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Interview conducted December 12 2015
Interview published December 23 2015

"I always say that the more people you have involved, the worse it gets, and here I am in Serious Black with 6 members."

Tobbe: As Daylight Breaks was released in January, which soon is a year ago, and if you now look back at it, what do you see?

Urban: Well, it's an album I like a lot, as it turns out. You know, it was very hectic, because essentially we started the real production in November, and ended it in November. So that was like crunch time, so when we were done at that point, you know, none of us really knew what we had on our hands, because you can't judge it with that short of time, especially when you're just working every day, every day, every day.

You know, high pressure, and it was nerves breaking, and you were yelling over Skype. Lots of arguments, but lots of love too. This is a great bunch of people. But as it turns out, I'm very happy with the album. It's got a little bit of diversity on it. It's not the same all over and yet it kind of works as a piece. So I think it shows promise for the future more than anything else. There are some songs on there that I think are absolutely fantastic, and I think we can do an even better album.

Tobbe: Is there anything you weren't completely satisfied with though?

Urban: You know, you can always nitpick, and if anything I would like a little bit more grit to the guitars in the mix. But the mix is good. It's just preference.

Tobbe: What was your main goal with this album?

Urban: The main goal with this album was to have it out in time for the tour with HammerFall. [Laughs] As far as any musical aspirations, we didn't really set any rules or anything like that. We just said "What songs do we have? What songs can we write? What songs do we like the best?" and those were the ones we developed and put on the album.

Tobbe: Your voice is quite recognizable from your past work and your vocal melodies are kind of recognizable too, but do you think that your style is what people are looking for all the time, you know, with every record you participate on?

Urban: I think some people, some people will be looking for my style. Other people would perhaps prefer something else, and they might be fine with what I do. I mean, it's a very difficult question. I can't really step away. I mean, I try to break out of my style a little bit. You know, find small stylistic changes here and there, but essentially I stay true to myself. What I like is what I like and that's what I'm gonna do, 'cause it's the only thing I can judge things based on. If I like it, then that's what I'm gonna do. [Laughs)

Tobbe: But is there actually anything you can do to develop your voice at this point in your career?

Urban: Oh, I'm still learning. I mean, if you make an AV-comparison for instance and you check out the singing on Undead with Tad Morose from 2000 to this album, there's a big difference. You might not necessarily notice it that much from album to album, but I always change something. You know, I keep learning.

Tobbe: In some of your previous bands you've been hard to work with, which you have also mentioned once or twice, so what makes Serious Black different in comparison to your previous bands? Why is this a band that you will stay with?

Urban: Well, it's the policy that we have. It goes like this: this is the important difference; the drummer is in charge of the drums, the bass player plays whatever he wants on the bass, and I sing whatever the hell I want and whatever I want is gonna stay there. Everyone has a final say as to their own contributions and that makes a big difference. 'Cause then I can be proud of what I do, no matter what. And the drummer can be proud of his work, and everyone's gonna be proud of his work and nobody is gonna bug you about it.

I mean, this doesn't mean that you're not gonna ask someone "Could you please change this, because I have a vocal melody here and I need some more space? Please don't play the snare 250 times, 'cause I have 2 words that are really important. Can we make room for it?". And sometimes you get an answer "Yes. I can change it." and other times it's like "No. It's really important that I play all these notes right here. You change your stuff, dude!".

Tobbe: Are you still involved with Project Arcadia?

Urban: Oh yes, and I'm writing simultaneously right now for both the next Serious Black album and the Project Arcadia album.

Tobbe: If we look at your time with Trail Of Murder. You did one record and you did a couple of gigs with them. So why aren't you in that band anymore?

Urban: Well, this is one of the few times where I will say that ultimately it was personal. [Laughs] That's why. It's really also the case; I started Trail Of Murder and I wanted it to be a 3-piece and for live performances I always said that we should basically hire people on and keep it 3 people. I always say that the more people you have involved, the worse it gets, and here I am in Serious Black with 6 members.

But yeah, that's what I wanted, but things were just taken one step away from what I wanted, every bit of the way. And you know "I'm fine, I'm fine, I'm fine." and then suddenly I'm not fine anymore. Then it's too far away from what I wanted to do, and there we go. And also it coincided with Serious Black and if you have to choose between Serious Black and Trail Of Murder, then Serious Black all the way. Unfortunate, 'cause the Trail Of Murder album is a really good one.

Tobbe: People became familiar with you during your time with Tad Morose of course, so if you look back at that time now, like 10-20 years later, what do you see from those years?

Urban: We had good times, absolutely. I mean, the reason I quit that band was at the time we were gonna follow up Modus Vivendi and I wasn't happy with the material we had. The studio was booked and I said "No. We can't do this." and it came down to like "I can't live with this material.". So I stepped away. There were other things too, but I mean, I like Christer ["Krunt" Andersson].

I like Christer a lot. I think he's a really good human being, but we never agreed on anything in the band. Whenever there was an argument, we were always on the opposite sides. Except for once. There was one time… And this doesn't mean I don't respect him, 'cause if I didn't respect him I wouldn't have stayed in that band for 10 years. I still respect the man. I mean, he's awesome, but we didn't agree on hardly anything, which works sometimes, but at certain times; you know, when you suddenly get faced with the fact that you don't even like the material… then I left the band.

And it's a shame though that they lost all the momentum at that point of time. You can blame it on me and you can just blame it on anything else. I mean, it's just what happens. You know, one decision leads to another. But I'm very happy to see that they're going again, and I think with Ronny [Hemlin] too. A cool guy.

Tobbe: You also did 2 Bloodbound records, in 2 different periods. If you look back at those short time periods, what do you see at those points?

Urban: Well, it's good and bad. I mean, I learned something from every single thing we did with Bloodbound. I must say that one of the best memories was the Tabula Rasa tour that we did, opening up for HammerFall. That was a lot of fun. Plenty of good memories. Met lots of friends too, that I've actually seen on this tour. You know, going out and meeting them again. I'm going "Hi. I remember you from 2009.". [Laughs]

Tobbe: You guys live kind of in different parts of the world…

Urban: Yeah. I live in the States. We have Dominik [Sebastian, guitars] from Austria. We have Bob [Katsionis, guitars] from Greece. And then we have Jan [Vacik, keyboards] from the Czech Republic. He's not with us today, but he's still in the band. [Laughs] And then of course we have the 2 Germans; it's Alex [Holzwarth, drums] and Mario [Lochert, bass] and they're both in Munich, so that's sort of like the base, despite the fact that we're all around.

Tobbe: …but is it hard to really get that great band feeling when you live in different parts of the world?

Urban: No. It would be if we weren't touring, but when you're touring, that's really when you come together as a band. You may work in the rehearsal room as much as you want, but when you go out and you tour, that's when you get the band feeling. That's like "It's us! We are working together.".

Tobbe: You know, everybody in the band is somehow involved with different bands as well, so how do you make things work? I mean, it must be a pain in the ass to put the schedules together?

Urban: Normally we have this rule that whichever band booked something first, that's the date that goes. So for instance, Rhapsody Of Fire had some gigs booked before this tour, so Alex had to take some days for that, in which case we brought in Jan Freesemann from GrailKnights. Wonderful. Thank you! It was awesome. And sometimes that's cool, because you make new friends. I had never met Jan before and he just turned out to be a great person too. We had a lot of fun and I'm still talking to him today, so… [Laughs]

Tobbe: But if you come to a point where 2 guys in the band say that they can't do this at the moment and that you will have to wait 6 months…

Urban: Well, Roland [Grapow, guitars] for instance, had to make up his mind, 'cause we had too much touring with Serious Black and he had too much touring with Masterplan. I'd say that it really makes all the sense in the world to me that he chose Masterplan, 'cause that's where he gets to write as much as he wants. I mean, he could write as much as he wanted for Serious Black too, but we have a lot more pens contributing, so there would be less room. [Laughs]

Tobbe: But still, when I listen to the album, I can really, really hear his input…

Urban: You can actually hear his playing, not so much his writing. He didn't actually write any songs, but you can tell he's playing. When Roland picks up a guitar and he plays it, you can tell it's Roland. And this is what's important. I mean, that's the important bit and this is why you need different players, otherwise you could just call anything anything and bring in anyone into the studio. But if you have like a distinctive tone like Roland does, an awesome guitar player, I mean fantastic rhythm tone, just go in there and play, you know.

Tobbe: But it was told that this was gonna be a real band and Roland quit the band really quick after the record, so wasn't he aware of the situation?

Urban: Oh yes, but we didn't know when we started that we'd be touring that much. We didn't know, 'cause, you know, we were just putting out one album and it's hard to predict the future. And, you know, the way things turned out, it's probably all for the better for everyone. And we met Roland on this tour and we hung out and we had a good time, so there's no hard feelings involved. It's really good. But yeah, you could say that maybe he could have figured that out, but you know what? Why would you? We had fun making the album and he did a good job on it.

Tobbe: So this is very much meant to last, this band?

Urban: Yeah. I mean, that's the whole plan. So what I was going to say; this is an important point to be made though; most bands when they start out are kind of turbulent. You have new members before you finally settle down. In this band it all happened in public, because we started and we published. We're starting out afresh. It's like a new company or a newborn child. So many things coming into play and not everything is gonna work out. You're gonna see this. It's kind of settled down now and we're gonna see way fewer people leave. It's a startup thing and that's why it seems like it's all chaos, because it's sort of this when you start something. You know, getting your footings and figuring out where we're going.

Tobbe: If we look at touring next year. What are your plans?

Urban: I know we're gonna do some festivals, starting already in March. It's a little bad for me, because we have one early date, March 5th, I think, and then something at the very end of March. That means I have 2 gigs there and then I have a big gap in between them. I'm gonna fill it up with something. I was considering maybe actually giving vocal lessons for a change of pace, to show people how I actually do things. I've never done that. But we'll see what happens with that.

After that I fly back to the U.S. to do the final takes for the album, 'cause the album has to be done by the beginning of May. Then it's time to fly back for more festivals, Wacken, and, I can't remember the rest, but there are a few more anyway. And after that, in September/October, we're gonna do a headliner tour in Europe. So that's the plan. In the beginning of September it's gonna be ProgPower in the U.S., but we're just gonna do a one-off there and fly back.

Tobbe: So how much material do you have for your forthcoming record?

Urban: I think we got lots. We're gonna write more though. You know, at this point in time it's kind of like "Oh wait, didn't you have an idea like this?" and they'll go "Yeah. I showed you that like 3 months ago.", you know. So it's hard to actually tell how many songs we've got. I think Bob has written like 4 or 5 and I think I'm about the same and then we have some other songs. The release date will be end of August. It has to done before we play ProgPower, so that's the plan.

Tobbe: Will you rush into it? Like you said last November was hectic.

Urban: Well, then we also had last minute writing of songs. There's not gonna be any of that now. I'm pretty sure there's always gonna be a hectic time towards the end, right before the deadline, because you always, always end up with that. But I don't think it's gonna be nearly as bad, because we've already started now. I mean, the ball is rolling and we're doing fine.

Tobbe: Do you think it will turn out similar to the first one in the end?

Urban: There will be some similarities and there will be some differences. I hope it's different enough for people to actually want another one, 'cause if we write the exact same album again, you might as well buy the first one once and be happy. We're gonna introduce some new things, but essentially it's gonna be good music with melodies and some cool riffs. It's gonna be good. It's gonna be power. It's gonna be metal and it's gonna be even a little bit of hard rock there, 'cause we have a little bit of hard rock on the first album to begin with. We're flirting with this and that.

Tobbe: Are you looking for some kind of diversity?

Urban: I love it, but it's not like I'm looking for it. I think it just happens. Especially when you have more than one writer in the band too, then you get a few different styles, which I think is important, 'cause otherwise it gets samey, and samey is boring.

See also: review of the album As Daylight Breaks

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