Tony from Sonata Arctica was kind enough to answer our questions. |
Dimitris: Tony, I am really happy to host an interview with you, since I consider that Sonata Arctica is probably the most hopeful name for the metal scene. I would like to start by asking you about the release of the new album. Maybe you will reveal to us, when exactly it is going to be released and how you came up with the name of ‘Winterheart’s Guild’?
Tony Kakko: Ah, thank you very much! In Japan the release date is February 21st (or 22nd...) and in Europe March 17th. Name was a bit painful process. I wanted to have a longer title this time, like with ‘Silence’ too, but that in the end didn´t get any longer. Good thing too. I had A LOT of different words I played around with, but when I then came up with the cover idea, ‘Winterheart´s Guild’ was pretty obvious. For me at least, haha! On the cover you can see a meeting of four seasons that have taken a human-like-form and the Autumn is handing the sceptre of seasons to Winter. Together all the seasons for this ‘Winterheart´s Guild’, for Winter is the strongest of seasons.
Dimitris: The first single from the new album is going to be ‘Victoria’s Secret’. You consider this to be maybe the best song on the album or it was just a song that picked up for helping new people to discover the band (meaning that it is maybe a little bit commercial)? Is there going to be a video clip for the song just like it was done with ‘Wolf And Raven’? And this song has the same story behind ‘Letter To Danna’(Tony: IT`S DANA!) and ‘Talullah’? (Tony: THAT´s TALLULAH!, haha!) [I am stupid enough aren’t I? /Editorial note]
Tony Kakko: It´s not the best songs IMO, but the easiest choice for single. Not overly anything, really. Speedy, but not too much. And there´s a solo by Jens Johansson! I don´t think we´re gonna make a video for this album at all. There´s very little places those get airtime and they cost idiotic amounts of money. ‘Victoria’ tells it´s own story. Dana is dead and tallulah too. Basically the idea behind this songs is how some people yearn for freedom and independence, some get it, some never will, but how some of the people finally get to be on their own would actually be better controlled and helped by some who knows better.
Dimitris: I know that there is a new keyboardist on the band. As it was announced from your website he is Henrik Klingenberg. Did he had the chance to record the keys on the new album and contribute or were you responsible for that? Can you explain me maybe the reasons why he is the new keyboardist?
Tony Kakko: Sadly, because of Mikko’s late announcing that he´s REALLY leaving Henrik was joined in such late time that there was no way he could have joined us on recordings. I played all keys, except the solos on 4 songs which were layed there by the great master Jens Johansson.
Here´s what Mikko had to say(from our website):
For personal reasons a time has come in my life when I have to make a decision in order to be able to go on... I've been fortunate to share many unforgettable moments with these guys. We've travelled thousands and thousands of kilometers together, we've been to the edge of the world and back and seen things a young pianist wouldn't ever have imagined. I'm grateful for all the moments but at the same time, everything happened has made me re-evaluate my life. Extensive touring has made me re-think my priorities in life. Time and again I've had to reconsider what are the most important things in my life. Everything I've experienced, as magnificent as it has been, has created a vacuum in my personal life, which I have to admit, has steered me away from Sonata Arctica. I've noticed that I no longer can give the band my 100 per cent just to keep the ball rolling, and I have come to the conclusion that it is better for everyone that I call it quits and that the band acquires a new member who will give his full effort and enthusiasm, for no less than that is what Sonata Arctica deserves.
I hereby want to thank the guys; Tony, Jani, Make and Tommy. Thank you for your friendship. A warm thank you also to the fans throughout the world. It has been a blast to meet you all. Thanks to everyone who has been a part of this trip. Thanks to the loved ones; my family, friends and especially the most important person in my life, Reetta. Thank you for your love and understanding.
All the best, guys! Show 'em!!!
with best regards,
at this point I have nothing to add there. I am more than happy with Henrik. He totally kicks ass!
Dimitris: On the first two releases, you were the responsible for composing all the songs. Has this changed with ‘Winterheart’s Guild’ or we will be able to listen to some ideas from the other members of the band?
Tony Kakko: All the songs are written by me again, and sadly even the arrangements are mostly mine this time. We had such an idiotic schedule with recordings and all that there was no time to play around. I brought most of the songs straight to studio and told the guys what to do, basically. We had our last show with ‘silence’ in the end of July 2002 and recordings started already a month and a half later. I hope I never have to go such a stressing period. I hated making this album although I love the outcome. You can say the birth-giving was painful but the child is healthy. :)
What comes to other guys writing songs...I haven´t yet heard ANYTHING they´ve done, so either they don´t have anything to give on that department or then they are just happy with what I do. I´ve told them million times that they can feel free bringing their own songs so we can work those out. Nothing so far. I ain´t complaining though.
Dimitris: What do we have to expect from the new album? Are there any major differences on the style of the band?
Tony Kakko: General style is maybe a bit rougher, more the way we do things live too. Hard for me to say anything. This album was way too close for me the last couple of months, I grew to hate and love it too much. Check it out yourself and you tell me what you think.
Dimitris: What I find completely amazing, are the lyrics that you write. Having read other interviews I saw that you are not writing from personal experiences but you just make up stories to write. How difficult is that and lyrically the new album where is it going to lie? I don’t suppose it is a concept album?
Tony Kakko: WHG is not a concept album, at least not intentionally and if it is, I can´t see it. Some songs and lyrics come easily, just like that, but with some songs you always have hard time. Same with WHG. Generally I feel the lyrics on this one are the best I´ve done so far.
Dimitris: Are there going to be any special editions for the new album? And if what are their ‘bonuses’?
Tony Kakko: In Japan there´s always a bonus track. On WHG it´s ‘The rest of the sun belongs to me’. Rest of the world I think will be ten songs and that´s it. Unless the suddently come up with something extra. Have no idea what that might be though.
Dimitris: As for ‘Songs Of Silence’, are you happy with the outcome of this live recording? Did the sales of it satisfied you and are you thinking maybe in the future recording another one or is it too soon?
Tony Kakko: I think the live thing was ok, I really don´t care about it that much. I have no idea about the sales, I quess it sold ok at least in Japan since it was specially made for japanese market. New live thing...never if you ask me. :) maybe after 10th album...well, you never know, but absolutely not with this album!
Dimitris: How about touring? Have you planned anything yet? Being a Greek I would love to see you guys live somewhere here. Any proposals from here? And are the sales big enough here in Greece to see you live? And since this is a german webzine mostly, will you perform in the near future in Germany?
Tony Kakko: We´ll have few shows in Finland after the album is out and then we tour Japan in early April. At this point the plans for Europe are a bit open. Few festivals are for sure, but actual tour takes place in autumn but what comes to Greece, I cannot really say anything else but I´d totally love to play there! I´ve never visited your country so.
Hope is alive! Germany will absolutely be a part of our European tour!
Dimitris: How was the tour with Gamma Ray and the tour in Japan? Generally you like touring?
Tony Kakko: Gamma Ray tour was ok, not as amazings as was the Stratovarius/Rhapsody -tour but ok. Japan was one huge experience despite the fact that I was ill during that tour and also in the beginning of the tour with Gamma´s. Touring is really nice, but like with anything, you get bored with it after certain point. New places are always nice to see, but after you play the same venue for the 10th time, the glory is pretty much gone. Before great audiences I love to play always, no matter if it was the 1000th time! At the moment I can´t wait to hit the road!
Dimitris: Looking back in the past, do you think that there are some changes that you would wish you have done? Are you satisfied with the band so far (sales and acceptance by the fans)?
Tony Kakko: We have done all the things in a way that feels good and is fun. Naturally you make mistakes in life, but with Sonata I can´t really put my finger on anything I´d change. Human being is such a weird animal, it´s never truly happy with what he/she´s got. So naturally I would not mind selling millions of albums, but hey, what metal bands do that? I´m honestly very happy with what we have at this point. We are still young and there are many many albums yet to make. Anything can happen.
Dimitris: Is there any possibility to see Mikko back to Sonata and if you know is he up to something now?
Tony Kakko: Mikko will never return. I won´t let him come back. Once you´re out, you´re out and that´s it. Choice was his and we suffered the consequences. I think Mikko is studying now.
Dimitris: You have quite a way to do cover versions of songs. ‘Still Loving You’ for example was quite amazing. Do you take the recording of cover songs as a creation process meaning that you take the song and try to produce something new?
Tony Kakko: Yes, actually we do. No matter who wrote and originally wrote the song, when we do a cover it has to sound like Sonata song. Sometimes it takes lots of ‘raping’ but why make a blueprint of the original. Some people will always hate the versions we do, but the other side of the coin is there too. Some people absolutely love our ‘rapings’. We have brought new audiences for many old songs, take ‘Still Loving You’. I think there´s a bit more rocking version too of that great tune and what I´ve heard many agree. Main thing covering songs is not to make a better one, for that is often impossible to achieve the original being...perfect! So the other road to travel is to make it different enough, so it could actually pass as a new song.
Dimitris: As I know, you don’t listen to heavy metal? Since it is difficult with the songs you compose to understand how is this possible, maybe you could tell us what are your main influences on song-writing and singing.
Tony Kakko: I draw my influences from the music I´ve listened when I was younger, take Queen for example. I do listen heavy metal sometimes, specially when I´m typing these interviews! New Stratovarius album I listen at the moment KICKS ASS!!! This is so cool and different and well producent peace of art..whoooah! Recommended!
Dimitris: I am tempted to ask you, how do you feel about file-sharing of mp3’s on the internet?
Tony Kakko: This is ‘a two bladed sword’. Good for advertising, yes, but the quality they can achieve is way too good, why buy albums when you get the same shit free from the net...sad thing that may some day ruin the industry that makes the music making possible. It´s frustrating to work hard and give your everything just to find your blood and sweat from internet, free for the nerd next door to download. If I could make the call, I´d either quit it or then, maybe rather, lower the quality...have noooo idea how that could be done. Impossible. Shut down the net! I know the good sides there, but from where many bands stand, it´s easier to see the down side.
Dimitris: There are so many things that I wanted to ask you, but unfortunately on an internet interview I cant. I want to congratulate you for every single note you have recorded as it has kept me a lot of company and gave me hope. Songs like ‘Wolf And Raven’, ‘The End Of This Chapter’, ‘Replica’ etc. are songs that give me hope for the power metal scene and not only. I want to thank you for taking time to reply to my questions and if there is anything to tell to your fans throughout the world that I may have forgotten to ask you, please do so. Thank you really much. The best of luck with everything.
Tony Kakko: Well, thanks for your kind words! The pleasure was all mine, actually! I have so many albums I haven´t had time to listen lately, that i really enjoy this. :) Yes, I hope to see you all on festivals and on tour.
Please check our website www.sonataarctica.com every now and then to see if there´s updates on schedules. Take good care and rock or FREEZE!!!
All the very best,
~Tony Kakko - Sonata Arctica