Sonata Arctica (Tony Kakko)
We recently got in touch with frontman Tony Kakko of Sonata Arctica for a nice chat about the new album "Stones Grow Her Name" and the multiple musical influences discovered by the band throughout the years... Enjoy our interview!
Article by Gaetano Loffredo - Publish on: 17/05/12

Hi Tony! After the interview we did last October when the live album was released, here we are for another talk, and I’m really happy about that. This time we will take a look at the new album “Stones Grow Her Name”. Welcome back to SpazioRock.


Thank you very much!


First of all, I would like to confirm what you told me six months ago: the album goes back to the simple style of the first albums, it is much more straightforward.


Yes, I think it is, it actually came that way!


Anyway, when you listen to it, it is clear that you chose very modern sounds, a bit like in “Unia”.


Yes, of course we have to sound like today, even though we wanted to go back, songwriting-wise, to a more simple way of writing. The sound still has to be big. We wanted to make an album that sounds really good, songs that people can easily relate to, that it doesn’t necessarily take twenty listenings to get an idea of what the songs are all about. Which seemed to be a problem with some of the earlier stuff, especially with “Unia”: for some people it was still too complex. And of course, when people can’t understand what we are doing we are somehow doing it wrong, I think.


sonataarctica_intervista_2012_03So, to sum up: “Stones Grow Her Name” is a straightforward album like the first ones, but it sounds modern like “Unia”. What’s the reason of this choice, almost the opposite of “The Days Of Grays”?


We were all starting to feel that we have gone far enough with this “progressive” way of expressing ourselves, and it was time to try something else. We figured it would be actually fun to play songs, live also, that are not like sporting competitions every time you do it, but it would be simple and fun, and people would enjoy listening to these songs as much as we enjoy doing them. There are songs in the previous two albums that are just impossible to play live, so many things happening there, we have only five members in the band, so it’s impossible to do them the right way. And now for these new songs we can just take two acoustic guitars, sit in bar with a glass of whisky and start playing and singing! That was the idea, to write songs that can be easily adapted in a different environment and don’t even require electricity, we can just light a candle and start playing these songs acoustically. It is necessary, in my opinion to be able to continue our career for a really long long time so that we won't have enough of playing these songs even when we are sixty years old or something, even older than the Rolling Stone guys. That would be a dream come true actually.


I noticed that in some points you chose to rely on electronics with some futuristic sounds, a bit like Arjen Lucassen likes to do in his work. Why? Do you like the Ayreon series?


Yeah, it’s something that has nothing to do with the sound of the previous album. I just composed the songs by using these sounds and it sounded really good. It’s something we’ve never dome in the past, for example “I Have a Right”, what we have going on there is something never done before, I think it sounds really good and different, that is important I think.


Once again, I really have to ask you what the lyrics mean… They’re always about a woman… who is seen as the source of all our pain. Is this the case?


[Laughs] I’m just writing about human relationships, they are just stories about human nature, what we are. Everybody has their relationships, or should have anyway, at least one meaningful relationship, and that gives songs, and everything you read, and movies you watch, so much more perspective. And I think since the beginning I was criticized that these lyrics I write are not metal or rock or whatever, and I started to think that ok, maybe I should change the way I approach my songwriting somehow. But then at the same time I started to get e-mails and letters from people who got a lot of comfort from these human relationship stories, telling me it was exactly what they had being going through, and they just pushed me making all these imaginary themes... And of course I read and watch a lot of movies. Everything that happens in life, of course, it affects you somehow. And some of the songs might have some elements that function like a diary marking, in a way that I remember some certain things from this one line from that one song. It’s important for me that people can find their own meanings in the songs, that may be totally different from what I originally meant it to be.


I am very curious about the song “Cinderblox”, because it has a strong country mood, very uncommon for Sonata Arctica, and also for the title itself. Would you like to tell us something more about this song?


Well, I’m a big fan of bluegrass, I love these banjos and violins and everything of this bluegrass/country music. And just by accident I was playing around with my keyboard and I stumbled across this banjo sound and I thought “Hey, it sounds really fun”, and I started playing around until I came up with this riff that you hear. So I recorded the riff, and then started putting everything else, and came out really great! I played the demo to the guys and after the second time hearing it they thought “Hey, this is great!” They figured the song could be used maybe as some bonus material, but then they said “No, we’ve got to make a single out of it, it’s fantastic, genius!” [Laughs] Ok, at that point I thought “Ok, it’s going to be on the album”. It’s a really good song, we had a real guy playing the banjo and the violin, and then we also thought it would be fun to have a rockabilly slap bass, and we found a guy, from my own town actually, to play that! It’s a song that makes me smile every time I hear it.


Tony, are you also a fan of Renaissance or Medieval music?

sonataarctica_intervista_2012_02
Yes of course. I like all kinds of music pretty much.


Me too. Fantastic! As usual, the ballads are wonderful: “Don’t Be Mean” is one of the best you have ever written. What do you think about that?


I’m extremely pleased to hear that, thank you very much! I’ve written quite a few ballads, and it is one of the best I’ve written recently in that style. Thank you.


You’re welcome! I want to hear “Don’t be mean live”!


I’m sure you will, ‘cause we’ll be playing a lot of these songs live, all the songs can be adapted to a live environment easily.


Now a note on your voice: I had a listen to ‘Ecliptica’ first, and then “Stones Grow Her Name”, and you seem to have grown a lot as a singer during these years. Are you still studying to improve your vocal performance?


I think so! With the previous album we had 180 shows, so of course you learn a lot. Voice is an instrument that you always carry with you. When you get older your voice gets somehow shaped and richer, you learn to use it in different ways, and this of course happens to me as well. I’m not a 20-year-old kid anymore, I’m soon to be 37, and of course my instrument is becoming more and more strong with each album, and every time I learn something live each tour, I will try to adapt it also so that it works in a studio environment, and you hear the new things I’ve learnt on the album as well.


Ok, thank you Tony. Today, in your opinion and beside Sonata Arctica, which power metal band is still able to have surprising ideas and music?


I don’t really listen to power metal that much anymore, only random songs here and there. I have somehow moved to other music styles...


You listen only to country, Renaissance and Medieval music?


[Laughs] Well, I listen to all music I stumble across! Sometimes it is really fun because you find songs on Youtube or the internet, iTunes, on the radio or whatever. When you just listen to random music you come up with incredible things sometimes. I rarely take a single album and only listen to it. Devin Townsend is something I’ve been listening a lot in the last year.


I like him so much. He is a genius for me!


He is a genius, he is a crazy genius. You’ve got to be careful saying that somebody or something is “the best there is”, but he is a really fantastic singer! He can handle extreme vocals so well and his clean vocals are just wow!


I totally agree Tony!
When you’re going to play the new album on an Italian stage, are you preparing anything special for Italian fans?


I think we might come up with something special again, you know. The last time we played there we had an acoustic set. That wouldn't be something special anymore because we did it too many times. However, the show in Italy was the best for me, even the one that we recorded for the live DVD wasn't that great. I recorded a part of the Italian concert with my camera and the quality is total shit, but you can really get the feeling that the Italian audience is really singing and that is one of the highlights of the DVD for me. I think it is possible that we bring an acoustic guitar in Italy the next time and it would be fun to do something like that actually, with the new songs especially. We have to think about it, I can't promise you anything but that would be great!

 

sonataarctica_intervista_2012_04

Fantastic, thank you very very much Tony! And thank you for this interview. Now you can say hello to all your fans, especially those from SpazioRock.it.


I hope to see all of you very soon again, guys! I truly hope you enjoy the new Sonata Arctica album which will be out shortly. First check the album and then come enjoy the live show with us! Let's do it again, it has always been fantastic to play in Italy! You guys are the greatest!




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