Nikolo Kotzev - Brazen Abbott

October 24, 2005

You are originally from Bulgaria. Where in Bulgaria were you born?

Yeah, that is correct. I was born in a city, the name won't tell you anything probably, called Pazardjik. It is in the middle of the country and I spent my time in Bulgaria until the age of 24 and after that I started traveling abroad.

What was life in Bulgaria like?

It was quite okay. We didn't know any better. I was in music since I was five years old so I spent my youth studying and playing and went to countless music schools. It was a little bit difficult to get information when it came down to contemporary rock music and music in general because the record industry was not developed as it should be and many of the good records were blocked by the Communists. We found our channels and some people went abroad and brought in these records so we just copied them and listened to that. Then there was a lot of radio. In these times radio stations could play entire concerts from the beginning to the end and we used to record those. That's how we got our music but apart from that obviously it was the country as we knew it and first when I went abroad I saw life in different colors and from different perspectives.

I am always curious when people come from exotic countries like Bulgaria because over here you hear things and you don't really know if it's for real or not so I always ask.

It's for real, I assure you.

When you were 24 you moved to Finland. What did you do when you got there?

I didn't move to Finland immediately. I was traveling with a band and we were playing all around Scandinavia and some parts of Europe as well so I stayed in Finland when I was 28 and the year was 1989. It was in a sense worse than Bulgaria because it's a small island and the music scene is not very good. At the time it didn't bother me much because my major goal was to make a recording studio and start writing and releasing music. I set on with that goal and I built my studio in a year or two and started immediately writing music. It is quite an isolated place. It's not exactly a place where you make your contacts but it's very good for being calm and not being bothered while you write music. I tried to draw the best out of the situation and came back here when I need to write and when I need to make contacts then I just set out traveling. I work a lot in Germany and there is Europe and I know quite some people so the job can take me to incredible places.

I have to say that you have the most wonderful job in the world. You can go anywhere.

Yeah, well it's all right. I can't complain.

No, you can't and you better not. Some people dream an entire lifetime of just going to Mexico or somewhere like that. You've been able to go everywhere.

Yeah, I know about that. I'm making a great effort not to become one of those people but life can be different and it's never perfect. Whatever is your advantage is some other people's grievance and vice versa. Sometimes because I travel quite a lot I can start missing a place where I feel my roots belong and a place where I can be calm. When you travel that much you should kiss your family goodbye actually if it's possible. Whenever you have something you don't notice you have it. You just try for other things which you think will make you feel better and once you've got them, then you realize that that's not enough and it can be quite confusing sometimes. You come back to a point in your life where you thought that you were miserable and now you think that it's quite good. You never know actually.

That's quite true. You wrote a rock opera called Nostradamus which I got to review and that was absolutely amazing. What have you been doing since you put that out?

Since I got it out, I've written two studio albums and I have made a DVD documentary which was released for the 10th anniversary of the band. That was my debut as a film director because I directed and produced it all myself and it's a documentary. It's got a lot of live footage but I've got a lot of interviews and a lot of information about the band and the members of the band. I released a record, Guilty As Sin and after that I released another studio record called My Resurrection which is actually the record that was released this summer and that record was made with a big string orchestra which set it apart from the records I had made with Brazen Abbott. I've been working with other people. I produced with other bands. I'm doing quite a lot of traveling with Brigitte from Spain and that is a completely different musical world if I can say so. I have completed my education which I had interrupted actually when I left Bulgaria so now I have completed my education and I hold a Masters Degree in Music. Right now I'm writing a new rock opera.

Ah, you're writing a new rock opera. What's that one going to be about?

I can't tell you.

Now I'm going to be dying to know.

If I told you I would have to kill you after that.

No, I'm only 38 years old so it's a little bit early to bow out now.

I can't reveal the story because I'm still working on it. It's a very powerful story. It's part fantasy and part like folklore tales from like a natural treasure of tales. There is a lot of fiction in it and I heard a story here and a story there and I got confident about these stories so I got influenced to put a few of these old stories together and make one story which I'm using now for the rock opera. It's a story about the bad and the good in the world and you've got the love story and you have the fight between good and evil and you've got all the ingredients for a great story. You're going to have eight singers and five of them are going to be male and three will be female and I'm planning to make it with a symphonic orchestra as well. It's going to be a similar format like Nostradamus but I'm trying to make it a little different musically because I have to justify the point of making another rock opera and I'm a firm believer that you shouldn't release the same album twice so I'm making quite a lot of effort to make it different. Obviously it's going to remind you of Nostradamus by form and by instruments I've used but musically it is my intention to make it a little different.

Well, that sounds exciting. I can't wait to hear that. Tell me a little about Brazen Abbott. You guys have been around for 10 years. How did you start out?

Well, it is more of a project than a band. Of course lately in the past few years I have got the ambition of making it a band. Today it's very difficult to retain a band because the musical scene is very, very hard. It's only a few bands that can have the luxury of traveling and these are the bands that don't make any money or the bands that makes piles of money and anything in between doesn't tour. Unfortunately we don't qualify for either of these categories. We can't go out touring on nothing and we can't really fill 10,000 seat halls. That makes the touring situation quite difficult. Regarding the band, I started off like a project as a vehicle to release my own music in '95 and I was quite lucky to have worked with some famous musicians at least in Sweden. The guys from Europe. I was very lucky also to get some quite famous singers in the band. Since then I have just released another album and it's been my main occupation but I always piled a lot of things aside so it was more or less a project. After doing the touring in 2003 I think it was, I got the ambition of trying to make it a band. Still it's very difficult to tour so I just keep releasing albums and I'm waiting for the opportunity of putting a good tour together. We will see. I'm very hungry for playing live. I love playing live and I wish it was not so difficult to set up tours but unfortunately that's life today.

I think the music industry is kind of going down the tubes in a lot of different ways. Yeah, all this illegal downloading and all that kills musicians because our record companies can't sell our records and the result is that they stop signing us. When we can't make a living on writing music then we all have to requalify to start doing other things and the result is we don't write music anymore. So far I have been spared of that but I am a professional musician and if I don't release music, I will continue playing and that's why I have been active with Robin Gibb because he's a living legend. Touring with him has been quite fun because we do it with a symphonic orchestra and I have orchestrated the whole thing. I am the musical director in the whole setup so it's been quite rewarding. We had traveled to Asia. We traveled Europe. We're coming to South America now in three weeks. We are keeping busy with him and that's quite cool.

You've had the opportunity to work with a lot of singers like Joe Lynn Turner and Tony Harnell. How do you hook up with all these people?

You see, all these guys are fantastic singers and they are out there looking for work. As soon as they see a project which is up to their talents and as soon as the financial situation is okay, they just go ahead and do it. Obviously I have been very lucky to have these guys on board because not everyone can be blessed in this way but I work hard and I try to write good music and it seems like these guys like the music and the result shows. Whenever you hear these singers on my album, usually the fans or the media used to say that they sound completely different and in many cases they sound better on my productions than on their own. I don't know if that's true but I take that as a compliment because I have my own file and I have a producer's skill that makes a difference and brings out a different singer from these classic musicians. All I do is when I contacted Glenn Hughes for example, I had a tape given to him and someone asked him if he would do a few songs on my record. He liked the songs and said he'd do three songs. Joe Lynn Turner I contacted by sending a tape to his manager. Joe liked the music and next thing I knew he was just on the phone and said he liked the music and let's see what we can do about it and he's been with Brazen Abbott since then. We've done four albums now. Tony was recommended. His number I got from my new record company and since I'm always looking to expand and looking for inviting new guys and having a little bit different flavor for every new album, they got in touch with him and asked him if he was interested. We know about each other. It's not like we're total strangers. I had heard about Tony Harnell for years and years. I've known TNT the band. I didn't know him personally but I had heard him sing on the TNT records obviously and I guess he had heard about me with everything I've done with Joe Lynn Turner and Nostradamus. We're just players in the same game so all it takes is that phone call and if we both feel like we can achieve something together then we just go for it.

Back in 2003 you guys did your first tour as Brazen Abbott. Where did you guys tour for that record?

This tour was made especially for getting some material for making a DVD and I didn't need to tour extensively. I just needed a few shows so we made three shows in my home country of Bulgaria because I needed to set it up fast and I called up some people because I still know people there. They helped me out so we put three shows up. Two of them were outdoors and one of them was inside a hall. I filmed these shows so I used a lot of material from these shows for the DVD. It was not an extensive tour. It was just made with a certain purpose to collect material for the DVD and that was all.

You guys released My Resurrection in June. Tell me a little about the record.

It's the fifth studio record and what sets it apart from the others is the fact that I've used four singers. I have always three singers on my previous albums. This time I have four singers and I'm using a symphonic string orchestra which is the first time I've done that on a Brazen Abbott record. Obviously I'm trying to stay contemporary yet interesting without sacrificing my musical integrity because my personal opinion is that rock music today gets more and more simple and it's being performed by people who are not necessarily fantastic players. They have the attitude and they have cool songs and people like them and all but generally the players from the older rock bands retain a higher standard as players and musicians. I'm trying to combine both worlds and I'm trying to release an album which is made of fantastic players but still appeals to today's crowd. To today's fans. I'm looking for a darker sound. I have two old instruments which makes it heavier and it fastens on the groovy riffs which would allow me to play these songs live to a great extent because they groove quite better than on previous albums. On previous albums the action fell on musicianship and performanceship. Now I'm implementing a lot of heavy riffs which would sound very good if played live. People say that this is the best Brazen Abbott record by far but I don't know if it's that. I like my records equally as much because they all are a different side of my musical integrity so it's a good album. I like it very much. I even wrote one of the lyrics of the songs is mine. It brought up a very positive reaction. It was met by the fans and the press and it's released on a new record company called Frontiers. There's a lot of news about this record and I would like to believe myself that it sounds fresher. It sounds more modern. It sounds better and the songwriting skills have improved even though it's not very easy because one gets worn out. It's not easy to write good music. People think that you take a pen and throw a few chords on a piece of paper and there it is. It's not that simple.

They don't think it takes a whole lot of work but it does. If you decide to tour on this new record or you get something put together, are you going to bring along a string orchestra and try to reproduce that live?

I doubt I would do that but it always depends on the budget. If someone wants to pay to have it just because of that, obviously that's going to be one of the main points. If you ask me I would just prefer to just tour the band with one singer which is much easier and trouble free and we'll be very much more flexible otherwise it's going to be a logistical nightmare. A 31 piece orchestra would be madness. If it's possible, one day I surely will do it, yes.

That would be something else to see that live.

Yeah, that's true. My main effort would be actually if I ever come close to just a big production I would not be doing Brazen Abbott then. I would probably be arranging Nostradamus or the new rock opera that I'm making now which is going to be interesting I hope.

If you do manage to put a tour together, where would you like Brazen Abbott to go?

I would actually love playing the States but unfortunately I don't have the contacts and I don't think Brazen Abbott is popular enough in the States to make a tour. You never know but I've got so many things going on so I can't really concentrate on trying to put a tour together because I know that it's not 100 percent given. I don't want to risk working a couple of months trying to set up a tour and to find out that it's not possible because I have to stay active and I have to work. I have to make a living. If I see a chance of making a tour I will probably make it because I really, really would like to play live especially in the States.

We could use a breath of fresh air over here so it would be interesting to see that.

Yeah, well I would love that. Let's hope for it. Let's hope it's going to happen one day.

Keep our fingers crossed. You said when you first got to Finland, one of the major things you wanted to do is open up your own recording studio. How difficult was that? I can imagine that takes a lot of financing.

Well, I traveled with a Top 40 band for three or four years and during these years I was collecting these pieces of equipment that I knew I would need. When I stopped traveling with that band and I stayed on the island, I actually had most of the things I needed so I just went on, worked very hard, and I got a few jobs. I worked and collected all the money for my recording studio. It was not anything glamorous in the beginning. It was just something that would allow me to write music and put myself on the map as a songwriter and a guitarist. Of course after that, during the years I had expanded and I achieved a record quality so when I was ready to make my first record I already had the quality in my studio good enough for making a record. I had always, always recorded my own production in my own studio. I had never worked in another studio. All the Brazen Abbott albums and Nostradamus were recorded in my own studio.

If it's done in your own studio rather than someone else's, it has your personal touch because you can do whatever you want.

Exactly. It was not that much about the freedom but it was just because I was living in such a small place that there was no other studio so I had to create it. Once you have your studio you're not under the time pressure and you can really work on things until you have them the way you want them. Also I guess I'm very spoiled when it comes to that because making a record in your own studio is a blessing. It's not like you're working against the clock or something.

You've mixed and produced albums for bands like Saxon, Molly Hatchet, and Company Of Snakes. How did you get into producing other people's work and how exciting is that to work with other bands?

I like working with other bands because I learn from their way of doing things and their music and their enthusiasm. From their approach I learned about tackling different situations and every new band is a new challenge. Once you've overcome the challenge then you are a stronger band. You're a stronger producer and you've learned more things. There was a record company which was financing Nostradamus while I was recording it and the director of that record company once asked me that there is a producer here or there is a small record company here in Germany that would like you to come and record for them. Like engineer for them for a well known band called Molly Hatchet. Their recording engineer got some other job and they were in a very bad situation. They needed someone bad so I got the call and first I refused. Then they called me a second time and they made me an offer I couldn't say no to. I just packed my stuff and went. Since then I've worked on many productions for the same company and that's how I got to work with Saxon and Molly Hatchet and Company Of Snakes and Rose Tattoo and some other well known bands. I enjoy that even though there is a down side to it because it takes a long time. It takes so much time and it stops my own creativity. It takes me away from songwriting but most of the time it is quite positive because if I succeed to have a period like that right after completing my own album, it's really perfect because I need a break from songwriting anyway and new influences and change the working environment so it is more positive than negative. Let's put it this way, I like working with another band.

These bands are SPV bands and you are with Frontiers Records now. Why did you decide to change labels and how do you like working with Frontiers Records?

Frontiers Records showed a strong interest towards what I was doing and I felt that their interest was stronger than SPV's interest and that was all. I want to work with people who want to work with me and I felt that Frontiers wanted to release Brazen Abbott more than SPV. I just like working with people that show me passion and want to work with what I do.

Any other thoughts or comments?

I always like to address the fans and plead that everybody should fight illegal downloading because that kills musicians and everybody should stop stealing music. I'd rather they go and buy an album which will support their idols instead of killing them by downloading them for free.

The coolest part about buying an LP back when I was a kid or buying a CD now, I love the artwork and reading the credits. When you just download shit you're screwing yourself out of the cool part of the CD which is the booklet.

I am hoping everyone is thinking that way and that's why I have always tried to include some bonus stuff in my CDs. Something that's not downloadable and that's the point. Let's hope that we'll be strong enough and we'll stay in business because it's going down and down. I really don't know where I'll be two years from now.

Brazen Abbott