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interviewed by Michael "Dead Reaper" Goloubev Well, Jorg, how did you start playing drums?
Jörg Michael: I actually had some lessons in school and that was just with friends, you know. And after that I found a band where a drummer was needed. And that was the only spot that was actually free so it happened a little bit by accident. What were your early influences as a drummer?
Jörg Michael: In the beginning it were bands that I was listening to like Ian Paice of DEEP PURPLE and Herman Rarebell of SCORPIONS, this kind of guys. Later on it varied a little bit of course. And nowadays there're so many good drummers outside, it's really hard and it's a question of taste. But at the time when I started there were not so many drummers and maybe Cozy Powell from RAINBOW was an influence on me, something like that. So what was your first professional band?
Jörg Michael: Hm, professional... that's a very good question. What is professional? The first band I was doing records with was Avenger that later became RAGE. So why did AVENGER become RAGE?
Jörg Michael: Well, at that time there was another band in England called AVENGER. And then we changed the record company from a very very small label in our local area to 'Modern Music' in Berlin. And said, "It's not going to make sense to have two bands with the same name." And that AVENGER from England has just released a record as well. So they were asking us to change the name. We were like looking around a little bit and thought, "It's maybe a fresh start" and this is how it came. I've heard that you actually came up with the name RAGE...
Jörg Michael: No, that's not true. The name was suggested by Karl-Ulrich Walterbach, the President of the record company. So I don't want to get any credits for things I have not done myself. (laughs) Well, in the 1980s you were involved in so many projects and one of the most interesting ones was probably MEKONG DELTA.
Jörg Michael: I agree. So why it was all so mysterious and you used pseudonyms instead of real names?
Jörg Michael: First of all we already had some pseudonyms and we wanted to do some kind of a side project and it was a good idea we had. But I was not allowed, for example, to play under my name in any other band. And it was meant to be a studio project so we thought,"OK, we'll use fake names." And I already did another record under that name, Gordon Perkins, so I took the same pseudonym. But for us at that time... well, we didn't think so much about it.It was not like we had a big idea behind it, we just wanted to do our music and other things were not so important. We also had some problems with record companies so it gives another point of view on the whole things. And nobody knows who it is, just like you're sitting with a beer, you have an idea like that and you like it. But it's not so important, super-planned or something. So why did you choose that name, Gordon Perkins?
Jörg Michael: (laughs) Because it sounds a typical English! This was a good name, I just liked it and actually it was an idea of a friend of mine. And I thought, "It's more fun anyway." And this is how it came, nothing serious behind it. So when you have like 60 bands and wonder what is the name of the drummer and he is called Gordon Perkins. It's just a typical kind of thing. In between the first and second albums of MEKONG DELTA there was an EP called "The Gnome". And you didn't play on it. Why? Jörg Michael: I didn't have the time. It was just a project and I can't really remember if I was injured or something like that. I think I was involved in other things and there were some problems with the release date and everything like that and they did some work with another drummer... It was Uli Kusch from Holy Moses...
Jörg Michael: Exactly. But on the demos to that "The Gnome" thing there was actually me. I remember rehearsing that song but for some reason I couldn't make it. So why did you leave Mekong Dealta in early 1990s?
Jörg Michael: Ralf Hubert aka Bjorn Eklund was the band leader, he was writing all the music. And he had a big impact on me, he supported me over years with a lot of productions and also as a musician he gave me a lot of influences. But someday all of a sudden it does not work out anymore that good. There were reasons for it. Well, people change and you grow a little bit more distant. And nowadays when you're asking me about it I'm a little bit more cool about that! (laughs) And in the 1990s there was another interesting project called Schwartzarbeit.
Jörg Michael: Yeah, it was with the same people actually. It was again with Ralf Hubert and his friend, an instrumental kind of thing. It was so much fun to play it because at that time I didn't have a chance to play so much different music and it was a little bit different from what I normally play for sure. And what happened to Ralf Hubert after that? What does he do now?
Jörg Michael: You tell me. I have no idea...
Jörg Michael: There's not so much contact we had recently. But from what I heard he is more in the computer stuff right now, writing programs, etc. So he is not into music business anymore. In mid-1980s there was a one-time project called X-Mas Project. How did it come about? And Axel Rudi Pell, who was also involved in it, told me that those songs were recorded in summer!
Jörg Michael: Well, that's one of those funny things. (laughs) I think it was an idea of Axel Thubeauville who was pretty much supporting the whole metal scene here in Germany. And he also had a record company and a record shop and everything was independent basically... Was that record label called "Earthshaker"?
Jörg Michael: Well, I don't remember exactly but you might be right, that record label was at that time. And the album was easy-made with a lot of fun, you know. It was cool time, very quickly recorded. In the 1980s you play on several tours with RUNNING WILD. So how did you come to know Rock'n'Rolf (leader, singer, guitarist of RUNNING WILD)?
Jörg Michael: I played on Port Royal tour in 1989. The thing is that they didn't have any drummer because Stefan Schwartzmann who played on the album left to join U.D.O. and they had already a new drummer called Iain Finlay. But three days ahead of the tour Iain broke his hand and they called me and asked if I could do a favour and play the tour because everything was organized and they would have losen a lot of money with that. And for me it was a good chance to play such a big tour like that and also it was very nice. Also Iain came on stage every night, showed that he was injured and I was just his substitude. And one year later Iain was playing with the band on that "Death Or Glory" album and one week before the tour started the band and Iain had a bit fellout. I don't know what happened and I don't want to spread any rumors about it but the Death or Glory tour I played was very nice. But if you played the tour, why Iain is on the official video from that tour?
Jörg Michael: Exactly, the video was produced two months before the tour. It was planned that Iain will do that tour but it didn't happen so they asked me again... OK. Later you joined RUNNING WILD for three albums from "Black Han Inn" (1994).
Jörg Michael: It was a very nice time. For me to work with Rock'n'Rolf is always a big challenge because he's the best rhythm guitar player in the world at least with whom I played. When it comes to rhythm guitar he is fantastic, it's so much fun to play heavy metal with him. So I always enjoyed playing in that band. And why did you leave it?
Jörg Michael: Because of STRATOVARIUS actually. Some people say that Rock'n'Rolf is a wierd person. Can you confirm it?
Jörg Michael: I never thought that Rock'n'Rolf was wierd. You know, everybody who is involved in the scene is a kind of a looney so he is not more loonier than I am. Everybody has his dreams, his own ideas and we play music and I don't think it's strange. I always liked playing with Rolf so it was a little bit sad for me that I had to leave the band. But I had to make a decision because both bands got too big soundwise and everything else. So I chose STRATOVARIUS but it was not that I was not allowed to play in RUNNING WILD anymore or I didn't like it. So all those rumors are pretty much rumors. Because nobody really knows Rolf, he hardly gives any interviews either. So it's difficult to say when you just hear opinious from other people. And that's the way it is. Well, in late 1980's you started a band called HEADHUNTER with singer/bassist of Destruction Schmier. So how did you get to know him?
Jörg Michael: Actually the first tour that I did with RAGE was 'Hell Comes To Your Town' tour where we were supporting Kreator and Destruction. I think it was in 1986 and that's when I was introduced to Schmier. Then he didn't work with Destruction anymore, he formed that solo project and phoned me. He knew I was playing in MEKONG DELTA and other projects. So we had a good time on that tour in 1986 and he asked me if I'd like to join HEADHUNTER. He had a record deal, a fantastic guitar player and I thought, "Why not?" Schmier is a very nice guy, he had a really good time, we did three records together and those three and a half years were a very nice time. In an interview with HEADHUNTER in 1990 you said you really liked to play in Japan.
Jörg Michael: Yeah, with that band I came to Japan for the first time and it was incredible, very cool. Why it took two years between the second and third albums of HEADHUNTER?
Jörg Michael: I think we were on tour quite a lot. Then we recorded demos and our record company didn't like the songs so much. So things started taking more time 'cause we were basically dropped and had to find new arrangements. So why did you split after that "Rebirth" album?
Jörg Michael: Because there were not so much people interested in that music at that time. And you have to live somehow so it was not possible on that certain level. We were touring with Saxon, headlining in Japan and did a headline tour over Europe but unfortunately not so many people liked what we did. But then it didn't work out anymore, we didn't have a record company so we decided to skip it in order to make the life running. The third person in that HEADHUNTER band was Schmuddel. As far as I know he played in TALON before. What's his real name?
Jörg Michael: I think Uwe Hoffmann and he played in TALON, yes. You also played on many albums of Axel Rudi Pell. How did you hook up?
Jörg Michael: Ralf Hubert from MEKONG DELTA was also working with STEELER (former band of Pell) as a producer. So Axel and me knew each other, he lives in the same area that I live in. His hometown Bochum is like 20 kilometers from here (Dortmund). So when he left STEELER he was doing that solo project and said it was just a solo thing, it's no real band, just musicians for one record. And it was really cool to work with him, he's one of the niciest guys in the world. It was so much fun to work with him, it lasted for about 10 years. Yeah, I guess he's a guitar player who can create fantastic atmosphere on his albums.
Jörg Michael: Yeah, he puts all of his emotions into music and nothing's planned with him. He basically plays how he feels. Do you have any memories about Jeff Scott Soto?
Jörg Michael: (laughs) He's a cool dude! American guy, super-guy. I mean, Jeff is a brilliant singer. It's so funny that he can fake any superstar in the world, like Michael Jackson or Prince or any other. If you close your eyes it sounds exactly like that! Another interesting band was HOUSE OF SPIRITS. Were you invited in it or was it your own project?
Jörg Michael: No, I was invited. It was a band that featured members from Jester's March. At that time they were playing in a little bit different style and didn't have a drummer. So it was in the same area and I was working with the same manager at that time. I mentioned to him that I like that Jester's March music so he told them about it. The guys didn't have a drummer and asked me just to rehearse with them because I've living nearby. I said I liked their music very much and why not making it a little bit more serious. They are people who have nothing in mind, they don't want to become big rockstars or something, they're just sitting down, playing their music and that's all they want. So it's just the music and I admired that project so much. And I think that the first album ("Turn Of The Tide" (1994)) is a brilliant one. So what about the second one, "Psychosphere" (1998)?
Jörg Michael: Well, that kind of music needs a lot of efforts, time and work to make it really good. And the ideas were not really there at the time we made the second one. Also we had a budget for that second record that couldn't make it better than it is. I think it could be better if we had more time to work on it. But for the time we had to record it I think it's brilliant too. As far as I know you also played on the second album of the band GLENMORE "For The Sake Of Truth" (1994). How did it happen?
Jörg Michael: It was just a session job. They didn't have a drummer at that time at all but needed to record the album and it was the fantastic music. And the album's producer Charlie Bauerfeind is a very cool guy, I liked him very much so it was a big challenge and fun for me to record with GLENMORE. Very tough though! (laughs) Another interesting project in your career was LAOS. You recorded one album, right?
Jörg Michael: Yeah, that's true. Two years after that "I Want It" album (1990), LAOS released two mini-albums and you played on them too. What was it?
Jörg Michael: Well, there was actually another album recorded. Not so many people know about that but it never got released. It was a very difficult time especially businesswise, everything was very confusing and the record company made mistakes so the whole thing was not right anymore. Sometimes it is like that... But there's one interesting thing about Gudrun LAOS the lead singer. As far as I know she wrote that song "Let Love Conquer The World" that was recorded by German Rock Project with many German hard rock/heavy metal musicians. So whose idea was it? Was it a charity project?
Jörg Michael: I think the manager of Axel Rudi Pell had that idea. And well, charity is just one point of it and putting money beside charity in your own pocket is another. It's the same all over the world! (laughs) It was meant to be the the charity. I'll give you my honest opinion, I don't really think that the guy thought about charity when he made it. But I think the musicians did. And I think that metal version of the song with 18 guitar solos is a little bit boring... But the song is very very nice. Also in the early 1990s you played with GRAVE DIGGER. Did you know them from "Noise" times?
Jörg Michael: Yeah, GRAVE DIGGER is one of the first bands that made it big in Germany. It was a new age of metal in the beginning of the 1980s. Maybe it was not one of the first bands but with Avenger I came to the scene in 1984. And over all these years we knew each other and then Chris (Boltendahl, singer of GRAVE DIGGER) decided to make a comeback with the band and they had a very good drummer (Peter Brittersbach) but unfortunately they had some personal problems with him. I know him very well too, he's a very nice person and all other bandmembers are superguys. Then I recorded an album with them ("The Reaper" (1992)) and an E.P. ("Symphony Of Death" (1993)) and we were on tour, it was cool. But why did you leave?
Jörg Michael: I told them from the very beginning that I had other priorities and I couldn't help them to do that comeback. We just made that record and everything had to be in time. I rushed in that chance but I really did not have more time to do it. But they were looking for a steady drummer and that's how it happened. I think at that time I was a bit tired, I was with RUNNING WILD and with Axel. And there's a certain time you have to spend on the band, you know. So that's not always easy, you know. In the early 1990s you and Gudrun produced an album of the band called TIPSY WIT. What happened to them?
Jörg Michael: That's a very good question. I think they were kind of talents in the scene of Paris, very very good guitar player Ace and I liked the singer very much. It was fun to do but unfortunately their music was not so successful. They also had problems with labels and all that stuff, they were not so professional in the beginning, I don't know what happened. And when I played with STRATOVARIUS in Paris Ace wanted to visit me but it didn't happen. I know that he's doing his music and playing in cover-band and I don't know what happened to the rest of the band. You also played on a funny German compilation album called "Hartzenbrecher". What was it?
Jörg Michael: All German new-wave cover-hits in a heavy metal kind of way. In between metal bands, you played in punk bands. Was it because of money or you really like that music?
Jörg Michael: Playing punk because of the money? (laughs).They were just my friends and we had a very good time doing it. For me it was a very aggressive music, you know, we had our own styles and melodies as well, we didn't have any guitar solos either. I liked it very much, it was with people I was spending my free time with. Basically they always took the piss out of me because I like heavy metal so much. So it was kind of a funny style, you know. Is it OK if I name some German bands and you tell me what you think about them?
Jörg Michael: OK, yeah. BONFIRE.
Jörg Michael: Oh, I don't know them too much. They were sometime very big, there was a very big promotion, they recorded albums in the USA. I think definitely they were doing their job very good. Another band is HELLOWEEN. Jörg Michael: When their first record came out with Kai (Hansen) on vocals it was super fresh and very cool. And Michael Kiske is probably one of the best singers in that genre when they released "Keeper Of The Seven Keys" (1987). But then unfortunately I was not into this band anymore, they did some strange records like "Chameleon" or something like that... Maybe I'm not so familiar with the last records they did. I just listened to "The Dark Ride" (2000). But it was not what I had in mind with Helloween anymore though it was still a very good record. I read an interview with their guitar player Michael Weikath and he said he couldn't identify with that record anymore. And do you know Kai in person?
Jörg Michael: Yeah, I know him. I was on the road with him a few times and we also played at metal festivals but I don't have any kind of private relations with him. What do you think about drummer Mike Terrana who recently played with many German bands?
Jörg Michael: I know him. He actually lived for about a year in Dortmund where I live. And we met at "Zeche" in Bochum at some metal shows and he even gave me some skins to check. We support each other now. He's a very good drummer first of all, very nice guy second and I wish him all the best. Many German musicians have day-jobs apart from music. Do you have any?
Jörg Michael: Well, drummer in STRATOVARIUS is my full-time job. In the 1980s I had some day-jobs, it was actually the night-shift. OK. The new album of STRATOVARIUS will be released in the near future. What do you think about it?
Jörg Michael: Well, actually it just got finished. I had a chance to listen to it like three times. I think soundwise and composion-wise it is the biggest STRATOVARIUS album so far. And I didn't say best, I said biggest because the sound is so big, the songs are so heavy and epic and orchestral. As a drummer you always record the first and then you wait when everything is finished and you listen to it then and think, "Oh, this could be better, this could be better". But it was really relaxing to listen to this album because it seems to be the perfect one. And from the quality and the production this is definitely the best one. And what's your favorite album of STRATOVARIUS?
Jörg Michael: Well, I like them all. Maybe "Episode" is the best because it's the first one I played on. At that time we were so hungry and so intense when playing this record so it's very important to me. Well, Jorg, I guess that's all I wanted to ask you. Thank you very much for the interview!
Jörg Michael: Well, we might play in Moscow, I've heard some rumors about it. We all would love to see you here!
Jörg Michael: OK, let's wait and see. Thank you too for this interview!

Reproduced with permission.

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