An Interview With Jorg Michael Of Stratovarius
Through strife and hardship, one of Finland's legends has survived and thrived to be more powerful than ever. Stratovarius recently unleashed "Elysium" to the delight of fans and critics everywhere. And even though the band has been touring relentlessly for it already, Stratovarius isn't even close to being done; with the group still traveling to South America next month. I caught up with drummer Jorg Michael to talk about the new album, his own health, and the environment.
Buick: How are you doing today?
Jorg Michael: I'm very good. Thank you.
Buick: Your latest album "Elysium" was released last month. How has the response been from fans and critics?
Jorg: I'm really overwhelmed by the response. We've got a lot of great reviews. I think our fans really like it.
Buick: That's great. And the band has been through a lot of hardship while the album was being made. How are you doing in your treatment?
Jorg: As you ask that, I'm in the clinic right now, and I'm happy to report that the tests are okay, and I'm ready to go back home to my family.
Buick: Great! It seems like the whole thing went pretty fast.
Jorg: It seems like that because we did not release the information right away. My family and I decided it would be best to wait a while to tell everyone. So it would seem like I was diagnosed and went through treatment quickly, but it's really been a while. It's good that the cancer was diagnosed early so that it could be taken care of.
Buick: Ok. Anyway, even though you were in remission, you've been touring for the album a bit already. One of the places you toured was Japan...
Jorg: Oh, it's horrible, isn't it? It's so sthis whole worse case with this nuclear plant in Fukushima is turning into a complete apocalypse. This is something I’m very worried about, first of all because of my friends. But what turns me really sad is that we have to cope many years with these things. And you may also know that Stratovarius has always fought against this and have supported many other things which are against air pollution and earth pollution basically. Now you see what we have to deal with like last year in the Mexican Gulf. There is still a huge, huge…how you say…flood…a huge piece of oil in the middle of this Gulf, you know, and last summer it was a big deal that no one could repair it. What do you read now in the media? Nothing. And I don’t know what should happen that we really wake up and not rescue Japan, to rescue our planet. Today it’s Japan, but tomorrow it will be in the US. The US has the whole thing to deal with like California, it’s getting away from the country. They had a big earthquake in San Francisco in the beginning of the 19th century. What makes us believe this will not happen again? It will come sooner or later. Maybe not in our life, but certainly in the life of our children. I’m very, very sad about all that, you know, and I can’t really imagine what is in some human’s brains and minds by doing all this, you know. I think we have so many possibilities here for not even using nuclear power plants. By doing our cars without any oil. We have alternative energies and nobody’s doing it because all these lobbyists, nuclear power lobbyists or oil company lobbyists, they are so strong and so collective, it’s really hard. But for me it’s really hard to believe that human beings think like that, you know, and take into consideration that other people die just because of the greed of some other people.
Buick: Absolutely. Earth is being destroyed and nobody seems to care. And I’m really glad you brought up the oil spill because I live in New Orleans, and we still have to deal with that every day.
Jorg: Ahh, okay, so it’s right in front of you.
Buick: Yes. I’ve been to many protests about it.
Jorg: What is it now? They put a few cubic meters of sand over it, you know, and when your little child is playing in the sand he has to make sure that no oil is on the sand and be careful. It’s like…damn. And now the same thing happens. Currently its happening in Japan; all the eyes of the world are in Japan. But still, you are living in New Orleans. It’s still not over there.
Buick: Exactly. It won’t be for a long time. All people say is how they aren’t going to eat our seafood because it’s unsafe so we’re not giving you any money. We’re not giving you any donations to help you with that and we’re not going to eat your seafood.
Buick: Well, let’s move on to happier things. You’re going to go on more tours soon, and you have a lot of dates in South America, which is great, but when are you going to do a U.S. tour?
Jorg: There were also some plans to tour the U.S.; also in the package was Helloween. And then unfortunately, they had to postpone the South America tour and Helloween has also booked summer festivals. So that was kind of clashing with the dates. And they couldn’t book a U.S. tour before summer. Now it looks like this tour of Helloween in the U.S. might come up after summer. I have not heard any confirmation about it, but also the manager asked us if we could be part of it. As it is after summer, we are not sure about what kind of plans we will have. Maybe we go out in Europe as our own headliner again. So I cannot exactly have an answer for you or confirmation for that tour, just that we are trying to make it happen.
Buick: Well when you do and you come to New Orleans I can show you exactly how we’re dealing with the oil spill everyday.
Jorg: Okay. I keep this in my mind, Emily.
Buick: Great. And you had a few lineup changes during the last few years also. How is this current lineup doing?
Jorg: I think the last time we changed the lineup was, like, basically before the “Polaris” album. And it was that Timo Tolki wanted to disband the band in 2007 and wanted to do other things. And when Timo Jensen and I decided to keep on going with Stratovarius, so we were short on a guitar player really. So we finally found this wunderkind Mathias. And since he is with the band, I think everything is very stable now, and we have a really, really good relationship inside the band again. It’s really, really back to normal now. And Mathias is a lot younger than, for example, myself. But music is not a language which to talk about…it doesn’t matter how much age you are. You know, music is like an international language, and it doesn’t get confused like some other languages do, it’s just about emotions. I think he fits perfectly. When he started with “Polaris” it was, in my opinion, already a group , and this is how we develop with this new lineup. So only I can say is positive and also I’m very happy what kind of support I got from the band during my illness, during my sickness here. That is also fantastic. So right now we have a really good, stable working band again.
Buick: That’s great. And it seems you’re more popular than ever.
Jorg: That I don’t know. Of course, like, we have done many, many years already. We are not a new, fresh, come-up band, but, yeah, it’s still going good for us. You are right.
Buick: Is there anything else you would like to say?
Jorg: Yeah first of all is I hope all of our Japanese friends come out of this situation as soon as possible and nothing gets any more harmed. I wish of course that your country is waking up now, and that you try the best, you know, of reviving the paradise you have down there. And to all of our fans in the U.S. I would like to bring across that we are really, really happy for your support. I think since we [toured] with Agalloch things are really moving over there. And it’s a great opportunity for us to find so many fans. And I want to thank all of those who have supported us in the past. Thank you very much.
Emily is an avid supporter of the New Orleans scene, often filming shows and conducting interviews with local bands to help promote their music. She also runs her own site dedicated to the New Orleans scene, Crescent City Chaos.
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