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Roadie Crew: Last year, after all the troubles you had in the past, Stratovarius reunited and the album "Stratovarius" was released. Thatís a different album, very raw and straight. How do you consider the response of the fans?

JŲrg Michael: For us this was a very important album because since a long time we had to deal with some problems inside the band during the process of making the album!
So during the process we learned a lot and finally we can be very proud that we finally finished and released the album! The responses of the fans were very nice and enthusiastic as many of the fans understood that we wanted to make a different statement and develop onto a new level.
They also understood that we canít re-write Visions or Infinite once more as these albums are done already!
Of course a few fans were kind of shocked listening to the new album first as it was a bit unexpected regarding some style changes but on the other hand we didnít betray our soul, it is still 100% pure Stratovarius!
If you take your time listening to the album you might still be able to miss the killer double bass drum melodic speed songs of Strato but you also got a new quality what we havenít delivered before!
I have the feeling that the fans appreciated this and got to learn a new face of Strato!

RC: Lauri Porra joined the band about one year ago. What can you say about his development as a Strato-member and the fans reaction for him live?

JM: Everybody likes Lauri because of his energetic stage performance and sees -that even he is not long in the band- he identifies absolutely with the philosophy and soul of Stratovarius! Sure, Jari was a great bass player and it is always sad if a you have to replace one member but Lauri proved already that he is an absolute win for the band! It was like getting pumped a fresh portion of heavy metal blood inside the band really!

RC: "Stratovarius" album presented many great songs, like 'Fight!!!', 'United' and 'Maniac Dance'. Still talking about the live gigs, what did you feel about the chemistry of the band getting back and the response of the fans?

JM: It is and was nice to see that the fans havenít forgotten about us and to see that they are happy to see us being back again! I would have been also very disappointing for me to see the band wouldnít be able to talk the problems over and set a view on things! It was also great to play e.g. manic dance in Sao Paulo and all the fans were familiar with the songs and sang along even the record wasnít out at the time!

RC: Last January you played for the very first time with Stratovarius in Taiwan and Hong Kong. What can you say about that experience and the fans over there?

JM: It is always pretty cool to play new cities and we had a great time over there, Taiwan was unexpectable great, Hong Kong is a very crazy town :) It is unbelievable that this Strato music finds friends all around the world, really great feeling this is! Food is very strange over there, like grilled jelly fish but if you get used to it can have its moments :)

RC: What about the relationship among the members of the band? On the last tour Tolkki really proved that he is now an "easier" guy to deal with than was in the past years?

JM: Did he prove that??? Maybe I wasnít there :) Ok, that was a joke :). I think, in general, the band proved that this really is a band and we are together trying to help Timo to go over a very sad time and help out wherever we could! It is great to see that after all what happened everybody understood that it was nobodyís fault and we only actually can move mountains if we stay strong together.

RC: Last year you played here in Brazil and the band recorded the S„o Paulo gig for a future release in DVD. What can you say about the result of the recordings? When do you intend to release this DVD?

JM: Great question, why didnít Brazil win the world championship this year in Germany?
We pulled out a great show, we had fantastic fans and I think the result is absolutely amazing! Itís fantastic!
Other persons in the band think that the material is still not good enough for Stratovarius and we didnít want to just repair it in the studio and rape the great live feeling on the tapes!
Isnít it also a great rip off to say ďLive in Sao PauloĒ but basically it is done in a studio in Helsinki?:-)
We recorded some great shows already, Milano 2003, Wacken festival and Raumanmeren Festival 2003 in Finland, we have the Sao Paulo show of this year, we recorded some other sequences, some bits and bobs here and there and we have fantastic material!
When we feel we really have a product in our hands with has good value and it is in on the quality level we are used from Stratovarius we finally will release it!
But, everybody has to be satisfied with it, everybody! If it would be just me you could have the material in your hands already:-)

RC: The band is planning to record a new studio album later this year. What can you say about the recording plans and the songwriting so far?

JM: There are no plans really or you know more than I know and I play in the band:-) Mr. Timo Tolkki is much better already but you canít force anybody and order to just write a great record!
We need time and patience, Timo is still sick even he feels better!
In my opinion creativity canít be lost, he still has an enormous musical talent!
But you know, compose Strato music was all the time a very sensitive process and we will give the band all the time in the world they need to write and record another great album!
As long we all have to show patience we just should be happy that the band is still playing live and we are still around!
Actually we are doing a certain amount of Festivals right now here in Europe and the band really rocks hard since we havenít done for a long time, I will very pleased about it!
It reminds me of the old Visions spirit really, watch out!!!!

RC: "Stratovarius" was released by Mayan Records/Sanctuary. What can you say about the partnership with Sanctuary? Do you intend to keep it for the next studio album?

JM: The relationship is not on the level as it should be for a band like Stratovarius!! Many things changed with Sanctuary since we signed the deal and sometimes I have the feeling they donít really believe in this band!
I hope that we will be able to improve our relationship as soon as we have new material and start talking about new activities!
Sometimes it really irritates me that we, as some musicians who want to have a great time and entertain people just have to deal with a lot of other people just looking up for the business side, just look to the money and just make a slave to the business out of you!
I tell you one thing: As long as I will do that I will never accept this and every record company in the world can just fuck off if they are not able to have a certain human respect towards us as persons or us as musicians! Iím feeling really sick of this after all these years!!!

RC: Now the band is playing in many summer festivals in Europe and in late September will go back to North America for a short tour in Canada and USA. What about your expectation for these new gigs there and what can you say about the Mexican/North American leg of the tour you played last year?

JM: This time we'll just play a selective choice of cities again. Last time we had an album out and we played a lot of cities to promote the album and present us the first time in the states!
It was really cool, touring North America the first time, I saw the Niagara Falls, we meet a lot of new people and the band had a fantastic time.
The land is so big and being in the bus together let us feel like a band again. I think we needed this after what we had been through before! This time it is just a few gigs to present us again as we had some sold out shows and not all fans were able to see us there at that time!

RC: In October you will pay a new visit for the Brazilian fans, as one of the main bands of Live 'N' Louder Festival. Along the years the band played many successful gigs here in Brazil, mainly in Sao Paulo. What about your expectations for playing here again, this time in an open-air festival?

JM: The reason to appear on the Live and Louder festival was that we are able to play in front of a much bigger crowd and maybe present us to a couple of fans who never has shown some interest in the music of Strato before!
Brazil and South America have always been very good to us and it should be also a small gift to the people who have supported us for such a long time that we are coming back so soon again! Only the festival character gives us this chance as I would think it would be normally too early to come back after the last tour without even having a new album out!
Beside that I think it is also nice to relax a bit during the shows and kill some time at the beach with cold beer and watching bikini girls with machine guns, Is there anything wrong with this?

RC: Now talking a bit about you, what can you say about the period you spent alongside with Saxon? Do you like Nigel Glockler style?

JM: Nigel is one of my all time favourites, I think together with Ian Paic, maybe Tommy Aldrige and John Bonham one of the drummers who influenced me most!
It was a killer time for me playing with Saxon, I saw them when I was just starting to play drums here at Westfallenhalle Dortmund with Judas Priest and it was almost a dream come true to play with Biff and the guys!
They still are hard rocking, extremely a great band and they make some younger bands really look like a bunch of bearing rolls, and their riffing is still one of the best guitar ďshreggingĒ in the whole world.
I played with Saxon and nobody can take this away from me, it was just not long enough:-). Actually I miss it a bit!

RC:Now you are coming to play in S„o Paulo and Saxon is one of the bands in the cast in Live Ďní Louder in Brazil. Can we dream about any surprise like you playing a song with them?

JM: Very often they do this and put some old members in the band to play or also Mikkey Dee played some songs when we played with Motorhead, etc. Honestly I donít like it so much and I probably pass on the chance because I donít want to miss any song of Saxon when Nigel is playing:-)

RC: In Stratovarius, Tolkki, Kotipelto, Johansson and even Lauri Porra released solo albums. Do you have plans to release a solo album as JŲrg Michael in the future? If you do it, which kind of sound the fans will listen there?

JM: There is still an unreleased LAOS album available again what was recorded about 11 Ė 12 years ago, due to some business fuck ups it never got released, would be nice to do it now!
A proper solo record is not planned just because I just canít do it:-)
I rather wait for people who can do this and I am able to put my drums to it, that is what I can do and never had the aim to change this! I play the drums, drink beer and I have a full time job every day doing this!

RC: How was to see Germany falling down against Italy? Were you in the stadium?

JM: Hey, what kind of guy are you?
We didnít fall against them, we died with our boots on and it would have not been a big surprise if we would have won the game!
I think we pulled out 7 great games, full of passion and attacking, we scored most of the goals in the whole championship, should what german attitude is all about and we definitely would have deserved winning the championship as well!
In this particular game, Italy took the deserved win, they were just a little bit better right at the end, fair enough, congrats to Italy wining the game!
We lost with a smile on our face as the players gave they best shot! If Italy would have played like they did before or in the final they probably would have lost 4:0!
Look at Brazil, they were behind 0:1 against France and they needed to attack and what did they do??? No attacking, no passion, no will to win, which was falling:-)!!! I was not in the stadium, I saw it outside in the garden with my friends, barbecue and beer in hand and we were so shocked when the goal happened in the 119 minute that we didnít talk for 3 days,Ö. just drink!
But anyway, now we know we did great and may the Pope be German but God remains Italian:-)

RC: To finish the interview, please JŲrg, leave a message for your Brazilians fans, which are really looking forward to see you live on Live 'N' Louder Festival.

JM: Hey, hey, this is a message for all little and big Stratovarius fucking motherfuckers out there in Brazil! Let's teach your national football team a lesson and show them what passion really is all about and turn the Stratovarius Show into a crazy, motherfucking, outraging killer event and let our soul never rest in peace!!!

Reproduced with permission.
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Writing and Pictures: Muriel.B