SERIOUS BLACK // official interview 2017 // AFM Records

At our label night at this year's Rockharz Festival we had the opportunity to talk to Urban breed of SERIOUS BLACK about their upcomming album 'Magic'.

Talking about your recent album “Magic”, I understood that this time you recorded a concept album since the previous ones didn’t have a certain story behind?

- Yes. As to the previous ones, they have had more of a theme and not so much of a concept.

And the whole story is really exciting… It should be around the guy on the cover artwork that had some adventures in the old city with witches…

- Well, there’s only one witch involved in this story and that’s the one that he loses, ‘cos that's the love of his life and she gets burned on the stake.

What a sad story!

- Yes. This is one thing that happens. But first of all when the witch gets burned on the stake she utters a curse which means that every child that has henceforth born in this town will be guilty of serious black magic. And the reason she’s been burned on the stake is because she was accused of performing black magic which she was innocent of. After this all the children, starting with the family of the mayor, his children, will suddenly realize: oh, we have powers of magic. And it turns into powers of black magic. And it just snowballs from there. So it starts with one generation and passes on to the next one which is wider and eventually gets all worse, not just their one family but every single child in the town, exactly like her curse said.

And so at this point a lot of time has passed, so mayor’s already been dead and gone and it’s actually the descendant of the mayor that’s now the mayor of the town, and he sends a letter trying to come calm, you know, put a stop to this thing. He sends a letter to this person that they’ve heard about that’s called mister NightMist. They had no idea that this is the same guy that was there when this thing first started because obviously it’s generations later. And the only reason why he’s still alive is, of course, because when he left the town, he had no powers. But he was going to make absolutely assured that this could not happen to him again, so he decided that he was gonna become really powerful sorcerer, powerful magician and so goes out from there and he does that and thus he prolongs his life-span too in a course, which is why he’s still around several generations later.

So the letter reaches him and he suddenly remembers that this was why this started, you know, out on his trip to get his powers, because when he started out he was fresh and, of course, he’s been like this but now, generations later, he’s basically just absorbing his quest for getting more powers. And so he decides to go back to the town. And then he could perhaps hope that maybe now, that he’s this powerful he can reunite with his love instead of saving the town, because he knows already that he cannot solve both tragedies by magic – it’s one or the other. He can’t do both, so that’s how it works. So he performs a ritual and he actually gets in there and he stands there face to face with the witch. And she looks just as he remembers her. Still young-looking but, obviously, she’s been around a little bit longer and… he decides right there and then that… “let the town be damned, I wanna be with her!” This is the song called «True Love is Blind». And so… they stay there and eventually, after a long time, that for him seems like a really long time, but in reality it’s not… So he finds out, figures out that she is not the same person that he used to be in love with, because she’s been hanging out in that nowhere land, you know, not dead, not alive. She shouldn’t be there, it’s truly impossible but it is possible. So, anyway, so… he decides that OK, she has been changed, because she’s been forced to keep this curse alive, because if she hadn’t that she’d just die out, so she had to do it. Of course all that's happened between her and the mayor was rather unfortunate. But the children are innocent, so they are innocent victims too. At this point there are so many innocent victims over here and… as the next song kicks in, he realizes she’s not the same person and “if it’s love, Just Kill Me”! It is still hard, ‘cos he still loves her.

But he decides to save the town and banish her and and get down with it and he does. Which has come to penultimate song of the album which is “Newfound Freedom”. When you do get to make the sacrifice, when you do accept this as how it is, you don’t hold that grudge anymore, you can take fresh breath of air and you feel kind of relief. And suddenly has a new lease on life. This is why the song is so positive. But then we come back to the “One final song” which is where we sort of back in where it all starts, it’s booked in this source. You have the introduction, which is "With a Tip of the Hat", where mister NightMist as if he, in fact, turned out to be is the guy on the stage presenting a story that he’s been telling throughout the album. But now here, at the end of it, he’s singing the song from the stage that shows that he did do all this and it didn’t work out the way he did. And he did get new fresh lease on life, but it’s come at a cost. And obviously he’s been living this long life and he finds himself basically just repeating the same parallel all over again, even though it’s different from time to time. So that’s how the story goes.

As I understood, you are the main composer and the only lyrics writer in Serious Black?

- Yes. It’s easier that way.

Did it change somehow, I mean the process of songwriting, with the line-up change after the first album release?

- No. Not much. I would say, almost, not at all, in fact. It didn’t really. The only thing that happened when Bob [Katsionis] came into the band he would contribute to the songwriting as well. And it just kept on going. Maybe, you know, there were small changes to the style of the songs but that’s the only difference. Workwise it flows the same way.

So, the Roland’s departure didn’t affect the band?

- Not in terms of songwriting. You know, it was sad to see him go, but we kind of understood what happened, you know. He can’t tour with every band he wants to tour with. So, we had to make a choice – you tour here or there, when you have the tour the same time. In that respect  no real hurt to the band. Things change. Something changes, even if it’s a minor thing.

My first impression of the new album is that vocals are more varied. There are some some part with very high voice and some with more brutal voice. Am I right that it’s more varied than on previous two albums?

- Yes. But I think that this is the case of the songs. I always try when it comes to the vocal performance to give the color that the certain song needs. This story takes you from one place to the other and to the next, so I have to change. So, I mean, I can’t always sing it just brutally because that’s not what the song is at that time and I also can’t sing it beautifully either because it’s also again not what the song is about. So, sometimes you will hear a drastic change like… in one line it would go from beautiful to growly, to something a bit more airy and light, to something really heavy and solid. So, it’s because of the songs. Not so much of thinking: let’s sing in different ways, but that’s the way the songs are written. It’s the way the album was written. You were right – I think there’s more variety this time.

How do you care about your voice?

- I try to sleep. That’s important. I don’t know how to succeed with that. I’m really good at staying up way too late in fact and it turns into morning and there you go. But when I do that -that’s fine. I also never drink, I don’t smoke. I guess those things happen quite a lot, so yeah, you know, that’s how I try to do it. And, you know, not to sing too many stupid things.

If I’m not mistaken, you live in the United States?

- Yes. That’s correct.

It looks a little bit strange. I understood that you’re from Sweden and you live in the United States and work for a German band?

- Yes, but we’re not actually German band like that cause we have a Greek guy and an Austrian guy and a Czech guy, so… but yes, I guess, the base, the home base of the band would end up being in Munich. So… yeah, OK, German… It may present some challenges but it’s not that bad. It’s basically just trying to avoid to have anything booked for out to be too jetlagged.

So, I guess, it’s quite difficult working together?

- Personally I think that’s really good, cause if someone gets really angry at you, they can’t come knocking at your door. Not very easily, anyway… So, today we have technology. That’s not a big problem to work with very great distances. It’s not much of a problem.

What are your expectations of your second headlining tour? I think that the geography will be a little bit wider than the previous one.

- A little bit, a little bit, but I expect to see pretty much repeat of that tour which means we’re gonna have a really good time, we’re gonna meet really fantastic people, we’re gonna have a good show to bring out there and, in fact, I think. Everything is going to be a little bit better, a little bit bigger, because we’re also bringing, you know, stage buildings and extra lights and small special effects. There’s gonna be a lot of fun. So I think people will come out to see us and we’re gonna have mostly packed and sometimes sold-out arenas. I don’t mean arenas – but that would be great. Mostly sold-out venues and I think we’re gonna have a great time. That’s what I expect of it!

How would you describe the music style of Serious Black? Because for me it’s not power metal, it’s not melodic metal, it has some modern influences, it’s heavy.

- This is exactly what I was hoping that we end up doing. When you can’t really put your finger on already existing genre or niche… I mean, we’re being labeled as a power metal band and I’m OK with that. But let’s say, that you want a power metal band with a few more sides to it, you know? So you don’t exactly know where each song is going to go, there will be a few surprises here. And, I guess, that’s pretty much where we are. So, I mean, sometimes we have hard rock and sometimes we go heavier and sometimes we go lighter and, you know, darker and… and that’s it, why not just settle for saying that it’s metal of some kind. And sometimes it’s not even that, you know? I guess, we choose to do something else – it’s good music. But, I guess, at the core we are a power metal band.

What I noticed is that maybe the most significant features of the band are pop melodies, I mean, catchy and definite melodies.

-Yes. And, I mean, take melodies, for instance, those are exact, I mean, essential for a good song – to find that melody that you can do riffing with vocals as well. Riffing is fine and I used that as well. But I want melody somewhere, something that can stick with you and I like this one, it’s a little snappy. So, you know, when I arrange the backing vocals I like to keep it right at the end, just like – bam! – that’s for the end. This is it, so you get that punch. It’s a different kind of punch than a big explosion with a long tail-end, that goes aaah forever. It’s more like a surgical strike. It goes – bam! – that’s it!

In the new album there are some songs with bridges, I think, that stick in the mind with their melody. They’re beautiful.

-Yes. I’m happy to hear it. This is the goal. This is what we aimed for when we wrote the songs – to have something that will reach you with that.

I’ve found that Serious Black has some proggy touch.

-Yes, we incorporate a few tricks here and there, so it might not be so obvious all the times, I’m very happy to pay attention to it… you know, we have little tricks here and there. «I Can Do Magic», for instance, right before the chorus at one point. Pay attention to what chord we’re stopping at. That chord does not exist in the original tonality of the song. But that’s done on purpose, because as if you know too much, you stop being aware and that chord change there gives you pops.

Can you remember funny moments from the studio or maybe from your tours? With Gamma Ray or Hammerfall, from headline tours, whatever?

- Well, I would say that some of the funniest moments I’ve ever had – we played… it must have been in Hamburg… and I was standing upfront performing the next song and nothing happened, and I turned around and I’m looking for Thomen. I see the drumset – it’s empty… Most people would think that was terrible. No, I thought that was hysterical. I had no idea where he’d gone. To his room backstage to catch something to drink and get a breather, I think, I should have talked to the crowd a little bit more. Normally I talk too much but I should have talked even more then. That was hysterically funny, I loved that. And I will never forget that. Thank you, Thomen, that was great!

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