Interview with Apocalyptica’s Perttu Kivilaakso in St. Louis

I had the pleasure of interviewing Apocalyptica’s Perttu Kivilaakso before their show at The Pageant in St. Louis in support of their album 7th Symphony:

Lisa: How is the tour going for you so far?

Perttu: It’s been intense. It’s been really cool to play new songs. That’s most enjoyable at the moment because we are really happy and proud of the new album and very satisfied for the results. It’s a wonderful feeling to bring those pieces in front of the audience and get the instant response, to see that people like it and share the same kind of feeling that we have for this music. So, therefore, it’s always really exciting to begin the tour.

Lisa: What are you proudest of with 7th Symphony?

Perttu: In general, for me, it sounds like quite a brave album. We have those certain elements we wanted to continue doing. Tracks for the radio; it’s pretty obvious that they are there, but even then, they are produced in a little twisted way and not as most typical rock. Even, for example, “I Don’t Care,” from the previous album, was really like a smash hit and of course we had pressure, but kind of like a feeling that we should do something similar to keep it going on, but we wanted to approach the entire album like a little bit from a different angle and ask a different producer to work with u s to feel kind of free even with doing a couple of mainstream tracks, but doing them another way around. A little bit twisted sounds, whatever could point it away from the most typical rock, mainstream rock scene. Besides them of course,  the instrumental material; there we wanted as free hands as ever possible.

We considered a lot of the mood of the Cult album, because there, for ourselves, Cult is a culmination point of the band 11 years ago. The transition to the more completed own material. Therefore, the result of Cult was like rebellion, revolutionary, all one in that sense that the entire Apocalyptica theme was created with that one. We wanted to have that same youngster enthusiasm and f*** you attitude, you know, for the latest album as well.

Of course, now with the updated sounds and the knowledge that we have now learned, to use cello, and still we learned like a million new things in studio. It’s funny to have such an instrument that you use, that every time you go somewhere to spend time with new equipment and stuff, it’s just exploring and like a scientist-laboratory-feeling, like, “Wow, this kind of sound I never heard earlier, but hey, yeah, lets record it.” It’s very exciting to create new things, so 7th Symphony, for my ears, pretty much sounds like the attitude of Cult, the origins of Apocalyptica, we’re concentrating once again on building up the friendship into a new and better level and the original feeling of guys having fun with their favorite music.

We wanted quite a lot to capture the power and energy of a live performance for the album therefore, we played a lot of tracks together as a band and with out fixing basically anything and also improvising a lot of stuff and not having any, for example, samples, all of the sounds were done in the moment.

I think you can hear it from the album that it’s truly fresh and strange. It is really strange because ever song, they are so different from each other that actually we shouldn’t have done it like that. We wanted to have completely, like, a musical journey that leads you every possible place and still there is a connection. That is, I think, the biggest achievement in the album. It’s really binding, and it’s probably the instrument itself. The cello, however you use it, has a certain tone or something that makes the basics of music and therefore, for example, different vocalists, they don’t feel strange.

At least this time because they are more like different storytellers and characters of this form of symphony, we’re having now, even if it’s not in the form of a practical symphony, but we wanted to name it as a symphony because it was 50 minutes of solid music that was guiding us through something, having some different acts and scenes and different characters telling their opinion and then we are already somewhere else. In the end, especially the beginning and final track, they kind of bind it together.

Lisa: What is it like working with the different vocalists and how do you go about choosing them?

Perttu: This time especially, I  think we had more in our own minds basically a kind of voice and character of suitable vocals for it, then, we only needed to search. For example, Lacey, I hadn’t heard Flyleaf earlier, but when we were thinking of the vocals for “Broken Pieces.” we know in our heads what kind of voice there should be. Once again we wanted to have the final touch in there of course. Going through a lot of albums and artists. We are on the same record label so it was easy to get Lacey. I love Lacey’s way of singing and a the same time it’s unbelievable powerful, yet fragile. That’s really a cool combo. It’s on the edge and I’m kind of afraid what happens to her, yet she’s really, really strong. Gavin, we have known long and I think a brilliant choice for the most typical rock song we have on the album, not to bring the most typical rock singer. Exciting angle. There’s also something similar in Gavin’s voice as a male as in Lacey’s. I could say the same words. Fragile yet strong. Brent, of course, he’s just strong and sexy and cool.

Lisa: Throughout your various tours of the US, have you noticed a difference in your audience as your success has grown?

Perttu: Of course, the circumstances are different everywhere. Even inside the states they are like night and day in many places. Surprisingly, audiences are similar in US and Europe. Wonderful audience, we’re really thankful. We have played here maybe 120-150 concerts already during the last couple.e of years, so nowadays it’s not anymore strange and the US feels cozy already. I remember the first tour we played places like NY, where we had never been, those times, I remember were were scared. Having this attitude like,  “We are from small country, Finland, nobody even know where it is, and will they even pay attention to us?” Sometimes we have the same feeling at first concerts in London might have been horrible because there is the audience who has the attitude, “OK, we had the Beatles.” “OK, excuse me, I’ve got to go already.” So, coming to a very powerful, strong music market from a place like Finland, it’s really absurd. It has been a wonderful opportunity to get to tour here. It’s not easy, because of the competition. I like it.  Only thing I would like to get a little less pizzas. Every day pizza everywhere.

Lisa: Pizza is almost a staple here.

Perttu: We really need to struggle to get something other than pizza. We don’t travel with our own kitchen. Like in Europe, there is catering making different food every day. The states, this is a little more rock and roll. Smaller crew. It’s easy to fall into the easiest option, which is normally pizza.

Lisa: Which normally isn’t the healthiest.

Perttu: No, it’s not. I remember I did one US tour a couple of years ago, probably with Worlds Collide, that I probably ate one salad during three weeks. Every day, pizza at lease once or twice.

Lisa: One of the many things that impresses me with your audience is the variety of ages and people.

Perttu: Of course besides making music and playing music, that must be one of the most pleasant things in this group for me. Wherever we go, no matter cultures, continents, climates, colors of people, habits of people, we go into the hall and see all different ages. That’s a wonderful feeling to realize that we are not different and whoever comes into the hall, because of curiosity, or because they already know about us, still come because of the same feeling, the same excitement. We are sharing something similar in the form of our music of course and that occasion and to realize that all of these different people all around the world, we like the same thing the same way.

That cannot be sen so much in the world otherwise. That is the magic of music. Of course, the magic of art, and wherever people can feel united and everything that is internationally accepted. There is no border and that’s something that I love.

Lisa: Is there anything you would like to say to your fans?

Perttu: For those who haven’t been to an Apocalyptica concert, I highly recommend to pop in to Apocalyptica’s world for an evening or more. The true thing behind that happening and realizing what the band is live, understanding why it has to be like this. Especially this new album, there is many such solutions that I’m sure that someone who has no idea of our group or instruments, they are listening and thinking, “this is horrible. WTF?” If they have the similar image in their minds to what we had while doing it and what we do on the stage, I think that opens up. I highly recommend. Even if you hate the music, an Apocalyptica show can still be entertaining.

Lisa: There truly is nothing like an Apocalyptica show.

Perttu: We will tour heavily in the states during the next year, year and a half. Having like four different tours at least.

Lisa: What do you think of bands coming along now who are obviously influenced by Apocalyptica? Harptallica, for example.

Perttu: I think it’s really good if people are encouraged to try different things. That’s also what the world should be about, having eyes and ears open and open minded. That’s probably one thing that is in the Finnish mentality and you can hear it in the music, also. We like to find our own ways and therefore, there are so many unique bands coming from Finland. We don’t have the pressure of like, elder Europe behind us. Like, traditions that existed always. People don’t think like this.

Lisa: Does that allow you more freedom and less pressure?

Perttu: That’s an interesting question that comes up. Why does Finland have so many different and special, like, “own-way” growing bands? I can’t find the real explanation, but it’s still positive.

Lisa: They’re different and fresh. A lot of bands sound the same now.

Perttu: Of course, many things sound the same nowadays. There is followers of HIM. Nightwish basically created the thing that there are so many band nowadays. It must be something.

Lisa: Talent and creativity…

Perttu: Or, having no fear of failure and no shame. That’s something that could be said about our record. We didn’t fear failing and we are stupid enough not to be ashamed we could f*** it up. That’s why there is no option other than to just dig it.

Many thanks to Perttu for his time!

View more photos from this set by clicking below:


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