Sonata Arctica (Tony Kakko)
On the occasion of the release of Finnish power metallers' new live DVD, SpazioRock is pleased to give you an interview with Tony Kakko, vocalist and mastermind of Sonata Arctica, who shared his opinions on "Live In Finland", with an eye on the past and - hear ye - giving us a sneak peak of the next album. Enjoy our interview!
Article by Gaetano Loffredo - Publish on: 04/11/11
Interview & Questions: Gaetano Loffredo
Transcription and Italian translation: Elisa Bonora

Hi Tony, finally after ten years and after interviewing more or less all the members of Sonata Arctica I can speak to the real mastermind and leader of a band that keeps giving us emotions. Welcome to SpazioRock.

Thank you very much!

I would like to start from pre-history saying that the first Sonata Arctica show I’ve seen was the opening act for Stratovarius and Rhapsody on April 28, 2000 at Palalido in Milan. It was your debut with "Ecliptica". Do you remember that show? What has changed in your mind from the beginning to the present days?

Yeah, I do remember that show, it was a big thing that happened to us a long time ago, it was a huge show, I remember the venue was huge. I was standing there screaming “I’m on the top of the world”, and Timo Kotipelto I think was recording it, with his videocamera and I ended up in the documentary, the DVD they released later on and that was shot in Milan. So yeah, I do remember, and the show was fantastic, we had fun onstage and it was just an amazing experience.
About what has changed, well, the line-up a little bit, we have grown up, we are 11 years older, the world is different... So a lot of things have changed of course.

Do you feel you have fulfilled yourself in the music world, or is there anything you still miss?

Oh, well, we haven’t sold like 2 million copies of any of our albums so far (laughs). Well, honestly, it would be nice to reach some kind of “peak” so that everybody would know the band, that would be nice of course. I think any band, any member of any band, if they say something different they are all lying! Everybody who work in this business would like this. We’re really happy to be able to do this anyway, so we’re not millionaires or selling millions of albums but it’s enough to make things possible and we’re able to tour the world and support ourselves, so we’re happy.

Did fame change you as a person?

No... I’m not sure, no. That little fame we have... I’d say we would have actually changed anyway. It’s 11 years and everybody changes in 11 years somehow, you’re not exactly the same, you experience things and see things and learn things and that makes you what you are. It would be pretty terrible if you didn’t change anything in 11 years or so. Fame? No, I’m not sure, I may be more self-confident in some ways, but I’m still paranoid and scared of people and think that everybody’s watching (laugh).

The first two wonderful power albums were followed by another masterpiece, Winterheart’s Guild, that showed the darkest side of Sonata Arctica. I am sure you have a special bond with that album, is that right?

Yes, absolutely. I think there are some of Sonata Arctica’s best songs there, like "Broken" and the power metal songs that we have there, "The Ruins Of My Life" is one of my favourites, and "Draw Me". But anyway, it’s a great album, I love that album, with Jens Johansson working there as well, playing the solos for some of the songs and it was just an amazing experience, the whole album.

Then a sort of change in your style began to be apparent with "Reckoning Night" and was complete with "Unia". The songwriting is more reasoned and less light than before, and your typical smart melodies were a bit lacking in "Unia". What are the reasons of this choice?


The band kind of hit a “war” during the "Reckoning Night" tour and I expected to be really difficult to keep the band together for more than that one more album, and if we wanted to do that one more album it should be something like a catharsis and "Unia" worked the best. It was wonderful recording that album, I still love that album, it’s mor complex, kinda darker and bitter and it’s got so many layers... I think in some ways it’s one of our best albums, but then again, it’s a difficult album as well at the same time. Personally I’ve always enjoyed the more complex albums that open up slowly, and I think Unia in some ways was that kind of experience. But it kind of opened space for us, you know, all the feedback we got from the fans made us realize that people actually care and want us there, touring, and love the music, so it was easy somehow after Unia to go back to a bit lighter expression, more positive, with "The Days of Grays". Some people, like Tuomas from Nightwish, said that "The Days of Grays" album was more difficult for him than Unia was. Odd thing to hear from him (laughs), but that’s how people see things, you know.

"The Days of Grays" is an album which takes the best elements from the past and matches them with the power of a majestic orchestra. Is this the Sonata Arctica of the future, or shall we expect something different?

You are going to hear something a little bit different on this album. It will have a different approach to the music, we have more simple songs there, more hitting, easier songs on the next album. I think most of the Sonata Arctica fans, especially if you’re a fan of our earlier works you’ll enjoy this new album, although it’s not about speed. It’s like the songs have beautiful melodies, I feel they’re really touching somehow.

Let’s get back to the present. The new live album is perfect sound-wise, and if the filming (which I haven’t seen yet) is of the same quality it’s going to be a real masterpiece. Yet, "Live in Finland" originally had to be "Live in Italy", but you were forced to change your plans. Can you explain us the detailed reasons for this?

It was mainly financial, because we were not aware of some of the expenses that would actually have occurred if we had shot the DVD in Italy. One of the things was shipping the gear, ‘cause we needed some extra stuff from Finland to shoot the DVD, and it would have cost something in between 20 to 30 thousand euros to get all the stuff in there, and that was just insane. We wouldn’t have had any pyros or something, it just didn’t make any sense. We wanted to make the best possible DVD to be sold all over the world, and we would have been bankrupt had we done it in Italy. And it was really a nightmare to cancel that thing, but instead we wanted to give the Milan fans a special show, you know, with the acoustic thing, and you can see that show in the DVD extra material as well. It was shot with only one videocamera, but it shows the world the quality of the Italian fans which is just amazing and gives me goosebumps to even talk about this, you know people screaming and singing all the songs... It was just amazing, and we didn’t totally get that kind of feeling and atmosphere from the fans in Finland of course, because Italian fans are Italian fans and Finn fans are... Finnish! But the show itself is so much more grand, with pyros and everything, we shot it in high definition in Finland as well. So that’s what we get in return. And I think that the show is the main thing here, not the audience, because the audience is sitting there watching.

Now I can understand that Italian fans can understand.

I hope so.

For the new live you are also planning the release of a Blu-Ray, I guess it was a very expensive move and I don’t think it will grant the necessary income to cover the costs. Have you already seen the Blu-Ray? What’s your opinion?

It is just staggering, it’s fantastic, it’s high definition and it’s just better than live! (Laughs) You know, when you take a photo with a great camera it looks better than it actually does, so this is the case, I think, here as well. It’s fantastic. The DVD is good, and the Blu-Ray will be of course better, it’s like comparing VHS and CD, or DVD actually. I think it’s worth for everybody to check the Blu-Ray, if possible.

And what about the costs?

Well, it was one of the things we were able to cover with the money we saved, partly. But we get a really great deal with these guys from Poland, they really wanted to do it and they made the package as tight as possible and made the high definition possible.


Let’s have a look at the future Tony: you are already working on the next album after "The Days of Grays", what more can you tell us?

Actually at the moment we have been rehearsing the songs for more than a month, and then recording a demo, which is the first time ever since, like, the Nineties! We haven’t usually been able to record a demo of our albums, we just went to the studio and started working on the album. But anyway, this time we have demos as well, which will hopefully help us make the album as good as possible. And like I told you, it’s going to be somehow more simple, our early works were pretty simple, straightforward, and now we are taking some of that back. The songs are not ultra-speedy, but they are more simple and going straight to the point, and I think a lot of the fans will appreciate that.

Tony, how hard is it to always stay focused trying to produce great tracks like the past ones? Do you often feel under pressure?

Not really. I write songs that I like, and if other people like the songs I write, perfect. I always do the absolute best I can with every song, so actually I enjoy it. Some of the albums I have written, we worked in the studio: that is stress. I get up early in the morning and go to the studio, and work with the drums with Tommy, and then I go back home and start working until 4 a.m. in the morning, sleep 2 or 3 hours and then go back to the studio: that’s stress! This time it’s not going to be like that, the songs are there already.

Speaking of songwriting: what instrument do you start from to create your masterpieces? Keyboards, I suppose, is that right?

Keys, or guitar as well. I play guitar just a little bit, enough to be able to write something. I sometimes get stuck with keyboards going through the same patterns again and again, and I think it’s really good to be able to play a little bit of other instruments that are completely different, where you find different chords, progressions and stuff. I usually get started singing, humming the melodies and recording them, and see what comes out of it and listen what kind of ideas I get from.

I have a curiosity: you have always listened to Nightwish, you have also toured a lot with this band around the world. Do you prefer Nightwish with Anette or do you think they were better with Tarja Turunen?

That’s a difficult question! I like Tarja as a person and I like Anette as a person. The approach is so different. There are songs that Tarja’s approach is much better, the songs need this operatic approach and singing and Anette can’t deliver it, it doesn’t work. Then again, some of the songs “rock”, and you need to have a rock singer and then Anette is better, she’s more rock. I don’t know, I like both, if we could have some kind of combination of these two singers I think it would be perfect... I’m trying to be some kind of “political” here! (Laughs)

Very “political”, Tony, but that’s right! What do you usually listen to, apart from Sonata Arctica? I have always heard the influence of Brian May in your songwriting... I think Queen are always there, am I correct?

Yes, absolutely. This is the first band that ever hit me big time as a young kid and you can’t take that thing out of me, it’s always going to be a part of me. No matter what I do, as long as I keep doing things I really love you’re going to hear Queen there. Then there are times I find other sources of inspiration, but when I get back to “being me” Queen will be there of course.

Ok Tony, that’s all. I congratulate once again for the upcoming Live in Finland and I’ll see you at the next show. Please leave a message to your many Italian fans who will read the interview on SpazioRock.

Hi all in Italy, this is Tony from Sonata Arctica and this is SpazioRock: check it out every day! I hope to see you lovely people as soon as possible with the next album. Stay heavy!

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