I met with Sonata Arctica's Tony again for a few questions concerning the forthcoming album and also got a chance to listen to it. Fans will be greatly pleased when they will hear "Winterheart's Guild", I was and I just can't get the damn album out of my player. The new album is showing new sides of Sonata and I absolutely love the whole package! Mikko Harkin left the band before the album was done and the band now has a new keyboard player Henrik Klingenberg formerly of Silent Voices / Requiem. Tony yielded again as the sacrifice for my examination. Read more to find out why he's afraid to call Timo Tolkki !
GOING THROUGH CHANGES AND EXPLORING THE WILDERNESS
Satu: When Mikko left, how did it effect the band ?
- It seems like the atmosphere is more relieved, when we took the new guy in the band. He's simply more "rock 'n' roll". In the end it would've been better if Mikko had left earlier, 'cos we were just hanging on and waiting there. We already knew his situation last Christmas. We could've started searching for the new keyboardist earlier then.
Satu: Did his decision surprise you at all ?
- No, he had his own thing and I didn't want to start speculating. I never really got to know Mikko that well.
Satu: How did you end up with Henkka (pictured above on the left)?
- We heard his demo and liked what we heard. And when he first came and played with us it seemed like he had been with the band a long time, it was like being among friends and like "hey, we've got a real band !" Personally I've been missing on that feeling for a while, it's been like this is just a job.
Satu: Is his style very different and can we expect something strange from the band in the future ?
- The show will at least be different, 'cos Henkka is an openminded person. He's got the guts to go crazy on stage.
Satu: Has the inner chemistry changed in the band during all these years ?
- Everyone has grown up of course. Though I was the same age when we started, haha ! But the other guys were real brats. Tommi was thirteen. But we've gone to a better direction, all the idiotic bullshit is gone and we're more mature. So it's more calm now.
Satu: Why does the band still live in Kemi (North of Finland, far from the capital city Helsinki)
- It's the best place to live in, I'd rather move even further North. I absolutely need nature close to me. I can't stand watching those concrete walls ! At least I'm not willing to move anywhere. I'm not your average heavy metal guy, I've somehow just drifted to this job, it is a fun job though.
Satu: You've even gone hiking and with Tuomas of Nightwish too. How often do you go out in the wilderness ?
- I've tried going once a year. Tuomas once asked me to go with him and that's how it started. It's really relaxing. You get tired of being in the city and when you go out in the woods your thoughts get clear and you get ideas for the songs from there. Tuomas is from Kitee, which is also quite far from from civilization. And eventhough Kemi is also far, it's a bigger place. Anyway, it's good to get far away sometimes from the Helsinki area and when you go out there you see all kinds of things like "whoa, if only I could photograph this on our album cover".
THE MAKING OF "WINTERHEART'S GUILD"
Satu: How did Jens Johansson of Stratovarius end up on your album ?
- We were thinking of this album with all those crazy keysolos and I didn't want Mikko to play on this album anymore, 'cos it was a situation of if you do this album, you will have to do the gigs too. And Mikko wasn´t up to that. But Jens is such a guru who you look at high above. So we came up with an idea that if he and his brother are going to do a solo album with songs that I can sing, I could do that as a favour then. Jens is only playing solos on our album, on "Champagne Bath", "The Cage", "Victoria's Secret" and "Silver Tongue".
Satu: How did your part go with the album, playing keys and singing ?
- I started composing so late that we didn't have much chance to play the songs together as a band. We just went to the studio and I "threw" the songs to the guys that they should play this and this. Personally it was really tough for me. I had to be in the studio supervising all the time, 'cos the guys couldn't have done much themselves when they didn't know how the songs go.
Satu: Have you played the keys much lately ?
- A lot during the last year. Originally I was a keyboardist and then I became the singer. I'm not the greatest player though.
Satu: Where does the name of the album come from, however it's not a song on the album ?
- We've never had it like that. There's four seasons on the album cover, these fantasy figures have gathered to an open place in the woods and they're rewarding the Autumn and Winter. I had all kinds of name ideas for the album, but I knew that no one is going to suggest anything in the end, so I have to decide on that. They've put me on a position of an autocrat, it wasn't a conscious choice. I'm the least bit of that, but it always goes like this, I'm suggesting something and then the guys say if it's good or bad. But all the responsibility just falls on me. But I think you have to have nature on the cover.
Satu: You have a bonus track for the Japanese again, "The Rest Of The Sun (Belongs To Me)". Are the finnish fans going to have anything special or is it just these ten songs ?
- It's those ten songs, but we might have something special, probably on the album cover side.
Satu: What new are the fans going to hear with this album ?
- Jens ! Anyway, the vocal parts were somewhat rougher than before. I've brought all those things I've done live to this album, all that screaming and death metal grunts. From August on I've only done this thing and now that it's finally done it feels like I've given birth, a really stupid feeling and I'm too frightened to look at the baby yet.
Satu: Have you been looking for a certain prog thing here, 'cos some of the songs have odd changes and a lot of variety ?
- I try to do what comes natural for me, but of course it has to sound like Sonata. I haven't thought of it like that. You can think it's progressive, but I'm too close to the music to say much. But it is a bit different from the earlier ones.
Satu: How hard did it turn out making this album ?
- Because we were in such a hurry it was terrible. Our tour ended on the last weekend of July and after that I started making the songs and in the middle of September we went to the studio. For two months we sat there and I was almost going nuts. And the same day the recording was done we started doing the mixing. It would've been good to have at least a two weeks break there, so we could've gone home and take the time to breathe a little. There's no sense in doing it like this. But with our next album we're going to take the time with the demo, we'll do it with great devotion. When that is done we can say damn this is a great album ! I should listen to these songs now, but I couldn't come and listen to the album much with you, 'cos I'm just so fed up with the songs right now !
Satu: Do you have any favourites at this point ?
- "The Ruins Of My Life" and "Draw Me". They're so melancholic and dramatic. (Satu: I have to agree here, eventhough you can't really pinpoint a bad song from this album)
Satu: The album cover was done by Janne Pitkänen, who's worked with other bands as well. Was the cover his idea or did you have any say on that ?
- I'm not willing to give freedom for people on that anymore, 'cos in the end everyone's going to ask me what does this and that mean on the cover. And it's nice to have a chance to decide on it yourself, so you can come up with the story and what is going to be featured on it. Like with our first album, everyone was asking me what is that thing that has crashed there in the bottom of the ocean...I have no idea !!! It's something...But it's better to be involved as much as you can with everything, at least with the things you are able to work wisely on. But I'm not going to mess around with the sound policy. Only the visual side.
Satu: How much are you involved in making the videos then ?
- I was the least interested the last time ! It's all the same as long as you are going to do that video ! But they did ask us what do the lyrics mean and stuff. Though I think it's a bit too corny to start making a video that is blindly following the lyrics. Who knows they might be totally taken out of the concept ! We didn't have any discussion about our next video though.
"Abandoned, Pleased, Brainwashed, Exploited" is what happened during the last year in the world. Finland is such a small and peaceful country where nothing ever happens. And then comes this bomb thing (in the shopping mall in Vantaa, where people died from a young man's self
- made bomb) and I got the idea from there, like we will soon blow up this planet or should we wait for the meteor in 2019. That we are going to make a mess here.
"Gravenimage" is about when you start gaining a certain kind of success and all that business side comes along.
"The Cage" is a wolf story. A wolf is locked into a cage and you have to save it. There's a certain kind of "get free from the chains" side to this story. There's not always a deeper meaning to the lyrics, because if you start dealing with the bad things in the music, you can totally ruin the music.
Tongue"- There's certain kinds of people who you simply can't understand
and it's all the same what they say or do, especially many women are like
But it's like men are from Mars and women are from Venus. And of course there are people who are always talking and they can sneak themselves out of every situation. The title Silver Tongue comes somewhere from tv, a lot of ideas come from there.
"The Misery" is a certain kind of love story. For me it´s got it´s own meaning, you find yours.
"Victoria´s Secret" This is going to be a single. It's about how some people are prisoners of certain things, relationships and people all through their lives. They can't or don't have the guts to let go and find their own path. And when you finally leave, it might not be a good thing at all. But there are people who should courage themselves and break free.
"Champagne Bath" is the song you were laughing at, the weird song. It's about these vain celebrities, who are famous only because they're in the spotlight.
"Broken" is kind of an X-Files or Roswell song. Or that scene was the inspiration. Basically about learning how to be a human.
"The Rest Of The Sun Belongs To Me" is the Japanese bonus track, it's about nature. I was going through ideas for the song and then I went to the army's repetition training when we had kaamos, a time of the year when the sun doesn't rise at all, and I really need the sun. I was like you can do what you want with the ocean, but let the sun be !
"The Ruins Of My Life" is a bit like Braveheart (the movie), it tells a story about a man who is going to war and when he comes back his house is burnt down and his wife murdered. He carries his wife to the hills and buries her there and then slits his own wrists.
"Draw Me" - My friends dad used to draw when he was younger and he drew a big painting of his own father and soon after that his father died. Then he drew his own brother and shortly after he also died. After this he decided he will never draw again, he just won't.
Satu: What is happening with the "Chapter" album ?
- I have no clue. The songs and the ideas are ready but the music isn't. It's kind of an "End Of This Chapter" type of an album, an easier and mellower one, though darker. The basic idea is involved around that "Chapter". We will work on it when we have the time. I tried to work on it faster, but this new album was such a tough thing to do.
THE TOUR, A HEADACHE AND TOLKKI
- Henkka is ready to go with us on the tour and we will go to Japan at least. Canada, USA and Australia would also be fun to do. Now we have to contribute more on the visual side. It will cost a lot, but in the end it will pay itself back.
Satu: Have you had terrible headaches ?? (At a Stratovarius album listening session Tony and Timo Tolkki were banging their heads together like crazy and Tolkki ended up having the biggest bump on his forehead I've ever seen !!)
- Yeah ! Goddamn what a headache. Tolkki's forehead was really terrible ! I have a hard head though. I've fooled around like this earlier with Jukka from Nightwish. But I haven't had the guts to call Tolkki yet after that...Sorry Timo....