Johansson and Kotipelto Q&A
Frontman Timo Kotipelto and keyboardist Jens Johansson have been the longstanding guiding force behind Finland’s Stratovarius for almost two decades. This week the duo reached out to talk about the band’s 14th studio album, “Nemesis” They also shared high praise for Deep Purple and harsh words for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In February, the five-piece symphonic power metal band, which also features guitarist Matias Kupiainen, bassist Lauri Porra, and new drummer Rolf Pilve returns with arguably its strongest effort in years. “Nemesis” seems to balance the bridge between the classic Stratovarius signature and a more modern sound that has been heard over the band’s last couple of records. Kotipelto agrees:
“That’s exactly the way I see it,” offers Timo. “There’s kind of a typical Stratovarius catchy choruses, but still it’s a bit more modern sounding album. And maybe a bit darker compared to the last two.”
While “Nemesis” maintains continuity throughout, it is something of a tale of two albums, with guitarist and producer Kupiainen writing half the album, and Johansson, Kotipelto and Porra writing the balance of it.
“Nowadays we have this writing team of like four guys in the band,” shared Timo. “So it’s much easier than in the past when there was basically only one guy writing all the songs. I mean if one of us had writer’s block then all the other guys could come up with some new songs. It works out pretty nicely. It reduces the stress in a way. I would hate to be that guy that has to come up with 60 minutes of music. It’s very nice that we all pitch in.”
Kotipelto penned two of the album’s tracks, “Out of the Fog” and “If the Story is Over” with Jani Liimitainen (Cain’s Offering, ex-Sonata Arctica). The former represents one of the record’s best riffs, and the latter the lone ballad. Both were ideas that Kotipelto had been sitting on for a while. Offered Timo of “Out of the Fog”:
“I had this idea that there were these young soldiers marching in the fog. When the fog clears out, there would be the enemy, and probably most of them would die without having a clear meaning of why they are in the battle and what’s going on.”
Johansson also penned two of the album’s tracks; the spiraling and majestic “Castles in the Air”, and the more traditional, “Dragons” (a third Johansson track made the deluxe edition). Jens also put a lot of effort into bassist Porri’s sole writing effort, “Fantasy”.
“That was one of my early favorites when we were doing the demos,” admits the keyboardist. “It’s a very catchy song. I would like to have it as the second single. I think it’s a very kind of poppy, upbeat song. Happy.”
Both Timo and Jens are huge Deep Purple fans, with Johansson having a special love for the late Jon Lord. I mentioned that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame had once again snubbed the legends and the response was like pulling the pin on a grenade. After a resound chorus of “boos”, Jens, who hails “Made in Japan” as his all time favorite album, was the first to speak his mind:
“Fuck the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! That’s complete bullshit. Nobody is deserving of a spot more than Deep Purple, and I think it’s mocking the entire planet if what you say is true. It’s bullshit! They should be banned. They should be fucking abolished. That’s like the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard, and they should go die from shame, these people. None of the bands I’ve ever played with on a professional level would have existed without Deep Purple. Stratovarius would never have existed.”
“In my case I started out playing drums, and I wanted to be Ian Paice,” stated Timo. “But then being Ian Paice was a little too difficult so then I wanted to sing and I wanted to be Ian Gillan. Deep Purple is still one of my long time favorites. The other night we heard the new Deep Purple album, and I tell you it’s killer. It’s a very good album.”