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Interviews Sonata Arctica

Interview with keyboardist Henrik Klingenberg and bassist Pasi Kauppinen

Interview conducted by MetalMike

Date online: September 9, 2014

With the release of their eighth studio album, Pariah's Child, Finland's Sonata Arctica have begun a tour that will be taking them all over the world. After some 15th anniversary shows (Sonata Arctica was formed in 1999) in Finland and South America and a successful summer festival season, the band embarked on a nearly two-month long tour of the United States. I was fortunate enough to catch up with them on their fourth stop, at The Palladium in Worcester, MA ("woo-stah" as we say here in the Boston area, a pronunciation that brought smiles to Henrik and Pasi as they tried on their Boston accents).

We spent a few minutes chatting on the main stage which, unfortunately, would not be used for the evening's show due to some work being done in the theater. Henrik and Pasi talked about the new album, touring and Sonata Arctica fans around the world before tonight's sold out show...

MetalMike: You guys are here on the Pariah's Child tour. How has the album been received here in the United States and around the world?

Henrik: I think it has been quite good. It takes a while for the numbers to come in, so you don't know for sure. This is the fourth show of this tour and we have six weeks to go. So far, it has been great. We have been trying to stay awake and get rid of the jet lag. One or two more days and we'll be on track.

MetalMike: It seems like the sound of this album is more like some of the earlier albums like Reckoning Night. Was that something you were trying to do or did it just happen in the studio?

Henrik: We tried. When we started to work on the album, Tony had a huge pile of demos and Tommy and I went to his place and found the songs we really liked. He then wrote some more in that style and we had the luxury of having a lot to choose from and sticking with one direction.

Pasi: Tony has said, writing-wise, he has returned to the time between Unia and Reckoning Night.

MetalMike: This was your first album with the band, right?

Pasi: Yes

MetalMike: How was that experience?

Pasi: Really great! I've actually been working with these guys in the studio for several years and have been playing with Henrik for 15 years...

Henrik: 20 years. We started playing together as kids and we've done some work in Pasi's studio; drums and other stuff. He also mixed both our DVDs so he's only new playing bass in the band, he's been involved before.

MetalMike: So, very familiar with the band?

Henrik and Pasi: Yes.

MetalMike: You've also gone back and re-recorded Ecliptica (Sonata Arctica's debut – Mike), an album neither of you gents was on.

Henrik: Exactly.

MetalMike: What was behind the decision to re-record that album?

Henrik: I don't know! Hahaha! Originally, our Japanese label said "we would really like you to re-record Ecliptica, it would be so great!" The initial talks were "what the fuck? Why? What's the point of doing that?" Those were my feelings. It was made once and is a picture of that time and there is no way it will sound remotely the same. It would be really confusing. Then we started to think about it and thought the songs are really great and me, Pasi and Elias didn't play on the album so I thought "I don't mind recording great songs, why not?"

Pasi: We play a lot of those songs every night and, for me, they are all written by Tony, like Pariah's Child, and I am just playing bass. No matter if they are 15 years old.

Henrik: We aren't trying to re-write history or change anything, we just thought "all right, why not give those songs another run and see what happens." People who love Ecliptica may hate the re-recorded album but we tried to stay true to the original and not do anything too weird,

MetalMike: From the new album, the song "Take One Breath" just jumps out at me with the odd time signature and the harp. My daughter plays the harp, so it really stuck out. How did that song come about? Was it a full demo ready to go?

Henrik: It was ready, more or less. There were some small keyboard things I changed but the main piano part and the harp was all written. Whenever we arrange songs, stuff changes here and there, but that was a song that was pretty much ready. We just heard the demo and learned to play it. It is Tony's fault, maybe more than the others, hahaha!

MetalMike: OK, Tony writes all the music and lyrics. Does he encourage you guys to contribute in the studio?

Henrik: Yeah, of course. Some stuff is just an idea and you take it and make it better and your own but some stuff he can be really exact and wants it to be played exactly like he has demoed it. It could be a keyboard part or a drum beat that needs to be a certain way but the other stuff might not be exact. We screw around with the songs when we rehearse and try out different ideas. Some are great and end up on the album and others don't work and you try something else.

Pasi: For me, I practice the bass lines as Tony has them written, but he isn't the bass player so I want to learn what he is thinking. I sometimes think of a different way to play them. So I learn them the way they are written and when we start to play together and get the songs as a whole, I start to play my style.

Henrik: We start from the demos and see what happens.

MetalMike: The cover art has come back to the wolf theme. Is that something that Tony brings in or do you all talk about it?

Henrik: We actually talked about it. Initially, it is what Tony and the artist comes up with. On the last album, we didn't have any wolf songs or any wolf images. We decided to put it on the cover so people would know the wolf is back.

Pasi: And the raven, also.

Henrik: And the raven, yes, that was missing on the last album, as well.

MetalMike: Where has the tour brought you so far?

Henrik: We started before the album came out with some 15th anniversary shows, in Finland and South America, where we played for two hours. It was an extended set with maybe one new song and some older stuff we hadn't played in a while. When the album came out, we played Europe and the summer festivals and now we're here. We still have about a year of touring left for this album.

MetalMike: Being from Europe and knowing the United States isn't as "enlightened" when it comes to Heavy Metal as it used to be, what is the lure for you to come and play in the states? You're going to play a club or theater like this when you can play for thousands of people in South America or at a festival in Europe.

Henrik: I think that if you always want to do big shows or festivals, you are going to be out of work for much of the year. It is also up and down in some areas. Right now, in South America, things are really great and we are doing big shows but, years back, it was smaller places. It is like the whims of some mystical, magical wand someone is flashing around and I have no clue how it works. You put out an album then you go and play and hope the people show up. The only places I don't like are the big festivals. Not because of the big crowds or the big stages where you can really move around, but it is really hard, at 4 o'clock in the afternoon with the sun shining and the closest person to the stage being 20 meters away, to get into the mood. It is hard to connect to the audience.

Pasi: And there are no sound checks.

Henrik: Yeah, you just run straight onto the stage and hope the technicians have set everything up perfectly.

Pasi: It is usually one or two shows per week and there's no routine.

Henrik: And you play for an hour or something. I prefer these tours with shows for four or five days then you have an off day. You get to play much more and when you are headlining you get an hour and a half, which is great. As for clubs, as long as we fit on stage, I don't care. Sometimes it is nicer to play bigger places and sometimes it is a shit-hole, but that isn't because of being in the States or Europe. There are bumps on every tour. This is actually a very nice place to play. We've never played upstairs so it will be confusing to see how we fit, but playing here (in the past) has been really good and the crowd has been great.

MetalMike: I saw Korpiklaani and Tyr upstairs here a while back and everyone was packed in and jumping all over the place.

Henrik: It is sold out tonight.

MetalMike: That's awesome. Could you elaborate for me the differences between an American audience and a European audience?

Henrik: I would say it varies more from city to city than from continent to continent. It also depends on the night. If you are talking about mid-sized clubs, sometimes people are going totally crazy and sometimes they are just hanging out enjoying the music and saying "yeah, this is great!" That can happen anywhere in the world. The differences are not as big as one might think. The only places that are different from everywhere else are South America, where fans everywhere go crazy, and Japan, where they are quiet in between songs and listen to what you are saying. They go crazy during the song and afterward are like (Henrik sits very still with his hands folded in his lap – Mike). The first time I played in Japan, in 2003, I didn't know this and the guys had to tell me. After the first song I thought "oh, shit, what happened?" But that is how they are.

MetalMike: Since you've toured the States the most with Sonata Arctica, what areas have you found to be the best? Is it even across the board or better on the east coast vs. the west coast, south or north?

Henrik: The best, where we have the most people, is around Washington, Philadelphia and New York, where we are starting the tour now. On the west coast, cities like San Francisco, LA and San Diego are great. In Canada, we have always had a good following in Montreal and Quebec. Those are the stops you can be sure will have a lot of people.

MetalMike: (to Pasi) have you toured the States before?

Pasi: No, this is my first time.

Henrik: He started playing live with us on this tour.

MetalMike: Well, it sounds like we've got sound check starting and I'm sure you guys will want to get ready for the show. Let me quickly ask you, Henrik, your favorite songs to play?

Henrik: Off the new album or any...?

MetalMike: Whatever your favorite is.

Henrik: It usually tends to be from the new album because the songs are new and fresh. "What Did You Do in the War, Dad?" which we haven't played on this tour yet and we forgot to practice today, so we won't be playing tonight, I think is my favorite from the new album.

MetalMike: Pasi, your favorite?

Pasi: From the new album it is "Blood" but there are other songs that Henrik has played a thousand times but for me they are fresh, like "Kingdom for a Heart" and "Paid in Full."

MetalMike: I want to thank you guys for taking a little time to talk to me and the readers of The Metal Crypt. I know you have a whole tour ahead of you so we'll get the word out that you are coming. Hopefully, you'll have some more sold out shows and help the United States realize there is good Metal music out there.

Henrik: That is nicely put, thank you! We'll do what we can, hahaha!

MetalMike: We appreciate you being ambassadors. Any last thoughts?

Henrik: If you are reading this, you missed the show so we'll have to see you next time, but we are happy to be here and it is going to be a great show tonight.

MetalMike: Thanks guys.

Henrik: No worries.

Other information about Sonata Arctica on this site
Review: Silence
Review: Ecliptica
Review: Ecliptica
Review: Winterheart's Guild
Review: For the Sake of Revenge
Review: Unia
Review: Unia
Review: Reckoning Night
Review: Winterheart's Guild
Review: Reckoning Night
Review: Ecliptica
Review: The Days of Grays
Review: The Days of Grays
Review: The Days of Grays
Review: Stones Grow Her Name
Review: Pariah's Child
Review: Sonata Arctica Tour 2014
Review: Ecliptica - Revisited
Review: The Ninth Hour
Review: Talviyö

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