SONATA ARCTICA – Wolfs and nature

SONATA ARCTICA – Wolfs and nature

(…this interview is in English…)

Sonata Arctica er et band få nordmenn liker å innrømme at de har et forhold til. Personlig likte jeg debutskiva "Ecliptica", slet litt mer med andreskiva "Silence" og synes at det har gått i stå etter det. Bandet har vært kjent for sine übermelodiøse power metal ballader og til dels kjapp power/speed metal. I tillegg har de spilt inn en rekke låter av andre artister som er blitt utgitt på B-sides og på diverse samlealbum rundt om kring. Jeg forsøkte meg på et intervju med disse finnene for noen år siden, men der ble resultatet mislykket. Men Sonata Arctica har mange fans i Norge og derfor bestemte jeg meg for å forsøke igjen. Noen hovedemner ble valgt ut og spørsmål skrevet før det hele ble shippet over til bandets vokalist Tony Kakko som blant annet forteller at det har vært en treg prosess for bandet å skape seg sin egen sound.


Power metal…


With the success of bands like Gamma Ray, Helloween and Stratovarius had at the end of the 80’s and early 90’s, it felt quite natural for new bands to follow the same recipe. How was it with Sonata Arctica? Which of these bands meant the most to you in the beginning?

We would not be where we are had there not been Stratovarius. We´d prolly be elsewhere, haha!  We were more or less all huge fans, especially I was. Which then naturally had an effect on my songwriting. They were the first metal band to hit me at all. Before that I was listening to, well, if you can consider Queen easier, then easier music.

When do you feel that Sonata Arctica found its own thing musically?

I think it´s been a slow process, developing with each album. Not all share my view, but for me it was between "Unia" and "The DoG" albums.

You have had a good fan base all the time, but in recent year the success have increased. What has happened since you have become more successful in countries such as Norway?

I suppose the chance to tour more is the most important thing. We have enough fans to make a show in so many countries, it´s incredible and hard to believe sometimes. It´s not exactly profitable in all places, but worth every smiling face we see.

Isn’t it strange to have so many fans that you have in a black metal country like Norway?

Yes. Yes it is. Then again, we have a lot of closet fans, haha! It´s not exactly cool and takes some guts for a black metaller to admit to liking us. But still we have our following even outside this little box people always try to fit us in. Luckily these are just manmade boxes, nothing more. 



Cover songs…


Sonata Arctica has played a variety of cover songs over the years and has also recorded a few of these. Why do you choose to do this?

It´s fun and most of all easy. Both to take a song that´s already there, arrange and record it, but also to use these cover songs as bonuses for different releases. Especially single b-sides. It´s always a great shame to take one of your original works and hide, if you will, somewhere some friends of our music might not find it. As an original copy anyway.

Which of the cover songs you’ve played is your personal favorite?

I think our Scorpions cover "Still Loving You" has still pretty cool arrangement, we took it and changed it quite a bit. Also I have always liked the "Wind Beneath My Wings", best known recorded by Better Midler. I just thought it was well worth introducing this song to metal heads who might never ever come across it otherwise. Absolutely fantastically beautiful song in every way. Not necessarily the way we made it, but as a song in general.

Some of the cover songs have come as a surprise to the fans. I’m thinking on songs like "Wind Beneath My Wings" (Bette Midler), "World in My Eyes"(Depeche Mode) and "Total Eclipse of the Heart" (Bonnie Tyler). Do you have plans for more such surprises?

(Seems i never read ahead…) I think we´re recorded cover songs on every album session and believe we´ll continue doing that. If I´m not wrong, we still are to release one cover we recorded on the Days of Grays sessions. No idea what song or songs next. People actually suggest me a lot of songs. Some might be cool, some are just so over the top…

What about other bands which play cover songs of Sonata Arctica? I’ve seen some videos of lesser known bands playing your songs on YouTube. Do you know if there are some great activities out there and what do you think that other bands play your songs?

I´ve seen some young bands covering our stuff on YouTube and I think it´s just awesome. That´s how we got started. Maybe in 20 years some established band will find one of our songs and decide to cover it. Would be nice in many ways.


Sonata Arctica - The Days Of Grays.jpg

Design, layout & image…


Design, layout & image are three key ingredients for a band and Sonata Arctica may seem a bit more thoughtful than most other bands on this. How much time do you spend on this?

A lot. Luckily we have great artists working for us, so it´s fairly simple for me, per se. The session starts with few phone calls that last hours, until we´ve tossed the "idea-ball" back and forth enough, and we have some solid plans. Sometimes it goes like that. Sometimes I have a sketch we use as a base. It really is an important part of the whole album.

Who does the layout work for Sonata Arctica?

Toxic Angel and Ravnheart, Janne and Gina Pitkänen. Janne designed the original Sonata logo, so we go way back.

Who came up with the idea of the design, layout & image that you have been faithful too since the beginning with "Ecliptica"?

If you mean the logo here, that was Janne. The first version he drew was pretty black metal-ish, but then he nailed it. The lay-out of the albums changes with every album, depending on the chosen theme. Band image…well, suppose it´s something that developed along the years. Wolfs and nature, mostly.





The planned Sonata Arctica DVD release; you moved the DVD show from Milano, Italy to Oulu, Finland mainly due to high costs in Italy. What is the latest news around these concerts now?

We´ll be playing in Milano late February, as planned. Only that we´re not gonna shoot it or use pyros due to these insanely high extra "control" costs we were not aware of when planning the DVD shoot. The things you learn… Oulu is going to be awesome. It´s gonna make a beautiful DVD, no doubt.

Besides this live concert, can you let us in on the content on the DVD?

Depending on time and amount of work it takes, the idea is to add a history documentary 1996-2011 or something like that. Might be I can´t find time to finish that on time, though, in which case we´ll save it for later. Don´t want to ruin a good thing by rushing. There will be some kind of documentary part anyway. I´ve been getting into that kind of stuff lately.





What do you write about most? What topics are you most interested in?

I seem to be stuck writing sad love, relationship songs. That and then life in general. Well, Stephen King writes mostly horror stories. 🙂 People seem to be relating to love songs, so…seems to work. You can build a wheel in so many ways.

What kind of limits do you have when you write new songs? Is there anything you feel you can’t write about for the fear that the image of Sonata Arctica can be damaged?

I don´t want to get into politics too much. Or in details of that anyway. It´s easy to pin point stuff the Americans do scrutinize the things their government does, especially abroad. I think I can write about pretty much anything. It´s just the matter of how I do it. it´s gotta have some twist to it.

When writing a text to a new Sonata Arctica song; is it more important for you that in a manner the text rhyme or is it more important to use the right words? Has this changed during the years?

I´m a slave to the melody, so I usually fight and kick until I find the right  words to fit the melody lines. And that´s a real pain in the ass, I can say. But you know what they say about tigers and stripes…