Interviews with Nikolo Kotzev

Interview from On The Rocks (

Nikolo Kotzev - “Nostradamus” “The Future Will Show...”

After three stunning releases with his all-star-band BRAZEN ABBOT, the Bulgarian guitarist Nikolo Kotzev presents a new outstanding piece of work. His rock opera “Nostradamus”, that features the talents of Alannah Myles, Sass Jordan, Joe Lynn Turner, Glenn Hughes, Jorn Lande, Doogie White and Göran Edman, is a must for all fans of BRAZEN ABBOT, DEEP PURPLE and RAINBOW. No doubt, that an interview with Nikolo Kotzev was also a must...

When and how did you get the idea to create a rock opera?
“Right after completing the “Bad Religion” album. People had asked me to write some songs for two singers together, having in mind that I always have three singers on my albums. The idea grew in my head and I thought that it would be nice to create a concept and write some music around it. I have always liked the mysterious and unexplained , so I decided to have a story in that vein.”

Why did you base your rock opera on the life and the prophecies of Nostradamus?
“Having in mind that I wanted something mystical, Nostradamus was an obvious choice. He is  well known internationally and the fact that he lived in the 16th century gives me freedom and possibility to make the whole story very dramatic. The Inquisition and the court play an important role as the negative force, fighting the positive force.”

Have you already been interested in the life and the prophecies of Nostradamus before you started working on the rock opera or did you only special research for the rock opera?
“I knew who he was, but I didn't know details of his life. After I had decided to write about him I had to do an extensive research on him, which included internet, books libraries and old music.”

Do you personally believe in the prophecies of Nostradamus?
“Yes, I do. Many of them are right on the money. He deliberately confused the time sequence of the prophecies, because he was afraid of prosecution. That's why many of his prophecies become understandable after they've actually become true. He predicted all the world wars, the death of the French king, the French revolution and many many more events.”

Most of the musicians on Nostradamus were participating on the BRAZEN ABBOT albums. Have they been your first choice for this project or did you choose them as you already knew them from BRAZEN ABBOT?
“I thought, that keeping a similar line-up would make things easier. A project of that size is not easy to realize. I spent thousands of hours negotiating with people, so working with people I already knew spared me a lot of time. Besides - these guys are among the best in the business and they've proven it many times on earlier records I've done.”

As most of the musicians did already work on BRAZEN ABBOT, why did you decide to not release it under the banner of BRAZEN ABBOT? The name is already known to the scene and could be helpful for the sellings of the album, don't you think so?
““Nostradamus” is not about names, it is about art. There aren't many similar projects out there and I hoped it would stand on its own and atract new audience because of its qualities. It will appeal also to people that are not into Hard Rock. On the other hand, I didn't want to confuse the fans out there with a totally new approach. The BRAZEN ABBOT is good, so why make it different?  I hope, the BRAZEN ABBOT fans will like “Nostradamus” as well.”

Have there been any other singers you had wished to participate on “Nostradamus”? When I remember right, you originally wanted to have Ronnie James Dio for the role of the inquisitor, right?
“Yes, I approached Ronnie Dio among others. Some of the singers did not have time to participate, some thought they wouldn't fit to the concept.”

I think, that Jorn Lande sings the role of the inquisitor with a lot of passion and expressiveness. He is perfect for the role and I think he did the best vocals of his previous career. How do you think about his performance?
“He is one of the best singers around. I was impressed with his work. Cool in the studio and easy to work with. We will definitely do some more stuff together in the future cause I really like what he does.”

How did you come in contact with Alannah Myles and was it difficult to convince her to particiapte on “Nostradamus”?
“I had her in mind already from the beginning and hoped she would agree to do it. Just contacted her management and sent some demos. She liked the music and decided to do it. She is a great lady and it was really cool to work with her - we became good friends.”

I am a true fan of Alannah Myles and wish she would sing a little more on “Nostradamus”. Was it a matter of the music/her role or a matter of money, that she only sings on two of the songs?
“When I started with the concept I had to construct the main story around the singers I already had available. The rest of the roles had question marks on them, since I didn't even know if I'd be able to find singers for them. That's why I had to be sparesome with the planning for them. When I got the green sign from  certain singers, I implemented their roles into the story. I know what you mean, though I feel the same way , as I would have liked her to sing more. However , at the time of the session there were no places left to put her in. We both felt it would be nice with a couple of more songs. Anyway, her role is extremely powerful and her songs appear at the right places. They make the impact that was needed. All that combined with a fantastic performance leaves the listener wanting to hear more from her and that is sometimes better than getting enough.”

Was it difficult to decide which singer could sing which role?
“In some cases it was easy, in some difficult. I not only had to make sure the singers had the needed range for singing the parts, I had to make sure that they fitted their roles as persons and personal images. It wasn't exactly easy...”

When I heard, that the album features a full symphony orchestra, I expected  much more classical sounds on Nostradamus then are finally to hear on the album. I think “Nostradamus” is definitely much more rock music than classical music. How do you think about the balance?
“That is why it is called a rock opera. Otherwise it would be a cross between opera and a musical. The orchestra has a very important role, but it doesn't mean it is classical all the time and I used it wherever I needed it.”

Why did you decide to play with a true symphony orchestra and not to work with keyboards and samples?
“Because a real orchestra sounds better!?”

Was it difficult to write and arrange the parts for the symphony orchestra?
“No, but it was time consuming since I had to print proper scores for an entire orchestra.”

Why did you decide to work with a symphony orchestra from your home country Bulgaria?? Any special reason?
“I have a friend, who is conducting an orchestra in Varna. I speak their mother's tongue, they are marvelous performers and it didn't cost as much as if I'd hired a western orchestra.”

When you did the mix for the album, was it difficult to put together all the different parts of vocals, instruments and the orchestra? I guess it must have been very hard not to lose the track of things!?
“It was really, really tough... Mixing a work like this demands a lot of time skill, knowledge and devotion. Definitely the hardest project I've ever done.”

The “Nostradamus” album is already more than one year old, but the release delayed until today. Why this? I heard, that you sold the exclusive rights for the album to an American company, right?
“No, I negotiated with an American company , that's what took time. Finally, I decided not to lose any more time and went for another company. That was not easy either, cause of all the offers I had, neither one made me feel really comfortable. “Nostradamus” is not just another record - it is different. It needs to be approached in a different way, different philosophy and undestanding. I could have released it  1 1/2 years ago, but I wouldn't have been happy abot the way it was handled. Now I believe SPV will do a fine job.”

Are there any plans for more around “Nostradamus”? I think of live shows or something like that... Wouldn't it be great to present the album at least for one time live on stage?
“The plan is to make a production and play it in most major cities around the world. However, that is easier said than done, since it involves an gigantic budget. It might take me some time to find it... The prime goal already from start was to play this live. Releasing the CD is just a step torwards that goal.”

What are your next plans?? I heard, that you already started writing songs for a new BRAZEN ABBOT album. What and when can we expect?
“I haven't started writing, but I am planning. I guess, I will write songs during the summer. It's too early to say. I need a rest now...”

In the last months you did a lot of work as mixer/producer for acts like MOLLY HATCHET and SAXON. How did you come to this new role?
“Through my German manager. I felt I needed to work on someone elses stuff for a while, just to get away from the music in my head.”

Do you have any plans or ideas to write another rock opera someday?
“The future will show. I am not a stranger to the idea...”