Once they were at the origins of a whole musical style called “cello metal”. Their first studio work, which still holds great popularity, was the covers album Plays Metallica by Four Cellos.,Last week Apocalyptica visited four Ukrainian cities with a concert program dedicated to this release, as well as dozens of countries all around the world.
Few days ago, before the band’s performance in Bucharest, we had an opportunity to talk with one of its founders, Paavo Lötjönen about instrumental music, Metallica songs, concert venues and upcoming album.
Hello Paavo, thanks for this interview opportunity. How is your tour going?
Well, very nice. This is the third part. We just came from Turkey, where we had three very nice shows – İzmir, Istanbul and Ankara. Now we are in Romania, and in a couple of hours we are going on stage in Bucharest.
You were in U.S.A. and Turkey with this concert program this year and now you are in Europe. How do you feel about this long journey?
You know, this tour was supposed to be only like an anniversary, a tour for 30 shows maybe. But suddenly many people wanted to see this show. Now we have made like over two hundred shows for this “Apocalyptica Plays Metallica” program. It’s really fantastic venues and fantastic audiences all around the world. We played in 45 different countries, and Ukrainian shows are the last shows in the East we have.
It’s been a long time since you released your album Plays Metallica by Four Cellos. And now you’re back to this album with this tour. Why have you decided to return with this album now and play it again on stage?
Well, 20 years have passed since we released this album. Actually, now it’s 23 years. We thought kind of “what should we do for 20th anniversary?” Of course play “Metallica” album! It was really good way to celebrate this 20th anniversary by playing the original album, so… We created a kind of concept, where we played the first album like we recorded: it’s only four cellos, we start from “Enter Sandman” and stop at “Sanitarium”. And then there’s like intermission, and then we play some other songs with the drummer. There is a strict concept, and it’s really interesting how people react to this.
Music is like a time machine. When you listen to some music you have listened 20 years ago, you can really feel the same feelings; maybe even smell some smells like it was 20 years ago. When people are coming to see the show, with this music they can imagine that they are young again. That’s one of the great things that music does: reminds you about feelings and emotions. That’s fantastic. That’s why I’m listening music and doing this.
It’s known than Metallica influenced you and the whole creation of the band. Now, when you’re on the stage for so many years, from this point of view, which you have today as a great metal band, how do you feel about Metallica?
Compared to the starting point, when it was inspiration and we were young, it’s still a lot of fun to play these songs nowadays. We have played, maybe, 1500 times “Nothing Else Matters”, but it still fantastic feeling with that song, when the audience is singing with us… It’s connecting people. So that’s really pretty cool about these songs that are really good composed.
You mentioned “Nothing Else Matters”, which you played it many times… Do you have any song (or maybe songs), which you have played so many times that you’re already tired and no longer want to play them, but people still ask for it?
(Laughing) Yes, there are certain songs, pretty are not that popular, in my mind, but people love them. Like “Seek & Destroy”. It’s a really simple song and not too interesting for me, but people love it, and for people I love to play it.
Seems like you created (at least greatly developed) a new genre in metal – “cello metal”. Nowadays, when some new band plays instrumental metal or even play on cellos, people will compare this band with you, with Apocalyptica. How do you feel about this – about these bands and such comparisons?
I’m really proud that we have kind of created a genre, this “string metal” or something else. Almost every European city has some pro cello players that play our songs and not only ours. And there is even famous like 2Cellos… They’re fantastic, but they make different things. We’re very proud that we created some kind of “genre”. And also many metal bands are using these instruments nowadays.
This year you’ve already been in Ukraine on Zaxidfest near Lviv, in August. All the people there were really delighted about your show, but some of them noticed that the best way to listen you is in the concert hall but not on the open air at the end of the day, when most of audience is tired and drunk too much. So, where do you personally prefer to play? Concert halls, open airs, or maybe it’s something more “classic”, like operas or something like it?
Of course, if we compare festivals and concert halls, it’s different things. If we go to the festival area, it’s like a party, and we’re normally playing like a “party” set: metal, different songs… It’s a different live action. And when it goes on different venues, rock clubs and concert halls, we can create different kind of looks, even bigger lights and intensity. We can also play slower parts and slower songs (it is more cello typical songs), because if people are sitting in the concert hall, they can relax, listen to music and not party all that time.
On this tour we’ve played a lot of concert halls, where people are sitting. We have found out a concert show, which is about 2 hours and 15 minutes, but it’s a very long show. And it’s for people to sit down and have to see well, see that beautiful lights and see our small faces and smiles or whatever… You can see more details, it’s more sensitive. But on this tour in the end of almost every show people are standing, and clapping, and shouting, and raising horns. It’s still fantastic.
Can we talk a little about your upcoming album? This will be your first album for the long time, which will be fully instrumental. For now, after all these years, it’s became quite usual that there is always some place for songs with vocalists in your album and even in the earlier works there were bonus tracks with vocalists. Why did you decide to make it fully instrumental this time? Perhaps it was like some desire to show that Apocalyptica is always a cello band? Album title and cover art are also about it.
From the third album we started using vocals. It was firstly released like an instrumental album, but then there was like a renewed version with vocalists there. So we wanted to release the fully instrumental album all the time.
You’ve already heard the first song, “Ashes Of The Modern World”, some weeks ago, and then the new single, “Rise”, came on Friday. It’s a slower song, and there is really fantastic video on that.
Can I ask the last one, a little tricky question? How do you choose the song names, when they are instrumental?
Many times we have like a version behind the songs. Sometimes they are really stupid, sometimes they are like a final version. There is no rule how it happens, but many times the name tells about the moment. Some stories behind the songs are ready for the moment of composition time, but sometimes it’s just abstract music, where we don’t tell about anything – and then it’s difficult to create the title.
But anyway we try to come up with a name, which tells something. It’s kind of guidelines, where to go in your imagination. When you listen to instrumental music, they create different paths in your mind that brings some new feelings and ideas. Like a mental key. The name is like an introduction, the starting point for your imagination and your own creation.
But we don’t want to explain too much about our songs, of course. That’s a fantastic side of instrumental music: to create your own world in your head.
Ukrainian version of the interview: Daily Metal
Interview: Sandra, Droll
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