Sonata Arctica – Interview with Tony Kakko

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Sonata Arctica

Interview with vocalist Tony Kakko

1st May 2015 @ O2 Academy Islington, London

Interviewed by Oliver M.


2014 was a very busy year for Sonata Arctica. First of all, they released their eighth album “Pariah’s Child” which marked the return to their old melodic speed metal roots. Then, they re-recorded the whole “Ecliptica” album to celebrate the 15th anniversary of this first opus. The Finnish wolves are currently on tour throughout Europe to promote this new re-recorded version. Before the beginning of their concert in London (the only UK show), I had the opportunity to meet their charismatic vocalist and founding member Tony Kakko. I asked him some questions about “Ecliptica – Revisited; 15th Anniversary Edition” and their early years as well.

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Hi Tony! First of all, could you please tell us briefly what happened since the release of “Ecliptica – Revisited; 15th Anniversary Edition” until now?

Hum… When was that again?… (Laughs) Well, we’ve been touring all the time, pretty much you know. We didn’t get much rest. We’ve done a North American tour, South America, Russia at some point. And now, we’re touring in Europe and then, we will fly straight to Japan. So, it has been a lot of work. Last year was really really hard. I personally had more than 100 shows during that one year. I’ve been away from home for about 180 days or something like that. Having a one year old kid at home is not a good equation at all. It’s awful but you know, work is work, work is heart! We love what we do.


Regarding your new release “Ecliptica – Revisited”, could you please first tell us why have you decided to re-record your first album “Ecliptica”? In my opinion, it was clearly a masterpiece of melodic power metal. Do you think it was really necessary to re-record it as the original version was already great?

Well, the idea and the request to do that came from our label in Japan. We’ve been working with them since 2000, since they released “Ecliptica” at that time. So, to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the album, they wanted to do it. For us, it was kind of… Really really serious. You know, lots of fans consider “Ecliptica”, the original one, like a sacred masterpiece as you’ve just said. It kind of demanded a lot of thoughts. There have been some good and bad times, album-wise and business-wise, between us and the label regarding their request. But despite that, I would say… Thank you for them, we decided to do it! That kind of idea would never have come from myself. In other ways, it was not necessary I think because all you can do is to lose the original hassle and the feel of danger you know. Because we are much older now! At that time, we were just young kids and really excited about it. By doing the re-recording, you kind of lose this youth, excitement and feel of danger and I would never ever say that this re-release is better than the original version. It’s not. It’s different, like a revised version for a celebration. Of course, we have a bonus track for Japan “I’m Haunted” which was first done around the same time I wrote some songs that ended up in “Ecliptica”. So, it’s kind of adding a little bit to it! The one good thing I think… The re-recording also brought us this tour. We actually got around you know, getting ourselves in shape, condition and in a mental place where we can play the whole album live. It was a really scary thought at first but we are here and happy. It was a good thing. But the new version is just different.


In the future, if you will be asked to re-record “Silence”, would you be happy to do it?

No. In some way, “Ecliptica” was an extended demo because the four songs we had in our demo that helped us to sign with Spinefarm, appeared in the first album and then, we just recorded and added more songs to that. But “Silence” was more or less the first album that I really considered as an album. I really knew we were going to make an album. I was aiming at it and I put a lot of effort to it. I was more ambitious and everything. So, it has got a lot of things happening there, that would be nearly impossible to re-do. It’s surprising to see the amount of time it takes to re-record anything, especially “Silence” would be in comparison to “Ecliptica”. It was more a punk rock approach you know, straight forward kind of thing, not felt with harmonies but “Silence” has already started to have that… No! It simply hasn’t! I don’t want to go there! (Laughs) But you know, I don’t see it happening really. Maybe one song here and one song there or something like that… But not the whole album! Forget it for now!

In 2000, one year after the release of “Ecliptica”, you supported Stratovarius and Rhapsody for their European tour. You also did many sold out shows in France with them at that time. I remember that your live performances were praised by the critics. Do you think this tour with Stratovarius and Rhapsody played a decisive role in Sonata Arctica’s career?

(Laughs) This tour was a big deal for us in many ways. Of course, Stratovarius were huge heroes for us and our biggest influence at that time. So, imagine spending seven weeks on tour with them… And Rhapsody as well! It was amazing. We were so lucky to get that tour. We got it done and it helped us a lot. Then, we got one more tour with Gamma Ray, supporting them and then basically, we could go headlining already. We had our first headlining shows in France I think. We didn’t have a real European tour with that album. This tour means a lot for me. We learnt a lot from Stratovarius and we’re very thankful for the opportunity and everything… The kindness they showed to us.


In France, some early Sonata Arctica releases (like the “Successor” EP and the “Silence” & “Winterheart’s Guild” albums for example) were released by the French power metal label NTS. Olivier Garnier, the owner of the label, is a friend of mine. Do you still have some contacts with him?

No, I haven’t seen or spoken to him for a long time. Later on, he started another company called Replica Records and I think one of our songs has something to do with the name of his label! (Laughs) Because the name of his former label Nothing To Say is in fact a song from Angra! Those were the good times. We were young and we were just going with the flow you know. It was fun. I have fun memories.

Do you still also have some contacts with Sonata Arctica’s former members?

Hum, not too much. You know, life is busy and everybody seems to live their own life in different cities and everything. So, for some of them, I haven’t seen them for a long long time or I kind of lost contact with Mikko for example. He was interviewed for a book but I never saw him. I think he lives somewhere in Finland and he’s got his own thing going on. I think he’s playing with Rhapsody these days. And Jani of course! We will always, forever and until the end have some business connections with all the old members. We need to take care of some things you know because if you played on an album, you deserve a part of the royalties and stuff like that. But I haven’t even seen Marko for more than a year. It’s really sad but like I said earlier, we were on the road for the whole year and we were very busy. He also lives in different cities. Even when he saw the band, we really didn’t spend all that much time doing anything else. We went swimming at times, me, Tommy and Marko but that’s just a sport! You know, when you spend like five to seven weeks in a bus with the same guy, you don’t necessarily want to see him the first thing when you go home. So, it was like that. Business, more or less. Of course, we stayed in touch back then more and everything. But life is unfortunately faded and sad.

Is there a country where you have never played before and in which you would be delighted to play?

Iceland! And also Africa is a continent where we haven’t played yet. South Africa is actually one of the places where it would be somehow possible for us to go there. Business-wise, it would be a touristic thing and everybody should go there more or less at their own expenses! (Laughs) But it would be still something I’m really willing to do if the opportunity came. South Africa and Iceland are for now on the top of my head.


To conclude this interview, what are your next projects after this Ecliptica European tour?

I will go home, have a week off or so and then, I’ll start working on some songs where I’ve been invited to perform some guest vocals for some albums. I’ll record those guest vocals at home and then, we’ll have some summer festivals. We’re going to stop touring at the end of August. It will be the last show of this tour. I’m going to have a half year off and we’re going to start rehearsing the next album like maybe in January or something like that and take it from there. I think we may have a North American tour coming up early next year even while we’ll be rehearsing. It would be a big opportunity for us and you will probably hear about it later on. I think one tour has already been announced, it will be with Nightwish. It’s going to be cool!

OK. It was a great pleasure for me to interview you for the second time. The first time we met was in 2007 in Paris for the promo day of the “Unia” album. We were in a hotel.

Oh! I don’t remember our interview, I see so many faces every day, sorry! (Laughs) But I remember the time when we promoted the “Unia” album, we were all very busy but it was interesting!

Thanks a lot for your time. I wish you a great tour and all the best for you and Sonata Arctica!

No problem, you’re welcome! I always talk a lot! (Laughs) Thank you very much!