First of all thank you for this chance asnwering to these questions, congratulations for «Poalris» and overall for keeping the band alive.
Regarding the old line-up I have always had the same feeling that Stratovarius were from the country of Tolkki, where he was composing, leading, etc… The current line-up has abandoned that era and all of you compose, are we in
front of a more democratic era in the band?
Stratovarius has always been a democratic band, in the past before he left, we agreed to let Timo Tolkki decide what material to use on the records and the production, etc. Much like a representative democracy where you elect someone to make certain decisions. The only difference is that we nowadays don’t have one person responsible for the writing/production decisions. It causes a bit more discussion and decisions sometimes take a bit longer, but on the other hand five heads sometimes think better than one.
Still had a sort of «dictatorship» for the Polaris record, but it’s nowadays only on a per-song basis. Whoever wrote the song had the final say about the arrangement and production. This simplifies and smoothes out the decision process quite a bit.
After Tolkki’s departure and after assigning you the rights of Stratovarius, was easy to make the decision of continuing with the band? Did you consider the idea of forming a new project with a different name?
Yes, we seriously thought about that, and right after Timo T left, not everyone in the band felt the same about it. Jörg was quite strictly against continuing as «Stratovarius», I was on the fence (as usual). Kotipelto and Lauri were in favor. To me it was difficult to say before hearing some of the possible material. I think Stratovarius was always about the melodic songs and the positive attitude. After Matias agreed to work with us, and when we all got together to record the material that was «on the table» that summer, I became convinced that it could work also continuing as «Stratovarius». Not long after that, Jörg changed his mind as well.
We have read different press releases of Tolkki where he does nothing else than adding fuel to the fire, to not change the controversy. Do you think he envy you guys?
I think Stratovarius was such a big part of his life that it is difficult for him to see the band continuing without him. I don’t think «envy» is the right word at all. He put so much of himself into this band, and of course separating yourself from what was such a big part of your life is a difficult process.
After sharing so many years with Timo Tolkki do you bear him a grudge? How is your relationship with him nowadays?
I don’t bear him a grudge at all, and at the moment the relationship is actually OK. It changes with his mood though. In May 2008, when we even hinted that we might continue working as «Stratovarius», he was very upset and posted very many angry things on the internet about that. Then last year (2009) he became friendly toward us in March, and we kept in touch, but by June he changed his mind completely (again) and again started posting many quite aggressive and negative things on the net. Then now in late December 2009 it was back to him being OK with everything, and that’s where it stands at the time I write this (January 15 2010). Me and him are now again sometimes exchanging friendly emails. If this changes in the future is (as you perhaps understand from the past few sentences) difficult for me to say. I try to understand that he is upset and frustrated sometimes, but I am only human as well, and if he tries to harm me or the people in the band or other people close to me by his words I sometimes respond, on the internet as well. He is a quite complicated guy, like most geniuses.
In an interview with Jörg I could read «he is Stratovarius and have always been so» (regarding Timo Tolkki). Now that he’s not in the band, what are whe hearing when we play a Stratovarius album with the new line-up?
You’d first have to make the conclusion that Jörg was not quite right in that statement. Otherwise there would be no songs, nor any audio, on the last Stratovarius album, since TT neither wrote anything nor played on it. 🙂
Of course what Jörg wrote was partially true, since we all had agreed to be in the band but entrust TT with the responsibility to make the musical decisions. But a band can never be just one member. Funnily enough, not even «Yngwie Malmsteen» is just one member! I know that sounds like a paradox. But a band is always much more than just the sum of its parts, and certainly much more than just the «sum of one member.» What made, and makes, Stratovarius special is the commitment to melodic metal and to philosophical and non-violent lyrics, not any individual member. In fact, there are not even any original members of the band left, and that was absurdly enough true also when TT was in the band.
Which is your opinion about the previous album of the band, «Stratovarius»?
I thought it was a pretty good album. It was also quite difficult to make! That’s a long story.
Will you play some tracks alive of the mentioned record?
So far we haven’t, but who knows?
How did you choose Matias?
Lauri had heard him playing at a gig in Helsinki. He suggested him to the rest of us. I checked some videos out on Youtube and was very impressed. Then Matias and me, Lauri and Timo Kotipelto met for a week in a cottage in Finland and wrote and drank a bit. Everyone got along quite well and that was that.
What has Matias brought to the band as guitar player?
Good songwriting with a bit of a more progressive edge, which is interesting to me since I like weird progressive stuff myself and also since Stratovarius used to have a more progressive direction. He is very musical and also an incredibly good player technically.
How has he acclimated to the band?
Very well in my opinion.
How has been the response for Matias from your fans?
Why a title such as «Polaris»?
Not very complicated.. Lauri just suggested it in an email and everyone liked the idea.
How has been the creation process for «Polaris»? Overall the composing one since was the first time both as Lauri as Matias were doing such works since they joined the band.
The creative process is difficult to describe… you just come up with ideas and then work on them.
When Timo Tolkki was in the band he was who decided how you had to do everything like. This is the first album without him, how have you fronted this first recording process without Tolkki?
Basically by consensus, which sounds difficult to believe, but it’s true. Sometimes it takes a bit of discussion. We call this form of governing a band «democrazy». It may be chaotic at times, but usually we arrive at a loose consensus. The creation of Polaris was completely governed by «democrazy».
Your previous album, «Stratovarius», was eminent hardrocker but this instead is more typical Power Metal approached. Can we say you have get back those roots which made attractice the Stratovarius’ sound?
If you like to, you can say that!
We can find a keyboards with a huge importance during the whole album. Still keeping that chatacteristic ancient sound and even going a step forward: with more progressive elements that can even remind us to Jordan Ruddes from Dream Theater. Why so much presence in the keyboards in detriment of the guitars?
I disagree a little bit, I don’t think this record is more keyboard-heavy than many other Stratovarius albums. But I wouldn’t know how to quantify that. There is no easy way to say that eg. the Elements records have more keyboards or orchestra than Polaris, or whether it’s to the detriment of the guitars. There is guitar on pretty much every Stratovarius song that has been recorded..
>In this «Polaris» I find Timo Kotipelto singing more comfortable than in previous releases. Could be that Tolkki made him force too much and that due to this wasn’t he feeling too comfortable? Maybe due to this in this new work they have focused the voices in a different way?
Yeah, I think Tolkki just had a different taste with regard to what vocal range are good for this type of music and for TK’s voice. Of course it depends on the composer in a way.
I think this album is a bit like the missing link that could be the natural following of that distant «Infinite», since «Elements pt. 1» and «Elements pt. 2» and «Stratovarius» were turnings totally unexpected into the band’s discography. Have you wanted to recall a bit the «Vision» spirit or the above mentioned «Infinite»?
It was a bit less complicated; me, Lauri, Matias and Timo K just met in the summer of 2008 and whatever we thought would fit, we worked on. If in the end it would have sounded like something completely different that the past Stratovarius stuff, probably we would have done it under a different name.
What subjectes influence you nowadays both to write and compose?
Life, interactions with people you meet, things you read and see. I guess just about everything!
How has been the response from the fans for the album? You have started touring South America, Asia and North America, how is the tour going?
Response really has been truly overwhelming, I’m extremely happy about it. I could never in my wildest dreams have imagined that so many people would like the record we made. The tour is also going great, we are today in Madrid and have done something like 60 gigs, I lost count. Basically one month left in Europe to do and then we start thinking about making a new album.
Have been four years since the release of «Stratovarius», what has been the band into during these years?
Oh dear, that’s a very long answer. The short answer is basically we toured a lot in 2005, then were in a difficult legal struggle with a record label in the UK, then Timo Tolkki left, after a bit of thought, we regrouped and made Polaris, and the went on a world tour.
In this album we found a more moderated Jörg than they uses to be with the drums, why?
Hm, that is difficult to say, I even personally think his playing style is not so different from previous albums, so it’s difficult for me to explain «why» 🙂
I guess he just played what he played, I don’t know?
Has been actually a good the contribution from both as Lauri as Matias regarding the composition. But why Timo Kotipelto has cooperated that little?
Not sure, he just wrote less and had fewer songs and ideas when we started working on the stuff when we met that summer. Maybe he didn’t drink enough coffee? 🙂 Sorry, I don’t have a good answer.
I remember some years ago when some Hammerfall fans attacked Joacim Cans, horrible fact without any doubt. Tolkki felt himself threaded as well by certain Sratovarius fans. Have you ever felt fear for yourlsef due to all what happened in these last years?
No, not beyond any normal fear that anyone would have.
Did you felt comfortable during that era playing so barroque music far from the usual Power Metal?
How’s the music industry lke nowadays?
The music industry is quite a bit in trouble because of illegal downloading.
How’s the quarry like in Finland? Any new bands to point out?
Finland is a very hot scene for metal. It’s difficult to say. One of the bands we are tour with right now, which is called Tracedawn, is extremely good. It would be a fair world if they end up going far.
What bands are influences for the band members?
Difficult to say, I can only speak for myself. I am influenced from everything between Palestrina to Meshuggah.
What does your future provide?
More music. Hopefully!
Are you interested in politics? What do you think of the Obama’s entrance as president of the EEUU?
I’m not terribly interested, maybe I am a bit suspicious, but I like Obama, I was happy to see him winning. He seems like a quite bright and thoughtful guy and I think that’s exactly what USA needs. And because the US is such a huge player on the world scene, having a good leader for that country is a good thing for the whole world.
To finish I would like you to «sell» «Polaris» in a few words to all those people that have not decided yet to buy it.
I’d say, if you have an internet connection, go to stratovarius.com and press «play» on the little mp3 player on the bottom of the page. There are like 4 tracks from the album there you can listen to before deciding.
If you don’t have an internet connection, all I can say, it’s a good album and I have yet to speak to any of our loyal hard-core Stratovarius fans who weren’t pleased with it! It’s a little different, but still very much melodic and a little bit symphonic/progressive metal. And that to me is what Stratovarius is all about.
Thaks for dedicating us this time and for answering to this interview.
Texto y fotos : Xabier Rivas Martínez