Interview date

11 Janvier 2011


Blaster of Muppets


Interview Lauri Porra (face to face)

How’s the tour with Helloween going so far?

The first leg went very well. Of course, it was unfortunate that we didn’t have Jörg with us, but Alex Landenburg did a great job replacing him. But it was very nice, very nice venues and a lot of audience. It was a very good idea that we opened for Helloween, I really enjoy that. There’s a good atmosphere.

Can you give us some news from Jörg Michael? How is he these days?

Yeah, he will have to take some treatment in three months, a little bit more… But what he had was the easiest kind of cancer. He’s fine now. We’ve just finished our soundcheck for tonight, and he’s great! I’m totally reassured.

Now, let’s talk about "Elysium". Did everybody participate to the writing of this record (like it happened for "Polaris")? Did Mattias (the guitarist that has replaced Timo Tolkki) compose more songs this time?

Yes. Well, Jörg never really took part in the songwriting but he works on the arrangements. Apart from that, it was the same as on "Polaris"… Somebody writes the song and then, we work on it together. Mattias composed more songs, he was more comfortable with the band. He actually composed most of the songs on "Elysium". He’s fully in the band now, for "Polaris", we were trying to know each other.

I heard that as the proposition for the tour with Helloween came along, you had to hurry so that the album could be released earlier than what you had planned, are you satisfied with the result? Would you have liked to have more time to explore some ideas? Were there songs that you had to leave behind in the process?

There were some songs left behind… but I think the album contains good songs so… I don’t think it would have made a big difference if we had spent two more months on it. What it did change was that as Mattias produced the album, he had to work quicker and he had very long days in the studio.

Would you say that "Elysium" is a bit more daring and fresh than "Polaris" actually was?

Yeah… "Polaris" was more about reassuring ourselves. It was about getting this combination and about learning to do an album like this… "Elysium" is the product of what we learnt while we were making "Polaris" and the following tour. We are now more skilled and used to working together. That gives us more options and we can take it deeper. It also gives more power to Mattias, he now understands better the dynamic of Stratovarius. It feels like now we are working as a complete band. For "Polaris", everything was so new… so it was different. We are really proud of this new album and feel it’s the strongest release we’ve made in years.

Was it a challenge to compose the longest Stratovarius song ever? "Elysium" is eighteen minutes long.

When we started working on the song, it was actually twenty-five minutes! We had to cut down some parts. It’s actually a track composed by Mattias. I don’t think it’s difficult to compose long tracks, what is difficult is to make them work… because when you have a long track, there’s too much stuff… If you look at "Elysium" a bit closer, it’s a bit like three songs. Last time for "Polaris", we had this long track called "Emancipation", we cut it in half and then, we’ve always thought that we shouldn’t have cut it in half… so this time we just let "Elysium" as it was, one big piece.

What are your own favourite new songs?

I really like "Under Flaming Skies"… and then, there’s "Elysium". But for me, "Elysium" is really an album that you can listen from the beginning to the end. That’s what I wanted… So my favourite thing on the album is the album itself.

So, there’s a tour right now, but the album has just come out this week… Will there be another tour where you’ll be the headliner and play more new songs?

We’ll see how it goes. So far, we have this tour, then, we’ll go to other places like South America. Then, we have festivals planned for the summer… So, we’ll see what the situation is in the fall. We definitely would like to do it but it’s about logistics.

It’s surprising that a band such as Stratovarius only has ONE DVD, and it’s not even a full live show… Is it something you’d like (and plan) to do in the near future?

We had a lot of plans for a DVD, and a lot of shows were recorded like one in Milan, one in Finland and… one in Sao Paulo, in Brazil. But there has always been a bunch of technical problems and we never got the product we really wanted, or the finished product. Moreover, now that the line-up has changed, we’re not sure we want to put the old stuff out. To be honest, it doesn’t feel like the number one priority for the band right now. We just did this album, and maybe we want to do another album... A DVD is something you do when you don’t have anything better to do in a way. If you wanna see some live stuff, you can see on YouTube…

Come on, you know it’s not the same…

I know what you mean, a DVD is a totally different kind of experience. But you know, I think that the guys have already lost so much money because they have recorded so many shows and there was always something wrong, that it has become a sort of sensitive subject.

Now that some time has passed since the band and Timo Tolkki parted ways, how do you feel about him and what do you feel when you think about the difficult times the band went through?

What happened happened. At the time, it was a shame… but something good came out of it. I hope honly the best for Timo Tolkki. He’s a very talented guy and a great musician… that’s what we all think. We hope things go well for him even though it feels comfortable that he is on his separate way and that we are on our own.

Out of curiosity, will you listen to Timo Tolkki’s new work? He’s got a new band now, called Symfonia…

Yeah, definitely. Whenever he’s doing something, we’re like “Well, what is he doing now?”… I think we’re always curious. I think he’s also curious of what we’re doing… Anyway, he’s a great musician, so I want to follow his stuff anyway.

Your previous live album, "Polaris Live 2009", sounds very powerful, raw and natural. And it sounds like you didn’t use any overdubs…

Yeah, we didn’t use overdubs very much. We fixed like a word or two here or there. Whenever someone’s releasing a live album, there’s always a little bit of fixing… What we did that gave us the opportunity to keep it so natural was that we had the recording setup with us during almost the whole tour. So we had fifteen shows to pick from instead of putting one show. It also gave us more relaxness to play the shows, we were not thinking “This is THE show, we have to be perfect…”, as we were recording everything on the tour, we were not thinking too much about the live album. And also, Mikko Karmila did a great job mixing the album!

Talking about live albums, do you usually enjoy them?

I like some of the old live albums like Thin Lizzy’s "Live and Dangerous" and stuff like that… because the songs were a little bit different live. But to be honest, I don’t really listen to some recent live albums from new technical bands who play the songs exactly like they are on the albums… Of course, if I’m a fan of the band, I will check it out. But I’d rather listen to studio albums.

If you had to make someone discover the style of music you play, what are the three albums you would choose?

From Stratovarius, I would pick "Dreamspace", "Visions" and "Elysium". They represent three different times in the history of the band and I think they are ones of the best albums from the band. From other Power Metal bands… I don’t know, I would surely recommend albums like "Keeper Of The Seven Keys" from Helloween or stuff like that…

What question are you tired of being asked?

I think I’m tired of hearing the question “Why did you choose the name Elysium for the album and what does it mean?”, mostly because I don’t really know the answer, so I always have to invent something (laughs).

On the contrary, what question would you like to be asked?

(Long pause)… I don’t know… (laughs)! You know I like when someone asks: “Hey, I hear you have a solo album out, where can I buy it?”… So I can answer: “You can buy it from”… That’s the kind of questions I like (laughs)! In interviews, you want to spread the word, so when you can do it…

What is the last CD you’ve personally bought?

Yesterday, I bought a Serge Gainsbourg’s CD: "The History of Melody Nelson".

Do you have good memories from the HellFest in 2009?

Yeah… a lot. It was a nice show! And there was Suicidal Tendencies, I love that band. You know, at the end of their show, there was a huge moshpit on stage. I was in the moshpit! Yeah… I saw everybody getting on stage so I just went in! I also watched Dream Theater even though I’m not a huge fan of the band, but I thought it was nice. And Europe, too… But for me, apart from our show, Suicidal Tendencies was the main event of the day.

What would you like to say to conclude this interview?

Well, thank you for your support. And I’d like to say to people to check out "Elysium" and support the dying art of records. I’m not just talking about Stratovarius albums… As a medium, CD is dying, so if you’re into music, then I suggest you support it… because it might be free or easy to download, but it’s certainly not free to make. So, not for a long time can people who make music survive on… nothing.

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