One-Man Band Series, #13: Urban Junior

One-Man Band Series, #13: Urban Junior

With a unique approach to the one-man band concept, Urban Junior creates his signature sound with a guitar, drum kit, synth, and megaphone. And that signature sound has been referred to by Urban Junior's label Voodoo Rhythm as "Swiss-spankin'-electro-trash-garage-boogie-disco-blues-punk!" Couldn't have put it any better myself.

- James G. Carlson
Photo by John Canziani

posted February 15, 2011

One indisputable thing that can be said about the one-man band movement is that it's a well-shuffled deck of cards from which one can pick a number of different artists and sounds. In that regard I have been most fortunate, since by chance I have happened upon more than my share of interesting and worthwhile one-man bands over these past few years. Not only are they an interesting and worthwhile bunch, they are a diverse bunch whose sounds range from primitive rock'n'roll, garage punk and trash rock to blues, folk-punk, alt-country and roots rock. And then there are a few one-man bands whose songs defy traditional music in most ways, favoring the mechanical over the organic, and electronic instrumentation over standard instrumentation. These are the artists who use Casio keyboards, loop machines, and other such pieces of modern technology, to tweak seemingly fixed musical practices and take them to another level entirely.

One such artist is Swiss one-man band Urban Junior. With a unique approach to the one-man band concept, Urban Junior creates his signature sound with a guitar, drum kit, synth, and megaphone. And that signature sound has been referred to by Urban Junior's label Voodoo Rhythm as "Swiss-spankin'-electro-trash-garage-boogie-disco-blues-punk!" Couldn't have put it any better myself, truth be told, though others have called it "cyber-punk" and "electrobilly."

Even when I really set my mind to the task I cannot think of any one-man band that possesses a sound like Urban Junior's. The closest sound to Urban Junior's by a fellow one-man band is that of French one-man band King Automatic. Though Urban Junior is decidedly part of today's one-man band movement, he pretty much stands alone sound-wise. But that's what you get with a Swiss ‘80s child who came up on a steady aural diet of electroclash, punk rock, and radio tunes.

Since 2005 Urban Junior has released a handful of albums and 7" pieces of vinyl, mostly on FF Records. Also over the years, he has been featured on a bunch of one-man band compilations on labels such as Squoodge, Kizmiaz, and Rock N Roll Purgaroty. His most recent album "Two Headed Demon," however, was released on Voodoo Rhythm Records in 2010. A most appropriate new home label for him. As far as shows, Urban Junior seemed to play anywhere and everywhere, from official venues of varying sizes and popularity to random guerrilla shows behind bars and in public toilets. And while he often accompanied his one-man band peers on show bills, John Schooley, Reverend Beat-Man, and King Automatic, he also toured in support of acts like Iggy Pop & the Stooges, G. Love & Special Sauce, Test Icicles, and The Monsters.

Recently I had both the opportunity and pleasure of interviewing Mr. Urban Junior. The contents of that interview are provided here for you in their entirety.

First, how about an introduction to Urban Junior, not just as a singer/songwriter but as an individual, as a human being of this vast and crazy world in which we live?

I still eat, sleep, shit and dream.

What instruments and devices do you use in order to create your sound?

Guitar, drums, a vintage Minikorg, and my voice comes out of a megaphone. I work with loop stations for guitar and synth. It's all played instantly live, so no sample bullshit. You know, I'm not really a dogmatist, but I do like principles. One plug, one man, one band... Hot Shit from Switzerland!

Since I got my hands on your new release "Two Headed Demon" I've given it quite a few listens, and I was struck by the fact that you alternate between electro and rock'n'roll, sometimes even mixing the two clashing mediums in ways that somehow come out altogether enjoyable. How did you come up with this sound of yours? And to make this a two-part question: Are you ever torn between the two styles, or do you simply rest comfortably between them?

Haha, "Two Headed Demon" is all about being torn between things. I believe in extremes. Night and day, good and bad, love and hate.

I really like roots music, but goddammit I grew up in the ‘80s in the Swiss countryside, so it really took a long time until I discovered anything other than Eurodisco. Haha. We don't grow up here with all the great roots music (maybe that's the difference between European and American one-man bands). And when I first played with John Schooley there was something like, Hey, what are my roots? So I just started this doomed-to-fail mission of mixing up blues and rock'n'roll with Eurodisco-EBM-New Wave Sounds.

Do you find that you are favored more by the electro synth digi-rock enthusiasts over the one-man band rock'n'roll purists?

I was always looking for a specific sound, but never for a specific audience.

To my knowledge, "Two Headed Demon" is your first release on Voodoo Rhythm Records. What has been your experience with Beat-Man and Voodoo Rhythm in that regard?

You know, no matter if I was playin' in the UK or in Lithuania, somebody always came up and said: Hey Junior, do you know Reverend Beatman? And why aren't you releasing your records on Voodoo Rhythm? One fine day, I told that to Beatman, and he said: Hey Junior, no matter where I play, somebody comes up and says, "Beatman, do you know Urban Junior? And why isn't he releasing on Voodoo Rhythm?" So that was the moment of the famous
handshake. Haha.

Is it true that you used to perform guerrilla shows in random throughout Europe? And...what did those shows consist of?

It's true, and I still do...sometimes. With one plug and the megaphone, I bring my own sound system. So that makes it possible to perform on public toilets.

I've noticed that a lot of one-man bands from non-English speaking parts of Europe and South America are either singing entirely in English or have a happy balance between English sung songs and those sung in their native tongues. You are just such an artist, obviously. Do you find it easier to sing in Deutsch or English? Or rather, which do you prefer?

I like both. Each language has its own sound. On Two Headed Demon there are two songs sung in Swiss German. How do you like that?

What are some of the bands and/or singer/songwriters that have influenced you the most over the years?

Ok, here we go...

D.A.F., Grauzone, The Sonics, The Gories, Hasil Adkins, Beastie Boys, DEVO, Suicide, The Monsters, Quit your Dayjob, Bondage Fairies, The Masonics, and early AC/DC. And sometimes I tap my foot to Lady Gaga.