"Last month I had the opportunity to do an interview with Apocalyptica. It was an incredibly informative and funny conversation. The following sections of the interview should give you a better picture about the guys themselves. These parts are not really about the new album, but I figured it might be interesting for you to learn about the dark musical backgrounds of the band, or about the "grandfather" of Apocalyptica, as well as some other "naked" facts. I hope you enjoy it.
Thanks again to Eicca, Perttu and Paavo for sharing all this information!"
Were you performing in any other bands before Apocalyptica?
Paavo Lotjonen: Actually he started a band because it was traditional that Finnish cello players would play some Jimmy Hendrix and that kind of stuff. And tangos and some classical stuff. So maybe our idea came from that tradition.
What's the name of the band?
Eicca Toppinen: Nowadays it's "Total Cello Ensemble" and actually we are going to make a tour in Finland together. Apocalyptica and them at a Cello festival. We will have six (6) concerts in concert halls in Finland in March next year.
Paavo Lotjonen: And then we will also have some workshops with Cello students - educating.
You're teaching, anyway?
Paavo Lotjonen: I'm teaching yes, I have 15 students.
How do you do it with your time? When you're on tour?
Paavo Lotjonen: You know it's only 3 days per week. Divided into 45 minutes each. When I'm touring someone is doing my lessons.
Who are you teaching, is it kids?
Paavo Lotjonen: Yes. The youngest is 8, and the oldest is 17.
And you two, are you teaching?
Eicca Toppinen: No, I'm not teaching. Before I was playing lots in different orchestras, and a lot of chamber music, like maybe in 20 different groups - trios, sextet - everything. And then this "Total Cello Ensemble". I was off from this band for maybe two years, but I went back just one year ago. And actually I'm managing this band as well.
Does it take a lot of your time?
Eicca Toppinen: Not very much, but sometimes it would take, because when you want to do new songs and good arrangements - and I'm making the arrangements for this band nowadays - so I would probably have a lot of work. Now Paavo has been playing in the past also many times with this band. And Perttu was now first time just a few weeks ago. We played 3 Gigs.
Does this Ensemble still have the original members?
Eicca Toppinen: No, a few members have changed, Antero is still playing.
It consists of six (6) people?
Eicca Toppinen: It's 6 people, yeah. It's classic, but it's very funny. It's like the grandfather of Apocalyptica.
When did you start with this?
Eicca Toppinen: I think everything began in the year 90, but regularly we have been playing since 92 or 94. With this band we played Jimmy Hendrix. And then we had the idea, why can't we do something else. Because everything we play with this band, works out. So we thought metal music should also work.
If you had to decide now, let's say either performing with Apocalyptica or do classic music. How would you decide?
Perttu Kivilaakso: I would definitely choose Apocalyptica!
Eicca Toppinen: Same for me.
Paavo Lotjonen: Hmmm… Maybe!
[laughter from all]
Eicca Toppinen: But it's very natural. Because he has his own career. Paavo is a very high respected teacher in cello in the classical world in Finland. And he is young and Paavo will have a good career as a teacher. Anyway I think so. And actually Perttu has the same with the Philharmonics, but basically he don't give a shit for that.
Perttu Kivilaakso: Basically, yes.
Eicca Toppinen: And I have actually nothing to go back in classical music because I hate the classical scene in a certain way. And I lost so much of my playing technique during this year - in the classical way. But I was still going back to participate in a cello competition in the beginning of this year. And I might again try to make a big concentration for classical practising. Just to get something new for playing. I felt always in the classical scene somehow that the dream was to play chamber music - but you can't live for that in Finland. It's a too small country. You can't make your living out of it. It's impossible. That's my problem always. I'm educating, I'm practising, I'm studying for something and I don't know for what. That's why I would definitely go for this.
Paavo Lotjonen: That's the only two options in Finland, to play in an orchestra or teach. Or maybe both. But to play as a soloist is just…
Eicca Toppinen: Yes, you're lucky if you get 4 solos. I've been playing many times as a soloist of different orchestras, but I didn't feel that interesting either. Playing a concert is cool, but it's even worse being on tour by yourself, alone. You have the rehearsals in the morning, and the rest of the day is just… It's even worse than being on a Apocalyptica tour. If you think about the worst part of the touring. It's being somewhere you don't want to be - hanging around.
One of your first videos was "Enter Sandman" - does the video have any special meaning?
Eicca Toppinen: No, it's horrible!
It looks like if it is shot in India?
Paavo Lotjonen: It is Bangkok.
Eicca Toppinen: We were not in Bangkok. It was just a guy filming some commercial. And at the same trip he shot some material for the video. Because everything was so low-budget. Comparing to the sales I must say that this is maybe one of the lowest-budget CDs made ever.
Paavo Lotjonen: We made it in the Sibelius Academy studio. The budget was probably 8.000 Euros - or maybe less, 7.000 Euros the whole budget, and it covers everything!
Eicca Toppinen: All together! Everything! That is one of the cheapest albums comparing that it has sold one million copies.
Are videos in general important for you? As sort of reference to the song?
Paavo Lotjonen: I would say the most videos we have done have been very good ones. We're very happy with them. They are not very commercial ones.
Perttu Kivilaakso: They're quite honest for the music.
Paavo Lotjonen: I would say that probably the first video was a very beautiful video, and it was maybe for two month in the video charts - top ten.
Eicca Toppinen: Regarding the script, we check it very carefully. And everything that's happening around us we take everything carefully. For almost all of the videos we have not been satisfied with the first cut, so they had to be cut again. So, if somebody makes a video of a song it has to be cool. It has to be good. In our point of view we have to like it. And now when we are planning the video for a song and there's some script we're looking for the script very carefully.
Do you have any favourite songs to perform live?
Perttu Kivilaakso: I like Sepultura "Inquisition Symphony", somehow. It's the most dangerous one for the equipment.
Paavo Lotjonen: Extreme sports!
Perttu Kivilaakso: Yes! My personal favourite also is "Hall of the Mountain King". Again fast.
Eicca Toppinen: It's good to play live.
Perttu Kivilaakso: But I figured with this new material we will have lots of fun.
Paavo Lotjonen: I would say that "Pray" in last tour was one of my favourite songs to play. We really had a good feeling when we played it. Sometimes even feeling the cold vibrations.
Perttu do you get any reactions from the members of the Philharmonics concerning you being in Apocalyptica and on the other side playing classic?
Perttu Kivilaakso: Yeah! Basically they don't like me because of that.
[putting a huge grin on his face].
But I don't like them either. So it's no problem.
You don't care?
Eicca Toppinen: No, he has some friends there.
Perttu Kivilaakso:Yeah of course. No, but there's… it's split because there's a couple of older colleges who actually don't see anything [artistic] in this what we are doing. And I think it doesn't matter if we're playing heavy metal or which style ever as Apocalyptica. We are thinking the way we are doing this as really the way of professional classically educated musicians. And we take it serious there; we want to be good in what we are doing. So for me there is no difference or anything about that.
You had a solo part in a concert a few weeks ago. Did you have to practise a lot?
Perttu Kivilaakso: No, actually not. I should have, but I never practise. Like Eicca said. But yeah, this was really fun, I like to have a good combination, and to do as much different kind of music as possible. Even though this [Apocalyptica] is the main thing of course.
Will Antero be touring with you next year?
Eicca Toppinen: Yes, for live shows. Only for concerts.
So actually you're a "3-man-band now", and for live-shows you take Antero with you?
Eicca Toppinen: Yes.
I think in your [on-line] chat [November 2002] Perttu mentioned something about playing nude?
Eicca Toppinen: Yeah! We're always nude when we are together!
Perttu Kivilaakso: Yeah, we like that, I think. Actually that was the solo part of "Heat" which was the first solo I played for this album. And for some reason it felt like, I couldn't find the right atmosphere for it, because it's a little bit like seducing that song. And I don't know, you [looking at Eicca] showed your butt through the window.
Eicca Toppinen: I was trying to raise the feeling.
Perttu Kivilaakso: Yes he did. And then I took all the cloth off… I think for already 3 hours I was trying to find the right mood…
Eicca Toppinen: And then he took his pants off.
Perttu Kivilaakso:Yeah, and then I played it once trough, and it was there!
Eicca Toppinen: Get naked! It's fun!
Paavo Lotjonen: It's quite normal for us. I'm sure it helped him play.
Eicca Toppinen: There's other bands in Finland, they are much more naked than us. Even - if possible!
Perttu Kivilaakso: In Germany there's nudist beaches, but in Finland there's concert halls where the tradition is to go play nude. Nudist halls…
Eicca Toppinen: It's very common! Being naked in Finland.
Perttu Kivilaakso: Natural.
Eicca Toppinen: Maybe because of sauna…
Do you have any funny anecdotes to tell?
Perttu Kivilaakso: [looking a bit sceptic] It wasn't that funny enough???
Eicca Toppinen: We have not been doing so many funny things. Nothing really funny happened during recording. Except Perttu's accident with the motor-cross bike, that was pretty funny.
For you two!?
Eicca Toppinen: Yeah for us it was so funny! There were two motor cross bikes 80 square centimetres and 250 square centimetres, a really powerful one. I learned to drive, though I never drove those. And I said "Perttu, hey, you must try this!" And he was like "No, I don't like these machines, because only bad things happen always!"
Eicca Toppinen:We told him "No, No! You need to go for it!" So he put the helmet by himself, and then he took the 80 square centimetres motor-cross bike…
Paavo Lotjonen: It's very powerful as well; it maybe has 40 horse-powers or something.
Eicca Toppinen: He was not changing the gears. He was just driving in a circle around in the field.
Paavo Lotjonen: With the 1st gear always.
Eicca Toppinen: Yeah, really slowly and suddenly he drove by me, and I was looking at him but he didn't stop. We were like "What the hell?! He's driving out of the field!"
Paavo Lotjonen: He wouldn't stop.
Eicca Toppinen: There was a big ditch and he drove straight there and felt over. And the bike came to him, and of course he put the helmet by himself, and it was not very well fixed. So the helmet was off before he hit the ground. He came back. It was amazing your broke your jaw, and a rib-bone…
Perttu Kivilaakso: And I couldn't walk almost for two weeks.
Eicca Toppinen:Luckily his hands were OK; he was recording something at the same evening.
Perttu Kivilaakso:Yes I did - "Faraway".
Eicca Toppinen: [laughing] He could hardly walk but he was playing cello and recording.
Thinking a few years back. What kind of music have you been listening during the 80s or 90s? What was the 1st CD you bought?
Eicca Toppinen:I was 7 years old when I bought a rockabilly compilation. Then I listened to lots of stuff my older sister had. Like Michael Jackson, Wham this kind of stuff. Then when I began to pick up my own stuff I was a big fan of Duran Duran around that time. And then I liked Billy Idol and Jimmy Hendrix at the same time. And from these bands I went to a Canadian metal band, and Pantera and then Metallica. And when I was 13 years I found classical music as listening experience. I listened to Shostakovitch first. And since then I think that I understand something about classical music. -- Very dark background -- Duran Duran!!! It's great; I think they had great songs.
Perttu Kivilaakso: I always have listened to opera. And besides that I remember the first time when I went into the rock scene I was a huge fan of Skid Row. Then I listened to Iron Maiden and from that it went darker and darker to Metallica to Slayer to Sepultura. Some moments I even listened to Black Metal, but I didn't like the message of that. I don't listen to it anymore.
Paavo Lotjonen: I have grown in the 70s. So at the age of 7 or something I usually listened to my fathers albums. Luckily he was very interested in listening to any kind of music. He was a big fan of jazz music, saxophone music, any kind of it. He also listened to rock. Mostly I liked the Beatles stuff. He had many albums of them. The older ones, not the "White" album and that. I also listened to Elvis and this sort of things. And then the 80s maybe the first band that came was Toto with "Africa", in 82 or 83. And then bands like Police, Level 42. And then later Pink Floyd. And also classical music of course.
Eicca Toppinen: It's so great that we have such a different background. We do have a common classical background though.
Dec 16, 2002,
Information from www.apocalyptica.com