Apocalyptica interview points towards a busy 2015
Apocalyptica has been one of the most progressive bands over the last couple of decades and they have always been a hard-working band as well. They are set to continue on that path in 2015 with a new album, Soundwave festival appearances in Australia and a world tour that will take the band to the US and Europe after the album release. I did catch up with Apocalyptica’s drummer Mikko Siren to talk about the new album ‘Shadowmaker’ and their upcoming Soundwave shows.
Marc: The New Year has started and it seems to be a busy year ahead for Apocalyptica. You are currently working on your new album ‘Shadowmaker’. How is the work on the album progressing?
Mikko: We are in the very final moments of it. We have been working with it one year now. Now every song but two has been mixed. We are at the moment doing the master production. Yesterday we did the vinyl version. I was there in mastering yesterday. The vinyl takes a bit longer time so it’s being printed at the moment. But it’s ready and we are super, super excited. It’s gonna be great.
Marc: What can you tell me about the album? Will it include cover songs or will it only be originals?
Mikko: All the songs are originals. The basic thing we did was that after the last album, when we toured like hell, we decided to have a break afterwards because basically we never had a break during the last 15 years. We thought that it was time to take a break. It was really good for us to go that way. On that break, when we had two years off, we did some other work as well. Then we thought about what the next step could be on the development of the band to get us excited and re-create the band. At that point we thought we had always worked with a lot of different singers. These have been great possibilities and we have grown as musicians. We have been doing that for so long that we asked ourselves what could be the thing to challenge ourselves. Then we thought let’s try an approach where we have one singer for the whole album. That’s what we did. We searched around. We didn’t have an open invitation out for everybody to send their tapes in but we checked the people that we knew. And we found an amazing singer who now sings the whole album. It has been very fruitful and very inspiring to work with the guy. His name is Franky Perez. The sound became so exciting for us that there are more vocal tracks than ever before. Of course there are some instrumentals and even on the vocal tracks there are long instrumental parts. It’s a very daring and progressive album in that sense. I think there eight vocal tracks out of eleven songs. That is the main difference that is easy to hear for everyone. Of course there are other things. We got rid of the song-structure thinking. We were more liberated artistically. We had a great producer with Nick Raskulinecz who is an American, Grammy-winning producer who worked with Rush and Foofighters and others. He kicked us to go further all the time. The songs arrangements went crazier and progressive in many ways. We were there for two months to connect the album. Then it was us flying back and forth to Nick to California.
“In all fairness, we are musicians and not poets. It would be quite terrible to listen to our lyrics. So we use other persons who are more skilled at that.”
Marc: Apocalyptica is a very unique band with a unique sound. How does the song writing work for you?
Mikko: It works in different kind of ways. There is not one formula that we use all the time. Everybody in the band writes songs, mainly it is Eicca though. It was this way this time around. Also Eicca works with a couple of guys, who are very close to the band, who we have been using for years like Johnny Andrew who has written the lyrics to ‘I don’t care’. These people are very close to our family. They are often involved helping out with lyrics because in all fairness we are musicians and not poets. It would be quite terrible to listen to our lyrics. So we use other persons who are more skilled at that.
But the song writing goes in many ways. I might write a song together with Eicca. On this album he called me and we jammed and had some ideas. There are no rules which I think makes the variety of the different styles very wide.
Marc: Where do you personally draw your inspiration from? What music do you listen to?
Mikko: I listen to many different kinds of music, mainly Afro-American pop and rock music. I also listen to lots of electronic music. Very little classic. I do every now and then but that has never been very close to my heart. I listen to anything. Good music is good music. I really don’t care. I listen to anything from Willie Nelson to Slayer. If there is soul and heart and if there is passion or if there are killer melodies I can just go crazy. I rather don’t restrict myself.
Marc: You came to the band in 2003. What did interest you in Apocalyptica and how did you become a full member? You started a touring member first.
Mikko: I knew too many secrets of the band so I started blackmailing them. I knew too many of their dirty stories. So I said ‘I will go public if you don’t let me be a part of the band’. (Laughs). No, they were very open to musical input when I joined. I remember actually Eicca calling me. It was early in the morning. He called and introduced himself. I didn’t know him personally but I knew who he was. He said, they were looking for a drummer to do the tour. I just said ‘You’ve got the wrong number. I don’t play that kind of music.’ I gave him a few numbers of some friends and said ‘Call these guys’. He was very persistent. He said ‘No, no, we want you. We know you don’t play exactly this kind of music’. But because of the variety of the music they wanted to go for a person that always played different styles of music. That was what interested them. So I came to the band with very short notice. We only had two weeks before the tour. We did a few rehearsals and then we were on the road. From the very beginning they were very open to my musical ideas and to me as a person. As a drummer I am the guy who takes charge of the arrangements, bringing own ideas in. Apparently that was something that made them interested enough so they wanted to hook me up with them permanently. It happened quite quickly. Within two years I was already a band member. It was fun. Why I was interested and why I had followed them was their originality. They have always been very unique. I think the band stands out as one of a kind.
‘Shadowmaker’ is a very daring and very progressive album.
Marc: The album is going to be out soon and then the exciting part of touring starts. You are going to do ‘70,000 Tons Of Metal’ in a couple of weeks. That must be exciting.
Mikko: Yeah. I’ve never been to the Caribbean. I’ve been in Florida, never to Miami though. It’s all gonna be great fun. There will be a couple of days when we can go on shore and do fun stuff. All I heard about the cruise is that everybody tells you it’s a wonderful place and a wonderful atmosphere. I am really looking forward to that one.
Marc: Then I am looking forward to your next appointment after that. You are going to play the Soundwave Festivals in Australia. What can the Australian fans expect from the Soundwave shows?
Mikko: I think that people don’t have the tiniest idea of what’s going on on stage if they haven’t seen us live. We did one tour in Australia a few years back. We love to be over there. Therefore, we love to come back. Our show is very energetic. We are going to bring our new vocalist. So there will be vocals on stage also. We’re gonna do a couple of songs from the new album even though it won’t be released on that day. And we’re gonna play as much of the old stuff as we can play. We are very excited because the line-up of the festival is amazing. Really great bands. I suppose it’s gonna be a great festival.
Marc: The new album will be out in April. What do you actually do on a day when one of your albums is released? Do you have a routine? Do you follow social media etc?
Mikko: I suck on social media. I really don’t follow social media. Normally we are so busy doing interviews that it takes some time before we get a real response. Of course it is exciting to hear how fans like the new album. I would be lying if I said I was immune to critics. So of course we also read magazines and what the critics think of the new style and of course how the music is received on radio. This is a very exciting and nerve-wrecking time but also very rewarding. We are proud to go out with the new music. We are really happy with the results and we truly think we’ve made the best album we have ever done. Therefore, it is great to stand next to it.
Marc: After the release it is going to be full-on touring. Can you run me through your touring schedule for the rest of 2015?
Mikko: After Australia we’re gonna do a lot of promotions and TV stuff and iTunes shows. From Australia we go straight to London and Berlin. It’s not defined yet but we will travel around Europe to do promotions. Then we will get to Finland to play a show there and then it’s off to Mexico. Then we will start the actual album tour. We will start with an American tour with Nikki Sixx. After that we have a few festivals coming up in North America. In the summer we will do festivals on both sides of the Atlantic. In fall we’re gonna have a long tour in Europe. Then we go back to the US. Then it’s gonna be Christmas again.
Marc: Is there any chance that we’re gonna see a headliner tour of Apocalyptica in Australia in 2016?
Mikko: That is what we aim for and what we hope. Now we’re gonna do the festivals. It gives us the opportunity to get even more people excited about our music which will allow us to come back. We definitely wanna come back over there and see more of this beautiful country.