Interview with Mikko and Eicca for FaceCulture.nl
/ Transcription of video-interview for Faceculture.nl, 2007 /
FC: Do you still recall your first meeting?
Mikko: I do recall, yes, for sure. 'Couse I was joined into the band later, in... like..2003. Eicca gave me a call one morning and asked me if I would be interested to join the group and I said no, because I can't play that kind of music, as if he would call it: it's a wrong number, really, I can't do that. And he was convincing me that they are not looking for this traditional heavy metal drummer, but they are looking for something different.
FC: (to Mikko) What where you playing back then?
Mikko: Before that, I was playing like pop-rock and quite a lot like dance and club music, like electronic music aswell, and we had this...I think we've met...
Eicca: in the rehearsals I think we've met...
FC: (to Eicca) How come you decided to call him? How come? Why?
Mikko: (about Eicca) he is so stupid... (Laughs)
Eicca: I got some recommendations from other drummers I knew, we had a session drummer for playing the drums for the Reflections album, and when we were going in tour, he was not able to join us so we started to think who can be the drummer... and we had like 3-4 drummers in mind, and then we were asking people whom they would recommend most and they recommended him (pointing at Mikko).
FC: (to Mikko) Do you know what they told him about you?
Mikko: I'm so cheap that they can afford me. (Laughs)
Eicca: If you want to have a drummer with low price, yeah, call him (pointing at Mikko) (Laughs)
Eicca: but with the other guys we have much more history as cello players together, like with Paavo. I was like 13 years old when I met him first time, and we are friends since then even he is much older than me.
Mikko: way older
Eicca: yeah, he is way older than me, we started to be friends when he was 20 - 21 and I was 13, since then we are friends. With Perttu we got known like at around 15 - 17 years old. We were all studying in Sybelius Academy, it's like... best classical music school in Finland, and, therefore there's not so many students and you get to know everybody.
FC: So you were all into classical music or... ?
Eicca: yeah, we were all studying classical music and everybody started somewhere in othe music schools and dumped the studies and came to Sybelius Academy, and we were playing together in the same orchestras and stuff like that, some jamming music sometimes, together, it was more like... as cello players we had a really good team of friends, all playing cello, we were thinking why not to try to play some heavy metal together, because we were also big heavy metal fans.
FC: Do you still recall the first time when you actually decided on playing a heavy metal song with a cello? Do you still recall where it was?
Eicca: I don't remember the fixed moment when the idea came up, but it was somewhere where we most likely drank beer, somewhere (Laughs) and just thinking about and talking about heavy metal music. And from there, I bought one notebook of Metallica right lining and made arrangements of 2 songs...
FC: Which songs did you do?
Eicca: ... "Escape", "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and "Creeping Death" , those were the first 3 songs, they were just picked up because of the notebook I had. And it all started when we were going to an... Well, Perttu was not then on board, with other guys, well, only me and Paavo was there at the first time. And it was like... we had the orchestra, like a camp, for one week, and then was the one evening, that... there was like a party kind of thing, and there were different performances, and that was the time when we performed our first time, that was August 1993.
FC: And do you still play those songs?
Eicca: not "Escape", no, but "Creeping Death" and "For Whom the Bell Tolls" from time to time we play them live. "Escape" was never recorded because it's not the greatest Metallica song. But it was easy to play it with a cello. I basically picked up the first songs because of the notebook, but also from the songs I felt that they fit most easily to the cello, that are more suitable for the cello.
FC: And did do you decide?
Eicca: I tried to pick up quite simple songs, and where the drum parts are not very complicated, "Creeping Death" is more tricky one, but "For Whom the Bell Tolls" was very simple from the drum part, because I had to find out a way how to play the drums with the cellos. Nobody never did that before, so I had to create it and of course it was more simple to start from something where the drum is not all over the place, where is more simple beat.
FC: That "Creeping Death" is really...
Eicca: yeah, already the more tricky one, but "For Whom the Bell Tolls" or "Escape", I don't remember excellently, but one of those was the first ones I arranged because they were more simple. When I found a good way to do it, then it was easier to turn into more difficult songs. And already the same year I made the arrangement of Inquisition Symphony which is very far away from anything simple, and, actually I didn't have any notebook for that, just vinyl, a very scratchy vinyl, and just listening to that, I picked up the whole song. That was a kind of a challenge actually (laughs), because it is really fast and it has different tempos and so much things around.
FC: Well, the first six - seven years you did a lot of covers, what was the best compliment you had from actually the people whom wrote the song? From the song writers? What they told you about all your songs? Your interpretations?
Eicca: I think one of the biggest compliment... was... actually... when Metallica made S&M with an orchestra, they invited us there, because they wanted us to see the premiere of the thing. Then we heard from their relatives when we were spending sometime together with the relatives, and they said, that we were the main influence when they decided to do it. That was a kind of compliment. Because Michel was asking them to do that thing for years and the guys were not quite sure about the whole thing, but after hearing our versions... that caused it to happen.
FC: Did they tell you something? I mean... James Hetfield.. or... ?
Eicca: in 1996 when we played the first as a support team, there was also a good compliment, that after all powerful bans, James Hetfield was like... in a corridor, he was like: "This guys, this fucking guys, they rock ", yeah, that was good (laughs)
FC: Then you asked a drummer, how come?
Eicca: Because the songs started... well, the own songs, we wrote, you know, when we stopped doing covers for albums, and went into our own songs, on the Cult album we had a little pare of captions there but not more, it was very cello breathing, but after then, our own song writing started into a direction when they started to request drums, the song sounded like: "oh, we need to get drums", and if we do it with a cello, it's like repeating something old, that we have done in the past, and we don't get the best result of the song. So we needed drums to bring the beat and figure out something more with the cellos. So that was the reason. The songs what we wrote to the band just started to demand a drummer.
FC: (at Mikko) So what were you thinking? Because it's not your normal band? It's not a guitar drum thing? So what did you think when they asked you?
Mikko: As I said first, I was quite sure that I can't do it, it's just not mine... how do you say?...cup of tea. But when I came in, I was really like, pleased, because they let me try out things really freely, like, I had free hands to do what ever I like to try out , and of course I had to pick up the parts that Dave Lombardo had played, because I don't do double base drum things, I can't, I just simply can't. and I had to figure out, and sort of like, create, my own way of getting the same thunder out of the drum set that I used, without a basedrum.
FC: How did you do it?
Mikko: I use really big drums, I have like a mega size tombs around me and lots of them, so, that's maybe the tuning thing, and how I try to create something which makes the whole set sound like a thunder all the time. And about compliments, when we were just recording this year and Dave Lombardo was doing again one track for the album, and we were recording it, and actually I, well, it's Eicca's song and we did the demos together which we sent to Dave Lombardo, so he can learn the song. And then when we were in the studio, and he recorded his part and we listened back to the original demo, we and Eicca had made, and we were listening back to the demo, and he was like: "Is that you playing or me playing, I can't recall?" (laughs) so, yeah, about compliments, it was cool...cool thing.
FC: And how do you, um, let's now fast forward to the new album, I mean, the previous one, what did you learn from the previous album? It was 2 years ago now? Is there something that you picked up and didn't want to do, or did more on this album?
Eicca: I think with Apocalyptica album, we found the identity for the band. And starting from the cello ensemble, its been a long way to become a real rock band, and, basically from there we wanted to get deeper into the musical world of Apocalyptica, and...
FC: Which is?
Eicca: Which is hearable from the new album (laughs), because it's more characteristic, everything is more clarified and more detailed, and everything is more clear and more crystallized, you know, starting from small details, but every small details is really like a thought and every stone is checked out and how it could do differently, and if it has a different option.
FC: Did the song writing changed, I mean, through the years, when you joined the band, did the song writing changed?
Eicca: Yeah, actually we started to rehears (laughs)
Mikko: I think the biggest change came after the previous album because we did like 180 shows on tours, which was like a huge amount of shows, then we really learned to play together. That was the time when we really learned to listen and to play as a band.
Eicca: Yeah for us it took a ... well, for some it took more longer, for some of us not so long, but it took a long time to learn to listen drums and start to play together with the drums, not only "together" but really to get it tight together. That was the biggest challenge for the album aswell, to get really the cellos and drums to be a solid unit, to be talking in the same language in the same time. Not like... hmm... yeah, it really needed to be tight this time.
FC: Normally the drums are cohesive to the base player and how is it done now with cellos? Is it the same way?
Mikko: It is quite a lot the same way. In the beginning maybe It wasn't, and that was something we really learned on the tour, that we really need to listen though it is the same part, as a conventional rock band, but mainly, Eicca plays most of the riffs so he is basically the one I'm listening mostly to, he is like the loudest in my monitors and I really try to lock into his group, and I think it's vice versa as well, that we two when are really breathing in the same time... it's good.
Eicca: Yeah, because when we didn't have drums, we worked more like a string quartet, like, listening all the time that tempo was going there and there and there, it was more flexible in a way, and everybody was listening and tuning and everything, it was kind of... how to say in English... I don't know what's the right word for it...
FC: I think now it's more and more rhythmic.
Eicca: Yeah, it is, basically, and if the drummer is there at the good time, everybody needs to lock in to his groove. The drummer is the rhythmical boss in the band but before that..
FC: (to Mikko) It was the best compliment you've had. (laughs)
Eicca: But even when Mikko was playing with us, not everybody was trying to lock into his drums. If it was a click in the song, you know in some songs we had the click monitors just to be sure that we don't overdo it too fast or you know, get in trouble. Some of the cello players were just still listening to the click and not the drums which is not the right way to play really together, it's not the same groove then, because he is playing in the click, and everything is groovy and live-y and you know, you have to breath the same air.
FC: So this is something that you've learned off playing live and you actually brought it into the studio.
Eicca: yes, we got really tired and deep to get this thing connected, and our producer was really keen on getting the groove exactly together. And that makes even the hardest songs In the new album, they are very groovy in a way, and they have this kind of good vibe, they can be dark in the mood, but there is nice vibe in the song and in the groove, and there is not like just hammering you know, like black and white, it's more twisty.
FC: This is the album where you use new singers, producer and co-writers. Has it something to do with all you secure about your own style?
Eicca: Exactly! That's the right thinking!! That's the right answer!
FC: Well now, how come use new singers, producer and co-writers?
Eicca: Well, because we felt after last album, the tour after last album, we felt that it's really like we've found the sound, and this is Apocalyptica, this is the music that we are playing, and especially the live thing, it was not only the last album, it was the new songs coming together with Metallica songs that was the stuff that we played live, and we felt that this is what we are together. Everybody has individual musical taste outside of this band as well, but this is what Apocalyptica is. Therefore, it was a big approach to find... that's why Mikko was not a full member for 3 first years, that we didn't know that we want the drums in the band to stay or do we want to go in some other direction with the cellos.
FC: (to Mikko) Was it hard for you? The first 3 years?
Mikko: I think it was really smooth, as I said...
FC: Were you really longing to stay in the band? Or you just said if they don't want me, I'm out of here...
Mikko: It was really smooth how it went, because first I was hired as a musician, I only did the shows.
Eicca: yeah, he was really cheap, he earns much more now. (laughs)
Mikko: In short terms I got part at arranging stuff, being at rehearsals and stuff like that...
Eicca: making decisions and planning...
Mikko: It was really smooth step and It was the time when I was like frustrated about that why they ask me...
Eicca: we were all the time following what's happening in the band, so that was easy. It was the only obvious thing to happen...
FC: So when you finally asked him he said: "I told you so, for 3 years now"? (laughs)
FC: Well the album was called Worlds Collide. Do you have any meaning about it? Maybe you can describe how come Worlds Collide?
Mikko: can I answer: tree? Yes or the bills, no? Or what was the right answer?
FC: What you want it to be. So let me rephrase the question, when did you come up with the title? Was it afterwards? After the album was done, or was it before you recorded any of the songs like, let's pick a theme and call it "Worlds Collide"?
Mikko: It was afterwards...
Eicca: It took like 4 months to decide
Mikko: there were quite a few options...
FC: Name me one... that didn't make it...
Mikko: one which didn't make it was
Mikko: "A", just the letter "A", then "6" was one which didn't make it. For me, the main thing is that you ask the question, we can give one thousand and two different explanations why Worlds Collide, but that's not the thing, the thing is to make the listener active, when you start to think when worlds are colliding.
FC: So when did you decide on the album title?
Mikko: On the last moment, or the day after.
Eicca: After long discussions and like...
Mikko: furious emails... I think it was...
FC: I think our worlds collide. (laughs)
Mikko: the last moment was...when you were at... (pointing at Eicca) where the hell were you? You were maybe home. I think Perttu were in Milano or somewhere, Paavo was in holidays in Greece, we were sending sms-es all over again and all over again on what the hell can be the title, and voting on some ideas.
Eicca: all the people were getting furious because they were not able to do the artwork without having the album title, and we were not able to design without the album title and it was a big mess. It's always big mess with the... you know we can play and make music but we are not writers or we are not good on describing other things in words.
FC: Corey Taylor how come?
Eicca: Yeah, we've met him a couple of times in festivals with Slipknot and Stone Sour and we had the song and we were thinking who could be strong enough singer to carry the song "I'm not Jesus" and he was obviously on the list and he was really willing to do it that was the thing that made it happen.
FC: Did you write the lyrics?
Eicca: no, one American guy, Johnny Andrews wrote the lyrics. He wrote also the lyrics to "S.O.S.".
FC: Another one I have: How come Cristina?
Mikko: Well, the song was at first composed as an instrumental, at one point we started to think that it would be very cool to have vocals on it, really the melody is suitable for vocals and exactly for a female vocal, and to find such a character, a strong female voice for a track, it's just that Cristina was the obvious choice for it and we were lucky enough that she had time, and that could be done.
FC: And what was so special about the song "Heroes" with David Bowie?
Eicca: yeah, that was just a... that was presented to us by the producer; we didn't know that a German original is actually existing, we were exited about the words, but we didn't understand how this song could fit into Apocalyptica world. He was like: no... listen to the drama, the song has so much drama, and if you could do this with Till, that would be brilliant. And we were like... umm... maybe maybe. And in the final end, the arrangements found the right way, the song started to sound like Apocalyptica music, and we said, now we really have to get Till convinced, because for us it was the only option. If Till would had said no, then we might not done the song. So it was really like the elements were there, and for us, now a days if we make cover songs, there must be something special and we need to bring in something completely new into the picture of the original song and I think we succeeded pretty well in "Helden". It is a completely new version.
FC: "Last Hope" by Dave Lombardo is on it, and he was also in the previous album, what makes him click?
Mikko: I think he is lunatic as we are. (laughs)
I think that's the connection with us. I think he is been a fan of our band for like... for ages.
Eicca: yes he is. We played together in Netherlands there was a festival called Head banger's Hell, Head banger's Heaven... and he was giving a drum clinic there. I think it was '97 already and he came to us and said... "a, you played some Slayer, I would like to play together" and we were like "Oh... sure". And we performed "The South of Heaven" and "Mandatory Suicide" without no rehearsals, just you know, as a encore songs for the set. Since then he was like "Hey, if you need a drummer, give me a call".
FC: And how come this song and how come this album?
Eicca: you know in the Reflections when we had the feeling that this song requires a drummer, yeah, let's call Dave. And then he was doing that, we sent him the tapes, and he was recording his stuff on the top of the cellos and then send it back. Next time we did it together in the studio, when we did the Betrayal he was in Helsinki, and this time, Mikko said, why don't you call Dave? If you can call Dave to play in the album, you should do that. And I said, ok, let's call him. And he again came to Helsinki with Slayer and this time we decided, let's write the song to him because he has really good playground, then we wrote it together with Mikko and we were testing things, you know.
Mikko: He had good spot to fool around and he could do this job exactly, and this is the right tempo for his feet...
FC: So he is listening to your albums and you are listening to Slayer (Laughs)
Eicca: we must have in the songs... really enough dangerous moments.
FC: A list of people you worked with now are famous, how come people want to work with you? How come this big name?
Mikko: You have to ask them. We really are lucky bastards that we have such situation that people want to work with us.
FC: Maybe because you are musically trained and you bring something different to...
Eicca: I think these people, they seem to appreciate, that their feeling for Apocalyptica ... they think that Apocalyptica has brought and created something so unique so unordinary in a outstanding way and they appreciate it. Because all these artists they have done in their own career, they have done something special, they have created something own, and normally these people who know what it means that you are able to create something special and new, and something different from others, they know what it requires, and they feel that Apocalyptica has done it aswell, and they appreciate the thing so much, I don't know, but that's just my guess for it.
FC: Maybe it could be now that all people tought you something and they set you...
Eicca: Maybe they are just amazed of the fact that we play metal with cellos.
Mikko: and there is also a lot of them who saw the live show, they are totally amazed.
Eicca: About the energy and the attitude and about how we do it, and it's like we are the most smiling metal band in the world. (Laughs)
Eicca: on stage, and at the same time, we are the most aggressive ones...
Transcription by Nataliya ©2007