Once again, A&GS managed to snag some time with another ProgPower USA artist. This time it was none other than guitarist extraordinaire Bob Katsionis from SERIOUS BLACK. He had a few minutes before a band signing, so we chatted about new album Mirrorworld, and a whole host of other things he’s been involved with. Have a look:
Amps: I really think your guitar work adds something special to SERIOUS BLACK.
Bob: Thank you. That’s what I wanted to do. When the band invited me to join them I went and really listened to the first album (As Daylight Breaks) and I was like, “Some of this sounds like FIREWIND, but heavier, and it’s heavier than what I’m doing with OUTLOUD.” So it was perfect for me. Some stuff that was missing from that first record, to me, was some more riffing, and maybe going a little crazier on the solos, you know?
So, I felt that I could put my small stamp on this stuff and make it even better. And me personally, I am really proud of this album.
Amps: Rightfully so. It’s been on steady REPEAT here at A&GS HQ. And my son Mini-Amps loves it, too. So you get his stamp of approval. He knows the album inside and out.
Bob: Oh, wow. Thank you! He probably knows it better than us, huh (laughs)? That’s a good sign. We want kids to love our music.
Amps: You came on board, when was it, February of last year?
Bob: Exactly. It was on New Year’s Eve when Urban breed (vocals) sent me this e-mail. And I had met him on the video shoot for his other band PROJECT ARCADIA. So a friend of mine and I had done a couple of videos for them. So he got in touch with me by e-mail to tell me Roland (Grapow) couldn’t come on tour for various reasons, they had ten days till they had to go on tour, and could I do it? I was like, “Yeah, man. When do we start?” I really like this stuff, so I feel I made the right choice. It gave me a chance to get more involved in the music, and not just be a hired guy. I really wanted to put some of myself into this music. And now I feel this SERIOUS BLACK album is as much mine as all the other guys, you know?
Amps: Were you involved in every aspect of this album, or was any of it done before you arrived?
Bob: Actually, we went on tour and got to know each other, but we didn’t write any material. Then we did the GAMMA RAY tour, and we were supposed to write after that, but we didn’t. And then, I also didn’t know what was happening with FIREWIND because everyone is so busy. Gus G is in the middle of a lot of important stuff right now.
So when the time came for a second SERIOUS BLACK album AFM Records said, “Hey guys, can we check out some of your new stuff?” So then I started working with Urban on the new material and then we had Alex Holzwarth on drums, a great drummer. It’s great to work with this guy, he has a little bit more sophisticated style of playing. He’s definitely a power metal drummer, but he also has different styles. We really had no limits making the music this time around. If I wanted to do something strange or progressive it was encouraged. Alex is great with that.
Amps: You also played keyboards on one of my favorite records of 2016, SUNBURST’S Fragments of Creation.
Bob: I was just talking about them a little while ago! They are really good friends of mine, Gus Drax (guitars) is like my brother. I am really happy with that album.
Amps: The whole world knows of my huge mancrush on Gus Drax. We’re friends, and he laughs about it.
Bob: (Laughs) hey, that’s fine. I’m the same way with Kevin Moore!
Amps: You’ve played on a ton of great records with a ton of great musicians. Is there any one particular moment, album, or show that stands out more than others?
Bob: Hmmm, interesting. I think one of them for me was one of the most important FIREWIND albums I ever did, Allegiance. To work with Gus G was outstanding. We were sleeping in the same single bed in my first apartment (laughs). We were staying there for days on end, writing and writing new songs. Then he’d go back to Thessaloniki, come back down, and we’d be jamming in my small apartment, and then going out to strip clubs and all that shit. It was wild times, then we relocated to Sweden, in the snow, and we were locked studio for one month. And it was ideal for the making of that album.
Another one I’m really proud of is the last OUTLOUD album called Let’s Get Serious. This is exactly how I wanted OUTLOUD to sound. I have no regrets on any single note on the album. It’s cliche to say, but Mirrorworld is one of those albums now as well. It’s very free. There were so many ideas, and it was like, “Man, this is really happening.”
I really love the way we put this together. We wrote it in one month, and it was based on ideas we kept locked away for years, hidden in a locker with the Golden Key (laughs), waiting to be released at the right time.
Amps: It’s been four years since your last album Rest In Keys. Do you have plans for another solo record in the near future, or are you just way too busy to even think about that?
Bob: It’s been a couple years since I finished my next solo album, but I am so busy. I’ve grown up a little bit, so it’s calmer stuff, you know? My friends who have heard it are telling me to continue in that direction, but I’m like, “No, no. Let me continue with my bands, playing heavy, and when the time comes I’m gonna let this side of me out.”
Amps: You’re doing your own SERIOUS BLACK headliner overseas. Tell me about that.
Bob: I think it’s a very bold move for us. We’ve only been around a couple of years and we’re embarking on a headlining tour. It’s potentially suicide, but we want to show people that we’re not some “supergroup” that makes albums then sits around waiting. Thinking like that, that’s a joke, the only real supergroup is BLACK SABBATH. We want to show fans that after opening for HAMMERFALL, GAMMA RAY, and KAMELOT, that this is a band that can stand on their feet. And maybe we play to 100 people a night, but to me that’s great because it’s 100 SERIOUS BLACK fans there to see us. it’s great to open for big bands and play to a lot of people, but you’re a living, breathing organism that can stand on its own. If we have 50 fans at a show in Hamburg we don’t care, we want to play to them.
Amps: You’ve gotta be excited to play to the ProgPower fans tomorrow, right?
Bob: This is the best opportunity for us. We get to play to a crowd that is really into this style of metal. We’re here along with other bands in the genre, and these people who come to the show know us, they know what’s happening. Having our album come out today, while we’re here, that is awesome!
Amps: What do you like to do away from music?
Bob: I love to play Playstation, even though I have hardly any time to do it. My girlfriend and I love to watch series on Netflix. I really loved Stranger Things, and right now we are watching Orphan Black which is awesome, too.
Amps: Bob, I know you have to run, thanks for taking some time with us. Say something to your fans before you go.
Bob: I just want to say thank you to everyone. You know, people like you doing this, it’s really what makes somebody try to do good, and do better for the fans. Because, you look around, and you see the numbers, and the figures, and everyone saying how hard it is. But then, to hear a guy like you from across the Atlantic tell me how much you love our album, and hear people here say that, then I’m gonna go to my room later and try to write something even better. We’ll see everybody on the road!
Bob Katsionis is a super-cool, laid-back kind of guy. But when he starts talking about music, his excitement level spikes, and it’s contagious. If you’re one of the lucky ones who was at ProgPower USA XVII and got to witness this majestic band SERIOUS BLACK live, I am insanely jealous. But my time will come, I just know it. To those of you that have Mirrorworld, you know what I’m on about, and to those of you who don’t…what the HELL ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!?
LIVE IMAGES: IMAGES FROM THE DARK