The new Sonata Arctica album to be released on October 07 via Nuclear Blast Records addresses human impact on the planet, political satire, and relationships.
NRR: With your schedule of a lot of shows, when did you start the writing process?
TK: I had some songs there that actually were ready or one song that was ready in some form when we were working on Stones Grow Her Name album from 2011. But that was not part of this songwriting process that started fairly late, really to freaking’ late (laughter). We had a long break first of all after The Pharia’s Child tour ended in late August. So I had this four-month break with no Sonata Arctica what’s so ever and to cut all the strings and do something totally different.
Then it worked much better than I thought (laughter). Then went to the Rock In Rio show with Nightwish and a bunch of Christmas shows and got to spend time with my family which is the most important thing. And early this year, during January I was thinking to start to writing songs and suddenly feeling white paper syndrome, and couldn’t get anything done and nothing I hoped for to be motivated after such a break. Then we had the seven-week 2016 North American tour with Nightwish that started in February and ended in early April.
When we got back home we were in a hurry already, and I had bunch of two or three songs sort of ready at the time. And we delivered the master copy at the end of June, so when you do the math, it’s pretty tight to record the songs and write. So I stayed home writing songs, and the rest of the guys went into the studio and recorded whatever I could send and eventually got everything together.
And the stupidest thing ever was I started writing one missing song one week before the mastering of the album, and that was kind of the schedule, and it worked out really well and doesn’t reflect the whole rush and compression of time and doesn’t reflect negatively and maybe made the album more intact and whole in some ways like there are maybe two songs that jump out as weird, odd song all of sudden.
NRR: Talk about the two songs that that relate or fit together: “Closer To An Animal” and “On The Fault line (Closure To An Animal).”
TK: The first original version that I wrote was “On The Fault Line” kind of a ballad, and it kind of gave me this kind of Lana Del Rey vibe, and I really loved that. It was some years ago when I wrote that, and it didn’t what Sonata Arctica was doing at the time, and I also left it there. Time will eventually find use for the songs and trusted that, and when I have time a find a song that hasn’t found it’s place yet, I have this kind of hobby that I take that song and mutilated in a totally different form.
So one day for fun I would make this heavy version of “On The Fault Line” and it turned out to be “Closer To An Animal” version with riffs and everything. And I was in a bind with that because I like both versions, and they are great songs. And at the same time, I was already started thinking and made plans to give “On The Fault Line” away outside to sing to maybe a lady or whatever because it didn’t feel like a Sonata Arctica song.
But once I got the “Closer To An Animal” together I realized that, okay if I do that if I give away the ballad version of the song or slow version, I would practically kill “Closer To An Animal” because they are so much the same song with the same melodies and similar lyrical lines. They are the same but totally different meaning in the context and, of course, the only sensible solution I could find is that both songs will be on a Sonata Arctica album. And if had separated them from each other and still release them it would cause people to blame me for plagiarizing myself for all this say, “didn’t you notice that those songs are pretty much the same” (laughter).
Now they have justification that they begin and end the album but creating a totally different world with the same melody line. And “On The Fault Line” has one different melody line and still has similarities and to call them like playable and stand alone.
NRR: This is the ninth studio album and call it The Ninth Hour. Did you go to the Bible and find the quote from – Matthew 27:46 that says “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying ‘My God, why hast thou forsaken me?'”
TK: Well I didn’t actually go the Bible (laughter). This is how it went I came up with the album cover first of all. And we have this Utopian landscape where the human elements, technology, and nature they are in harmony and in balance together. And then you have this hourglass contraption with two alternatives that are utopia and that button, knob as well in the middle where it represents what we are doing to destroy this planet. And when we keep hitting that button long enough it will eventually tilt the hourglass in one direction, and it’s choosing one of those alternatives where utopia is gone and still suffering alive, and the other is we alienated ourselves and nature has had the chance of healing its self.
So that was the concept I had in mind and of course a baby needs a name, and I started thinking what it could be and started approaching that it’s the ninth album, the ninth hour and that literally popped into my head. Well, that might be ok that it connects that it is our ninth album and ninth hour, and it has record of a biblical term. I’m not a religious person at all, and I’m not into that stuff at all, but I started reading what people say about it, what it said and what it means and it could have been awful and doesn’t fit at all and could have backed fire drastically for me.
But I found this one line there that fits my thoughts perfectly on the cover that connects: “That God only wants us to sacrifice and expects us to sacrifice and to repent.” And that is actually what we are facing these days, and we need to make sacrifices to allow for this world and the environment to survive us and in many cases, we will repent and be sorry for the previous generations have done. That we killed so much of this planet already and a lot of it is we can’t reverse that anymore. So that is how the things kind of connect.
NRR: At the time when you were writing the songs was this to be a concept album, based on a theme or a mix?
TK: More or less all the Sonata Arctica albums are a mix and bunch of songs. Since I write all the songs, and depending what kind of mindset I am in when I am writing the lyrics and the song says, it sets the mood and sometimes you have songs with the same scenery and same theme like in this case. I had all the songs ready and thinking what the color would be and what the big main themes would be reoccurred on three songs on this album, would be nature and the environment and the awareness. Of course, people think this most environmental album that Sonata Arctica has created (Laughter). It’s the main theme but not the only one and hope people understand that, that I am not preaching here. It’s more observing and being worried where we are going.
And of course other themes and on every Sonata Arctica albums we have love songs, relationship stories that go most of the time 99.9 percent of the time there are something totally wrong with it (laughter) and that is just my way of approaching my songwriting. And “White Pearl, Black Oceans Part 2 is kind of a human relationship story a epic journey and adventure and going back to this saga that started on our second album Silence that started on “The End Of This Chapter” followed by “Don’t Say A Word” , and “Caleb” and “Juliet” and now “Till Death’s Done Us Apart.” They are going to be playing around the same singing, the same banner, the same theme and that kind of things. Of course, you know for the first the time, there have been a couple of songs I have flirted with political themes, and now we have this song called “Fairytale” making observations and such about the forthcoming Presidential elections in the United States in a funny way.
NRR: Good thing you brought that up about “White Pearl, Black Oceans Part 2.” Part 1 is on the Reckoning album, so my question is, was Part 2 recorded back then and decided to re-record it for this album?
TK: No, no Part 2 is a completely new song and I started writing it in April of this year actually. I bought this new set of crates of symphonic sounds and testing them and playing around. All of sudden I have this theme and a small fraction of sounds ready and I still say that on purpose. That I was stupid enough to post it on something on Instagram the same moment and added the hashtag “White Pearl, Black Oceans Part 2, so I really couldn’t turn back anymore because people notice that thing immediately.
So it is a new song and a certain amount of challenges to that and of course “White Pearl, Black Oceans” has big meaning to many of the Sonata Arctica fans which are in tons of fans fiction of movie ideas, tattoos and what have you. That people have taken and created around that theme and stories, that was giving that a little bit of pressure behind it. Also, I happen to kill sort of the two main characters in the story of the first part, so that to some reviving to do to get that whole thing started to make it connect.
NRR: On “We Are What We Are, my interpretation of the song is this only planet we have to live on and if you have another utopia then go for it.
TK: Well, if this not the only world we live in, is it ok to destroy it? And if there were three other planets nearby that are habitable, why would we destroy this one? It doesn’t make any sense. “We Are What We Are” is about greed. Again how we destroy things we are afraid of just out of pure greed. Taking something we don’t need and taking more than we need. And we change all of that, but that might not happen because “We Are What We Are.” It’s in our DNA
NRR: The wolf is on then albums and do you have the animal as positive symbol? Many people believe the myths which are not true of wolves.
TK: The wolf has given us a lot during these years and has been our mascot and for me as a songwriter and artist it has given me a forum and ideas to write about, especially in our beginning of our career I discovered it as a kind of symbol for Sonata Arctica and helped me when I drawing a blank on paper couldn’t come up with anything to write about. I use the wolf for a metaphor for many things and for merchandise it was a safe choice that we to have a wolf shirt and of course on the forthcoming tour. It has been important for Sonata Arctica. I feel its awful how people fear wolves and at Finland where I think it’s been about 150 years that wolves killed a human. There is no ground for that fear and when you have them roaming your yard and with children and everything. That is fear, and there are other ways to approach to them than to kill them.
NRR: True. The song “Candle Lawns” is about somebody in the military and passed away and gave his or her purple heart to a relative?
TK: It’s song about that, but the funny thing is I wrote that song for a movie around the time we were mixing Stones Grow Her Name album and I was allowed to use it as a Sonata Arctica song later on and it found its place on this album and I had to alter the lyrics slightly and make it fit for Sonata Arctica. The lyrics are about two friends who are so close that they can be brothers basically, and they happen to go everywhere together and study. Eventually, they find job together in the military and fighting wars and taking care of things. And eventually something goes wrong, and one of them dies, and the last wish and words are take care of my son and family for me and come and see me at the “Candle Lawns” which is my own son’s way of saying graveyard. I think it is really pretty, and I wanted to put it in the song
NRR: It is a nice song. And Fairy tale is about?
TK: Thank you very much. Fairytale is kind of a political satire observation song (laughter). We haven’t done this triplet feel thing in the longest time. It’s been ages they we used it and is fun using it writing songs in that tempo and drumming. I was really enjoying every moment when writing it, and the tough point was getting the lyrics right and somehow was able to make it fit and really easy to make it a bashing song. I wanted to make it more general and go back in history and pick up some stupid things that some great leaders have said some point and put it all together and make a nice soup out of it.
NRR: The other song on the album is “Run To You.” Is that the Bryan Adam song you cover?
TK: (Laughter) yes it is. There is a funny story behind that too. We only spent a few days together when we were recording the album and rehearsing the same time for this acoustic thing at Finland during the summer. I was working upstairs in the studio, and I heard Elias Viljanen(guitar) playing the riffs for the song, and I said hey that be fun to do as cover song, and we need something extra or a B-side of a single or whatever. Our bass player (Pasi Kauppinen) owns the studio, and he immediately called on that and lets do that right now! I’m like ok, yeah, yeah.
So basically twelve to eighteen hours later we had the song ready for the first idea except I have not sung it yet, and that’s where it gets funny. Because I haven’t paid all that much attention to the lyrics of the song except “I am going to Run To You,” and I am going to run all night and so damn easy to make love to you.” That’s about it. (Laughter) And I haven’t paid more attention than that to the lyrics. When I started reading them, I was like God… dude have you even checked out these lyrics? Can I even sing this? I am a married man or whatever, is this sending a signal or message somewhere because some people might take it like that?
Prior to that, we were asking why other bands haven’t covered this song. (Laughter) We only found a few hobby and funny videos on YouTube and nothing really that serious. Usually when you have a hit song many bands will make it their own version of it and here we go. And boldly going where we never gone before and it is a fun song and dirty as hell.
NRR: For the US tour, will there be any special effects?
TK: Yes, we will be introducing something we can actually bring with us, and we don’t want to come home with a large invoice and bill (Laughter) from the US tour that is a nightmare especially before Christmas, a nightmare before Christmas. That actually happen to us once; we were on a short North American tour and yeah, yeah it’s fun to go home and realize that this was a really expensive trip we just took (Laughter). And that is a Christmas I don’t want to happen again, and we survived none the less.
It makes us think and plan in a smart way where we can use Pyros in every show. We need to grow more and of course bigger and everything. Yes we have a plan, a new set up for us on stage and bring some fun things and we have a chance to do that and things look really good, and you will see it.
NRR: Talk about “Rise A Night.”
TK: It’s one of three environmental songs in a science fiction way where these kind of aliens or actually when humans leave the planet because it’s getting destroyed and go forth to find a new home for themselves and arriving at this beautiful blue planet and they take it over and realize they hate their planet call this planet earth and that it the thing behind it. It is kind of an environmental in a science fiction alien story kind of way.
NRR: And “Among The Shooting Stars” is about a werewolf?
TK: It’s a love story. It’s about two bitten people, a boy and a girl who have this curse that can only be healed if they genuinely fall in love with each other, and that is the challenge. It’s a beautiful song and perhaps the most beautiful song on the whole album
NRR: Candle Lawns changes the tempo from the others. And “Death Done Us Apart?
TK: That is the song that continues in the line of songs that started from the second album at the end of this chapter and “Don’t Say A Word,” “Caleb” and “Juliet.” And “Juliet” was on the album End of Grays and I think stylistically it is close to that. And now I have this idea I have to listen to the song to make sure (Laughter). In my mind, it connects stylistically together, but it is not a sequel or prequel to any of those songs dancing around the same bonfire anyway or same theme.
NRR: The last song to talk about before our time is over is “Fly, Navigate, Communicate.” The song flows together in the lyrics.
TK: Of course those are aviation terms for basic rules for taking care of the plane so it actually stays in the air and flies. The after that, the next important thing is to navigate to know where you are heading. And the third important thing is to start to talk. I took those rules and applied it to a human relationship basically (Laughter). In some fucked up way it actually worked as well, you know? Sometimes there are more important things than just talking than just the sake of talking.
NRR: Well, this is a fantastic album, and you guys keep knocking them out.
TK: Yep, we’ll keep doing that and keep coming to the shows (Laughter) and will do it again for the next album.
NRR: Are there plans for a live album?
TK: Yeah, we’ve been planning a live DVD, and it won’t happen until 2018 the earliest because we have certain things we have in mind and cannot make it happen because it will take some time. Anyways, we will be so busy for a year and a half and maybe record some material, and that’s about it.
NRR: It will come up quicker than you expect.
TK: (Laughter) I know, un-fortunately the stress of time.
NRR: Thanks for your time discussing the album.
TK: Thank you, Craig, it was a good one.
Check out the interview with Tony Kakko’s Sonata Arctica bandmate, Henrik Klingenberg.