Their music is so complex and uplifting that these guys deserve to be painted by Sandalphon himself, the patron-angel of music, on a wacky stained-glass window in the unholy church of metal music.
Their fingers intertwine with the strong chords of three divine cellos, and a blond madman in the background wires the beating of one’s heart to the calligraphic rhythm of his drums – that’s the kind of sonic magic woven by Apocalyptica, one of the most transgressive bands out there.
Lo and behold, as they will make their way to Romania, where they’ll play a gig on the 13th of May, in Bucharest, at the Arenele Romane. We can’t wait to enjoy some angelic tunes while letting the more infernal "riffs" carry us away, so that when we do the devil-horns, we know there’s a bit of sympathy (or symphony) for the devil hidden even in the most "harmless" of genres: classical music.
About the paradoxes of Apocalyptica, and the universal beauty of music, with some cucumber jokes sprinkled on top, we’ve spoken with the ever so gracious Perttu Kivilaakso, whose fall from the heaven of "post-tour vacation" we broke with the lovely interview you can read below.
Some of your fellow Finnish musicians seem to have betrayed that typical Finnish "surumielisyys". Lauri Ylonen experiments with electro-pop, Reckless Love claims that Finland is actually Funland etc. Are you planning any happy, feel-good albums, or will you stick to that lovely brand of melancholy that defines you?
Hmm…I don’t think that we try to bring that "typical Finnish melancholy" intentionally in our music. We just write the music that burns inside of us and we express those emotions. That’s why there is lots of anger, lots of beauty, some grief, a few perverse thoughts, lots of laughter, blinks in the eye, and some more of aggression in what we do. The colorful music speaks about our colorful personalities.
Tell us a bit about the Photo-Book launched via Pledge. Would you say that the music industry is shifting its focus from strategies that are supposed to bring as many and as diverse listeners as possible, to creating a sort of enclave, a cult-following of sorts for true fans, that actually buy the material?
I think that the music business isn’t doing any better than other businesses, or the world in general. I understand that it may change its focus and stuff, and it is obvious that nowadays it needs more "one-night-wonders" to bring in a lot of money, in a short period of time. But when it comes to us, I think we just wanted to release a book for true fans, who have followed us for 16 years. Finally we got it done! "
You’ve recently finished your Latin-American tour. How did it go? Were there any super-wild gigs?
Everything and every concert in Latin America could be called super-wild. We saw many new countries that we had never visited. It’s great to see that we still enjoy playing music so much! I’m really looking forward to this summer; we will play a bunch of festivals all around, and it should be fun!
Apocalyptica was Metallica’s special guest at their 30th anniversary concert at The Filmore. For a band that started out as a Metallica cover-band, how did it feel like to play with them on the same stage? Did you have any deja-vues?
One of the loveliest things that evening was to see that our "big brothers" still have fun on the stage, after 30 years of amazing metal history; they love music and they adore playing live. That’s what I want for myself too – to still love everything after many decades have passed; and all this regardless of whether there’s any hair left on my head. Of course it was great performing with them!
"What matters in music is the kid who has a guitar in his hand, and a Vision in his mind, or heart."
There is no other band like Apocalyptica out there, yet you’ve experimented with everything there is, still managing to sound fresh. What is your secret?
"We wake up every morning at 4.30 to run for 10 miles, and then we bathe in mud for 35 minutes, massage each-others backs, and eat cucumbers for breakfast.
Watching your acoustic performance at the Sibelius Academy is truly overwhelming. It’s like listening to the soundtrack of one’s dreams. It is magical chamber music at its best! How do you manage to be so chameleonic? One day, you’re rocking a huge stage, with super-amps and everything, and the next, you’re this perfect chamber group.
When it is a rock day, I add salt to my cucumber, and when it is a classical day, I stick the cucumber in my…what were you saying? (laughs). I think it’s mostly because we have a varied background and we love many different things. Plus, it helps if you are naturally crazy, and remember to eat "mĂ¤mmi" (traditional Finnish Easter desert) every Easter."
You are mainly an instrumental act. Are the collaborations with vocalists a compromise you make for commercial success, or do you enjoy them just as much as the instrument-only tracks?
Sometimes, we enjoy them more, other times less. There is no general pattern for these things. But surely, after having done these collaborations for 12 years, I feel like they are an important part of Apocalyptica. One part is represented by the covers we do, another contains the instrumental metal songs, yet another revolves around the classical or acoustic songs we play, and then come the tracks with vocals. Each part is equally important in creating the whole called Apocalyptica. "
Do you have a favorite collaboration so far? Someone you really enjoyed working with?
I enjoy working with Mikko SirĂ©n, every evening, every year. However, I won’t choose only one of the vocalists, because I love them all.
You are classically trained, professional musicians. Would you say that rock musicians nowadays lack musical education? How important is it to know the notes, and not just master tabs?
I think it is not important at all if you have your own thing to represent. What’s most important is to have something to say with your music. Education doesn’t really help you if you don’t have a vision…but surely, things like knowing history and theories, or speaking many languages canâ’t harm a human being. However, they don’t automatically make someone creative either, so I’d say that it doesn’t matter at all. What matters is the kid who has a guitar in his hand, and a Vision in his mind, or heart.
"The old Apocalyptica would congratulate the new Apocalyptica on managing to sound so much bigger and better."
Have you converted metal purists, or kids who had no idea symphonic music could be so "cool", to this "genre" – symphonic, classical-music?
I hope that people listen to all kinds of different musical genres; it makes life more colorful and it is always good to know more of what’s happening around you. If we have such an influence on metal-heads, that they go and see a symphonic concert, it means we’re doing something right. We’re all about spreading the seeds of imagination and opening the gates to different worlds. I need all these universes myself, to learn how to jump from one mood to the other.
Symphonic music has a lot in common, compositionally speaking, with metal. In a day and age when alternative influences seem to have gained the upper hand, is symphonic music a way to keep metal "real" and close to its roots?
I think that all musical genres have a lot in common with one another. All songs have a beginning and an ending, they can make you laugh and cry, they can bring things into perspective and they give you emotion. I never liked to categorize music too much; to me, at least, it is just music in general. Besides, symphonic music represents the root of all the other genres. As for metal, it is an attitude and can be found everywhere.
Speaking of which, you are both unconventional metal players and eccentric symphonic musicians. How would you define your identity in light of this paradox?
I think that we are so strongly both – unconventional metal-heads and eccentric symphonic musicians – that there is no paradox, at least not in my head. We’re musical schizos with many faces; it all depends on the angle you’re looking from. I love both equally, and I feel them inside me with equal intensity.
There is always this comparison between old & new. What would the old Apocalyptica say about the new Apocalyptica, and vice-versa.
The old Apocalyptica would congratulate the new Apocalyptica on managing to sound so much bigger and better. The new Apocalyptica says "thanks for opening the doors for us, dudes. After all your hard work, it has been easy for us.
The gig on May 13th in Bucharest is not your first in Romania . Do you have any expectations/ surprises from/for this gig? Any memories from past gigs?
First of all, we haven’t played any gigs since January, so I’m sure that everyone can’t wait for the show! Musicians need to go on stage to bang their heads, we need to sweat in front of an audience. No musician feels complete without that feeling! Therefore, I’ll bring all I’ve got, and even more! We’re rehearsing next week so only then will I be ale to say how the set will look like, and so on. But I’m sure we will build up a hell-of-a show, and we’re totally energetic and exited to get back on the road again!
Thank you Perttu!