Interview with Perttu Kivilaakso in Helsinki, 2001

We met Perttu Kivilaakso in Helsinki, in the beginning of November 2001. At the beginnig it was Max that had to come, but the day just before the interview, Perttu called us to tell that Max was sick and that finally, he would come to meet us...

We were standing in front of the railway station, in this wonderful town that is Helsinki, and Perttu arrived just on time. We gave him few presents we brought from the band, and then we went to a cafe… that’s there that everything happened!

Agata: There has been some rumours that Apocalyptica is working on a new album. Is that true?

Perttu Kivilaakso: Nice rumours! We had a really huge break, we had to do it because those last two years were so hard for us that we really had to stop. Now we don’t want to do something like that ever again! Me and Eicca have composed some songs. There are plans that we can make an album. Maybe we’ll start next spring, and maybe it will be released on autumn next year.

Agata: Do you plan to put any covers?

Perttu Kivilaakso: No, no plans yet.

Agata: Do you think you will use any special effects like on "Cult"?

Perttu Kivilaakso: Yeah, I think so because we found it really interesting that we can add some other stuff instead of only cellos. This whole thing is like a creation, creating something new. We’ll find nice things to put on the next album!

Agata: Will there be some really quiet songs like "Coma" and "Romance"?

Perttu Kivilaakso: Yeah, I think because we, as persons, are really variant, we have a romance inside, and then there’s aggression that you see in live shows.

Agata: How did you choose the covers, for example "Fight Fire With Fire"?

Perttu Kivilaakso: "Fight Fire With Fire" was the first song I heard from Metallica and definitely liked it, and we wanted to do it also because it’s definitely extremely hard to play with the cello and we wanted to make it faster and that’s the reason. And we actually tried a couple of other songs like "Dyers Eve" and those were the two fast Metallica songs we had to choose which one will be on the album, and "Fight Fire With Fire" worked better.

Agata: Do you think there are any challenges left, something that would be too difficult to play?

Perttu Kivilaakso: Always there are challenges. If there isn’t enough difficult covers anymore, we would have to compose difficult stuff!!

Agata: Is there something really hard to play at the moment?

Perttu Kivilaakso: I don’t know, maybe, I haven’t found something too difficult!!

Agata: Once you said that Slayer is very fast. You did "Mandatory Suicide" and "South Of Heaven" but these are not the fastest songs of Slayer...

Perttu Kivilaakso: Like "Angel Of Death"! I think "Angel Of Death" would be really nice to play, I love this song. Actually, I was with Max and Paavo, we were watching Slayer, they were playing two weeks ago, here, in Helsinki. It was really great, great concert!!

Agata: Whose idea was it to pick a classical song to cover, "Hall Of The Mountain King"?

Perttu Kivilaakso: I always say that we don’t play classical songs because they are somehow sacred, but now we wanted to add also that part because we are classical players. We wanted to have that to remind the roots the band began with. "Hall Of The Mountain King" is a very good song because there is a great melody and we had the possibility to make something own there.

Agata: Do you think that perhaps in the future, if any covers, you would choose both some heavy metal and classical songs?

Perttu Kivilaakso: I don’t think that’s impossible!

Agata: Do you think that there would be something missing if you made an album without any covers?

Perttu Kivilaakso: I don’t know, it depends. In the beginning it was a cover band but then it’s very nice to play your own material because with that we can use our cellos more as instruments because songs are straight composed for the instrument, use all the possibilities of the instruments. I think, maybe, that in the future, the most nice way to do an album would be that we have like a first disc with our material, and maybe another one where is something else, because we don’t want to forget the roots like Metallica and there’s still many Metallica’s songs worth covering also.

Agata: What does the song writing process look like? What do you start with?

Perttu Kivilaakso: Basically, you just work somewhere and you start thinking something. On the "Cult" album, Eicca had already made the songs ready and we just changed a few things. But those were already done completely, basically. But now me and Eicca have met a couple of times with cellos...

Agata: Would you like to do an arrangement completely by yourself?

Perttu Kivilaakso: Yeah, I actually did this. I made and arrangement for Megadeth, "Symphony Of Destruction". We had a plan to play it in summer festivals but this never happened, we were too lazy to practice!!

Agata: Is there anything that inspires you to write songs?

Perttu Kivilaakso: I think there is inspiration because so many things happen all around in normal life or the news, and everything affects. For example this terrorist thing, I watched it... and I was going to Japan for three weeks tour with the Helsinki Philarmonic Orchestra, and I was in the aeroplane at the same time this happened, so I was thinking "what if it might be me or someone really close?". That kind of things always affect you, for example, that evening, I was just melancholic with my guitar and I think I made one pretty nice slow ballad there.

Agata: Do you sometimes create or try out some stuff on the guitar, and then play it on the cello?

Perttu Kivilaakso: I have been playing the guitar for over ten years, just as a hobby. For me it’s really easy, at home, just to take it, just to play something which comes to mind. If there’s some good idea, then I go to the cello and think "this would be great!... or at least good".

Agata: Is there a moment where you’re most proud to play your songs?

Perttu Kivilaakso: I think the most proud moments come in concert because if there are some very difficult things, in studio of course you have many chances to play it if it doesn’t go in the first time. But in concert it comes only once and if you’re a little bit... maybe nervous about it... "how can I do it here?" but if it goes well, then it’s "Yes!!"

Agata: So you prefer touring than writing or recording in the studio?

Perttu Kivilaakso: It’s difficult to say because the studio working is really interesting also, because we have played really old 200 years old classical song where there are the notes and you just have to play everything what’s there. But when you go to the studio with your own songs, you can start the creation from emptiness, just think what would be the next step to it and what the song needs more so it gives us free hands.

Agata: About "Path 2" and "Hope 2", who got the idea to put the lyrics?

Perttu Kivilaakso: The idea was from us because the band has made many co-operations like... we have been playing for somebody’s else album, but now we wanted to finally do it, that we have somebody to sing to our songs. Then we had a huge list of singers we would like to ask if somebody would want to do it, and then Sandra came, interested about the thing. Then she actually wrote her part herself. Actually, we were not together in the studio at all. She was in Germany.

Agata: Why "Path"? Was it the best song to put the lyrics to?

Perttu Kivilaakso: I think there were many things, for example we were thinking that "OK, this song would be good to this singer" and for example "Beyond Time" was one song that would have been great with some male singer, singer like Hetfield would have been great in that, but not Sandra. Sandra has got quite an aggressive style and "Path" is such a moving song! And she liked it also! So, that was the reason why we chose that one.

Agata: Do you plan on doing that kind of projects again?

Perttu Kivilaakso: Yeah, I don’t think that’s a bad idea! And also one interesting thing would be if we can have some other co-operator, not a singer, for example drummer or whatever!

Agata: If you could pick whoever you wanted for a co-operation, who would it be?

Perttu Kivilaakso: I would prefer to play something with Dave Lombardo, he’s a great drummer, and he has once played with a band in a Holland Festival, "South Of Heaven", and Slayer was also playing there at that time.

Agata: For the last two years, you have been touring constently, how was it?

Perttu Kivilaakso: Hard and heavy and quite tiring because we had so little off time here... Last autumn was three months of hell.

Agata: What do you do to have the energy to give shows every night?

Perttu Kivilaakso: I don’t know! It needs a couple of beers after the show and good rest! Me and Eicca went to the gym quite often last autumn... but not anymore this year because we didn’t have any power left so... But a little bit of sport helps of course!

Agata: How do you deal with being away for so long? Is it hard?

Perttu Kivilaakso: Everybody has a different kind of way to relax. For example I have to listen to the opera, that’s so far from other stuff... If I’m really pissed and tired and I miss home or whatever, I go to my bed in the nightliner and listen to some nice opera.

Agata: Do you often take your family or friends on the tour?

Perttu Kivilaakso: Yeah, this year we tried it. My wife was with us in the summer tour and Eicca was with Kirsi and his son. Maybe it’s easier because then you don’t have to be separated, but also it can be harder because then you have to deal with the whole family there with a hard situation. But I prefer it anyway like that, you don’t have to be separated.

Agata: How do you kill time when you’re in the bus?

Perttu Kivilaakso: Smoking cigarettes and talking shit!!

Agata: Do you get tired of each others?

Perttu Kivilaakso: Yes!

Agata: Do you fight?

Perttu Kivilaakso: Not really, but we’re arguying. Actually in our crew there was one fight, with fists. But only one! I heard that in other bands it happens really often.

Agata: So you generally get on well without any problems?

Perttu Kivilaakso: We have many problems but you can still talk about them, and of course if you are with ten men in a small bus for one month there’s no way that somebody could survive it without feeling sometimes nasty against each other.

Agata: Do you prefer to play at festivals or in smaller venues like clubs?

Perttu Kivilaakso: Festival things is of course great, there are a lot of people and huge stage but the most memorable feelings are from small clubs because there you have much more intense feel, you almost have a conversation with the audience, they are standing really near and they are our own fans, not people for some other band, like at festivals.

Agata: Is there a difference between Finnish or other countries crowds?

Perttu Kivilaakso: Polish are maybe the most crazy in the world!! But yes, there are really big culture differences. For example in Finland people are normally quite quiet and only drunk and very live then, but basically quite shy. In small countries this kind of thing... in shows people are acting the same, even if it’s not so wild and not so crazy. And in Germany... they are also more listening and more interesting about the things that are happening there, not only having so much fun. But then in Mexico and in Poland it’s totally different!

Agata: How do you choose the set?

Perttu Kivilaakso: That’s one thing which create really much problems with our tour manager because we always tell him what we’re going to play like 15 minutes before the show and he’s always praying "Can you guys, now, for this ONE time, tell me two hours before?" because they need it for the radio broadcast, that complete setlist, and we never have it! It’s just "Oh, maybe today"... like this!!

Agata: How come you leave out some songs?

Perttu Kivilaakso: The time is so limited!! We still can’t play anymore than 1 h 30. You can’t fit everything in and also... we have been playing in an earlier tour, with the "Inquisition Symphony" and in the first two years, so this was the time when we still like had to play those Metallica real hits and we wanted to play of course our new material. The set was like that but I don’t know what the set is going to be like on the next year tour.

Agata: What were the best and the worst moments of the last tour for you?

Perttu Kivilaakso: It’s hard to say because I don’t remember anything anymore about what happened then! The worst was when we started touring and the best was when we get home!

Agata: What happened to Max when Antero took his place in the summer?

Perttu Kivilaakso: In Rothenburg, in Germany, Max came from a bar quite late and fell from the stairs and broke his arm. He couldn’t do anything for two months. But we were really lucky that the next morning we called Antero and he was in his summer cottage, repairing his car, drinking beer. At first he said "F*ck you guys, of course I will not come!" but then, the next day, we had next show, he was there, it was amazing! We practised for 7-8 hours with him because, of course, he didn’t know our new songs at all. He had to study them and it was amazing how quickly he could fit in!

Agata: What kind of music do you listen to nowadays?

Perttu Kivilaakso: I listen to opera and heavy death metal, basically nothing between because I want to have those extremes.

Agata: What do you think about the new metal scene, I mean, bands like Slipknot?

Perttu Kivilaakso: OK, it’s a good stuff. For example Linkin Park is nice.

Agata: Do you think you will cover one of those bands?

Perttu Kivilaakso: Not any idea!!

Agata: Do you think that the whole Apocalyptica thing changed you? Are you the same the before joining the band?

Perttu Kivilaakso:Yeah! Maybe in that way now I can do work with that heavy metal also. I have played, just with friends, in school, every kind of types of metal music with the regular instruments. I think it’s very nice now, I enjoy that I can make many kind of styles of music.

Agata: Now let’s talk about the videos. Who got the idea, is it a director that comes to you?

Perttu Kivilaakso: Yes, all the videos have been that the director has three or five ideas and then we’ve been thinking what would be the best for this song.

Agata: How do you choose the songs to do videos for? Are they just singles that you release then?

Perttu Kivilaakso:: Yeah, actually. And then it’s quite natural to make a video for the single song. Now we made the new video for "Hope 2". That’s interesting, it will come to the movie... I don’t remember the name... "Vidocq"!

Agata: Is there going to be any tour without releasing any album?

Perttu Kivilaakso: I think not.

Agata: Even summer festivals, nothing?

Perttu Kivilaakso: Yeah, maybe in the summer it might be that we’re doing something. But basically, we told that we will have a whole year from that last august, one year off, and maybe during that time to make the album. The whole thing to create an album and then to make a tour for it, it’s so hard that there has to be some break and to clear the minds. That’s the only way to get some new ideas as well and not just to copy the stuff! We’d like to be creating!!

Thank you very much to Perttu that gave us a little bit of his time, and very special thanks to the whole band, for creating new limits to the world of music and for giving the opportunity to musicians to be free and creative.

All questions by Cecile Deruy and Agata Szabranzka
Interview by Agata Szabranzka
Video by Cecile Deruy

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