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URBAN TALEBy Nicky Baldrian
Finland of all places throughout the world, would be the last place you would expect to find a quality melodic AOR band, a country that spawns more death metal and grunge bands than it does AOR, breaking the tradition is URBAN TALE and you may recall that I spotted these Fins way back in issue 1of British rock magazine Fireworks, where I wrote an article about them and we also included their song the classy ballad "One Day" on the cover CD. This led to the band recording their debut at Roasting House studios in Sweden and a deserved deal with Frontiers/Now And Then Records.

Their debut self titled album has been recieving rave reviews everywhere, an appearance at The Gods in November last year followed which included an additional set of a tribute to Journey where the band joined by all the stars of the show played a stirering set of Journey classics. They also recieveed major praise from national rock magazine Classic Rock where they recieved a healthy score of 4/5, not bad for a debut album, so it was with this that I caught up with singer Kimmo Blom and keyboard player Timo Pudas and here's what went down...

Nicky : - How Old were you when you decided that music was your destiny?

Kimmo Blom: When I was 21 I had to decide what to study. I chose music because all the other options seemed to be compromises. I must say that the decision was rather easy after all.

Timo Pudas: I never really decided it. It just happened so. I was going to be an engineer but during the year I spent in University of Technology I used more time in band rehearsals than in school and that was it.

Nicky : - Can you tell me about origins of Urban Tale and why you originally decided to become a Journey tribute band, especially at a time when AOR in Europe wasn't being accepted too good?

Timo: Originally the idea of this band saw daylight in 1996 when I talked with Erkka about forming a band and doing some great rock music. Time passed and we got the other guys interested and first song we ever made was made in finnish language. (You don't want to hear it.) Later on we decided that it would be better to do songs in english because finnish lyrics didn't seem to fit naturally to our music style. In spring '98 Erkka got idea of doing the tribute to Journey project and that brought life back to the band. Journey isn't too well known in our country but we all liked the music of those great american AOR bands. We practised a lot on summer '98 and learned 28 Journey songs and after some small outdoor and club gigs and two concerts the band had started to sound like a band, not just another project. In fact we never really were a Journey tribute band but a band just doing a tribute
to Journey.

In spring '99 we started to do our own songs. At the beginning those sessions were just a mess. There were too
many strong opinions and we had to try every single idea even if we already knew they didn't work. During the time the process became much easier and we started to have a slight vision of what Urban Tale could sound like and ideas that were brought torehearsals were more re-arranged and easier to work with.

Nicky : - Your single "One Day" did very well and has become like a signature song for the band, tell me about the song?

Timo: The idea of the song saw light on the backstage on a wedding gig when Erkka told me that "you should write a majestic rock ballad in style of Chicago". I got immediately some ideas in my head and when I got home I couldn't go to bed until I had written those ideas down. Next day I did a sequencer demo of the song and took it to next rehearsals and the band liked it. Kimmo wrote really great lyrics to the song and we got all parts together quite easily. Few months later we got together with producer Lauri Järvilehto who produced the song and we released it on our self-published single which got really good reviews on melodic rock/aor webzines and magazines all over the world. "One Day" was also featured on Fireworks #1 cover cd.

Kimmo: "One Day" was the second song we ever wrote. At that point I was longing for somebody who lived far away so that explains the lyrics pretty much. The melody came easily to the text and even though I feel there are some clichés involed it's still a powerful ballad with "bigger than life"-feel.

Nicky : - Are you pleased with the reaction your debut album has received so far?

Timo: Yes we are! Most of the reviews I've seen have been very nice to read and we have received a lot of emails from people who have bought the album and liked it. Of course we have received some critics too and it hopefully helps us to do our next album even better.

Nicky :- Will you be setting up any further shows to back this new record?

Timo: Will will play everythime we get a chance. We love being on stage and are looking for opportunities to play in different countries.

Nicky : - Tell me about the album and the songs?

Kimmo: I'm very satisfied. Needless to say there are some things I would do in a different way now that it has been almost a year when we started those recordings. I must say that this first album is also a self-study musically and lyrically. I love it because it's simply an album I would buy for myself and enjoy. (Glad I'm on it so I got one for free!) Seriously, it's hard for me to pick up a favourite track because every song has it's moments. I'm very lazy in writing lyrics but generally I feel good about the lyrics.

Nicky:- How did you hook up with Frontiers and how did the recordings go at Roasting House?

Kimmo: Working with Roasting House was just GREAT! The city of Malmö is great and the whole staff in the studio. I loved the way Theo and I worked together. He has a strong view how things should be done but still allows "artistic" freedom when it comes naturally and serves the song itself. I felt very comfortable most of the time but because I'm a singer I had my bad days as well.

Nicky : - Will we have to wait as long for the second album?

Timo: We have a lot of new material and we have already started the pre-production process. The next album will be a killer and we'll propably start recordings on summer 2002. Until that we hope we could do more gigs all around and promote the first album.

Nicky : - Obviously Urban Tale are influenced by AOR but I'd like to know as a keyboard player who are your favourite players and who are Kimmo's favourite singers?

Timo: I've been influenced by players from many different genres. On AOR side of music the first and the most important influences were David Foster and David Paich. Sometimes I enjoy listening to jazz music and my favourite jazz pianists are Herbie Hancock and Bill Evans. As a keyboard player I also enjoy listening to electronic music and the from that style of music I'm most inspired by William Orbit. In general there are too many good players to mention here but I listen to many styles of music and try to learn the essential things of them. I believe that if you want to create melodic rock music that sounds original you shouldn't listen just melodic rock bands but find some good influences from other genres too.

Kimmo: There are many. I grew up listening hard rock and metal and singers like Phil Lynott, Ronnie James Dio, Geoff Tate, Bruce Dickinson, Geddy Lee etc. made a huge impact to me. Later on singers like Steve Perry, Fish, Steve Hogarth, David Sylvian, John Farnham came along. Right now the greatest singer to me is my teacher Petri Bäckström. He's gonna be a huge tenor - star in the future I'm sure. He's helping me to develop my instrument.

Nicky : - What else have you got up your sleeve for the future?

Timo: We'll get soon our first video for "King Of Hearts". How it happens is a story itself: Kimmo and Erkka were in Romania in an international song contest called The Golden Stag. They won the rock section and we got some very good live material. Those tapes will be edited by an english director and we'll get the finished material in December. We are going to get the clip to our homepage in mpeg format. You can read more on the song contest from our website:

Nicky : - What's the music situation like for melodic rock in Finland? I heard a good new band called Free Spirit do you know those guys?

Timo: Finland really isn't the promised land of melodic rock. Bands like Toto or Bon Jovi have their own listeners and you can hear them sometimes even in the radio but that's it. All stations have their playlists and it's hard to get music played outside them. When we have played our own music or AOR/Melodic Rock covers in clubs we usually get very positive feedback like: "This is the music I like, why don't we hear this more often?" I have heard the name Free Spirit but I didn't knew it's finnish band. Have to check that out.

Nicky : - Do you do anything else outside of music?

Kimmo: I'm trying to keep myself fit. It means that I go to the gym and ride my bicycle. I also enjoy good food, books and the company of friends.

Timo: I enjoy running, bicykling and skiing and being in nature. I read sometimes a good book or go to movies or theatre and of course spend time with my family.

Nicky : - Where do you see the future of melodic rock going? Do you think we will ever see bands getting gold records again or do fans just want to hear the old bands playing their classics? If this is the case where does this leave the future of melodic rock for the new young bands such as yourselves?

Kimmo: It's hard to say. personally I feel that we are writing songs for everybody not just thinking about our "genre" that much. Everything comes and goes but the old days won't be coming back. Melodic rock is evolving and when the right spot arrives someone will make it! You can't blame people not buying every new release from bands that are looking back and not ahead. We have a great tradition to cherish but if we want to make it we have to live this day and try to convince people that melodic rock is coming back to stay. Songs itself will then tell whether the band is a hit or not. This is nothing but a clear fact. Urban Tale will stand firm and develop it's own style and face the future with pride (huh, huh).

Nicky : - Finally is there anything else you would like to say?

Timo: Big thank you to all of our fans for supporting us and giving us very encouraging feedback. Hope to see you all on the gigs.