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Stratovarius interview

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    Posted: 19 Jan 2011 at 10:19am
hi guys,  

We did an interview with Stratovarius' keyboardist Jens Johansson.  His performance on the new Stratovarius album merits attention and recognition.  

here is the interview.  the url is:  http://www.loudtrax.com/blog/post/Stratvorius-Interview-2b-exclusive-666-price-on-new-album.aspx

let me know what you think and thanks!
Antonio // LoudTrax.com

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                Stratvorius - Interview + exclusive 6.66 price on new album

by AM 18. January 2011 23:13

The classic Finnish Power metal band released their 13th album "Elysium" today.  LoudTrax.com is proud to have the exclusive low price of $6.66 as well as an interview with keyboardist Jens Johansson.  Stratovarius has sold over 2.5 million records to date and are highly considered the pioneers of power metal alongside Helloween and Blind Guardian.  I personally really enjoyed this latest album more than the last few albums from the band.  The melodies are strong, and the keyboard / guitar marriage has the proper balance of heaviness and power metal keyboard arrangements.   

Below is the interview with Jens.

Listen to clips and Buy for $6.66 (sale ends Jan. 30)

LoudTrax.com:  The new album sounds great!  In my opinion, one of the strongest Stratovarius albums.  Tell us about the album, the writing, recording process.

Jens Johansson:  It was very quick this time, a quite compressed schedule. We started looking at whatever ideas everyone had in April 2010. The album was completed late October. During this time, we did the complete set of songs in demo versions, and we also managed to go to China for a week and do a bit of summer festivals on top. The reason for compressing the schedule this way was that we had an opportunity to join up with Helloween on a world tour. The start of this tour determined the deadline a little bit. When we started recording we didn't know how little time we would actually end up having. So (just to give one example) we had to have two persons mixing it in parallel. In the end we didn't compromise the quality, we just made it shorter than it could have been. We had something like 18 or 20 songs at the outset, I forget even... it's been a quite hectic year!

LoudTrax.com: On the last couple of albums, the songwriting has been shared by several members of the band (whereas before, it was mostly Timo and Timo).  What did that change mean to the band?

Jens Johansson:  The most important change is that we can share the responsibility of writing. If someone is not feeling inspired or busy with something else, there is probably someone else who is, and quite OK with picking up the slack. So we have no lack of material. Before TT left, he alone was responsible for the musical output and for setting the direction, which is a quite heavy burden to carry. He chose to carry it, but that doesn't mean it was not heavy.

 

LoudTrax.com: Any songs in particular that you are exciting about playing live?


Jens Johansson:  "Infernal Maze" would be cool to try. We haven't rehearsed it yet though. Probably on this tour (with Helloween) we will do a little bit of "greatest hits" approach. In some of Helloween's strongest territories like Germany and Greece we will be playing in front of people who may not even realize that Stratovarius even exists anymore. There was for sure not so much positive public activity with this band between 2003 and 2008. I mean we released one album (the "self-titled" album of 2005) but the timing of that release was horrible, we released it at the same time as the label happened to decide to go bankrupt. Not exactly a prescription for staying in the public eye. The memory of the record buying public is very very short.

LoudTrax.com:  How is the tour going with Helloween without Jorg?

Jens Johansson:  It went OK, I am writing this from Bilbao and Jörg is already back. For the first (December) leg of the tour we had a guy called Alex Landenburg sit in, because Jörg was still in radiotherapy and basically recovering from that and from the surgery. Timo Kotipelto has had a bad infection over the Christmas break and we actually had to cancel the two shows in France this week because of that. But he is already feeling a little bit better today, so we may try to risk it and play today. Don't know yet how it will go but hoping for the best!


 

LoudTrax.com:  Some keyboard questions….
I notice on some photos you play with an old Yamaha DX 7.  What other keyboards do you use?  Do you like to change your set up often and look for new keyboards?


Jens Johansson:  I usually so far have kept the same setup live for a number of years, because it is so reliable. The DX7 is just used as a MIDI controller. I have a small rack with a Roland 1080 in it, it's usually enough and it always works...

LoudTrax.com:  When you are writing and selecting your sounds for the recording process, how much importance do you put on being able to reproduce those sounds and parts live?  

Jens Johansson:  None at all! I think of live as a completely different context. Especially nowadays with all the editing and layering and mixing that goes on in the studio. If you tried to reproduce all that; doubled rhythm guitars, backing vocals, 3rd party orchestrations, keyboard layers, unisolos, what not, you would fail miserably anyway. You have to strip down the arrangements and hope that the audience will hallucinate the missing parts.

LoudTrax.com: 
 Tell us about how you record your keyboard parts in the studio (example…MIDI, amp, layered, etc…)

 

Jens Johansson:  I use whatever controller is nearby. For "Elysium" it happened to be a Roland V-synth. I usually don't go into "the studio" per se, I like better to work on the stuff by myself at my own pace. It's the work flow I have used with Stratovarius since about the "Destiny" record: get rough mixes of the basic tracks when they are locked editing and timing wise, and then work out as minimalistic keyboard arrangements as possible around the song. I put a lot of thought into the arrangements, I am extremely anal about voice leading, counterpoint, and to create harmonic colors which are interesting and logical but not so overbearing that they end up detracting from the core melodic ideas of the song.

Since I so often work with little feedback if it's someone else's song, I also tend to "brainstorm" and record way more layers than could ever be actually used at the same time. Whoever wrote the song can then decide what they would like to use. As far as equipment for external MIDI modules I still trust the Roland 1080 (or 1010) for a lot of bread-and-butter stuff. There is a large number of patches that people have made for this instrument, and many of them turn out to be useful. Apart from that of course I use sh*tloads of virtual instruments like samplers and virtual synthesizers. Very often I end up building effects chains that become part of the layer as well. I didn't use any amps/speakers on "Elysium" except for my old 760 Leslie, for some distorted organ stuff.

Keyboard solos I can do on autopilot almost. Without exaggeration, I spend a hundred times more time on the "other" keyboard arrangements that go with the song than on the solos. I leave those for last usually and for a normal album do them all in an hour or so. But for instance with the two "Elements" records there were a lot of solos and they took an entire afternoon to record...

LoudTrax.com:  You played on the classic DIO album “Lock Up the Wolves”.  Did you maintain a relationship with DIO after that?  How did you feel when you heard about the sad news?

Jens Johansson:  We didn't stay in close touch, but we would bump into each other now and then, quite often actually. It was always really good to see him and have a beer or ten and talk about the old days. It was as if the years that had passed, were mere days. He was a very special person, intelligent and very caring. I was of course quite upset that he died.

LoudTrax.com:  Closing off, we like to ask some personal tastes of the artists we interview.  For you, what are your favorite Deep Purple, ELP and Dream Theater albums?

Jens Johansson: 

Deep Purple: Made in Japan
ELP: Brain Salad Surgery
Dream Theater: Images and Words

Cheers!

/j

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