When a highly influential, even legendary according to some people band disappears to surface again after 20 years and then gets an overwhelming response, there must be something that they did right in the past to warrant such a reaction. Conception are the band in question and by and large their story is well documented. At least the major incidents concerning them, but what happened in the meantime? Which of the rumors that you might have heard, in the press had any truth in them? Why are they coming back now? And what does the future hold for them? Grande Rock had a very interesting chat with Roy Khan (vocals) and Tore Østby (guitars) about all the above-mentioned things and some more… so read on.
Conception band pic
Hello guys, congrats on “My Dark Symphony”. You are back after more than two decades in hiatus. How does that feel?
R: I’ll give you a simple answer to that: It feels great!
T: The songwriting process was very stimulating, and the fantastic feedback releasing it has been very rewarding.
An EP + a single, self-released via a pledge campaign vs a full album and having a company back you? Why? Bad memories? Would you consider reverting to that MO, for a full album, or do you intend to stick on with being independent”?
R: The reason for the single first and then an EP was that we want to take it step by step. I believe we would have done the same if we had a record company. We were 100% sure we wanted to do this on our own from the beginning. We have the experience and we know the right people to do it this way. In today’s market the need for a label is not what it used to be and more and more bands see this. We have not regretted that decision one single bit at any point.
T: We also wanted to do this in closer connection to our fans. They have become a bigger part of this through crowdfunding and events, which has been a great experience. Doing it this way allows us to control our own path, and also protects us from the pressure you often can find when you are signed to a label.
Having done it (a pledge campaign” – and a second self-release”, what are the upsides and the downsides to the two approaches?
T: There are always pros and cons, and doing it this way may not suit everybody. A great plus for us is that we have managed to build a strong and professional team around us. On the other hand, we don’t have the funds of an established label, so we have to be more long term in terms of strategies. 
R: The main thing is having full control over everything. Another plus is that you can communicate and develop the campaign together with your own fans. How cool is that!?
Did you write only these songs or more material deciding to record what you considered to be the best?
R: This time around we focused on a single and an EP. We take things step by step!
Did you consider making a promotional video for one of the songs from the EP? In the past there’s been very little in the way of visual material as far as conception is concerned? Would a DVD / proper live album be something you’d entertain as a thought? Maybe the Progpower performance (if it was recorded)?
T: Like Roy said, we are taking everything step by step. We have focused on the production and release. Now we are looking into the spring concerts.
R: A video for the EP was never considered. I doubt the Progpower footage would meet our quality standards. Would love to eventually do a video or DVD though.
Listening to the new songs I felt they were recognizable as Conception, maybe the logical next step after “Flow”, more atmospheric than anything else but in that maybe a bit sadder, a bit more melancholic? Is it just a mood or the result of growing up?
R: Considering we all have had serious breakdowns in our lives since “Flow” it was natural to make this EP a reflection of that. I’d like to point out that there is also a lot of light to be experienced in there.
T: In our darker times, we have managed to find light in our different ways, and it has helped us come through as stronger and more aware. This blend of darkness and light, ugliness and beauty, hard and soft, is a result of what we been through and what we want to express.
R: Maturing is another factor of course. You’re absolutely right about that.
T: We always write from our hearts, that’s why it’s recognizably Conception as we explore ourselves and our music.
Also could you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind the songs and their themes? For instance, one of them seems to be clearly about a separation...
T: We let the music and circumstances set its own course. We never know how it’s gonna be or which paths a song takes until it finally is recorded. A good example is the title track “My Dark Symphony”. It started with me sitting in a hotel room in Oslo one night, looking out on the people outside the main entrance of the central station. Many lost souls, homeless and desperate people, mixed with travelers. I had a little keyboard with me, and wrote the orchestral intro part that night, which also is the base of the chorus, reflecting on what I saw. I did the verses to it later, and then I took it further to the rehearsal room with Arve, and we jammed out the midsection. Then Roy got the instrumental tracks, and we started to work out the melody lines up in a cottage in the Norwegian mountains. Then Roy had another experience which greatly influenced the song.
R: The lyrics on this track are actually based on an experience I had where a fan asked me to sing at a funeral. He had lost his wife and I am trying to portray his struggles with God and the loss of his soul mate the way I felt this thru conversations with him and by what I saw and heard when he sang (he was a singer himself) and spoke to her for the very last time at the chapel.
Was the nature of this, the DIY approach a reason that made you self-produce yourselves after having TN handle the last 3 albums? Or just the fact that between you – there are a ton of recorded albums and obviously a couple of decades since the debut? Was there ever a producer considered?
R: An external producer was never discussed since we knew in our hearts we could do this ourselves.
T: We wanted to be in control of the whole process, and only let the music show us the way.
When you broke up, was there a will to ever get back together? Also Kamelot just happened to take off in a big way, or was it more or less a permanent disbanding” to have families etc.?
T: We never really broke up. We took a break to do explore different paths in our lives.
R: We have been good friends the whole way. In combination with family there was simply no time for Conception. Neither did it feel right for us all until now.
How does it feel to be together? Was it difficult to get the guys back together?
R: Great! It was not difficult, as we were kinda together the whole way anyway.
T: Yes, it feels great, and we are very proud of what we have accomplished this time around!
In the past some small scale reunion was attempted (Frode I think booked that who’s a friend). Was it only meant to be a handful of shows or an attempt to do a bit more that clashed with Kamelot’s schedule?
T: It was not an attempt, it was what it was, a few shows. We were discussing writing some new material back then as well, but the time was not right.
Looking back on the back catalog, how did you feel after each release?
T: We were always quite excited after every release, as they always were a document of what we wanted to express at each time.
R:The Last Sunset”: “Hmmm… we got a good thing going here guys”.
Parallel Minds”: “Yes! We did it! We’re rockstars”!
“In Your Multitude”: “Cool album… wish the production was better though”.
“Flow”: “Yes! We finally found our sound!… but damn; where did all the people go?!”…
“Flow” was an album that seemingly ended the band, receiving poor reviews and selling very few copies. Since then it has been reappraised by people and gained quite a following, becoming something of a rarity – that’s also expensive. How does that make you feel?
T: It is nice to see that “Flow” our past albums have been rediscovered and been finding new fans over the years. I felt it got a good reception back then as well, even if it wasn’t the instant success we were hoping for.
R: We simply changed too fast and may well have been a little ahead of our time with this one. The grunge wave certainly didn’t help either, but “Flow” eventually got the recognition it deserved.
Were there any talks” with BMG (I would assume) to do reissues of the old four” albums, much like Kreator, Running Wild, Skyclad, Celtic Frost and others, in order to make them available again?
T: Our team is on this and in dialogue, and we hope to have the entire back catalogue re-released next year.

Conception band pic

When Conception ceased to exist, did you (Roy) feel like you wanted to revisit it later? What made you leave Kamelot? Many people supposedly in the know, mentioned twice as many reasons, ie health issues, exhaustion, sclerosis, even cancer, some mentioned, religious reasons (being born again Christian) and there were a lot of rumors. Was it just a severe case of feeling burnt out? I think that in a recent interview citing both a hectic schedule as well as being asked to do things that celebrated you more as a person than an artist, were cited that idolization didn’t seem to sit too well with you? Because obviously the whole rock ethos tends to revolve about being bacchanal and enjoying earthly pleasures… was it maybe outgrowing that as a person that caused your discontent?
R: I had a burnout and basically could not sleep during the summer of 2010. I felt I was going absolute fruitcake. I was torn between being a Rockstar and raising a family at the same time. I told the guys in the band that I couldn’t take it anymore. Later… in connection with this I experienced things that made me sure there is more to life than what we can see and feel. To me it fell in line with the little I knew from the bible. Therefore I started going to church. All of this is very complicated, some of it is not so cool to talk about and yet some can’t even be understood by anyone but me. Maybe I’ll have to write a book one day!
How did faith alter you (if in any way)? A song released from a solo project seems to be deeply religious in theme. Also did your time as a pastor (if I understood correctly) make you reconsider/evaluate your life to that point?
R: I do not consider myself a religious person, but I understand what you mean. These are issues not easily debated or described in a short interview. I like to believe I am less egoistic and arrogant than before. Family is more important than what it used to be. I try to live my life as if God does exist. Not at all easy. I did not work as a pastor by the way. I was responsible for running the youth club at our church, setting up concerts and arranging bigger happenings.
When can people expect the aforementioned solo and would it be steeped in more acoustic fare” or would there be more rocking moments?
R: Right now I am focusing on Conception. The song I released during Easter was simply something I had to do before I did anything else.
How do you feel about Tommy Karevik replacing you? He seemed to ape a lot after your style since his singing in his own band was quite different… a complement or just a copy-cat? Have you met him/the former band mates in person?
R: I’ll leave to others to judge the element of copying. I am super happy that they found someone to continue the journey with. For me personally what Tommy does in Seventh Wonder is more interesting, but he is without doubt an awesome singer.
Roy, what do you think about Ark (Tore’s band after Conception)? Was there at any point any intention/consideration to use you as a vocalist there?
R: Ark was an absolutely fantastic band. I rate the two records they managed to release very very high in my “collection”. There was never any consideration of me in Ark… from either side.
Likewise Tore, what is your take on Kamelot with and without Roy?
T: Roy certainly had a great impact in Kamelot’s music and expression, and I always loved his vocals. I don’t want to go into comparing him and Tommy, but I am very happy to see that Kamelot continues their success. 
Seeing as you guys went on camping trips with fans as part of the interaction pledged to make the EP, are you people socially friends” and if so, is it easy to have a person who’s a Christian, get along with a person like Ingar, who at least artistically in his own band uses a ton of pentagrams ie seem to have a satanic disposition?
T: In spite of our different religious or non-religious beliefs, we more or less share the same values. In a world of growing opposition, fear and differences, I am proud of being part of a band that show that you can have tolerance and be the best of friends in spite of different religious directions. It’s all about who we are, not how we define ourselves. 
R: I don’t really see how this is connected to the camping trip (which was a blast by the way), but we all get along very well, including Ingar and myself. We have some pretty interesting conversations now and then too!
As the successful pledge campaign that you did has proven one can use the internet to great effect, to promote music. However bands that were smaller to begin with, and don’t have a cult status seem to be cursed with minuscule sales and maybe 100 euros from 30k of plays, which in turn makes touring problematic and expensive and has seen prices of merch rocket past 30 euros for a shirt in quite a few cases. Is there a future in this model or do you think it will implode?
T: I think we have only seen the beginning. Music is all about the expression and communication between the artist/composer and the listener, the energy between artist and fans. I believe it is most rewarding for all when this connection is made without unnecessary intermediaries. I think it’s a great opportunity that fans can be a direct part of what they appreciate, to feel co-ownership when they have helped an artist finance their work by pre-ordering or crowdfunding, taking part of events etc. A closer connection with the artists, and we as artists also benefit from the closer connection to our fans. It also helps artists in many ways to be more independent and true to what they do. There will always be a place for record companies, providing both finances and expert promotion. Signing to a label might be the right thing for some artists, while other artists will find the DIY model more rewarding. 
R: This is the future. There will always be a market for good music and good artists, but as the possibilities now are more the competition also gets harder. I believe it takes more to stand out these days. In the beginning we invested all our time and money. It wasn’t easy back then either.
Many years ago you were meant to perform in Athens, along with other places as part of the quite successful tour that Stratovarius undertook for “Visions”? What happened back then?
R: The tour being cancelled on our part was a big bummer at the time. We have no idea why, but one week before the tour we were told we couldn’t go. It pissed us off that our name had been used to sell tickets and fans weren’t gonna be able to see us, but there was little we could do about it.
T: Yes, it was extremely disappointing. We had been looking so much forward to see our fans back on the road.
Do you think that if that tour had happened and you did overlook “Flow”’s poor sales, maybe the bands collective fortunes might have changed? Do you regret it? Would you change this if you could?
R: That tour could have changed quite a bit, but it never happened and I don’t wanna speculate in what may have been.
T: We were ready to go with the flow in our individual lives, so it felt right to take a break. So many great things have happened to us that would not have happened if we made different choices, and we are now doing new music together based on all our experiences, so no regrets of taking the break!
Are there any plans to do a tour other than a couple of festivals that you seem to have announced for the summer? Could we dare to dream about a Greek date?
R: If we have offers that are interesting enough we will always consider. I do for sure wanna play in Greece so I definitely dare you to dream on.
T: We are right now focusing on the spring shows. I am also dreaming of coming to finally stand on a Greek stage!
Anything you’d like to add? And a salutation to the Greek fans & international audience of Grande Rock!
R: You have the most devoted and crazy fans in the world! Hope to see you out there some day!
T: We are so grateful for the fantastic support our dedicated fans have shown us, it is highly appreciated and gives us great inspiration! We have noticed we have a dedicated following in Greece, and really hope to see you soon!