STRATOVARIUS mainman Timo Tolkki has issued the following update in his ongoing dispute with Italy's Frontiers Records over the fate of his recently completed classical rock opera, "Saana - Warrior of Light Part 1: Journey to Crystal Island":
"Due to the unfortunate events around 'Saana' during the last days have made me to issue a more clarifying statement regarding this.
"To start with, I have put five legal documents to www.timotolkki.com for those who are interested to see how things really are legally. You might have to press 'refresh' to see the new content.
"I signed the contract with Frontiers in good faith. I had and have a very strong belief that 'Saana' is the most important work that I have ever done. I went into the composing process with free hands, like I always do. I cannot write music if somebody is trying to impose restrictions to it. This is what has happened all the time during the last four months. It has been one constant fight about everything possible from graphic designs to the music. It is very difficult to work under those kind of circumstances and I have always had the principle that nobody tells me what to do regarding my art. Now I believe that this principle has been under constant and systematic attack from Frontiers Records.
"Those who are interested can read my arguments for terminating the contract with Frontiers from www.timotolkki.com, but I sum them up here:
"Frontiers REJECTED the production master that I sent them and sent them back to me. This is exactly the same record that they are now 'proudly presenting' and selling on their homepage. They tried to get me to go back to the studio to write more 'metal songs' and to quote them 'just insert them in between somewhere there.' Needless to say, after 2500 hours of work and a clear concept of two-album storyline, including a filmed format, doesn't allow anything like that and neither would I do it because for me, freedom of expression in art is a necessity to be even able to create any music plus that both parts of 'Saana' represent a whole and a concept that is evolving up until the 'Finale' in part 2.
"Frontiers presents in their letters things like the music is not what I 'promised' them. I cannot 'promise' any music, I am not a jukebox. The music style in the contract is detrmined as 'rock opera.' I first wrote the story and then the music around it. I have never written music for anyone else but myself. I appreciate and honor the support of my fans greatly, but at the end of the day, I am expressing myself through my music, not through Frontiers Records.
"They go on stating that the album has 'drum loops' and drum machines, which they don't tolerate. The album has real live drums played by Mirka Rantanen of THUNDERSTONE. It hasn't got any drum machines and it has one loop that lasts 20 seconds.
"My production company, Goldenworks, is responisble for producing the sound production master (you manufacture CDs from this) and graphic master (you manufacture the booklet, cd design from this). I have since last October numerous times asked Frontiers to deliver me the cataloque number of 'Saana' and a barcode, which are both necessary elements for any record store to take the CD for sale. Frontiers have insisited that it is them who is doing it, not Goldenworks. Contractually, I pay for the graphic master and am therefore resposible to produce the graphic master. But I haven't been able to do so because of above-mentioned facts. I also suspected that they would alter the artwork because I sent an early version of the cover to the director of Frontiers, who freaked out and said it's horrible. He also SENT the jpeg to some people, including some journalists, which was an insane thing to do at that point of production.
"They claim that the album should not contain any instrumental music and that the album is 'mostly instrumental music.' Keeping in mind the storytelling nature of a rock opera or musical, I challenge you to find a piece that doesn't have instrumentals. Out of 16 tracks, 11 tracks contain vocals.
"Frontiers continues by stating that the album should be 45 minutes long, according to the contract. The album is 44:10 long. This doesn't really need any comment…
"Frontiers claims that I delivered the master late. This is true, but I notfied them about this already in August 2007 and they approved it and were systematically preparing for a May 2008 release. I can prove this by email traffic.
"Frontiers also claims I was unavailable for discussions for compromise. This is also not true. After some email exchanging they proposed a settlement compromise, which I gave to my lawyer to check. Frontiers was hurriying me and my lawyer to sign this document to the point that my lawyer became very irritated and said to me that I should always be very careful with any company that is hurrying you to sign. After reviewing what my lawyer said, I terminated the contract by his recommendation.
"Despite of this, Frontiers Records seems to be releasing 'Saana' according to their website. I know most of their distributors personally and none of them has this album in their release schedule.
"Frontiers Records hasn't got the necessary parts to be able to produce a CD in the way that it is of high quality. Yet, they seem to intend to manufacture CDs out of MP3 files and booklet from two low-resolution jpegs they have. They don't have lyrics or any information regarding the album details.
"I have designed 'Saana''s 24 page booklet in the way that each page has its own graphic layout and is very necessary for understanding the unfolding story. Only the booklet took one month to make.
"We shot 25 hours of footage for the bonus DVD videos and the sales DVD story.
"Therefore it is really sad to see that they are doing this and I think it says a lot about this company what it is willing to do.
"There is a touch of irony in first rejecting the master because of the things I have explained and then when I terminate the contract, instead of taking Goldenworks to court, what do they do? They 'proudly present' the new rock opera from Timo Tolkki.
"Needless to say, Goldenworks will take legal actions against Frontiers Records if they will release the 'Saana' album. I doubt they are able to do that, at least via their normal distribution channels. Maybe only through their online shop, but the quality of that product will be less than adequate. The 'cover' they have sent to some media is an early version of the final cover.
"I rest my case. I have spent one year of my life working this music and I believe it is a truly unique and innovative concept. I never wanted any of this fuss, but I will defend my art against a corporate attack if I have to and I am not afraid to stand in court and say what I have to say about my artistic right to express myself."