Henrik Klingenberg is the newest addition to Sonata Arctica on keyboards. I was able to ask him some questions at the recent Sonata Arctica gig in New York City.
* Interview and live photos by Shaq
How does it feel to be touring the United States as a headliner?
It’s cool. We did two weeks one year ago, so we saw a little of it. Now we’re going to be here for six weeks so we can really check out the most of it, it means a lot.
Why do you feel it’s possible to do a headliner tour now, whereas maybe three years ago you weren’t able to do so?
I don’t know, maybe record sales. I think the scene is getting more open to this kind of music right now, but I’m not sure. That’s something that probably you know better than I do.
Last year I remember you playing some unorthodox shows for your style. You were opening for Overkill and also played the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival. How did those kinds of crowds react to Sonata’s music?
Surprisingly good. With Overkill it was no problem at all, and the New England Metal Festival was something that beforehand I was really worried about, but it was a really good crowd. We were like “what the hell?” because everyone else was so different from what we are, not even close. I think it went over really well.
How is the crowd reaction in general here compared to what you would see over in Europe?
It’s hard to say, you guys are pretty loud here. The differences are more between city lines than country lines. For example, what happens in Europe is people will scream real loud, and that’s something you get over in Quebec, Montreal, New York, it’s the same kind of reaction.
What do you think of the American music scene today as far as metal is concerned?
Not really, I don’t really follow that much what goes on here nowadays so that’s a tough one to say to me.
Why did you choose to come over here alone without bringing an opener and just do local openers at each show?
That was something out of necessity, that’s how it worked out. Of course we talked about getting openers but in the end it’s pretty expensive to tour for six weeks as an opener so we didn’t find anybody who had the right opportunity and the right timeframe to be a possibility to do it now with us. So then we just decided to say “Well fuck it, we’ll do it ourselves.”
Do you think there’s any Finnish acts over there that haven’t gained recognition over here that deserve to?
Yeah, probably. I know if I say some there’s many I’m going to leave out. There’s this band called Machine Men that we toured in Europe with, they’re pretty good.
What do you think sets Sonata Arctica apart from the other big power metal acts in the business?
I think we’re not as much power metal as the rest of them. I think our songs are a bit different and I think that is how we are trying to stand up and hopefully it is something that is going to make a difference.
How do you think the band has progressed over the years? As a listener I can hear many differences from three albums ago to Reckoning Night. How would you describe the progression?
I think it’s more of a natural progression. When you start making music, your influences will come through a lot more strongly than when you have done it for awhile. I see us continue to progress little by little and hopefully where we end up is not too far from where we started. I don’t think it’s anything spectacular, it’s just baby steps a little at a time. From the first album til now it’s been five or six years so people change, their music changes, how they think about music and what kind of acts they like, so I think it’s just natural progression. I hope this happens with other bands also.
I was wondering why “Shamandalie” was chosen as a single instead of maybe a faster track off the album that might have been more typical.
I don’t know. (laughs) I would guess that also power ballads are a part of our sound, but I really don’t care. The first single is something I care about. If it’s something that’s totally wrong then of course I’ll say something but otherwise choosing singles and album covers, I’m not too involved with that. I see what Tony and the graphic artist are working with and what they came up with, and I can give suggestions, but I have better things to do.
What kind of influences come into play when you’re making new music. Do you use other metal, or classical influences or anything like that?
Neither. I think that what influences Tony when he writes is something that I don’t want to go into. When we arrange the songs as a band, the influences are mainly, I wouldn’t say it’s so much other bands as what we’ve done in the past and trying to get the Sonata sound. We’re still working to establish that. Mainly we just toy with everyone’s personal ideas soundwise and in the end we cut out whatever doesn’t fit the overall sound and overall feel of the album. We just mix and do whatever comes into our heads, and then see what is necessary to make the songs work.
Are there any plans of releasing a new album, perhaps any material already written?
We’re going to tour until August of this year, and then we have some time off and then we go back into the studio. The album should be out before the Summer in 2007, so it will be a late Spring release, hopefully.
Are you involved in any side projects or have any plans for any?
I have two other bands. One is called Silent Voices and the other is Mental Care Foundation. We write records all the time. Actually, Silent Voices is coming out with a new album at the end of this month.
Do you play the same instrument in the other bands?
I play keyboard in Silent Voices and I sing in Mental Care Foundation, it’s a thrash band. That is something in my spare time, I hate holidays.
When you’re not on the road, do you work other jobs to help pay the bills or are you completely funded by Sonata?
This is a full time job, we wouldn’t even have any time to do anything else. The Reckoning Night tour is going to be over 160 gigs all in all, so nobody would want to go back to work. We can make a decent living on this right now.
I’m glad to hear that.
When you leave to go out on the road, are there any albums you can’t leave without?
I always bring some Pantera and Strapping with me, and some Children of Bodom. Then there’s some more mellow things like Chris Cornell’s new album Euphoria Morning. I have an iPod now so its alright.
Aside from those essential albums, are there any newer albums that have been coming out that you have been listening to? What are you playing on your iPod currently?
That would be the latest by Children of Bodom. What do you consider new? Strapping Young Lad’s Alien is pretty old now. There is really a lot of older stuff.
I have to ask. Is Conan O’Brian really as popular in Finland as he claims to be?
Yeah he is, actually. In comparison to how small the country is he is pretty popular. Yeah, that’s right. (laughs)
I remember seeing an interview with one of the bandmembers that said something about wanting to visit the show.
We sent him some stuff and told him that we would like to be the first Finnish band on the show but it doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen.
Are there any plans while you’re here of touring New York City and checking out the sights?
We’ve got an off day tomorrow here so we’ll be around and check it out. After that we’re going to Rochester or something like that.
Just to close things up, in the not too distant future what can fans expect from Sonata Arctica?
We’re going to finish this tour, and then in the Spring we’re releasing a live DVD and CD. We’re going to finish the tour and then go home and make a new album, so that’s what you can expect.
I would like to thank Loana dP Valencia at Nuclear Blast Records for helping to arrange this interview.