Barbara Caserta of Italy's Linea Rock recently conducted an interview with Eicca Toppinen and Paavo Lötjönen of Finnish cello rockers APOCALYPTICA. You can watch the entire chat below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On whether either of them expected APOCALYPTICA to last as long as it has upon the band's 1993 formation:
Eicca: "When we started to play metal with Paavo and some other friends in '93, we started to do it for our own fun. We absolutely had no plans. Not even a plan to make an album. Then, at the end of '95, we performed for the first time for a metal audience and based on that gig, we got an offer to make an album. So we made one album and we had no plans for any further plans. We never were thinking about what happens in the long run."
Paavo: "We never had a masterplan for the future. Baby steps, step by step, we continued this. You know, the start was surprising, even for us. We couldn't expect the success we got from the beginning."
Eicca: "For us, it was the most natural thing to do. We play cellos and we love heavy metal, so let's play heavy metal with cellos. For us, it wasn't so revolutionary that it turned out."
Paavo: "Perhaps that's a secret of our success: It's really spontaneous and honest. We didn't have any kind of aims."
Eicca: "When the first album [1996's 'Plays Metallica By Four Cellos'] was ready and it was released, we were thinking if we sell one thousand CDs, it's great. Now that album has sold maybe two million CDs. But that was our expectations in the beginning and it became a classic record."
On releasing their first all-instrumental album in 17 years with "Cell-0":
Eicca: "When we realized that after the 'Shadowmaker' tour, we realized it became 20 years from the first album, so we realized 'Let's make a little anniversary show,' so maybe 20 to 30 shows, then it turned out to be 230 concerts around the world."
Paavo: "Forty-five countries."
Eicca: "Playing only METALLICA and it was the first time we played the first album with four cellos, just the way how it was recorded in '96. That was the first time in 20 years that we did that. So that was really going back to the basics of how we started, but with the experience we have gained over all these years. It was actually so much more fun than we ever expected. At the same time, we brought this concert into classical venues, seated venues, so actually playing metal with cellos was really only the main focus on the whole concept of that. That was exciting and fun for us. That kind of made us think it would actually be exciting to go deeper into the core of APOCALYPTICA, the very origin of APOCALYPTICA and to figure out what is the main thing that makes APOCALYPTICA so special and unique, and that was to write original music but also without interruptions. That's why we produced the album by ourselves. It was just four of us plus a recording engineer in the studio for two months. That's how we did this album. It was like, 'Now we want to do an album that we really know and we really want to search for the core of APOCALYPTICA.'"
Paavo: "Basically, it's not a mainstream album at all. It's made more for hardcore APOCALYPTICA fans and music lovers who likes the music different than just the radio airplay hit songs."
On presenting a concept with "Cell-0" without using lyrics:
Eicca: "With instrumental music for us, it's very often we've come up for example, with song titles after the song is finished. We listen back to the music, then feel what kind of story the song is telling to us. Then we try to describe that with the song title. But I think it was reflecting because we were very naked and pure during the recording process and it was reflecting what we think about the world today and what kind of things worry us and what kind of things give us hope and strength to fight against dark things. I think that's why the theme became, in a way, environmental, but I think it's all about trying to find an understanding that we are part of the bigger picture in this world and in this universe and it's something we should respect and honor and take care of our surroundings, including other people and fight against greediness and fight against massive powers that obviously are leading us into some kind of chaos. I think the album concept is a reflection of how we think about the world and how we talk inside the band and what kind of things we feel around us and we have seen when we are touring around the world and what we see happening in politics."
Paavo: "What's fantastic in instrumental music, we don't need to explain too much about the music. Of course, these are the songtitles, it's like a kind of a guideline, it's showing the direction for the listener that where to start to think about the things, what kind of feelings there is in our mind, but honestly, when every listener starts to listen to music, they should close their eyes and put their headphones on and think what kind of pictures will get into their mind. It's like mindscapes and mental paintings."
Eicca: "We are not trying to tell people what to think, but we are giving a platform where people can think by themselves. It's been very nice and surprising that a lot of people who didn't even see the songtitles and were just listening to the music, they come up with the comments that's what they start to process in their minds and it's very related to what we feel the music is about. It's kind of magical. It's definitely a platform for a very open space on every listener's mind. That's why the listener can experience it in their own way."
On whether they consider themselves classical musicians playing rock/metal, or the other way around:
Paavo: "We don't see those kinds of borderlines with the music."
Eicca: "I've been playing mainly heavy metal for 24 years and I've played classical music for maybe 12 years. That's kind of the balance. I may be at least 70 percent. I think APOCALYPTICA is a metal band. People say it's a neo-classical band. Okay, I can accept that as well. Because of our background, we have lots of classical ways of thinking, the structures of the music and the dramaturgy of the music, so that influences a lot that we've done so much classical music in the past. I don't really buy that people are saying we are classical musicians playing metal. No, we are metal musicians. You couldn't say that thing for anybody else who has been playing all the time for 25 years in a metal band. You don't say 'He's a jazz musician' because he plays jazz before that. [Laughs]"
"Cell-0" came out in January via Silver Lining Music.
In support of "Cell-0", APOCALYPTICA — cellists Toppinen, Perttu Kivilaakso and Paavo Lötjönen, and drummer Mikko Sirén — were the special guests for SABATON on a 15-country, 23-date European tour that kicked off on January 17 in Zurich, Switzerland and concluded on February 16 in Oslo, Norway.