Interview Kamelot: Oliver Palotai
Geïnterviewde: Oliver Palotai (toetsenist)
Interview afgenomen in: Muziekcentrum Trix
Label: Napalm Records
Voor het optreden van Kamelot in Trix (Antwerpen) zaten we backstage samen met toetsenist Oliver Palotai. Hij vertelde ons over de tournee, de moeilijke tijd na het vertrek van zanger Roi Khan, het nieuwe begin en het succes van het laatste album 'Haven'.
How has the tour been going so far?
This is the third date now. It's a short tour, we have some nice stops and yeah, these 2 days that we've done so far were succesful.
Are you looking forward to tonight's performance? What do you expect?
I've played so many times here, not just with Kamelot, other bands as well. It was always really good, I mean the audiences here. We always get a certain food which we always get here. I also like the venue, it's renovated since a couple of years, that makes a big difference. Back then it was like a cold, dark hall in here, it's much better now.
Will you still play some old songs like from Fourth Legacy, Karma or even older? Or will you fully focus on the latest album and recent hits?
I think the oldest is from Karma. We have of course some of the old time classics but also a lot of new ones. We noticed from in the past that a lot of the crowd doesn't know the older songs anymore, this came by surprise.
I don't know. There are a lot of new fans and they know Kamelot from 'Silverthorn' on mainly, so they don't know the Roi era too much, which is a good thing for us, I was before in a band whose success was based on old songs, the old stuff since 20 years again and again. That's also why I quit the band actually in the end. I like it that the crowd wants the new songs.
You say that it is due to Roi leaving and Tommy replacing. So that brought a complete new audience? Do you know why, any reason at all?
I think it is normal with people, when you have such an essential change. Some may say this is not Kamelot anymore, I'm not following them anymore. On the other hand we have gained a lot of new fans. In the end the transition was much better and more succesful than we ever thought. It might be a reason, yeah. It was a huge blow in the beginning and we also had a very tough period back then, by now everything is running so well and better than ever before. So nothing to complain.
How do you guys pick the songs for the setlist? Do you predefine it upfront?
Yeah, we talk about which new songs we want to integrate and we listen a lot to the fans. Actually, we watch the comments on Facebook, which songs are wanted. We even have some polls going on. It's just a discussion. Sometimes we change it every night a little bit, if we have the feeling the flow is not right yet.
It still feels fresh to us. I think it's a collection of good songs that we've accomplished there. I like the album very much, it was definately a progress compared to 'Silverthorn'. Now we're just about to release the third album so we're still in that period where we work on 'Haven'. It's not really concluded yet, but still we're going to start on the songwriting of the new album and then slowly the 'Haven' period comes for us at least to an end. But of course it will take another 1,5 years before a new album is out.
Are you already in the process of writing?
We're going to start about now. I haven't really done anything yet I must say. It's slowly time to start if we want to deliver the album to the label in about a year.
Is that a timing defined by the label?
Not really, but at a certain point they start asking when we are ready and then a whole machine starts to be prepared, you know, the promotion department. At a certain point of course we have to deliver and there is a deadline.
'Haven' being so successful, how do you think that was accomplished? Is it the quality of the songs, anything that comes to mind?
It's hard to say. I think the Kamelot magic worked pretty well again. Good songs, also again the transition from Roi to Tommy is behind us. We gained a lot of fans by touring with Nightwish in America. The US is really successful for us by now. But it's so hard to really find out or analyze the markets. It's pretty unpredictable.
Success in the US, is it not logical since some of you are from there?
Not it was not actually. It was always Europe because the metal style is more European in a way and suddenly now it's kind of turned around a bit. The US is now actually the bigger market for us. We've toured there two times now. Now it's time to work on the European market again. But you cannot work on getting bigger. You can have certain strategies, there's the crisis in Europe in certain countries since many years, we fear that we haven't been to some countries like Greece or Italy for a long time. Again, it's very hard to analyze.
This is the second 'Haven' tour if I'm not mistaken, right?
Why did you decide for a second tour again?
The first one was pretty short. We felt that there were certain countries that we left out or certain parts or cities, like Germany, you can tour in a lot of cities there. We haven't been here in Belgium which was always a stop in the past... So we try to catch up.
About the album again, how do you get the inspiration for the songs on the album?
I don't need inspiration. Usually, Thomas and I, we meet and then we write the basic ideas within a certain session one or two weeks and then already 70% of the songs are outlined in a way. Tommy works on it, on the vocals, it's like a back and forth process. But it's a little bit a myth for non-musicians that you need something like inspiration. I stick always more to the Baroque composers. Back then that whole image of a musician or composer being inspired by something was created. But in the Baroque era, it was not really existing, a musician was seen more like a scientist almost. So it's based on a lot of experience. I go to my studio in the morning and I leave at 6 in the evening, I work constantly on stuff.
For a live show, you are always accompanied by backing singers. One of the usual faces is Alissa. Who is with you on this tour and tonight?
No, it's going to be Kobra, from Kobra and the Lotus. That's it.
How do you choose such singers?
It's a good question. Thomas, he somehow has a hunch for finding singers before they become bigger. It was like that for Simone Simons back then, then Elize from Amaranthe, then it was Alissa, now it's Kobra. It's really funny, it seems to be like a pattern there, he just knows those are rising starts. As long as they are available we take them with us.
Are there any bands that you would compare Kamelot with? Any similar to you, in Europe or perhaps America?
I really stick with what all the journalists say, that we have since almost the beginning a very unique sound. Of course you can categorize us as somewhere a little bit power metal with some progressive and symphonic elements. But I think the mix is very unique, I leave that stuff to journalists or to the fans; It's very hard to judge if you're inside the machine.
Being active since the beginning of the 90's, how do you look back on the music scene? Has it become easier or harder to realize something in the business?
I think it's harder. I produce a lot of music, not just metal but a lot of young bands, I have the feeling that it got harder but maybe I didn't experience it so much back then. The music industry seems to be a bit better now after the whole internet shock, there seems to be some light at the horizon. But for young bands... Maybe it was always super difficult. Some bands just make it in no time, they just hit the market at the right point in time. Other just work and work and work but they never make it. It's hard to calculate on. We have had some support bands passing by that you never hear of again but if you make it... Maybe it was always like that, I don't know. But the money doesn't seem to be there anymore. At least the labels don't seem willing to take so many risks anymore. Bands need to develop, so give them a chance. One or two albums might not be successful but believe in them, work on it. This kind of attitude I miss.
Being part an American band, how would you compare the success in Europe and even other markets like Asia, Australia?
We are pretty successful in Australia, we've toured Asia, now we go to Japan again, we play Loudpark which is the biggest metalfestival there. I love Japan, it's such a fantastic country, especially for touring musicians. We went to Korea, we had an offer just now to tour in China but we don't have time unfortunately, it was clashing with some dates. Asia is far away, you know. South America is going well and the American and European market. Nothing to complain about.
What about Africa? Some bands already go there, but it's all very careful.
I don't know, I think the only country which comes to my mind is South Africa maybe. Everything else, it's still such a problem-ridden continent, they have a long way to go for them unfortunately. I don't know I'm always eager to see new places but I'm not such a traveler, I'm not too curious I would say, but of course it would be nice to tour at different places.
Do you notice a difference in audiences when you tour the globe?
Yeah, big differences. Japanese people for example, you don't even hear them when you are behind the stage, you need to take a peak to see if anyone is in the building. They are very ,very quiet. Southern American people are very energetic. It has it's pros and cons always, like South America as I said has always huge energy but when I have for example my piano solo and I play the quiet parts, they are not quiet. That's where I prefer Europe. But Europe also has differences. There's Norway, there's Belgium, people are different everywhere.
Some smalltalk, what's your favorite metal album?
My favorite metal album is 'Ghost Reveries' from Opeth. That's my favorite album, definately.
What's the first album you bought?
That was 'Purgatory' from Iron Maiden. IT was an LP back then... Oh no, it was Kiss actually! But I don't know which one anymore. It was somewhere in the 80's, I was nine years old. I think that was my first one, some Kiss album, then AC/DC and then Iron Maiden.
Any guilty pleasures?
All the time, I'm not specific to metal. I started classical music and jazz so my music collection is vast, there's so many in it. You mean something which is a little embarrasing to admit? Sometimes there are some pop music songs which I have to listen to in the gym coming on the radio and then I buy it because it sticks so bad in the mind. But I can't recall any titles, I'm so bad with titles, I don't remember. Some bad top 100 stuff. Sometimes I have to listen to it just to get rid of it.
Do you still buy physical albums, CD or LP?
Yes I do. But I admit I do it rarily. But my plan is to buy an LP player, for vinyl. Then I'll buy some more, I collected already some vinyls and I really love the trend where it's going, that it becomes popular again.
Any digital downloads?
I do it all the time. It's very convenient and you can't stop technology. It's super, saving a lot of space at home, easily access to all the songs, you can search for titles, it's a great thing. The only thing is from my point of view as a mixing/mastering engineer, is the compression. If you listen to mp3's even in high quality a lot, a lot gets lost and people are not aware of that. Many people listen to music on such crappy devices. Like a cellphone loudspeaker, that quality is so bad I can't even talk about it (laughs). If you connect at least a good headphone, then it's a step up. It's if as you watch a movie in black and white and really bad resolution. People are not aware of that, even some people from my professional music studio, they listen to music on such bad devices and I tell them, I show them that with a program where you can see the difference or what's getting lost when you listen to an mp3, it's really a lot
Last question: did you know your support bands Serenity and Aeverium?
Serenity we've known for a long time, really nice guys from Austria. The other band I don't know, I know the singer from a long time ago with Doro when we played, he was supporting us with a band called Leaf, a new rock thing. But I never heard about this band before.
Do you have any last words for the Belgian fans?
For me it's always to keep your mind open and not to categorize anything, not just music. Look into the details and be open to new flows, you know that's basically always what I'm saying,try to give new things a chance. Because metal listeners or fans are sometimes a little conservative. On the other hand you can do so many things in this business, that's why I love it, compared to when you go to classical music, people are more narrow minded than metal players. I have a new band ... and I can do anything in there, it's great and it's been accepted. That's a rare thing. I hope the metal scene stays like that.