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Timo Kotipelto (Stratovarius)

Interview with Timo Kotipelto from Stratovarius
by Daniel Fox at 12 September 2015, 10:19 AM

Sometimes, things do not go according to plan, as it were with Daniel's interview with Timo Kotipelto of STRATOVARIUS, wherein the recording was swallowed by the abyss of cyberspace. Being the nice man that he is, Timo elected to re-conduct the interview via email overnight. He re-indulged on a transition back to a 'pre-"Elements"' sound with the new album, the importance of singing lessons even far into one's career, the number 7, and the benefits of having your producer in your band.

Greetings. It’s a pleasure to have you here at Metal Temple. I can’t wait for the 11th, you probably can’t wait for the 11th. You must be feeling on top of the world right now for “Eternal”.

Hey! It’s been a bit hectic the last few weeks. A lot of interviews and also trying to learn the new songs for the tour. So I can’t really say I am on top of the world but it’s nice to notice that the month’s work will soon be out and we can start playing the songs live. Maybe I am on top of the workload :)

With “Nemesis” you adopted a noticeably darker and heavier sound after accommodating Rolf, but with “Eternal”, we have something really happy and uplifting. You guys are known for not making strict plans for your albums; did the outcome surprise you?

I tend to think that all the albums are describing the time period when the songs were composed. This time we had some plans that maybe this album could be more old school Stratovarius power metal compared to Nemesis which was also a bit more progressive. But you are right, we don’t have strict plans how the album should sound. We just compose some songs and choose the best for the album. And later on we see where we are at. In my opinion power metal should be uplifting and give some energy to the listener.

Would you even say it’s kind of a throwback to, say, pre-“Elements” Stratovarius? I’m kinda getting that vibe. Especially in the vocal department; you’re killing it, man.

Thanks mate! I agree with you about the pre-Elements thing. This is a kind of more traditional Strato power metal album with modern sound. And I also felt very relaxed while singing the album. The actual singing part was easy. To write the lyrics took a bit more time.

You’ve said in previous interviews that with “Nemesis”, you had a much longer time to plan and record without as much pressure from the label. What was the case with “Eternal”? I also can’t help but giggle at the band’s emerging trend for 7-letter albums.

The label never really gives us any pressure what comes to recording new stuff. They can of course wish for a new album every two year but we do them the way we feel comfortable. We had some plans to start recording already a year ago but the truth is that back then we didn’t have enough good material for the whole album. So we decided to give us more time to compose. We did do summer festivals, special Visions gigs in Finland and so on. Sometimes you need more time to create something. Yeah, I think we almost have a curse of having 7-letter album tittles. And one guy told me that this is the seventh time we have it seven letter tittle ! I didn’t even realize that. Damn. Well, maybe next one will have eight letters! Hmmm… Maybe 7 is good!.

From what I can gather, essentially the whole band has had a hand in composing this album, and Jani Liimatainen was mentioned to have had a hand in the recording too. How did that happen?

I have been working a lot with Jani in the last 6 years. We have recorded two Cain’s Offering albums, one acoustic “Blackoustic” album and composed some songs together. Jani did record my vocals for the CO albums and now I also asked his help with recording the vocs for Eternal. He is almost like the sixth member in the band. He is not in the line-up but we composed 3 songs for the new album. And we wrote the lyrics for everything else except two songs by Jens.

Matias, your guitarist, has produced all of the albums you’ve released since he joined, including “Eternal”. Would you say it gives you a lot more studio freedom, doing it ‘in-house’ so to speak, as opposed to having a third-party?

The good thing about having a producer within the band is that he knows the songs so well. On the other hand it’s not probably so good for him since as a perfectionist he works so hard. Maybe an outside producer could kick our asses to work faster but I don’t know anybody we could trust to make a good sound except Matias. Well, actually we do work hard when we finally get started. When you can see the deadline coming closer you start sweating :)but I bet we are not the only band who works better under pressure.

I’ve always wanted to hear this answered by someone who has lived it. Of course the US and Europe both have two very distinct types of power metal, but arguably, the European style is the one that really caught on with the rest of the world in terms of mainstream success and popularity. Why do you think this is?

Not sure. You probably know better as a journalist! Power metal might have started in Europe. I have no idea!

You’re one of the few singers I know of that has actually come out and talked about taking singing lessons so far into your career. In the end I thought some of your peaks on “Eternal” is the best you have sounded since Visions. You are of course doing this FOR YOU but I think it also shows the fans you are always searching for self-improvement and avoiding getting complacent?

Thanks! I did study singing before I joined the band. It was for one year but then all the touring interrupted my studies. So I actually never graduated. I basically lost my voice in the middle of Helloween/Strato-tour 2011 when I got Campylobacter infection. I had to cancel 3 shows and I had to force my voice on the stage. It took almost two years to get it back. So I decided to take a couple of more singing lessons. It was also helpful for me that now I can teach other singers with proper terms and I can explain what I am doing with different techniques. And it was nice to notice that I have always done it in the right way since I started singing. But of course knowledge and exercising helps. I think that by doing a lot of acoustic show while Strato has been on a break has helped my voice a lot. By increasing stamina but also bringing new colors to my voice. I think one can never be a too good singer. You can always improve and learn more!

I’m sure you’ve been hounded with the question before so I’m not going to ask if they are ‘rejoining’… But! Some bands, like Amorphis for example, did a reunion show or two in recent years with the old lineup. Could you ever see that happening as a one-off with the “classic” Visions lineup? Would that be something you’d like to do?

I think the problem is that not all the guys from the late 90’s line-up have played power metal live lately. Jörg quit the band because he wanted to stop at the peak of his abilities and to concentrate in booking the bands. So he is still working for us in his booking agency. I know that he has a hobby band “Devil’s Train” with Jari Kainulainen. But that’s hard rock and bit far from power metal, where you need a lot of stamina as a drummer. We actually asked him a couple of weeks ago if he wanted to join us for a song on the stage but he kindly refused. I think the same goes with Timo Tolkki. He has not played live for years and to suddenly hit the stage and play power metal is not easy. Jari is still a superb bass player and playing live a lot. So I don’t think this re-union will ever happen.

The band is going to start touring soon after Eternal is released. You probably can’t talk about specifics, but are there any brand new territories to visit?

We will start from Helsinki, Finland Sep 16th. Two weeks in Finland, one festival in Norway and then 6 weeks in Europe. We might have some shows in South-America at the end of the year but I can’t confirm any dates yet. We have played in so many countries that I am not sure which territories are left to play in. Well, we never played in Africa. It would be cool to play in Antarctica for the penguins! J Actually we have a lot of FB likes from Vietnam and Thailand. I’ve been there as a tourist but it would be awesome to go there and play a couple of shows. Last time we did two shows in Australia, I hope to come back and also play in New Zealand!

That concludes it. Thank you very much for your time. This was a personal honour for me, and I hope to catch the band in New Zealand or Australia at some point. Any last words to impart?

Thanks for the interview! Hopefully people like Eternal and come to see us playing live when ever we come over there!

Rock the Metal!


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Edited 28 May 2023

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