Former STRATOVARIUS and current SYMFONIA guitarist/songwriter Timo Tolkki has released the following statement via his Facebook page:
“I don’t know how many of you are interested in reading this and quite frankly, I dont even care so much, but I am just writing down some early morning thoughts regarding SYMFONIA and other stuff going on in my life.
“As it turned out to be, it all started from a cake. I thought it might be some kind of a celestial joke and maybe it was, but when two fans handed me a SYMFONIA cake after the last gig of SYMFONIA‘s South American tour, after spending three nights in a 15-buck cold motel with grey concrete walls looking like a prison in Santiago de Chile and flying 28 hours to another continent to play to audiences varying from 100 to 350, I started to think that maybe this really is it. The cake was in a funny way telling me: ‘Hey, Timo, don’t you see: it’s over.’ And I started to really consider my whole musician’s career. This happened in June.
“Exactly a year before, I had flown to Sweden to record three demo songs I had composed hoping to record some vocals of André [Matos; SYMFONIA vocalist; also formerly of ANGRA, SHAAMAN, VIPER]. I spent there six days and from those days, I was able to squeeze about six hours of singing from him. In between going to supermarkets, changing diapers and me trying to solve some of their domestic disputes, I started to think if it was such a good idea after all. But people liked the demos and I went full-on producing the [debut SYMFONIA album] ‘In Paradisum’ to which I put around 1000 working hours.
“André Matos told me very clear that this band should not do any gigs if it doesnt make any money. I basically agreed, but at the same time I knew that people would still consider it as a new band, not ‘The Spartacus of Metal’ where the gates of superstardom would open just like that.
“Uli Kusch [former SYMFONIA drummer] had been in and out of band due to his hand injury and in the middle of vocal recordings in Sweden, he sent me a mail telling me he would never ever play any gigs in his life because ‘he was tired of piss-smelling backstage rooms, the chaos, the travelling, etc. In vain I tried to tell him that this was not what we agreed. He did tell me that if SYMFONIA would make a second album, we could use his name for 10,000 euros and use Alex Landenburg for the recordings. And after 10 minutes came a text message that he also wanted me to pay the taxes of his fee so it would total 13,000 euros for the usage of his name. I did not respond to that but I really found it hard to believe. Then Matos lost his voice in the middle of the vocal recordings for four days and while hunting for cortison shots in the middle of the deepest Swedish countryside, I really started to think that this is not gonna work.
“Well, we got the vocals done, did the interviews and released the album. I still think it’s a good album.
“Also the Japanese earthquake messed the little touring plans the band had. Then André told me we could make a lucrative tour in South America booked by his manager. Apparently, there was some mysterious investor that was in the game.
“I should have known better even hearing the word ‘investor.’
“I decided to do the tour and after flying 30 hours — Helsinki-Frankfurt-Rome-Sao Paulo — we landed only to hear that the tour is cancelled. At that point I was already ready to buy a ticket back to Finland but they managed to make a settlement and we did, I guess it was, six gigs. It was the worst and heaviest tour I have ever done in my career.
“Keyboard player Mikko Harkin developed high fever and lung inflammation that was bounding pneumonia.
“While lying two days in Sao Paulo in Formula 1 hotel (the cheapest you can get there) in a darkness I was starting to really get doubts about my future as a musician.
“When I got the sales figures from Edel Records [for the debut SYMFONIA album] and the report from the booking agency for the festivals of summer 2012, I decided to call it a day. It didnt make any sense to try to ‘conquer’ the metal world since it was obvious that there was not enough interest. Don’t get me wrong, it’s totally cool if there is no interest. Then I thought about my career. Around 3000 gigs, 20 years, 20 CDs, productions, clinics, travelling. I realised that I have done a lot.
“I guess most of you know that I am suffereing from bipolar disorder, one of the worst mental disorders, but with medication and non-stressful lifestyle, this illness can be controlled but never cured. Playing in a touring band is far from ‘non stressful lifestyle’ and in fact the rock ‘n’ roll life itself is manic with its highs and lows.
“In those long STRATOVARIUS tours being undiagnosed with the illlness, I could have died. I am not kidding.
“[On March 3] next year I will be 46.
“This autumn I made a decision to take some time off from music business and concentrate on something else.
“I have a wonderful wife and daughter, who also happens to be a world-class singer. I started giving guitar lessons again. I’m taking lots of photos. In other words, living quite normal life.
“I do realize the marks the years have left in me and that I should rest and heal the wounds. There is a lot to heal.
“The music business is in extremely sick state in this moment and it’s not gonna get any better. In a few years we will know what kind of form it will take. Maybe I one day take some part of it, maybe I don’t. I really don’t know at the moment.
“So what about my future? If you are interested in that, I can only say that it is possible that I will never record anything again. For some of you this might come as a relief.
“I don’t know what the future will hold for me but I want to thank all of you who have supported me in these 22 some years.
“For you who haven’t supported me and continuosly are mocking me, for example at Stratoboard ([the official STRATOVARIUS message board] which makes me really sad mainly due lack of respect from a band that was my vision for 22 years and that still plays 80% of my songs although there is two guys left in the band called STRATOVARIUS), I also want to thank you because without you guys, I could never have done everything I have done.
“It’s been a great career. I hope the future brings more music, but most likely it will not. But still after all I can say… I did it my way.
“Hope to see you somewhere. Take care of yourselves.”
Tolkki drew up and signed an official waiver on May 20, 2008 giving up all rights to the STRATOVARIUS name. The remaining STRATOVARIUS members — Timo Kotipelto (vocals), Jens Johansson (keyboards) and Lauri Porra (bass) — have since recorded and released two additional STRATOVARIUS albums with guitarist Matias Kupiainen.