Interview with vocalist Timo
Interview by EvilG / Transcribed by Theresa Gaffney
This interview was done some days prior to the
announcement from Stratovarius guitarist Timo Tolkki that there could be
no Stratovarius without singer Timo Kotipelto on board. We've all read
through the craziness posted online by Tolkki, and that is a topic I
touched on in this interview. Most of the interview is about the music
however as I would rather dwell on the positive and not be involved in
slinging dirt towards Kotipelto's ex-band members from Stratovarius.
Seems that Kotipelto feels the same way and treated the topic with
respect and his usual mature attitude. Hope you like the interview!
I understand you were just throughout some of Europe on a press
How did that go?
It was very, very good, but very tough because I flew out from
Helsinki Monday very early morning, and came back very early Saturday
morning. But basically only five days and I would say maybe I did close
to 80 interviews. [Wow!] It is quite a lot. The first day I did
23 interviews, so...a lot of talking. But I mean, it's good. It's better
to have a lot of interviews instead of none.
So what is the most asked or annoying question you keep getting
asked every interview so I won't ask you? (laughs)
Well, of course it should be something related to Stratovarius, but I
mean really I don't mind. If the question is something like "Tell
me about your album," then it's a little bit boring, because then
the interviewer never heard the album, or doesn't know anything about me
or metal or whatever, you know.
I have my questions sketched out here; I'd like to talk about obviously
the present, then a little bit about the past and some stuff that has
recently happened. First let's talk about COLDNESS, your new album. Are
you referring to this now as your solo project or are you considering
this moreso your 'band'?
Of course this all started as the second solo album because most of
the songs were composed a year ago and I was still in the band. But then
again, lately, it has become more like it's my main project or whatever.
That's what I do and that's what I'm supporting right now. Then again, I
hate the word "solo" because I don't play any instruments
really so it doesn't make any sense to me (laughs). Of course it's
understandable when you're in the band already and you go out on your
own, of course that's solo already.
So I guess you're putting a lot more effort into promotion and
things like that this time?
Yeah, yeah, and also if there's a chance to go touring, I'm ready to
do as much as possible.
obvious question is the title "Coldness." Does that refer to
the northern climate you're from or something else?
(laughs) Well, actually it sums everything up because the past 8 or 9
months, they've definitely been the most difficult in my life so far,
not only because what happened between me and some other guys in the
band, but it's also because...well, normally I don't want to talk about
my personal life but in this case, I guess it makes sense because I was
together 5 years with my ex-girlfriend and that ended a couple of months
before the band situation started, so there's a lot of things. But it's
also because I wrote a lot of lyrics between last August and even in the
very early of January, so it was already quite cold and I also wanted to
express visually my roots, because I was born 400 kilometers north from
Helsinki where I live now, and that's a town called Lappajärvi. It's a
very, very small place by the very, very nice lake, and that's why
there's a lake on the cover, a very icy and frozen lake. I also wanted
to especially show some people in the south, like South Americans or
some from Italy and people who had never seen this climate and I wanted
to express to them my feelings and also how I am influenced by the
nature around me. "Coldness" expresses so many things.
Would you say there is a change in the lyrics you had written
while you were in Stratovarius as opposed to what you probably penned
after you left the band?
Yeah, some. Of course I started in August and the situation wasn't
that bad back then. On the way, of course, some of the lyrics changed as
well. But I would say that there is not really songs about this
situation but of course what affects you also affects your lyrics.
With the writing approach for this album, was it any different
from the last album or any different now with the the songs done after
you had left Stratovarius?
Um, of course compared to my first album which was called
"Waiting for the Dawn," it is totally different because that
was a concept album about, you know, ancient Egypt and the East. It was
just something I wanted to do for so many years, and when I finally had
the chance to do it, I wanted to do it. But now it is totally different
lyric-wise. Probably the music... I don't know if the music's
different...some people told me the music is also a bit more sad, and
more melancholy, but for me it's so hard to say. Lyrically it's totally
different, of course.
Your first single from the album is "Reasons." Was that
chosen personally by you to be the first single or was that decided
through the label?
Well, first of all I have my own label in Finland but it's just for
the Finnish market because I also wanted to experience the other side of
the music business and I also wanted to know how the label works, and
that's why it's like...well it's just a hobby for me to run this
label...well I wouldn't call it a label, it's just my albums, but
anyway...I played the album for some of my friends, some who were also
on the album playing with me, but some who were not and I asked their
opinion. I had some songs in mind that could be the single song, but
they all said "Why don't you chose 'Reasons' because it's a little
bit different then what you did in the past and it's a good song."
So I thought okay, I'll choose this one, and that's it.
That songs is, like mentioned, a little more melancholy than say
the "Seeds of Sorrow" which is more what someone might expect.
Yeah, that's true.
The players on this album aren't all the same as on the previous
album. Are these now band members or are they guests on the album? How
is that situation working or is it decided yet?
Well, they're friends. (laughs) Of course I would love to call them
as my band members, but you know Mike is with Symphony X and Janne is
with Bodom and so on. Of course I would like to have these guys on tour
with me. That's why I have been planning the tour to start after
Children of Bodom have finished their touring and hopefully even
Symphony X has done their touring for the summer, but of course I might
have to get some extra players. If I am very lucky I could get these
guys but it would be very difficult. I don't know yet. I just told my
booking agency to book the tour and we'll see who's available.
With regards to those guys, how much or what type of involvement
did they have with the writing or did you do it all yourself and you
showed them songs and that kind of thing?
Um, well...I wrote everything myself but we rehearsed a couple of
nights with the Finnish guys, not with Mike, here in Helsinki and I told
them that "If you have any ideas, let me know and we'll try them
out" and I would share the arrangements with those guys, so
hopefully they would get some royalties as well. We didn't change much
anyway. But of course when I composed these songs, I maybe had in mind
subconsciously that these guys can play everything I compose, because
I'm not a very good player and that's why the riffs are quite simple,
even though the solos are quite difficult...with these guys I could
compose whatever and they could play it. It doesn't limit me at all, but
then again, the only limitation is my ability to play.
Do you write on the guitar?
Well, it depends. Sometimes I get a vocal melody first, then
sometimes it's a guitar riff or even a synth. It totally varies.
For the guys in the band that aren't Finnish, did they come to
Finland to do the recording or did they record their parts separately in
their own studios or whatever?
Everything else was recorded here in Helsinki except Mike's guitars
and he did those in New Jersey. Most of the things like keyboards and
bass guitars and Johann's guitars were recorded at the Janne Wirman's
studio. I did my vocals in my little...well it's more like my rehearsing
place where I compose my songs, and the drums were recorded at Finvvox
Studios, one of the best-known in Finland.
Sonic Pump is the other well known one I believe?
Yeah but we didn't do anything there at this moment because we had
I noticed on your website that the placement on the Finnish chart
was number 1 for your "Reasons" single?
Yeah, that was amazing!
Your last studio album didn't jump that high in the charts did it?
No, the single for the last album went straight to number 4, but
that's just the singles chart and not too many bands are releasing
singles, anyway, but it was anyway very good because I never had been
number 1 on the singles charts. But it's just the singles chart, I'm not
expecting...If I'm lucky the album will be in the top 20. I think the
last one was like number 12 or 13.
Is the album out in Finland already?
No, next week's Wednesday, so April 21st.
The last date I saw was April 26th...
Yeah, that's the rest of Europe.
COLDNESS is being released by Century Media again, and how is it
working with them as opposed to when you were in Stratovarius on Nuclear
it didn't have anything to do with that. At the time when the
band...when Stratovarius was on Blast...we made a demo out of three
songs, and our manager sent it out to some labels and we chose from
those offers. Actually the truth is that the offer money-wise from
Century Media wasn't the best, but I knew some of the guys working there
so I knew I could rely on these guys and I trust these guys. And that's
more important to me than getting a couple of extra bucks and always
arguing over the phone about everything. With these guys I didn't even
have to send a demo from this album, I just told them that the album is
coming, are they going to take the option, or not? (laughs). But let's
put it this way also, the first album didn't sell all that much, it
wasn't a big success, I'm just lucky that Century Media wanted to take
the option, so...and I'm not expecting any miracles from this album
either. We'll see what happens.
I would expect that this album might do better because a lot of
Stratovarius fans, myself included, are obviously in one way a bit
disappointed that the band isn't the same lineup, so a lot of people
will follow the singer...or at least I know I will because of the
strangeness that has been going on in your ex-band.
Yeah, there is a lot going on.
I expect that some of the Stratovarius fans that didn't pick up
the solo album the last time will follow into, and hopefully buy this.
Well, it's hard to say. Like I said, a year ago I was still in the
band and I didn't have any plans...and okay, I had to be out of the band
and there was going to be a big promotional campaign, blah, blah,
blah...I just wanted to do the second album because then Tolkki told me
that there wasn't going to be any touring behind "Elements
II," so I thought, okay, that's good I will have enough time...and
then, of course, I had enough time. (laughs) And that was my plan, so I
could do some of my own music again. But then again it's hard to say if
the fans will follow the other band or me. I told everybody not to take
any sides, if they like the music, then buy the album and support this
or this. But of course I was very much positively surprised at the
reaction of the fans when they read the news that I was out of the band,
and they sent me a lot of support emails and before that I was always
thinking that I was only a singer in the band. Of course it was a little
bit different when I was singing live, I was mainly doing all the things
with the audience and the other guys were concentrating on playing. That
was the first time I actually realized that maybe there were some people
out there that liked what I was doing. That was very, very nice, because
that was a tough time for me and probably without this support from the
fans, and from my friends, it would have been much, much more worse
Were any of the songs you wrote that wound up on this CD presented
to Stratovarius and didn't get on the last Elements I or II albums that
you decided to keep for yourself and use for your solo album?
There are two of those. One of those is kind of ballad-ish, and it's
"Take Me Away," and the other one is "Evening's
Fall." Those I tried to suggest for Tolkki but he didn't he didn't
pay any attention.
I have a couple of questions about Stratovarius, I don't want to
dwell on the past too much but I'm sure everyone is always talking about
the craziness that is going on back in Stratovarius. Some calling it
attention grabbing or publicity seeking. Are all these crazy news
stories we hear about Tolkki all true? I was wondering now that you are
out of there, do you look back on it and say "Wow, I'm glad I'm out
of that mess"? (laughs)
Well, of course I'm a bit relieved, to be honest. (laughs) I mean I
haven't been following what's been going on in that camp lately. I think
the last drop for me was the festival in Spain that wasn't so good in
the beginning of February. Actually I got a phone call two days ago from
a friend who knows Tolkki much better than me, and he told me that he is
hospitalized. This manic depression is very bad and this is not a joke
because this guy was very, very worried about Timo. Of course I told
this guy that if he sees Timo to tell him I send best wishes and
hopefully he will get better.
Now that I look back, he's been a bit weird the last few years, and
at the end of last year the signs were already there. And of course I
mean, if I now look back the last few months what he's been up to, it's
quite obvious that he's not completely mentally healthy. I don't know if
maybe there could have been something that somebody could have done
earlier for him. But there was no one in the band or his friends that
saw so clear. Sometimes, if people have manic depression going on, then
you have so much energy. I remember he was talking to me last summer
saying "Hey man! I don't need any sleep! If I get four hours of
sleep, that's enough for me I have so much ideas!" Friends told me,
and actually my brother, who is a doctor, told me that it's like two
sides; in the first part you have so much energy that you actually think
you can do everything and you don't think you need any sleep, but then
of course you are using all of your life energy or whatever, and you
don't sleep. Then comes this depression part and you are really down.
Probably hat's what happened to him some days ago because I hear he is
under some heavy medication and he is in the hospital. Before he just
went to see some shrink.
Do you think the band, your ex-band, will be able to pull it
together or do you think that this is going to mark the sad end of the
It's hard to say. One thing is for sure, it's not like a fever that
just goes away in one week, it could take two months, or six months or
Will you be playing any Stratovarius songs live when you are
touring with your new band?
That's a good question...
I mean, some of your fans might expect one or two songs.
Two years ago, when we did some shows with my band, we played one
song called "Eternity." But it's a bit difficult because right
now I'm not much interested in playing those songs live. I guess I could
have the rights to perform some of the songs I wrote the lyrics to,
which are quite many especially the older hit songs. But then again, my
first show is in like three months. When I calm down I might think about
it again. Of course always when I go sing, I go to sing for the fans, I
don't sing for myself. So it could be possible. It won't be like a 30
minute Stratovarius show, and a 15 minute my songs, for sure.
Have you guys started doing any rehearsals for a tour?
No, I don't even know who's going to be touring with me. I mean, I
have some charity shows here in Finland. I think I've done two already,
and there's a third next week, and then there's going to be one,
hopefully funny trip in Italy. One journalist friend of mine asked me
already some months ago if I wanted to participate in singing some Iron
Maiden covers. They have a party of two metal magazines...and I thought,
ah fuck I don't have anything in May, yeah I can come man! Then I
realized what the fuck I promised, I have to sing some of Bruce's songs
which are very difficult to sing ...but then again, people realize that
Dickinson isn't going to be there, they are going to see me. It'll be
fun just doing something totally different, changing the country and
meeting new friends.
Sure. What were some of the recent charity events you did in
Finland that you were involved with? I would assume singing, of
Well actually I also did some ice hockey believe it or not. I'm not
very good in that, but it was a charity ice hockey match. The next
weekend it's going to be like "rock against drugs." I'm gonna
be there because I'm probably a very weird rocker because I never did
any drugs. I do like drinking alcohol, but I don't like drugs.
Yeah, that's nice to hear. It's always nice to hear that someone
had the ability to stay away when it's so tempting.
Yeah well, I'm probably too old to try anything else. (laughs)
One of the things on your website, you mention that you're a big
Yeah, I like red wine, but I don't drink it every day. When I have a
good steak, or I have nice company it's obviously a very good choice.
Do you make your own?
No, come on! In Finland it's always minus something, hah! (laughs)
It's not possible, but every now and then, I'm not a specialist, but the
biggest wine magazine forwarded to me and asked me if they could do a
story on me for the magazine. I don't know anything about wine; I just
know some brands that I like to drink, and some grapes. They told me,
this is accepted because they want something normal and not just someone
explaining this different wines and colors, etcetera. They want just a
guy who likes red wine. I'm like, I'm the guy. I do like some Chilean
wines, some Italian or French. Or some American stuff even, as well but
I don't know so much about them. But I do have some bottles at home.
Sounds about the level I'm at. I drink, but I don't know too much
But it's good stuff you know!
Yeah, it's fine to have a couple of glasses, or then you get a bad
Yeah that happens to me very often!
Well man that is pretty much everything I had to ask you. Is there
anything going on with your band or anything that I neglected to ask?
Of course it would be great to tour in the US like for some club
shows or something. That never happened with Stratovarius, and I think
that should happen to me before I die! It would be great. But I don't
know, maybe I should kick the ass of the booking agents because
nothing's happening. But it's difficult but understandable that this
kind of music isn't that popular over there. Well, then if there won't
be any touring, maybe I'll take a holiday for two weeks and come over
and see what's going on there.
It's seems that more melodic metal bands are able to play over
here to some degree. Recently Nightwish announced that they would be
playing some dates here in Canada and the States, so that's a first.
Uh-huh. When is it gonna be?
I believe around August or so. Some in Canada as well. So you
never know, things might turn around eventually.
Thanks for your time and good luck with your album.
Thanks to you as well man.
Official Kotipelto Site: www.kotipelto.com
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