The single “Unbreakable” recently released, RYL! spoke with Jens Johansson about Stratovarius’ new record : “Nemesis”.
Hello, happy New Year! How are you?
Jens Johansson (keyboards) : Thank you, everything is great!
Glad to be in Paris?
J : Yes of course! A little bit cold in this room that’s why I got this ridiculously amount of clothes on me.
So your next record “Nemesis” will be available next month, but before that, next week, there’s the single coming out, “Unbreakable”. Why did you choose this track as a single?
J : Good question. We chose it because somebody told us that this should be the single. The interesting part is, when we started writing and recording this album, we had this idea: why don’t we let a radio guy decide which song will be the single. This is what we did: there’s a Finish radio station called Radio Rock and they are specialized in metal, Timo is a good friend, so the head of the programming department there, then when the final mixes and after a few beers, he played the album and he made the suggestion and this is where we ended up. It’s like a radio choice. What interesting is, we were two days ago in Spain, we talked with a radio programmer guy there and he said “yeah, I really like this song or this one”, so he picked the same exact two songs that the guy in Finland did. We were like “okay”; I guess all the radio people think the same way, kind of fascinating to see.
Matias said that this song has a personal meaning for him, with the lyrics.
J : Yeah, I think they all do.
Can you detail us the message behind this song?
J : That’s actually one of those things, when we were in the mixing phase, because his mixed the record. I think I had to ask him, I called him up “okay what the fuck is that meaning?” So he summarized very quickly and asked me to write the press release. Basically what he just wrote is that you should to live in the moment, of course when you have this special moment with someone… It globalizes what concerns all the reality in our lives. But that was a few months ago, maybe I got it right, maybe I got it wrong.
I listened to it many times and it’s pretty great. But I noticed that there wasn’t any solo, kind of unexpected. Was it considered or the song just came out like that?
J : In this case I don’t know. I think in a way it’s boring to have this formula where it has to be a solo. So maybe in his mind, there’s like a little guitar part before this pre-chorus repeats, maybe it’s like a solo. He’s not playing it higher on the guitar but it’s a riff which is not present anywhere else on the song. It’s a guitar solo but not high up on the neck; just playing this riff like a solo. I’m sure he didn’t thought about it either.
There’s also four other songs, on “Unbreakable” from previous records, why these ones instead of others?
J : That’s also one of those terrible answers. It was again on the same couple of days actually, where the mastering was going on, and the label called “we’re putting out the internal songs stuff, what should be the other songs?” The only criteria that I had really, was to get songs from records we put out from the same label: “Infinite”, “Intermission”, “Elysium” and “Polaris”. So I had to pick songs from these and I figured, since it was like “Unbreakable”, a radio song, songs that could have been on the radio but never did really, but none of these songs were presented to us as singles at the time. I made the list in two minutes like “fuck”, looking on Wikipedia, like “Freedom, ok that might be good”. Even during the mixing, guys didn’t know that we were releasing a single, adding some work on the mastering. (laugh)
The record’s title is “Nemesis”, any specific reason to this name?
J : No. We all like the title. It was Matias’ idea. Everybody suggests something and we are like “oh that sounds good”. The title is not that important than the songs but you still need some collective name. I think it fits, maybe a little bit darker, just a word. His idea was the best one. For example, if I say “we should call it Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs” and Matias says “no, maybe Nemesis”, and of course it’s clear, the other one sucks, just take that one. When he came out with it, we were in Spain, at Barajas airport, so maybe next time we’ll call it “Barajas”, nice and catchy.
It’s the 14th album of the band. How do you keep this level of inspiration for making and making new material? Where do you find all these ideas?
J : I think that’s easy, that’s by having new members in the band, with Lauri and Matias. When I had this idea of restarting the band in 2008, it was very important that everybody that wanted can be involved in the writing. Matias did come with some stuff on the previous albums and now he proposed lots of music and very good music so. Since we don’t really have a leader in the band, we don’t have this sort of dictatorship; how the most capable is can freely write and propose music.
So there’re eleven tracks, does “Unbreakable” represent the whole thing or we can expect for some surprises?
J : I’d say that’s one of the most commercial songs; there are some strange things, interesting things. I think, as a whole, it feels very solid.
We can notice that Jani Liimatainen guests on “If the Story Is Over” and “Out Of The Fog” which he has co-written, how did he end up in the studio with you? Any links with his collaboration on “Blackoustic”?
J : Exactly. They have done a lot of gigs, for fun, all around Finland. Of course they hang out a lot and jammed too like “let’s write some songs and present them to Stratovarius”. Everybody liked them and that’s how it ended up.
Will he, maybe, guest on some gigs?
J : We haven’t even thought about it, maybe he doesn’t want to, I don’t know.
The European tour is nearly coming; will we see you this summer at some festivals?
J : I hope so, nothing has been yet confirmed, but we’ll be at some festivals, for sure.
We will see you in France nearly, what can we expect about the shows?
J : It’s another experiment for you. This Euro tour is a package tour, with a Swedish band called Amaranthe, which has a different style with three singers, more modern. But the melodic stuff can content the fans from both bands. There’s also another band from the US, called Seven Kingdoms, from Florida, power metal with a female singer.
Bonus : If you had to choose one band, apart from Stratovarius, which one it will be?
J : Maybe Deep Purple. That would be fun. I always liked Deep Purple but they have a really good keyboard player and I don’t think he’s planning to quit and I wouldn’t want to take his place, it’ll be very big shoes to fill in. He replaces Jon Lord, who died last year, it would be too scary for me but of course it’s one of my favorite bands.
Bonus: What’s the last CD you have bought?
J : That’s a good question. I got this Marillion CD in my pocket but someone gave it to me, an industry person, from who you always got things for free. (laugh)
Bonus : What’s the last gig you attended to?
J : I don’t think if I remember. Oh yeah, Opeth! Opeth is always great.
Finally, as a tradition, we are “RockYourLife!”, what rocks your life guys?
J : Music of course and, I don’t know, music has been driving me most of my life. Music is probably the most things in my life.
Website : stratovarius.com