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Timo Kotipelto (Stratovarius)

Interview with Timo Kotipelto from Stratovarius
by Michael "MettleAngel" Francisco at 11 February 2013, 12:11 PM

After a brief intermission, Finland's own STRATOVARIUS are about to release their new album “Nemesis”. This vision of paradise, in my opinion, is their best effort since “Infinite”. MettleAngle had the distinct honor to speak with vocalist Timo Kotipelto about the recording of this album, as well as his destiny with some of his other noble endeavors. Enjoy.

Hey Brother, I am so glad that I have this opportunity to speak to you while you are in New York for an album release party. I know that you ascended the silver mountain with Jens Johansson to make this sacred event. I interviewed him a few years ago for the “Elysium” album.

Well, cool I will just speak with you and we will give Jens a break, as he is nursing a hangover, anyhow.

So, I take it you had a good time last night, and there was a quality crowd?

Oh yeah! It was a blast, we had great fun, but us Finns really know how to celebrate; especially, when it comes to indulging in some of your American alcohol brands.

Man, I wish I could have been there. I have been streaming “Nemesis” non-stop, and I am really impressed. This is a solid album, with so much variety, and some exceptional musicianship.

Yeah, we worked very hard on it. We are all very proud of what we have accomplished.

I wish I had a digital copy to play on my I-pod, but I understand that you do not want the music to leak too early. I am amazed how diverse the music is all throughout. You have the punishing opener “Abandon”, the catchy single “Unbreakable”, the festive title track, the powerful “Stand My Ground”, etc. The song by song commentary that I was sent really helped me to enjoy the music on a whole new level.

Well that is good to hear. We have been receiving positive responses, which is a good thing.

Although, I must say, that “Halcyon Days” is my absolute favorite track! I just love the keyboard arrangements. It almost has a dance-like Tencho vibe. It seems that Jens went all out on this one.

Funny, you should mention this, as it is my favorite song on the new album too. When I first heard what Jens did on the keys, I was just not into it at all. I was like, “WTF!” Then, once I sat with it for a while, I thought it was pretty cool, and different. I am very pleased with what we have created with “Nemesis”. This is honestly the first time in quite a while that I can admit this. This time everything really came together, and we have not been this on the mark since the “Infinite” days, and that was a whole other different band, really.

I know, and this leads to my next question. You have been in the band for almost two decades. You have seen a lot of craziness; especially, with all the wild vicissitudes of Timo Tolkki. After all the line-up changes, stylistic nuances, and attitude of the whole band, how do you fit in with it now?

Right now everything is just right. I have an overall good feeling. Things are really quite different for this band. We have essentially four composers, now. Back then it was mostly Timo Tolkki writing all the music, lyrics, etc. He was the main songwriter, which made him a control freak.

I know that led to a ton of internal conflict in the late '90s.

This is like a third album for me with the third incarnation of STRATOVARIUS.

I suppose you mean like DEEP PURPLE MARK II?

Exactly! I am still the vocalist, but musically what Lauri Porra and Matias Kupiainen are composing is drastically different from what we were doing a decade ago. This is a whole new band, a revised system, which works well for us all.

Although, this will be the first album without seasoned drummer Jörg Michael. I guess he left the band due to illness and cancer, right?

It was really no surprise to us. He has been planning to leave for a while, now. We still remain close friends. In fact, he is working with us right now with our booking agency.

Tell me a bit about your new drummer Rolf Pilve. How did you decide to get him to join?

It was not an easy decision. We sifted through 100's of excited drummer auditions. We watched all the YouTube videos. We were amazed how many drummers out there wanted to join our ranks. Finally, we narrowed it down to four contenders who we brought into the studio. The thing is that Rolf is from Finland, and that just makes it so much easier for rehearsing. With Jörg living in Germany, sometimes we only saw him days before we had to play a show or a festival.

I can understand the convenience of that.

Also, Rolf is young and hungry. He is very enthusiastic and highly motivated.

Tell me a bit about your “70,000 Tons Of Metal II” experience. This year, HELLOWEEN will be headliners for the third drunken voyage. I spoke with “Weiki” all about this, but he did not seem too excited. How was your overall experience?

It was great, and very relaxed. We were drunk, but not too wasted. We enjoyed hanging out with our Finnish fans, friends, and other local bands. We were pleased to see that everything ran well, with no aggression, violence, or chaos. Everyone really seemed to be having a good time.

I am also curious about your side project – KOTIPELTO & LIIMATAINEN ACOUSTIC ROCK DUO. You just released “Blackoustic”. How did this all come about?

Well, we have always enjoyed playing these shows for our fans. They were always recording and filming them for fun, but then they began to ask us if we planned to record these live acoustic jam sessions. I considered perhaps doing something for my own label, but then earMUSIC expressed interest in actually releasing a live album.

How did you decide which covers to release? I know on the “Flaming Winter Skies – Live In Tampere” DVD you chose to cover DEEP PURPLE's “Burn”, and on “Blackoustic” you opted for “Perfect Strangers”. I assume this was also a tribute to the late Jon Lord?

Actually, live we play several Classic Rock songs, but they do not always translate well acoustic, so we chose to leave them off the finished album. Jens did write a song on “Nemesis” as a tribute to Jon.

I enjoyed what STRATOVARIUS did with “Behind Blue Eyes”, by THE WHO. You also did this for “Blackoustic”. I was amazed that there were so many covers, given STRATOVARIUS' body of exceptional work.

I do not like to do covers. With this new album on the new tour, we want to debut as many new songs as we can. We know we have a ton of songs fans want to hear, but we want them to really experience the new material.

Well, it worked for MAIDEN! So tell me what is your favorite album by  STRATOVARIUS?

That is always a tough question for several reasons. I will always be partial to “Fourth Dimension” as it was my debut for the band, but I also really like “Visions”, and “Infinite”.

As do I! I did not like the self-titled, as it just seemed like such a dark period for the band. This is when you toured America, and the vibe was not as strong. Are you planning to return here again soon?

I agree the self-titled Tour was just too painful for us all. I wish I could say we have plans to return to the U.S., but right now we are booked solid. We have a huge tour scheduled for Europe in March, then we are off to South America in May. After that you have the big summer festivals. Also, there is so much bureaucracy in America with all those damn visas.

I understand your frustrations. Obviously based on the party last night, you know we are hungry to have you back, and with an album this good, we would love to see you again soon.

Michael, we really appreciate that!

I will do my best to promote the new album. I plan to get the special edition with the two bonus tracks: “Fireborn” and “Hunter”. I also like the “Unbreakable” (EP) which Mika Jussila re-mastered to give newer fans a taste of older material. Timo, thank you for taking the time to indulge a fan.

No problem, it was great speaking with you too. Carry on Brother!


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