|FROM METAL-TEMPLE, 13TH MAY 2000|
Interviewed by Orpheus
Former Running Wild and Axel Rudi Pell drummer and current member of Stratovarius, Jörg Michael, talked to us about their new Release, "Intermission". Read what Jörg has to say and point out about this album; find out why Stratovarius are going to take a break and for how long it will be. Also read Jörg's opinion on the Internet, their Web Site, other bands and more!
Metal-Temple: Jörg, since I'm from an Internet Metal zine, I'd like to ask you what your relationship with the Internet is.
Jörg Michael: Oh actually this is a good question for me because when I came into the band, I have to admit that here in Germany not many people and bands were involved with the Net. So, I was quite surprised already with how quickly it had spread in Scandinavia. When I came into the band, everybody alreadyhad like an e-mail address, mobile phones and all this stuff...
M-T: (laughter) Advancing quickly...
JM: Yes. Of course I was improving quickly as well. When I was playing at the same time with Axel Rudi Pell and Running Wild...they didn't have a proper web page but Stratovarius had an e-mail list, proper information, tour dates and all that stuff. So, they were already improving a lot with that. Nowadays I can see it went up quite quickly here in Germany during thelast 5-6 years since I've been in the band. Now every band has a web page or whatever. We personally take a lot of time and concentration on our Web Page. I don't know if you're familiar with it...
M-T: Yes, I was checking it out the last few days. Http://www.stratovarius.com
JM: Yes. Well, it always can be better and we're working very hard on it. It's fantastic. We've got quite a lot of hits and a lot of people like our site very much. We've got this Stratovarius Forum there where people from all over the world come and talk to the band or talk to each other. Of course...we always have wankers too...coming in and telling us how much idiots we are playing this kind of music. I guess this is normal...
M-T: Wankers are to be found everywhere...hehe
JM: Of course. I even think it's cool, you know. It's one more hit, isn't it? (Jörg laughs)
M-T: Yes, it is...
JM: Yeah and now we're very happy and very proud of our Home Page actually, to tell you the truth. I have to admit that besides the Merchandise section, I'm not working that much on the Home Page. We have the brother of Timo Tolkki working on it, almost as a professional...
M-T: And I was just about to ask you about who's dealing with your Home Page...
JM: Yes, this is Tero Tolkki [I hope I wrote the name correctly], the brother of Timo. So basically it's him and the two Timos in Finland - Tolkki and Kotipelto - doing all the work for the site, so I don't want to give any of these credits to me. Everybody in the band is responsible for different sections. I'm doing a lot of the Merchandise stuff. We like having the control in our own hands...besides the management. Also, except from being Musicians, everybody in Stratovarius is working a little bit...behind the curtains. It helps to keep everything under control and to do things the way we really want. It's very important - the Web Page is very important! So, definitely the future lies within the Internet! Unfortunately...some rumors started spreading from the Internet a year ago. Rumors that Stratovarius is going to split up. We had no idea where these rumors came from and who actually put these rumors into the Net.
M-T: Wasn't me! (I laugh)
JM: (laughs) Yeah but definitely it's complete bullshit, you know. We never even considered splitting up. Not even had the slightest thought! The "Infinite" album and the "Infinite World Tour" was the biggest success for Stratovarius ever.
M-T: Great album!
JM: Yeah, we'd be like completely idiots to do that. On top of that, we've got a really great understanding within the band, some fantastic relationships even though we're completely different characters. Maybe this is a solution to the whole thing. It's also friendship beside the musicianship. It's absolutely super-cool. It's a lot of fun for all of us. There are of course some disagreements like in normal life; you can't always have the same opinion. Sometimes you might even have like hard discussions but this is never a problem. No one takes it personally and I think that our relationships are fantastic! I never found this before in any of the other bands I had been playing with!
M-T: Never? Not even with Axel Rudi Pell?
JM: Ok, look. Axel Rudi Pell is a really nice guy but he's definitely the boss. You might say "oh Axel, I'd like to play this and this" and he'd say "But I don't like it".
M-T: And that's that I suppose...
JM: When it comes to Stratovarius, the situation is completely different. I asked for example Timo Tolkki "do you want to have it this way or that way?" and he said "I want to have Jörg Michael on my album". Therefore this is a little bit easier. Axel Rudi Pell is actually a friend of mine so it was also much fun playing with him too.
M-T: Jörg (which is German for George or Georgios in Greek), why did you choose to release "Intermission" now? Is it your last word before your announced break?
JM: Let me tell you the whole story. I might have already answered a lot of questions that you have but it's very important that this whole thing comes across in the way we want it to. So, it might be a little bit of a "long" monologue now...
M-T: No, it's ok. That's the basic question everybody's been asking you I guess...
JM: Exactly. We wanted to promote the album in the way that everybody understands why we did it and why we didn't do it in a different way.
M-T: Ok...take your time
JM: In the middle of the "Infinite" Tour we decided that we were not going right back into the studio after the end of the Tour. It's very logical and easy to understand that our Record Company wasn't very amused about that. At the same time our promoter and very special friend, Andy Zierich of Nuclear Blast [I apologize for any wrong spellings], asked us if we want to put out a mini album during this break, with a few b-sides and additional live songs but we didn't think that it was a good idea.
It sort of smelled like a rip off, just to release something because we're having a break. This discussion inside the band started bringing up ideas like for example why not putting all the songs released as bonus tracks, b-sides, cover songs...all in one album with some additional new stuff and see how far it goes. All of us suddenly had a huge collection of songs just to make it a little bit interesting for all the fans who already bought so much bonus tracks or albums just to have one track more.
We also thought it might be good releasing some previously unreleased tracks. In the end we had this compilation...with 2 new tracks we specially recorded for this album. "The Curtains are Falling" was a leftover track from "Infinite". "Requiem" was a live-intro for our shows until the "Destiny" Tour. Additional live tracks of "I Surrender" that was with Mr. Kotipelto and "Hunting High and Low" which we thought that it would a cool version (live) since it's the most popular and strong song of Stratovarius. So, all of us had a 65 minute Album put together, 15 songs...then we made a very nice booklet, 24 pages thick with a lot of photos and additional footage like comments of the musicians...and also the band members can present themselves on the cover a little bit different than we normally do. All together, that makes it a very nice compilation. But then we had this problem...a lot of our die-hard fans had already bought a couple of songs and a couple of albums like for example a Japanese release for like a lot of money. So we really can't put it out as a really full, new Stratovarius album. Therefore we set the price of "Intermission" almost at the price of a mini album. Here in Germany for example it will cost only two thirds of a normal album and we will give this recommendation to everybody worldwide. Also, as we're not able to control all the shops in the world, people can order "Intermission" through Nuclear Blast's e-mail or via our Web Page where we actually "freeze" this price there. Basically this is the whole idea. We chose this time of the year to release it first of all because we stopped this "Infinite" world Tour and also we'd like to close a chapter in the Stratovarius career. Actually to close a decade. We're also playing in some summer festivals this year.
M-T: You are?
JM: Yes...we've got a few festivals in Germany, one of which is in "Bang Your Head" Festival and two Festivals in Finland as well. There might come one or two more shows but that's definitely all. We'd also like to rest for a while as we've played so much in so many European festivals over the last years. So, this is actually the whole idea of the new album and we hope that everybody likes it. We certainly wouldn't this album to be considered as a full, new Stratovarius album.
M-T: And this is the whole story behind "Intermission"...
M-T: Actually, the only thing missing from the "Intermission" album is a Video Clip I guess! I mean you've got it all. New songs, cover songs, bonus tracks, previously unreleased songs...you've got it all in one album. It's a really cool idea of a compilation.
JM: Thank you. But in addition to that I'd like to mention that we don't want to promote it as a full album with a video and so on...I also think it's not that strong as a normal Stratovarius album should be. So it's more like for all the fans who'd like to have all the material we have recorded but as I said it's not a full album so we don't want to promote it with a tour either...so we are not putting out a single, we are not putting out a video either.
M-T: I know. I was not talking about a video clip of the new songs. I was just - you know - talking about a video from one that you've already done for older songs...as an addition to all these. How long will your break last? What's the main reason...I mean, are you tired? Are you or any other guys from the band going to do something different in the meanwhile?
JM: Well, we also want to concentrate on other stuff like...private stuff. He also wants to put out a solo Record and so does Timo Kotipelto. Kotipelto wants to do stuff that he doesn't do normally with Stratovarius. Beside that...we've played so much for the last 4-5 years. We've played more than 450 shows together and we don't also like to hear this "oh, it's them again" you know. A fresh breeze inside the band would be good for us, so everybody can calm down...get some new inspirations and we thought that the most appropriate time was now. The "Infinite" Tour was like our longest Tour ever.
M-T: How long will this break last?
JM: I assume we'll get together at the beginning of next summer...
M-T : So it's a one year break. Not too long I think.
M-T: Why did you choose to put the two cover songs of Judas Priest and Rainbow in "Intermission"? Are these two bands two of your childhood influences?
M-T: Oh - hehe - so I found out the answer right away. You mentioned there's a connection of one or two songs from "Intermission" with the "Infinite" album?
JM: "Falling into Fantasy". It was recorded during the "Infinite" sessions.
M-T: Normally I shouldn't ask this because I guess I already know the answer; if you're satisfied with "Infinite". I guess you're more than just satisfied.
JM: Yes and it doesn't even depend on the commercial success or so...We have our own aim and our own target when we want to record a new album. I must admit that after you've finished with a new album, you can't really judge it anymore because you're so fine with it...you have to take a little bit of a rest. So you can really judge it only like 4-5 weeks afterwards. Even before "Infinite" was released we knew that we had something really strong in our hands. We were so satisfied later on. It came out great. I also think that the "Infinity" song is one of the strongest songs Stratovarius has ever written by my opinion...so we were very happy with the result.
M-T: Now for a question I'm sure most of the fans will ask. When you return from your announced break, are you planning to come back with a killer album? A really-really hard worked album?
JM: Well...I can't say for sure...But expect something good probably at the beginning of 2003!
M-T: Oh! Interesting. My next question is about the Metal Scene nowadays. What do you think about it? Do you think that a lot of bands are repeating themselves over and over again? Are there any interesting bands you've heard lately and you liked?
JM: Definitely, for sure...there are new influences. All these years, the Metal Scene always developed. There's also this industrial part where you can find for example Rammstein...they have some really nice influences. A band I really like which has a really unique sound...is Nightwish. I love Tarja's voice. A really good Finnish band. They're definitely something completely new and definitely very unique. I don't know any other bands that play this kind of music. Even the music by itself is a bit Stratovarius-orientated but of course there's nothing wrong with that...Besides that, I think that a lot of other bands - young bands - getting inspired by old eighties Metal.Think about Hammerfall for instance. I think that right now there are a lot of good-quality bands in the Scene.
M-T: Last year you were in Greece too, for the "Infinite" Tour.
JM: Yes, we were in Greece on the 18th of December. It was our last show for the "Infinite" Tour.
M-T: What do you think of the Greek Strato-fans?
JM: Greek fans are one of the best audiences we have in the whole world. The "Visions of Europe Live" album was recorded in Milan and Athens. That says enough by itself, doesn't it? (Laughs)
M-T: Yes! It sure does!
JM: It was very nice this time too. In this "Rodon" club we were put to play. I think they don't allow a big amount of people to be in there but it was still a lot of people...a very nice audience. They gave us a very special feeling since it was out last show for the "Infinite" Tour. They were so euphoric...like it always is in Greece.
M-T: Finally...a message to all your fans that will stop by and read this Interview.
JM: I would like to say to all the bloody metal-freaks around the world that we're very happy we got so much support from all over the world...THEY made it possible for the "Infinite" album to become the best and the biggest thing we ever did. Sometimes I even think it's a dream and that we never expected this. It's more than fair to say at least one time thank you to all the big support we got.
M-T: Nice. Jörg thanks a lot for the Interview and for all the interesting and informing things you shared with us.
JM: It was a pleasure talking to you! Take care!
Reproduced with permission.