Finnish symphonic metal band Apocalyptica are currently out on a second run of U.S. dates in support of their seventh studio album 7th Symphony.
On Tuesday, the band made a stop in Flint at the Machine Shop and before the show after the band held a meet and greet, I got a chance to talk to one of the band’s celloists Perttu Kivilaakso in the small dressing room in the back of the venue.
Q: Wow, it’s cold back here!
A: Yes! They need blankets!
As we sit down, Perttu begins to sort through the items that many of his fans gave him during the band’s meet and greet.
Q: Do you get a lot of gifts during these meet and greets?
A: Yeah. We do but some things we can’t take with us. These kind of things they are cool because they come with me. [shaking his bag] Like sometimes we get tons of candies that we can’t eat that we give out or have to leave behind or big teddy bears that we cannot carry home or something like that. These are great! [putting on gloves that one fan made for him and waving another pair of mitts]
Q: Do you get a lot of things thrown on stage as well?
A: Sometimes. [mimes ducking out of the way] I move so it gets Eicca!
Q: I saw you in Pontiac over the Summer but that was before 7th Symphony had come out. How has the reaction to it been so far?
A: Oh, very good actually and comparing to let’s say on stage and everywhere we perform the new material it feels like fans in general are much more into the music immediately at the beginning. I don’t know if it would be easier to approach our music nowadays or what is the secret but at least the earlier years always it felt the way that we played new material was just like it’s a necessarily evil in the shows. People were a little like “Hmm…kind of exciting but where is the Metallica?”. You know that kind of feeling but now we get the biggest reaction for the new stuff and that’s why the set for us today is full of almost every song off our album. So definitely then it feels like we have done something right. Even if they wouldn’t have heard it before it is just capturing us.
Q: So your setlist on this part of the tour has changed from the first leg?
A: Yeah we have changed and I think we added one very interesting element in the live show as well. This is a little classical part in the middle of the show where we play without any effects and no dispersions. Just pure acoustic cello sound and that’s very nice to show that side to the audience. And especially you know with rock and classical because that is something that you wouldn’t expect. Actually both songs they mostly get the biggest reaction out of it and actually it’s also at least for me it is the moment that I love performing the most. To go back to the real origins and try to be us basically as a classical group for that moment.
Q: Which song stands out the most for you?
A: I love to perform this “Beautiful” song from the new album. In the States now we have done “Nothing Else Matters” as well with it in the acoustic set. You know Eicca composed this version for us three celloists and it’s great. This acoustic set is really cool. I think it all began the idea from the fact that we were playing these stripped down versions on the radio all around the U.S. and found out it is very nice to perform unplugged. We had versions for all the tracks and also we shot a little DVD for that like a bonus DVD for the album where we recorded at The Sibelius Academy, the place we used to study in Finland, a acoustic 7 or 8 song set. We are performing a couple of new tracks on there as well like “I Don’t Care” and “I’m Not Jesus”, these kind of songs with the unplugged theme. I think we are planning to not go as a band in that direction but to play much more those kind of performances because it’s kind of fun. And now we have kind of done lots of concert hall gigs in Finland and in Europe and that’s also one very different, interesting thing to go and do a different kind of performance because it gives us so many different possiblities. To go and find new approaches to the music and I also feel it is kind of our duty as well not to only follow the easy rock and roll road because we have the possibility to use those other roads. In a way people are not used to hearing these things.
Q: Do you prefer those large concert halls to a smaller venue like this one?
A: In a club like this one you normally get the best feeling. It’s just there you are in the origins of rock and it’s a really sweaty and intimate feeling. In general, I think all of the places we have played in the U.S. they kind of encourage us to try a bit more than before and therefore it’s been a great feeling touring in here. It is always.
Q: So this leg of the tour has been going well?
A: It has been going really cool but with a lot of problems! I guess we’re just probably becoming too old because all of the places we have gone has been f**ked up some way. Eicca had very bad problems with his left hand fingers. All that pain. I have had trouble with my bow hand and two days ago Paavo had to to get some shots. Just everything: a twisted knee and much pain; everything that could go wrong besides the normal mistakes. Those injuries they are sometimes challenging.
Q: How is your health? You had to cancel the original dates for this leg.
A: It is good now mostly. Like all of it very challenging. Lots of problems!
Q: Have you hit any of the bad weather that has been moving around?
A: No not yet we haven’t had to cancel anything because of the weather.
Q: Well hopefully no problems tonight!
A: Yes let’s say that!
[Unfortunately, Kivilaakso did end up having one mishap during their set as he slipped at the end of the stage,and fell into the pit but he quickly shook it off and finished the song from there.]
Q: You said the songs are translating well live but what do you think makes this album different from your other ones?
A: I think this is a very good example of what Apocalyptica is and what it has always been basically. Now it binds it all together. Attitude-wise I would say that this reminds ourselves of our material from Cult . It was a very revolutionary album and basically that was the point when we moved from the old material completely and had this idea to show the middle finger to our record companies and we had this attitude and totally insane idea on creating something strange. That was the feeling then and now after many albums we kind of wanted to go back into that same feeling of how we felt ten years ago. To try to find the same kind of passion and really to gather up the tools and feel as a solid group because we realized that it is the only way we can still make this continuity. We find something more still inside ourselves. So I think we were able to capture this attitude of Cult album but of couse now with all the knowledge we have using the effects and everything like that so it sounds modern and strong but there is…okay, one very good example would be it kind of feels like we were able to capture the live feeling on this studio album. We also wanted to aim for this and therefore performed many tracks together or just improvised solos so it had a fresh feeling because we all know that the power and the secret behind this band lies still in the stage and the live show. It is still shocking in some way to many people and that’s a very big challenge. How you can get the same feeling onto a record. I hope that we managed that and at least for us it feels like a fresh album with many strange and brave solutions. We didn’t want to go the easiest way all of the time so had songs that are a little bit longer and progressive. We didn’t want to care too much about any traditions.
Q: You did the trilogy of single releases and videos with “End of Me”, “Broken Pieces” and “Not Strong Enough” but do you plan to release any more singles off of 7th Symphony?
A: Probably not but I don’t know. We made some alternative vocal tracks in Europe and Germany. But yeah when thinking about the album and especially the album name we wanted to name it as a symphony because when you listen to the final track listing it somehow kept this kind of a journey the entire time. And of course in our music always it feels that there is symphony elements but this time we really are following some kind of story and that is also why we wanted to make all of the pictures and videos to kind of follow that same idea. Everything is talking about the same this and that. The vocalists are kind of storytellers who have come to say hi in their own way.
Q: Do you have a particular person that you want to work with in the future?
A: Absolutely, many people! I would love to work with people who in ways have a very special character. We respect many, many artists. For females I think of Pink or of Tori Amos. This kind of a wish list we always have of vocalists. We throw a dart [pauses dramatically] or maybe we just send them demos and see what happens. That’s normally how it goes.
Q: I know that you are a big opera fan but do you listen to all types of music?
A: Yeah I am into more actually. Quite a lot really. One of the newest that I have gotten into is rap. [pretends to look ashamed] I have always been like a huge rap hater but I do not know what has happened during the past couple of years because I am much more open to everything that can be influences. If you did deep enough you will find smart and wonderful things from every music. It’s way cool.
Q: And you can bring it all into your own music.
A: Absolutely! Actually it would be wonderful to try one that worked with a rap artist. Create some metal with powerful rap vocals. It would be just very interesting. Yes, Apocalyptica featuring X-zibit featuring Chris Cornell or something. Making something wicked.
Q: If there was one person dead or alive that you could get up on stage with who would it be?
A: Hmm…one thing that we have always desired but it didn’t happen yet is with Dave Lombardo [Slayer]. He would be really cool to play with us on a show because he has played with us for already I think four albums. [counts them out to himself] Yes, for four albums he has been with us and it is kind of already a natural thing. Whenever we make a album we have to ask Dave to come and play drums for us because he was the reason that we took the drums into the band. We got his demos that we played on top of a couple of tracks in 2002 on our Reflections album and it was very obvious that that was the way we wanted to do it. So I would love to play with him live one day. Plus he’s just a cool and wonderful guy.
Q: You spend a lot of time meeting with your fans. What is the most interesting fan encounter that you have had?
Q: Yeah anything that has stood out?
A: Oh, I have a very shameful story. It happened in Slovakia many, many years ago. On the bus there is this rule that you can’t sh*t in the toilet and if you wake up with a urgent need it’s a horrible feeling! So I tried to run to the concert place. It was some hockey hall and it was not open yet because it was like seven o’clock in the morning. So all I could figure out was to take a plastic bag and put it over the toilet. Then I went to carry the bag away. I didn’t realize there was already a huge queue of hundreds who are cheering as I come out of the bus with this sh*t bag in my hand. It was worse because it was even like see through. And then there is this trash bin which is so full that I can’t do anything but lay it on the top. I was really ashamed! Sorry you had to hear this. [looking down] This lovely story you know. Maybe I”ve made the Slovakians happy! But really I think our fans are great. They are really respecting of our privacy and they are so polite. We have no problems in general; they are great.
Q: You’ve done some side projects over the years composing for different things. Do you have anything like that coming up?
A: Yeah I have and I am basically always open to it. Always open for everything and I have done some little film things in Finland and one documentary thing. One of the most interesting side projects was we did the music for Playstation for one war game called MAG and that was very different to try to compose. I think there were many different tracks and trying to find the right mood was difficult. You know how would the music be for an attack with a bazooka? Very interesting. I would like to do more of that.
Q: You are a confessed video game fanatic but what else do you do to stay entertained on the road?
A: Basically nothing else: wank and play World of Warcraft! [laughing] Oh and eat food that is important to. [as his tour manager Tom Furey sticks his head in to say everyone is heading out to eat and Perttu tells him he is not hungry ]
Q: Do you get a chance to go out into the cities you are in?
A: More nowadays. Early on I was really lazy and woke up late all the time and we are at the venue already. You know on the way we are driving and you can look out to most of the cities. We stop at a lot of radio stations on the way but we only go out if there is time. In general that is the problem that you visit all the places but don’t know sh*t about them. That’s the way it normally goes but we are trying to see more.
Q: You have never played out in Flint before?
A: No, we haven’t yet and I’m not sure where we have played in Michigan.
Q: Well the last time was in Pontiac.
A: Yes! Pontiac and in Detroit some places we have played. Pontiac a few times. That is where I broke my finger once actually.
Q: What should people expect from the show tonight?
A: I’m sure that it will be one where most of the people they never saw us and most maybe they never heard of us or maybe they just know “I Don’t Care” from the radio. That kind of audience is actually one of the loveliest because out there you get the feeling we need to show off our best to the people and bring them to our side. Yeah, it is exciting.
Q: I brought a friend to the last show who had never seen you and she is now a big fan so it does work!
A: Great! That is cool. We do our jobs then.
Q: Do you have anything else coming up for the band? Will you be touring more after this?
A: Yeah we have a full schedule until after the Summer into next year. There will be a lot of touring and therefore we can’t even think about our next album or anything. I think we easily have played 250 shows with the release of this album. Now we try to go out to Asia and Australia and places we haven’t gone. In the world there are so many places to go.
Q: I did a interview with Eicca before the Pontiac show and we talked about how many great Finnish rock bands there are. I asked him about doing a tour with some of them. Do you think that will ever be a possibility?
A: Actually yes. We were talking about this yesterday. It is something very difficult to arrange. You have to maybe have something happen after five years or so because you have started to build up your band by then. I would definitely love to do this kind of Finnish package. Maybe Amorphis, HIM, Stratovarius, Nightwish, us, Sonatica Artica. There are so many good bands I think. It’s just find the right combo and available bands. Then we don’t know where to go though!
Q: You said you expect a lot of new people tonight. How would you describe your music to them?
A: Our music really for me at least means lots of fun because it’s still fun to do after fifteen years. To feel the excitement and going crazy on the stage every evening. That’s probably the real value because we still can entertain ourselves and therefore it should be adapted also by the audience. So I feel that the audience is always entertained even when they don’t really like heavy metal. We do it a little bit different way with this absurd feeling and we are not scared to show our stupidity! So even the aggression it has to be kind of funny.
[Tom returns to get him to come to dinner.]
Q: Well to bring this full circle what is the best gift that you have received on the road?
A: Hmm…gifts? I have to think about this. Oh, Tom got me a anus dildo!
Tom: Without batteries! He can’t use it. [laughing]
A: That is what you think!
Tom: We call it therapy. I got it at Walmart.
A: Walmart dildo! Very what is it, thera…?
A: Yes, that one! Play games, wank, dildo! That is all!