Sonata Arctica interview with Tony Kakko
Interviewed by EvilG
Questions conjured from the depths by EvilG and Luxi

 

I want to start it off and talk a little bit about the new album SILENCE. The album cover art is the first thing I want to cover. It looks very cool, I was hoping you could explain to me what the concept or symbolism is behind the cover?

Well the first thing when we started thinking of the concept we definitely wanted to have something different than we had last time around. We didnīt have anything to do with the cover actually. We didnīt have time to think or anything so that was taken care of by our label.

Well, it came out ok.

Yeah, it came out ok, but yeah, on the cover we had something I explain that we had something floating around there. (both laughing) Now, we could really think this thing over we wanted to definitely have nature. Thatīs really our thing. We live here in Northern Finland and have a lot of nature here. Iīm sure you have there also in Canada.

Yep, lots of woods, lots of animals. (laughing)

That also goes with our name, I mean, Arctica. Nature, that is what we started with. Definitely of course you have to have something else there also. Thatīs boring with landscape only so we split the whole thing. We actually have summer here. I feel that we donīt have really that long of a summer here.

 

No, same here too. So what is the reference with the split down the middle of the album anything in particular?

No, we just wanted to have the feel kind of thing there. The only symbolism thatīs really there is when thereīs this campfire and only one set of footprints leave there. That thing is like representing a snippet of your life that really makes you go one way or the other. Either way can be the good way, not the bad way necessarily. The SILENCE album is one of those things thatīs a bit different, a more difficult album....make it go one way or the other.

 

So why the name "Silence" anyway?

Well, we at first we wanted to go with a longer name. "Something of something something" or something like that (laughs). A long long name anyway because ECLIPTICA was a short name. My girlfriend actually came up with SILENCE. I came up with a bunch of ideas including the first track is really great. When I started thinking of the whole thing "Silence" is really important for me. Itīs a creating force because when youīre on the road for half a year or something like that I canīt make new music at all so I need something like a month or two to get my head working again. So thatīs my "silence" it seems. We had many a time to write the album like half a year actually when two guys went into the army.

 

That sounds like fun. Is that mandatory in Finland that everyone has to serve a certain amount of time?

Yeah either in Army or service if you are not interested you can also go to jail. (Laughing) The army is the easiest way out, really the shortest time.

 

So how hard was "Silence" to write and then record as compared to your last full length album?

Well, we were really excited, we didnīt think all that much. It was a new experience for us, I learned a lot of stuff. Many songs from our demo tapes. I donīt fully, itīs hard to think of it as a real album yet. Itīs a learning experience something like that. This was, it was harder to go into "Silence". I had a lot of these "writers blocks" during the time. I had no idea what to write. We had a bunch of fast songs. New Years eve I was like "oh fuck we only have fast songs" this is going to throw off the whole album is too fast. Luckily we had more studio time, actually one and a half so we, I wrote a few slower songs here and there and we got it fairly good time.

 

Do you write the songs in conjunction with your guitar player or do you come up with some of this yourself on guitar or keyboards?

I write all the songs but everybody is like arranging. Jani I think is arranging things so strong itīs almost like composing but anyway the vocal lines, lyrics and melody, stuff like that there are mine. But Jani has such strong opinions on many things I can tell him this is incredible shit then he comes out with something better. That is the way to work for us.

 

So, from the new album if you could or if you can would you be able to pick one song, your favorite or has a very special meaning above the other songs or is it kind of hard to pick one like that?

Well, itīs kind of easier for me to pick three songs. That would be slower songs: "The End of This Chapter",  "Last Drop Falls" and "Sing In Silence" so far are my favorite tracks on the album. Iīm not one for fast songs, although they are nice, those songs have been around for a longer time so Iīve bored of them already. Although itīs more fun to sing live the slower songs, they have more time to play with their vocals.

 

I see. So you just did your first video for the song 'Wolf And Raven'. Can you tell me something about the making of the video and the kind of process you went through to film it and piece it all together?

It took two nights, springtime here, in May. For me it was hard because I was awake something like 28 hours or more the first night. Then I got to sleep like 3 or 4 hours and would have to wake again in four hours so I was beat. So itīs a lot of fun of course. Itīs a new thing for us to finally make a video. Weīve been waiting for that a long time. Well we actually didnīt know that much about making a video, although I have been studying the whole thing. The last few years Iīve been able to be there that much.

 

And has your video been aired much in Finland or does it get rotation on local music stations there?

Not that much. They don't play metal videos. It has been played like once in a music program. It hasnīt been in rotation. It was mainly made for you know Japan and things like that. Itīs also nice because nowadays you can get the videos on the internet now and commercials so maybe so people can see us maybe.

 

So how many albums is your deal with Spinefarm Records for?

Itīs three. We have one more to go.

Right, so do you think you will still be working with them on some level after the next album or have you thought that far ahead yet?

At the moment I think yes we could of course negotiate a new deal, a better one. After the third album, Iīm leaving all the doors open. So you never know whatīs going to happen with the next album. [Right, yeah] At the moment Iīm really happy in this business and definitely want to continue. If everything goes well.

 

Have you ever thought that you would attain as much success and fame as quickly as you did and how do you handle this kind of success because once you get popular fans or people see you on the street and kind of want to say "hello" and you donīt even know who they are but everyone kind of knows you, you know what I mean, is it hard to try to cope with that kind of thing?

Well, I think weīre not that popular anywhere, maybe in Japan, I donīt know I havenīt seen it yet. Of course since the first album got everywhere we were voted newcomer of the year in many many places quite high on those charts. So that was a big surprise for us. We didnīt really expect that much of really anything. It was lots of fun to to make the first album then everybody began to notice and that was a blast. We got on charts in Europe with STRATOVARIUS which was something unbelievable!! Itīs kind of relative when I think of these "boy bands" (both laugh) Definitely everybody will notice them when they walk down the street. We donīt have that problem. [Yeah, I guess.] Well in Finland at the moment when you go into places you can expect people to know your name. That is a good thing of course...to get backstage and stuff like that without fighting. (both laughing) But wer'e not BIG stars anyway.

 

You recently made a guest appearance on the new NIGHTWISH Ep "Over The Hills And Far Away" I was wondering what it was like to be given the opportunity to sing along side a vocalist like Tarja from NIGHTWISH?

It was lovely, fantastic! They are friends of mine so Tuomas asked me because he had to sing these parts (the "male" vocals parts in some of the songs) so he asked me to do them I have been doing that at quite a bit of shows of theirs. Tarja is a beautiful woman. Definitely a choice to sing with her. Hopefully this will be something for the future also....

Yeah, I recently interviewed Thomas and he said that perhaps their next album youīd be asked to do some more guest appearances. [Ok, so thatīs not a secret] No, so obviously youīd be into doing that?

Yeah, definitely that would be a blast...taken that we donīt have anything booking at the same time but definitely I want to help make a NIGHTWISH album again.

 

A couple questions regarding your lyrics I was wondering in particular about the new song 'Web Allergy'. Is this about, do you feel "allergic" to the internet or do you hate the internet or something?

No, no, no... this is a completely sarcastic song (laughing). First of all I thought ok this would be the starting track, first real song on the album. We would have sort of the same feeling as the first album.

Like "Blank File", you mean?

Yeah, like 'Blank File' number two, a sequel. Itīs kind of the same way. To be honest I like the internet with emails, MP3īs things. Well bootlegging and piracy is something....It makes it way too easy and is eating a lot of money from artists. It's wrong definitely and Iīm against that. This song was meant to be sarcastic. We definitely, the first album we have a lot of lyrics that arenīt desirable for a "metal" band or something...like metal bands can't have this kind of lyrics. They are too mellow (laughs). So I think that I was listening to a few metal albums from the real "TRUE METAL" bands and I noticed that the lyrics they are like "out there". Some of it is really, really corny. Ok so you live, you will die...what an obvious thing!  

So you canīt see yourself writing a song about the "power and glory of metal" or flying on dragons or something?

(Both laughing) No, no, no...weīre not going to kill anybody with our flaming swords and fly away with our dragons. I like to write about things that can actually happen to people. [Right, yeah] In the end I think that is more rewarding because every now and again you hear that song has actually touched a person really deeply and that it has actually happened to him or her. Like in the case of "Shy". One of the most mellow songs that we have ever done according to others.

 

That brings me to a question about a character thatīs been in, mentioned in, well one song was dedicated to the character and mentioned in another and that is "Dana O'Hara". Itīs in "Letter To Dana" and itīs in "Shy" from successor and thereīs a line in there: "You canīt be acting like my Dana.. I was wondering if this character is made up or is it based on any real person that you know of?

No, I donīt think any people that I know actually know my music. I won't use anybody's names and their reference is there but only they can notice maybe. But Dana....whew...X-Files! (both laughing) I needed a name [Letter to Scully (laughs] I thought Dana would be nice. It was written back when it was a new series I think.  So when I went and wrote the track "Shy" I put the same name there and to see if people will notice it....and they have! This is a very popular question y'know? [I bet! The lyrics do sound like a true, but sad, story].

Is there any reference to "Dana" on the new album? I havenīt found one yet.

No, I think thereīs not. I havenīt noticed (laughs) This album has "Tallulah" - a new lady, new album.

Thatīs a great song. [Thank you] So many, including myself, kind of think that SONATA ARCTICA are kind of like the new "Kings of Power Metal" or whatever you call it. Thatīs what I wanted to ask you about the label of the band, do you mind being called Power Metal or do you prefer Melodic Metal or do you think none of those categories fit what your music is about?

I always think that itīs "Melodic Metal". Thatīs is the easiest thing to me because melody is very important to me and we all think we sound something like metal so...haha - Melodic Metal.  They are all the same for me really....thereīs so many names its kind of confusing.

I know it keeps growing everyday so it seems! :)

Yeah, Iīve heard (laughs) but for me it is Melodic Metal.

That brings me to the next question which is when I listen to your music itīs easy to notice that there is a strong emphasis put on catchy melodies that stick to your mind after hearing them. I was wondering is the first thing when you are writing a song that you come up with,  a melody line from which around that the song is then born?

Yeah, usually, something like that. Like in the case of 'Wolf And Raven'. Actually I only had a little  part and knew what I was going to sing already, the rest was like a blur. Then I started writing lyrics and came up with melodies at the same time. Melodies are the most important things. For thus there is really no music without melody, they mean so much.

 

So which of your guys have the sharpest ears for writing these catchy melodies?

That would be maybe me....writing all the lyrics and music. The other guys, they have never done anything really new (laughs)....so thank you.

 

Right. So, STRATOVARIUS seem to be considered one of the leading Melodic Metal bands these days and I was wondering how they have welcomed you into the scene and how much do you think you have to give credit to them for helping you guys out and making your name a little more well known?

Well absolutely everything. In the first place we would not be playing this kind of music style without STRATOVARIUS being there. Part of the music we played before I found the the VISIONS album in '97 was something like pop rock or whatever, some weird mixture of just about anything. When I heard that album I definitely wanted to play their songs as covers. Then I thought maybe I could write a similar kind of music. Thatīs how we got started in the first place and got the recording deal. Of course we were with all the guys on the European tour and the were friends. I have no idea how much they have talked about us in interviews. Jorg, their drummer, he has been an enormous help to us. He's done so much. We got a drum deal and everything like that thanks to him.

 

So regarding touring I hear you will be doing some shows in Japan this fall thereby being your first time playing there I believe. What are your expectations that you have for playing there because itīs obvious thereīs a lot of fans because I read that in the first week of release of SILENCE there was something like 27000 copies sold which is pretty impressive?

Yeah...that was quite a surprise for us. We expected something like 10 or 15 thousand because the first album sold in 9 days something like 12000. They have done a lot of commercials and promotion there. They have done really good work. Well, the tour...with these sales I have no idea what to expect. Maybe we have quite a few fans there now so the show should be a blast. 

 

Who are you playing with in Japan? Are you the headliners or going with someone else?

I think we are the headliners. We arenīt quite a big band like STRATOVARIUS or IRON MAIDEN maybe but I am sure we will be the headliner, maybe the only act. I donīt know yet. We have a plan to maybe do a live album there, thatīs scary!

Wow, has that been finalized yet or just talk now?

Just talk. It might be a bit early to make a live album but I hope it goes well.

 

I have been hearing rumours that SONATA ARCTICA are going to be doing a one off show in Montréal, Canada this fall. I donīt know if there is any truth to this, I have just been reading rumors about it....

First of all we had the idea of coming there early this fall then Japan came in and messed the whole thing up and then the European tour came in and messed the whole thing up. At the moment, the earliest we can come there is November I think. That is only talk, I have no idea if we will come there then or later. Canada is one place that has proven to be a "metal place" lately. Many Finnish band's have played there and have had a great time like NIGHTWISH. I definitely want to come there but I donīt know if we will have the time but when. We will come there, sure.

You should have a Finnish metal festival here in Canada. You and NIGHTWISH and STRATOVARIUS. All you guys come over it would be great!

It would be great to have such a thing. You never know....a Stratovarius festival. But the next show for them will be something like in a year and a half. They had their last show here a few days ago.

 

You recently supported RATT, DIO and ALICE COOPER in Helsinki on the Monsters of the Millennium tour. What kind of experience was that for you and did you get any kind of reactions from these bigger bands on what they thought of the SONATA ARCTICA? Did you meet any of these guys or anything?

Oh yeah, we met DIO.. he was a great guy, old, yet so full of energy. [Heīs immortal (laughing)]. I would think so yeah. Itīs funny heīs so sarcastic but a funny guy. Then we met the RATT guys but they were like.....ok I didnīt quite understand  everything that they did. I tried to talk with one guy but he didnīt say anything other then just make this metal hail and they go "oh yeahhhh!!". Ok, thatīs maybe the way to talk with them?!! (laughs) I was actually the only guy who met Alice Cooper. I didnīt meet him much but got my head in. We were in the back of the venue backstage and their security guy came and stopped me there. "Wait right there" so I stood there and said "holy shit, thatīs the big guy!". That was the only chance I got to meet him or see him. It was a confusing experience the whole thing. When I heard the staff they had with them they liked us. I donīt know if I should say this but in Sweden, I donīt know if I should say this, but whatever band they had with them were quite crappy. 

 

You also did a tour last year with RHAPSODY and STRATOVARIUS. I was wondering what you learned from that experience and how aware the people were you were playing with.

We were very green. We had only played a few shows here in Finland. We didnīt know much of anything. That was a big learning experience. They talked a lot to us about what to do and what not to do. For me it was amazing to know that due to some sort of piracy or bootlegs that people knew our music so well. Just about every place like in Italy. People were singing. I had no idea whether the album has been released there. It was a great experience though.

 

A couple questions now regarding the past and beginnings of the band. Firstly, are your demo recordings that you did under the name "TRICKY BEANS" still available and if so how does one get a copy.

(laughing) That is for you to find out. Ah, we donīt sell those or give those away to a few of our friends. Those things they have sold something like I donīt know how many copies for a demo but Iīm sure you can find them if you really, really want to have them from somewhere. I bet they are on the internet by now.

 

And how about the name "TRICKY BEANS"? Iīm glad you changed the name (laughing). What was so "tricky" about the beans?

We had a song by the same name 'Tricky Beans' about a lady who was tricky and I didnīt really know what I was talking about (laughing). We didnīt have a name and we had a first show coming up. So we had to come up with something. We were not really metal so the name didnīt have to mean anything like "Stratovarius" or "metal kings" or anything like that (laughing) so TRICKY BEANS was the easiest choice for us. Kind of...well the first show was quite a success for us. The people knew us by that name.

 

So why did you decide to change?

To SONATA ARCTICA? [Yeah] Well, when we got the deal definitely it came up that... "tricky beans" -  you canīt sell metal albums with such a terrible, shitty name. Also the label was asking would you consider changing your name.. (laughs) So a friend of ours came up with SONATA ARCTICA for a moment.

 

I assume the name refers to "sonata" with the music and "arctica" with your geographical location I guess. [Yeah] Makes sense. All the band members I believe are from a small town in Norther Finland I believe called Kemi. Is the main reason why you have decided to record your full length albums there at the Tico Tico Studios is it just because of convenience?

Well that is one reason. The albums there, the quality is really good and not all that expensive. Especially for us because we donīt have to pay for any hotel rooms or anything like that..it's home. We can easily just do some extra hours there. We can go in at nights and no one is really excited to come and see us or bug us from the south (of Finland). So we have a peaceful island there. It's the best place for us. I would really not like to go to any bigger studios like Finnvox for recording.

 

Do you all still live in Kemi or do you have houses in Helsinki as well?

No we really all live there except for Mikko our keyboard player who lives in different places all the time. The rest of the band lives here in Kemi.

 

I was wondering how you guys first met each other and decided to start the band in the first place?

Well itīs a funny story actually. The newest member, the bass player actually brought all these guys together in the first place. Then he asked me to join as the singer. I asked what we were going to play and the music was MEGADETH and SPIN DOCTORS (laughs) mixture. Anything, it was a terrible mixture but also he was the guy who started the whole thing. Then we changed our line-up a bit during the years mainly with the bass player. At first we fired our original bass player and then this new guy, he started, he was playing guitar actually earlier (second guitar) then he  started playing bass. Then he quit because he thought we werenīt going anywhere. Then we got back our ex-bass player, the third one. Got a recording deal in something like two or three months. So I was really shamed that Marko the new bass player left (just before we got the recording contreact). Marco the bass player is a really great guy, one of my best friends. So now when bassist Janne Kivilahti decided to leave after the STRATOVARIUS tour it was like easiest choice for me to ask Marko to come back to the band.

 

Ok, Iīm just about done but I just wanted to see if you would mind if I mentioned a few band names to you and you could tell me a few words on what that band means to you if you like them or how theyīve influenced you or something.. do you mind?

Yeah, yeah, I donīt mind, go ahead.

 

Iīll start out with a Finnish band and thatīs AMORPHIS.

AMORPHIS, not the most exciting live act in the world.

Yeah, I saw them live in April actually their music was great but they were like statues. (laughing)

I enjoy their albums but...(laughing). Yeah, the music is, theyīre really a big name worldwide maybe the biggest name in Finnish Metal acts..

 

How about RHAPSODY?

RHAPSODY.. yeah, cheerful guys, great band. I didnīt know their music before the European that well. I had heard something like two or three songs. But now I have all their albums. Luca Turilli is an excellent composer although Iīm not that much into his dragon things but the music, the melodies stuff like that they really hit me.

 

How about from the other end of the spectrum a band like SLAYER?

SLAYER.. I really do not know that (laughs). Actually I heard a week ago CHILDREN OF BODOM they have done this cover, I donīt know if itīs for some tribute album or something like that. It was maybe the first SLAYER song I have ever heard. I donīt know whether it was played in the same way. Everybody says that the guitar players are not that good. (ed. note: No way!!!! SLAYERRRRRR!) That's all I know.

 

Ok. How about HELLOWEEN?

HELLOWEEN, the new album is not my favorite. Actually I donīt have any of their older albums either but I have heard them. They have never been a big band for me actually. STRATOVARIUS, I'm sure they have listened to Helloween so they have influenced the second generation. They have definitely done a lot for this sort of music. Everybody owes something to them and IRON MAIDEN.

 

How about MÖTLEY CRÜE?

Well... I was so young when they were big. I came up and noticed the band for the first time when they released this "Decade Of Decadence" collection. A Rock N Roll band obviously. They had a few good songs.

 

Last one. How about a classic band that many people consider started out the whole genre of Metal and that is BLACK SABBATH?

Hmm...not my music, I donīt like their stuff. I have never owned their albums I have only heard a few songs. It's not my thing. 

 

So what bands from Metal or even from Rock or other types of music do you look upon as being something that you do consider an influence that kind of thing?

QUEEN and of course STRATOVARIUS.

 

Is there any other news or information about the band that you would like me to let people know about?

Yeah, we will release a new single sometime somewhere, at least in Finland. In Japan we will release a mini-CD with two cover songs and one remake for "Mary Lou".

You going to re-record it?

Yeah, weīve done it already. "Mary Lou" is now a ballad, acoustic kind of version of it.

What songs did you pick to cover?

Weīll start with 'Die With Your Boots On' from IRON MAIDEN. Thatīs going to maybe be on a tribute album and then I donīt know, I don't remember who had written it but Bette Midlerīs 'The Wind Beneath My Wings'. [Right, thatīs different (laughs)] A kind of a Rock N Roll version of that. I hope itīs cool, I haven't heard it yet myself.

 

Well, all the best and thanks for your time.

Thank you and see you out there when we come there!

Yeah definitely!

OK cool!!


Transcription kindly provided by Skyklad from
The Metal Gospel!!!!!!!

Thanks to Tuula and Spinefarm Records from Finland for giving me
the opportunity to speak with a member of one of my favorite bands.

Visit the official Sonata Arctica webpage at
www.SonataArctica.com


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