Original Finnish text: www.vee.fi
Two million records sold, 150 gigs last year and collaboration with megastar class musicians. Actress wife, two children and a home in the middle of woods in Sipoo. Eicca Toppinen of Apocalyptica has it all.
Where Ville Valo of HIM buys a tower in Helsinki, Eicca Toppinen from Apocalyptica builds a wooden hous in Sipoo. Closest neighbor is 50 meters away, the next 200 meters. He drives home on an unlit sandroad for three kilometres. There are hares running all over the yard.
- Being a musician is a really social job. On the road you're always involved with tens of people and give social energy. It's a good contrast to live behind God's back - you get to decide whether you see anybody or not.
According to Toppinen there's a sense of self-accentuation in being a city person, and that doesn't fit well with his persona. Eicca doesn't have to accentuate himself, because the closest people in his life aren't impressed with bragging about one's achievements. Eelis, 7, and Ilmari, 4, just don't know how cool it is to hang around with James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich.
- Living in the city fits well with a more restless phase of life, when you have time and energy to go from bar to bar. But now I have children, and it's way cooler that I and they have room for themselves. Besides, it's easier to go to city from the country than the other way around.
Family Toppinen's yard is completely within Sipoonkorpi.
- I've always had that thing about having a home, that opening the door must take me outdoors. That's why I could never deal with a block apartment.
The wooden house of the family has been handcarved and handbuilt. The carpenters were found in Eastern Finland, Luumaki.
- Well if you can choose, then why not go with a traditional and more ecological way? It just takes more effort. It was fun building it, and you made a personal bond with the workmen.
There's a fireplace outside the house and it's used a lot. The element does fit well with the metal man.
- Kirsi is the fire freak here! When we work outside, she always has to make fire from some scrap wood and twigs. It goes with the flow nicely.
Toppinen's better side is known from Kotikatu, actress Kirsi Ylijoki. The pair in their thirties already have two children - which isn't quite that common these days.
- I have no idea whatsoever why I had to make kids when I was just over twenty. Probably some kind of need to settle down. Although I've always been moving about and liked to travel, I also wanted some permanent base. Children keep you in touch with yourself, although that's not their main purpose, of course.
Is having children chained with a permanent job, a car and an apartment loan?
- No way. We had this single room on Helsinginkatu when we made the decision. It had nothing to do with the material circumstances, and it shouldn't. You can't plan having children on that. It's a life long commitment.
Life long, indeed. That's why there's a fear towards having children without a stabile economy - if you don't have a career, having children ends your life. Although reality won't match with this scene, Eicca admits that with the careers neither of them "had no sense in having children".
- Kirsi is a freelance actress, and each one of her jobs is a step towards the next one - it doesn't pay off to be away from the market. On my case it's pretty crazy, I'm supposed to compose music, and that's always interrupted when I have to get the kids from school and kinderkarten.
- Of course it would be cool if one could have this free pulsative life of an artist - compose when you want to. On the other hand the regularity and being with kids gives a hell of a lot of fuel to being an artist. It certainly gives more than it takes.
The creative work isn't bound to as chedule. When the parents of two children are both artists, fitting the schedules is another form of art. Combining work and family is not only necessary, but it's natural.
- For example, we just had a band meeting, when our manager visited Finland. We went to my place, and the kids were there. The family belongs to the work. Or, I want to have kids on the tour with me, because it's difficult for me to think that there are two completely different worlds, work and family.
Last year the father was away for about a half of the time.
- On the last couple of tours I had my kids on the road for short periods of time, five or eight days at a time. We have a bus for the family alone - that's a fucking expensive vacation, but the kids have to be able to come along. Otherwise they won't understand why I'm doing it. If I'm a way, it's as good as a pile of shit for them. Sometimes they ask me: when are you going to quit the band? That's how heavy it is for them.
Family Toppinen's family life hasn't been in the media for everyone to adore. Isn't it an obligation of the celebrity couples to show off their babies and reporting about the actions of the family regularly?
- We have systematically refused any family interviews. Well, we did one, because this isn't really a secret either.
Eicca doesn't try to avoid the media, but he doesn't want to be in the limelight just for the sake of it.
- Professionally I don't need celebrity, it doesn't help my job. Of course I hope there's attention, because I'm proud of my achievements and deeds. I'm ready for a talk show any time, if there's an interesting subject where I might have sometihng to add. Some other talk shows are just bullshit, though: "We were in the studio, this time the music came about a little more easily." Fuck, that's such a pile of shit.
The man recently hosted the legendary program of metal genre in MTV, Headbangers' Ball, for two episodes. Our novice host did the gig well.
- I did nothing more and nothing less than what the director told me, and he just said it's very good. We didn't have to start over because of my faltering. I must say though that I haven't seen the program myself yet. It might be just utter bullshit. I can't watch (laughs)! It was fun, I took it as relaxation.
Toppinen grew up in Vantaa's Hakunila, and he's the second eldest of five siblings. The head of the family - a logistics engineer - could have become an excellent pianist in his young days, but a few decades back you couldn't earn your bread with music. Music was strongly present in Eicca's childhood, and all the five children took instrument lessons.
- No one ever forced us to play. Rather, we were blackmailed: If you aren't rehearsing properly, then you aren't gonna play at all. I didn't want to quit it altogether, he laughs. The young cellist would have moved his home any day, though.
- I'm telling you, Vantaa sucks ass. I always wanted to get away from there. That place equals boredom and apahty to me.
- So there's a lot of different people there, but even starting from the political decisions, that place is just a scandal, Eicca laughs.
Later on the community became a literal burden.
- When I got into Sibelius Academy, I didn't get any student support money, because I lived too close to Helsinki. I couldn't get an apartment in the Sibelius Academy dormitory, because I lived too close to Helsinki. I couldn't move out from my parents until I was 21, because I couldn't afford to. I was bitter about it, I was goddamned bitter. I was fucking pissed with the whole system.
Later, before Eicca's family got to move into the home in Sipoo, the musician had to swallow up his pride and return to Kuninkaala, near his origins.
- We got daycare for the children in Hakunila, and of course we had to run there back and forth. I went to the same shops I had gone to all my childhood. I was like: "This can't be happening!" I was so relieved and happy when we got to Sipoo, completely away from Vantaa.
In 1993, when Eino Toppinen studied in Sibelius Academy, unable to move out because of his financial issues, something took place, something that would change the life of four young men. The members of the young Vivo Christian Orchestra members got to witness how their orchestra mates played three songs from the Metallica album, "Ride The Lightning".
- I didn't have notes for any other albums, Eicca chuckles. A couple of years later the group performed in Helsinki, in what was known as Teatro back then, with one His Infernal Majesty.
- There were over a thousand people there. The gig sucked ass, but people went completely nuts.
A week later, Kari Hynninen, the boss of a record company, Zen Garden, contacted the band and suggested making a record. The young men were dumbfounded.
- We considered it: A thousand copies would be fuckin' ace. So far there's been about a million copies, Eicca grins like kid, and laughs evilly after that.
- I'd say the scale is where it should be and the sales expectations were met!
Many others would have been happy just on top of the wave. More Metallica onto a record and back to crazing people. Toppinen and Apocalyptica were a bunch of ambitious musicans instead.
- After the gigs of the first record we found a new way to wire up the cellos and we realized that the record sounds like shit. Then we had to make a new record. Then we had to do another tour. What we learned from there had to be put on the next album and so on.
Next, Apocalyptica began composing their own music, and brought in other artists to color their music. The phenomenom of metal covers on cello grew out to be a real band. Two years later the band also made a hit, when Ville Valo and Lauri Ylonen dueted on the song called "Bittersweet".
- The concept of the first record was easy to absorb, people swallowed it. Hook, line and sinker. After that they were like: we've seen this cello thingy. Later, after playing many gigs and the band has been in the iron beat of a drummer, people are like: "Hey, you're a real band!" They probably thought we were just fooling around.
Apocalyptica turned ten in may. There's no VIP-party in Tavastia in sight. The anniversary will be celebrated by low profile, which fits well with Toppinen's nature.
- I gotta go to the store to buy celebration stuff. The band guys will be here in the evening and we'll throw a little party.
Wouldn't it suit the band's purpose to make a big fuzz about it, spread your intimate life in the magazines, talk bullshit in TV shows and get wasted with celebrity friends in Lostari?
- In this narcistic world that we live in, there's a lot of dangers in admiring your career, your money and your achieved spurs. That's not rewarding. I mean, it's important that you feel appreciated in your work, but in the end the achievements don't matter when you have achieved them. You can never get a mental peace by accomplishing something.
- Accomplishments are seen as some kind of a meter - what you are and what you'll be depends on what you accomplish. It's sad, because sooner or later that structure will fall apart under every single human being.
How can you keep your feet down so steadily? Although a man has a family and his fulfillment in life comes from down to earth things, doesn't your head grow big and your moped runs off without you? Or wouldn't you like to at least throttle, sometimes?
(Jez's note: I translated that moped thing directly, thought it was amusing)
- It's pretty risky in this job, because the kicks and top moments are so hard, that it's difficult to mind yourself enough to settle to something in everyday life. Your physiology learns, that the stage adrenaline is constant every evening. When you suddenly don't have it, you'll become restless and depressed, like: "Damn, I'm no good for anything". The more you run after your pleasure, the worse your end up.
- I'm not trying to play the wise man here, or teach anything for that matter. I'm just reflecting these things by my own experience. They're just my opinions.
Apocalyptica's double collection "Amplified - A decade of reinventing the cello" and the tour DVD "The Life Burns Tour" are released on May 26 2006. The only Finnish gig is in Ruisrock, Jul 8 2006.
Friends Eicca, James and Lare
The most bad-ass cellist in Finland is the friend of world class metal men.
Apocalyptica, steered by Eicca Toppinen, raised into the knowledge of Finland and the rest of the world with their debut album in 1996, Plays Metallica by Four Cellos. On the same year they warmed up for their idols in Icehall and of course met the biggest band in the world.
- Hetfield (James, singer of Metallica) was completely nuts over us. They've always liked us a lot, Eicca explains.
Apocalyptica's existance had a huge influence in Metallica agreeing to collaborating with the symphony of San Francisco and their conductor Michael Kamen. Kamen had wanted to work with the metal legends for a long time, but the gentlemen only agreed after they heard how well Apocalyptica's arrangements worked. This all resulted in the 1999 album "S&M" (Symphony & Metallica).
- They invited us to the premiere in San Francisco. Actually, they paid the flights, the sleepover, and also supplied their drivers. They especially wanted us to see it, Eicca remembers with warmth.
- We've met them about ten times. Sometimes we've hung around with their familes, been at Lars' (Ulrich, Drummer of Metallica9 villa, drinking. Before their latest album, St Anger, was released, we were in London in their rehearsals, Eicca gets going.
And why not. Not many metal fans from Vantaa get to drink and have fun with Met. But Apocalyptica's work with metal legends doesn't end with Metallica.
On the recent Apo releace, Amplified - A Decade Of Reinventing The Cello, features the ex-Sepultura and current Soulfly frontman Max Cavalera, and the slayer drummer Dave Lombardo. These gentlemen have been in the front line of heavy metal for about two decades and their work have worked as the sound track of this guy called E. Toppinen.
- It's just absurd, when you've digged Sepultura and Slayer as a kid such a shitload, and suddenlty Max is singing and Lombardo is beating the drums and I'm supposed to produce that.
- You can't go all "This is fucking cool", you gotta be professional there, Eicca laughs.
Text: Henri Anundi
English translation by Jez