Latest release: Shadowmaker
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Having successfully transitioned from covers act to international sensation, Finland’s cello-wielding metallers Apocalyptica are about to issue their eighth album, Shadowmaker. The hard-rocking outfit have also recruited singer Franky Perez to provide vocals on their upcoming disc. As the band prepares to return to Australia as part of the Soundwave Festival, drummer Mikko Sirén gave Loud the lowdown.

Q: I saw the band at Wacken last year, when you enlisted an orchestra and didn’t utilise a vocalist. Obviously you won’t be bringing such a grand production to Australia, but will you be enlisting a singer for the shows here?
A: Yes, actually that is something that has changed now in the band. We have actually had a singer touring with us already, (for) I guess five years. We have so many songs that people want to hear which include vocals. First we tried to do it as instrumentals live, but honestly it felt really cheap. It was kinda like, ‘oh, we’re ripping people off”, and we need to bringing a vocalist. So we found a person to do the tour with us back then. But now, as we did the Shadowmaker album, we are also changed our way of doing music and we have always had numerous guest vocalists playing with us, and we’ve done music with always a bunch of different people on our albums.
But we felt it was too comfortable, we need to do something different, we need to have a fresh approach. We need to challenge ourselves and how we do music in different ways. Therefore we searched for a singer hopefully to do the whole album with us. And not only that, but we wanted a person who would also tour with us. So it will be the same guy, Franky Perez, who sang all the vocal tracks on the forthcoming Shadowmaker album, who is going to actually come to Australia now with us. He’s just an amazing musician, and I’m sure the show will be even wilder because of him.

Q: Having also seen the band live in England several years back I was aware of your following there, but the large turnouts for your inaugural Australian tour were pleasantly surprising. Were you taken aback by the response Down Under?
A: It was kinda surprising. That was the first and only time we’ve ever been to Australia. To be on the other side of the world for the first time and seeing that there’s so many people who have heard of the band, are eager to see the band and really enjoyed our show. We went there, and of course it’s flattering, and it makes you really humble to sense that kind of thing. That was one of the reasons that we felt so emotionally attached to the crowd over there, why we wanted also to push to get back over there.

Q: Tell us about the experience of playing that Wacken show.
A: When we did the 7th Symphony album (in 2010), which was previous to the (new) album, five years ago or something like that. Then we kind of had a plan after that album, after that tour that we were going to have a break. We need to get out the loop where we are, where it’s just album after album and we tour in between… We just wanted to get rid of all of that, and that’s what we did. Actually, Australia was one of the last shows we played for the 7th Symphony tour. And after that we had two years of a break, where we just said that we won’t do anything like traditional Apocalyptica stuff, we won’t be doing shows, we won’t be doing traditional Apocalyptica shows, we won’t be doing music. But what we can do is we do something artistically challenging and really something different. Then we did this (live) CD called Wagner Reloaded, which included the huge symphony orchestra, an opera choir, 200 dancers, acrobats, it was kinda like Cirque du Soleil kind of a thing… a metal show with all these different acts.
That was the first time actually that we really got to play together with a symphony orchestra, and it excited us; ‘okay, actually, this sounds kind of cool’. We’ve been all the time, 20 years we’ve been asked to work with different orchestras, and we always thought it would be kind of too obvious, because first and foremost heavy bands do it all the time, and especially our band, being classical musicians it would be even more obvious. So we have been kind of struggling against that idea.
But then it started to feel okay, that this kind of approach could be fun. That was then something we did. One year ago we did a tour with the Finnish Chamber Orchestra, called Avanti! who are, they are hand-picked, like best musicians in this country, and we chose those 30 people to tour with us. And that was that the show also we did in Wacken. It was kind of a long journey that took us to the point where we started to play with classical musicians and with a classical orchestra. But Wacken was then the last one of those shows, and we just had a lot of fun with those. They are the best of the best musicians, and to get to play with them was again, one step for us to challenge ourselves and to take our music further. But that is on hold at the moment. We won’t be doing anything like that for… Maybe in the future somewhere, but now we have been kind of flirting with those big… Having (had) tonnes of musicians around you, it’s so rewarding to play pure, simple, stripped-down rock music with four guys.

Q: What can you tell us about the new record?
A: I think one of the big things for us was that this album; we didn’t have a schedule when to release an album. So when we went on a break, we agreed, ‘let’s meet in a rehearsal room on this day and then let’s see what happens’. We had like one year of a break where we’re not doing anything, and we went to the rehearsal room, but we didn’t feel like anything, it was like ‘eh, let’s talk after one week or two weeks’. Then time passed and then we thought maybe we should write some songs, and nothing really happened. People were still, kinda liking that idea of having that off year, (so) nothing happened.
But then it kind of changed in a way that after the break had been obviously long enough, then the urge and need to make music together came naturally. And therefore the songs which are now on the album, they have not been done because of the reason of a schedule or someone demanding the album to be out, but being there because there was a need to create music together. There was a need to express ourselves musically. That was something that made us really excited, and it was a really inspiring experience for us… The whole approach for the album was we didn’t have rules, we didn’t have intentions. We were just creating music as we’re feeling. Maybe that’s also the reason why we feel so excited about the album.

Q: The band is renowned for high-profile collaborations, but who is left on your bucket list to work with in the future?

A: (Laughs) There is a lot of people who we want to work with. We’ve worked with some amazing musicians, and I think we’ve been more than privileged to be able to work with some amazing musicians in the past. I think there is like these key things which are important that we have to feel when we work with somebody… We feel that our music has to be in some ways original and we have a very strong identity of our own. And we want to work with people who have strong identity of their own as well, and to kind of mix these two worlds together. That is the thing that really inspires us. If there would be like a weirdest, non-predictable, a starting point that we could combine our metal or this very dark influenced song to something which is not traditionally considered to be something like that, I think that would be great. The music is very different, but for me, like Johnny Cash is equally dark as Slipknot is. For me, Willie Nelson’s voice has got the depth (like) Tom Araya has got. So to combine those worlds to make a song together with Willie Nelson, I think that would be the darkest and most evil shit you can ever imagine.

Q: Any famous last words?
A: We are happy to be coming to Australia. We have been there only once, but our experience was really, really amazing.

Catch Apocalyptica at Soundwave:
21/2: RAS Melbourne Showgrounds, Melbourne VIC
22/2: Bonython Park, Adelaide SA
28/2: RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane QLD
1/3: Sydney Olympic Park, Sydney NSW

And also with Marilyn Manson and Deathstars:
25/2: Enmore Theatre, Sydney NSW
27/2: Tivoli Theatre, Brisbane QLD