Interviews with Nikolo Kotzev

Heart of the Rock (


Editor George Thatcher gets the low down from Nikolo. We look back at his formative years, a brief look at his time working with the Baltimoore and Brazen Abbot projects, and more importantly the work being done as a prelude to the release of the forthcoming 'Nostradamus' album. Nik was keen to point out that 'Nostradamus' is not a Brazen Abbot album. As you will read further on in the article, the project which is not unlike a rock opera, could have potential to be taken to the stage.

HOTR: Now let's get this straight. You are a Bulgarian by birth, did stints in Sweden, and now live in Finland. How did that all come about?
Nik: Yes, I was born in Bulgaria, went to countless music schools there for countless years. When I was 24 I was contacted by a Top 40 band that used to play abroad, mainly Europe. They needed a guitarist, the pay was good, so I left Bulgaria and toured Europe for three years. In 1989 I stayed on a Finnish island called Åland and married a girl here. Quite soon I met Björn Lodin, a Swedish singer, leader of the band Baltimoore and I made two albums with him. After a while we split and I started Brazen Abbot.

HOTR: You are classically trained. Do you still train on classical instruments when not doing arpeggio sweeps on the fretboard of your guitar?
Nik: I teach violin and guitar, and occasionally play the violin. I conducted a small chamber orchestra for a while, but the town is so small, so I soon ran out of musicians. Some of them moved, others went to study in other places. I don't play much classical music here, it doesn't pay good.

HOTR: You did a lot of studio and session work in your formative years. Did you work with any name artists during that time?
Nik: No, I was just a session player. I spent my days in the studios, playing other people's music. It was a job on a call, if they called, I was there. It was a good experience with all those different styles. After a while it got boring though...

HOTR: The Baltimoore gig was probably where we first heard of you in the mainstream. The Swedish scene was fairly strong through the late 80's, perhaps Baltimoore were crowding what was already a fairly busy parking lot of Swedish acts at that time?
Nik: Baltimoore was never a huge success, even though it had it's fans. I was actually new to the rock scene in Sweden, but Baltimoore was a good way to get to know people. We travelled Sweden a few times and played some places. Through Baltimoore I got to know Ian Haugland and I've worked with him ever since.

HOTR: After Baltimoore, you spent time putting your own material together under the Brazen Abbot banner. Unusual name, where did that name get it's origins from?
Nik: I don't really know. I guess I always wanted to do something with the word abbot. I just needed an adjective and Brazen was it! I like the controversial nature of the word 'brazen' : made out of brass, royal and trusty, but at the same time shameless and nasty. A good combination ain't it ?

HOTR: Are you happy with how the Brazen Abbot material has been received so far, from places like Japan, UK, USA etc?
Nik: The press has always been very kind to Brazen Abbot and I am very thankful for that. The press can bury a project before it is born. I've never received a bad review, it's always been a very positive attitude towards the project and that has helped a lot. Brazen Abbot has never been released in the USA, so I don't get much response from there. Japan is another thing. There are many people there that like Brazen Abbot but unfortunately I don't get along with my record company.

HOTR: For this upcoming album, this is a fairly serious piece of work we're anticpating here. You do realise Nik that you are raising people's expectations to the point of impatience! (ha ha). So seriously, what can we expect to hear on the album? Spoken word, classical sections, combinations of rock and classical...
Nik: Firstly let me point out that the album will be called 'Nikolo Kotzev's Nostradamus' and has nothing to do with Brazen Abbot as such. On it you will hear seven amazing singers, a 35 piece symphonic orchestra and a killer band. 21 songs, two of which are instrumental. A very strong classical influence and a quite new approach to the Band/Orchestra marriage. There will be spoken words, classical sections, angry and tender tunes etc. I hope people will like it. I know I do. Everyone that has heard it says it's amazing and I know I'm probably the wrong person to sing it's praises ..let's leave that to the fans....;-)

HOTR: What gave you the inspiration to use Nostradamus as your project theme?
Nik: It is timely, has a high international value, it is mystical, which makes writing the music easier. I've always been fascinated by the unexplained and immediately thought that Nostradamus will be a great subject for a rock opera.

HOTR: The nature of this project I think, can only be compared to two other ventures that I've listened to, that being the Phenomena albums, as well as the work done recently by Arjen Lucassen's Dutch project Areyon. Have you heard any of that stuff? and is this is a sign of things to come - that is: bands breaking the stereotype and creating music with a story or theme?
Nik: I must say that I've never heard Phenomena or Areyon. I hope people will wake up and realize how much bad music we are surrounded by. It's about time hard rock came back in a big way - after all that's the best music there is, isn't it? It is quite popular lately to make concept albums, some are good, so not so good, but it is nice to see people think and create instead of only be interested in money. A concept album does not have the commercial potential of a pop hard rock album though.

HOTR: A lot of what Nostradamus predicted for the end of the century and millennium never actually occurred. Does your project convey any modern day thoughts or reflections about those prophecies which never came to pass, or is the project more of a reflection of what took place in his life during medieval France?
Nik: Nostradamus is tough to interpret. He confused the years on purpose for fear of being persecuted. We don't even know how he counted his years. You see, the Kinese people don't have Year 2000 yet, if you know what I mean. However I have worked on five of his most popular predictions. Some of them about the past, some about the future. His life is the main story throughout the opera, spiced up with some fiction. However the whole concept and lyrics are extremely correct - there are many quotes and many dates/events that are covered with striking precision - one must almost be a historian to understand it all.

HOTR: Your Bulgarian upbringing and contacts were responsible for getting the Varna Orchestra onto the project I take it. How did that come about, and why Varna?
Nik: I have a friend who is a conductor. We have a similar background and played in a rock band together in the early 80's. He lives in Varna and conducts a few symphonic orchestras there. He is also one of the most prominent pop/rock writers in the country. So, my choice was quite easy. Oh, yeah, the name is Nelko Kolarov - an amazing piano player too - one of the best I've ever heard.

HOTR: The personnel used on the project are a pretty impressive list. Most of the guys used in the past are back, as well as a few newies in there like Doogie White, Sass Jordan and Alannah Myles. Was the Canadian connection one of a chance meeting, or did you deliberately track down Alannah and Sass to work with you?
Nik: I had decided to ask Alannah in advance, but I didn't know Sas Jordan (this is how she spells her name now). Alannah recommended her and that was enough for me. So, I went to Canada to record Sas and I hadn't even heard her sing ;-)

HOTR: Todays rock music audience are a fickle bunch. How do you think your work is going to go down, lets say in America, where the typical rock music trend is one based on teen angst, anger and violence?
Nik: Well, I don't realy agree on that one. There IS a good hard rock audience out there, it's just the bloody record companies that won't let us reach them. Record companies promote music that sell millions of copies and right now they've decided that a certain type of rock music should sell. So they go out there, spend millions of $$$ to sell shitty music while the good rock music is hard to find and good bands die out. It's sad but true. I hope all that will change. As long as my work goes, I'll just pray to God and hope people will like it.

HOTR: I understand you are going to make this a sole Internet venture. Over the last wee while as things have taken shape and come to fruition, have you had any bites from the major labels for distribution that might make you change your mind?
Nik: I will sell through the Net untill I get the right offer. It looks like I have a few that are interesting at this point. Even if I license 'Nostradamus' to a record company, the Net operation will go as planned - I have promised hundreds of people signed copies and I don't want to let them down.

HOTR: The power of the Internet is really taking over as a publicity and promotional vehicle for rock music now. For instance, I know some bands that only know how to promote themselves across the 'Net, and know nothing of the likes of Kerrang, Metal Forces, Metal Edge, Circus etc. Would you agree that this is the way of the future, and that mainstream print magazines may become defunct?
Nik: No, hard copies will never become obsolete, but I don't under-estimate the power of Internet promotion. For a big artist it will be much easier to promote itself on the Net, but smaller names will always need mags.

HOTR: Do you have an anticipated release date avalable yet Nik?
Nik: Not a clue mate ;-) I am waiting for an answer form a huge company in the USA, active in many artistic fields, since there is an ambition to put 'Nostradamus' live on stage. Some other forms of materializing the project are being planned too. In case that company (don't want to mention the name yet) goes ahead, I must have all the rights available, if you know what I mean. However, within a couple of months everything will become clear. I am working on artwork and manufacturing as we speak.

HOTR: And finally, do you have a message for the audience out there, regarding the album, and what they can look forward to?
Nik: I hope you'll like 'Nostradamus'. It is a very special project to me - I went through a lot of nice and tough times making it. It is a part of me and I hope it will become part of you too.