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Timo Kotipelto – Vocals for Stratovarius, solo artist

Date: 05/08/07
Interviewed By: Rich Catino



Timo was here in New York initially for a short vacation (he lives in Finland) with his brother, also visiting Stratovarius bandmate Jens Johannson (keyboards) and decided to do some press for his latest solo album “Serenity”.

Thanks to Dave from Candlelight Records www.candlelightrecordsusa.com and Earsplit PR www.earsplitcompound.com for setting this up. Always a pleasure dude.

I have known Timo for several years, first meeting him at the 2003 edition of the Wacken Open Air festival in Germany, interviewing him three times since then, once for his second solo release “Coldness” from Progpower USA in 04, then when Stratovarius first toured the States in 05, and more recently catching up backstage at BB King Blues Club in NYC in 06 when Stratovarius did a couple random tour dates and did an emailer there after. So yes I am a fan of his work and have been supporting Stratovarius even before doing a website.

Today our interview took place in a café in New York on an perfect spring day (its about time the sun has arrived). So we started out our conversation talking about how the weather in Finland compares to that of the States. Timo said they have four seasons, winter is longer and summer lasts only a couple months during July and part of August where the temperature at its highest gets in the mid 80’s. He enjoys the States and made the observation that most people in NYC seem to be in a hurry, always on the move. He was hoping upon his next visit to go somewhere maybe not as hectic for something different.

So I mentioned Jersey as it is a State where you have access to all types of people and places, close to the shore, the city, and the more laid back very friendly Pennsylvania.

Here is what we discussed:

1. Tell us about the new album “Serenity” and what direction you took the music in?

TIMO: With the new one I think it is more rock and straight ahead metal than the first two, especially the first one. Not so much in that Euro Power Metal sound and style. I think it is more of a band effort too this time and not so much of just me and a bunch of guest players on it. I hear some Rainbow and Whitesnake, a little Iron Maiden and Stratovarius too. This record is more positive than “Coldness” also. I was in a better place when I wrote and recorded this one.

2. Why the title “Serenity” and tell us about the artwork?

TIMO: Well there has to be a title for the album, laughs, but the title reflects where a person maybe feels on the inside as opposed to the world on the outside. At the time when I was doing the writing for the last album “Coldness” I was going through professional problems with Stratovarius and also some in my personal life. “Serenity” is an appropriate title for where I am now, at least Stratovarius is in a better place. So the cover with the girl is representative of being in a much more relaxed place and she appears at peace with herself.

3. Who played on the album?

TIMO: Lauri Porra is on bass and I already play with him in Stratovarius with Janne Wirman from Children of Bodom who is back on keyboards and Mirka Rantanen on drums and both have been with me since the first record so that made sense. Tuomas Wainölä is playing the guitars. Mike Romeo from Symphony X played some stuff on the first album “Waiting for the Dawn” and “Coldness” but it is so hard to work together since he lives in New Jersey. Mike is a great guy and a great player I think he is one of the best out there its just too bad we live so far apart. But it was nice having Tuomas sitting there with me to work on the songs.

4. Compare “Serenity” to the first two then.

TIMO: I think this is more of a band album and it has that feel. I think with the first one I was mostly searching for a direction to take my solo music.

5. How did the dates go recently with Chris Caffery (Savatage) in Europe?

TIMO: Well they could have been better and we didn’t get to do all the proposed dates. Chris is a nice guy it didn’t have anything to do with us. But some of the shows were cancelled and the production was so shitty. Yeah… well hopefully we can do something again in the future.

6. Do you play any instruments and if so did you play anything on “Serenity”?

TIMO: No I don’t play anything.

7. What’s going on with Stratovarius?

TIMO: Timo Tolkki has been working on songs and has written several so far. We really don’t have a time line for this one but I think we are shooting for it coming out in early 2008. The new stuff reminds me a lot of “Visions” and “Infinite”. Its sounding really good. The new stuff is not as bombastic as the “Elements” records. Also I really wasn’t too happy with the last album but then again at the time it was a miracle it even came out. Timo Tolkki just wasn’t feeling quite right yet. We are still on Sanctuary Records and they are supposed to be putting out the new Stratovarius but who knows what’s going on with that things change every day.

8. Any plans for Stratovarius to release a full length concert on DVD?

TIMO: Well that’s another story. We did record a couple shows. We were supposed to release this one show we taped in Milano but the director fucked it up and we had to sue him later and we won, spent a lot of money and we have it now but its not releaseable unfortunately. Then there is one from Brazil just before we toured in the U.S. the first time in 05’ and that one also had its problems. So it looks like we will try it again when the new record comes out.

9. If you had to pick ten songs that you think should be on a DVD what would they be?

TIMO: O man…ok…well of course “Black Diamond”, “Forever”, “Kiss of Judas”, Hunting High and Low”, I would say “Paradise” but Tolkki wouldn’t, “Destiny” or “Visions” probably “Destiny”, “Forever Free”, “Eagleheart”, “Distant Skies” or “Against the Wind”.

10. How about “Season of Change”, “Phoenix”, “I Walk to My Own Song”, “We Hold the Key”?

TIMO: Yeah those are good ones too…maybe you should pick the setlist (laughs).

11. I would also say a medley of some of the older songs off the first three records. What do you think?

TIMO: We actually did that before I think on one of the last two tours but I don’t know the fans don’t seem to be familiar enough with that stuff. But yeah that would be good of course for a DVD.

12. Are you involved with any other projects outside of Stratovarius and doing solo albums?

TIMO: I just started doing a type of Headbangers Ball in Finland where I am the host. It plays a lot of Finnish bands and then stuff by Iron Maiden, Slayer, you know the usual. If I have the time its fun to do.

I also get requests to do some cover shows making a guest appearance from time to time which is cool. I also made an appearance on a song called “Welcome to Hell” I think it is, with this rock singer in Finland. It was part of the Eurovision contest that Lordi won last year.

I also run my own record label High and Low Records where I have been releasing my albums plus going through other people’s demos. A lot of hard rock and metal.

I know I have been recently been reading this book about Led Zepplin called “Stairway to Heaven”. I wonder how much of that is true because those guys did some crazy stuff.

13. I have heard you had some sort of involvement with Finnish Idols?

TIMO: Well I’m not involved in the contest but they set it up so I could meet one of the contestants Ari Koivunen who was a fan and he also did a cover of “Hunting High and Low” from Stratovarius for the Finnish Idol show. My guitar player Tuomas from the Kotipelto band played on his cd and so did Janne Wirman who plays keyboards also for the Kotipelto band and Children of Bodom.

Funny story, I actually met him at one point backstage at a Stratovarius show around 98 I think it was. And he took the backstage pass from his friend and apparently got mine and Tolkki’s autographs and the next morning he said he woke up all hung over and didn’t realize he met the band until he saw our autographs on the pass. It was funny because apparently we were a bit drunk as well.

14. Closing thoughts?

TIMO: Well thanks as always to the fans, my new solo album “Serenity” is out in the States, and Stratovarius will hopefully be back next year. Maybe we should support a bigger band next time so we can reach a bigger audience. I think that would be good for us.

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