KG: You did guest vocals on the song “Twisted Mind” from Avantasia which was very well received everywhere. You said once that you don’t like to do guest vocals for other projects that much. What made you change your mind?
RK: Well, first of all we know Tobi pretty well. We were in the studio, recording together. Tobi is a nice guy and Avantasia is a nice project. Mostly I like to do this with people that I know and in some cases it’s a return favour like with Simone for example, who has been on our records and vice versa. I have to like it somehow though. The thing is, as a singer, you don’t really want to spread out too much on different projects.
KG: But it gives you a chance to reach a new audience.
RK: Yeah, sure, but the thing is you don’t really have control over what you are doing. You have control over the line that you are singing, but the rest is always outta your control somehow.
KG: What about the Arjen Lucassen projects like Ayreon. He had the best of the best singers singing on his albums, except you. I read once that there had been plans for you to do guest vocals, but it fell apart. If it’s true, can you tell us what happened?
RK: I was actually gonna do that at the same time as when I did Avantasia. The thing was, at that time, I had just done a US Tour and something had happened to my voice and I was completely screwed. I actually barely managed to do this Avantasia thing, but I had to tell Arjen that this didn’t work, it was even worse, when I was gonna do the Ayreon thing. So I told him “Sorry, my voice is shot.” I had to save it for, I think we had an upcoming Japanese Tour, or something like that. I just had to say ‘no’.
KG: Maybe you can work with him in the future?
RK: I think he was a little bit disappointed, though, since I did Avantasia. He might have thought that I did Avantasia and I didn’t want to do Ayreon at the same time, but that was not the case, it‘s just that my voice was really, really fucked and I had to think about the gigs I had ahead.
Being On Tour
KG: How do you prepare before a concert? What are the things you do to warm-up? Do you have a specific ritual?
RK: One thing I do is I stand in the shower or sit in the tub for like hours. That’s because I like to be warm in the whole body and in air that is as moist as possible. The air must be humid, that‘s good. Before the gig I do the normal thing, I jog a little bit, I do push-ups and just try to be really warm before I walk on stage. Drink lots of water for example.
At home I actually like to play the clarinet before rehearsing. I play the clarinet because it’s nice for the voice. Not a lot of people know this, but it’s really, really good because it creates this pressure around your vocal chords. You can also just use a straw and blow into half full bottle of water or whatever. It gives the same kind of effect, just a little bit more boring.
KG: What is your favorite thing to do on off-days or when you have some spare time on tour?
RK: I go back home.
RK: Almost. Well, when I’m in Europe. When I’m touring in the US, I just hang out at the hotel, or go to an amusement park, or a shopping mall, or go to the movies, depending on where we are. Many times we have these off days in like really out of town areas, where there‘s just the hotel, or a mall, or something like that. I read a lot while touring. Also on days when I’m working. Like right now, if we wouldn’t be doing this, I would be sitting in the hotel reading. (laughs)
KG: Sorry. (laughs) Anne-Catrin has been the guest singer on the “Ghost Opera” tours and I really liked the chemistry between you and her on stage. You are having a new guest singer now, do you know if Elize will be there for just the European Tour or is there anything planned beyond?
RK: We might take her to the US also. Anne-Catrin actually lives in the US now.
KG: In Los Angeles.
RK: Yeah. She did a great job during these tours with us, but it‘s also a matter of changing. Different individuals can do different things, but changing the people that we work with on stage is part of refreshing the show for our audience.
KG: It’s interesting to see how Elize’s role on stage evolves from show to show, especially with “The Haunting”.
RK: The show always evolves during a tour, especially when there are new people. It’s difficult as a new person, when you know that Simone did it and you see those clips on YouTube. You can either try to copy what was done in the past or you can try to do your own thing or do a mix. We always give people room to try out their own thing. If it doesn’t work we try to give guidelines on how we think it should be.
It’s working really good. We got Elize and Jake, both from the band Amaranthe.
KG: I had been wondering who he was, since only Elize had been announced as the new guest singer.
RK: They are both singing in Amaranthe. Really cool band.
KG: I still haven’t listened to them, but I hear lots of good things about them. I really need to say that. Adagio are great as openers, but I actually would have loved to see both bands.
RK: Thom and I really like Amaranthe, so we are really looking forward to seeing them live. Adagio is also a cool band with cool people. They did a great job this time.
KG: How does Kamelot choose the support bands. Does the Label make these decisions or is it the sole decision of the band?
RK: Well, at the end of the day it’s our decision if we care to involve, but of course the labels have suggestions or the bookers have suggestions. We don’t really totally know where different bands pull the people, so we check that with people in the business. Of course sometimes it’s also because we are friends with people or we happen to like a band and end up asking them.
KG: Often, when I go to concerts, it feels like the decision is only made by the label. Especially when the bands don’t fit together at all. It’s much better this way.
KG: You wrote the song “Anthem” for your son, a couple of weeks before he was born. Some time has gone by now. So – what’s it like to be a father?
RK: It’s hell.
RK: No, no. It takes a lot of energy and time of course, but it‘s a very nice thing. Now I can’t really imagine being without him. It’s great. The worst thing though is not getting to sleep the way you used to. That’s very hard. He gets up like 5.30 in the morning and normally, when I‘m home, I have to get up, too, but it’s also nice and you get used to it.
KG: Does it influence your song-writing?
RK: No…I mean, that song of course, but apart from that, not really.
KG: How do you cope with being away during the weeks on tour?
RK: Like I mentioned I try to go home when there is a day off. We’ve been doing this for a while now and you get used to it. And when you have a family it’s really like going on vacation honestly. When we are touring we can sleep as long as we want and after all, there is basically only this 1 1/2 hours at night. We have people who do everything for us. I can’t say it’s a lot of hard work. All the traveling is a chore however.
I really have to be careful with my voice, so I try not to talk to people after shows which is of course very hard for people to understand. in London for example it was really bad. There are a lot of these people showing up that I haven’t seen in a long time and I have to talk to them, but at the same time I know that my voice really needs to rest. It’s always a balance between trying to take care of my voice and satisfying the people that are actually the reason why we do this. Everybody feels they should get their share and it’s hard for people to understand that I cannot spend two minutes with them out there. If there’s thirty people and all of them want to have two minutes it means I have to stay out in the cold for an hour, talking right after a gig, where I shouldn‘t be talking at all.
After all I feel a certain responsibility to make sure my voice is fit for the next show.
KG: When did you start singing and at what point did you decide you would like to try doing it professionally?
RK: Well, I always liked singing in the shower. I was discovered in a shower at school actually. I was singing, what was it, I was singing this… it was a Heart-song – “Alone“. I was singing it in the shower and one guy heard me and he had a brother or something who had a band. He asked me if I wanted to sing for them and that was the first time I tried that. I was 17 or something. After that I was asked by another band, that was a little bit bigger and I sang with them for a year. That was a variation of a Top 40 band. And then I got in touch with the Conception guys.
KG: And at what point you did you know it would be like a job and not just a hobby?
RK: At some point with Conception I understood that this was something I was decently good at, something I wanted to do. I can’t remember exactly when.
KG: How did your family react when you told them you would concentrate on singing in a metal band instead of taking opera lessons?
RK: My mother and my father would’ve liked me to be a lawyer or a doctor or something like that, so they weren‘t too happy. They weren’t too happy about me wanting to do Opera either.Support was so and so in the very beginning. I have to say, though, that my family are supporting me big time these days, and have been for a long time. Now they see that we have success and it’s not like they have a choice anyway. This is really what I always wanted.
KG: If a career in the music business hadn’t worked out, where do you think would you be at this point in your life?
RK: I think I probably would’ve studied something. I started studying psychology and law, also teaching. And, what was it… computer science. But I always came back to this. Psychology for example, I studied that for half a year and then I just gave it up. Not because it’s so hard, but because this is much more fun. I just love making music, singing and performing.
KG: Where does your last name (Khantatat) originate from?
RK: Thailand. My father is actually from Thailand.
One funny thing though is, that my name should actually been Redfield.
RK: My great-grandfather was American, he was from Boston. He was a doctor and he moved to Thailand and worked for the royal family in Thailand. There was a lot of racism in Thailand at that point towards white people. He was recommended taking a Thai name. And that’s where that name is from. It was actually given to my great-grandfather from the king. Well, not the king personally maybe, but it should have been Redfield. Roy Redfield. (laughs)
KG: Do you know if the name means something?
RK: Probably not, I don’t know. The funny thing though is that both Roy and Khan means King though. That’s funny. (laughs)
KG: Your performance on stage is very theatrical, you seem to transform into a completely different person while singing. Did you ever think about trying real acting or taking part in a musical?
RK: Oh, I love musicals. I was actually gonna play the part of Marius in a play called Les Misérables in Norway, but it didn’t happen. They had to cancel it because the people who organized it didn’t pay for the royalties. You have to pay for the rights and they didn’t have the money for that and so they had to stop it. So yeah, I thought about it. I was also asked to do a Hamlet thing here in Germany, I don’t know what happened to that. Also I get these requests from bands that set up concept theater music plays, but my time is very limited. Pure acting is very different, though. I probably could do some, but to do it for real and do it good takes a little more than what I’m doing on stage I’m afraid.
KG: If you got an offer and you had the time, would you try it?
RK: Yeah, well, as I said I had actually considered this Hamlet thing. It was gonna take so much time, that I had to say no. We would have had to cancel the festivals that summer for instance, but the pay was very, very good and I was so tempted to say yes, but landed on ‘thanx, but no thanx’.
KG: Everyone has a certain opinion or picture about you as a musician. What is the main difference between you on stage and off stage?
RK: I don’t know. I’m pretty casual off stage. I don’t know, maybe I’m a bit more funny off stage than I’m on stage…at least I’d like to think so.
KG: Sometimes when I read reviews of concerts people seem to think that you seem very stuck-up and arrogant.
RK: Oh, yeah – I heard that a lot. You gotta differ between the man and the character though.
KG: It’s more like the complete opposite.
RK: I would like to think so. My best concerts are those where I don’t think at all…just go with the flow. So it’s kind of an unconscious thing if I appear as arrogant.
KG: Name one thing you like most and one thing you like least about yourself.
RK: I’m quite unorganised. That’s one thing I don’t like about myself. I’m often late, that’s another thing I don’t like about myself., but people get used to that. (laughs)
Mmh, what I like about myself? I think I’m very good at making things really good under pressure, like towards the end of every production, DVD, video or whatever. When I’m in ‘the zone’ I work very hard and concentrated on both the overall picture and the details. I think that’s a good asset.
KG: We come to the last question. You are giving a lot of interviews, which can be rather repetitive. Which is the question you have to answer the most?
RK: Well, one question that always comes back is how it is to work across the Atlantic with the band being American and me being Norwegian and so on. We’ve been doing this for a while now. Good thing you didn’t ask that! (laughs)
KG: (laughs) Yeah, I tried to find questions that are not used too often.
Thank you very much for the interview!