Eicca Toppinen & Paavo Lötjönen are ready to brawl with Mayhem Music Magazine
As Apocalyptica begin their promotional tour for their eighth studio album entitled “Shadowmaker”, Mayhem sat down with Eicca Toppinen and Paavo Lötjönen backstage at The Regency Ballroom in San Francisco.
Mayhem Music Magazine: Throughout your previous albums, different singers were used on each of the songs with vocals. With Shadowmaker, you used only Franky Perez. How many tracks does he sing on and how did this come about?
Eicca: We decided to go with one singer it came actually when we started we are off from after we finished the 7th Symphony tour. When we came back together we started to talk about what kind of music and how we wanted to do it. We didn’t think about singers at that time, we started to make songs and we had a really clear vision on what kind of songs we wanted to have and when we came to the point where we had almost all the songs ready, they were written and had a lot of vocal tracks. We wanted to have so many things getting better, we wanted to be independent. Actually at that time we didn’t have a record company. So it was just four of us focusing on ourselves. We thought to put focus on ourselves and not like being depending on so many things outside of the band, which actually happens when you have such a record with several guests. There are so many record companies, so many manage- ments, so many people involved. We decided to make a little tape audition and that’s the reason we found Franky. It was great. It was a totally different approach to the whole album production. Having the singer in the rehearsal room with us for a couple of months before going into the studio. We were rehearsing, it was the first time ever we had a singer inside the room. The fact that we heard songs as they were going to be live effected a lot on how we arranged the songs. Actually two of the instrumental tracks became vocal tracks during the preproduction. Sometimes it felt like vocal tracks and instrumental tracks they are very separate from each other. This time it really feels like Franky’s voice is part of the Apocalyptica sound.
Paavo: The Shadowmaker song is a good example, it’s like almost an eight minute song. Half of the song is like an instrumental in the middle but the vocals really feel like an organic part of the sound.
Eicca: If you count numbers, there are more vocal tracks than instrumental tracks. The instrumental tracks are all big and epic long songs. It really feels like the vocals compliment into the Apocalyptica sound.
Mayhem Music Magazine: Your new record Shadowmaker drops April 21st, how will this album be different from 7th Symphony or any of the previous releases?
Eicca: It’s more organic, the vocals are more a part of our work. The sound is more celloish. All the riffs sound more like cello than guitars this time. It’s something we’ve been looking for years on how to do it. A distorted cello tends to sound like distorted guitar to our ears. We understand a lot of people don’t hear the difference. This time we really focused on how to keep everything sounding more cello but still being powerful and punchy.
Paavo: When you play cello as we do, if you mic it up and listen to just the acoustic sound of the cello, there’s a lot of natural distortion. It sounds heavy already without any effects. During the record process, we were playing in the studio we also recorded all the acoustic sound and all the amplifiers ere in the next room. We needed to separate sounds but in the final mix the acoustic sound is not so in the front. If that makes sense?
Mayhem Music Magazine: It does because last time I saw Apocalyptica, I was standing on the side of the stage and your instrumental rack system was built as if it was for a guitar. So I definitely can understand why you say that people do not hear the acoustic side of the instrument at times.
Eicca: They are the same tools we use for the sound change. This time Greg Fidelman, who mixed the album with me, we were really able to keep everything more tight and more personal. We wanted to have the feeling when you listen to the music that the band was in the same room.
Mayhem Music Magazine: It’s been five years since the release of 7th Symphony. This is the longest time span between Studio Albums for the band. Why was there a longer wait this time? (Wagner-Reloaded Live in 2013)
Eicca: That actually happened during our off year!
Paavo: He (Eicca) composed one hour music Eicca: almost two hours Paavo: two hours music over there that was for the symphony orchestra and choir and two hundred dancers. It was a really massive production in Germany.
Eicca: So it wasn’t a break from making music, it was more a break of the tour.
Paavo: and we also had the Apocalyptica Symphony which is like an orchestra, touring with an orchestra.
Eicca: That we actually did after the break. When we started to do the album, that was also effecting our album sched- uling that we did the orchestra tour. We released “Wagner Reloaded” and we spent one month promoting and playing radio live and stuff like that in Europe. But we went into the studio when the songs were ready not earlier.
Paavo: Those productions were also quite massive. The sound was almost like bombastic. I guess that helped our mind to be cleared. So we wanted to go back for the band sound and make a band album.
Mayhem Music Magazine: You’ve released three songs off of Shadowmaker already. Cold Blood, Shadowmaker, & Till Death Do Us Part. These are all incredible. What is your favorite track on the album and why?
Eicca: I think it’s hard to say because it depends. Music touches you different ways and in different moods. I don’t have an ultimate favorite.
Mayhem Music Magazine: Is there any favorite you like to play live off this album?
Eicca: Shadowmaker is great. In rehearsals “Till Death Do Us Part” is also really great to play. But “Shadowmaker” live some magic seems to happen during the song.
Paavo: My top three are “Shadowmaker”, “Dead Man’s Eyes”, and “Hole In My Soul”.
Mayhem Music Magazine: This is the kick off day of the tour with Sixx:AM, what does the rest of the year look like for the band?
Eicca: Very busy. So we’re four weeks with Sixx:AM in America and four weeks in North America and Canada for headlining shows. Then we do festivals in Europe and then a big headlining tour in Europe in Autumn for two months. Then it’s already the end of the year. Most likely next January or February we’ll be back in the states. The next two years I guess we’ll do 220 to 250 shows with this album.
Mayhem Music Magazine: I know your next day on the Sixx:AM tour is in two days, you still have your own headlining show booked for tomorrow.
Eicca: It’s an off day you know, what can you do on an off day…play a show. We have a few of these fill in shows because we don’t want to hang around on the road too much. It’s nice to have an off day time to time and now of course with Franky we have to have a little more often than we’re use to because it’s a different thing for singers. We’re use to having six shows in a row then one off day, that’s our usual routine. That’s a bit too much for singers.
Mayhem Music Magazine: From ‘YouTube’ to ‘America’s Got Talent’, we’re seeing more cellist playing music other than classical. They’re doing versions of AC/DC, Jimi Hendrix, and Nirvana. How does it feel knowing that Apocalyptica opened the door for so many musicians and for fans alike?
Eicca: It feels great. We didn’t think when we started playing heavy metal that we were doing something revolutionary. For us it was the most natural thing to do. We play cello and we love metal, so we play metal with cellos. It’s as simple as that. It’s really cool that we’ve got so much feedback from different people that what we’ve done has has helped their view of the instrument, of music, of classical music, of playing cello, of playing any classical instrument. It feels pretty good.
Paavo: It feels like there has been a cello boom. Small kids are like willing to play the cello. We’ve made it cool.
Eicca: The cello is now the most demanded instrument. Like the “two cellos”, they are at the age that I think they are from the Balkan area in Europe and that’s a territory we have played always since the end of the 90’s so I bet when they were teenagers, they’ve been to our shows. And that’s cool they are doing basically something that we were asked to do from record companies in ‘99. We actually got into a big battle, they tried to sue us and we went the other way. But it’s good that somebody is doing that now.
Mayhem Music Magazine: The band has officially been around for over two two decades now, did you expect the band would last this long?
Eicca: We never expected to even have a band.
Paavo: We just did the first album is what we were asked to do. We did the album and it was supposed to be like a project.
Eicca: The first two albums we were more like a bunch of friends, we shared the same passion for metal music and really didn’t think so much about a band. We did it just for fun. It slowly turned into feeling like this is an actual band. That was at the point we decided that if we want to find a musical identity we have to start making our own music and that was for the third album “Cult”, which was the first album with original music. But still then, we didn’t have any plan. The first two albums, a lot of critics and a lot of people they tried to push it down. They were like “It’s a gimmick thing, it’s a novelty act” but it was like fuck you, we like to make music. Well we’ve done some things right since we’re still here.
Paavo: On Shadowmaker, we didn’t want to focus on the future, we wanted to make the album we wanted to do now.
Eicca: I think that’s the secret behind the success and the fact that we still exist.
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