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Interview With Sonata Arctica

Photo of Sonata Arctica

Band Photo: Sonata Arctica (?)

I caught up with Tony (vocals) and Henkka (keyboards) from Sonata Arctica at the New England Metal Fest on April 23rd. Here’s an account of our discourse:

Gothique: You were supposed to be the supporting act for Nightwish on their North American tour but due to their cancellation you had to cut short the previously announced dates. Good thing you didn’t cancel the whole tour.

Tony: Well, I have to say it’s better for us actually [headlining our own tour, not supporting Nightwish]

Henkka: When we first got the news we’re not gonna do the tour together, we thought we were gonna cancel.

Tony: Yes, that’s what we thought for a moment but there was a lot of demand and all the people who were arranging all the shit in the States, they said “no, no, you have to come”.

Gothique: The Canadian shows are mostly sold out, right?

Tony: Yeah, pretty much.

Gothique: Since this is your first time here in US, how do you like it?

Tony: It’s awesome. Although tonight was a bit different show

Gothique: Well, the New England scene is predominantly hardcore and we don’t get many power metal shows here. But Nightwish are quite big and tonight I was pleasantly surprised with the crowd’s response.

Tony: Yeah, it was good.

Gothique: Your latest album, “Reckoning Night”, was released in the fall. How do you feel about it?

Tony: Sound-wise it’s a little harder. It’s the first album Henrik actually played on. It’s a little bit more of a rocking album than the previous ones.

Henkka: We dropped the speed a little bit and got more vocals instead. But it’s still totally Sonata.

Gothique: Did this come naturally or was it intentional?

Tony: Yeah, it was a natural thing. The final result was kind if a surprise for us as well. We were like “eeeh” [laughs]

Henkka: Yeah, but what can you expect. He [Tony] comes in the morning and goes “hey, I wrote a song last night. And this part is like this and then this piece I’m not sure what you should play and then you can play something like this or something like that. Play something great, you know”.

Tony: And when I’m not happy [with Henkka’s interpretation], I’m like “what the fuck” [laughs]. I just know how it should sound like.

Gothique: The new album took a step away from the typical Power metal material, it’s definitely heavier. But at the same time you don’t consider yourself a Power metal band?

Tony: One guy here in the States said: “I really don’t like Power metal but you guys… you’re really great.” Yeah, it might be because we’re not a Power metal band [laughs]

Henkka: The thing is some people think that we are but we ourselves prefer not to use the term because the things that we associate with Power metal are completely different.

Gothique: You think the genre sets strict limits for the composition?

Henkka: Yeah, exactly. Because basically we have good rock tunes and they’re just arranged in a certain way which means sometimes the beat is a little bit faster than usual but I don’t think that’s enough [to put us in this genre].

Tony: You know, the real fans of Power metal, they don’t consider us a Power metal band at all. We are the shittiest Power metal band. We’ll make a pretty classic reggae band actually [laughs]

Henkka: Well, people may say what they want but as long as we have a say, we’re not Power metal.

Tony: More like hard metal or hard rock

Henkka: Hard pop [laughs]

Tony: Pop- rock metal [laughs]

Gothique: Yeah, why not. I’ve heard you have a good pop scene in Finland [laughs]

Henkka: Pop scene? I don’t know but we have a good metal scene [laughs]

Gothique: Well, duh [laughs]. That’s the main reason I wanna live there someday but I don’t speak the language, so…

Henkka: You can live there anyway.

Gothique: With just English?

Henkka: Oh, yeah, and especially if you’re in the [metal] scene then it’s not a problem. We’ve got foreign bands coming there all the time and the bands over there go abroad so everybody knows English.

Tony: And you can get around in stores and everything.

Gothique: Really? I know Norway is like that.

Tony: Yeah, Sweden also. Of course, there’re some people, like older folks, that are not really fluent in English but there’s always someone younger that can translate.

Henkka: You should go over there just to check it out, you know.

Gothique: I definitely will, hopefully soon. But anyway, back to my questions now: Tony, where do you get the inspiration for the lyrics. Some songs deal with broken hearts and evil girls (“Tallulah”, “The End Of The Chapter”). Do you look for sources in your personal life?

Tony: No [looks at his wedding band], I’ve been with the same lady for 9 years now, pretty much the same time as the band, so nothing personal there. It’s all just my imagination [smiles]

Henkka: I know unfortunately how his imagination works [laughs]. I mean, I’m hungover, trying to eat some breakfast and he starts telling me a story about [a bottle of] coca cola relating to something else and whatever.

Tony: I like to look at all the lyrics I write like a small movie. I think many musicians feel like that. Like the songs from Nightwish for example, they’re like small soundtracks.

Gothique: Speaking of movies- is there any particular type of movies you like? Which is your favourite?

Tony: My favourite type? I like FX movies.

Henkka: With lots of corpses and stuff [laughs]

Tony: No, not that. Forrest Gump is my favourite movie. Then Almost Famous.

Gothique: I just saw Almost Famous a few weeks ago actually and I didn’t like it. No character development.

Tony: It’s a beautiful movie, I love it. I feel like I’m in the old times. I guess it’s melancholy, I miss the old times.

Henkka: If you write about rock music or do a movie about rock music, how can you expect it to be something great? Because our scene is pretty shallow, hollow. So by not developing the characters and bringing you that deep [insight], in a way that’s a more truthful way of telling you about the thing than actually developing the shape.

Gothique: Ok, I’ll give it another try and I’ll get back to you [laughs]. But I definitely don’t like Kate Hudson.

Here followed a small discussion in Finnish in search for the name of Kate Hudson’s mother. We all agreed on Goldie Hawn and were able to continue.

Gothique: In the EP “Don’t Say A Word” you cover Depeche Mode’s “World In My Eyes”. Is this song a personal favourite?

Tony: I love the band. Jani and I wanted to do this thing for a long time. We were supposed to record it earlier but we didn’t have time.

Henkka: It’s Jani and Tony’s fault completely.

Tony: Yeah, it’s our fault [smiles]

Henkka: It was like “we should do some covers, any ideas?” I wanted to bring something and everybody else was like “noooo” [laughs]. And then you guys came with this one and I was like

Tony: He didn’t like it

Henkka: But they said “can we do this one”. And at first I was like “eh, really?” but everybody else said “yeah, whatever”. And I said “ok, fine, whatever” [laughs]. But basically the thing was that nobody came up with any good ideas [laughs]. I have a problem with how the song came out. It’s a good song but there’s too much keyboards in it [laughs]. But it turned out good, when I heard the final result, I liked it.

Gothique: So far you only have one video (Wolf & Raven).

Tony: We actually have three.

Gothique: “Broken” is live so it doesn’t count.

Tony: It’s “Wolf & Raven”, “Broken” which is live and “Don’t Say A Word”.

Gothique: “Don’t Say A Word”? I didn’t know you shot a video for this one. Is it on the website?

Tony: No

Gothique: Well, that’s why I don’t know about it.

Tony: We had a problem with our bandwidth.

Henkka: Too many people were coming and downloading stuff

Tony: The amount of traffic that we’re allowed is only 7-800

Gothique: Any plans for a DVD?

Tony: Well, we actually shot a live DVD in Japan which should be out… we have to coordinate it with the label first.

Gothique: You are quite popular in Japan. The EP “Don’t Say A Word” entered the Japanese foreign artists chart at #1. How do you explain your success there?

Tony: Everybody’s asking that but it’s hard to explain. I’m just happy about that, I don’t want to analyze too much.

Henkka: But what can you say. You go over there and you play and that’s it.

Gothique: But it’s been like that since the very beginning.

Tony: It was just the right time. We were a young band playing this Stratovarius- type music which was really big in Japan so this put us on the top there. Hopefully the music was good enough [laughs]

Henkka: Actually, it would’ve been nice to be with you guys when you first started. Because the first time I came to Japan everything was already done, I just got there and the band was big already. I didn’t get to feel what it was like the first time you played there.

Tony: Everybody thought of you as our number two keyboard player [laughs]. I’m just joking.

Gothique: Tony, you appear on stage and sing with Nightwish. Are you good friends with them?

Tony: Yes, we know all the guys from Nightwish. Especially Tuomas, he’s a good frined of mine.

Gothique: I read somewhere that when you were trying to choose between two skilled keyboard players, you held the audition at a local bar.

Tony: Well, not exactly.

Henkka: Hold on, let me tell you my side of the story. I go to the rehearsal place and I’m like “come on, let’s play”. And Tony said “no, come here, let’s have a drink”. So we sit there and we drink and I said again we should play but everybody else was like “don’t worry, have another beer”. So after a while I was getting kinda drunk and Tony said “ok, now you play” [laughs]

Gothique: Henkka, what is Krapula by the way?

Henkka: Krapula? It’s a hangover.

Gothique: What is it like in the part of Finland you live in [Kemi is a small town north of Helsinki]. Is it all icy?

Tony: No, it’s like Canada. The southern part of Canada, not the northern.

Gothique: Do you have the Aurora Borealis there?

Tony: Yes, we do, but it’s called Revontulet.

Gothique: Ok, those were my questions. Thank you very much guys. And all the best with the remaining part of the tour.

Both: Thank you

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