TIMO TOLKKI: 'STRATOVARIUS Is No More'

STRATOVARIUS mainman Timo Tolkki has issued the following statement:

"It is time to stop the silence and announce what some of you have already been speculating. STRATOVARIUS is no more.

"Last October I told the guys that I am stopping the band and told them the reasons why.

"This letter is addressed to you, STRATOVARIUS fans, who have supported the band for so many years.

"I first thought that I would write just a very generelized, typical 'music business' statement that basically never says anything. Then I decided that you deserve to hear at least parts of the truth what has been going on behind the scenes so you will be able to understand my decision better.

"All the time, since Timo Kotipelto [vocals] and Jrg [Michael, drums] joined the band, there have been tensions and negativity flying around. This has been concentrating on me, Timo Kotipelto and Jrg.

"The reasons Jari Kainulainen [bass] was fired some years back were so absurd that I am not even try to explain them here. If I write a book one day, maybe then.

"Anyways, I think the seeds were planted already back then, something like 12 years ago. There were many confrontations, Jrg has been complaining to me about Timo Kotipelto and Timo Kotipelto complaining to me about Jrg. At a times it was a mess, although of course, it never would show outside to the fans.

"It is not my intention to disrespect Timo Kotipelto and Jrg here. They are both fundamentally good guys. Things just sometimes happen and relationships go to directions we don't want them to go. It's like a divorce, nobody wants it to happen but sometimes it is best for all so everyone can continue their own lives. Plus I want to tell how things have been behind the curtains. You always only see the good side anyway, you don't really know what is going on.

"We had amazing years, 14 records, 6 world tours with over a thousand shows all across the globe, 3 gold discs, a Finnish Grammy and almost 3 million records sold.

"I have arrived to my decision after careful, long and rational thinking of over a year and I know it is the right way for me. I just felt so bad being in STRATOVARIUS. Something was terribly wrong in there and nobody seemed to care.

"The countdown really started from the last STRATOVARIUS album in 2005. At that time the atmosphere in the band was extremely weird. I had spent most of 2004 recovering from my nervous breakdown in April 2004 when I was hospitalized. It was at this point when things started to change. Jens [Johansson, keyboards] supported me immensely during 2004 with his phone calls. We then did that 'Stratovarius' album, which I think is an awful album and went for the subsequent tour production. By that time it was apparent to me that things really were bad. Nobody seemed to care about anything. I had the idea to use projection screens and for that, you need to produce graphics. I planned those and basically the whole show. Nobody seemed to have any interest in it. It was more like, the less the better. The atmosphere at the rehearsals was awful. Lauri Porra [bass] who had just joined the band was wondering what is going on with this band. Jrg Michael came straight from SAXON to this tour wearing a SAXON shirt during most of the shows. His attitude for most of the tour was extremely arrogant, pretty much towards everybody. But especially towards me and Timo Kotipelto. And Timo Kotipelto's attitude towards me was lukewarm and polite, but I could sense the hostility. Of course, we as professionals put on very good shows but it was more craftmanship and rehearsed performance than a great united band playing emotionally from the heart.

"I think Timo Kotipelto was always very bitter about that he could not get his songs and/or lyrics on STRATO records. I did not understand this really 'cause he had/has his solo band where he could do what he wanted. It took me many years to learn to simply tell him that I don't like his songwriting and lyrics and that the main difference between me and him is that I am writing songs that end up being STRATO songs while he is trying to write STRATO songs that end up being KOTIPELTO songs, which means they belong on a KOTIPELTO record.

"It is not easy to say to someone that you don't like his music. You guys and girls dont like all music, neither do I. Neither does Timo Kotipelto.

"I am not anyone to tell what is good and what is bad music, but I do can tell what kind of music I like. And Timo Kotipelto's stuff just doesn't do it for me.

"I do have to say that I think he has written many great songs as well during his solo career. Plus he probably would say the same things about my songwriting. We are just very different. He has a very different sense of humor than I have.

"Maybe the weirdest thing in STRATO was that we never really were friends in the band. I visited Timo Kotipelto in 12 years perhaps 5 times. To me Jens was the closest in the band and lately Lauri Porra, who is a wonderful guy. But none of use was really ever real friends. It might be surprising to you but that is the truth.

"The tour continued and Jrg's drum roadie told me drunk that Jrg is leaving the band after the tour but he is doing the tour 'cause 'he is a businessman.' I guess you could say that Jrg's attitude pretty much culminated what he said to me in Seattle on that tour. He told me that he thinks the band is over. We tried to record, third time, a live DVD in Sao Paulo but could not use the shootings because we played so badly. It was just plain awful. Although we rocked lot of crowds on that 120-date world tour, still the overall vibe was very much like 'going to work.' Not for me though. Not still at that point. But it felt to me that nobody's heart was in the band and it was just for the money.

"The tour came and went, we survived and Jrg didn't leave the band. But it was the weirdest tour I have ever done. Very successful, but still it felt like forcing something. It was not fun. It was sad.

"The next thing I had in mind was to write a really fresh good old fashioned power metal album in the vein of 'Visions'. I felt our fans deserved it and I felt it was the right thing to do. This was the infamous 'RR' album. The songwriting was flowing and the songs sounded really nice and melodic and very much like old STRATO. I was all the time on my toes because of the situation in the band and I was anticipating difficult recording sessions.

"Anyways in late 2006 we completed a demo tape containing 10 brand new songs. I wasn't too happy about the demo, but it did serve its purpose, to present the songs to the record company. I then booked 12 days from Sonic Pump studio in Helsinki for March 2007. This was the weirdest session I had ever had. Jrg was all the time talking about that we have to get the 'Visions hunger' back, although I don't think he himself had that hunger. Nobody had. The session was nothing like the recording sessions before. Nobody had rehearsed the songs really and everything sounded pretty awful. I tweaked the drum tracks for a week and gave up. It was around this point when I really was starting to think why am I keeping this alive when it's so difficult. I remember how much time, energy and money we put to 'Elements 1'. There was nowhere to go after that anymore without just repeating the past. I do know that Timo Kotipelto didn't like that album at all, which yet again shows the difference between him me. It doesn't mean that he has to like it of course, but to me 'Elements 1' represents the peak of the STRATO evolution and perhaps I should have stopped the band already then.

"Last year, 2007, was the turning point for me in many ways. I felt better, but regarding STRATO I felt worse. There were fights about everything, even about trivialities, which really annoyed me. A lot of fights. A lot. I had to use a lot of energy to try to get merch to Stratoshop, which was on the shoulders of Jrg and Timo Kotipelto, because there was no merch for people to order but still they were ordering cause the items were on the page. The SSL certificate that proves the site is secure was expired a year ago, I tried to get that fixed, could not do it because I wasn't authorized to do so. The most popular items from the shop were sold out and Jrg refused to print more. I could not understand any of the things that were going on. At the same time, I was having more fun than in years with my rock opera 'Saana'. When I was making that, I realized what was lacking in STRATO: the enthusiasm, creativity and fun. It wasn't like that in years. 'Saana' gave me hope that there still could be something new for me to learn at this age and it gave me a whole new world of things and a start for something new. Plus I knew I had some really cool new metal songs in the works.

"We did have 8 festival shows during 2007 and it was then, when I was standing on stage in Wacken, Germany before 45,000 metalheads when I fully realized that this band is over. I remember clearly playing those same old songs we had played so many times before and a feeling came to me that told me: this band has no soul anymore. I looked around and I felt like I am part of a play that has a script or machine and that there is nothing fresh and exciting happening anymore. The band sounds awful. Nobody's heart was in it. It was just the same old song. Jrg worked at this point full time in artist production company doing tour managing and he was working at Wacken too. He literally came to play from production office and returned there after. Everybody was polite, on the surface, but there was no friendship, all I could sense were the underlying tensions of relatioships that had come to an end. I had felt during that year that the band existed only for one reason and that was the money. I had felt that this was the main motivation what kept Jrg and Timo Kotipelto in the band still despite of the underlying tensions. While standing on Wacken stage to my absolute horror, I understood that also for me that had now become a reality. I was keeping this alive for money. It was then when I decided that I must stop the band.

"So it was during this show, I decided that it's over. I was still thinking about everything but I felt that for my future, it was the only logical thing to do. I did not want to fire Timo Kotipelto and Jrg because they are and have been as much part of STRATO as I have been and it would not be fair to the fans. I then decided that it is best to lay rest what is already dead. I informed guys by email in October 2007 about my decision and explained in detail my reasons hoping they would see my points and agree what is real. Only Jens and Lauri answered. Timo Kotipelto and Jrg did not even answer to that mail. Jens understood my decision, Lauri did not. I understand him, he got a taste of what it is to be in a succesful rock band touring the world. It is not easy to give that up. He did fail to see my side of the story. That Timo Kotipelto and Jrg did not comment anything really speaks for itself. I did want to finish the STRATOVARIUS saga with style and naive as I am, in February 2008 I wrote a mail to the band and proposed that we would say goodbye to our fans with style and do one more tour. I won't go into details here, but this time I did get a response from Timo Kotipelto and Jrg. I wished them well and wrote back that I can see there cannot be any more tours with this band because of the hostile reactions. So that was that. I felt good about my decision, but not good that out of legal reasons I have had to wait for this announcement for so long.

"Then I thought that since I have all these great songs in my hands, I wanna put these out somehow. So I contacted a few friends, we laid the basic tracks in the same place where the STRATO 'RR' session had taken place a year ago and it was just flowing. There was happiness. There was energy. The songs sounded great. My friends Michael Kiske and Tobias Sammet agreed to sing on the album. I decided to form a new band called 'REVOLUTION RENAISSANCE' which would continue the legacy of STRATOVARIUS. In this first album I just wanted to release these songs finally so I did not have time to search for a permanent line up. I am now, so if you are interested, drop me a mail!

"The album comes out 6.6.2008 through Frontiers Records.

"I am excited and happyfor the first time in years. I can hardly wait what the destiny has in store for me with my new band, projects, songwriting. I am living a very creative times. I have my production company and I am doing lots of different projects and not only metal but basically anything that moves me.

"First I would like to, despite of all, thank Jrg, Timo Kotipelto, Jens, Jari, Lauri, Tuomo, Antti and Jyrki for these 22 years. It was a quite a ride. I wish Jens, Timo Kotipelto, Jrg and Lauri the very best with whatever they decide to do in their life and success with it.

"Last but most importantly, I want to thank you STRATOVARIUS fans for your love and support and for the great life. We will be seeing each other in some ways, somewhere. You will always remain in my heart."

STRATOVARIUS debuted a brand new song, entitled "Last Night on Earth", during their appearance at the Wacken Open Air festival on August 4, 2007. Professionally filmed video footage of the track which may or may not be one of the songs featured on the REVOLUTION RENAISSANCE debut can be viewed below.

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