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A list of some other FAQ's

NOT really under construction!

I had some coffee and some free time, so some of these are pretty exhaustive. Whee!

Can I link to your page?


Do you give lessons?


What happened with Andy West's overdubs to Fission?

Well, this Fission story begins around March of 1997 when me and Andy started communicating via email. I had some songs that were in need of bass (these songs are what later became fission.) Anyway, the spring and summer were chaotic, I was travelling all over the place with Strato and basically trying to record and mix two records at the same time. Andy had a tape and was ostensibly working on it, but he has a well-paying gig as a computer network specialist and he was working on a project that was eating a lot of his time, so the recording was delayed and delayed. Anyway, one fine summer day, finally! We had Andy's tape with the bass tracks for four songs. We stick it in one of the (DA-88 multitrack) machines to make a backup. On stopping, rewinding a bit and starting again to listen at something (idiotic!!)... the machine breaks! Halfway thru the backup, right in the middle of a song! The dreaded "logic cam failure" (S-err 11), where the cassette gets locked into the machine. Sigh. The master cassette, of course. OK. So I open up the machine, and extract the tape, ruining the section where it was parked. Great! I also have to spend a cold and rainy day (a day that I technically didn't have) in Copenhagen to get the machine repaired, because of course we need three machines to mix, the drums were spread out over at two tapes, the keyboards over two. So even with heavy sub-mixing it would be more than 16 tracks. So, anyway, we get the fixed machine back. Start to submix the keyboards.

Then another machine fails!! At the worst moment. Just two days earlier, and I could have brought it to be fixed at the same time as the first machine. But now it's too late, I have to leave the next morning. The mixes basically have to be finished before that — our distributor is wondering where the record went, stores have ordered a bunch of copies of it already and it's not even mixed yet.

So, to recover from this disaster and to be able to do some sort of mix on only two machines (using 16 tracks), we have to start bouncing the drums first. So we dial up the appropriate mix and put a fresh tape in, to transfer stuff from first one drum tape, then the other drum tape, onto the master drum tape. We're right in the middle of this tedious sub-mixing process (remember, it's a real-time copy, it basically takes an hour per pass!) when there's a huge brownout (power surge). The machines kept on running without a hitch, but of course you get nervous.. all the lights looked like they were running on half voltage for a few seconds.

The thunder was rolling in the distance. Obviously there had been a stroke of lightning somewhere in the vicinity. The studio is out in the countryside, the power lines mostly above ground. Voltage spikes are a serious problem. Varistor-based surge protection can take care of a lot, but two big surges in sequence is a problem — the varistor fries with the first surge, leaving the equipment unprotected for the second. So it's always safer to unplug your computer gear in a thunder storm... and a multitrack digital recorder may look like a normal tape recorder, with a "play" and "record" button and stuff, but in reality it's just a big computer. The thunder grumbles on, we stop the copy, unplug everything, and go upstairs to check out the storm. It's a pretty good storm! Pretty heavy rain as well. We enjoy the show for several minutes.

Hmmm. Now there's a hint of a strange splashing sound in the background... like a stream. It's obviously the rain. But there's something weird about the sound. It has an uncharacteristic amount of high end to it... sort of.. like if it's.. inside the house. We just looked at each other .. "shit!!" Running back down to the basement, we discover it's filling up with water — the water is entering the room from the crack under the front door. I tried to block it from going into the control room with a keyboard case. Weirdly enough, we had bought a portable pump just a few days earlier, because Anders had had another flood experience and was being paranoid. So after the water rose enough to cover the pump, it was able to keep it somewhat under control, but there was lots of damage already. We had left a box of tapes on the floor of the control room. Sometimes, there's something to be said for analog recording media.. or magneto-optical, perhaps...

Did I mention that I had the most horrible case of the flu as well, with fever, chills, the whole program? Anyway, this is just basically a story of how it always is, trying to put a record together. Nothing really spectacular about it, you learn how to roll with punches like these after a few years. So let me get back to how the bass overdubs fit into this tale.

Of course, the bass master tape was one of the ones in the box on the floor. We obviously weren't about to insert a wet tape into one of our precious remaining machines, with only a few hours to spare to complete the mix. So once the water starts sinking in, and we manage to dry things off sufficiently, we simply continue with the bouncing process, and later with the mix, without the bass tracks — using the synth bass which I basically had recorded as reference for Andy. This is what ended up on the record!! I mean it's not badly played or anything, and I enjoy playing synth bass (all of Heavy Machinery was synth bass, and intentionally, too). I was left with one track of real bass, from the backup, but of course I couldn't play it along with the two tapes of bounced drums and bounced keyboards, because the third machine was broken, remember? Time was really running out. There were solos missing as well, on this song. So I prioritized those instead of trying to make more room on the tapes and bounce the real bass. I basically had to come up with something. So I recorded half a solo that night, and used an old take for the other half. Anyone with a copy of Fission can refer to the Tale of the Two Solos on "Don't mention the war", this is the section in (8*3+4)/16 - beat, they're around 6 minutes into the track: the solo in E flat was performed, dead tired, with horrible flu, at something like five thirty in the morning; because the mix had to be ready at six thirty, because I had to get to Copenhagen Airport by nine, because I had a flight at eleven; in the cramped, cold and damp basement, with water, leaves and mud all over the floor and thousands of dollars of destroyed equipment strewn about... the G flat solo was recorded a year or something earlier, presumably in a much better mood, under no duress and probably after a cup of coffee as well. Actually I don't like either of the solos that much, but it was the only way! The "old" solo was just something I'd played into Cubase as a "rough place holder".. the e flat part of that sucked completely. But to do both halves while in a "flood mood" would have been too sad.. so I simply spliced at the key change. Voilà!

So anyway, I (by this time Anders had long since gone to bed) mix this song without the bass, because the keyboard bass that was on the tape was pathetically bad I seem to remember. It would have to be redone in either case, I just didn't have the time to deal with it. Worst case, the song would just be excluded from the record. I had the mix on a DAT, and Andy's bass on an Iomega Jaz cartridge, and was planning to "fly" the bass in in synch with the mix once I got back to New York. Because we had only talked via email and over the phone, there were a few things that Andy had misunderstood in regards to the song, and I figured I could fix it, by reading the bass-less mix and Andy's track, which was secure on the Jaz disk, into Cubase audio, and then just do the minor edits and adjustments that were appropriate.

Then the inevitable happened. Guess it yet?

By the way, did I ever elaborate on why I hate Jaz drives? Naah, the story is long enough as it is anyway. Suffice to say, burned-out Jaz mechanisms make excellent paper weights after they've finished chewing up your collection of Jaz media, transforming your priceless data into non-information in the process. (Here's a zen-like thought for Iomega engineering staff: if the data is on a disk, but impossible to read, is it really there, or not?) I'd rather back up critical data to paper tape than to Jaz, nowadays...

Anyway, the stuff Andy put down sounded great, I hope I have a chance to remix the record at some point if I ever get protools or something..

What's with that cigarette in the Russian video?

It was a dumb joke. We got these horrible Soviet cigarettes for free on the Aeroflot flight to Moscow. That particular day, everyone was walking around with unlit cigarrettes in their mouths, emulating, well, Slash from Guns and Roses I think it was. I decided to goof around, because the video was only to be broadcast on a local TV station in Moscow, anyway.

Then Polymer bought the tapes.

Why did you leave Rising Force?

(Someone asked: "Why does everyone eventually leave Yngwie's band?")

Well, let's answer the question "why the mass exodus in 1989". Ah, it's a long story. Money? Boredom? Arguments with Joe Lynn about the musical direction? Band members fed up with not getting proper credit for writing? The record company lost interest? The main reason in my mind was just people getting tired of being in the same situation for a number of years, ie, boredom. Polygram's complete loss of interest in promoting the band was a factor as well. There was a whole lot of other strange shit that went on at the time, not the least of them being Yngwie signing up with a manager that everybody in the band hated, and him moving to Florida. (I don't like Florida that much.) Some of us were fed up with not being paid on time while any work outside the band was frowned upon.. I myself left actually, whether the other guys got fired or left is another story. I think they provoked Yngwie to fire them. But I definitely left. Me and Yngwie are friends now, but I think he was really pissed off at me for a while.

Why play so many different types of music?

Actually, as far as the stuff I've been involved with, they're not that different from each other, if you think about all the different music styles out there. They all fall within "rock music" in the broad sense. But that's a cheap way of avoiding the question which is sometimes asked in any of these forms: There are certain questions like this that are very difficult to answer in a way for non-musicians (i.e. listeners) to understand. If your fourth record doesn't sound like all the other ones, does that mean that you hated what you did on the three first ones? Or does it mean that you're "selling out" with this one? Which style is it that you "really" like? (The endless discussions about Metallica's "Load" are a good example*.)

You just have to try to imagine yourself actually living with playing music as a job "24 hours a day / 7 days a week / 52 weeks a year", and try to understand that it's very easy to get numb in a situation like that.

I'm not saying anybody forces people to become musicians, but perhaps you can understand how Metallica could get sick of "Master of Puppets" style of material after playing it live for many years under these conditions.

I know for instance that right when I left Yngwie's band I felt like if I ever heard a harmonic minor lick (or even a minor chord!) I was going to puke. But it wore off after a couple of years! Now I've regained some of the feelings for these types of harmonies that I had when I first started out — albeit it took a while.

Why do you play with Stratovarius?

To put it in plain language, because it's very enjoyable. What I like most are the well-written songs, and the fact that we actually manage to reach out to people that love the stuff, despite the hostile music climate nowadays.

Also, the cameraderie in the band is simply great. There's almost a complete absence of bad vibes, which for me is something quite wonderful and new.. They all have the same scandinavian mentality and weird sense of humor that I do.

The touring/recording schedule isn't heavy enough to be a problem.

The bucks are good as well, but certainly nothing spectacular, at least not yet. Were money my main motivation I (obviously!) would NOT have become any sort of musician in the first place.

This is what 'misfit' thought on the perpetual motion board..

: Jens should be playing fusion, prog, and jazz and 
: whatever else actually challenges him instead of 
: sleepwalking through a bunch of retro-neo-classical 
: metal. 

To which I replied:

Well, I do — another really nice thing with Stratovarius us that the schedule is usually such that I actually have the time to do this, and I don't get any shit from the other guys for all these weird 'side records'.

And besides, I never got any gold records with Yngwie (it's possible he went gold somewhere like Japan, but I certainly never saw any gold discs as a result — who cares about the assholes in the band, right??), and I've never been NUMBER ONE ON THE NATIONAL CHARTS ANYWHERE EVER BEFORE!

So I'm basically having lots of fun. I'd have to add that being in a band where I'm the most antisocial person is quite nice. Most other bands I've been in, perhaps DIO excepted, I've been the least antisocial person. It's a much better to be the most antisocial, because you can reap the benefits of the good influence of the other guys... as opposed to having your worst tendencies being reinforced, by being surrounded by bad vibes and behavior.

Who's the copy and who's the original?

The accusation that some project/group/artist is a "copy" or "clone" is quite common. Basically, the short answer is that as long as the music is in a 12-tone well-tempered scale, everyne copies everyone, because we keep using the same 12 notes, over and over. I could say; Blackmore took the 'G' from the first note of Beethoven's 5th, the 'Bb' from the 4th note of JSB's "musical offering", the 'C' from the ending chord of 'Wohltemperiertes Klavier #1", and so on, and made the riff for "Smoke on the Water"..

If you're the type of nit-picker that isn't satisfied with this argument... well first off, you'd better realise that any theories you put forth on the subject will probably be utterly wrong. And that any opinion on "who copied who" depends on who's the true originator of a concept. Did A steal it from B who in his turn stole if from C? Or did both A and B steal it from C? If so, and if C is somebody you never even heard of, should A somehow get any 'credit' for stealing it first?

In my opinion this whole discussion becomes quite meaningless at this point, but I'll follow a thought I have at the moment at least, because if you want to claim to see any such "lineages" of idea theft, you had better show that you're very familiar with many styles of music.

A style of music is a little bit like many other things in the world — it changes depending on how close you are to the subject. It is sort of like comparing two human beings — if you see them from a kilometer away, they might seem very similar, but the closer you get, the more differences you can see. And if you get close enough to talk and interact, you can determine a lot of differences. (But from 1000 meters, even Darth Vader and Jesus would look pretty much the same to the unaided eye. Well, provided they didn't have clothes on I guess. I picture Jesus as usually walking around in a white sheet, just like in "Life of Brian". And Darth, as we all know, has some sort of black plastic outfit.)

This goes for music as well. The closer you scrutinize a style, a piece, or someone's life work, the better you will be at understanding differences, influences, and the like. And even if you're very familiar with one style that you like, when confronted with something different it can be like you're a kilometer away. For instance, a Jazz fanatic might be shocked at the metal dude who thinks Miles Davis and Kenny G sound about the same. The metal fanatic scoffs at the blues guy that says "Mindcrime" era Queensryche sounds pretty much like late Judas Priest. And the opera guy says all blues sounds the same, which makes the blues guy a bit bemused, but to him on the other hand Wagner sounds similar to Rossini or even Purcell — it's all a bunch of people screaming on top of their lungs over orchestral music. *

OK, so that's the "ability to differentate between sub-styles of music depends on familiarity" discussion. Whew, I'm not sure where that tangent headed off into actually. Anyway, now on to lines of influence; it at least seems like a remote possibility that:

Yngwie copied JSB, Uli, Eddie, Paganini, me, Allan, and a little bit of Ritchie, and added a lot of his own stuff.

I copied JSB, John Lord, Ritchie, Yngwie, Eddie Jobson, Allan, and a little bit of Zappa, and added a lot of my own stuff.

Tolkki copied JSB, Ritchie, Iron Maiden, Yngwie, Queensryche, Helloween, and a little bit of ABBA, and added a lot of his own stuff.

JSB himself copied Buxtehude, Albinoni and other contemporaries, and added a lot of his own stuff.

But as stated previously, you'd have to be really familiar with the music to sort out which conceptual bits were lifted, and which were "his own stuff", and how much of each is present.

What the hell, none of this stuff is making any sense!! I type and type and I can't get to the point. I've got to cut down on the coffee..

What's on the cover of "Fission"?

On the European and Japanese releases, I mean? Well, what do you think? See if you can guess. If not, look here to see the whole picture.

Page updated Jun 4, 2000 at 14:39 • Email: jens@panix.com

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