Interview Sonata Arctica

Sonata Arctica will release their ninth studio album very soon. We already had a listen, and were lucky enough to speak to singer and frontman of the band, Tony Kakko.

Interview Sonata Arctica

Michael: Thank you for your time, how are things?
Tony: I’m really tired, because of all the work that is going on. So, good tired that it. We have the new video coming up. Although I am not physically working on it now, it is a lot of decision making. The busy times will pass though.

M: And with the album coming out obviously.
T: Yes, and the tour coming up. I think we will have a crazy year ahead of us. We can’t wait to get the album out and get feedback from the people. Personally I am exceptionally pleased on how the album turned out.

M: To me, the album seems to go back more to the roots of the “old” Sonata, heavier, faster. What are your thoughts on that?
I think it is in a good alignment with Pariahs Child. Now we have two consistent albums in a row, which is a good thing. We started this weird rollercoaster ride with Unia, followed by Days of Grays and then Stones Grow Her Name. It was like we weren’t able to make up our minds on what we wanted to do. Now we have found a way to do things the right way.

M: Well, you have always been creative and finding your own musical style
Yeah, I have always approached my art, my music in a way that I do what I like, doing what feels right. I want to be true and stand behind my work. It would be easy and write straight forward Power Metal songs, but it would also mean that I am killing myself mentally. It would be a good business idea, but I would not be happy doing that and people would be able to tell. I believe in trying and doing whatever feels right and comes naturally.

M: You need to stay fresh to keep being creative.
T: After Reckoning Night I was done with the style we were doing at the time. Reckoning Night was already a sign that things were changing. It had songs that were a little bit different. Not as drastically as the follow up, Unia, was. But it was in the air and I needed to explore and search for other ways of doing things. In hindsight, it might have been smart to find alternative media and forums for exploration, like solo albums, but we did not have time for that. Sonata Arctica needs to stay active for many reasons.

M: So what is your view on The Ninth Hour, style wise?
I think it’s a little bit softer than Stones Grow Her Name, yet it is more intact, more together. It has two songs that somehow stylistically jump out as odd. One of them is Rise a Night which builds a bridge to Winterheart’ s Guild. The other one is Fly, Navigate, Communicate which is building a bridge in some place. Which one I don’t know. Theme wise, the album seems more together than the previous album. I am more pleased with the outcome. Funny thing is that during the Pariah’s Child Tour, I was saying to everyone that the follow up album should be heavier and speedier and more metal. I don’t think it turned out that way at all. Still, in line, it is a good follow up for Pariah’s Child and we are on the same track again.

M: When I was listening to The Ninth Hour for the first time in the car, I almost thought you had Marco from Nightwish singing in the first part of Fly, Navigate, Communicate, but it was still you.
Wow, I take that as a huge compliment. Thank you!

M: You don’t have a lot of guest singers on your albums. Is there a reason for that?
Maybe somewhere deep down I am a bit jealous. I think mainly if we have a guest singer, we would have a female guest. I have no problem with joining other bands, but it has never come around to have more singers, apart from one exception and the narrators. Of course we have Troy from Nightwish on this album. It was easy to ask him while we were on the North American Tour with Nightwish, spending five weeks with them

M: The theme of The Ninth Hour is that we are putting our world at risk with our ways. What can you tell us about that?
Everybody should be worried about this. A lot of people don’t care or acknowledge that they should. We are a selfish breed of an animal. Greedy ones too. I woke up one day when I was a father and it changed something fundamentally deep inside. What kind of world are we leaving behind for future generations? It’s a concern and I want to better myself and do things better for the sake of the environment and teaching kids to do the same thing. They are already doing that as a default, so they are doing things better than I am. It will only get better from here but it should be a concern for everybody. I believe that we can make it and we can reach that utopia one day.

We have the song We are what we are, which sounds really pessimistic as if we have already failed. But that song looks back from the time where things have already gone bad. It’s sort of beyond a point of no return where we could have changed things, but we didn’t because we are what we are.

M: The Ninth Hour is a well-chosen title, as the ninth Sonata Arctica studio album, but there is more meaning to it, isn’t there?
At first I came up with the cover concept. The cover art was ready and I thought: This baby needs a name. As the ninth album, The Ninth Hour came into my mind immediately. Usually I try to avoid the obvious road and think about it a bit more. I am not the most religious person at all, but I knew The Ninth Hour had a biblical meaning to it. So I did some research to see if the theme would fit the album and the cover art. That’s when I found this line that God only wants us to sacrifice and repent on the ninth hour. So that was perfect, because we are living the times in which we need to make sacrifices and we will be sorry for what we have done so far in previous generations, destroying so much already.

M: I have watched the trailer videos about The Ninth Hour and in one you were talking about the song Among the Shooting Stars. You said something about closing circles and to me it feels there is more going on with that.
It’s closing a certain kind of circle because it’s a song about werewolves. On our debut album Ecliptica, we have Full Moon, which was about just one. That circle is kind of closing nine albums later. That is only the second werewolf song that I ever wrote. This song is completely different though, since it’s about two young adults who are bitten by a werewolf and turned into one themselves. It is a spell which can only be turned around if they fall in love with each other. So it’s a challenge.

M: Another one is White Pearl Black Oceans Part Two.
That one too, yes. White Pearl, Black Oceans never really disappeared. There have been fanfiction, movie scripts, fan art and tattoos around it. It has been an important song for a lot of Sonata Arctica fans, it has always been there. About two years ago, we had the chance of playing it at our hometown’s grand opening of one of the main touristic attractions, Snow Castle. We had a new orchestral arrangement, played it live and did so after that during the tour. It was fun and we will do it in the future as well. I think that kind of sparked it, the new ideas and when I started writing the songs full throttle in the beginning of April, I came up with this theme that sounded fitting for the song. On a whim I posted something on Instagram with the hashtag whitepearlblackocean. That kind of sealed it in a way and I did that on purpose. It meant that it needed to be done, if I did not do it, I would have been a question that I would have to answer for the rest of my life: What happened with that song. It was quite a task to do it. The song is really important to a lot of fans and the sequel needs to be worthy.

M: And White Pearl, Black Oceans ended, obviously.
Yes, it did. And that was the other challenge that I was facing. I killed the two main characters, they drowned. So I had to think of a way to revive them, which I did. There is going to be a happy ending for everyone to enjoy. Musically it continues where the first one left off. It builds up from the ocean. It has it’s speedy parts but looking at the main picture, it is soundtrack like and not as dark as the first one.

M: You said something about posting on Instagram. You recently created a personal Facebook account even though you never liked that kind of stuff. Why is that?
Haha, yeah, I sort of foresaw the future on the song “Blank File” back in 1999. Well, I’ve had a personal FB since I don’t know when, ten years, but finally about two years ago I started sort of offering the fans my personal insights on things via Instagram. I thought it was fun. And it is. Then recently I figured I might just as well use the change to link those two accounts and get an official public FB as well. Sharing more or less the same things I share in Instagram. Suppose someone would call me a conformist, maybe I am, but the reaction time, mutiny period in my case, is rather long. But finally I gave up. What’s next? Twitter? Damn.

M: As some kind of a fan service, you did a special Ecliptica tour. More bands are doing special tours for previous albums. Are you planning that for more albums as well?
At the moment everyone is working on this tour too much to be even thinking about that. You never know in the future, but we need a spark to do it. Playing Ecliptica live was fun, but I don’t know how people took the rerun of the album in general. This was done by request of our record label in Japan, so it was not our idea. We had fun with it and it allowed me to fix things from the original which always bugged me. In some way, it was also a healing process in which I realised that the original was not as bad as I always thought it was. In a way time has also made it gold in my mind. I can see what made it so appealing to people. The youth, the excitement, the feeling of danger that these guys are derailing this train any moment.

M: The album was kind of over the limit for you personally.
Yes, it was way over the limit. But that made the album. The songs were good, we are playing them live and some are branded Sonata Arctica classics. It was a fairly good debut album. The production could have been better, but it’s “cute” to say at least.

M: What are you planning for the upcoming tour?
We are not planning to playing the new full album, that sort of thing. Of course there will play some songs of that. It is getting harder and harder to pick songs, especially when the new album is so live friendly and we are eager to play new material. We also plan on playing some songs which we have not played in a long time.
One of those I can already tell you, because we already played it at a festival, is The Power of One from the Silence album. It’s a long song and we will probably drop White Pearl, Black Ocean because of that. We will be touring Europe again next year and have some special plans for that, maybe we will even play both parts after each other. We are dropping it for the first weeks though. Wintersheart Guild will be dug up with quite some songs probable and we hope that everything will be bigger and better.

M: What was the creative process behind The Ninth Hour?
(laughing) well, I wrote all the songs and the guys played. It was really intense and we did everything in a really short time. I wrote one last song a week before the mastering. That ended up as a bonus track on the Japanese version. Everything was done in such a short time, I did everything at home, and the guys did the recordings in the studio. This in all contrast to Pariah’s Child where we had a luxurious one month rehearsal before we hit the studio. I think all the stress and such did not influence the quality of the album. It’s not the best way to work, but as a result the album is more together as I mentioned earlier.

At the end of the Pariahs Child Tour, I told everyone that I needed that time, about four months, off and do some things for my own. Nothing Sonata Arctica relates. I joined Nightwish in Rio, did some Christmas shows and most importantly, got some quality time with my family. As a result, I was staring at a blank paper, so I could not write anything. The tour with Nightwish was starting and I cannot write anything while on tour. There are too many distractions. When the tour started, I only had two or three songs ready. Once I got home, the master deadline was getting close, within three months. In that time, I had to write ten songs, so that kind of ruined my summer in a way (laughing). I could not get out of the house and needed to stay in this album creating mood. At one time you are on fire and you get into this creative flow. At one point I just had to quit because I had other things to do, like interviews. For myself as a creative person, it is hell, because I cannot get back to the instruments for about a year. Henrik is the one who suffers from that the most, because I keep meddling with his keyboard during soundcheck.

M: So that is why he keeps smashing it
(laughing) Yeah, maybe.

T: We knew way before time that we could not make our initial deadline, which was mid-September. That is also why the tour in Europe is so short, we have the American Tour booked as well, but we will be back in Europe late-February. So we will be back soon, don’t worry.

M: Talking about the North American Tour, any chance you will be back on 70.000 Tons of Metal?
Would be fun. We have been asked a couple of times, including for this year, but we never had time. This year with the album and time short as it is, that was a serious no-go. It is a fun event and I was kind of worried that I would be stuck in my cabin, but the fans were very friendly and I had a blast.

M: With that being said, I know our time is running out. Thank you so much for your time and see you on tour.
Thank you, it was a lot of fun. Let’s do this again some time!

Sonata Arctica will be doing a massive European Tour, starting soon. Check out their schedule here. Also, read our review of the album