How many bands do you know that have found themselves in the media spotlight right after the release of their first single? From the moment the "Unopened" MCD hit the record stores Sonata Arctica have been in the centre of attention of both fans and media, and this attention is bound to grow further as the band have just released the second full-length album called "Silence". We contacted the band's leader, singer, keyboardist and songwriter Tonk Kakko by e-mail and here is what he has to say about the past, present and future of Sonata Arctica.
MetalKings.com: Your latest album "Silence" has just been released. What has been the response from critics and listeners so far?
TK: Extremely positive! "Silence" has been quite a review success all over the world. Of course, when you have more than one album out , people start comparing them and having opinions how this is better than that. This new album is a bit different from "Ecliptica" which was more straight forward. "Silence" is a more mature album, more of our own thing.
MetalKings.com: What is the idea behind the album title and its cover?
TK: We wanted to have a long name like "This or that of the other" but we didn't come up with anything even remotely intelligent, so silence was all that was left. It's also a force that keeps me going as a song writer. A creative power. I could not make music without having silence.
Cover then, well, to start with, we didn't have anything to do with the first two covers we had ("Ecliptica" and "Successor" minicd). Frankly I hate those! I have no idea what so ever what they are trying to represent. So, with this new album we wanted to decide what's on the cover and the first thing we all wanted was nature. We wanted to divide the cover someway, have all the seasons there but summer. I feel that summer here in northern Finland is way too short compared to fall and winter, so we left it out. There are also some deeper things involved but it's better to leave that for the fans to find, maybe.
MetalKings.com: "Silence" features spoken parts and voices recorded by Mika Niilonen, Nik Van-Eckmann and Renay Gonzalez. Who are these people and do they play in any bands?
TK: I don?t think they play in any bands. Mika and Nik are teachers in the school I study in. Mika is a friend of mine and it was cool from him to volunteer to record the lines. Nik is the man with the deep voice. I was really happy when he agreed to do those lines. I love his voice. And Renay is a lady living in the USA. Mika knows her from his studying days there, and her parts were recorded over the phone. Sexy voice.
MetalKings.com: The Japanese version of "Silence" features an exclusive bonus track. How do you decide which songs to include in the original versions and which to leave out for a bonus?
TK: Usually it's some maybe weaker track, but this time it definitely was not. We wanted to give something extra for Japan, because they are the single most important market for us. We really don't write any spare tracks. All songs written are recorded.
MetalKings.com: The song "Weballergy" is obviously intended against Internet freaks sitting at their computers 24 hours a day. What is the role of Internet in your own life?
TK: I'm kinda stuck in there in a sad way. I'd like to surf there and discover things, but all my time goes in e-mails. This used to be fun, but not anymore. All the important stuff is taken care of via e-mails these days, which is of course convenient, fast and painless, but when you can't have a day of from that, it's not healthy.
The song "Weballergy" isn't meant as a serious statement, but more like a sarcastic move towards people who say our lyrics are not what metal lyrics should be. And they really aren't in "traditional" way. I can see their point but it's funny when they come and present me lyrics of a song that is like this lyrical waste bucket! The dudes that have written many of those songs clearly haven't given any thought to the lyrics, and that has been intentional most of the time I'm sure, because in that headbangin? metal the lyrical content serves a different purpose than what in case of our music. We like to do this in our own way.
MetalKings.com: What is the song "Tallulah" about?
TK: It's a sort of love song. Tallulah is a girl's name. Sometimes it's easier to live alone than fear the time it's over.
MetalKings.com: You write all music and lyrics for Sonata Arctica tracks. Do other musicians have any input in the songwriting process?
TK: They are arranging the songs together with me. They also have strong opinion about my ideas and if something is really crappy they force me to give it up or change it. I'm absolutely not a dictator in this band. The other guys just have not brought any new songs in the band so far, so I take it so that they must be happy with what I do.
MetalKings.com: What are your impressions from touring with Stratovarius and Rhapsody?
TK: It was a great tour in every way! We made lot of new friends, both in personal level and also for our music. There are lot of funny memories. But that was more than a year ago so now I'm looking forward for the next tour with Gamma Ray in the end of September.
MetalKings.com: You say in the Members section of your web-site that the best Sonata Arctica gig took place in San Sebastian. "Silence" features the track called "San Sebastian". What actually happened during that gig that made it so special?
TK: Nothing. Well the roof of the venue almost collapsed, but that song was written like 2 years before that tour took place. So the experiences of the actual place has nothing to do with that song.
MetalKings.com: Do you perform "Still Loving You" and "I Want Out" live? Are you planning to record more cover versions soon?
TK: Rarely. If we play shows lasting an hour or even less, there's really no room for cover songs. We have actually already recorded two cover songs. One is Iron Maiden's "Die With Your Boots On" and the other "The Wind Beneath My Wings" originally recorded by Bette Midler. Weird huh?
MetalKings.com: As far as I understand, the "PeaceMaker" track from the "Wolf & Raven" single is a re-recording of the song from the third Tricky Beans demo. Why did you decide to do it and how is it different from the original?
TK: A lot of people we know have hoped we'd do it and also for us it's lots of fun. A bit different kind of song taking us back in time to the innocent demodays. The original is not THAT different. You still recognize the original song. We added a keyboard solo and the beginning is a bit different.
MetalKings.com: Where did the inspiration for the lyrics to "Mary Lou" come from?
TK: I honestly can't remember. I wrote that song already like 5 years ago. It's just a tale of teenage troubles.
MetalKings.com: Is it true that all the lyrics for "Ecliptica" were originally written in Finnish and then translated into English? Who did the translations then?
TK: No that is not true. Weird idea. Where did you get this? I have never done a song in Finnish and then translated it in English. Tried it and failed. Songs I've done in Finnish remain that way.
MetalKings.com: Why are there so many different versions of the "Successor" EP?
TK: I don't know. We have nothing to do with that. The differences are in the live part of that extended single like I like to think it. In many countries it's cheaper to order albums from abroad than buy local pressings. That is why countries like Japan need to have something extra on the releases.
MetalKings.com: In addition to keyboards, what other musical instruments do you play?
TK: A bit of guitar. And my vocal cords! It's the most difficult and beautiful instrument depending on individual of course. =)
MetalKings.com: What instrument do you use when you compose songs?
TK: Keyboards mainly. I have composed only a few songs with guitar, like "Replica" and Letter to Dana".
MetalKings.com: What is your former bass player Janne Kivilahti doing at present? Is he playing in any band or has he quit music?
TK: I think he's working in a local papermill or something. Haven't seen him in a while. He's not playing bass anymore that I know.
MetalKings.com: All Sonata Arctica releases have been published by Spinefarm Records. Are you planning to search for a bigger label now since the band became really famous?
TK: I haven't even given a thought to that. We have yet one album to do with Spinefarm and honestly, I'm not all that eager going on a foreign label. It's easier when you can take care of all the things in Finnish.
MetalKings.com: Both "Ecliptica" and "Silence" were released in Russia on a license by FONO Records. Is there a chance to see Sonata Arctica playing in Moscow or St. Petersburg one day?
TK: We need to sell more albums there before we come there, I think, although I haven't heard any sales figures. I hope some day.
MetalKings.com: Please tell a few words to your Russian fans.
TK: I wish you all enjoy the "Silence" even half as much as we enjoyed making it to you. And remember to wear earplugs when youre in heavymetal shows! Ear ringing can make you crazy. Roooock!
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