Stratovarius – Vocalist Timo Kotipelto
Interviewed by EvilG
Stratovarius are one of those bands that I am obsessed with. Since the release of the phenomenal album ELYSIUM I’ve been playing the album almost every day and have been going back through their discography (yet again) to see how it stacks up. In this fan’s opinion, the band have now proven, beyond any doubt, that they are as relevant and and as amazing today as they’ve always been.
Given the opportunity for an interview with Timo Kotipelto was of course a treat. A time was hard to nail down as a result of his recent throat problems and touring but with some persistence and patience, we got ‘er done and here is the result. Enjoy!
Timo Kotipelto live in Jan. 2011
I understand from the news you’ve been having some problems due to some sort of throat infection? How is your recovery coming along and do your doctors have a rough estimate on when you’ll be back to 100%? Hope you’re feeling better soon man!!!
I got Cambylo bacteria on the tour just before Christmas. I suppose it completely dried up my body and my vocal chords.I had to cancel 3 shows since there really was no voice at all. That stomach disease also inflimated my vocal chords. Since then I have been singing while sick but I have not been able to hit the notes I normally do. I am hoping to get better soon. Actually it’s a bit better compared to month ago but it still not the same as it used to be. We thought of cancelling the tour but then again I think it’s better to try to sing something for the fans instead of no singing at all. I do understand that it might be a risk to sing in this situation but I do believe the sickness will pass in a couple of weeks.
Congrats on the release of ELYSIUM. It seems a lot of the press/fans are saying it’s perhaps your best release since INFINITE. Do you or the band think about it in those terms or are you just happy to have another great album out?
Of course it makes me happy to read good reviews! I also think that Elysium is the best album in years from Stratovarius. When we are composing the songs and recording the album you can’t really know if the fans will like it or not. The best thing is just to compose the kind of music you like and hope some other people can enjoy it too. Most of the bands are saying that “this is our best album” when they are doing the interviews. That’s normal since they are supposed to promote the album. It’s not really possible to make “your best album” every time if you have done more than 10 albums in your career but you can always try…But then again, sometimes it happens. (laughs)
As with most Stratovarius album covers, the album cover art is beautiful. The art is reminiscent of INFINITE. Was this intentional?
Thanks! I think it was Joerg’s idea together with the artist. Joerg was a big fan of Infinite cover and maybe he wanted to have similar spirit on this one. On Infine there are two different side on the cover. The good and the evil so to speak. We had the same thing if you compare the cover of Darkest Hours (single) and Elysium (album).
The cool looking star-shaped spacecraft from Polaris is again on the cover, this time in the background. Again, was including that intentional and is it something we’ll continue to see?
This was defenetely intentional! I think Polaris star is following us from now on! (laughing). We sort of liked that science fiction motive and thought it fits for the new album as well. In the future we are hoping to buy one of those space crafts for the band. Iron Maiden has “Flight 666 Jumbo Jet” maybe we get something faster (laughs).
What is the Polaris anyway, who’s on board and why are they here? Ha!
A very good question! (laughs) I just asked Jörg and he told me that it’s us – Stratovarius inside. We took the pelican from planet earth to a better place – Elysium. If you see the cover of the single Darkest Hour you know what I mean. After saving the pelican I guess we are inside Polaris, playing some poker, drinking a couple of beers and waiting for the next mission, tour…or album…
To what does the title “Elysium” refer to? Is is a synonym for “paradise”? The lyrics even have somewhat religious overtones – what does the song represent to you?
Exactly! It’s Greek mythology. It’s a resting place for the heroes. So it’s kinda paradise. But we are not really religious persons…It sounds cool and I think it’s a perfect name for a Strato album.
The song “Elysium” is EPIC and epic in length at 18mins. When I first played the album, I didn’t even realize it was that long as the song doesn’t get boring and has so many varied parts. When Matias wrote the song, did he say to the band “hey I’ve got this 18min long song here…” and you and the band thought “WTF?” – I mean, it’s not that common to have such a long song. Were you and the band on board with the idea of having such a long song on the album?
The original version was closer to 25mins or something…I think the song Infernal Maze was part of it. When he told us about the epic I was thinking that he must be joking. Of course he wasn’t. It took some time to record the vocals for the song since we did change it a bit from the demo version. It was a pain in the ass to sing the song but also interesting since Matias as a producer really did push me to my limits. I have to say that I do love the song and I also think that it’s far away from boring.
What songs from Elysium stand out for you, and what ones have the band rehearsed for possible set list inclusion?
There are some very good tunes on the album. I do like Darkest Hours, Under Flaming Skies, Infernal Maze, Elysium but also Move the Mountain. So far we have played only Darkest Hours and Under Flaming Skies live. I would like to add more songs from the new album (and we will in the future) but right now my voice is in a such bad shape that it has not been possible to sing them yet.
A number of songs from Stratovarius have an uplifting message. Some songs even have an environmental message such as the song “Paradise” (“We are the ones to blame. I know that I am not the only one that’s worried. Why don’t we all wake up, and realize.”). Do you think we, the human race, will ever wake up and change our ways? Will greed and short sightedness continue to rule until we ruin our home if not for ourselves, then for coming generations?
It’s a pity how we behave but I am a afraid it will not change much. I am just hoping that the goverments will start making strict laws to prevent pollution, encourage people to recycle stuff etc. We should take small steps individually, it does make a difference in the end. I am also interested in solar and wind energy. I do hope that the technology will develop enough in a couple of years to decrease the oil consumption.
Was Elysium a particularly difficult album to write and record or did things fall together easily?
It was not really easy to do it since we were in a sort of hurry to do it. Before June we didn’t have any specific recording dates but then the call from the Helloween camp for touring came in. We thought that let’s record the album and maybe put out the single just before the tour. And that’s what happened. What was totally different to any other albums and touring is this: we didn’t have any free time between the album and the first gig. Matias was still in the studio on Monday and on Tuesday we flew to Germany to start rehearsing for the album. And then we had to rehearse with the substitute drummer since Joerg had the operation because of his thyroid cancer. So there we were in Germany rehearsing for the tour with the new guy, no new album out and worried about Joerg.
Do you feel with this new album you’ve fully stepped out from the shadow left from former band leader, Timo Tolki?
Defenetely. Timo is a great composer but so is Matias. And now we have 4 guys composing for the band instead only one. It seems that with Elysium we have finally convinced the fans that Stratovarius are back!
I’ve been keeping my eye on tour dates for the Stratovarius / Helloween tour that is making it’s way around the world, eagerly anticipating some dates for Canada and the USA. I’ve heard that the tour might actually come over here – do you have any idea on when that could be or can you comment yet on this?
We haven’t really heard anything about the North-American tour yet. It would be very nice to play some shows over there too!!
Now that you are onto tour second album with this line-up, has the band talked about maybe filming a concert (in HD) for possible release on DVD/Blu-Ray?
At the moment we don’t have any plans to record any live DVDs. We do have some unreleased old stuff but no plans to put it out. Lets see later this year if we would record something or not.
What songs might you be filing a music video for from Elysium?
We did have plans to record a video for Darkest Hours but then Joerg was diagnosed having a cancer so we had to postpone everything. I am not sure if we will do a video for this album at all.
What is the status of your High and Loud record label – do you have time to do much work with it? If so, what kinds of things are planned for the near future?
I haven’t realeased anything on my label during the last couple of years. No time really. I do get some demos every now and then but I have been too busy with Stratovarius. If I hear a promising band that I could help, why not. Nowadays the record sales are down the toilet so it is not encouraging to invest a lot money to a new comer. Which is a pity of course. People are downloading music for free and that leads to the fact that it is very difficult to get a record deal. Record labels are struggling, and the times are really tough for the bands as well.
You also have your solo band, Kotipelto, and you are also a member of Cain’s Offering with Jani (formerly of Sonata Arctica). Can you give us a short update on what is going on with each band/project and on if there are plans to do more albums for either in 2011 or 2012?
I might compose some solo stuff during this year when the tours are on a break. About Cain’s offering, it has been very nice to work with Jani. Both in his band (CO) and while doing the acoustic duo gigs. I think he doesn’t have any plans what comes to the band right now. But you never know. He is a very good composer. And I think my vocals that he produced for the album are quite good. The songs on the album are awesome!
Is there anything an interviewer hasn’t asked you about that you’d like to talk about and share with your fans?
Right now I am still struggling with the bacteria and my voice problems. I will over come this and I do hope to see you guys asap. Rock the Metal!!!
Thanks for your time Timo…and for the amazing music. I hope to see you again in Canada this year. I saw you in Toronto on the Polaris tour. It was a GREAT show, hope you make it over here again! Get well soon!
You are very welcome! I hope to come to Toronto this year! I have some relatives in Canada and I think the people are really cool over there!