The announcement that Stratovarius will be taking a break from recording and touring for a few years has surprised and stunned many a metal fan. Consistent with their musical output since 1989, burnout and solo projects prevailed, and it was time for a break from all the madness. In the meantime, the band has issued a collection of songs called Intermission, featuring 4 brand-new tracks and nearly a dozen rarities. We had a chance to speak with vocalist Timo Kotipelto about the forthcoming hiatus and what the future may bring for the mighty Stratovarius of Finland!
Highwire Daze: First of all, when you look back on your earlier albums such as Fright Night and Twilight Time, what do you think of them now?
Timo Kotipelto (vocals): For me, I wasn't on the first three albums. I joined the band for the fourth album. Those albums, for me personally, if I look back to them right now, it's more like I'm a fan of the band. That's basically how I found out about the band before I joined. To be honest, if I now listen to this Fright Night, it's kind of terrible (laughs). The songs are not so well composed and the guys are playing not so good. I think a more important album for the band was the second one cause with that album we got a deal for Japan and from that we got a worldwide recording deal. I've got to say that the best album from the first three is Dreamspace. I think the songs are more complicated and better composed. And I think the other Timo was singing better. Of course you have to start somewhere.
HD: What were your feeling when you discovered that Infinite had gone gold?
Timo K: That was great. When we got the gold record the first time for the Visions album, that was great because we didn't expect to be on the charts - that was a big surprise. And the second time, it was like "Wow! We did it again!" And the third time, there's like different feelings. On the other hand, it doesn't feel the same anymore, but then again I know it's very, very difficult to do it again, especially with this kind of music. Of course, we are very happy and very satisfied that this happened. Then again, for the future, I'm a down to earth guy so I'm not expecting to do it again. Of course that would be great, but I'm not expecting anything anymore. It's nice.
HD: And then there's the new album Intermission. What made you guys decide to put a compilation album out?
Timo K: There are a couple of reasons. First of all, when we made the record contract with Nuclear Blast in Germany, they thought "Wow! We're now gonna get the band who is making albums every year." - which we did in the past. And they were not so satisfied when we told them "That's it. That was the first album. Now we're going to have a break of three years!" They were not cheering. So they had this idea that maybe we could do something special, but at that point, we didn't know what that would be. And then we'd get fan mail and e-mail, and when we were touring, fans came to talk to us and they'd say "Are you guys really gonna have a break? It's too long!" Then we thought maybe we could do something about it. We had some demands for the label. First of all, we always want to decide all the music ourselves, which we did in this case as well. Then we wanted to have the price for this album as low as possible. I don't know about the States, but at least here in Finland it's a little bit cheaper than a normal album - it's more like mid-price. This is very important because very often bands tend to release different kinds of compilation or "best of" albums, but they are the normal price, which sucks completely. We thought it would be better that, if we were releasing something for the fans, that it should be not so expensive. I'm very happy to do this Intermission album - especially to do this special limited edition which we are selling only through our Home Page. We have a Stratovarius shop on our Home Page and that's a 2000 limited edition worldwide and that looks very, very good. It's a bigger jewel case with a normal CD and a mini CD with two stupid demo songs with very stupid lyrics, but it's something special. But it looks killer!
HD: Were there a lot of arguments regarding what songs would be going on this CD?
Timo K: Not really. We thought it would be better to have all the bonus tracks, especially from Japan. It's kind of a tradition to release bonus tracks in Japan because CD prices are so expensive there. And that's why we thought maybe it was a good idea to get those songs on this album as well - that all the other people can buy this album and get those songs. Then we had this idea, that if it was going to be something special, that we'd have to record a couple of songs. We recorded three new songs and we also put this old intro on the album - we used this intro at least on one or two tours. And then we recorded a couple of live tracks. There's also some covers songs. We tried to put a lot of music on the album - it's kind of a mixture - new, old and live.
HD: Was there ever talk about this one being the last Stratovarius album?
Timo K: No. It's just we really needed this break. Last year it was very heavy, especially for me because I burned my hand very badly at Wacken Open Air. Then we had to cancel our South American tour and then had to reschedule the whole tour very quickly. We went on that tour and it was travelling hell. We were on the tour 21 days and had 21 flights, so you can imagine that we didn't sleep so much. And that was very, very heavy. In the beginning of the last year, we were already thinking about having this break. And that tour made us more confident about this break. We came back to Finland after that tour and we still had three more extra weeks touring in Europe. I never actually understood why we had to do it, because we did last year in France alone 12 shows. Basically we were very close to having a burn out. I think it's the only good thing to have this break. At first, we thought we would have no shows at all in three years, but after a couple of months staying at home doing nothing, we decided to do a couple of summer festivals. And that's what we're going to do this summer, but that's about it. Of course, we are planning to do another album - maybe three or four albums. But you never know - it's a rock and roll band and anything can happen…
HD: What do you think of the current state of metal today compared to when you first started?
Timo K: It's getting better. When I started singing, the scene was a hell of a lot bigger in the 80's. Then again, when I joined the band in 94, the metal here in Europe was not in a very good shape. The bands didn't tour at all and there wasn't any kind of melodic metal scene at that time. We were never trendy and we didn't care about whether we were able to tour. But then something happened and we were getting bigger and now it's still getting bigger. There are a lot of new bands coming out, especially from Finland. There's a couple of bands in the States that I know of and in Europe, so it's getting a little bit bigger slowly but steadily, but it probably won't get as big as it was in the 80's. But I think it's quite alright at the moment.
HD: When all is said and done, how would you want the music of Stratovarius to be remembered?
Timo K: As music - as good songs. It's better if the people remember the band because of the music, not because of the nice looks or whatever. I don't think people buy our albums because we are so pretty, because we are not. It's just because of the music. We're not selling because of what is trendy - it's because of the music. I'd be very happy if somebody would remember some of our songs maybe after 10 years or could even then listen to one chorus of our songs. You never know. But that's what I would like to do.
HD: Have you ever played out here in the States before?
Timo K: Never.
HD: Well, I guess we'll have to wait for a few years. So do you have any messages for your fans here in the States?
Timo K: We know there's actually quite a lot of fans in the States and we get a lot of e-mails which is very nice. So far, to be honest, we haven't been able tour there because the flights are expensive to come over from Finland and your country is so huge - if there's one fan in Texas and one in Seattle - it's stupid to play in between. At the moment, we are thinking about one offer - one festival - let's see if we can do it or not. Probably not, but I'd love to play at least some showcase in the States, but let's see what happens. I think with the next studio album, it might be possible for an American tour, and to play some shows in Canada. That would be great! I'd love to come over and maybe spend some days at Jens place (keyboard player) cuz he's living in New York. Probably he's a very bad guide to show me around - maybe he goes to buy some food and knows some drinking places! But hopefully we are able to play there someday.
Look for Timo Kotipelto's solo album in the near future and the next Stratovarius release sometime in 2003! Don't worry too much about this intermission, cuz the years go by fast!
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