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Interview with Timo Tolkki

Stratovarius deserves better than the current apparent unawareness. Their technical hard rock is powerful and elaborate, in the style of Queensrÿche, Helloween, and also Dream Theater. The only disadvantage is that Stratovarius is Finnish. Timo [Tolkki], the guitarist/vocalist, introduces his group, and his reasonable hopes. To discover and to love stubbornly.

Dreamspace is not the first try for you. It is your third album, and so far the most successful one. How did you achieve such excellence?

It's true that Dreamspace is our best album, which is also very logical. We have spent on it all our energy, our concentration, and also our ideas. For our first and second albums we still hadn't evolved this much. The first album, Fright Night, was recorded in only one week, the second, Twilight Time, dates from already two years back, and naturally we've made progress since then.

Stratovarius doesn't have to blush in front of bands like Queensrÿche or Dream Theater. Do you feel musically related to them?

They are bands I definitely love! I confess that my influences are older, and go way back to Rainbow and Deep Purple, for example. But since I am also a producer, I like to hear some well produced things, because I love the work made for the sound; and in these cases I can consider Queensrÿche an example.

How would you define the music of Stratovarius?

I would tell it's at the same time both very melodic and very technical. For me it represents a little the metal of the 90's. But it's really difficult to define your own music, because in the beginning I put a lot into the composition, then produce, and finally I play the pieces in shows. That's why it's really difficult to pull back...

And about the lyrics, what are you concerned with?

Things have changed a little. In the past we used to write a lot of fiction, but on Dreamspace there are more concrete lyrics, like 4th Reich that deals with nazism, We Are The Future that recalls questions about environment. From now on we are more concerned with social problems. It's really frightening to see what's happening to this planet. It is not a direct message, but an invitation to the thought.

If Stratovarius was American instead of Finnish, and had the advantage of being supported open-handedly, would it be bigger name?

It's really difficult to answer this question... To succeed nowadays you need support from your record company as well as extensive budgets. Especially we have to be heard for potential fans to become real fans. We've never had the opportunity of making European tour before, but now there's a chance.

Do you think there is the place in the scene for an intelligent metal band?

I'm absolutely sure of it. I also think that we belong to the bands that make mature metal. Personally I hate the current trend, "grunge". All these bands sound the same. I can't bear punk rock either, and I think that in a way grunge is the punk rock of the 90's. I just can't get anything out of it!

These bands express their hatred and their rebellion through their music. It is not the same for Stratovarius?

Yes, but that comes through in a totally different way. We like playing and we're, above all, musicians. That's why our compositions have been worked on, and our rage is expressed in a way much more "musical" and orderly. Our pieces are not easy to play. For me it's even very difficult, because I have to sing and play guitar at the same time.

You also compose very much. Are you to be considered like the head of the band?

In a way. I think I really know what the band should sound like. It would be difficult for me to have another producer, because it could cause clashes. I'm a very demanding person, but not a dictator. We are a very democratic band, but on the other hand, I am perfectionist ... perhaps even too much! I can't tell if it's good or bad, but it's like that.

Interviewed by Henri Dumatray
Published in Hard Force, 1994
Translation by Caruso Laurent "Cliff" (
Typed and edited by Sami-Pekka Haavisto

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