Heart of Steel: Interviews

Interview with vocalist Timo Kotipelto
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 tour.

Yeah, yeah.

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.



Well 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.



An 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.


Timo and Janne


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 other options.



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 Blast?

Well, 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 band?

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 then forever.



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 course...

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 wine-lover...

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 about it.

But it's good stuff you know!

Yeah, it's fine to have a couple of glasses, or then you get a bad headache. (laughs)

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.

Cool, cool.

Thanks for your time and good luck with your album.

Thanks to you as well man.

Official Kotipelto Site: www.kotipelto.com

Label: CenturyMedia.com

Kotipelto Reviews in Metal-Rules.com