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Interview: Apocalyptica
It's only been a little more than a year that Apocalyptica started having a break from touring to work on their new Album WORLDS COLLIDE. And now this break is over, the album released and the band on the road again. Of course, also Germany was on their tour list. Even a place like Hattingen was on the plan, although few people had ever heard of such a place before and sometimes it was mistakenly mixed up with Dortmund. So promotion needed to be done, but between a signing session, a meet & greet with their fans and dinner before the show, Perttu Kivilaakso and drummer Mikko Sirén were still in a very good mood and found some time to answer Vicki B.'s questions.

 V.B., 23.10.2007

We asked...
 How are you doing, guys?

Perttu Kivilaakso: Thank you! Actually, really, really good! It feels great to be on tour. We have never enjoyed playing live as much as now. The audience has been unbelievable everywhere. We have already done Baltic countries and 7 gigs in Finland, then through Sweden to Germany and now we are in Dortmund and it's gonna be a hell of a show.
Mikko Sirén: Hattingen!
Perttu: In my backstage pass it says Dortmund, so guilty as charged.

Yes, there was some confusion about it. So, this is actually the first album release with Mikko as a steady member of the band. How did you actually get to meet the guys? You were a session musician before, but how did they approach you or how did this actually happen?

Mikko: It was after REFLECTIONS. When they made the album Eicca called me, cause then they wanted to have a permanent drummer for the tour, and of course, Dave Lombardo (Slayer) couldn't do it, so they tried to find another drummer. We didn't know personally before, I just was recommended by some idiots to them and they were so stupid that they believed what they were told. And Eicca called me and basically it was a really short period of time before we were already on tour, maybe like one month or so for me to learn the songs and the guys to know me, so it was sort of like a decision that was almost made before we even ever played together, because they didn't have any other chance. It was like that. And then we got to know each other better when we already were in the tour bus.

Okay, now talking about WORLDS COLLIDE. How did you come up with the title? Can you say something about the album?

Mikko: As everything is done in this band, it's always done a bit after it should have been done already. As was with the name of the album and I think it needed to be decided, let's say on Monday, and we were still talking about it on Wednesday. There is not a huge philosophy behind the title, to be honest, but I think it's a cool title in a way, because it leaves fairly lots of questions open and it actually, at least to me it feels that it makes the listener become the active part in the sense that he or she starts to think what we mean with this title and so, yes, I think it's a cool title.
Perttu: Mine and Mikko's worlds collided badly!
Mikko: Yeah, exactly! In the bathroom...
Perttu: Hehehe...

Okay…So how would you describe the new album? What's different from APOCALYPTICA?

Mikko: It's more red, the cover. I think it's a huge difference to this blue…

I didn't mean that….

Mikko: Ah! Oh! Perttu can then answer.
Perttu: Mmmhh, otherwise APOCALYPTICA and REFLECTIONS albums we self-produced, because during those times we thought that we know everything concerning cello playing better than others, so we didn't want to have anybody to mess up things. But this time we thought somehow differently and that we definitely would need some guidance from outside the band to bring alternative ideas and things, because we were also a little bit stuck with the cello thing. Of course, I have been playing cello for 25 years already, so I'm really stuck in the thing and what it is, but then we brought up Jacob Hellner, a great producer, who came to say basically: "No, I don't like the way you play." Then our worlds collided.
Mikko: As a drummer, I sometimes watched Jacob and the guys from aside, and they play brilliantly. Jacob wasn't at all interested sometimes how good they play. He said: "If I can't hear the story, I don't give a shit how good you play. You can play the best in the world, but if there is no story and feeling behind it, I just don't care!" And it was something that from time to time was quite funny to watch from aside, those colliding episodes.
Perttu: Yeah, but in this sense it is much more innovative, maybe than the previous album, because there are a lot of different ways of using cellos and a lot of different effects and we didn't care about the beautiful cello sound so much than maybe earlier. Earlier all the ideas were based on building up a powerful ground and then play beautiful cello melodies on top of it. But now...
Mikko: I think it's more experimental in many ways and sort of like the things we've done so far really naturally, Jacob made us rethink those things and really question whether we do them on purpose or if it is just a habit and therefore quite a lot…When we were rehearsing we had the original idea of the songs and some of the arrangement changed really dramatically to the album, because his way of thinking music was…I find it really fascinating how he did that, because he's not stuck in instrumental thinking but he thinks more in bigger lines, so he made us do things differently. It was good I think and at least for me, I feel that I really learned a lot during the session, because it lasted like 8 months in total with Jacob I think, something like that, and it was really like a high school of music for me in that sense.

And you have also worked with Max Martin. How did you meet him?

Mikko: I never did. Eicca was…

Well, but how did you get to work with him?

Perttu: Martin Dodd, our record company boss is a good friend of Max Martin and they have a long history together also, because Martin Dodd was the guy who signed for example Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys in the beginning to the label, and of course then cooperating with the composers like Max Martin. So there was this link how we got known to him.
Mikko: And I think that's like one of the ideas, not to be stuck with your old ideas and to be brave. That's something that you shouldn't do when you're like a really true bad-ass heavy metal guy, you shouldn't work with the guy who earns money from the music. You should be just poor and crying alone, but when there is a guy who's…(band Stam1na walks by) here goes Stam1na, our support band. Have you heard them?

No, I haven't.

Mikko: They are fantastic! Soon they start, you have to hurry. So…(stutters something extremely fast to emphasise on the hurry). Yeah, but to have this idea to combine this heavy metal world to this poppier thinking of his, it was something which I find really, really interesting and I think we pulled it out really good. If the song would have been bad and we wouldn't have liked it, then for sure we would have said no to the thing

You, Mikko, are now included in the songwriting of this album and I was wondering, how do you actually write music? Do you compose on a guitar or piano?

Mikko: I think mainly on the keyboard and a bit with guitar. I'm quite poor playing any other instrument than drums, so...
Perttu: You are a poor drummer, too.
Mikko: I'm actually a poor drummer. (sings) "I'm just a poor boy." (laughing) And God created MIDI! Honestly, I just use Logic, it's a program for this MIDI type of thing, cause I also like to do lots of electronic music and do this kind of programming and stuff like that, so it's familiar to me. And even the song I wrote for the album, for me it's a trance-like composition in that sense.
Perttu: Mikko is a really good DJ. Yesterday he was entertaining us before the gig in Braunschweig. He did a DJ concert for us.

Nice! Next question: How did you come up with the idea to include an electric guitar in a song along with the cellos? I think it sounds quite interesting.

Mikko: I think that's the reason, because we thought that it would sound quite interesting. The guy (Tomoyasu Hotei) is not from this world. He is a totally different kind of guy, different kind of guitar player and to have that unexpected sound on our song, it was one thing to try out.

Because before that the cellos were basically taking that part, too, and sort of imitated it a little…

Mikko: Yeah, exactly. And this is a cool song, because there you can really hear the difference, quite often it's said that the cellos sound like guitars. My ass they do! They don't sound like guitars and on that song, someone who doesn't hear the difference should go and see a doctor.

In the past the guest singers usually wrote the lyrics for their versions of the songs and on this album you also had some co-writers for the lyrics. Was there ever a situation when you didn't really like or approve with the lyrics? And if yes, how did you deal with that?

Mikko: With "S.O.S.", it went through several phases before it came out good.
Perttu: We removed lots of funny words.
Mikko: The overall idea, it's the same guy who wrote "I'm Not Jesus", cause we like the way he tells the story in that song, so we wanted to use him. It feels like it suits his way of telling a story. But when he first started with the song, I think it was totally like...
Perttu: "F*ck, f*ck! Pussy, pussy! Group sex, yes! Gruppensex! Führer! Ach! Mein Arsch!" Almost like this. (big laughter)
Mikko: Luckily in English, but anyway, it was something that we weren't so much agreeing to, except for Perttu who agrees to everything he just described, haha. But, there are occasions when lyrics are reconsidered.
Perttu: But also in this album we had a horrible rush with all the co-operations, and basically there was no time for Corey, for example, to write his own lyrics to the song and the song already existed with those words, so there was no reason for him to mess with it. So, yes.

This time there are no instrumental versions of the songs with guest singers on the album. Will you release those versions of those songs, for example, on singles or will there be another version of the album like you did with REFLECTIONS where those can be heard?

Perttu: Isn't "S.O.S." already released, the instrumental? Isn't it on the "I'm Not Jesus" B-side?
Mikko: If not, it definitely will be released. It might be also, because there are so many releases. There are these I-tunes versions which are easily lost in space, then there are these 9-inch versions of it, then there are these basic single edits and all this kind of stuff. But if not out yet, it will be out for sure. But "I'm Not Jesus" won't be released as an instrumental...

Because it's written for a singer...

Mikko: Yes!
Perttu: That's somehow a speciality that we also want to have in the shows. That we offer something that people can't hear on the record. If we play instrumental "I'm Not Jesus" it's there on the stage. And people can join us and sing it which is really cool actually, because we can see that people know the song. Wow!

So how do you decide on titles of songs that have no lyrics?

Perttu: Hehe, that's maybe one of those difficult things, most difficult things of recording, at least for us, because it's really hard to tell something about an instrumental track with one or two words and we don't want to tell too much. And then everybody writes 600 words that they know from their vocabulary and then we struggle which is best. Or not.
Mikko: I think there is a good example, for instance, in the past we have had this really dramatic and dangerous sounding, words like distraction, domination or resurrection. And you know, for people who can't speak English, they think that sounds cool, those kind of words. (makes it sound really dramatic) Reflections! Then we decided not to have any word that ends with this.

So you ironically named a song "Ion".

Mikko: Exactly! So, yes.
Perttu: So, yes. (laughing)

What's your favourite song from the new album?

Perttu: Mmmh, maybe "Helden".
Mikko: "Helden" is cool. I would say "Peace" maybe at this stage.
Perttu: But the coolest thing is that it really varies from one day to another. It changes, so that means that all of the songs are cool and have a point to be there. It's interesting that at some point you hate some song, but after a couple of weeks you might enjoy it most and that's what has happened with many tracks. But compared to previous records, I'm surprised that I don't hate the album yet.
Mikko: It will come...
Perttu: Yeah, it will come, but in earlier years, already at this stage I couldn't listen to it anymore. You become so full of that.

I think there is time for one last question: You once did a show with The Rasmus and Lambretta. There were a couple of your guest singers you worked with in the past who then performed with you on stage. For example there was Linda (Sundblad, Lambretta) who did "Faraway" with you, but also Sandra (Nasic, ex-Guano Apes) was backstage and joined you for a song. Will there be something like that again in the future where you will include a guest singer in a regular live show?

Mikko: We're actually planning a show in Belgium with Helmut Lotti and Il Divo. It will be massive…(grins) No. Haha! The answer is no. For instance, we were just shooting a video with Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil) and we were just talking about that she's on tour now, I think in Australia or Japan or somewhere in the east. Anyway, when we go to Milan where she lives and if she is just back home at that time, she will definitely come to sing at our show. And also with Dave Lombardo. We have been talking a long time, if he is just around when we go play near his home, he would come to play second drums on stage. Things like that. And of course with Corey as well, if he is just…most of the guys we work with are so busy, because they are so good. So it's a schedule thing mainly. But if it's just possible, we will definitely do it.
Perttu: One day it would be perfect to do a huge concert with all the guests.
Mikko: And Il Divo!
Perttu: And Il Divo.
Mikko: And Helmut Lotti! I love him.
Perttu: He is our hero.

So, it seems like you have other obligations now.

Mikko: We have a meet & greet.

Yes, so thank you very much for your time!

Mikko: Thank you! Thanks for coming. I hope you like the show. And check out Stam1na!

I will, I will.

Perttu: They are better than us.
Mikko: They are the best metal band from Finland at the moment.

¬ Apocalyptica
¬ 12.2005 deu | eng
¬ 23.10.2007 eng
¬ 18.08.2010
¬ 09.11.2007
¬ 28.07.2010

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