Kamelot: Tomorrow Has Come
When keyboardist Oliver Palotai first came to Australia with Doro, he couldn’t believe how cold it was. Strange, given that Palotai comes from Europe, where the winters seem to be much more bitter by comparison, what with the snow and all. He’ll be returning to our shores with his main band Kamelot in the slightly warmer month of June, to bash out some power metal infused symphonic solos along the East Coast and in Adelaide. We sat down to get to know the man behind the keys before he takes to the stage.
Kamelot are finally making their way to Australia and we’re all very excited! How’s the band feeling?
Everybody’s really happy that finally we managed to book some Australian dates. I am sure you know that, but it is never easy to veer off the usual touring routes, like Europe or the US. For me personally it is actually the second time I’ve been to Australia, having toured there with Doro many years ago. I remember people being very friendly and relaxed. But it was also very cold back then – hopefully we will be luckier with Kamelot.
Are you planning to go on any adventures or see any sights while you’re here?
We don’t have much time to see places around the venues. The days are filled with sound checks, interviews and preparations for the concert. But I hope we can catch some of the Australian vibe and get to see at least a bit of the country.
Like any country, Australia has its fair share of myths and legends for visitors. What have you heard and what’s the one story that you hope is true?
I’m a bit on the rational side there, I read a lot of newspapers, books and I always get some background information of the country I am touring in. Also I’m sometimes hesitant to follow the usual tourist trails, even if it’s probably the best way to get to know a country. Here in Germany the sparse knowledge about Australia is mostly connected to stories about the outback and the Aborigines, but lately I’ve been reading about Australia’s role in the Second World War.
What’s it like playing in a country where you’ve never played before? Is there a different feel to the performance?
As I’ve mentioned, it’s not the first time for me [laughs]. But in general you arrive being curious of how it feels to be there: how the food is, how the audience reacts… An important part is also the technological side of the concerts, but I guess playing in Australia we don’t have to worry about that.
Do you ever struggle with nerves?
Rarely, and then it’s unpredictable. It has nothing to do with the size of the concert, for example. The biggest festivals are where I am usually most relaxed because the physical distance to the people, the first row, is so big. Kamelot is a well-oiled machine on stage, and I can totally rely on the other guys. I am more nervous with other bands and projects that I haven’t been with that long.
You’ve got a ton of songs to pick from when it comes to your live set, how do you narrow down a setlist from such a massive back catalogue?
We always stay in contact with the fans, especially via the fan clubs. Sometimes we have those polls before a tour, so we know which songs they want to hear. Of course there are the all-time favourites, and we pick some new songs, and usually some surprises as well.
Has Tommy Karevik, your new singer, learnt all of the old songs yet?
That would probably be impossible, and it is also not necessary. Like myself, he prepares the songs from the setlist, and some optional songs which we might or might not play.
How are things working out with Tommy?
It’s really awesome! We auditioned so many people and in the end Tommy became the new singer. He’s one of the nicest people I know, very disciplined but without the attitude that so many singers carry around. Kamelot feels really complete again and maybe as good as ever.
Could you talk us through what it’s like to enter the studio with a new member?
It depends on the member [laughs]. In Tommy’s case he is very active in the studio, meaning he is spontaneously creative, coming out with tons of cool vocal ideas, and an insight on the instrumental side of the music. Since I am producing other bands as well, I can honestly say it’s great fun to work with him.
Was it immediately natural with Tommy? Or did it take some time for him to get used to how Kamelot work and record.
Of course you always need some time to get into the groove. Tommy joined us for a tour in the past as a special guest so he was kind of acquainted with our style. In the studio he had to get used to us a bit. Sometimes we don’t try to polish everything because it becomes lifeless. Rather, we like to keep a bit of a dirty edge. Let’s say we keep the blues in the music, which is important to our sound.
From what I’ve read, your writing process seems to be quite a collaborative effort, with everyone having a say and getting involved. Can you explain your writing and recording process?
Usually everybody works on song ideas at home at the beginning. Then we meet in the US or in Germany or Sweden to introduce those ideas, work on them and change some. It could be that I get a cool guitar riff from Thomas [Youngblood, guitar], then I put some keys on it, then I forward it to Tommy, I get it back from him with some vocals etc. The songs are in a constant flow until the end. The final recordings also don’t happen at just one place, but all over the world, at our own private studios or in rented ones.
Are you involved in the management of the band at all? Or do you just cover the music side of things.
I have very little to do with the management, except for some licensing stuff. Maybe also because I’m pretty horrible when it comes to organisation. I’m the typical musician, having my head in the clouds, working 15 hours in the studio and keeping 60 tracks together. But when I have to go shopping, I forget two out of three things.
Other members have said that even after 20 years, the band still feels like it has things to achieve. What else do you want to achieve with Kamelot?
Kamelot is so multi-faceted that it will always leave space to experiment. We haven’t been to some places as well, like Australia, and that also has to change. We think that there are many people out there who will become Kamelotians once they hear our sounds.
Do you think that Kamelot has defined its sound? Or are you still looking for new ways to evolve the music.
We have a certain sound that’s typical for us, but as I’ve mentioned, there’s lots of room to experiment, every time and with every record. Besides the metal part, we’re influenced by classical music, jazz, ethnic music and even some electronic sounds. There’s still so much to discover which we can integrate into our sound. I constantly listen to music from other bands and composers; metal is just a smaller part of that. I studied classical music and jazz, so a big part of my collection consists of stuff from those styles. At the moment for example I’m studying the work of the Austrian composer Anton Bruckner. Next month it could be some film music, or an underground electro artist.
And finally, what kind of activity do you like to see in the crowd when you’re on stage performing? What fills you with energy and excitement?
Of course I love it when the crowd goes wild. It’s cool to see some big mosh pits when you’re safe on stage [laughs]. It’s like overlooking the sea, looking into a maelstrom. But I also like it when fans listen silently during the quiet parts or my key solos. Most of all I enjoy it when I see in their faces that our music gives them the same positive energy that they give us during the performance.
Kamelot Tour Dates
Tue Jun 4th – The Hi-Fi, Brisbane (18+)
with Awaken Solace
Wed Jun 5th – The Gov, Adelaide (18+)
with Matronarch and Quiet Child
Thu Jun 6th – Manning Bar, Sydney (18+)
with Avarin and Hemina
Fri Jun 7th – The Hi-Fi, Melbourne (18+)
with Divine Ascension and Anarion