STRATOVARIUS's TOLKKI SAYING HE DOESN'T LIKE BAND's LAST SELF-TITLED ALBUM
Recently, David Priest of OnTrackMagazine.com conducted an interview with STRATOVARIUS mainman Timo Tolkki. A few excerpts from the chat follow:
OnTrackMagazine.com: How are you feeling these days?
Timo: Pretty okay. I mean I went through some really black depression after the last tour again, 'cause I get this.
Timo: Yeah, yeah. It can be, like, six or seven months; really, really black, where I don't even go out. Maybe I went four times, it was from February into the summer and at that time I was supposed to write the new songs. It's, for me, very much like this. I do take medication for that though and I've done therapy for seven years. I have a lot of baggage but I've gotten rid of most of it, there is still more though. I guess I'm one of the tormented artists. (Laughter) I've just accepted that.
OnTrackMagazine.com: But generally, do you write a lot of stuff out of your anguish, out of where you come from or do you try to focus more on the positive side of things, or maybe a blend?
Timo: I don't try to do pretty much anything, actually, when I write; I let it flow. It's very much a natural thing. I know when the time is right, and when I start writing the songs they just come, I have a space where I go... For this record I rented a space where I went every day. I walked three kilometers listening to classical music, and usually I always got a song, in two hours; they just come. And if they don't come, then I know that the time isn't right; I don't push it.
OnTrackMagazine.com: I know that prior to the release of the last album there was a huge explosion that happened….
Timo: No kidding. It was a real field day.
OnTrackMagazine.com: Obviously there were some struggles within the band and the band was breaking up and then there was mention of a female vocalist coming in for awhile there and the fans were even torn in half on that — some were in support of it, some were highly offended by it. Do you remember much of what happened during that time? I mean this all led to your breakdown.
Timo: Well one of them. That was typical manic phase where you start doing very weird things. We had a very difficult record deal with Sanctuary and all this stuff happened. You see, many people actually think that it was some kind of publicity stunt.
OnTrackMagazine.com: Oh really?
Timo: But that almost ruined us, the fact that stuff like that happened. The fans were completely divided, they were really angry of course, I could tell. We had a female in the band, and f*ck, imagine if MAIDEN…. and Dickinson was out and they got a female replacement you know? So that's when I realized when I was over with that, that I needed medication for that. So now I actually take lithium, which is medicine for bi-polar disorder which keeps it in check. But there's a down-side too because it does take away the edge of it, it takes away the edge from the "manic." Because "manic phase" is extremely creative, full of energy and ideas and stuff; many records I wrote I was pretty manic. But for this record it was easy to write. I sense that it takes away some of the edge, I don't like that, but I have no choice.
OnTrackMagazine.com: That's cool. Now upon getting past this time and releasing the self-titled STRATOVARIUS album, when I heard it, in a lot of ways it came across kind of dark with a little bit of despair in there.
Timo: Mmmmm, so… (Laughter)
OnTrackMagazine.com: Do you think that's a reflection of where you were at were; where you were coming out of at that time?
Timo: That record was just put together from bits and pieces; I really don't like that record. It wasn't how it's meant to be done with us. The process wasn't the usual way how we do things because actually, when we were in the studio, that was when I had the breakdown. Jörg, the drummer, had to do his parts alone because the bass player didn't want to come to the studio. That was a weird time; I was lying in the hospital with the drummer playing songs alone in the studio.
OnTrackMagazine.com: Yeah I know that whole time just kind of confused fans.
Timo: We've come to hell and back together. Somebody like [Timo] Kotipelto [vocals], he's extremely sensitive about things and I put him through a lot. We both learned a lot actually, through the process, and we have a very good relationship now. Actually the whole band is doing excellent; it's a really, really great feeling.
OnTrackMagazine.com: That's really good to know. And I hear the new album, it's gonna be more of a traditional STRATOVARIUS-type sound?
Timo: Yeah, I wanted to write more old sound songs, not so dark. But it's still…, it's not completely like Visions, I mean you can't really write the same record twice; well you can, but I can't. (Laughter) I would say that I just wanted to write good melodic heavy rock songs. I call it heavy rock because heavy metal is to say we're like MANOWAR or something. Heavy metal, I don't think we're heavy metal. And then there's this power metal, I don't know what that is either; people have these categories.
OnTrackMagazine.com: It's so hard to avoid that and to describe it to somebody.
Timo: I know, I know.
OnTrackMagazine.com: The easiest way is to say, you listen to it and describe it yourself, don't ask me.
Timo: I understand the kids, they wanta know and they have their preferences and make all the stuff, but I was listening to MAIDEN when I was sixteen and I don't remember trying to think what is this, what kind of music it is? I just liked it so much. Or RAINBOW, when I listened to RAINBOW I didn't think, "Is this rock?" or whatever it is, there were so many good songs, I liked it.
OnTrackMagazine.com: (Laughing) Well, right on. Now there was a song that was going to be put on the last album about Hitler.
Timo: That's this song; (pointing to Gotterdammerung shirt). I wrote a song called "Hitler" because I am extremely interested in him. So I have been studying him and his character and I just wanted to write a song about him and naturally I wanted to call it "Hitler", and then hell broke loose when I let the record company know; they're a German label in Berlin.
OnTrackMagazine.com: (Laughing) Oh no…
Timo: I told them, one of the songs is called "Hitler" and they freaked out, and it resulted in some very bizarre events. I had to send the lyrics to some very strange German internal ministry that was checking them to make sure that there are no Nazi references and the record company was giving me heavy pressure and saying that I just can't name a song "Hitler". And when there is somebody telling me I can't do this…. "I am an artist and I did something and I want to do this, you can't tell me I can't do this, what is your reason?" And they said that it would promote Nazi image. And I told them, of course they are in Berlin and we are dealing here with the collective guilt of Germans from the Second World War and I have managed somehow, once again, to cause this…, whatever it is that it was, I don't even know. Then there was Jörg, our drummer, he's German, I was mixing that song and somehow it leaked to the press that we have a song called "Hitler". And in Finland it was like huge tabloids, "Record Company Bans Stratovarius Song Called 'Hitler'." And then we are there in the tabloids — a STRATOVARIUS picture next to a Hitler picture. (Laughter)
OnTrackMagazine.com: (Laughing) Oh no!
Timo: Then the Berlin office heard what's happening in Finland and then Jörg calls me and screams at me that he leaves the band. I was just mixing that song in the studio and he calls and he shouts at me for, like, fifty minutes and the funniest thing is that he sounded exactly like Hitler. I just let him vent and put the phone somewhere, and then I explained to him, "I don't know, I want to do something. The song is anti-Hitler, very much." There was also part of a speech by Hitler in the beginning of the song, and that was another thing they said I can't do. And to me that's like stifling my art, I mean I did a song and somebody is telling me that I can't do it; I hate that. But then I started to think that maybe I should, at this time, back off because it is a touchy subject. I was really pissed off, and the next title I actually said, well I'm gonna call it "Why", the song. And then I came up with this "Zenith of Power", Gotterdammerung. It's a German word which means, actually, "Twilight of the Gods." And there is his speech at the end, it's very low but you can hear it at the very end, it's like thirty seconds. And there is on the net, on YouTube, there is some fan who made a video of that and there is the speech in the beginning and it's like World War II stuff and it's a great video. It's really very good, really well made and it's exactly the point I wanted to make with this song, because to me the Nazis and Hitler actually represent the ultimate evil of all mankind. Just one guy managed to almost destroy a whole culture: just one guy. And this must be studied. Why? So it will not happen again.
JOHN 5 "I JUST DO MY INSTRUMENTAL THING BECAUSE I LOVE IT"
Recently, ConcertConnections.net conducted an interview with guitarist John 5 (ROB ZOMBIE, ex-MARILYN MANSON). Few excerpts are follows:
ConcertConnections.net: When did you first get interested in playing guitar?
John: I started taking lessons when I was seven. I'm a big JIMI HENDRIX fan, and a big KISS fan. I really wanted to play guitar, luckily my parents were kind enough to get me enrolled in guitar lessons. I was so interested in it. My teacher was so smart — he wouldn't give me traditional songs to play that I didn't want to play anyway. He gave me HENDRIX riffs and KISS riffs which kept my interest.
ConcertConnections.net: What made you lean towards the style of music you are playing right now?
John: This record, "The Devil Knows My Name", is really intense. I really love shred guitar and I love country guitar too, I'm pretty much putting everything in there including the kitchen sink with this record and it's a lot of fun and people really enjoy it so, I'm going to keep making these records.
ConcertConnections.net: How did you get the name, John 5?
John: I got that name when I joined MARILYN MANSON. Actually before I even played him a note, he gave me that name, which is a biblical meaning. When I released my records, I kept the name John 5 — it just stuck. Nobody knows me by John Lowery.
ConcertConnections.net: What's the reasoning behind wearing the makeup?
John: I think it's like a yin and yang thing, like a persona, when I'm on stage, I'm that person. I've always really enjoyed KISS and all that stuff I think it gives the people a little bit more, especially now a days, when you see bands up on stage, and especially if you don't know the bands, they really look pretty much like the roadies or something so it's just a way of giving a little more and I don't see anything wrong with that.
ConcertConnections.net: Do you prefer your solo projects verses working with the band (ROB ZOMBIE)?
John: No, no, no, I just do my instrumental thing because I love it and I do it just for the music and to inspire guitar players. It's like two different animals. My instrumental thing is for me and again to inspire young players and old players. It's just something I do for myself. I'm not trying to become a millionaire off it. I love playing with ROB ZOMBIE and I wouldn't give that up for the world!
ConcertConnections.net: I did a photo shoot in Mansfield, MA when ZOMBIE was there and was fascinated by you. You exhibited great showmanship. The way you play, you were all over the place, you really blew me away.
John: Well, you know people pay a lot of money for those tickets. I just really want to give them a great show and I think it's really, really important to do that. I want to inspire people to say that's what I want to do with my life or I want to be that guy up there. That's what I did when I saw VAN HALEN and others. They weren't just crouched down or standing there, they were moving all over the place. Also when I go to shows, I want to see a great show, I want to be entertained, that's what I want for the fans.
ConcertConnections.net: What advice would you give to someone trying to get in the music industry?
John: You know when people ask me that, I give them the God honest truth, they sometimes don't want to hear it but you know, I tell them the REAL truth. You have to move out of your comfort zone, unless you already live in L.A. or New York. That's where the record companies are and that's where the reality is. These record companies don't want to travel more than five miles from their homes in Beverly Hills. They have to go see bands at night, in the clubs, sign new talent — that's their job. Nine out of ten times they don't want to travel far. So, if you live in Boston or some place else, you're just going to have to move if you really want to get recognized. That's what I had to do. I lived in Gross Point, Michigan and I had everything I wanted, I didn't need anything but I really wanted to make it, so that's what I had to do.
ConcertConnections.net: So, to be seen and heard by the right person, location is the key?
John: Yeah, right! Because it doesn't matter how great you are. When you're playing in a small town, that's pretty much the only people that are going to hear you. Now with the Internet, it's a whole new story. People can now be looked at from the computer, which is amazing for up and coming new bands. Times are changing, that's for sure. Record companies are freaking out about it too, because now a lot of bands are now doing it all themselves. Record companies are merging and they are panicking, the Internet is taking over. No ones going to music stores much anymore to buy CDs, people can just downloading them their selves.
Fresh off a triumphant sold-out tour of Japan, MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP is returning to the U.S. and Canada for a summer tour. The legendary guitarist will be performing timeless classics from all stages of his illustrious career, including SCORPIONS, UFO and MSG, to commemorate his "Tales of Rock 'n' Roll", which is out now. Support on all dates will come from San Francisco-based guitar virtuoso Doug Doppler, signed to Steve Vai's Favored Nations label. This tour will run June 14 to July 21. MSG's schedule is now shaping up as follows:
June 14 - Santa Rosa, CA - Last Day Saloon
June 15 - Portland, OR - Outlaws
June 17 - Seattle, WA - Studio Seven
June 20 - Ventura, CA - Ventura Theatre
June 21 - West Hollywood, CA - The Key Club
June 22 - Santa Ana, CA - Galaxy Theatre
June 23 - Santa Clara, CA - The Avalon
June 24 - Sacramento, CA - Hard Rock Live
July 01 - Dallas, TX - Granada Theatre
July 05 - Milwaukee, WI - Shank Hall
July 06 - Detroit, MI - I-Rock
July 09 - Chicago, IL - House of Blues (w/ ENUFF Z'NUFF)
July 12 - Allentown, PA - Crocodile Rock
July 14 - Hartford, CT - Webster Theatre
July 15 - Poughkeepsie, NY - The Chance
July 19 - Long Island, NY - Mulchay's
July 21 - Springfield, VA - Jaxx
July 27 - Scheltenham, England - The Nightowl
July 28 - Derbyshire, England - Rock N Blues Custom Show festival (w/ SCORPIONS)
July 29 - Manchester, England - Apollo (w/ SCORPIONS)
July 30 – London, England - Hammerstein Apollo (w/ SCORPIONS)
Aug. 01 - Frome, Somerset, England - Cheese and Grain
Aug. 02 - Nottingham, England - Rock City
Aug. 03 - Stourbridge, England - Rockcafe 2000
Aug. 04 - Nuneaton, Warwickshire, England - Queens Hall
MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP's current touring lineup is as follows:
Michael Schenker (guitar) Wayne Findlay (guitar, keyboards) Jari Tiura (vocals) Bodo Schopf (drums) Frank Rummler (bass)