Interview: Tony Kakko, Vocalist of Sonata Arctica


BearlySinister: First off, I’d like to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to me, it’s really an honor!

Tony: Thank you very much, it’s my pleasure, actually!

BearlySinister: First thing’s first: Can you introduce yourself and tell us the role in your band?

Tony: My name’s Tony, I’m the lead singer and songwriter in a band called Sonata Arctica.

BearlySinister: Sonata’s last album, “Stones Grow Her Name” achieved gold status. How did you react when you learned this news?

Tony: It was really something we had to learn how to expect already, because, in Finland, all our albums so far have reached that status as well. So, it was not a huge surprise, a pleasant one of course. It’s nice news that the album still sells and that people like it but it wasn’t really a special thing anymore. I remember when it happened the first time, that was big news because we had to wait for years and years for that to happen. But since you’ve had it 6 times before, it was really just like “Wow”.

BearlySinister: How does the upcoming album, “Pariah’s Child” differ from that album?

Tony: Uhhh… quite a bit actually. I would call “Stones Grow Her Name” a rock album and “Pariah’s Child”, I would call a melodic metal album and uh, I think when you look at the album cover of “Pariah’s Child” and compare it to the previous 3 albums: “Unia”, “The Days of Grays” and “Stones Grow Her Name” we even have a different logo there. So this “Pariah’s Child” is taking us back to the good ol’ days in a way and we consider “Pariah’s Child” as our 5th album from kind of a different perspective. This album could have been the album we MIGHT have been able to release back in 2007, had things been different in the band but we were at a point of exhaustion and it was a very bad point, a breaking point for the band and something had to change. “Unia” and the follow-up albums and the result of all that, it was an exciting adventure but now I think we’re ready to speak and continue that album path once again.

BearlySinister: I read that this album was completely recorded and produced by the band, was this the first time you did it? What was the experience like versus using a producer?

Tony: Well, actually, all the albums we have produced ourselves. We’ve never had an outsider, really. Of course, Mikko Karmila has had some influence in the sound because he has mixed all the previous 7 albums. But we decided to make it ourself because we now have a studio man in the band, our new bass player Pasi. That was maybe the biggest change in the whole process. Also, you know, the fact that we actually recorded most of the stuff in one studio. Everybody was there 24/5 in the studio and spending just weekends at home and spending day in/day out/night in studio and just working all the time. That whole thing just made this whole album more of a band album, moreso than we have ever really had in the past because we’ve never spent our nights in the studio. It just was a fantastic experience.

BearlySinister: Was there anything different in the writing process for “Pariah’s Child” compared to the previous albums?

Tony: Umm… not really. I had a lot of songs ready already last Summer and I played like maybe 15 demos for the guys in the band and some of them actually ended up on the album, but I continued writing up until the point where I didn’t have time to do that anymore. We had rehearsals in September, the whole month, and I kept writing that whole time and at the end of the month, we had everything we needed for this album. It was fairly easy for me as a songwriter, I’m really used to writing songs under a lot of pressure. Like, I think it was “Reckoning Night” album when Tommy, our drummer in the studio, only had like 3 songs ready and I kept writing all the time. Every morning I would give him something to play and it was really stressing at night on Tommy, let alone me. But it works, I’m kind of used to it. But I feel this more laid back approach to the whole thing it’s… *chuckles* it’s better for your health, I believe.

BearlySinister: What is the inspiration behind the album title, “Pariah’s Child”?

Tony: With the previous album, actually more or less with 3 previous albums, we’ve abandoned our trademarked wolf to the point where on the previous album, “Stones Grow Her Name”, we didn’t have wolves at all, not on any of the songs or on the album cover and that was shocking to realize. It was more or less an accident, we didn’t realize that it had happened. Now, when we were going back to the old style, bringing back the wolf and the old logo and everything, it was a no-brainer really easy decision to make. But then again, the title, it was not that easy and I was fighting against time coming up with a title. Then I just realized that, ya know, it had been the wolf that we now have on the cover and it was just kind of a pariah for us, ya know, wolves are, generally speaking, in places.. well in Finland, people are afraid of them. It’s a pariah and I think that this album is, more or less, a child of that. It’s like an animal, now that we’re going back that old style.

BearlySinister: Do you have a favorite song from the album?

Tony: I think the final track, “Larger Than Life” is kind of remade as a special song for me, ya know, *chuckles*, with my whole life normally and uh, but still there are different kind of favorites as well and if I should listen to one song right now from the album it would be “X Marks the Spot” because it’s fairly humorous and a whole lot of fun, it makes me smile and even laugh out loud every time I hear it. I think that’s my favorite, at the moment, but that’s gonna change for sure, like almost daily, but today, I choose “X Marks the Spot”.

BearlySinister: Does the album contain any guest vocalists or musicians?

Tony: Yeah, we have a harpist, we’ve got a flautist playing on 3 tracks and then a gentleman called Muffi Kugari (forgive me if I spelled this wrong), who is playing flute in the beginning of “Half A Marathon Man”, but other than that, it’s a band album. Okay, on “Larger Than Life” we have orchestrations by Mikko P. Mustonen who’s worked with us on 3 of the previous albums. He did a really fantastic job, with his orchestration on them and I think it kind of made “Larger Than Life” larger than life, so to speak.

BearlySinister: Being that the band has been together, you’ve seen tons of touring but have you had a favorite tour?

Tony: A favorite tour? Uh.. Well, I think the first tour when we went to Europe together with Stratovarius and Rhapsody, I think that’s my favorite tour because, you know, we were really pureen and innocent at the time and we had a really short slot, we’re the first band playing, we played for like 20 min, half an hour. It was really fun and Stratovarius is who are the band why we are here, you know, we wouldn’t have recorded the demo that scored us the recording contract had there not been Stratovarius so, ya know, being on the first long tour, 7 weeks, with your favorite band ever at the time… it was amazing experience for us young kids and it’s my favorite tour.

BearlySinister: What inspired you to be a vocalist and how did the idea of Sonata Arctica come to be?

Tony: I think I must have been like 3 or 4 years old or something like that when a gentleman, older gentleman, I was standing there on the bus stop with my parents and playing in the snow and this old, grandfather type figure asked me what I want to be when I grow up. I told him “I’m gonna be a singer!” and he asked me “Ah, okay, so like an opera singer?” I said “No! I’m gonna be a rock singer!” So, I suppose in some way, I knew that since I was a kid. I consciously took my road on that direction, I didn’t study it or anything, it just happened naturally. I’ve always loved singing and uh, back in I think ’94, I joined the band with Markko, our ex-bass player who was playing guitar at the time, that was my first band. He later, then, started the band which later became Sonata Arctica. So, I was just like, summoned, to join a band as a senior and I just kind of took it over, creating like keyboards and everything and making it my own. It’s a weird way.

BearlySinister: The first single, “The Wolves Die Young” certainly seems as though you are straying back to the “old” Sonata sound, can you tell me a little bit about what led to this decision?

Tony: The whole thing started last Summer when we had to start preparing ourselves for the 15th Anniversary Tour and that meant that we had to use on all the albums, once again. I literally had not used some of the albums in, like, almost 10 years and I thought it would be a pain in the ass to do it but it was a big surprise that I actually liked what I heard and it was fun. So, consequently, I decided to give it a go and write a song that strayed back to the old “Reckoning Night” kind of style and the result was “The Wolves Die Young” and the whole band loved it from the first moment we actually played it together and uh, we decided that this is the direction we want to go with this album. It just made everybody happy and it had so much energy, something that we really needed. On the previous tour with “Stones Grow Her Name” it became obvious that the songs on that album are just too slow and kind of.. they are taking down the tempo and making Sonata Arctica even slightly boring live band, which we had never been before. We had a lot of speedy songs and a lot of weird shit happening on stage. So, all those things combined, it just kind of started going back to that old direction but it all started in preparation for the 15th Anniversary Tour.

BearlySinister: The video for the aforementioned single was released just 11 days ago and has already seen over 110,000 views. The video, as with every Sonata video, is visually stunning. How did the idea for that video come to be?

Tony: Well, we contacted Patric Ullaeus, he’s pretty famous in making a lot of great videos for a lot of bands and we haven’t worked with him before. He was a really cool guy and he, of course, wanted to know what the song was all about. My idea was, as much as possible, just to bring the story of the song on the video, instead of just having the playing video. As the story, on “The Wolves Die Young” is more or less kind of a remake of “Emperor’s New Clothes”, these old stories, you know. It was fairly easy to use that as a reference for him because everybody knows that story, at least here in Europe. He followed it and the result is what you see there, more or less, but we didn’t really have to do anything.. we just kind of let him do his magic because we kind of trust him by all the stuff he’s done in the past and the final result was fairly easy for us, ya know, we recorded our parts in like 2 or 3 hours and the rest was his work, solely. We just saw the final result. Easy.

BearlySinister: Well, I don’t want to take up too much of your time. Is there anything else you’d like to say to your fans, our readers and the general public?

Tony: Yeah, I hope you all check out “Pariah’s Child”, it’s something that could become a little closer to that old Sonata Arctica thing you might have liked, you know, 8 years ago or so and umm… then, also, you know, we’re going to be on tour in North America mid-September, October so check the dates when they come online and hope to see you all there!