When Men & Viloncellos Collide
The beauty of metal lies in the strength of its instruments. The beauty of Apocalyptica lies in the power of the violoncello underlined by the strong heartbeat of the drums. When these Finnish boys brought out their latest album, who could have imagined that a bright, pinkish violet cover would hide one of their strongest, heaviest and darkest albums to date? Truth be told, though, I still believe that their darkest, strongest album is still to come& But for now, we are left with this magnificent piece of work, Worlds Collide, dark, strong with touches of light, just like their live show&
One dark stage. Four skull shaped thrones with blue light coming through the eerie eyes, all crowned by the powerful drum set, also showing off the so well known skull insignia. The atmosphere is expectant and excitement can be felt in every corner of the venue. Another show about to begin, but not just any show, a unique concert in which classical instruments come to life giving body to darker and heavier tunes that are so loved in and out of the metal world, since they have followers from all corners of the world.
To better understand a band who has succeeded by playing stronger sounds on a classical instrument, it is necessary to understand the people behind such a group. Prior to the concert I was allowed a few minutes with cellist Paavo and drummer Mikko. Not only did I discover that such virtuosos have a great sense of humor, but they are also easy to talk to and the interview became more of a conversation amongst friends than what is always a formal, serious event. Although, to be honest, I cannot imagine it any other way with these guys! And so we spoke and they had a lot to say&
Virtual: Lets get this show on the road. I know how you guys started, as violoncellists, originally four violoncellos and now three and a drum, but, when you started, how did you decide to start playing heavy metal?
Paavo: You know, its really a spontaneous thing. Even though we had been playing classical music since we were six years old, we had been cello players for all our lives, on the side we played classical music but we liked rock music all the time, we played it in school times and in normal rock bands as well. I played bass&
Mikko: In what band?
Paavo: The Motherfuckers! (We all laugh.) But then we got the Lions Club, we got the gig at the Lions Club so we got to change the name and it was The Big Band.
Virtual: But Motherfuckers sales more, didnt you explain that to them?
Paavo: Yeah! (We finally stop laughing.) And then, Perttu has played the guitar and still plays the guitar, and Eicca played the drums, so on the side we had also this rock attitude and rock love. There was a six cello ensemble, which we played like Jimmy Hendrix, Tangos and that kind of lighter stuff compared to classical music. So maybe that idea came from that side, why not to do some arrangements about Metallica and Simple Descent So Eicca did a couple of those and it was big fun and we just played two times a year for three years in student parties, for our friends, and in music camps. So we came step by step and really spontaneously, we didnt have any plans to do any albums.
Virtual: How did it feel to play with Metallica? Because, I mean, you guys really liked them, started playing their music, so how did it feel being the opening gig for them?
Paavo: It was fun! (Although he is calm, his eyes light up as he recalls the event.) It was the same year we had released our album, so we released the album in March or something like that, and December or November of that same year we were already supporting Metallica. It was an amazing thing for us! Two nights in Helsinki& Well, its& We couldnt understand what happened to us&
Virtual: Can you understand it yet? I mean, did you expect that a violoncello band would make it to where you are today?
Paavo: We came to the point that during our Reflections album, the songs we were doing for the album were such songs that were shouting or yelling that these songs really needed a drummer.
Mikko: Because they were very good songs. When a song requires the drums, its a good song!
Paavo: Well, actually another played that album and it came to the point we needed a drummer for the shows as well.
ikko: And I was the cheapest guy in Finland.
Virtual: You sold yourself cheap!
Mikko: Yeah! Really cheap!
Paavo: We were lucky to find him. We had a lot of good luck that we found a good, nice lovely personality!
Virtual: Do you guys consider yourselves unique?
Paavo: No. (Mikko explodes in laughter, again.)
Virtual: As a group? Do you consider yourselves unique?
Mikko: Freaks, maybe, but not unique. (Laughter, again.) In a way its unique, for sure. As a starting point it is. Because we are doing music which could be even more unique.
Paavo: its funny because, for example in Germany, in every city there is at least one cello quartet which is covering Apocalyptica songs nowadays.
Virtual: So how does that feel?
Paavo: That feels really& We are really flattered. And of course its a great thing that we have done something, and I guess specially for those young, young kids in an age of fourteen, fifteen, the difficult years and if they are cello players I guess our role or our example is important for those to get over those difficult years. If you can check out, there are tons covering us of really young cello players which are really fun to watch!
Virtual: Thats wonderful, a positive influence, I think. OK, I would like to know about the creative process.
Virtual: The creative process, when you create a song, I would like to know what goes into writing it, because lyrics I can understand where they might come from because I am a writer, but the music, when you only do an instrumental piece, where does that come from.
Paavo: It just comes.
Mikko: Words of word, I dont believe in such a divine thing that you sleep and somebody gives you the melody and you wake up with some fucking noise in your head which becomes a song. I think that its pure bullshit!
Paavo: Sometimes it could be so, but sometimes its like ideas that come or something like that& (He looks at Mikko who quickly agrees.) Small ideas, but you need a lot of work to put all of those small ideas together and find out the way from that mess.
Mikko: Yeah, from the scratch idea of the melody or chords, from there to the final, really complete song, the way is massive and the tiny idea is just a tiny pinch of that really big picture.
Paavo: For this album we all composed music, basically it happens so that we compose that matter at home alone and then we all have like small demo studios at home and so we record some kind of version of the song and then we play it to the others, we present it. If the others like it then we can start to practice that and make some changes.
Virtual: So its really a group effort.
Mikko: Yes, for sure. On some occasions, for instance, Eicca had a song which was basically all arranged already and we just adjusted really tiny changes. I guess it is something when we do it together I think its most fun, then we rehearse and you can do this differently and I can do this differently. And even when we are on the road, we still rearrange the songs so to be more suitable for that performance and on sound check we might change some parts. Thats all fun.
Virtual: And while we are on the subject, do all songs have lyrics and how do the lyrics come about?
Paavo: (In a deep, nonchalant voice) I dont understand anything about the lyrics. (We all laugh.)
Virtual: Who is responsible for the lyrics?
Mikko: No one. Its clearly no one. No, basically most of the lyrics are done by someone else than us. We are musicians and I think thats the thing we are best at. Somebody else comes up with them.
Paavo: Basically, those who have sung the lyrics, she or he gets to stand behind the lyrics. And basically, those lyrics are more for the singers, so we dont have any. I have nothing to do with the riddle of the lyrics.
Mikko: Of course, if there would be a lyric about something we cant stand behind, if somebody would sing something utterly stupid, of course we cant accept those kinds of songs, but we have the lyrics and somebody writes them, then we check them through, and if everybody is happy and not ashamed of what somebody is singing, then we can go on.
Virtual: OK, because that brings me to my next question, which I dont know if you can answer or not, Im Not Jesus, I am curious, is this song a critique of religion on purpose or did it just come out this way? Or do you know?
Paavo: I guess its not talking about religion.
Mikko: I think it also talks about, well, since its Tony Andrews who wrote the song, as he said, its more or less his own story and something hes been working on for almost twenty years, its something really personal for him. And how I see it, its more about desperation and the things you that you deal with in your life, things that are so hard in your life that you really cant get over it and so you cant forgive, and just sort of saying Im not Jesus Jesus could forgive, I cant, its like too much for my abilities to do. I think everybody has such feelings in their lives and it hasnt anything to do with the religion, I dont think thats the main point. And, of course, it refers to in this song, the tellers family or background has been highly religious and bad things happened in his past, in his childhood has been done but Jesus wasnt there and if Jesus would have been there, the bad things wouldnt have happened. Thats how I see it.
Virtual: That was interesting. I was curious about that. Also, talking about this last album in general, the music, when I first listened to it I got the feeling it was darker than what you guys have done in the past, (they give a high five and smile.) Is it that way? Is it natural evolution, or does it just come out like that?
Paavo: Actually we were quite surprised ourselves at how dark album was that. Cause we were thinking we were going to do quite poppy album.
Mikko: We were even a bit afraid that fucking hell its going to be too pop and too light.
Paavo: Maybe in the final has something to do with the sound, the mix, its quite heavy and powerful and also at the same time, quite dark, dark mooded.
Virtual: What song do you like the most in that album?
Paavo: Uhm& Depends& Depends about the day. I would say there are some favorites like Ion and Stroke.
Mikko: For some reason I am quite stuck into Peace, I think there is some greatness in the song, its so big that I really admire it.
Paavo: Helden is also another of my favorite.
Virtual: I liked all the album, really liked it, because after I saw the cover I wasnt sure what way you were going, what to expect, so I was surprised at the end result after wondering What have you done?
Mikko: What have you done? Its gay metal! (Once again, laughter!)
Virtual: Describe the band as a whole.
Paavo: Let me see how I would describe the band& To quote Eicca, we are a bunch of idiots.
Mikko: (As I laugh and laugh) Yes, a bunch of idiots, thats a good one!
Virtual: So, now individual members. You can start with each other as if you werent in front one of the other!
Mikko: Its easier to talk about the person when they are not here, so Eicca is an idiot and Perttu is an idiot.
Paavo: Lazy idiot.
Mikko: A lazy idiot?
Mikko: Then weve got we, we are the brains and the muscles of the band!
Paavo: Yeah, and the brain and the beautiful!
Mikko: Yes, exactly!
Paavo: And the bold! (By this time the atmosphere is so lighthearted and fun, the two are making me laugh hysterically!)
Mikko: And then those two guys are just a bunch of fucking, you know, somebody that need to be there, hang around.
Paavo: No cojones!
Virtual: Yeah, a very good word in Spanish. (At this point we are all cracking up!)
Mikko: This story I have to tell you. Perttu for years when we were in Mexico there are a lot of like poor people begging on the street and he thought, he always kept saying, No cojones! to these people because he thought that it means I have no money. (At this pint we are all laughing so hard that I forget I am interviewing and feel more like a meeting with friends!) And he said to people begging, No cojones! For years.
Virtual: Thats what happens when you dont know the language.
Mikko: But I think its not very used after that, No cojones!
Virtual: Yeah, but people might have stopped begging, its like, I dont want to t talk to him. (Once we recover from the laughter, I continued.) OK, of all the albums you have, there are quite a few now, which album or which song might best fit Apocalyptica?
Paavo: Uhm& The latest album fits best for this moment. And every album has been like a picture of its time.
Mikko: Really well put sir. I totally agree.
Virtual: Great! OK, and what is the picture of now?
Paavo: Just a bunch of colors&
Mikko: Purple, dark&
Paavo: Alcoholics (We all break out in laughter again.)
Virtual: And what song would you like for Apocalyptica to be remembered by? You know, year 3000, classic heavy metal of the past, what Apocalyptica song should appear there?
Paavo: Id like a combination of Nothing Else Matters and Inquisition Symphony would be cool.
Mikko: Yes, that would be cool. And from the old songs maybe a combination of Bittersweet and, uhm, Ion, for instance. Really something beautiful, something really totally like calm and peaceful and then yet, something really explosive. I think thats the soul of the band.
Virtual: OK, anything else you guys would like to add? These were all my questions&
Mikko: No cojones is said. Then we could have some word for Hugo Chavez& Uhm& Anything you want to say?
Paavo: That we had a really wonderful dinner here.
Virtual: Really, what did you eat?
Mikko; He cant remember, he was so fuckin smashed! (We all laugh at another of Mikko's good humored remarks)
Paavo: Yeah, we had a big day out yesterday.
Mikko. Yes, a big day out, really!
Paavo: It was fantastic food.
Virtual: Where did they take you?
Mikko: Well, there was the Argentinean, El Caucho, its a fucking good restaurant. Its like a parilla and really good beef and&
Mikko: Really good beer!
Paavo: Yes, also, and really good sausages. Everything was aaahhh, good! We hadnt had that for months.
Virtual: In Spain you usually eat very well.
Mikko: We were also watching Chemical Brothers which was really nice in Telefonica Arena.
Virtual: OH! Before I forget, I have right here in front of me one last question, are there any vocalists left you would like to play with?
Paavo: No. (Mikko and I laugh.) We have done them all already.
Virtual: All the ones you want to.
Paavo: Yeah, weve done all the greats!
Mikko: (More seriously now.) There are like tons and tons of great vocalists we would like to work with.
Paavo: Yes, still something to do in the future.
Mikko: There lots of good vocalists, but I think it has sort of found its path always the persons wed love to work with has to have really strong vocal identity and the character and maybe even more and more as we become older as a band that we require something really special from a singer.
Virtual: That makes sense.
Mikko: I would like to personally Id love to work with Bob Dylan, of course, somebody that is unexpected from this scene, to make him into heavy metal world, not that he would sing heavy metal but he has such a strong voice.
Virtual: Yes. Well many of his songs have been adapted into a heavier style and always sound better than when just acoustic when he plays them because he has very good lyrics.
Mikko: Yes. Willie Nelson&
Virtual: Hey, you are naming all the ones my father likes! (We all laugh.)
Mikko: I love him. Great album, check it out, just released, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, a duet album, Raising Sand is the album.
Virtual: OK, Ill check it out. OK, as far as Im concerned this is over. Thanks guys!
And as the two stand to take some pixs and sign some autographs, I cannot wait to see them on stage a couple of hours later. And as I finish this article and interview transcription, I cannot wait to face them again in another conversation to remember! After all, their melodies leave you bound to your side and