Tony Kakko from SONATA ARCTICA dropped in for a chat with A&GS via Skype not too long ago. With new album The Ninth Hour less than a month from release he gave us some insight into how everything for it fell into place, what to expect from the live shows, and more. So take a look:
Alexa G: Thank you for taking the time to speak with A&GS. As a long time SONATA ARCTICA fan the first thing that immediately caught my attention on the record was “White Pearl Black Oceans Part 2”. It took me back to Reckoning Night. I have a lot great memories attached to that album. What made you decide to continue the story?
Tony: Well thank you. I started writing it in April. I had this sample of symphonic-sounding music. I thought it could make a great intro or part of the song. I was stupid enough to post something on Instagram the same moment and added the hashtag “White Pearl, Black Oceans Part 2”, so I really couldn’t turn back because people noticed it right away (laughs).
Alexa G: The timing is perfect because the twelfth anniversary of Reckoning Night is on September 22.
Tony: Oh is it? Then that it is a happy coincidence.
Alexa G: Which song on the record was the most challenging to write?
Tony: That would have to be in certain ways “White Pearl Black Oceans Part 2”, mostly because of the story. There’s lots of pressure behind it because the first has lots of big meaning and was in the hearts of so many SONATA ARCTICA fans. There’s fan fiction, movie ideas, and tattoos, and what not that people have taken and created around that song. I had to be really careful that the second part would be a worthy sequel. I didn’t make that task easy by killing the two main characters at the end of the first one (laughs). Stylistically and music wise it’s continuing the same story. The hard part was the story, the music was fairly easy.
But music and composing wise I think there are more difficult songs on the album. “Life,” the second track, was very difficult to get right. We had three different versions. I wasn’t happy, the guys were totally excited by the first version and made it their own. But I thought it was pretty awful (laughs). I told them, “We are putting it on hold.” I got back to it later and I think I got it right, edited some parts and changed things around.
Alexa G: Are you your own worst critic? How long does it take you after the recording is complete to go back and listen to the music?
Tony: (Laughing) I can be at times, I suppose. With the first album, Ecliptica, I think it took close to a year before I was able to give it a listen (laughs). I was terrified, I just didn’t want to touch it, though I did eventually. But with this new one I really got close to it.
Alexa G: How was the recording process this time around?
Tony: Stressful(laughs)! Pariah’s Child was easy-going, we had songs ready way before entering the studio. With The Ninth Hour none of that was so. It was an extremely intense three to five months from writing songs, recording, mixing and mastering. I’d prefer the Pariah’s Child‘ style.
Alexa G: The album cover is very striking. I thought a lot about utopia and dystopia and how nature is held in the balance by man, especially if we continue making strides in technology. Did Toxic Angel/Janne Pitkänen create it?
Tony: Yes it was Janne. I first came up with the concept for the album cover and what I wanted to have there. I then sent my rough sketch to Janne; he has been working with us since Winterheart’s Guild. We go way back. He also did our logo. Anyway, I sent him the picture and we talked on the phone for a couple of hours several times, and he made it perfect.
Alexa G: How difficult is it to come up with a setlist nine albums in?
Tony: Hard (laughs)! We will be playing a bunch songs from the new album. They will fit with our set because they all are live-friendly of course. And there are songs that we need to play for the fans.
Alexa G: Can we expect any surprises or songs that have never been performed live?
Tony: Yes we are actually in the process of finalizing a setlist. We are rehearsing songs to see how they will fit.
Alexa G: Could you give us one example?
Tony: The plan is to reintroduce songs we have not played in the longest of time, like “The Power of One” from the Silence album.
Alexa G: Outside of music what are some of your interests?
Tony: I like photography and nature. Spending time with my family as well.
Alexa G: Besides vocals you also play the keyboards and guitar. What is your preference?
Tony: Keyboards definitely. That’s my main instrument.
Alexa: Thank you again Tony for taking the time to do this interview. I am looking forward to seeing you on tour. You put on great shows and it’s amazing how much the band has grown since your first ever live appearance back in 2005. Any final words to your fans?
Tony: Wow, thank your for that. We appreciate it as a band and that means a lot to us. I hope you guys check out our new album The Ninth Hour and then come see us live in November. And besides that, go see other bands live because, it is all important. When you buy tickets and merch from touring bands that’s how you make sure that live music stays alive.
The Ninth Hour comes out October 7 on Nuclear Blast Records. Be sure to grab your copy, and for the upcoming tour you can find dates and tickets HERE. -ALEXA G