Interview with vocalist Tony Kakko
24th March 2017 @ The Classic Grand, Glasgow
Interviewed by Oliver M.
Six months after the release of their latest opus “The Ninth Hour”, Sonata Arctica were touring throughout Europe with Thunderstone, Striker and Triosphere. We had the opportunity to meet their charismatic vocalist Tony Kakko for a short interview before the beginning of their show in Glasgow. We discussed their recent album and the band’s evolution through the years.
Hi Tony! First of all, how has your European tour been so far?
So far, so good! We’ve got some warm, cold and rainy weather at this term of the year. We’ve played with some great bands. Striker and Triosphere supported us in the beginning of the tour. Tonight, Thunderstone are going to play with us and we’ll continue like that until the end of this tour. It has been fantastic so far: a lot of fun, great shows, great people and many new cities where we haven’t played before!
Let’s talk about your latest album “The Ninth Hour” which was released in October last year. How has it been received so far?
We’ve already played songs from “The Ninth Hour” live and I think people have taken them really well. The songs are deeper and have more meaning somehow. They have a deeper message and it seems that people kind of get that in a way. They’re not like headbanging to our songs like what we used to see sometimes. From what I’ve read until now, people have liked it as well. I’ve only read two good reviews and a negative one! (Laughs) It’s nice to see that. When I’ll have some spare time, I’ll probably start reading more reviews and articles at some point. But I’m too busy touring at the moment. Anyway, I’m happy the songs work really well live and that everybody is happy.
Do you have a favourite song in “The Ninth Hour” or a song that means a lot to you?
Hum… Well, “We Are What We Are” is definitely a special song that has more meaning to me, deeper than usual I would say. “Among the Shooting Stars” has some lovely melodies and a beautiful werewolf story. Poetically speaking, the song I love the most is “Fairytale” by far. In November and December last year, we did a tour in North America and what happened in the USA was really interesting in a bad way at that time! We played “Fairytale” live there at the time of the elections, on the whole tour. 7 weeks. Sometimes, it was really scary because there were some Trump fans screaming in the audience. (Laughs) That wasn’t good.
Regarding your contract with Nuclear Blast, do you still have some albums planned with them in the future?
Yes, we’ll continue working with Nuclear Blast in the future. They’re a great company and have done a fantastic job for us. I really want to stay with them. They’re loyal and we get on very well together.
Finland has always had a great power metal scene with bands like Stratovarius, Sonata Arctica, Thunderstone, Celesty and Twilightning. Are you still in contact with those bands?
I’m not really listening to Power metal myself. I was listening to Stratovarius mostly and a few other bands. Then, my musical tastes changed many times. I’ve covered everything from classical music to black metal, jazz and whatever. I’m not stuck into one genre only. Sonata Arctica is definitely not Power metal anymore. I don’t think we can stick a label to our music because we’ve been mixing many different styles through the years. It’s kind of “forced advertisement” in a way to put us into the Power metal scene. Actually, a lot of people who are really into that genre don’t consider us as a Power metal band anymore. We’re totally different, more melodic…
And more progressive as well…
Yes, in a way and also more pop. We’ve created our own weird style.
In general, your die-hard fans have a preference for the first Sonata Arctica albums. As you’ve just talked about creating your own genre, I remember you definitely changed your style from the “Unia” album with some progressive and complex compositions. Was it something that came naturally?
Yeah, it was natural in a way but I think the change actually started in the previous album “Reckoning Night”. There are songs which are already more complex than on “Winterheart’s Guild”. “Reckoning Night” showed the first notes of the change in a way. We had a huge, long tour with that album and everybody got totally tired with it in the end. Some problems appeared. Everyone was starting to make different kinds of songs and I didn’t have time to write a solo album which would have helped to solve some problems. I was really tired of the style of music we were doing at that time. We needed a change. So, we did a really extreme move in a totally weird direction. Then, we corrected it a little bit with “The Days of Grays” and then again, swung in another direction with “Stones Grow Her Name” which is kind of a rock album or hard rock/pop album…
I love this album! But I also remember some fans reacted negatively to it following its release. Was it something you were expecting?
Yeah, of course! It was obvious this would happen. Funny enough, “Stones Grow Her Name” was the album I wasn’t sure at all. I told the guys: “I’m not really comfortable with the songs I’ve got on this album”. Everybody else was like: “Yeah, let’s do this! That’s great, let’s go in this direction!” Some people don’t like it but fortunately, a lot of fans love that album. We could also notice that in our shows. We played a lot of those songs live and noticed that “Stones Grow Her Name” brought many new fans to us. We had the impression of not being a metal band anymore. It was a weird feeling. It felt wrong. So, we needed to change something. The album that followed “Pariah’s Child” was a move back to a more metal approach in a way and that was our aim in the future as well. For some reason, “The Ninth Hour” turned out to be a little bit more melodic than “Pariah’s Child” although the original idea was to make it heavier and more metal. But I had a break for a couple of months and decided to change my mind after that. In the end, the album turned out the way it is. For the next album, I’m not going to have any break here this time. I’ll just continue writing with the ideas I’ve got and next time, it will be heavier… I hope!
One last question to conclude this interview: do you consider Sonata Arctica as a mainstream band in your native country?
Not anymore. A few years ago, it was more or less the case. I would say from 2010 to 2012. Metal and rock music were much bigger there at that time but they’ve recently gone down a lot in terms of popularity. Now, hip hop dancers, rap artists and TV-made stars are becoming very popular, especially this weird concept going on TV which brings old and new musicians together. They sing each other’s songs and those people are currently the biggest stars in Finland. Frankly, it has a little bit fucked up the whole thing! Hope metal will return soon again!
Special thanks to Nuclear Blast for this interview.