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Interviewed by Olivier Strouhetovarius

Hard-Rock: When did the idea of this album, Intermission come from ?

Jörg Michael: We had decided to have a two year break (two year break is best) at the end of the Infinite Tour, before releasing the new album. For five or six years, we followed a kind of routine: release of a record, go on tour to promote it, work on new material, record it, release the new album and go again on the road...The Infinite Tour was exhausting because, for us, it is the one that has been the most successful, the longest one and the one that made us travel the most. It was absolutely necessary to stop a while to have a bit of a rest and take care of ourselves...
In brief, the people at our record label were not very happy to learn that, and asked us to supply to them with one Mini LP or a maxi-single with demos, live, things like that... We found that a load of codswallop : offering some second-rate material would have meant to us stealing from the fans.
We took time to consider the remarks of journalists and amateurs of the band who blamed us for releasing records in different shapes according to countries. We thought that it would be better to compile all our bonus titles on a single CD which we would release at one special price. So, naturally, Intermission is not a new album of Stratovarius, but it contains fifteen songs, among which five have never been released before. The CD comes out with a booklet of 24 pages with a lot of photos, a very nice layout, a very luxurious product as a matter of fact. We wanted the fans to get their money's worth. We know that many of them already possess some songs which appear on Intermission, and it was out of question that, for five new ones, they would pay the full whack ! This is why, here in Germany, from where I'm calling you, the CD will not cost more than 90 Francs.
I am also anxious to clarify a matter which the fans do not necessarily know concerning bonus-tracks: the Japanese sell very expensive records - moreover, everything is expensive in Japan (laughter)! - and the record companies, over there, ask for one more bonus title because they are afraid of imports which are cheaper. By including a bonus-track, that represents a valuable product. I admit that, for groups like us, the Japanese market is very important and we can not skip over official structures. Furthermore, the record labels pay the groups a lot for having a bonus-track. For Destiny, we were at cross purposes with fans: we gave an exclusive title to the Japanese market, but we said to them that our European fans were going to find themselves with a title less and that we would not appreciate. Then, we gave another song for the European pressing. But the fans in Europe did not understand that they won one more song, which wasn't foreseen ! With Intermission, we put things back on the right track and I hope that the fans will understand our move.

Hard-Rock: Nevertheless, there is another version of Intermission...

Jörg Michael: Yes, but only available on our website and strictly limited to 1,500 copies in the shape of a digipack accompanied with a CD bonus with two demos. It is the product only intended for our die-hard fans, for those who get informed regularly of our current events by surfing on our website. It costs exactly the same price as the regular CD and there's none left anymore! We did not send 400 copies to Koreans or things like that; I would say they're intended to our most persevering fans.

Hard-Rock: Intermission will be released later...

Jörg Michael: It is not very hard to explain it: it is due to the Finnish mentality (laughter)! I'll explain to you: the deadline was fixed and, hem... how to say, mister Tolkki made errors with mastering in the studio, and he had not realised it! Otherwise, the first delay was due to the fact that Timo Kotipelto should have sung on one song stemming from Infinite's sessions. We were absolutely anxious to work with our usual sound engineer who got it all wrong in his timetable. We had rented the studio, but he could not join us! In brief, Finns are not the most reliant people of the world (laughter)! Well, eventually, the album has only one and a half month delay because it comes out at the end of May.

Hard-Rock: Both Timos are working at the moment on their solo projects. What about you ?

Jörg Michael: Jens Johanson also works with his brother! As for me, even if my record label and numerous fans asked me for a Jörg Michael solo album, I'm not really interested in that. I prefer to concentrate 100% myself to Stratovarius. I want to care about the next album, remain in good shape, practise the drums. I perfectly understand that Timo Tolkki wants to express himself: he composed some material which he likes but which would not work within the framework of Stratovarius. This is not my case: entering the studio without material in order to record a solo album just for earning some more money is not my purpose.

Hard-Rock: So you are on holidays...

Jörg Michael: Hem... If you like. But I work a lot, too! We passed a lot of time on the road and we left things slip: our website was not updated enough, fans had troubles because their credit card was debited and they have never received merchandise that they had ordered : as I'm in charge of everything at the moment, I make up for these small errors! And then, we do not stay completely inactive people: this summer, we're participating in four or six festivals, we do not still know. When we speak of a two year break, it is not totally true: from January, 2002, we are beginning to prepare our next tour which will be a hell of a work! We may not appear in the media during all this time but that does not mean that we twiddle our thumbs!

Hard-Rock: You said just before that the Finnish groups were not very conscientious but, at least, the 21st century is promising...

Jörg Michael: It is a difficult question to answer... But I have my opinion about it. Finland is not in the public eye, the bands must work twice as hard to become famous. It is more difficult for a Finnish group to break space through than for a combo of Los Angeles or even for the Germans. The heavy-metal market goes very well. Besides, in Finland, the winter is abominable, the bands lock themselves into studios and repeat tremendously. That is all they do: therefore, the level of the musicians is there very high so.
Waltari and Stratovarius were certainly among the first groups to be successful at world level, but we were the trees which hide the forest. Today, everybody realises that Finland possesses groups which are absolutely excellent. It is my theory, I do not absolutely know if it is true (laughter)!

Hard-Rock: Between France and Stratovarius, it is THE big love story...

Jörg Michael: I am the first one surprised about it ... and delighted! When I set foot in France with my previous bands, that did not work really. Anyway, France has the reputation to be a very difficult country for heavy-metal. Generally, the groups think that they pass by France to join Spain (laughter)! And suddenly, Olivier Garnier appeared and was anxious to take charge of us. As soon as he began to work with us, our sales did more than double! The People of Garrance Production (EDITOR'S NOTE: the tour booking company) works also very well. The magazine Hard-Rock also always supported us. We had the chance to tour with Angra, who is very successful in France. Numerous fans were able to be exposed to Stratovarius's music. Moreover, we like France, and I think that, when the audience sees us, they feel how we take pleasure and they return that feeling.

Intermission tracklisting

01. Will My Soul Ever Rest In Peace?
02. Falling Into Fantasy
03. The Curtains Are Falling
04. Requiem (Instrumental)
05. Bloodstone (Judas Priest - A Tribute To Judas Priest 2)
06. Kill The King (Rainbow - A Tribute To Ronnie James Dio and « Father Time » Japanese single )
07. I Surrender (Rainbow, live - never released before)
08. Keep The Flame (Infinite French limited pressing)
09. Why Are We Here? (14 Diamonds, Best Of Stratovarius)
10.What Can I Say (Infinite Japanese Bonus track)
11. Dream With Me (Destiny Japanese Bonus track)
12. When The Night Meets The Day (Episode Japanese Bonus track)
13. It’s A Mistery (Infinite French limited pressing)
14. Cold Winter Nights (Destiny European Bonus track)
15. Hunting High And Low (live - never released before)

The French version of this interview is available here.

Reproduced with permission.

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