Shadows And Light: An Interview With Apocalyptica

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When they first formed in 1993, Finnish metallers Apocalyptica got their start playing cello arrangements of Metallica songs before eventually branching out into original compositions. They’ve just recently released their eighth studio album, Shadowmaker, featuring new vocalist Franky Perez, and while it’s highly unlikely that they’ll ever return to playing nothing but covers, one thing is for certain: they’re probably never going to record a version of The Lego Movie‘s “Everything Is Awesome.”

Sitting down with Perez and cellist Paavo Lötjönen a couple of hours before their show at The Phoenix, we discussed the difference in nature between the Finns and their new American bandmate, with Lötjönen stating, “We hate each other as much as before,” and that things on tour have been “relatively OK-ish.”

“Which is basically their Finnish way of saying they really like this,” added Perez. “I never get, ‘Hey man, we love you.’ They basically go, ‘You’re relatively OK-ish.’ That’s a fucking compliment.”

Lötjönen elaborated on the subject. “That was one of the things Franky got to learn when he came into the band. You know, American guy – everything’s awesome and even if things are not that good, everything is really good … For Finns, everything sounds overrated. If something is awesome, we hardly use that adjective.” However, despite any differences in disposition, the band seems to be enjoying the infusion of new blood. After collaborating with various guest vocalists on their albums over the years, they’ve paired up with Perez for the current album and tour and he seems like a good fit – an engaging frontman, but also a good match in terms of personality. And perhaps there’s even a bit of a cultural exchange going on, with Paavo adding that “It really is super, super, super happy. And maybe he’s teaching us some positiveness.” Perez, on the other hand, speculates that the Finns are teaching him to stay humble. “When you go there, nothing’s grandiose, nothing’s supersized … That’s a good way to live.”

Speaking of staying humble, Apocalyptica comes from relatively humble beginnings. As Lötjönen points out, the band never had any lofty goals when they started out and didn’t necessarily have any plans to branch out beyond Metallica covers. “Basically, we started off because we had a joy of music and we wanted to play something fun. We never had a master plan. Even the first album, we didn’t have even the plan to make an album. Just a bunch of guys playing together and having fun and enjoying the music … We were expecting to sell maybe 1000 copies and it sold almost 2 million copies. It just happened. After that, we got to feeling that it might be interesting, a possibility to create music. Album by album, it’s like step by step.”

While they come from different backgrounds, both culturally and in terms of musical upbringing, Perez and Lötjönen each feel that they were always meant to play music. “Music has always been a part of my life.” says Lötjönen. I started to play cello at age six. Before that, my parents are professional musicians. I’ve always lived inside the music, from classical to rock and pop. It’s part of me from the start. I’m swimming in the music.”

Perez agrees. “Same thing for me – I never had a choice, it was something I was born with. But I can honestly say everyone in this band is the same way; if you asked that question to each one of us, they would tell you the same thing – they didn’t have a choice. Kind of born with it. And I think I’d be miserable doing anything else. I don’t think I could do anything else, and I’ve tried. Not very good at it.”

Posted on by Paul in Concerts, interviews

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