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Interview with

Jörg Michael (drummer) of Stratovarius

The Finish power metal band Stratovarius is back in a new formation and with a new album ’Polaris.’ I have no idea what to expect when I get drummer Jörg Michael on the phone, but he is open, genially and willing to start the new chapter in the band’s history.

Closing Chapter

There happened a lot the last couple of years and the last thing many people expected was a new album and a band standing there full of retrieved energy. Willing to draw a line and give Jörg Michael the opportunity to clear the sky for the last time, I ask him to explain how he found his energy back.

Jörg Michael: We want to draw a line and continue. Timo Tolkki (ex-guitarist and songwriter) made his choice. Everybody receive things differently, but you can’t argue with certain facts. The true comes out in the end. Tolkki sold the band behind our back.  I want to make a statement that we are sad about what happened, but we are a happy band now, excited to be on the road again. I understand the fans that they were sad and confused, but their support helped a lot!

How was it to sit down and start with a new album?

JörgThe beginning was a bit strange, after years. (The previous album ‘Stratovarius’ is released in 2005- SD) Timo Kotipelto (vocalist) wanted to go separate ways and I decided to follow him. There was totally no stress and hurry. In the meanwhile there was a two years during court case to get the rights of Stratovarius. Finally we worked a few months in the studio, I wasn’t there in the beginning. The main difference is that it is in our hands now!

The German drummer is fast in his answers, extremely open about his feelings and wins my respect by that attitude. He definitely wants to clear the past, and continues his detailed story.

We are not a driving ship and wait. Now we are free from the company and rebirth. The control is in our hands and finally we can do it! The spirit is back. I started to make music, because I have fun from it. Somehow we lost that. There was no energy…

He is silent for a while, than he goes back to 2005 when the album ‘Stratovarius’ was released and Tolkki started to have a different vision about the band.

Jörg: It was a strange time. Tolkki was the main composer of Stratovarius. ‘Elements’ (part I and II released in 2003) was hundred percent by him. I want to go from there, because it is a masterpiece and he did a great job. The whole band appreciated it. Sometimes you have to do different things to refined yourself and that is the ‘Stratovarius’ album. No speedy part, or double bass for me but do something new. It made us know that we don’t want that again.

New Chapter

The new album ‘Polaris’ shows a totally different Stratovarius, but still with many references to the old roots. Also the band has a new record company: Ear Music, division of Edel.

JörgKotipelto and I wanted to go on because we like to make this music. I have been member for 12 years. The most important was to find the fun back and face the problems later. It was heavy because there were a lot of negative vibes. We wanted to try something new and still use the name Stratovarius because four from the five members are still a part of it.

SD: Polaris is a very symbolic title right?
Jörg: We wanted to release it and the whole concept came later after we had the songs recorded. It was the idea of Lauri Porra ( bassplayer, new member. Also member of Kotipelto – SD). So it is not a concept, but totally the opposite. It symbolised a bright northern star. You see it shining, powerful and with a positive vibe.

SD: How was the album process of Polaris?
JörgIt was different than for example ‘Elements.’ There was more teamwork and before there was a tight guide. Tolkki is a genius musician and always listened to suggestion, also a good producer. He is clear and strict. He knew what he wanted, but it is also limited.  Now five people were discussing and we had long talks. There was no leader who did the arrangements for example.

SD: What was the challenge concerning your drum parts?

JörgWe use the same harmonies style and the same drum techniques I know. I simply did what I like to do: play drums the best I can. I do it for friendship and not for the money. Everybody wanted to help and that motivated me to do it. I know Jens Johansson (keyboards) had big offers to play in other bands, but he choose for Stratovarius. Ten years we developed the band and now we want to prove ourselves that we still can do it!


SD: Which song is your favourite on Polaris?
JörgThe first song ‘Deep Unknown’ units everything we have now in Stratovarius. Guitarist Mattias Kupianen has more progressive influences (co-writer of the song, together with Timo Kotipelto – SD) and adds a new element to the band. I like the ‘Dreamspace’ (2004) album the best. It has a signature on even rhythms. On this album you hear those knowledge as well. A super tune is ‘King Of Nothing’ (written by Jens Johansson) but it was difficult to record with many details. After some times you will realise how much it was. It took a lot of time to get it perfect and that is what you hear. There are even some songs not added on the album and I like those a lot as well. There is a high quality level on this album.

Bassplayer Laura Porra wrote a lot of songs and the drummer has a nice statement about him:
JörgHe is an adult now and responsibility. He took some work and did a great job.

Than the conversation switches to the voice of Timo Kotipelto.

JörgHe uses his voice different on ‘Polaris.’ When I heard it the first time it sounded great and it didn’t changed much, very talented. Tolki has a certain view and tone in his head how the voice needed to sound. It took away the emotions and spirit. You can hear that on ‘Dreamwaver’ or ‘Celestrial Dream’ what was a bit too high and you hear Timo struggeling.

He put Timo in a cage. Now Timo feels confident again. The emotions again and he has the space to develop other sides of his voice as well and not only the very high parts.

SD: Polaris brought the energy back and convince everyone that Stravorius is back full force.
JörgWe reached a higher level with this album. Like myself I am more open with the drums and Timo is more confident. We have a new tour coming up, the first rehearsal in the beginning of May and I hope for good reactions.

Jörg Michael asks for a last word to the fans: It was not easy and I want to thank the people who stand up with us. We celebrate it together with this new album. Thanks!

© This interview is copyright protected by LiveXS magazine, right exclusive to ROD webzine may 2009.
Copyright photos: Stratovarius and Edel

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