Heart of Steel: Interviews

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Interview With Sonata Arctica
Vocalist - Tony Kakko

Interview By Luxi Lahtinen

Sonata Arctica - those unbeatable Power Metal specialists far up from the North - are ready to conquer the Power Metal world with their third studio album, entitled WINTERHEARTīS GUILD. This release is again a step further musically and hopefully they are also on their way toward more successful and better times. I got a chance to talk to the true brainchild of Sonata Arctica, Tony Kakko, a short while ago where he revealed a thing or two about their newest ībaby.ī 

 

 

Your new album will hit stores here in Finland 10th of March. Itīs been blessed by the name, WINTERHEARTīS GUILD. Could you tell us what kind of expectations do you personally have about this new album?

sonata-pic4.jpg (19266 bytes)Well, since our last album SILENCE didnīt reach a īmagical statusīof a gold record here in Finland, I hope that we could go one step closer to that landmark with this new album. It could be something sort of an ultimate dream for me personally to sell gold here in Finland. I have to say that it would be really damn cool. And if we did, then I would run into some tattoo shop to get my first Sonata Arctica tattoo in order to celebrate it, he-he!! To be honest with you, thatīs something I have been dreaming about it all this time. Hopefully we could eventually reach that status anyway. Letīs see what will happen in the coming months…

 

 

May I ask how many copies of your SILENCE album was sold here in Finland then?

I assume something like 9000 thousands units; maybe a bit more than that. Iīm not so sure. So we still are quite far away from that gold album status with SILENCE, so hopefully with WINTERHEARTīS GUILD we are gonna cross that mark, or even come a bit closer to it. We wonīt take any pressures out of this at all, tho. If itīs about to sell gold, then fine - if not, well, thatīs too bad!

 

 

Would you let us know why you ended up choosing this particular title for the name of this album? Whatīs the whole story behind the album title actually?

First off, we all thought that since our previous album had only one word in the title (i.e. SILENCE), our next album would contain a longer title this time. We even considered having a longer name to our latter album, but somehow it became just SILENCE which is a short, but a rather pithy name in my opinion at least. We actually had a quite long list of album titles as competitive candidates for the album title. We were all pondering the title quite intensively, but kind of never came up any good suggestion for it until I saw the front cover artwork for it with a bit closer yet more observing eye. First off, the front cover art has the four seasons and all these 4 seasons have been gathered together to some clearing of a forest, and out of these 4 seasons, itīs autumn hands over the spectre of the all four seasons to winter on the front cover. And now when we have winter here in Finland with lots of snow, frost and stuff - especially in the northern part of Finland where I live - winter also dominates the concept of the cover and therefore has been privileged and honored to name the guild formed by all these four seasons as “Winterheartīs Guild”. And thatīs where the name for this album came from. I think itīs a really fitting name for this album anyway.

 

 

 

Spinefarm also released a single titled VICTORIAīS SECRET as some sort of īteaserī out of this forth-coming album. What kind of response have you gotten out of it thus far? I guess all this response must have been rather positive and even relatively flattering for you, right?

Yeah, most of the response for this single has been received via email or through our guest book so far. I really have to confess you that I donīt hang around the town too much, so response given face-to-face has been rather minimal thus far. I spend lots of time at home īcause I feel that's  a very comfortable place for me for some strange reason! And when I go downtown, I'm usually left in peace alone, which is cool. Nonetheless most of the people have really liked our single thus far - without a few of exceptions that obviously have hated us since day one. But I basically ignore their comments totally īcause they are not our fans, so… Well, so what?! They are of course, entitled to their opinions. But as far as all the response from our true fans is concerned, itīs been very overwhelming toward the single thus far. I cannot say I could complain a bit. Iīve been following our message board a lot during these past few weeks or so - and have also trying to reply back to our fans as much as I have been able to do so. Time is always a bit restrictive thing for me, but when I have got the time, Iīll try to keep our fans happy by replying back to them as much as possible. Time just always seems to be a rather restrictive factor from time to time, though.

 

 

As far as I have been informed, your previous album SILENCE seemed to be kind of a īhit albumī in such countries as Japan and Korea at least. The selling numbers for it were unbelievably good, so that makes me ask from you whether you felt some sort of pressure when you started writing songs for this new album, kind of sensing that your next album would better be at least equally as good as SILENCE was - even if not better mostly music-wise, but also lyricly as well?

sonata-pic3.jpg (19647 bytes)Actually I have always been saying that making your third album is always kind of hard to make in its own way as it supposed to be your breakthrough album in your career. It should tell you is that your band is going to fail or keep on heading toward some kind of success. I have always been believing that all the pressures are caused by artistic matters more than anything else really, so that the whole album could be satisfying enough as far as the whole package with cover artworks, layout, etc, are all concerned. Well, let me explain a bit more. We did our last gig 27th of July 2002 when we were touring for SILENCE and a studio was booked for us as early as 15th of September already which meant that I only had one and a half month time to come up with all these songs for this album plus another two months that we spent in the studio for the recording. During all that time, I was very intensely working my ass off for this album. I have to confess you that it was a really stressful time for me just because I was thinking that time was running out too quickly and I wouldnīt be able to write all the material ready for this particular album. I also need to say that when I have been forced to write a song for Sonata Arctica in an extreme hurry, it has never worked out the most satisfying way for any of us. I mean the way that everyone could be happy with the final result. It just doesnīt work out for me if all my spare time goes into a song writing and I donīt have a chance to do anything else for a change. Yīknow, if you have thrown a gig at some place and go home right after that, you donīt start thinking of song writing thing for the band right away. Thatīs not something how it works for me. But anyway, back to the root of your original question again, what I tried to say with all of this is that all the pressures for this album came from some other matters as a matter of speaking. Just think about this: If you have got only one and a half months to do from 10 to 15 songs for an album, even the whole idea sounds very impossible. I just got that much of time to come up with the songs for WINTERHEARTīS GUILD and Iīm glad that I got the songs were almost finished before we entered the studio. But it was a very stressful period for me personally, I can tell.

 

 

Letīs go back in time a little bit with the next question, shall we? Your now ex-keyboard player Mikko Harkin made an official statement in September last year that he has decided to leave Sonata Arctica in order to go on with some other important activities in his own life. Did that bring some pressures to the band as well? He was an essential part of Sonata Arcticaīs rich sound that both expands your music further nicely and brings some depth into it as a single instrument. How major of a loss was it actually to let him go for good?

Well, of course it was a great loss for us. Anyway, letīs keep in our minds that I played lots of these keyboard parts on our SILENCE album as well, actually most of them - mainly because we thought that it wouldnīt have much sense for Mikko to come from Turku where he studies, (located in the southern part of Finland; one of the 10 biggest cities in Finland - Luxi adds!) all the way up to north, Oulu, and play all the keyboards parts for that album as I was able to play some of them myself, too. Besides as I live in the same town where the studio is located, it made a hell of a lot sense for me to go there and record some of that stuff for that particular album instead of Mikko. But to answer to your original question, I donīt think that we felt that pressured even if Mikko decided to quit the band īcause I somehow had this strange premonition about him over a year ago - sometime in December 2001 to be more accurate - that he might well leave us soon. He gave us a few of signals toward that kind of direction that he wasnīt fully into this band anymore. Luckily I was far-sighted enough that I took a contact to Jens Johansson (that child prodigy of Stratovarius with keyboards!) in advance, asking him whether he might be interested in contributing our next album with some keyboard solos and stuff if Mikko decides to leave us. Much to my surprise he was totally into the idea and said to me: “Thank you for asking. Iīm very honored to play on your next album if you allow me to contribute it with some keyboard stuff…”. It was a very absurd for me personally that Jens, whoīs a true wizard with the keyboards, thanked me for letting him play on our next album. Yīknow, it was definitely US who felt a great gratitude toward him for having this unique opportunity to get such a talented musician to contribute this album. I for one felt very honored at least for hearing those words from him. Jens told us anyway that it would have better for Sonata Arctica if we convinced Mikko somehow to stay in the band as heīs such an important and talented musician for our band. But at that point thereīs so little to do in order to turn his mind and try to keep him in the band any longer. He had already made his decision and we just couldnīt do anything about it. But on the other hand, it was a good thing that Mikko left us eventually thinking of Sonata Arcticaīs future because he just wasnīt motivated and devoted enough to this thing any longer. He simply understood that he couldnīt go on this way as he couldnīt give his best effort and dedication to the band. Then he let us know about his īproblemī and finally stepped aside in order to give an opportunity for a more dedicated guy to play in the band than he was at that time. It was best for all of us. But ever since Mikko quit the band, we have been stayed friends with him. No hard feelings or anything, even if we naturally were a bit sorry for his decision to leave us. Then some time passed by and we started looking for a new keyboard player for our band via our own website. We got around 35-40 applications for this job mainly from Finland, but some other countries as well. Then we chose two best ones out of all these candidates who traveled all the way up to Kemi and put them to kind of īan ultimate testī. We rehearsed with them first in order to see how skillful players they were indeed. After rehearsals we wanted to test them as persons in order to see if the chemistry was there and they could come along with the other band members as well. That has always been a very important factor to us - sort of an ideal chemistry - where we have laid lots of weight on, too. We boozed the way Finnish people most often do i.e. īrather heavilyī in order to see whether they could only īactī something they are not in reality. Testing that by alcohol surely is a nice way to find out some certain things, -he-he! When you are under the influence of alcohol, you are kind of vulnerable, yīknow. You are a real yourself and cannot fake that much at all. That was a rather īevilī yet ītwistedī war plan from us against them indeed, but luckily we found our guy that way. Mikkoīs mantle was taken by a guy named Henrik Klingenberg who also plays keyboards in such Power Metal troops as Requiem, and Silent Voices, by the way.

 

 

Did you get any applications from īfamous candidatesī that are either fairly known or well-known worldwide already?

We got a couple of applications from some Finnish guys who already have their own bands going on and are also quite known outside of Finland as well. These particular guys would already have been determined enough to leave their own bands if we had been chosen either one of them for our new keyboard player. No names will be revealed, however, īcause I just donīt want to cause any problems to these guys, yīknow. Then I got one application from one guy straight from London, England, and this guy also plays keyboards in some Power/Battle Metal band into vein of Rhapsody and the likes. Well, since Sonata Arctica doesnīt fit too well into that Battle Metal category, we let him go.

 

 

What kind of criteria did you actually use for finding an ideal keyboardist for the band? 

We thought since the beginning that this opportunity was given to everyone who could prove to be the right person for this job - and never thought of choosing between either Finnish-speaking or non-Finnish guys. This was meant for everybody! Any guy who could have had enough skills and visions to understand what Sonata Arctica is musically all about, would have got this job - being a Finnish or a non-Finnish guy - it didnīt matter. Remember how Stratovarius chose Jens Johansson back in the day, for example? He joined to them as a volunteer and I guess they couldnīt have chosen any better in my opinion as Jens is one of the best keyboard players around these days, without a doubt. But in the same breath, I need to confess that the easiest alternative for us was to stick with Henrik īcause he already has the same kind of background with the rest of us; the same culture, the very same climate, language, etc. We even got one candidate all the way from Mexico and even if the guy was a really phenomenal and talented keyboardist technically and all that, we did have sort of a communication problem. Namely the application that he sent us over here via snail mail, stated the following yet unfortunate fact: “I duo speek not Enklisch verry well…”, so what can you really do then, but write back to him and say politely that: “Speak English or die…”, -he-he!! You do need a language to communicate with other people, right?! Also, there was one 15-year-old French īkidī who sent us an application for this open position, hoping to get an invitation from us to be our new keyboard player in Sonata Arctica and where he tried to convince us that he would be ready to move out of his country to Kemi if we chose him for the job - just no matter what it takes. Sure… Think - he was only 15-year-old and telling us that he would be completely ready to move over here. We told him that sorry, but you certainly are not, kind of like taking īa father - a sonī -role with him.

 

 

So, what kind of things mattered to you then when you chose Henrik for your new keyboardist?

Well - as far as I know - both Silent Voices and Requiem have recorded their debut albums at Tico Tico Studios even if Iīm not 100% sure about Requiem. At least Silent Voices recorded their album there some while ago. Actually Henrik Klingenberg was first recommended to us by the owner of that studio - Ahti Kortelainen. He was telling us while we were recording this new album at Tico Tico that Silent Voices also visited his studio and recorded their CHAPTERS OF TRAGEDY album there, and he was very amazed by how talented musicians they all were in that band. Especially he paid lots of attention to the outstanding playing style of the bandīs keyboard player named Henrik Klingenberg, who also sent some material to us. We all thought that he could be a very potential candidate to fill up Mikkoīs boots in our band, so we decided to invite him to Kemi for our lilī īdrinking testī, he-he!! The demo he sent to us, really showed us perfectly how impressive a keyboardist Henrik truly was. But itīs no wonder īcause he has been playing keyboards for that long already in these two other bands of his. This other candidate who we invited to come over to Kemi, was also a very good keyboardist, but the chemistry between us and him wasnīt as good as we hoped for if we compare it to the one that was achieved between us and Henrik.

 

 

As far as I have been informed, Henrik has announced to continue with his other bands, Silent Voices and Requiem, as well.

Yeah, itīs perfectly OK for us if he also continues with his other two bands 'cause we cannot do gigs with Sonata Arctica for 6-8 months in a row. I know that thereīs gonna be a break for us from gigging in the end of the year when I will probably start my song writing process all over again. That break gives Henrik a good opportunity to do gigs and play with both Silent Voices and Requeim. We simply cannot say to him that he shouldnīt be involved with those bands any longer īcause that wouldnīt be fair toward him at all. But then we wanted him to understand that if we chose him to play keyboards in Sonata Arctica from now on, this would be his main priority after that. And he agreed with us about it completely. We didnīt have to twist his wrist in order to make him understand some of these īhardī facts, ha-ha!!

 

 

As we were already touching the topic concerning keyboards as an essential part of Sonata Arcticaīs sound in general, I was just pondering whether you find it as a rather challenging task to use keyboards for composing?

Of course it may feel kind of challenging to compose songs for Sonata Arctica from time to time just because I also have to do all vocals, lyrics, etc. for the band. Especially this time when time was running out for this album, I felt a bit more pressured than usual, as I had to work so intensively all the time. But since I consider myself some sort of a keyboard player, too - basically using keyboards heavily for composing songs for the band - it actually wasnīt that bad thing to get the album done within that short period of time. Of course, I also have to admit in the very same breath that now when I just had to play the keyboards all by myself for this particular album, it meant an extra load of work for me. Plus, figuring out how both songs and my vocal parts would eventually turn out for the album, meant also some extra efforts from me. This time I put some extra weight on my vocals for the album, too - actually pretty much more than on the last album. Naturally when you have this many things to be sorted out for the album, the pressure is always there as an extra element.

 

 

Why donīt you ease up your burden or writing the songs with other guys as well? Canīt they either compose decent songs or write good enough lyrics?

He, he… actually I can think of two reasons for this at the moment. First: Either they really cannot do any of those things properly enough you just mentioned about… Or second: They are just happy enough with everything I do for this band. I really cannot tell you which way it is exactly, but I do hope that they could be happy with my way of doing songs for Sonata Arctica. On the other hand, I also wish that the other guys in this band could have that much creativity, talent and guts that they could take part of the song writing process sometime, too. Both our bassist Marko and guitarist Jani are more into Progressive Metal and have this funny tendency to play guitar heroes from time to time, so letīs see whether they would like to save some of their energies and efforts for this song writing thing, too, -he-he!! Weīll see that in the future for sure. I guess our music might take some new shapes then and probably there could be some īinteresting twists & turnsī in our lyrics as īpleasant surprisesī then, too - who knows, -he! he!!

 

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You were just saying a while ago that you only had that 1 and ― months to get everything done for the album. Did you ever feel like you might have needed some help from other band mates because of the pressure to get everything done for the new album?

I have constantly been telling the guys since our demo days that if they have some ideas that they would like to bring to our rehearsals, then bring them on and letīs work out with them altogether. But none of them have brought anything to our rehearsals so far; I donīt know why it is the way it is.

 

 

Maybe their interest have more been directed to some other factors in their life than the song writing?

Probably so, I donīt know. I for one have a burning passion to write songs for the band all the time anyway. I just cannot help it a bit.

 

 

Can you tell us then whatīs actually your own driving force that keeps you writing songs for the band? Where do you get all that energy, creative juices and passion from for the song writing thing?

Hard to say. Itīs just there… somewhere. Maybe itīs just some sort of a īgiftī that is reigning in me constantly. I donīt consider song writing any kind of that hard effort for me at all for some reason. Many times these songs just come to my head and I start working with them. Itīs actually as simple as that. If you try to force yourself any way to compose songs, then it all eventually starts to get boring for yourself. Most often I just start playing some melody line or just anything without thinking too much that I should make a song for the band now - and thatīs the situation when you usually get the best ideas for your songs really. In the other words a song comes together like itself when you get in that specific mood, yīknow.

 

 

What kind of things basically inspire your song writing then? Now Iīm basically referring to some non-musical matters with this question.

Movies in general could be considered as a good source for my ideas as far as the song writing goes. It even can be a love story where you may get out of some crazy ideas and a song may well turn out be a very aggressive and fast eventually, like being a completely opposite thing to the atmosphere of this certain romantic movie. But generally you may get inspired by anything possible around you in life. An inspiration may come through your own eyes, ears, doings, etc… Itīs kind of hard to restrict to anything special as a matter of speaking īcause you are able to get inspired by so many things.

 

 

As your life up īnorthī as Kemi is located, Kemi is relatively known for its great nature and landscapes; especially when itīs winter over there and you have got tons of snow and frost there.

Yeah, thatīs one of those things I consider as a very good inspiration for my song writing thing of the band. But when I go out to the forest, I donīt go there in order to get īinspiredī by it.

 

 

You donīt go to the forest and climb on to some branch of a tree and start getting inspired the way as some īfamous Pop-starī usually does, he-he.

He-he-he… no, Iīm not like him at all whom you were referring to. But I have to confess you that even if I can compose songs, I cannot write down a single note for them because I have no skills to do them as strange as it may sound to you.

 

 

Whatīs the hardest thing for you personally to get a song finished from start to finish? Lyrics, catchy enough chorus parts, vocals or what?

Hmm… I have to say that itīs kind of tough to write short enough songs for this band from time to time, I mean the way the song itself sounds reasonable long enough without being like from 6 to 8 or more minutes long and so on. Sometimes you just may go mad with some certain song and add so many parts to it as possible which really isnīt that necessary at all. But luckily I have already experienced enough with this whole thing, so nowadays I do have some sort of a īrecipeī in my head which tells me how many basic parts it is OK to include for one song. You use them as the main ingredients for a song and add some other parts into it to make it as tasty or spicy as possible for your own taste then. I mean, in a way my song writing has evolved that way īcause I need something that could guide me a little bit in order to make the songs sound reasonable and all that, yīknow. Sometimes I may have added like nine or ten or more main parts to a song, building it up constantly and it may end up sounding like a true epos that seems to last forever. Then I realize that it just cannot go on and on like this. I start to re-think it all over again and cut the song in pieces off which I may have a chance to rebuild two or three other songs. If you try to include too many different parts to one song, then I think it start to remind too much of some Prog Metal/Rock stuff and Sonata Arctica isnīt a Prog Metal band. It wouldnīt make too much sense for a band like us at all.

 

 

Did you have any clue how this album would sound like even before all the songs were finished for it?

I only knew that our next album would sound darker and in a way a bit more aggressive than SILENCE even before I had done one single song for it although this album doesnīt have any as fast songs as SILENCE contained. Iīm referring to such songs here now as “San Sebastian” which probably is the fastest song I have ever penned down in the history of Sonata Arctica - and “Wolf & Raven” that was a fast song, too. We donīt have as many fast songs on this new album, but I still consider WINTERHEARTīS GUILD as a more aggressive album with both many mid-tempo - fast tempo parts.

 

 

Many different people compared SILENCE to Stratovarius musically, but I guess one of those reasons also was that you both come from Finland. Anyway, when you started to write songs for this album, did you actually try to keep some of those comparisons in your mind when you started writing, kind of trying to minimum possibilities to become compared to them again?

Well, first off, it was Stratovarius that made this thing rather easier for us this time. If we tried to expand the horizon with this album a bit further than what SILENCE was all about musically, I have to say that Stratovarius took more than a couple of more steps away from us with their new album ELEMENTS - PART I at the same time, too. In my opinion we didnīt change musically as drastically as they did with both of our new albums, so hopefully journalists and fans could see that as well. The main priority for us anyway has been to write songs that sound like us and everyone who hears us, could say right away that this song is a Sonata Arctica song. Like if you hear our first - and last album for the very first time from us, you are still able to recognize our band musically from both of those two albums, yīknow, even if the songs would differ from one another quite radically indeed. Our debut album ECLIPTICA was kind of a fresh sounding album after all whereas SILENCE was a bit more tamed and peaceful album all in all even if it has got the fastest songs Iīve ever written for this band. It was like, īsilenceī as a word described an overall atmosphere of that album quite well in my opinion. It was a rather peaceful time for me at the very early stage of song writing process to come up with the songs for it at the very early stage of song writing process already, so īsilenceī as a word describes an overall feeling of it I had at that time. This new album certainly has a bit darker vibe in it partly due to such elements as pressure, hasteness, some dark feelings I had during the song writing process, etc. Besides all of that, Iīm that kind of guy who cannot write either songs or lyrics about the happiest things in life. I cannot sing lyrics about: “…I love everybody and everybody loves me… ooohh, life is so good to me…” and such things. Itīs certainly not me. In my opinion the most beautiful and effective things can be created out of some dark and melancholic issues, kind of.

 

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Could you tell by your own words what the biggest differences are between your previous album SILENCE and this new one?

Hmm… first off, this new album WINTERHEARTīS GUILD is a much better produced album compared to SILENCE. Also, I have to say that my vocals sound the best so far on this album than on our previous albums as I paid so much more attention to my vocal parts this time than I have done earlier. It cannot be ignored either that we have progressed musically both as a tight unit and as musicians quite a lot as well. Itīs only natural that things like these are about to happen. You become more experienced with everything that is connected to the band somehow; you learn from some things that you have done or havenīt done in the past for the band and are able to use and channeling your past experiences more wisely and reasonable way with the band for your future efforts. You become a more experienced both musician and studio musician from your first album to your last album which is a relatively obviously, I suppose. It goes without saying that I have more experience and knowledge about being in a studio now than I had when we did ECLIPTICA or SILENCE. You kind of always go a few steps closer to become more and more of a professional musician - and the very same thing goes for the band, too as far as professionalism as a term is concerned. As for reviewing the songs on WINTERHEARTīS GUILD, Iīm afraid I cannot do it a reasonable enough way īcause I havenīt got enough distance to the songs on that album yet. I can analyze the songs on SILENCE quite well nowadays by telling you what kind of an album it was from my own point of view, tho. I see the whole album from a whole different perspective nowadays compared to the times when we got it recorded. I have become more objective toward that album, but trying to be objective with this new album, is very hard for an obvious reason.

 

 

I found your new album more diverse and more varied compared to SILENCE yet you can still notice that the songs on it still sound like Sonata Arctica. But on the other hand, you have brought more some progressive elements to the album as well that may get some fans a bit abashed at them at first. Do you at least partly subscribe this statement?

Yeah, of course! Even our previous album SILENCE caused the very same kind of reactions amongst our fans, as it was musically quite different album compared to our debut ECLIPTICA. We got quite much negative criticism toward SILENCE because of that, too. But luckily most of the fans understood eventually that we had progressed and developed our sound a few big steps forward from ECLIPTICA to SILENCE. Also, the whole band had matured toward better things as far as our experience for playing this type of music is concerned. We cannot turn history pages toward ECLIPTICAīs direction any longer and people should understand that, too. Besides, I think this new album WINTERHEARTīS GUILD is probably the closest thing to approach the same kind of soundscapes we had on ECLIPTICA, even if Iīm most satisfied with the songs on our new album, of course. I would say roughly that we are kind of the halfway musically somewhere between ECLIPTICA and SILENCE with the songs on this new album. One thing that I also feel that I should mention is that on SILENCE all of us pondered the song arrangements very intensively together whereas on this new album it was basically me who had to go through the whole process by myself. Usually I came to the studio with one song arrangement and told the other guys that this is how this and that song should sound like; and they listened and agreed. One of the reasons why we simply just had to work this way, was our tight schedule to get the songs done within a short period of time. We simply didnīt have that much time to go to our rehearsal place carrying each single song there and start rehearsing them separately until the song could be finished. It was kind of funny that while we were still at the studio, I had a bunch of the songs that were not completely ready yet. I finished them in there just like the second song on WINTERHEARTīS, called “Gravenimage.” I even didnīt have any kind of a clue how that particular song would turn out eventually. When some time was spent at the studio, I started to find a shape for it. Now when itīs done, I have to say Iīm very pleased with it as a wholeness concerning all the circumstances with the recording schedules and so on. You cannot hear from the songs that we had to rush with the making of them for the album; at least Iīm deaf to hear any rushed things out of that particular album. Maybe you can ask this same question from me again when I have been at a studio to record a follow-up album to this, -he-he!! Maybe then I have completely different views about the whole thing, you just never know, -he-he!!

 

 

There was also another tiny detail on the album I paid some attention to: Namely your vocals are a bit different than we have used to hear from you earlier. You donīt use the most highest range in your vocals any longer that was one of your trademarks on SILENCE? Is there any specific reason for that why you have left them off your vocalism?

Yeah, your ears have been a very acute concerning my vocal parts on WINTERHEARTīS GUILD. But you are completely right about that. Every person has his/her own scales of voice that he/or she is able to use a sufficient enough way without overdoing them and ending up sounding ridiculous. I need to confess you that I have never taken any kind of singing lessons for myself, so I have no idea whatīs the highest scale I can go with my voice without sounding too pushed or forced. Therefore on this album I clearly tried to use those scales in my voice that could be used a proper and decent way in a live situation as well. When I tried to perform some songs off SILENCE that had some very high-pitched vocal parts in them, I noticed that my voice just isnīt meant for them. So it was more or less a conscious decision from me to drop the scale of my voice a little bit for this album in order that I couldnīt face the same kind of problems I had while singing the songs off the SILENCE album in a live situation. Iīm very happy with the way I sing the songs on WINTERHEARTīS GUILD. Singing for me both feels better and sounds better in my opinion nowadays. The most high-pitched vocals arenīt my thing at all, I can admit it now. I guess I can blame on Stratovarius because of my constant imitation of Timoīs high-pitched vocals on our earlier albums. He was some sort of a role model for me in the past concerning my vocals, but I cannot sing the way he sings. Nowadays when performing live, I have tried to replace some of those most high-pitched vocal parts that I have tried out on our previous two albums, with some other things that Iīm able to throw out of my throat or lungs. I have tried to sing at the studio the way I could normally perform in a live situation as well; trying to find out the most optimal way to sing our songs. I guess the biggest problem for me singing live has been to mix some lower tones of my voice with these damn high-pitched vocal parts because changing your vocal rhythm in a fast tempo, make the singing much harder for you. Itīs a rather inflammable combination for my voice really. Many times the aforementioned combination of two totally different signing styles has turned totally against me as I still am not that experienced guy in the vocal department. It has always been an exciting adventure for me to find out where my true boundaries are as far as my voice is concerned. I think I have started finding them little by little by trying out some vocal styles spontaneously, some time successfully and some other time less successfully. I have always tried to sing the way that feels good to me.

 

 

Could you say already that are there some songs on this new album that you may like better than some other songs?

In fact, I have my favorite songs on WINTERHEARTīS GUILD already. A strange thing is that when I was making the songs for the new album, I liked completely different songs as I do now. When I was composing and doing lyrics for them, such songs as “Draw Me” and “The Ruins of My Life” were far superior songs to me personally than the rest of the songs on it. Especially I enjoyed these particular songs when I was composing the songs because both of the songs have some great emotions and feelings included in them. As we kept rehearsing those songs constantly over and over and over again, especially “The Ruins of My Life” has started to become kind of boring to me to sing nowadays. And “Draw Me” even doesnīt belong to our set any longer. Itīs sort of an outro basically and we have composed an instrumental version for it without drums which we still use as a part of our set, though. Anyway, while rehearsing songs like “Champagne Bath,” every one of us in the band likes to play it. Itīs simply a funny thing to play that particular song indeed. Also “Broken” belongs to our fave songs off WINTERHEARTīS GUILD nowadays. That song has got somewhat a great feel in it - not forgetting the third song named “The Cage” either that felt good for us to play when we were rehearsing it. We have kinda fed up to the teeth with playing it these days, though, -he-he!! But “Broken” and “Champagne Bath” still have remained two of the biggest fave cuts of this band. When we are about finish our rehearsal sessions, we always finish our rehearsals by playing “Broken” first and then ending the rehearsals with “Champagne Bath”. That way we are able to go our homes with high spirits and in good moods after finishing our rehearsal sessions with those two songs, yīknow.

 

 

So has WINTERHEARTīS GUILD been released in Japan already before any other countries?

It has been released in Japan on of February 2003 already, so our Japanese fans got to hear the album first in the whole world. Finland comes next; the official release date here for it is 10th of March.

 

 

What about Korea? When exactly will it be out there?

I havenīt got a slightest idea about it at all. But I believe itīll be released over there at the same time together with the rest of European countries, too. The European release will be 17th of March, by the way. It actually was the original release date to put the album out here in Finland as well, but our record company decided to release it one week earlier, however.

 

 

So, do you have any idea in what other countries it will be released, too?

I just recently got informed that all of albums; at least our 3 studio albums, will be put out in the States at the very same time. Century Media USA will take care of all that, or so Iīm told. Such countries in Europe as Spain, France and Germany are good countries for us selling-wise. I have to say that Germany as a country is a bit more exceptional country for us because even if a certain amount of our albums have been sold there, we still should sell much more albums in that country compared to many other countries in Europe so that we could become at least a bit more recognized down there than it takes in some other European countries. The other thing is promotion, of course. When I and our guitarist went to do some promotion to our new album WINTERHEARTīS GUILD last time - about 5-6 weeks ago, we had approximately like 45 interviews for different media within two and a half days. It felt kind of exhausting for us to do that many interviews for them almost in a row within that short period of time. We were really working our asses for all these interviews over there at that time. At some point we started to think that they had booked us for every single media that wanted to do an interview with us. It was really crazy, I can tell. But most of these media, including some radio stations as well, were luckily very professional and knew who we were and where we came from.

 

 

Have you given any thought to make any videos out of any song on WINTERHEARTīS GUILD in the near future? As you surely know, a well-made promotional video is a very helpful tool to spread the word about your band for a wider audience.

Unfortunately right now we donīt have any plans for that as strange it may sound like to you. But like I may have said before, never say never. Still, itīs pretty much other peopleīs decision to ponder whether a video is needed or not. Of course we would like to do one, but money always seems to be an issue. Making a good-looking video is somewhat expensive to make, so in a way I can understand most of these people in the music business in general who put their own money into making videos. However, in order to promote your album 100%, it requires some sort of a promo-video behind a band in my honest opinion, too. That way you are able to get the best promotion for your own band and I believe it will be a very helpful thing for labels to fasten a bit their album sales as well. Even with a rather small amount of money you are able to do some miracles if you have a skillful team behind your band with some great visions as far as some certain script for a promo-video thing is concerned. A good and well-thought out script for a promo-video is everything really. I have seen many videos where they have put lots of money into, but they still look like shit. You cannot always buy everything with a huge amount of money. Itīs already been proved many times before.

 

 

Have you noticed from yourself that you have this tiny tendency to be a little perfectionist every time when you work with a new song for Sonata Arctica?

Of course, -he-he!! But I guess thatīs just very natural and normal indeed. The most important thing for me is - when composing songs for the band, that I, first and foremost, please myself and other guys in our band. I donīt listen to what our fans might have to say how our songs be like īcause I consider myself as some kind of īan artistī who primarily does music for himself only. Of course I hope that most of our fans could also like the songs I have done, but as you know, you cannot always please everyone. If you try to please your fans first by listening to their opinions more than yourself how YOU would like your songs to sound like and would kind of do music in their terms. Well, I honestly believe your days have pretty much been counted then. It just doesnīt work out that way for me at all. Maybe for somebody, but certainly not for me. You have to be truthful to yourself only; otherwise I strongly believe you are gonna fail badly. I have to say if I wanted to do music in terms of thinking of money only, I wouldnīt do metal music at all īcause there are better ways to gather money for yourself than playing in a metal band. In that case Iīd probably do Hip-Hop, Rap, Pop Music or something alike that you are able to see on MTV every single day. Those kinds of bands are the ones that are truly making a little fortune for itself by being involved with that type of commercial music that is accepted by the huge masses. But worry not, Iīm not going jump into the mainstream bandwagon and do something that isnīt a part of me. I love singing in a metal band; metal fans are very loyal and devoted to their bands and I as a singer of Sonata Arctica, am able to get extraordinary great feelings out of this all. You can get the best feelings from your fans when you play for them. Itīs really rewarding when they sing-along with you on gigs and are actually remember lyrics for the songs. Itīs simply an amazing feel you get out of that all.

 

 

Does the criticism of becoming compared to Stratovarius constantly by media and fans bother you?

Actually not at all because we are in debt of gratitude to them after all. People still compare us to them and it doesnīt either surprise or irritate me at all as a matter of speaking. The guys in Stratovarius are some of the nicest people on the face of Earth to me personally. I know my īmetal rootsī and I have to say that without their impact on me or anyone else in this band, we hardly would be here and playing in Sonata Arctica. I donīt deny it a bit, but they have been a very influential band to us since the beginning. I would irritate me much more if we were compared to some other band which we donīt consider as any kind of influence to Sonata Arctica, like comparing us to Helloween. That would be irritating in that case. I remember telling to Timo Kotipelto of Stratovarius that I havenīt done any interviews in my life where I couldnīt have mentioned Stratovarius at least once by name. Or wait… I actually did one interview for a guy who is an artist for a fan page for Donald Duck in which I didnīt mention Stratovarius at all. So excuse me Timo for not mentioning you this time, -he-he!!

 

 

But donīt you think that the mighty shadow of Stratovarius is always being spread over Sonata Arctica?

Well, I honestly donīt think it gives any ībad nameī to our band or anything alike as long as their albums are being sold more than our albums, -ha-hah!! But in reality as we all know, they are still much bigger and known band than Sonata Arctica will ever be. We will probably be considered as īa little brother of Stratovariusī ītil we exist by some people - and thereīs nothing really we could do about it. But on the other hand, I think we have come closer in finding our own trademark sound little by little and are about to find our own identity with the band as well. It could be said, however, that we are clearly standing our own feet nowadays; not on the shoulders of Stratovarius any longer as we probably might have done since we started the band. But of course some of you disagree, but thatīs really ok īcoz I wouldnīt be less interested in those kinds of īopinionsī. Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion.

 

 

So, what about gigging for this new album? When will you drag your asses on the road again and start doing some serious and intense gigs again?

Weīll do a bunch of gigs here in Finland first, starting in the end of March when weīll travel to Helsinki and play a gig at the famous Tavastia Club. After we have done these gigs in Finland, weīll head to Japan where they have booked seven gigs all in all for us so far, but because the sales for advance tickets for those gigs has been so huge so far, they may book us one more gig to Tokyo, meaning that we would play three gigs there. I have to say that Iīm already looking forward to travel to Japan and play for our loyal Japanese fans over there. Itīs gonna be awesome, thatīs for sure!!

 

 

Sounds really like you are running huge expectations toward that upcoming Japanese tour?

Yes, because last time when we played in that country, it was a truly adventurous and incredible trip to all of us in that country. In fact, now I even can expect something out of that forthcoming tour in Japan as it seems that we even might get sold-out venues this time. Japan as a country is an excellent country for us if the sales of our albums can be any measure for that; roughly a half amount of all our albums that have been sold thus far, has been sold in Japan which of course is a great thing, but at the same time, itīs in a way kind of an unfortunate thing as well. It should tell something to you how our albums has been sold in every other country in the world. Those sales could be a bit better for us if I got an opportunity to wish so.

 

 

One of your gigs will take place in Hiroshima, at Club Quattro 10th of April. What kind of expectations do you have toward that particular gig, knowing what kind of historical statue Hiroshima has these days mainly due to a crucial year of 1945, August 6th?

Yeah, I really am already looking forward to play in that city pretty damn anxiously indeed. That city has its own tragic history and if we are able to get some time off to see the city a bit more - other than all those 700.000 skyscrapers that are located in that huge city, then Iīll probably blow up to peanuts for sure. They have many interesting sights in Hiroshima; all those huge historical memorials, breath-taking landscapes and such things, yīknow. I have to say that it would be very important for me personally to breathe this certain atmosphere they have in that culturally rich city and try to bring back all those historical events that have happened there almost 60 years ago. A similar thing that I have experienced before, was our trip to the concentrate camp of Dachau, Germany. I have to admit that I was kind of a īquiet fellowī when I left that area. I will definitely remember my visit to that place for the rest of my life, thatīs for sure. The funny thing was that when we went there (Sonata Arctica), we were joking around about things in general first and everyone of us was basically in very high spirits, but then after we left the place, somehow no one of us was not laughing any more or making any jokes at all. Strangely I felt being a bit better person afterwards by paying a visit there, sensing how cruel and evil human can be another human. I recommend that everyone just should go there alone to think about life in general from time to time.

 

 

Now letīs scratch a bit īlighterī topic next: As you said it by yourself, you are very damn popular in Japan and your albums have been sold there like "hot cakes." As for analyzing it with a closer perspective, can you say why Sonata Arctica are actually so popular in that country? Do Japanese people have far superior sense for a great music than other peole do or what?

Everyone keeps on repeating the very same question from us all the time. Thatīs funny, -ha-hah!! Hmm… hard to say really?! I have to say I have no straight answer to this question at all… Wish I had, though.

 

 

Do you think that thereīs some sort of a Japanese prototype of a typical Sonata Arctica fan that buys your albums and comes to see your gigs?

No, because you can see almost every kind of fans on our gigs from some business men to normal looking Heavy Metal fans, so itīs damn difficult to talk about any kind of a Japanese prototype fan that dig us. But I guess most of the Japanese fans find (metal) music that contains both some fast parts and some beautiful melodies, quite appealing to their ears. And as we have both of those particular elements in your music, too, maybe the answer can be found right there, I donīt know really. I have been told, however, that especially Japanese chicks like īHeavy Metal boy bands.ī They, these Japanese girls, I mean, donīt like too sturdy, bearded and macho look-alike men. They prefer cute, sweet-looking and more a gay type of guys much better if I can be this straight with my sayings… in the other words: Androgynes!! Oh shit!!! We were told by some Japanese people from some record companies that we should consider wearing on some silly looking Glam Rock costumes: tighter jeans and shit like that in order to make the album salesīs raise even higher in Japan. That would have been fuckinī ridiculous, ha-ha-ha!!! I made myself clear on behalf of the whole Sonata Arctica team as politely as possible in that state of mind that it wonīt ever happen in this lifetime. Never!!

 

 

Also, you did some gigs both in Brazil and Chile last spring. Do you have any intentions to go there again as I believe you obviously made a huge impact on some of these people living in those countries? Am I right?

Yeah, we get emails almost every day from some of those particular countries like where people want to see us over there again. Also same kind of request have come from such countries as Columbia and Argentina as well, which is of course cool.

 

 

Are there some countries on the globe where youīd like to travel to and play some gigs for your fans?

Yes, of course there are quite a few of them actually where we still havenīt played yet like Canada and especially the U.S.A, even if I know that itīs really damn hard to make a breakthrough in that country with this type of music that we play. As soon as weīll be offered a reasonable chance to go and play to those people there by some trustful guy from that country, we might well pack our things and fly over there for sure. I still have every reason to expect that it would be lots of hard work for us; traveling from one venue to another, all these long distances between different venues and stuff like that. Something we normally havenīt used to that much at all. But I believe it would very much worth of it all īcause I have always dreamt about going there with this band. And now I can speak for the whole band. It would surely be some sort of an ultimate thing for everyone of us without a doubt. But letīs see… maybe we might go there someday. Besides, the U.S.A. is full of different things Iīd like to see and experience some time. I know it would be a bit exaggerating to say, but I could spend a holiday there which could last probably like 10 years or so in the country in a row. I really would like to see that country as much as itīs ever possible. I have always been curious about that country, ever since I was a little and innocent kid and knowing nothing about a bigger world ahead of me. Also, Australia as a country would be interesting to see as well because of its culture and great landscapes.

 

 

I wanna thank you for your time Tony, and all the best to both you and Sonata Arctica in the future. It was a pleasure talking to you again.


Band Website:  www.sonataarctica.com
Label Website:  www.spinefarm.fi

Sonata Arctica CD Reviews
Ecliptica
Wolf And Raven (EP)
Silence
Winterheartīs Guild