Text: Margarita Khartanovich
Photos: Boris Kashentsev
Thanks to South Park festival MGM managed to catch up with overly busy and incredibly talented bassist Lauri Porra, who joined Finnish power metal band Stratovarius in 2005. Lauri is a fourth generation musician, and the great-grandson of famous Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. He is insanely hard-working and dedicated to music. You can check our gig review of 2013, where we shared our experience of seeing Stratovarius live (link: https://myglobalmind.com/2013/12/30/stratovarius-live-tavastia-klubi-helsinki-november-30th-2013/ ). We are absolutely convinced that getting Lauri in the band was like winning a jackpot for Startovarius. We talked with him about his numerous projects, impressions of touring as part of a legendary metal band, current obsession with Ukrainian folk music and secret wishes of getting a bandura and grappling with it.
About being part of Stratovarius
Lauri: “Stratovarius was one of the first bands in Finland who really made it. It’s like a classic band. We were the first band to sell over 1 million and tour South America. We were touring excessively! The band was formed in 1984. Nowadays it is a different band altogether but still most of the Finnish people under 45 grew up with Stratovarius more or less. Of course, we have new fans but it’s an old band. The longevity of the band has an impact. It’s is a lot about people’s youth.
When I joined Stratovarius I was pretty confident back then. I was doing a lot of work at that time. I wasn’t actually that familiar with Stratovarius. I knew it and a bunch of the songs but I wasn’t a fan per se. Well, I was a fan but not a hard-core fan. So, I didn’t realize how big Stratovarius was until I joined the band. I was like “Yeah, it’s a great honour to join this fantastic band” but I didn’t realize how big it was until I got on the road. I started straight away. We went to South America and played for 8 thousand people. And that was “Wow!”
Finland is a country where people don’t make much noise about anything. Stratovarius guys were like “Well, we’ve got this band…” – “And how many people do you play for?” – “We play thousands in Brazil.” People in Finland are not bragging about anything they do. So, I didn’t realize how big worldwide the band was.
That is the greatness of Stratovarius. It might not be as big as Metallica – it’s a much smaller band. But there is hardly any part of the world where people don’t know about it. That is something that I enjoy a lot. We have fans in Costa Rica, and Argentina, and Chile, and Taiwan, and Australia… It’s such a cool and amazing thing that this music has touched so many people around the world. It humbles me. I just try to deliver whenever I can.”
Stratovarius world tours and crazy Russians
Lauri: “We are pretty big in Europe and Far East but we are not that big in the United States. Everyone knows the band that is into this scene but the scene is not so big in the US. So, we can go there only once in a while just because of the amount of costs it takes to fly 10 people plus the instruments. We always talk that we want to do a North American tour but logistically it is really difficult. We always look for the opportunities how to do it without losing money. We’ve done 3 tours in North America. I loved all of them. For a European bass player it is a dream come true to play the States!
We did a road trip from Los Angeles to New Orleans in August. I just wanted to see the country. It is such an amazing country, even nature-wise. I also wanted to see the people. It’s a different country, like Russia or Japan. I love going to different parts of the world to just experience how people think, how they are and how the nature is. I really love North America and hope that we can tour there more.
Talking about Russia we could go further. We were talking with my friend from Amorphis at South Park festival, and they went all the way to lake Baikal and stuff. I would love to do that some day. The Russian audience is always great. I like playing Russia. Nowadays it is almost controversial to play Russian because of the political situation. A lot of musicians don’t want to do it at all. But I am not playing for the politics. I am playing for the people! And then you see regular, fucking great people, metal heads or whoever you are playing to and it’s always nice. Even if I don’t agree with what their leaders are doing, I love playing Russia.
I mean the Russians they are crazy! It’s a great audience for a metal band concert. They are dedicated and seem like they have nothing to lose. I have been talking a lot about this to some of my colleagues because some of them refuse to play Russia or Israel or a bunch of other countries. I’m more on the side of playing for the people, so all the time you go to some country where some strange things are happening and talk to regular people and they look just as confused as I’m about the situation in the world today. I am happy to go wherever to meet real people. I understand also if the artist is so big – it’s a different thing. But for us, we are a heavy metal band. We just want to give them some good music.”
Music as an art museum
Lauri: “I write music for films a lot, and symphony orchestras, and rock. I do everything. For me the music is all the same. Concentrating on one genre is like going to an art museum and just looking at one kind of painting. Last week I was in Paris so I went to Louvre. And there is everything from Babylonian time to contemporary art. Everybody goes there, and they look at everything. And that’s how I am with music. I listen to everything from the earliest to the latest, all the styles. I don’t see why someone would exclude a certain style of music.
I’m also involved in rap. I record for rap and techno artists. Well, everything. The most fun is when you work with people who are dedicated, who have a vision regardless of style – heavy metal, or hip-hop, or techno. It doesn’t matter. If there is a talent there, and he or she has a certian vision, and you can feel it, then it’s great! To me it’s all the same. If you play heavy metal or classical music as long as there is a true heart.
I don’t think it makes much difference in the rock world that I am the great-grandson of Jean Sibelius. Recently, I have got into a classical world, concerto for a symphony orchestra and, of course, there I noticed people were asking about it A LOT! You know I only have one life where I am from a certain family. I can’t compare it to any other sort of a life. For me it is hard to say what an advantage or disadvantage is. On the other hand, there was no other way for me but music! I am a forth generation musician. If I came from a different family background, I wouldn’t even know how it would be different. That’s the only life I’ve lived so far.
Lately, I have been really getting into Ukrainian folk music. They have this instrument called bandura. I’m planning on buying a bandura. I got a Ukrainian friend who hooks me up with balalaikas, etc. I am always interested in music, all kinds. This bandura is very connected to the Finnish Kantele. But the only thing I can tell you so far is that I will get a bandura and study it. If I get it, I will probably use it somehow.”
There is no such thing as “the best”
Lauri: “Stratovarius album is almost done. We are releasing a new album this September. I also released my solo album in February and did a concerto for a symphonic orchestra with a bass. Now I’m doing two movies this, and then I will start writing a concerto for two electric guitars and an orchestra. Then slowly I’ll get to my next solo album. In addition, there is a long-term project, something about writing an opera.
As you can see, my schedule is music. I’m just doing music all the time. For example, now we have done a show. I will drink a couple of beers and in 15 min I will go back to Helsinki and spend the evening working. Then in the morning I will have a recording session for something they shot in Lapland. That’s for Finland – “Visit Finland”, a short movie for people who would like to come here. So, that’s what I’m doing tomorrow morning at 10 o’clock. Of course, if you do too much of work then you need to take some time off and balance it out. But definitely I’m obsessed with working with music. We have only one time in our life. I love to travel, I love good food but whenever I’m thinking of something I’m thinking about music.
I just want to get better: I want to write better music; I want to do better things. My biggest goal is always the next project. Now it is a double concerto and an opera. I don’t actually like to have a big goal. I just think of the next thing I’m doing. Just to get ahead, to get better. Keep working and never stop! There is no such a point when you are the best. It’s impossible! If you think you are the best, then you have forgotten something important, then you are doing something wrong.
That’s the whole idea of humanity, how we transcended from apes and where we are going with it now – it is just to get better and know more about science and arts, love and understanding and being more kind to each other, when people are equal enough. You have to always keep working at it, as there is always space for getting better. That’s what apes might have thought too: “Hey, there should be something better. I can open this coconut much better!” And then you do it better and that’s how it goes. How can I make life better for everyone else and myself? And there is no end point in it!”
ETERNAL New album 2015 will be released on 11 September 2015 in Europe and on 18 September in USA.
ETERNAL World Tour 2015 will start in October 2015.
For more information, please, check: http://www.stratovarius.com/pages/intro.php
About South Park Festival: http://www.southparktampere.fi/