Interview with Timo Tolkki
Exclusive interview with Timo Tolkki by Skype in 2009, talking about his project Revolution Renaissance, the former band Stratovarius, the music market, personal feelings, and much more.
Maila: Revolution Renaissance has released a CD this year, and since then, we've been waiting for a tour. Why hasn't it happened yet?
Timo: This is a good question. Actually, our agents have tried to do it, but somehow it's been challenging. They tried to book a tour for us even in South America, but it didn't happen actually. But anyway, many things happened this year, and we also had a line-up change. We changed the bass player and the keyboard player, so the plans are to work on new material, record a new album, maybe.
Maila: I've heard about the line-up change. But do you already have new bass and keyboard players on the band?
Timo: A new bass player I do.
Maila: And who is he?
Timo: Well, I cannot tell you at the moment, but I can say that he is a very famous person in the music scene. Anyway very soon everybody will know who he is. But if you are really curious you can try to call our agent and ask him, maybe he will tell you! (laughs)
Maila: You have two Brazilians in the band. How has it been working with them?
Timo: Actually, I don't think Gus and Bruno are typical Brazilians...
Maila: Why not? What makes them different from the usual Brazilians?
Timo: Well, their aftershave sucks! (laughs). Just kidding. They are actually calmer than the usual Brazilians. Well, except Bruno, who is insane but in the right way. He is also a genius. I wasn't really expecting anything like that when he joined the band. It was a great and big surprise to me.
Maila: And how did it happen? How did you end up choosing two Brazilians to join the band?
Timo: Well, I put an ad searching for musicians and got almost 2 thousand applications. When I saw those, my first thought was: God, what am I gonna do now? It was a real hard work to listen to all of them. After analyzing them all, I kept a hundred or something, and they were in this set. Looking for a singer, which is the most essential thing in the band, I wanted someone with a rougher voice, someone like Kiske and Gus has just this kind of sound, and at the same time, he can do very soft vocals too. So I chose him.
You know, I am very picky on vocals. Not in an authoritarian way but in the emotional thing. I believe there must be a lot of emotion in the way a singer sings a song. There must be sensitive exchange when interpreting a song, and this is something that really matters to me.
Maila: You left Stratovarius and decided to restart everything; a new band, completely different people, it might represent a lot of change in your life. What kind of click you had in mind that made you take this decision?
Timo: It wasn't really a click to me, and I don't feel as if I had changed everything in my life. I am actually the same guy, nothing changed in me. That was a very sick band and I just had to get out of there. This is what happened. I thought that wasn't a place for me to stay, and I don't think it was a significant change in my life. I left something that wasn't good for me and went on making my music with different people. I know the press and people say a lot of things, but you shouldn't believe everything you read.
Maila: You bet. Things are usually over said, and the real feeling doesn't often matter to many journalists.
Timo: Well, some people have the wrong idea about me. I'm not the same guy the press shows. People usually project things on famous people. They create an image which is not the real person and sell it. I'm a person who speaks with my feelings, I like to exchange opinions, and of course, sometimes I get pissed off. But I believe if you talk with your heart, this is what matters, but I know some people say I'm an asshole.
Maila: And how can people understand the real Timo Tolkki, off the press?
Timo: Well, I think it should happen when they listen to my songs. How could "Celestial Dream" be written by an asshole? But you know, I'm a very spiritual person, and I believe when you walk on the spiritual path, you have to battle evil for the rest of your life. I sometimes feel like starting a fight, depending on the situation, but most of the time, I prefer to let it go. I know that always many things will happen and I will know how to learn with them. Day by day, we have to try to stay calm when everybody freaks out around you. Sometimes the situation gets really unfair, and I lose my temper, but I try to be kind. You have to be helpful, you have to set up limits.
Maila: Now talking about projects, you will soon start a series of workshops in South America, but they will be very different from the usual guitar clinics, they will be more like seminars. Could you tell us a bit about this project?
Timo: It starts in November. It will begin in Colombia in three weeks. I have 8 or 9 seminars booked in South America so far, and by the 20th of November, I will arrive in Brazil, where I have over 20 dates settled!
How the project works is a little challenging to explain. Still, I intend to do it as a real seminar backed to any musician, whatever they play or any music-related professionals, not only for guitarists. It will be divided into different stages, and I don't intend to do it as a class, mainly because I don't believe music is something anybody can teach. It's a natural gift people have inside themselves, but sometimes they just don't know it.
The seminars will be about sharing experiences. I will play, but it won't be as a clinic where I should do it as fast as I can. It will be a long section, which will take about 3 hours. But of course, there will be a local band too, and I will play some of my songs with them.
Maila: And do you intend to do it around the world? Can we consider it as a new Timo Tolkki's project?
Timo: Well, I had this idea 2 years ago, and I got an email from Brazil asking if I'd be interested in doing clinics. I said no because they are really dull. Still, I told I would agree to do a seminar where musicians could share experiences, have different explanations about different subjects, get tips about the industry. There are always questions and answers sections. I just hope they don't ask things like which strings do I use. (laughs). My proposal was accepted, and this is what I intend to do.
Maila: Let's talk about the present music market. What's your opinion about it? How does the way a musician works must be different nowadays?
Timo: I could say you have to be more creative and really pay attention to what's going on because the industry is really changing. It's not gonna take many years until we don't have material things like CDs anymore. Everything will be on the net. In Helsinki, where I live nowadays we've got around 10 CD shops only. We're living the Mp3 generation, and this is what people do more. It's ok for me. I know people complain about the quality, but I don't really care or see things this way.
Maila: And what about downloading? It's impossible to control it...
Timo: Well, it's impossible to control anything. I am actually not against downloading in a certain way, and I also don't believe that the majority of people who like your work eventually buy it. Especially before the MP3 when it used to be very expensive to purchase CDs. But if I compose a song, it's my song. If someone wants to have that song, to download the song, I can agree or not depending on the attitude. I think it's wrong to download just because you feel it's right, there must be something else. You must have a real reason, a feeling to do that, and not only do it because it's free. You don't go to the movies for free, for example...
Maila: I've heard you wrote a self-biography. I think this is a very brave attitude. When will it be published?
Timo: Well, it's finished! I wrote it in English, and at this moment, it's being translated into many different languages. I hope it comes out next month, but since translations take the time I don't know exactly when it will be done.
Maila: And why did you take this decision?
Timo: Well, it's a weird story. I already had 4 people trying to do it before, but every time it was going on, something happened, and it didn't work until the day I finally thought I should write it myself. You know, I'm an artist, and everything I do in my life is self-expression. Everything in my life is very different. I am really blessed by the gift of music, and I've been using that my whole life. Now that I'm getting older, I feel I have the obligation of sharing experiences. As I said, I'm a very spiritual and philosophical person. I believe there is a path for me. When I wake up in the morning, I know that I am where I should be. I think there is always a reason for everything. A reason to be there and to do what you are doing.
Maila: Do you follow any religion or this spirituality is just a belief, something you have within you?
Timo: Religion... I think whenever introducing technique or dogmatic beliefs somebody has written, there is no spirituality. So I don't believe in religion. I believe this is the best way for me. I have studied several religions and they are basically the same. Usually there is a lot of bad energy involved with rules and people like to oppose to things. I'm more for supporting something. If you fight, it's usually bad. Let's say that I really think everything you do come back to you.