Perttu Kivilaakso and
Mikko Siren

Apocalyptica is touring in support of their brand new album, Shadowmaker, which is their first album with a dedicated singer, Franky Perez. We had a chance to sit down with cellist Perttu Kivilaakso and drummer Mikko Sirén before their show in Worcester, MA! Check out pictures and the review of their show here!


Perttu Kivilaakso and Mikko Sirén of Apocalyptica

New England Music Blog – You guys just put out your eight studio album, Shadowmaker, and this is the first time you’re using a dedicated vocalist, instead of the guest vocalists like you’ve done in the past. What prompted that decision, and how did you guys hook up with Franky (Perez)?

Perttu Kivilaakso – When we started to compose the tracks and move our thoughts towards this album, I think it was pretty clear for all of us that we kind of felt that we had gone to the end of the road of inviting a bunch of guests into the project. We felt that we want to make an album that is really concentrated, just for our band, for ourselves, our inner musical souls, and for the music we want to do. Therefore, the concept came out of that. Franky we found through quiet auditions, listening to different promising guys, and he turned out to be the most suitable voice for this band.

One of the benefits that we were thinking with this was we wanted the voice on the album to be the voice we brought to the concerts. There was no connections, and many times it felt like they were isolated songs that we do with people.

Mikko Sirén – Kind of like doing cover songs…

Perttu – Cover songs of our own music, and we really wanted to concentrate on the own identity of this group, combining all the elements of what we have loved doing over the years. This turned out to be the best choice, Franky is basically hired for two years, the album and all the tours. We don’t know about the future… This band has always wanted to grow and evolve with even big steps sometimes, adding drums, adding vocals, whatever, because we have that huge musical urge of going forward, so we cannot know about the future, of course, at this moment. But we are enjoying this so much, Franky is fitting perfectly in the group, and he’s an amazing performer.

NEMB – What was the writing and recording process like for shadowmaker?

Mikko – It was great! When we started to write the songs, we were in a situation that we did not have a record company at that point, so we did not have anybody to tell us what we can and cannot do. Just the four of us then, we locked ourselves into our rehearsal room and started to make music, and we had come from a really good focus from the very beginning that now we want to make a certain kind of album. We want to make it sound a certain way, we want the music to be really specific to what we searched for that moment, and it all came from within the band. So it’s a really important album for us in that sense, because from the music, to art work, everything is defined by the band itself. Then after the songwriting session, we involved Franky, most of the songs were written before Franky joined in. Then we got Nick Raskulinecz, the producer, and we went to pre-production sessions, to Nashville, to Nick’s studio.

Perttu – which is actually particular about why I say the full product is so determined and sounding clear in every sense, is the fact that this was the first time, and only chance we have ever had to rehearse and practice with the vocalists, so we kind of felt like a real band, that may be for the first time in our career.

Mikko – It was great, the whole making of process, that we were so bound together with the band, and so excited and enthusiastic, we stayed in nashville for 6-7 weeks, then to record the album we had a small hut on a hill, kind of like, really isolated from the rest of the world, and just really focused in making the album. Nick, of course, his input was huge. He was a really inspiring person, and he gave a lot to this album, and made us to be more than we could have been without him.

NEMB – What are your favorite tracks off the album?

Perttu – Now we have played only so far a couple of the new songs, but Shadowmaker, the title track, is amazing, a lot of fun to play in a live situation, and apparently it always gets the biggest reaction from the audience. My personal favorite from the album is the ending track, dead man’s eyes, because it contains so much, very mysterious spirit and is so beautiful.

Mikko – The album for us, is kind of old, because the recordings ended in mid of October, and the mixing was done until mid of January, so we have a strange relationship with the album at the moment. But when we get to play all of the songs live, then it will change again, but I think all the tracks will find their place in the future.

Apocalyptica's Perttu Kivilaakso

Apocalyptica’s Perttu Kivilaakso

NEMB – So the tour is about two weeks old now, any stand out moments so far?

Perttu – For sure, this has been an interesting tour, getting on the road with the guys and legends like Nikki. Of course, we get to play to fresh audiences, and that’s always a good thing, conquer new hearts for our cause. I think in general, interesting times, it’s so exciting, period, anyhow, having the release now, we are so full of anxiety of playing the material for fans, we are waiting so much for our forthcoming headlining tour in May, we come back for nearly five weeks in the states. I think this band is just fully on fire, when it comes to playing and creating music and enjoying times together.

NEMB – You said the crowds are digging the new material?

Perttu – Yeah, they do! I think, you always say if a band plays too much new material, the audience gets bored, but I have always felt that not our audience. They are waiting for new songs, I have actually always had the feeling that those whoever like or love apocalyptica, they want to evolve with us, and therefore they are actually really, really hungry for new material.

Mikko – The best response, I would say, we of course play a short set, because we are support on this run, and we only play two songs from the new album… But almost the best reactions, of course excluding I Don’t Care, which is obviously the hit song, but out of the other songs they get really good response.

Perttu – And that’s always a good sign, if they have never heard a track but they get so into it, then you just know that we did something right.

NEMB – Nowadays, it’s kind of easy to find a string tribute to just about anything you can imagine, but Apocalyptica was definitely the first time I ever heard anything like that, especially a heavy metal tribute. Now, 20 years later, is it something you ever imagined this was going to sell 4 million plus albums.

Perttu – (laughs) I think we never expected any change in any corner where we have been, we have never expected anything. The entire thing was kind of like accident, just meant to be four friends, or back then there were five guys, who were coming to drink beer together and play our favorite music, Metallica, Sepultura. Just a fucking weird idea. So nobody ever expected anything, and after these twenty years, i think it’s just hilarious to actually consider everywhere we have already been and all those opportunities and possibilities to work with amazing people, see the world, play to unbelievable, beautiful crowds. That, of course, is much more than ever expected. We always just wanted to follow the feeling, and also to accept the fact that even we have no fucking idea how to use the cello in this music (laughs). We always had to create those rules, and then to break them, and go further. I guess that is the reason why we have been so passionate on going on making more albums and making more tours, because there always has to be this feeling that we developed the cello in our little way, and it’s our task and duty to continue it.

NEMB – So you started off playing Metallica, and then a few years ago, they invited you up for the 30th anniversary. How was that experience?

Mikko – It was amazing, and just to rewind a little, kind of the coolest part started in 96 or 97, the guys had their 5th gig, and that was to support Metallica in Finland, so they already back then knew Apocalyptica, and kind of the whole 30th anniversary was very meaningful for us, also because all the bands who opened up for them during that week, when they played in San Francisco,

Perttu – Mercyful Fate, Diamond Head…

Mikko – They really just had bands who were influences to them, and kind of to be named to be one of those, however small a part, to be one of those was quite something.

Perttu – I’m pretty sure that stays as one of the weirdest experiences for me, because of course when I was a youngster, James Hetfield was a big, big idol. Then I start to play “one”, then I look, and he starts to sing, just as close as Mikko is now. Yeah, kind of we didn’t expect this when we started. But on the other hand, it’s pretty fucking weird, also, that we have been so well adapted, actually, into this world, we have done so much already, that it’s nothing like, actually too strange. It’s just natural that, of course, now I get to play here with James Hetfield (laughs). He said that it was it the first time ever he sang without himself playing the guitar, so it was a lovely evening.

NEMB – Do you guys have a lot of downtime on this tour, do you do a lot of things on your days off?

Perttu – We have only up time (laughs)

Mikko – We have actually quite a lot of time to spend, and people do whatever people do.

Perttu – This has been an amazing sport tour, everybody is losing weight, manically doing sit-ups, push-ups all the time, and no eating…

Mikko – We have involved all of our crew to that. I was just in the bus and our monitor engineer came there to do push-ups. But we always, I think all the bands have a lot of free time during the free tour. It’s a romantic way to say that it’s so busy, it’s not. And there’s time to relax and sleep or play games, or read or whatever people do.

Perttu – Always when we travel with a coach, with a bus, it’s easy.

Apocalyptica's Mikko Sirén

Apocalyptica’s Mikko Sirén

Mikko – Yeah, flying is hell, that sucks.

Perttu – In europe, or in south america, we’ve got to do those tours that every single day there is minimum four hour flight, six hour flight, and then straight to concert, and then sleep for two hours, so this is even like holiday (laughs).

NEMB – So what’s next after this tour?

Perttu – We come back for May/June

Mikko – Yeah we have two weeks off, we do some promotion, big tv shows in europe, and then we spend almost 5 weeks in the US doing headlining shows.

Perttu – A couple of those big festivals like Rocklahoma, Rock on the Range…

Mikko – Yeah, and after that we go to Europe to do a couple of big festivals, Donnington, a few in Finland and Baltic countries. Then in the fall, it might be that we come here again, and then we do big headlining tour in Europe, that’s a really big tour for us. We do a tour in the UK, we do a big tour in Russia, and we try to make it back home by Christmas.

Perttu – And back in the states, probably February at the latest. (laughs) We are going to tour for two years, that’s more or less constantly all the time, but we are well prepared, and actually, at least at the moment, ask again after one year, (laughs)  but at the moment we are so excited. I, personally, I have never enjoyed playing so much as now.

NEMB – Thank you for taking the time to talk to me!

Listen to audio of the interview below!

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