Stratovarius have been through changes. Now a new line-up is out on the road and I had the chance to talk to guitarist Matias Kupiainen before the show.
I'm pretty sure you were asked this frequently, but can you tell me: How is it as new guitar player and replacement for Timo Tolkki?
Oh, of course, on stage sometimes it's kinda hard, you know? You have to play all the parts like Tolkki and like Tolkki did on the albums. But I don't know, so far it has been very good and the feedback has been really positive and no one tried to killed me. No beer bottles were thrown to the stage or something.
I listen to Stratovarius for ten years and I am a really big fan of Tolkki and his guitar playing. Since Elements and later the Stratovarius titled album I missed something. Then came Tolkki's depression, and later you joined in and the band released Polaris. I thought "This could be nothing without Tolkki", but when listening first time to it, I was really surprised. It sounds really fresh! What do you say about this?
Well, I have never met Tolkki in person. I know actually nothing about him except what the other guys told me. Before the self-titled album Tolkki lost his interesting to play the guitar. Things like that happen when you don't practice. Anyway, I think the Polaris album is for us and the rest of the guys a fresh start, they say a second chance. Improvements and so on. They can go back on tour.
I think it is the second Visions or Episode album. It sounds fresh, it is powerful, it's great. I think I can listen to the happiness you had at the studio while recording the album.
Yeah, we had a lot of fun recording the album.
And what about the actual tour? You are in the middle of the tour right now, or?
No, I think there are eight days left on this European tour until it's over. We started touring in August I think. Anyway, we did this two months long world around tour and then the Finnish tour and we started on January this European leg. So far we have toured in so many citys, oh my god. A plenty towns. I lost my count somewhere in Belgrade....
I will see you at this year's Wacken Open Air. Are you happy to play there?
Yeah, it's the first time for me to play in Wacken. I have never been to the festival. Everybody's talking about it. It's the biggest metal festival, you know.
How is the working atmosphere with the other guys?
Well, it was somehow in summer of 2008, right after the Sauna open air when we were at Timo Kotipelto's cottage somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Lapland and working out the Polaris material. It was quiet relaxed. It was really positive and a really nice atmosphere. Nobody was back stabbing each other. Everybody presents ideas.
And everybody is involved in songwriting, or?
Yeah, but Jörg's an expert. He is really strong in how we arrange the drums. He's like a spine. Sometimes he says "Ah, this is bullshit, total scheiße!I like to do it this way!" Then we do the corrections. It is really nice.
But if you want, you can put in your own track and say 'this is my new stuff, listen to it, do what you want' or something?
Yeah, of course, anyway. In this band everybody is so fucking talented and they are awesome musicians. It's kind of easy to put a new song out or a rough demo and everyone knows "I can try this kind of things out" and you can always count on them. Most of bands in Finland, or when you have a smaller band, when you put the songs out, you have to write tabulatures or notes or something and say "You have to play exactly like this!". But in this band it is this way: There is a song and everybody plays the song not like on the sheet. Everybody tries so make the song work.
With his own style and ideas, I think?
I have read on your homepage that you will record a new album soon. Is there something you are allowed to say?
Well, there is any secret about that. Everybody has written some songs. I have a bunch of songs, I think Jens has a bunch of songs, Lauri has bunch of songs, and Timo has a bunch of songs. We are going on April again to the middle of nowhere in Finland and try the new songs out and see what will happen. The we will try to decide what songs we are taking on the next album, try to work them out and make some producing and arranging and stuff like that. I think around May we are in this kind of situation that we might have to new album material written and then in summer we gonna go in the studio. Maybe. Hopefully the new album will come out next year or earlier.
As I said before, you are an amazing exchange for Tolkki. Can you tell me something about your personal idols?
Well, I have trained this classical guitar riffs so my roots are basically in the classical area. There are so many good classical composers, for example Gustav Holst is one of my favorites. When you got this neo-classical shredding thing, you always have to listen to some Bach stuff, so that is also really close to my heart. I think it was Petrucci from Dream Theater who opened my eyes at high school.
You studied guitar, or?
Yeah, I studied the classical guitar until 2004 and then I quit. There was this accident happen. I smashed my left arm index finger trapped in the door and it broke into five pieces. Then I quit the classical guitar and tried to concentrate on that studio working and then I started to play the electrical guitar a bit more.
But there are plenty of good players out there... Yngwie Malmsteen. I think I was 14 or 15 when I listened to this Malmsteen stuff and tried to play that Johansson keyboard solos. And that is actually the style and sound that I tried to make my guitar sound. I tried to make it a little bit more sound like a synthesizer. It's really sharp and much of that comes from Jens. It's actually really nice to play in the same band!
You said you tried it out to sound like a synthesizer?
Oh yeah, but not that much! That kind of thing on the start of the note or of the sound; it's really smooth. And it ends smooth. When you pick really hard and you have this kind of 'pling' on the first note, it's like a attack thing. And I always tried to get rid of it. But now I try to get back because playing live is totally different then play in the studio. You have to make a sound that is strong and that cut's through the whole band. You know, it's always balancing between "Should I sound more like a synthesizer? Or more like a guitar or more what the fuck?"
Which gear do you use?
Well, I got this really nice Ruokangas custom guitar now with me. It has this really nice handmade pick up's with almost a little stronger output than the EMG. Anyway it is passive! That's really nice. Then I use mostly that Engl stuff. I got this preamp E530, the modern rock called preamp in one unit, cheap as hell! The basic sound, the crunch sound, is kind of ok. Then I have... what do I have actually on this tour?! Ah, I got this two Engl Fireball heads but I'm only using the power amp side of the head. Than I have two standard 4x12" V30 speaker cabinets and two slanted versions, so it's a kind of full stack two times! But anyway, I do not use the upper cabinets at all, size matters (laughs).
Ok, I have only one more question: Is there something you would like to tell our readers?
Well, I'm so bad about this... what the fuck?? Ha, what the fuck! Keep rocking and check us out in Wacken. It will be awesome.
Thank you very much for the interview!
You can listen to our little conversation by clicking here!