This interview with vocalist Timo Kotipelto of Kotipelto was done face to face by Alexa Kasparek on April 4th, 2005.

Already looking forward to the Epica/Kotipelto/Kamelot tour anyway, I got the chance to pump Timo Kotipelto himself for information, who is one of my absolute Melodic Metal heroes. Even though I was nervous like hell - especially because I wasn't allowed to ask any question concerning Stratovarius and of course I didn't want to ask or say anything wrong. But in the end Timo emerged as being one of the nicest "metal guys" I ever got the chance to talk to and we had a very nice chat in the little café of the Zeche Bochum.

I saw your show in Paris, two weeks ago, was there on holidays and so…
Ah really? Very good audience there! I didn't expect that from Paris. Of course I knew it's gonna be quite many people but it was a very big surprise. Some of the people even knew my songs – not many, but some!

Paris audience is great – been there last year to another concert and that was the reason that I wanted to go to another. Here in Germany Power Metal isn't that big since most people listen to the harder stuff…
Yeah, trends come and go.

Indeed. I'm curious of how many people will come today…
Today it's gonna be the worst gig probably on the tour. The sales were really bad, I heard. Probably there won't be that many people, but that doesn't bother me, you know, because especially at Finland we played for so many people… but also the other gigs were very good on this tour. It's worse here in Germany, like you said. Everywhere else is going good! Germany used to be a heavy metal country, but I don't know… it's not any more, except for black and death metal. But then again… I mean in a few years it will change again.

And power metal will be bigger again?
Well, I don't know, but maybe there will come another trend… I don't know what will be next. Maybe something from the sixties, like the Beatles!

Hehe, better than this techno and rap stuff.
I agree completely!

Some more melodic metal bands are really big here in Germany at the moment, especially Nightwish. Don't know why, but that's a totally different audience – not the normal metal guys with long hair and black clothes…
Yeah, it's the crossover.

How do you choose your songs for your setlist?
I had a poll on my webpage where people could take a vote for the songs and also I just chose you know some songs. I've done two albums so basically I'm doing more songs from Coldness than from the first one. I don't know… it's hard to choose! How do you choose your… let's say favourite 10 metal albums? It's not that easy! You just choose some songs by intuition like "aha, okay, I'll take this one". And of course we have some faster songs but also quite many lower middle-tempo songs because all the songs can't have the same rhythm. I don't know, could be better, could be worse, let's see! We'll play this set and you could tell me if I should change the songs!! (smirks)

So how do you enjoy being on tour in general?
In general? Whew, especially on this tour it has been, to be honest, a kind of holiday for me. It might sound weird, of course, because singing is a physical job, but then basically the whole day you're waiting for these 50 minutes that we play on this tour but before the tour I was so completely stressed out and had lots of things to do. I was singing the next Stratovarius stuff and then I was composing melody and lyrics for two songs for Janne Wirman (Children Of Bodom) and his project Warmen. But was just two days before I had to leave for this tour and then we had to rehearse the last 3 days for it - and then also back to work for the new band that signed my label, called Wingdom. So there was so much work before the actual tour and when I was on the airplane from Helsinki to Frankfurt and from Frankfurt to Madrid, I couldn't do anything for the other things, I was already on the tour, on a holiday. And then my stress level went down immediately; especially after the first gig in Madrid when I noticed "FUCK, this is a good band that I have!" I really think they are very good players so it's good to be on this tour. And I haven't been supporting - the last tours I did with Stratovarius were headlining tours since 1999 or something, that's the last 6 years, so it's nice to be a support, I think. Of course you can't use all this stage-space et cetera but then the good thing is when you have finished you open your first beer and the main band is about to start, so… it's much less stress. It's fun! Much more fun!

How did you choose your live band?
Oh, the live band… it all actually started from the bass player (Lauri Porra; Warmen, Sinergy, Stratovarius), maybe one year ago. We're like this last year anyway because I knew there's gonna be some shows and I knew that Mirka (Rantanen; Thunderstone) would be on the drums - not on this tour but on those gigs. I knew Lauri from the past, so I stopped him and he was very interested to go on the tour and then I said "okay, that's a good start." Then I already had two players. I knew that maybe Janne would play the gigs and he did the summer festivals, but then he was busy with Bodom and the US and I had to get Jens Johansson in and now… Janne is in the studio, Jens is doing something in the studio, they couldn't do this tour and so I got Robert, I'll come back to him later. But before that Lauri suggested Tuomas (Wäinölä). In fact I knew Tuomas from the past because we've been at the same school – I was studying vocals and Tuomas was studying guitars about 7 years ago and I knew he's a good guitar player. But then I asked Lauri that we'd need a very good guitar player so I wanted to hear his opinion because a band is just as good as everybody together. He suggested Tuomas and we played these festivals with Tuomas and then… that was it! But for this tour as I said Janne couldn't do it, so then I asked Tuomas and Lauri if they knew a good keyboard player because my songs are quite simple but the solos are very difficult, so that not all the keyboard players can play them. That's why we needed to get a guy who has the ability to play the solos and also he had to be a nice guy. I was once again quite lucky that Tuomas knew Robert and then he came to me and Tuomas in a bar and I asked him: "Are you religious; do you drink?" And he answered: "I'm not that religious and I do drink" and then I said: "alright, you'll be fine!" (clears throat) and then we listened to some of his songs… Well, nothing against religion, but… (laughter) Ah well. Then we got Mikko because I heard Mikko play the drums, but different kind of music. He was playing in Lauris band when Lauri did some other kinds of music, from rock to Indie and stuff and everything. And I knew he was a good drummer but I wasn't sure if he could play metal so I asked Lauri, who answered that they have been playing together some Pantera songs in the past and some harder stuff, so I said: "oh, when you guarantee me that he's a good drummer, then I'll take him! But he looks like he's a metal drummer and he's a very nice guy… and can drink too much alcohol! (laughs) Wow, that was a fucking long explanation! I never answered this long. Wow. I don't know if I answered your question, but something like that.

Sure! How does it feel to answer questions like this again, again and again?
Oh, I didn't answer this question this long before. Of course I'm trying to vary my answers a bit so that they wouldn't be every time the same, but of course that happens very often especially when you're promoting an album; I mean it's normal that journalists ask some questions that are the same. That doesn't bore me, but of course on your own attitude, if I feel every interviewer is boring, of course it shows!

That's just a hobby for me, so I usually think that nobody is really interested in what I'm asking, even if they never show that. It's weird!
It really depends on how the journalist is or better say, how he or she is prepared for this. Because I've been doing so many interviews and I've been interviewing people myself when I was working at a radio station before I was making an album, so I interviewed a couple of big Finnish rock stars and I prepared myself so well that the guy noticed "aha! This guy knows about my history like little details!" and then he was talking like one hour. And I was like: "okay?" So… it depends. If that’s somebody that the magazines have sent to make the story because they have to do the story but he or she doesn't give a fuck about the music - if the journalist looks down on it – or the other way round, it doesn't work that way! I'm here because of you and you're here because of the musician and the music, that's quite simple if you understand it so. It's the same thing for example bands in the beginning, when they want to play and some lucky ones might and some other ones later. Maybe you learn something from that! Do you have another profession?

Yeah, I'm a student, I study German and English. I'm gonna be a teacher some day…
Well, but then you are practising your English!

About your album – I think your first album sounds quite different to the second one! What will be the next step?
I don't know. I don't plan it! You're right in a way because the second one is more like dark and sad, but it's also because I was not feeling that good when I composed the songs and lyrics et cetera, and all the album or at least the songs I have been doing reflect a time and emotions which were dark and if I'm happy it might be a happy hippie album, but now it wasn't, so… I don't know what will be the next album, let's see! I'm planning that probably I'll compose some songs with Tuomas and Lauri. That might be something new to me because since today I've been composing all the songs myself because there was nobody who was interested to compose with me. Stratovarius specialist Tolkki would do his own things and I did just something in one song of the album. I was co-composing some songs with my own guitar player, my friend, and I liked this metal as well, because it's nice if you have your own ideas you can take them - but then again it's not so good because there might be something good coming out of your jamming with someone, some person who has some ideas. I think Lauri and Tuomas have really good ideas and it's easy to arrange with those guys. We actually did one song on this tour, just on the backstage in Barcelona. It's not completely ready but I sang the chorus for the guys and then they made a better chorus for it and also a good verse, so I think we easily can make a couple of songs in a day together! Did I answer your question?

Yes, you did, hehehehe…
Hehe, okay. I'm getting carried away!

No problem! About the cover artworks, they're quite dark, too! I had to get my hands at the Take Me Away-single because I loved the artwork so much, it's absolutely great!! It's a Finland-only single, right? It was really hard to get it!
I only pressed 1000 copies and I guess only 850 were sold in Finland. Well, the first single did so well in Finland, it went to #1 directly, so I sold this second single only ltd edition as thank for the people and it cost like 2 or 2 ½ Euros, so I lost some money but I thought it was a good idea as gift for the people who really wanna have it, I didn’t wanna sell it as big selling, you know.

Oh, mine was much more expensive because of the shipping costs and stuff.
Well, you should live in Finland!

Oh, mine was much more expensive because of the shipping costs and stuff.
Well, you should live in Finland!

Sure, but Finland's too cold!
No, it's not!!

So you couldn't imagine living somewhere else?
I could, but… maybe not! I'm used to it, you know? The winter actually is a bit too long, but in the dark winters you have a hell lot of time to compose and practise because there's nothing else to do!

So back to the single. Did you come up with the cover artwork concept?
I didn't, but for the album I did, because I wanted to have this kind of thing. I wanted to have it dark, but I also wanted to have this lake and the boat and et cetera. I didn't want to have the shoes but the artist wanted to have the shoes, and I said: "okay, if you choose the shoes, then it's fine with me!" because he wanted to describe the leaving and the potential suicide and I said "I don't wanna do any suicide!! I just wanna leave everything fucking behind!!" I think it's much better this way! Okay… but he did the singles himself and he did a pretty good job!

Yeah, I love it, too! I noticed that the motives are almost the same! At least the shoes are on it! Well, do you enjoy being a front man or would you like to stay behind sometimes?
Oh, when I was younger, I wanted to be a drummer and actually I played the drums for 3 years, so I know how to play them, but I'm not a good drummer. And then I remember I had this vision that I'd be playing in a stadium as a drummer behind everything but THEN probably it was actually an accident, I don't know - well, shit happens, let us put it that way. I started to be a singer and I enjoy being a singer. I like to be on the stage and to sing the songs that I love to sing. But I'm kind of a shy person, which means off the stage sometimes I'm not that open that I can talk to strange people unlike the American way. They have this culture with small talk and in Finland we don't have that! We're shy, and we wanna keep everything to ourselves. Actually I think that probably I am a singer because on stage I subconsciously want to fight my fear of meeting people; a shyness that especially very many other musicians and actors have. They are shy people but they're like trying to fight their shyness. But I like to be singer! It's nice to have some attention, while in my private live, I don't know, I really don’t wanna have any of that. Sometimes it's boring especially if you go to a bar. If you want to talk to people, to other musicians, and there're only 10 people around you staring at you and you're like what the fuck am I doing now? Really… it's not that nice.

And then you're on stage and 2000 people are watching you?
That's different, because I know what I'm doing there. I don't know what the fuck I am doing in a parking lot and talking to strange people because I don't know what to say. But of course I have learned; I was much shyer when I was younger. The more you travel, even though it's cliché, you learn. So of course now giving interview is easy and meeting new people in a way it's much easier but I can't say that I like attention that much. I don't want to be in a way a hell lot of known; I don’t wanna be a big star because I wanna have my private life!

So you don't feel like a big star?
I'm not!! With these record sales you can't be a big star (laughs).

But indeed there are bands who sell much fewer bands and feel bigger than they are.
Yeah well, some people like it, but I don't.

Any places you haven't been playing live and you'd like to?
Yeah, there are! I have never played in Africa. Of course it's not metal, it’s not that big. I've been to Egypt once then I never played in Australia but we might get there with Stratovarius next tour. And also there are some other countries like in Middle- and South America so I've never been to Venezuela, Columbia and other countries… also probably South Korea, Singapore, I've never been there. I've been to Japan, seven or nine times. Or actually I've never been to Canada before and I played, or better say sung half of a song with Edguy at Prog Power festival, but I can't say I've been really singing there, only half a song, so…

What are the differences between different countries, the metal people?
Yeah, of course there are differences. But it's also related to the culture, like in Japan fans they enjoy the shows a lot but they're not like crazy, load, compared to let's say Spanish, Greek or South American people. I think German people are somewhere in the middle not like Finnish audience, like they drink sometimes a lot of alcohol. Finns do drink much more, but you know…

Germans can cope with that!
Yeah exactly, Finns can't! but as I said it's related to the culture and, you know, Latin people they are just more like they have more temper [imitates them] hands are waving, when Italians are speaking [some weird sounds here]… of course that's different to for example the Japanese people[imitates Japanese people] (laughter). We're all different, but music combines people. It's nice because you can have something to talk about immediately even though sometimes of course for a musician it might be not that interesting, but if someone comes to you and talks about music, then you put down your shields and then talk about something else - not politics, but sports or cars or whatever.

Yeah, for example we're talking for a while now but I hardly asked questions about your last album since it's so long ago that it was out!
Yeah, we can talk about something else!

I was like "you have to ask something about this album, damnit!!"
No, you don't have to. Nobody's telling you that you have to ask about the album. On promoting this album or my present band I told my manager I don't wanna do too many interviews and also I didn't want to do any Stratovarius interviews. It doesn't make any sense because in the past somebody said something about the band and now we agreed that there won't be any interviews before the actual time was come and it's not now!

Yeah, it was said in the E-mail I got and I was a bit puzzled, hehe…
Yeah, but it doesn't make any sense because people tend to ask "Ah, please tell me about the album!" and now I say "No, I won't" because we agreed that we won't tell it. It's funny because my manager also complained that it won't be that many interviews and then I was like [BIG SMILE] because I just want to sing. I'm not here to do interviews like the whole day, but on this tour there haven't been many interviews. Of course she was also complaining about the Spanish promoter who said: "Some journalists, big metal magazines cancelled interviews because you said you don't wanna talk about Stratovarius" and I said "Yes, that's fine" because that shows that they're not interested in me; they just wanted to have the news first, they always want to have the news first. But what the fuck…? When I don't want to talk about something I don't have to talk about that, then I can talk about that later! But of course I can tell YOU… because you didn't ask for Stratovarius, so I could tell you a lot of things! (laughter)

How's the atmosphere of the tour with the other guys?
Very good. These guys are so nice! Of course we're just a support but for example today we had some problems with the drums because normally the headliner use their own drum kit, and we were using Epica's drum kit, too, so we were building it in front of them - here there was too little space, but we could use Kamelot's drum kit then. It's cool, one of the best tours; we don't have any problems with anybody on this tour I could recall but it's hard if you're living with…don't know how many people we are, Epica are 6 and my band, that's 11, so I think we're like 15 people in one bus and then Kamelot, who have their own bus. The smell isn't that good in the bus, to be honest, smells like old socks. The feeling is very good, but it's not a very long tour, only 3 ½ weeks, so… pretty okay.

That's another thing I usually wonder: what does it feel like to live in a bus for a month or even longer?
You should try it one day, then you'll know! (smiles)

If I get the opportunity…
Oh, it's different, of course. I'm one of those guys who're always spreading his stuff and I probably have the most space of the bus because I put my shoes there, dirty clothes somewhere else, stage clothes… But you have this one bed you crawl into and close the curtains and try to sleep.

No private space…
Well, you have this bed and close the curtains. But sometimes there's some drunken guy coming when you're sleeping like [imitates opening the curtains] "WAAAAAAH" so… this morning one of the roadies was speaking on the fucking telephone at six o'clock in the morning and all us Finns woke up and we were so pissed that were shouting like "SHUT UP!!" If you're a person who doesn't like other people; who wants to have his own private space then you can't be on a tour, it's simple. If you're an asshole of course you start to think that all the other guys are assholes. But you have to be nice and of course there's tension, there's some problems but… it works somehow.

I also noticed that most of you guys wear the same clothes again and again, how do you wash them – do you wash them at all?
I do wash them because I'm actually quite addicted to washing, it's part of the ritual. I hand wash some of my clothes, but then I try to find a laundry, I mean if you wash let's say once a week, that should be enough, cause of course you get more clothes than for one day. That's from me – I know that some guys, they don't wash at all. But you can see…

It's one of the weird questions that comes up to my mind.
No, it's a good question because it's kind of my routine and I hate it when I open my suitcase I can't find any clean clothes and then I'm like "aaaargh", even though it's rock'n roll and I like it, but then it has to be a liveable life, you know. Sometimes it's not that easy like I lost my stage pants in Paris, I wasn't drunk, but I just forgot them! So I have to wear my old jeans again, so… but then I thought "okay, it was meant that I'm gonna do the rest of the gigs with these pants.

Checking for the last question… What's the worst thing about music business and what would you change if you could?
(long silence) worst thing? I don't know what's the worst thing because there are a lot of things which could be better, but of course it's not that good for bands, especially those who start in making albums, when the albums are in the internet two months before, so that immediately kills those bands, they don't have any chance to live and also that causes effects on everybody. But what I don't like is some big criminal components like pirate copies and they're making money from the bands. To me if somebody's copying my album because he or she doesn't have enough money to buy it, then it's okay, but if there's some fucking company which makes money in - I don't wanna say in which countries but there are some certain countries - pressing this, that's like giving money to those people who sell drugs; that's probably the worst thing that I come up with.

Yeah, well, so any last words or anything I didn't ask you but you wanted to say?
Well, I shouldn't say any last words because then you know that would be my last words! (laughter) but by the way, thanx for the interview and all the best to your studies!

(laugh) Thank you very much! I did the mistake with the last words the second time now… and every time I'm like "NO, you shouldn't say something like that!"
Because… you can reply this way if you're doing face to face interviews. But if someone is asking per email, it's a little bit more boring to answer like "I don't wanna do any last words" because you're already doing your last words!

Hehe, so thanx again for everything!

Links of interest:

Century Media
Zeche Bochum