Interview with guitarist Elias Viljanen & bassist Pasi Kauppinen
15th October 2016 @ O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
Interviewed by Oliver M.
Interview photos by Graham Hilling
Two years after the release of the critically acclaimed “Pariah’s Child” and the re-recording of their first masterpiece “Ecliptica”, Sonata Arctica are back in 2016 with “The Ninth Hour”. In order to promote this new album, the Finns have just done a successful European tour, including several sold-out shows. We’ve recently had the opportunity to meet guitarist Elias Viljanen and bassist Pasi Kauppinen for an interview before the beginning of their amazing show in London.
Hi guys! First of all, how has your European tour been going so far?
Pasi Kauppinen: Yeah, it has been going quite well! Really good actually. We had already 3 sold-out shows. Tonight’s show will be the 8th one for this tour.
In 2014, you released your 8th album “Pariah’s Child” and the 15th anniversary re-recording of your debut album “Ecliptica”. During the last 2 years, do you think you have given more importance to one of those albums in particular? Or did you promote both of them in the same way?
Elias Viljanen: If I remember well, we did some tours before the re-release of “Ecliptica”…
Pasi: Yeah, we started to do some tours for the release of “Pariah’s Child” first. Basically, we started a world tour for “Pariah’s Child” around January 2014 if I’m not wrong and then, the re-release of “Ecliptica” happened in October the same year. After that, in 2015, we played the shows for the new “Ecliptica” re-recorded album. In the end, it turned out that we played many songs from both albums after the “Ecliptica” anniversary tour.
Elias: The setlist is different for this current tour. We will play a couple of songs from both albums but of course, we’ll perform more songs from “The Ninth Hour” in order to promote this new album especially.
Regarding the “Ecliptica” re-recorded album, how did the fans react to it in general?
Pasi: It was quite divided, of course. Some people loved it but other fans hated it. I think the ones who disliked it had already listened to the original recording many times and knew it perfectly.
Elias: The original album is the original! We even tried to surpass it, you know. But at the same time, I think the fans were excited that we’ve been playing some “Ecliptica” songs we almost never performed before.
Now, let’s talk about your new album “The Ninth Hour”. How long did you take to write this 9th opus?
Pasi: In the beginning, Tony had already some demos for a few songs but at that time, we didn’t have anything to rehearse them before we started to record them. So, we went to the studio and according to Tony’s demos, we started to record the songs. We also tried to arrange them while we were recording.
Elias: I think we’ve been fast and efficient throughout the recording of this album. We had a well-structured plan on how we had to record each song.
Concerning the musical style, in what way “The Ninth Hour” is different from “Pariah’s Child”?
Pasi: When we planned to record this new album, we were talking about doing a band album, something more band-oriented. Then, when we recorded the songs in the studio, we wanted to keep each instrument (drums, guitars, keyboards, bass, vocals) more rough than before.
Elias: Concerning the new songs, every time we play them live, they sound almost like our studio recordings. In that way, I think we did a very good job on how to produce this album.
What are the “The Ninth Hour” lyrics about? What are the main themes?
Pasi: Well, Tony writes all the lyrics. So, he would have answered this question better than us. Of course, there are some songs about wolves and werewolves but he also writes about themes related to nature in general.
Elias: He can also hide some meanings in his lyrics that nobody can notice or understand. I think some lyrics can be interpreted by people in their own way. Anyway, we are what we are. The album also talks about the destruction of the planet and stuff like that.
Pasi: Yes, that’s what the cover artwork reflects actually. The destruction of nature and the end of mankind are the key elements of “The Ninth Hour”.
There’s one interesting thing I would like to mention now. In 2015, you released a CD single called “Christmas Spirits” in December as a kind of Christmas present to your fans. Why haven’t you included this song in the new album?
Elias: Because that song was already written a long time ago. We recorded it for the first time during the period of “Unia”.
Pasi: Before you joined the band!
Elias: Yeah. This song got kind of lost through the years.
Pasi: When we recorded “Pariah’s Child”, we took the opportunity to record that song as well. In the beginning, it was meant to be included in “Pariah’s Child” but Tony re-wrote the lyrics before Christmas period.
Elias: It’s a kind of Christmas gift for our fans.
Pasi: Even though that song comes from the “Pariah’s Child” sessions, we wanted to treat it separately from that album because it was a lost song which was originally written and composed a long time ago.
What are your projects after this current European tour?
Elias: We will be on tour in the USA for around 7 weeks if I’m correct. Then, we’ll go back home during Christmas period. Next year, we’ll have some shows in Finland first.
Pasi: After that, we’ll be on a European tour again at the end of February and then, we’ll play at some festivals.
Elias: But this 2017 European tour will be longer than the one we’re currently doing and we’ll be back in the UK for a couple of shows.
That’s great news! Do you have anything special to add to conclude this interview?
Elias: Thank you for this interview.
Pasi: Thank you very much! It’s really great to be here! By the way, tonight will be a special night for Sonata Arctica: it will be our 1000th show! It’s a very nice venue to perform that show and we’re very excited to go on stage tonight!
Have you prepared a surprise for that special show?
Pasi: Maybe… We’ll see! (laughs)