The dark romanticism of Apocalyptica has stunned and enchanted audiences the world over, claiming it like a storm for the last two decades, one precisely drawn string at a time. Firstly with their sultry renditions of self confessed inspirations Metallica to then diversifying, to give the world the elegance we now know as, Cello Metal. Apocalyptica have been a success with this movement and now these eloquent Finns move onto Australia, with their first ever tour. Metal As Fuck caught up Paavo Lötjönen whilst he was enjoying some down time in Finland and home cooked meals with his folks. We discussed not only the monstrous Australian tour in August but the mother’s milk of metal, label messiness and everything in between…..
Apocalyptica has a unique style to say the least; the music has attracted a broad demographic of fans over the bands twenty year history. Did you ever anticipate the movement to be at the large scale that it’s at today? “You know we have been touring for over fifteen years now and it all still comes as a surprise to us, we like surprises, we have never had the aim to concur the world with our music, so we are always happy to roll with the spontaneity of it all and the responses that we get”.
What was the attraction to heavy metal in the beginning, that subsequently lead to the attraction to the ‘Cello Metal’ genre (I use that term nonchalantly) that you are now renowned for? “We are just a bunch of classical idiots [Laughs]. We were all playing together at the same time at the [Sibelius] academy [Helsinki, Finland]. We were simply having fun playing our favourite metal songs on our instruments, it was music that inspired us and we had the tools to take the approach. We love heavy metal. A lot of the time, classical artists are apparently noted as being narrow minded when it comes to different styles of music, you know and that they don’t look outside the box, don’t look outside their own box, and that is just bullshit! We are massive heavy metal fans”. There are several categories that Apocalyptica fall into, in regards to style and genre, I think I can count about eight off hand. For the approach you do take to the music, is it necessary to have so many? “I am a musician, and it’s the fans/journalists job to define us, as I don’t really have a clue what you would call us [Laughs]. I think that there are various attitudes when it comes to heavy metal, and our aim is to produce music with a mood, to create strong feelings, I guess you could call it emotional metal” Paavo states dubiously. So give us a run down on your musical tastes “Hmmmm” Paavo burbles “Our musical ‘mother’s milk’ can sit nicely down with Metallica and Sepultura. We have so many artists and composers we enjoy and take inspiration from, you may not know it but many are dark and romantic, we are also massive opera buffs so we take a vast route to reach the music of Apocalyptica. It’s strange though, one thing I have noticed, through the many shows that we have done, it began as mostly a male dominated audience for our music, but over the years we see more and more girls enjoying the music, we see them at the shows, and er, we are ok with this”. [Laughs]
Apocalyptica began by covering Metallica songs; did you always have the intention to create your own music? At what point did you decide this? “No actually we didn’t have plans; not really, we sort of just took it step by step. The second album; Inquisition Symphony was where we decided to cover Hall of The Mountain King; a composition by [Edvard] Grieg, and opened it to our interpretation. Around the year 2000 we got the point where we found no reason to do covers anymore, the idea was ‘used’. I mean we will still play covers at our live performances, you know as it’s part of our history really, but covering a song for inclusion on an album these days just seems a boring idea now”. And how do you go about writing the music for each album, how is it approached? (as an Individually/group effort). “It has been an individual feat for many years, but now; by playing together for so long and learning the music together we have now started to write and compose as a band yeah. Eicca [Toppinen] has the most contribution to the music....”. So in saying that can you describe the personalities of you all? You are all such dominating figures on stage, is there a top Cellist? “…. Yeah we sort of all have our niches with the music. Perttu [Kivilaakso] is the prince [Laughs] the romantic; he plays all the leads, he is by far the most talented in the band, his scope, knowledge and capacity for creating music is beyond anything I’ve ever known. Eicca, well he is blonde [Laughs] takes most of the lead vocals and pulls out the riffs and me, well I am shorter, I look different and I take on most of the bass lines and mix it up a little [Laughs] I would say these are all our dominating points yeah”.
How difficult was it to market Cello Metal to the world? Or was it the complete opposite; was it effortless because of its exceptionality? “Yeah you know, we have played almost 1000 gigs in over fifty countries in those fifteen years I mentioned; it was a ‘progression’ I will say”. Perhaps the music was aided by the very impressive amount of established artists wanting to have a piece of it. Was it all an easy process to organise and collaborate? “No, no, no, no it is always a big mess, you seriously would not like to hear about this [Laughs] Well you managed to pull it off, a success in my eyes regardless of the so called mess, let’s hear it. “Ok well it is easy from artist to artist, we have met so many bands and musicians at festivals and other shows, become friends; that’s the easy part, we are musicians who want to write, play and have fun. But it is always management and the record labels making it a huge mess and getting in the way of it all, its bullshit. Lawyers get involved, the works. Like all we want to do is write music and if other artists want to collaborate with other artists, then let them you know….” Paavo had not finished his tirade on record labels by any stretch of the imagination; however I believe the operator decided to place me on hold for some reason, and a fair chunk of information on the Brent Smith [Shinedown] issue was raised.
For all those playing at home, the issue came to a climax when Shinedown had apparently not obtained rights from the bands record label to have the 7th Symphony single Not Strong Enough featured on US Radio with Smith’s vocals….. Messy?…. Yes…. Bullshit? Yes.
After Big Brother had taken their coffee break I continued with Paavo….
The band, as stated began with Metallica covers, how was it to perform with the band last year for their 30th anniversary? Did you ever think that you would be playing alongside Metallica at any stage of your career? “Yeah it is unbelievable being able to play alongside a band you have idolized your entire life. We have met the band many times, supported them way back in 1996 and we have Lars phone number [Laughs] Paavo adds smugly. And the Australian tour! I have waited close to a decade to see the band live, getting excited? “We are hungry for Australia, we have waited to see your country for so many years and we are thrilled that we finally get the chance. We don’t know what to expect from the crowds down there but we know we will give you all a great show”.