Apocalyptica - being normal would be different

Original German text: Sandra Eichner (Nuclear Blast magazine, 3/2007)

In her guardhouse, she looks like as if the fall of the wall in 1989 didn't change anything in her life: alerted and dressed in a vintage uniform, she guards the large terrain, which once housed the state-run broadcast of the DDR. Even if this is already history and the massive grey east-block buildings are empty for a long time, she fulfils her job with unchanged proud. Everybody, who wants to pass the barrier in front of her guardhouse, needs to sign in a list - it has been ever like that, and that won't change.

On this July's Thursday, there are many names in the list as it happened a long time ago. "What do they all want here?" asks the woman in the uniform. Easy: this broadcast-station will be again a place for an important event, this time: a multinational one. In one of those endangered buildings of Planet Roc-Studios, Apocalyptica welcomes the press from all around the world and presents them their new album "Worlds Collide", which will be released on September 18th.
This is not a normal location for this kind of events, but what to expect from Finnish Metal-Cellists? What is normal for Apocalyptica?

"I think that the atmosphere here is quite wacky" - Eicca Toppinen is grinning relaxed. Good-humoured, he roams through the rooms of the studio and chews some grilled marshmallows. A musician, who works in a special, complex and artistical way and thereby stays humanly normal and simple, "When you look at this weird studio-arrangement, you can still feel the mood, which might have been around here at that time. In formerly times, all important radio and TV-productions of DDR broadcast were running from here, and here we recorded the drums for our last album. The acoustic is pretty good. The building isn't really beautiful but very functional and convenient."

Hell in Helsinki:

At the current Album-production, the 4 cellists didn't care much for the beauty of the buildings. Unfortunately there aren't many locations in their home-town, Helsinki, which could be converted into small studios, exercising-rooms and where it could be possible to work until deep into the night. Last August, Apocalyptica rented some square-meters in an old factory-complex, almost in the centre of the Finnish capital. "This thing is really tatty, but we couldn't find anything else" - says Eicca, winking his nose, "In the most areas the property-owners stand against the exercising-rooms for bands, or they are located in any bureau-buildings, where you are allowed to make noise only at certain times. But how do I know at what time I might have a good idea or rather how long I want to work it with the guys? We definitely can't plan that and that's why we decided to get this tatty exercising-room, where we can work when we want and how long we want."

But their place isn't that bad, yet, it has all criteria which the Finns would call essential for an exercising-room: "Kuuhlschrank"* (note: fridge in English), - says happily Perttu Kivilaakso. He can say that German word nearly without accent. "Yeah, and electricity of course. Streaming water". "And a toilet." - Eicca nods, "and a coffee-machine, we are already pretty happy. It will become luxurious when a sofa will stand in this room." These 4 guys aren't only very virtuous, but also very open-minded and maybe everything else, except conservative. "When one of us has a suggestion for a song, we can dive in to material so deeply, that we lose contact with the world for several hours" - Perttu describes the very normal apocalyptical madness. "Suddenly everybody knows something new and then one guy comes with a suggestion, the next one - with another one. Sometimes, we sputter about that for days, only after that, the material is developing into a song we can include in the album".

When it's working long...:

Perttu is grinning while he is telling this: "At the end of such a long creative-process, we sometimes come to the conclusion that we're missing the last vital idea or the last rousing grain. Then, we simply store this song and look, if we can use it later, at the right time, because it isn't so simply." That's the reason, why "Worlds Collide" isn't released until September 2007 although it should have been released during Christmas 2006. "That was a little bit stupid", says Eicca wrinkling his nose again. "Last summer we quit our old label and signed in at GUN Records. When we told them that we were already in the middle of song-writings for the new album, they naturally became curious. It's understandable of course. If I would sign a contract with a new band, I would also be curious like hell about their stuff. We wanted them to deliver the album until the end of 2006. But then it happened like its always coming. First our producer had no time, then the studio was occupied and in the meantime we were listening to the songs again and again, until we came to the conclusion, that we should completely edit the one or other thing. And then a few months are passed very quickly." Particularly said, nearly a whole year. Whereas this is for Apocalyptica nothing special anymore. "Actually this is always running like this for us. We simply want to take the time because we want to make an album; our albums are always something new for the world, something that didn't exist until now, we're demanding that from ourselves, and there are people waiting that from us, when we are planning to release something, we want it to be something that people can talk about..."

Precision Work:

A plan that surely worked out with the new album. It became more complex, more surprising and richer at atmosphere than the predecessor. The first single is called "I'm not Jesus" with Corey Taylor from Slipknot/Stone Sour as the singer. This song is dark, full of desire but still clear, it is about a young man who was brought up by a deeply religious father and while he grows up, he realizes that he can't and doesn't want to accomplish the faithful and religious values of his father. As the time goes by, he puts and end to those strictly moral bonds and allows himself to be a human - with all kinds of human weaknesses and mistakes. "It's really cool that Corey had immediately accepted", says Perttu, "For this song we needed somebody, who can carry this theme realistically. Corey is somebody, who had experienced a lot in his childhood and who isn't afraid to speak about these kinds of subjects. If we hadn't had him, then the song probably wouldn't have ended up on the album. It would have been ridiculous to choose a singer who couldn't fit to this piece."

A propos "fitting": very well-chosen is also the German version of the David Bowie's hit "Heroes". Thanks to the Cellos, the whole 80-years glamour was detracted and it got a dark and aggressive outfit. "This song already has a German Version", Eicca reveals,"I heard it somewhere by coincidence and I was immediately blown away." The song is called "Helden" in German, and it has the voice of Rammstein's Till Lindemann. Like Corey Taylor, he was promptly willing to do that. He was stunned a bit though, like Eicca confesses naughtily. "We know Till for a long time, and we met way before our jointed tour. We heard him singing, and we thought to ask him to do this song, because there is no more striking voice for German lyrics, and he seemed perfect for us. For Till, this song was a huge challenge. We all didn't really know what would come out at the end, when we put that piece into such a completely new context."

The big unknown:

Anyway, you never really know with Apocalyptica. It is not possible to plan something in details with this artistic spirits. And that is something that is not wanted by them anyway. The Finns think it's very inspiring when new cooperation happens by pure change. "We play on some festivals and meet there other musicians. Sometimes we think then 'cool, let's be bold and speak to somebody, if he wants to do something with us'" explains Eicca, "And in the most cases we get a 'yes' right there. Sometimes it happens that some musicians come to us with ideas. We're always surprised and very happy about that, so many people know us and want to work with us. This is madness. But somehow we're guilty for that - I believe that we're known in the world as those, with whom you can realize something crazy." And Apocalyptica are completely merging in into this role.

Next to Corey Taylor and Till Lindemann there are further guest-appearances: Christina Scabbia from Lacuna Coil, Adam Gontier from 3 Days Grace and once again Dave Lombardo from Slayer. "This is already a tradition, that he is doing with us one piece per album", says Perttu pleased. The band stayed cool with all the guests, specials and ideas. Excitement is something usual for the soiled Finns. They need it when they are completely mergering with their artistic creations. Stress only comes up at the participating surroundings, how Perttu admits crunching. "I think, nobody stayed so calm like we during the working-process. I'm sure they damned us for that many times." Anyway Apocalyptica had to pass some hard times during the album creation, especially hard was working with the producer Jacob Hellner (Rammstein, Clawfinger). He managed it to amaze the Cello-playing Finns. "Up to now our stay at the studio always was a fix thing", Eicca explains, "Recording, until everything is ok and then going home. This time we spent 4 whole months in the studio. Once something was ok, Jacob said 'that was good, let's doing it again right now'. It was incredible, how he was working with us so hard. That was very teaching and it was a good experience for us."

The sky is the limit...:

The 3 cellists added to their line a drummer, Mikko Siren, an official member since 2005. He is open for everything new. Liberally following the motto: "a way is mainly not too far, at the most interesting" there is nothing that Scandinavians would be against to. "There is nothing more exciting then working together with other, new people", says Eicca. "You get with that so uncountable many precious impressions. And that counts not only counting for the music. Impressions are inspiring and this is a basement for new ideas." Perttu is laughing, "The problem is that we get too many things from that. Sometimes we have so many ideas, that it becomes a bit messy to work with us together." Eicca nods. "But that only counts for the others. We are very fine with our way of working."

And that's eventually the most important thing - otherwise the world would lose 4 outstanding artist-personalities and with them an extraordinary band. One of those very very rare unique prints, who are existing in the Pop/Rock/Metal-world.

English translation by Dreamcatcher

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