Skip to Content Skip to Navigation

Symphonic Slam: Bio

The son of a geologist, Timo Laine moved from Finland to California when he was only 6 so his father could work in the Mojave Desert, and also due to a perpetual fear of the Soviet Union at the time. He worked his way around the circuit for nearly a decade while moonlighting as a guitar teacher. After doing some demos with LA-based Zebra, he joined Space Rangers, the bulk of whose sole album on Mercury in 1973 was Zebra's tapes with Neil Merryweather's new lyrics.

But when members went their separate ways shortly after its release, Laine wanted to experiment with the larger than life operatic rock sound he had in his head - one that incorporated his influences, everyone from Wes Montgomery to Clapton, Beck, and Zappa to classical master Andres Segovia. He bought a prototype gadget that inventor Bob Easton gladly sold him for $10,000, which in essence hooked up six individual synthesizers to his guitar, one for each string. The whole idea of what could be done with a guitar and synthesizer was just taking off, and Laine politely declined deals to sell his rig to Frank Zappa, Stevie Wonder, and Jimmy Page.

He then recorded some demos with Epic Records in San Francisco, but when the producer was fired midway through production, Laine then decided a new locale might be the answer. He moved to Toronto in 1973 where he worked the local scene for a couple of years. A chance airplay of one of the 'Frisco demos on CHUM led to a deal with A&M, and he assembled Symphonic Slam with David Stone on keyboards and drummer John Lowery. Although the record took nine months to rehearse and record with George Semkiw, the '76 self-titled debut was instantly heralded by the critics for fusing elements of progressive rock and jazz with more psychadelic tones. Their only single "I Won't Cry" caught some good response from local radio, and other tracks like the lead off "Universe," "Let It Grow," and the edgey "Modane Train" about a 1917 derailed train in France that killed 543 people made the album a hit in pockets throughout Canada, in the US, and in Europe.

Their onstage presence, costumes and props were reminiscent of the likes of early Genesis and Bowie. A year of dates with the likes of FM, King Crimson, and Gentle Giant throughout the UK and North America was highlighted by them doing a solo show at Toronto's Massey Hall. But by mid '77, Stone accepted an invitation to join Ritchie Blackmore's new group, Rainbow, shortly after Laine relocated to Hollywood and began writing material for a follow-up album.

But when label execs wanted him to do a disco album, he bailed out and formed his own Lady Records. Replacing Stone on keys and tabla with Linda Nardini and adding Jimmy Haslip on bass, recording began at The Righteous Brothers' and A&M's studios. But halfway through the sessions Lowery left, and Haslip followed soon after to form Yellow Jackets, making way for newcomers drummer Jan Uvena and Noe Cruz on bass.

Under the new monikor of 'Timo,' the album SS II was in the stores by the spring of '78. Following in its predecessor's path, trippy bombastic arrangements and intricate melodies were the backbone of tracks like "The Night's About To Come," "Cyclops," and the self-reflective "Keep Freedom In Your Heart." But after only 10,000 copies were printed, there was no more money. No money, no distribution.

Laine dissolved the group in the early '80s to focus on other projects, working with several artists over the next couple of decades, including musically like-minded John Mills-Cockell (formerly of Syrinx), The Rolling Stones, Rush, BB King, Tina Turner, and Chuck Berry, to name just a few. He also popped up on the club scene and world music festivals over the years. Outside of music, he was also spending time in the sun abroad, became an established painter specializing in nature and wildlife and more surreal subject matters, and joined the Museum of Natural History at one time. Following in his father's scientific footsteps, Laine also took up his childhood hobby of entomology (bugs) fulltime and became a respected speaker on the subject.

French label Musea Records acquired the rights to reissue the first album in 2002, although no bonus material was included. Three years later, he released his first real solo album, THE MONOTRIM PROJECT, basically a collection of ideas he'd scribbled down over the years after hearing the next wave of players, like Eric Johnson, Satriani and Vai.

That same year he was approached to record a new Symphonic Slam album. Originally intended to be called CAVE CANEM (Latin for 'beware of dog'), the result was HEY FIRE, reuniting Laine with long time bassist Noe Cruz, along with vocalist Les Carlsen (former lead man for the musical "Hair" and the band Bloodgood), and drummer Bob Winn. Again praised by critics both musically talented themselves and not, it featured tracks like the hard-hitting "Mona Mae," the tender "Dream Love," and "Guitar Man." His artistic talents also came in handy when he designed the album jacket.

2008's solo album called GUITAR WORKS SPECIAL EDITION was again heralded by the critics for its overall larger than life production. Musea Records re-issued SS II with four bonus tracks in early 2011, and a new album is in the works, based on spriritual themes, a context he'd worked into several songs previously.

With notes from Timo Laine

I picked up the name Symphonic Slam because I wanted to reflect a larger sound. All my projects in the past had Meletrons,or Chamberlins, and since I was playing six synthesizers with my guitar, it all added up to a very large symphonic approach, but with a rock ( Slam ) flavor.
I was influenced in the very early years by guitarists Wes Montgomery, Barney Kessel, Joe Pass, and Kenny Barrel. The bands that influenced me were Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Frank Zappa, Moody Blues, Beatles, Stones, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton,and, Dick Dale. Classical guitarist were Andres Segovia and Carlos Montoya.

You moved from Finland to USA in your youth. How old were you when you relocated to USA and why this relocation ?


My parents immigrated to America when I was 6 years old. Dad was a Chemist with a great interest in geology.
He wanted to explore the great Mohave desert in the California Nevada areas. Her also had an interest to establish his family in America because he always feared the Soviet Union.

It is claimed you were one of the first musicians to use a synth guitar. Please tell us why you took up that not so cheap and I guess quite bad tempered instrument back then.


I had performed with my Les Paul, Fender amp and echoplex full time for decades. I started playing guitar with the idea of making a living with it at an early age, and I did just that. I played in night clubs full time for about 10 years. I was also a guitar teacher for 4 years. So I desired a fresh sound, I was hungry to see what could be done to make the guitar do more.
My first attempt was to try out the GuitOrgan by MCI. This was a micro curcuited B-3 inside a ES-335. The frets were cut in six sections that functioned as a micro switch.
This allowed me to play the guitar and organ at the same time. But, it also was a very limited, and did not offer for me, anything I wanted to live with for very long. I then contacted and, met with Oberheim, and asked him to hook up the guitar to synthesizers. Oberheim said that he had already worked with that idea, but that I should contact a man named Bob Easton of 360 Systems.
What 360 Systems had done was invent a device called a Pitch to Voltage convertor. The convertor was hooked up to a hexiphonic pick-up allowing it to be sent to a synthesizers.
Bob Easton had the prototype sitting on his work bench, it was hooked up to six Oberhiems. I fired it up and Bam!, I fell in love.
I made a deal with Bob immediately, and at a price of $10,000 he sold it to me. I had it shipped to Canada where I was in pre-production for my first Symphonic Slam album.
This system was a great tracking unit because it was polyphonic. There was no harmonic problems like the later developed monophonic systems that never worked or tracked well.
This was a high performance moon rocket that responded perfectly to my style.
Since I used the system on every song on that album, the word got out real fast about this monster guitar rig. To my good luck A&M Records released the album world wide off the starting blocks.
The press and media caught on to the new sound, and my famous 360 Systems Polyphonic Guitar synthesizer won me the title "Father of the Guitar Synthesizer."
Later on, I heard Frank Zappa had bought one from Bob, but could not use it because it was running Moogs. The Moogs drifted so bad the systems could not be kept in tune. So I bought Zappa`s
polyphonic guitar as a back-up, but not the Moogs. Jimmy Page called us and wanted to buy my system at a hefty price, but I refused, and explained I was doing tour support with it and was planning another album later.
Stevie Wonder also wanted to rent the system for one of his albums, but I was on the road.
Six units were built, mine being the first, and the first to record an entire album with it on a major label, with a world wide release. There were pitiful monophonic guitar synths on the drawing boards at that time, and even though players were trying to get their footing with them, they ended up being more of a bad joke than a sincere musical effort.


Over to your first two Symphonic Slam albums. Please tell us more about the self titled debut album from 1976.


I had just completed an album recorded at Capital Records in 1974 with Neil Merryweather, The band was called "Space Rangers". I had written most of the originals for the Space Rangers years earlier with a group called Zebra, which were recorded at Pat Boons Lion and the Lamb studios.
But our producer Tony Carey died in the middle of the project. So when I started with Space Rangers, I used the same material over. Neil wrote the words, I wrote most the music, and played lead. When a conflict of interest in relation to actually getting paid came up, I left Space Rangers along with Bob Silvert, the Meletron player.
I then was asked to record a demo with Epic Records in San Francisco, However, in the middle of that production, the producer was fired. He gave me the tapes and said good luck.
So I decided it was time to go elsewhere. I took the band to Canada, played clubs for a few years, and one day had Chum FM play the demo over the air. The president of A&M was listening and called the DJ and said "Tell that kid Timo Laine to come and see me." We got signed to record Symphonic Slam. The material was a collection of musical ideas I had been saving while playing clubs and concerts over the years.
The songs for Symphonic Slam took years to develop, and about 9 months to rehearse and record.



The second album Timo SS II was released two years later. Please tell us more about this album.



After A&M Records option came up for the second term, they wanted for me to record a disco album. I told them that that was like asking Segovia to record a surf album.
I put an ad in the LA Times under venture capital, and since I was still on the billboard charts got an investor to start Lady Records of Canada Inc.
I bailed out of the record deal and started the production of SSII. The album was recorded at the Righteous Brothers studio in California and A&M studios Hollywood. The players were Jimmy Haslip - Bass, Linda Nardini - Keys, and Jan Uvena - Drums. David Stone, my Canadian keyboard player, went on to play with Richie Blackmore, so he stayed behind in Canada. Jimmy, after the SSII album, started Yellow Jackets.
SSII was me doing a lot more vocals and more melodic tunes that I had written on the road with in Canada.

In 2011 Musea Records was contacted by Denis Meyer, The author of the book Rock Anthology. Denis had asked Bernard at Musea Records, that it might be a good idea to re-issue
the SSII album, since Denis had proclaimed Symphonic Slam as one of the top Progressive rock bands in the world. So They contacted me, and Denis Meyer became the executive producer on the re-master and it was re-issued last March 2011.

Then there was no more albums under the Symphonic Slam name. What happened and what were you up to in this time ?


I came back to the states to try and release SSII. I pressed 10,000 units and went to get distribution here. But I was about $200,000 short on my PR campaign. No support, no distribution.
I shelved the project and filed a BK.
After that I got very sick for a long time. My doctor told me "Whatever you have been doing all these years you better take time off or you're gonna die."
So took up oil painting, and started a large collection of international exotic Coleoptera and Lepidoptera ( Beatles and butterflies).
I went to Costa Rica, Southern Mexico, Trindad, Tobago, and collected bugs. I joined the Musium of Natural History, Lorquin society. and started displaying my collection at the various museums and universities. My goal was to collect every exotic bug in the world. And I'm telling you, I came pretty close to having a collection to rival that of the Museums. I also painted African wildlife, like Elephants, Rhino, etc. Did a lot of landscape paintings of Hawaii. Spent a lot of time collecting
on all the Hawaiian islands.
I also got married to my Kimberly, and had two sons: Timo Jr and Jesse.

You also have your own solo career. Please tell us more about your solo albums.


I figured it was time to get back in the swing of things, music wise. So after listening to players like Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and Eric Johnson, I figured I can pull that off.
So I started to record instrumentals featuring the guitar, but with a good dose of synth.

Musea re-released the debut Symphonic Slam album in 2001 if I am not mistaken. Please tell us more about how Musea got involved.


Bernard, the President of Musea Records, contacted me and asked if he could re-issue the first album.
So I contacted Universal and negotiated a mechanical License in favor of Musea Records. The re-issue came out, and I was
pleased to see the press was starting to put things back on the map


You resurrected the Symphonic Slam name again and released the third Symphonic Slam album called Her Fire in 2005 if I am not mistaken. Please tell us more about this album.



I figured since Musea is going to put the stuff out again I better write a follow up CD. I wrote and recorded Her Fire. The album was originally going to be called "Cave Canem"
which means "Beware of Dog" in Latin. But my wife said "Why are you calling an album full of love songs 'Beware of Dog?'" Duh!! So I named it HER FIRE and painted the cover with a two faced woman
I asked Les Carlsen (lead vocalist of BloodGood) to help with the vocals, since my voice was still out of shape. Noe Cruz on Bass, and Bob Winn on drums.

You are again working on a new Symphonic Slam album according to your homepage. Please tell us more about this new album and material.


I'm putting material together with a hopeful release date of 2012. Like the A&M release, this contains spiritual content, and will be a big production.
The first tune is 17 minutes inspired by Revelations.
I have a great keyboard player named Steve Eddy that rivals Linda Nardini and Dave Stone on this work. I also have Jeff Hull on Bass. I may use guest artists
also to be determined Maybe Jimmy Haslip. I have talked to producers as well including Ken Scot.

- Pro Review (Nov 24, 2011)

Timo Laine Symphonic Slam

Musea Records will be releasing
Timo Laine`s SSII cd world wide
in March 2011.
This CD is a re-issue of progressive music featuring the Timo`s first polyphonic guitar synthesizer system.
Artist on the release are Timo Laine, Linda Nardini, Jimmy Haslip, Jan Uvena, Now Cruz, John Lowery. Bonus trackes will be on the CD .

Musea Records (Nov 27, 2010)

BigNews.Biz - Sep 09,2011 - Wildomar, CA - Timo Laine Symphonic Slam defines guitar synthesizer. Synth Guitar Fans looking for guitar synthesizer are discovering Timo Laine Symphonic Slam. It's bold. Hard driving guitar synth Rock with sophistication. Timo Laine Symphonic Slam has a reputation for progressive rock. "Her Fire" is a must have for any Timo Laine Symphonic Slam collector. Timo Laine Symphonic Slam delivers innovative guitar. Timo Laine Symphonic Slam delivers amazing live guitar synth performances. For additional releases and appearance schedule, visit http://www.TimoLaineMusic.com.

Time to take the buds out and crank up the volume. This is rock that shatters expectations as if to say. "If it ain't Laine it's lame." Defining hard driving guitar synthesizer that makes your heart skip a beat, Symphonic Slam, is re-taking the throne with the aim to reign over the genre Timo Laine defined 35 years ago. Never gone, this artist and the band were just planning an explosion, time to wake the dead with every chord. They don't call it Symphonic Slam lightly. You haven't lived until you listen to "Sara". If you can't find the fireworks in Symphonic Slam you probably never will.

It's all there, the edge and sensation of soaring on notes. It's rock perfected to pure ecstasy. the variety is astounding, rhythm, beat, electric solos, defiant lyrics and endless energy. Timo Laine in the speakers and a Harley ride just might be as close to heaven as you can get on this side. True Rock fans will recognize the name and the music. As essential as air, you don't find this kind of power in ear buds. You haven't really experienced progressive rock until you play some heart stopping Slam. You won’t want to miss "Monotrim Project" by Timo Laine Symphonic Slam. Give it a listen.

About Timo Laine Symphonic Slam
Timo, over the years, has become known for his masterful guitar and guitar synthesizer styles. Timo released a ground breaking album with A&M Records worldwide in the early years of his career. The recording broke new ground as the first major guitar synthesizer work. Timo had hooked up six separate synthesizers to his Les Paul guitar. Each string had its own synth that could be set up separately. The guitar was played thru regular amplifiers, but the synthesizers were pumped thru a wall speakers and all blended together. The wall of sound that came from that setup was absolutely amazing. The album was called "Symphonic Slam" followed by "Symphonic Slam II", "Her Fire", and Timo`s latest cd, "Guitar Works Special Edition", a follow up of all instrumental compositions. Timo has performed with acts such as the Rolling Stones, BB King, Tina Turner, Rush, Chuck Berry, and many other major artists to name a few. On Timo's CD "Her Fire," Over the years Timo has worked with many notable artists on his albums including Noe Cruz, Jimmy Haslip, Bob Winn, Mike Meucci, Mark Vaughn, Dennis Brown, and Larry Class. The band includes Steve Eddy on keys, Jeff Hull on bass, and Mark Stevens

Timo Laine - short

Timo Laine
Timo, over the years, has become known for his masterful guitar style. Timo released a ground breaking album with A&M Records worldwide in the early years of his career.The recording ended up as being the first major guitar synthesizer release. The album was called "Symphonic Slam". What Timo had done was hook up six Oberhiem synthesizers to his Les Paul guitar. Each string had its own synthesizer that could be set up separately. The original Timo Laine Symphonic Slam cd is now available here at timolainemusic.com and CD Baby.
Symphonic Slam members were David Stone Keys, and John Lowery, on drums. David Stone moved on to play with Richie Blackmore, after Timo relocated back to Hollywood, to start work on Symphonic Slam SSII.
Prior to the A&M Records releases, Timo had recorded an album with Neil Merryweather, called Space Rangers. The album was recorded at Capital Records, and released by Mercury Records.

Timo`s cd, Guitar Works Special Edition,
is all instrumental .The music is in the flavor of material much like Joe Satriani, but with Timo`s extra dash of guitar synthesizer. Included on this cd are a great selection of guitar tones with, electric, acoustic, nylon, and guitar synthesizer. Guitar Works Special Edition was complimented by the styles of Jeff Hull on bass guitar.


Timo has performed with acts such as the Rolling Stones, BB King, Tina Turner, Rush, Chuck Berry, and many other major artists to name a few.
On Timo's CD "Her Fire," Les Carlsen, former lead man for the musical "Hair" and more recently, "Bloodgood", compliments the group on many of the tunes. Noe Cruz, Timo's bass man since the early years, performs with an aggressive edge on this work. Noe replaced Jimmy Haslip, during the production of the SSII album in the eighties because Jimmy, went on to form the group Yellow Jackets. Bob Winn, plays drums, and back up vocals, on Her Fire. Guest artists include: Mike Meucci: vocals, Mark Vaughn: drums, Dennis Brown: drums, and Larry Class: keyboards.
Musea Records acquired the rights from Universal Records to re-issue the first Symphonic Slam album CD worldwide in 2002.
In April of 2011 Musea Records re-issued
TIMO Symphonic Slam SSII world wide. SSII members were: Linda Nardini, keys, Jimmy Haslip, bass, Noe Cruz, Bass, Jan Uvena, Drums, and John Lowery , drums.

On this site, we are offering four releases:
Guitar Works Special Edition, Monotrim Project, Her Fire, and Symphonic Slam.
Symphonic Slam SSII is available on Musea Records, and Best of Symphonic Slam
will be out in March 2012 available on Itunes and Amazon