Long before I had become the Metal Journalist and Photographer I had begun to develop a strong like for the bands that were coming out of Finland and along with Nightwish there was Sonata Arctica who really delivered the goods. We saw the band when they appeared as direct support for Overkill on their first ever US visit and it was awesome. Clearly Finnish Power Metal has a great ally in the group Sonata Arctica. Their musical textures richly mixing powerful riffs with explosive vocals and harmonies. I had the chance to discuss a wide variety of topics with lead singer Tony Kakko when the band arrived in New York City for their first-headlining appearance. We began our discussion with Tony having some level of curiousity as to the recording device I was using. I always bring one of the Sandisk devices which do a great job under these circumstances. Below is our exact conversation.
KP: I’m trying to make sure this thing is started correctly but my hands are freezing, it seems you brought the Finnish weather with you. It was 60 degrees the other day and now it is a cold blast from Finland out there.
Tony: You’re telling me.
KP: So let’s talk about the last time we were planning on talking you guys were on the eve of the Nightwish tour which was very abruptly cancelled. I wondered if you guys thought you were not going to be able to play the USA at that time.
Tony: Yes, that was the fear, and then suddenly we got a lot of response from the promoters who were doing those shows and the audience and they said we should still come. So, we decided to see that if the promoters could still do it and we are able to come then we would. When it seemed that it could be done that was how we were able to arrive in the USA that time.
KP: Now that was a really interesting show and it really kicked a lot of ass as you most likely remember. Partnering up with Thrash legends Overkill gave you a really different vibe than what goes on at a Sonata Arctica gig. Did you think going into this particular show that you would have a problem with the audience. I mean you guys are this Melodic Power Metal and the Overkill crowd is hard core Thrashers.
Tony: No not at all because in the time we had been here before we found the audience to be mainly people with open minds for all kinds of music.
KP: So what did you think overall with this tour once it had completed for to my knowledge this was the first tour of any fashion you had been able to do here.
Tony: It was great and we just wanted to come back for more and you know our working visas are valid for one year so we wanted to be sure to do it again before they expired. Here we are.
KP: What were some of your favorite places to play during that tour?
Tony: Everywhere, because to me a new place is always great to play and it didn’t really matter to me. So I really didn’t have any favorites. In Canada, in French Canada we had a few sold-out shows there and those are always special.
KP: You also sold out New York that night and that was about 1100 people I was told.
Tony: Really, well we had Overkill there so that is why.
KP: You should know there was an equal amount of support for you guys, a nice representation of Sonata Arctica fans made sure to attend. I remembered that night as I was shooting photos, I also like to check and see how the audience is reacting and I saw a lot of people singing along.
Tony: Yes, Manhattan did seem to like it a lot.
KP: Sonata Arctica is still supporting “Reckoning Night”, how is the album been received by both the core following and“Reckoning Night” how has this album been received by the core following and the casual fan. It seems a little cleaner in production and is not as big or in your face as something like “Winterhearts Guild”.
Tony: Well, it has been the best seller of our albums so far, and its sold over 100,000 copies so far which is really good for us.
– the openers begin their sound check in the background which makes our spot to talk a very bad place but we make due as we can.
KP: Sorry I am only holding this now, since it’s more important that I hear you than the opening band right now. It’s cool though since I recognize someone in the group so the show is more fun.
Tony: Oh you do. Well on the album when the band has more than one album everybody has their opinion on each one and luckily for us this one has been received very well.
KP: What’s going on with some new recordings, will we be seeing a new album, or dvd concert anytime soon. What about the back catalog being made available in the States for all the fans to grab a hold of.
Tony: Well that kind of stuff is always up to our record label so about that I have no idea. Of course the dream is to have the albums available everywhere. I don’t know how well or easy it is to find the newest album, have you had much problem with that.
KP: Yes the new one very easily and some places have “Winterheart’s Guild”. Others like “Eclipse” and the rest not too much success that I have seen.
Tony: Well, we are opening up the web-shop so that should help out a little more. People can order them from there and this is when we eventually are able to make this work.
KP: Let’s talk about Finland a little bit because over the past couple of years especially we have been seing such a steady stream of talented musicians Bands like HIM, Nightwish, Children Of Bodom and of course Sonata Arctica among others. To what do you attribute to this renaissance in Heavy Metal music coming from your Country for the most part.
Tony: Well, it’s always coming from somewhere I mean you have a lot coming from Germany and Finland always puts out stuff and then there is the Black Metal things coming out of Sweden. Yet I think what makes me the happiest is that all of these kind of bands are able to tour in the USA. It’s like the bar has been raised, because no one says “there is no way you can tour there because you are not going to make any money or have any people come to the show since they don’t know you”. It’s not the environment that becomes a financial crap and you don’t kick yourself for coming here. It really seems like we are able to do it and all of the Finnish bands that have come here have said its been cool.
KP: The reason for my next question is because I always used to connect the sonata Arctica name with the band Nightwish. There were always reports online of shows and things together so it stuck in my head. I just wondered what kind of thoughts went through your head when you heard this sad news about them firing the singer Tarja Turunen and choosing to find someone else for the job. Can you actually say anything about this?
Tony: It was hanging in the air for a long, long time and a lot of us were wondering how long it would last. With all the little problems that everybody seems to end up having and then came the open letter that they put out there.
KP: That was amazing, I mean I thought it was a joke.
Tony: Sadly, I knew it was not a joke but I don’t really feel it is necessary for me to put my spoon in that soup anymore. They are good friends and I hope they made the right choice there and it makes things easier. I hope they find a great singer.
KP: Well I guess we can consider Sonata Arctica the biggest Power Metal band out of Finland now.
Tony: I don’t know about that because I think we are too mellow to be a Power Metal band.
KP: I think the band falls more into the Melodic Power side.
Tony: Melodic Metal yes, but I don’t know about Power Metal. I don’t know, maybe I am too blind to it yet.
KP: While all of this is very early in the tour how are you finding doing this without the support of another major label act in the most cases. I mean tonight you are performing with a local area group that performs Queensryche covers. I wonder how you think on this because often you are already going to be playing for the Sonata Arctica fan, and in one sense that is “preaching to the choir” and no one really new is getting to hear the music.
Tony: Well, I feel as long as there are enough people coming to the shows then I am happy. The tour is also like marketing ourselves and maybe from this a bigger band will find interest and want to take us along with them. From there we get to play to the new audience and it begins to build up and become something more people see.
KP: I asked this because I spoke to Jon Schaffer of Iced Earth last year and we discussed that while it is great to headline the shows, it seems that everyone there already knows the material and the music. They all have the records and there is not enough presence of new people a lot of times. That becomes a concern when this is what you do for a living.
Tony: I find that a lot of times people bring their friends.
KP: I guess you’re right since I even brought some tonight. So are we keeping the same set tonight or are you changing it around a little each night.
Tony: No, it is pretty much the same every night but I mean there are some minor changes as we go along. For instance we are playing two shows in Quebec so we felt we should change a little something there. We might change one of the songs to “Wolf And Raven” at some point if we have enough time to rehearse it but today we had a lot of little problems so we didn’t have time to rehearse at all.
KP: So who does Tony Kakko listen to when you just decide that you want to listen to some music. What do you find inspiration in.
Tony: Anything really, anything music. I mean the latest CD’s I ended up buying were collections editions and I bought some Stevie Wonder, and Ray Charles.
KP: I always find it interesting to hear that kind of stuff from you guys because you never know what to expect. We did an interview with Hank Shermann awhile back (Force Of Evil & Mercyful Fate) and we asked the same question of him. He responded that he liked the old Led Zeppelin and Judas Priest stuff but also Abba. And I never expected to find out this piece of information from him so it was kind of funny. Now as we draw to a close, what would you say the future holds for Sonata Arctica. Let’s look past this tour.
Tony: The tour ends in August and from there we will start working on material. I already have some things ready and we hope to be in the studio for November and have something released I guess in the Spring after that. Before that happens we will see a live DVD come out and there is a compilation, but that is right now only released in Japan.
KP: So the fans can get that here you think.
Tony: I would think so because it also is on Nuclear Blast but I think it will still be a few months for that to happen.
KP: What has the relationship with the label been like so far.
Tony: Yeah its cool, there is nothing bad to say about it.
KP: I think it’s a great label for a band like this and I guess we are pretty much done. I don’t like to keep you too long with you needing to sing in a little while and also having to talk to some more people. Any closing comments?
Tony: After this we hope to return soon, and see even more of you. Thanks.
The band soon performed and as expected they were met with a resounding level of approval and excitement from their fans. The band truly gave their all and photos of the performance are present elsewhere on the site so please take a look and be sure to investigate this amazing band a little more when you get the chance.
Official Website: http://www.sonataarctica.info