TIMO TOLKKI: Final statement concerning Stratovarius
21.05.2008 | Source: www.timotolkki.com
TIMO TOLKKI (REVOLUTION RENAISSANCE, ex-Stratovarius) has issued the following lengthy statement at his official site www.timotolkki.com
"THE MONEYHUNGRY CORPORATE KISS OF JUDAS OF JÖRG MICHAEL, TIMO KOTIPELTO AND JENS JOHANSSON
I am writing this in Canton, a small city in China after a week from the statement the ex-members of Stratovarius published. Yesterday an earthquake killed over 50 000 people 1500 kilometers from here. That actually put things into perspective for me regarding the recent events. My mind has calmed down and I am able to think more rationally about the whole sitution. I am going to take you on a small journey to some key events that hopefully are enough to make you understand what kind of things have been going on. I simply cannot just be silent after that slanderous attack towards me and my music that the other guys launched some time ago. However after this, I will continue my life and leave this behind.
My memories go back to the year 1984 when I received that phone call to join Stratovarius when the guitar player/ main songwriter had been fired, and when we started building up the band from scratch. I started singing and composing songs that were totally different from those Ozzy-influenced blues songs the band had been playing for 2 years. We worked hard, played every day, made demos and finally we made our dream came true: we got a record deal with CBS. Fright Night, Twilight Time and Dreamspace followed each others. It took over 8 years before any of us saw any money from the record sales.
At this point Stratovarius had become my band, I was the ”Kapellmeister” and the band was my symphony orchestra. Together we made some truly memorable music. At this point I worked alone full time as a manager and a booking agent for the band. With this enormous amount of work, the foundation was laid for the later success of Stratovarius. I was never paid for this work and not then and not after that have I ever considered money to be the reason why I am a musician.
The much-critizized firing of Tuomo Lassila and Antti Ikonen were simply due to a non-dedication to the band’s activities. They both were not at all into heavy metal and I don’t think they ever thought that the band could become so successful. They didn’t like the direction the music was heading. It was another painful decision that I as a leader of the band had to do. And it was for the better. They could continue to do what they did best. Today Tuomo Lassila is a respected Classical percussionist in a Symphony Orchestra. Still I am looking at that time with a certain nostalgia, with a certain ”innocence”. There were no big corporate deals or managers breathing down my neck to ”make that hit record fast”. We played to very small audiences, sometimes to seven people, but it didnt matter, it was fun. There was not much money involved, but more than that, there was fun and there was creativity. And there was friendship too.
When Timo Kotipelto, Jens Johansson and Jörg Michael joined the band, I knew I had found the line up, that would take us as far as you can go with this kind of music. The only thing I was concerned was, that I was the only guy in the band that had a spiritual approach to life and that I had been writing songs about Love, Peace, Universal Brotherhood since I was a teenager . But I did not give it so much thought, since I thought that I would be able to express that message anyway, because it is a strong one. It culminates in the symbol of Fleur De Lys, which means and represents to me the spirituality and all those core human values I have always been writing about. At that time I did not understand, that like many of those who had been walking this path, that I would face a lot of violent hatred and laughter. Now I know better, but today that only makes my message stronger. You have to learn to look at the evil eye to eye and laugh at it. I found that symbol 1992 and put it on the cover of my first solo album and later on the Stratovarius logo 5 years later. And now it follows me to my new band Revolution Renaissance.
When the guys joined the band, I made it very clear what I wanna do and made contracts with each one of them. In that contract I also determined the rules that I would decide all the artistic factors of the band, that I own the name Stratovarius, and that we split all the income evenly with all the members... discounting the fact that I had been working years without any money with the previous line up, and created the necessary contacts that now became very important to gain success. Of course, everything from Episode onwards is written forever in Power Metal history and I don’t have to repeat our achievements here.
It was around the time when we left Nuclear Blast and signed a big money contract with Sanctuary that things started to go wrong. I think this move ultimately destroyed the band, added a corporate aspect to the music and resulted in the worst Stratovarius album ever: the black Stratovarius ”united” album. And I am as guilty as the others of all this. As the big money entered the picture, so also entered highly questionable methods to market the band using whatever means possible. Due to legal reasons it is not possible to go into details, but I just say this: whatever marketing trick was used at that time, everybody was part of it: the whole band, the management and the record company. And I repeat: the whole band including Timo Kotipelto and Jörg Michael. And I can prove this and they know it. And one day I might just do that. Maybe soon. Maybe in a book. It was all this what ultimately lead to my total nervous breakdown in Spring 2004. The recovery has lasted to this very day, but I can say that today I am almost fully recovered and have not drunk a drop of alcohol in 3 years and have been on medication for 4 years to combat one of the most painful and vicious mental illnesses: bipolar disorder. The medication works wonderfully and I am able to work and be creative. And most of all I feel free. I am fortunate to have that medication that many sufferers before me, for example Ludwig Van Beethoven or Ernest Hemingway (who blew his brains out with a gun), did not have. They had the same illness, as do many people who work in ”entertainment”.
The damage done to the band was irreversible. Somebody has said that sooner or later you start to hate your leader. Much has also been said about the band members ”saving me”, when I was in a hospital or when I was thinking about commiting suicide. On the contrary, I didn’t receive any acts of kindness from ”my friends”. Not one of them visited me in the hospital although all the guys were in town. The only person that seemed to care later was Jens with his phone calls, and you the fans, from whom I received thousands of letters that gave me real hope and comfort. The people who actually saved me were my wife and daughter, my mother and my therapist. I had the worst depressive episode of my life that last 7 months. I could not even get out from the bed. During this time, my ”friends” were not even in touch with me. Instead what happened was that they were slowly working behind my back to take over much of the bands control, especially financial, with the help from the management. And they succeeded fairly well. It was very clever. When I recovered enough, I found out that lots of things had been changed and that I did not have that control over the band I had before and what I needed to be able to express my music, my art. All this was done behind my back during this time. I faced increasing demands to do things I didn’t want to do, and demands from Timo Kotipelto to get his songs into Stratovarius records. The only problem was: we are so very different and our music and message is so very different. He would never write lyrics like ”Celestial Dream”. His music and lyrics doesn’t have that spiritual dimension that mine has. Not that they have to, of course.
I was lied to directly about the promotional activities of the Stratovarius album and Jens and Kotipelto did the full promo tour while I was tricked and told that I would do the most important interviews ”later”. Due to this, I didn’t talk to the press for that album at all, although I very much felt I needed to and the last time I had done interviews, was 2003, but not because I didn’t want to. It was organized that I could not. These things were arranged behind my back by the band and the management. They wanted me silent and make me look like I was not ”there” so much anymore.
During the rehearsals and the world tour of Stratovarius record, I felt lot of aggression towards me. I felt like I was not wanted in my own band. I designed the whole show myself, including the projection screens and the peace message with the Declaration of Universal Human Rights in the song ”United”. The whole spirit of the show was so contradictory to the feeling that was in the band. As the tour progressed I really started to have the feeling that I am not wanted in the band anymore. I was told by Jörg Michael face to face that ”this band is over”. I was really confused what to do after the tour so I did what I always do: I put my feelings to music and started writing songs. The songs were completed quickly in August 2006 and the demos delivered to the management in October. They in turn sent them to Sanctuary for approval and that started the whole legal thing. We had festival appearaneces scheduled in 2007, but at that point I really felt that something weird was going on... a nd that everybody was in it only for the money. Like trying to get whatevery they could as fast as they could. Insane gig offers for one gig off in India etc followed, which I refused to play, much to group’s anger.
The Sanctuary lawsuit was going on because they did not want to pay what was in the contract. I said, I don’t care about that money, let’s just leave and find a new label, we have to get the album out. I was pressured largely by staying away from that due to the financial arrangements that were done behind my back while I was sick. I asked for information about the lawsuit but I was given very vague answers. To be short: I didn’t know what is going on. I said that we don’t need that money and that we should just leave and find another label, but it was our management and especially Jens that heavily resisted this option. Sanctuary would have let us go for free from the contract. Gamma Ray left and signed with SPV and is doing great today. But we had to go into that legal battle because of 420 000€ per record. Sanctuary found out that Jari signed the contract but is not in the band anymore. Bang! No money. The guys contacted Jari and asked him to sign a paper where he stated that he is still in the band although he was playing in Evergrey. It was just: money, money, money. And all this time, I was the only one who was actually making music. I used almost a year in my life for composing and recording my Classical Rock Opera ”Saana”. And the evergrowing feeling inside of me that something is terribly wrong.
At the same time playing the festival gigs and feeling all this hatred, I started to think about my future. I knew at that point that I would be happier without these guys, except perhaps Jens and Lauri. As the months went by and I was doing my solo album Saana, I felt so much happiness doing that project that I fully realized what I should do. I was aware of the consequences, but I wasn’t aware that I was against a big money making machine. I have explained much of this period in my first statement.
So there was one thing left. I had to decide if I would continue Strato without Kotipelto and Jörg, from whom I felt most of the hatred coming. I came to the conclusion that there cannot be Stratovarius without these guys and that it would be wrong to the fans to replace them. So I decided to end something that I started 23 years before and yes, I do consider that, although there are always those who remind me that I am not an original member. But I do consider myself as an original member of Stratovarius as the fans know it. The band started in 1982 and I came in 1984. I do consider myself as the soul of Stratovarius and that it has always been my band. But I also consider that I could not have achieved all that success without the classic line up. It was a match made in heaven. Why it ended the way it ended, is partly a mystery to me. But my motivation was not ”greed” as the others claim. If it would be, I would certainly have waited to have that 420 000€ plus the high fee Stratovarius receives from the shows. Instead I decided to go on my own way and stop Stratovarius while it still had some dignity left. I was fully aware that I would have to pay for my share for the legal costs, but I didn’t care... although I waited as long as I could to give time to those who wanted that money more than to create music. And I do blame the management and the lawyer for handling the case badly and slowly.
You have to do your own thinking: why would I leave a succesful band who was winning the legal case with all that money and go and start all over again with a totally new band and relatively unknown musicians with very little money compared to the Strato if I wasn’t completely totally unhappy about almost everything in the band the worst being the very fake human relationships and how I had been treated in the last couple of years? Does this make any sense to you? And if it does, then perhaps it has come time to ask: who are the ones that actually are greedy? And who wants to exploit the name ”Stratovarius” and who doesn’t? For those who don’t know, the deals me and Strato always make/made are so called ”master deals”. It means that the artist pays for the studio, flights, the general costs of making the album. After paying all the costs of the RR ”New Era” album that includes mega names and studio rent is 460€ per day plus also the costs for making cover, pictures, what is left is nothing compared to what I was making in Strato. The ”supreme greedy narcistic Faust” doesn’t really fit into this scenario. But a guy who loves music and has made it from his heart since the age of 14 and follows his ideals no matter what, does. That guy is me.
So now we come to that point where I had the new album of my new band ready and still no solution from a simple legal case. It was 2 months until the release and the case had been going on for almost 2 years now. So that was the day when I had to make it public. It still took about a month until the Sanctuary/Universal people heard about the break-up. Then it was of course too late.
I wrote my statement with a clear conscience and without hatred, telling about the reasons of the split that had already happened half a year before. Rationally, peacefully and with respect. I wanted the fans to know the truth. Since then I have spent much of my time in the Strato forum and RR forum explaining the situation and trying to be with the fans. My sincere wish was that the split would not divide the fans and I spent a lot of time even defending the guys and writing blogs urging fans not to take sides. I believe the fans deserved to know more than the general chit chat. Some people say we should not talk about private things in public. But it is absolutely impossible to understand the whole thing without going into those details. At the end of the day it is just down to rational thinking: why didn’t I stay? Why did I leave?
Then the other guys published that hate filled, bitter and cruel statement accusing me of just about everything that has ever happened. The biggest thing that hurt was that it was signed by Jens and Lauri, who I thought were my friends. That cut very deep and I am still recovering from that disappointment. That really broke my heart. And I still can’t believe it. But it is true.
After that statement it was of course inevitable that the fans will be divided, thus the situation was against everything that Stratovarius had ever represented and I had written songs about. They were not divided after my first statement. I certainly didn’t intend to start a flaming war but I was shocked about the lies and aggressiveness. And I did write some stupid things in the forums, which I apologize about to you the fans. But I am only a human being with weaknesses and sometimes too much is just too much. The pressure was just unbelievable. I was stabbed in the back by the guys I had given all my creative energy and efforts, not to mention the money, for 12 years and I was called ”greedy supreme narcistic Faust”. The whole statement made little sense to me,stating that band had declined since 2004 and that I was somehow ”humiliated” by this. I think the humiliation lies on the other side and in the ”abandonment” by my ”friends”. Also, I don’t think the band had declined. We played extremely succesful world tour of 100 shows around the Globe for ”Stratovarius” album. That’s hardly a decline. The fans were there. They were hungry for a new Strato album. Sadly they had no idea what was going on. I really don’t understand the whole statement in any other way than cleverly putting all the blame on me and trying to destroy my new career, while continuing under the name ”Stratovarius”. It is a very different statement from what I did and wrote in a very different way and tone. There is unbelievable repressed hate in that statement towards me. Thus, much of what I had felt towards me in the last couple of years is manifested in that letter. Later I heard from 3 credible sources close to Jens that he actually toned the statement down and that it was even more aggressive. The source of that aggressiveness would be Jörg Michael and Timo Kotipelto, exactly as I have felt. Jörg Michael is also the only guy who has put up the statement on his myspace site.
Now we come to the final point since the others want to continue as Stratovarius. My thought of not wanting to continue Stratovarius without Timo Kotipelto and Jörg Michael was totally contradictory to their thought of continuing the band without me. And since I had written 95% about the songs and lyrics and was responsible for the whole essence and message of the band, it would be impossible to call that band Stratovarius. It would have nothing to do with that name. This would be no Deep Purple without Blackmore where the songs were written mainly together... plus they had no serious message like Stratovarius does.
So there will never be another Stratovarius. It was a unique band and the name itself doesnt mean that it would bear the trademarks of Stratovarius. It means more to me than money. It means the very essence of the message it has carried in my songs for 23 years. That is a very long time. My new band cannot replace Stratovarius. Neither can any other band. My dignity prevents me from using that name without my ex-band members. This is the contrary regarding the other guys and what they are inteding to do. At this writing, they are most likely preparing all kinds of Stratovarius releases that I blocked, out of the reasons that they did not have enough quality.
Since I consider this a devastatingly disappointing and utterly disrespectful move, I am going to do something people don’t probably expect from me. First of all in my life philosophy this kind of act is evil. And I do not want to have anything to do with evil. Although both moral and legal rights I own would easily grant me the rights to prevent the guys using the name Stratovarius, I am going to do the opposite. I am going to give them full perpetual rights to the name and also I do not want to receive any money regarding record sales of the back catalogue or possible new products in which I am involved . Ever. You will find this letter that has been mailed to the Stratovarius management with this statement. Simply, I don’t want to have anything to do with that name in its present form, Jörg Michael, Timo Kotipelto and Jens Johansson ever again. The old records and their message speak for themselves. So the guys are free to use the name. I am doing this with a clear mind that everything that you put to the universe returns to you. And above all, I refuse to co-operate, negotiate or have anything to do with what I consider to be evil. And here is the very corporate money making machine in its full force exploiting the name, like it could really have the same meaning without me.
I hope this letter clarifies some things from my side and I promise that this will be the last statement from my side. From now on I will let the music talk with my new band Revolution Renaissance, that carries that spiritual essence of the Fleur de Lys. That’s why it’s in the logo. And of course we will play lots of Stratovarius songs in the shows too.
I wish you nothing but good things, blessings and much happiness. I thank you for a great life and I hope to see you somewhere along the road. Take good care of yourselves and I am very sorry that it had to end this way. When the curtain falls at the end of the day, it’s only the Music that counts. And you will get that from me in the future too.
Love, Timo Tolkki"
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