Despite the early morning hour, Eicca Toppinen is in a good mood and obviously he is interested in giving this interview. Full of drive he pushed an armchair over to me so that he can hang around on the big sofa.
Eicca Toppinen:Who is it on the new "Rock Hard"-Cover? Ah, Slayer. Did they made a new album at last?
No, but a few festival-gigs. Counter question: Why isn’t there any Slayer covers on your new record "Cult"?
Eicca Toppinen: Hmm. We have played ‘South of Heaven’ together with Dave Lombardo, and it was really great. But now we wanted to try something completely new. The whole band felt like being on an expedition. An album with Slayer covers we would sell many more records for sure, but you shouldn’t make an album just for the money.
Beside the charismatic giant Eicca sits an comparatively slight and reserved young man.
Eicca Toppinen: That’s our new band member, Perttu Kivilaakso.
So Antero Manninen left you?
Eicca Toppinen: Yes. Antero always was more the "classical" fellow. He did a good job, but he’s more interested in playing classical music.
Isn’t it very difficult for Antero to get back to the opera?
Perttu Kivilaakso: No, he plays now with the Helsinki Philharmonic. I had a place there, and so we only changed places.
And how did you get to know each other?
Eicca Toppinen: Perttu was already our 4th cellist as we had our first gig in front of an heavy-metal audience. That was in December 1995. But at the time he was only 17 years old. So young and already such a talent. We just didn’t want to be responsible for messing up his career. Now he’s old enough to decide for himself.
Why have you chosen to play the cello of all things - and how did you stick with it?
Eicca Toppinen: Most people I know and whose parents told them to learn a classical instrument either were unable to appreciate Heavy-Metal or exchanged their block flute for an electric guitar.
Perttu Kivilaakso: That was never a question for me, because my father was also a cellist. I always wanted to play the cello and at five years old, I got permission to start.
Eicca was already nine years old as he began to play the cello, "and that is almost too late to learn this instrument. I began so late because the teachers at the music-school thought I was too bad. I needed three attempts to pass the entrance examinations. I must have been very bad, because it's the worst school in Finland. And I got to be the best student of this pissing school."
...and you write music yourself now.
Eicca Toppinen: Yes. I punish them! (laughs) Now the young pupils are listening to Apocalyptica and they only want to play our arrangements. I can imagine today’s lessons very well (mimicking teacher-pupil dialogue): "You have to practice these extra-boring etudes!" - "No, I want to learn `Enter Sandman’!"
Perttu nearly falls down off his corner of the sofa, from laughing so much.
Revenge is black pudding... (German expression which means that revenge can be very satisfying)
Eicca Toppinen: Seriously, Apocalyptica is very good for the cello playing kids in Finland. Paavo gives many lessons so we know how his pupils feel today. I always felt ashamed of playing the cello. Other kids use to come up to me saying: "You are playing cello?!? Piss off swot!" Since there’s Apocalyptica, the situation has changed completely. With our success, we ensure that kids aren’t teased any more. No, now they are admired for playing their instruments. That's really fantastic, because everyone of us had to fight very hard until we were accepted. If you have to struggle for your acceptance at school, you get other problems for free.
Let’s get back to your new album, "Cult". What kind of special effects are hidden in it?
Eicca Toppinen: With the exception of the percussion parts, everything was done on our cellos. Sometimes we shot them through some effects, but nothing else. The sound is so different from the other records because of the arrangements and my songwriting. I tailored the songs to the cello so that we could get the best out of our instruments. Then, we doubled many tracks, ‘cause we wanted a very voluminous sound.
Perttu Kivilaakso: There are songs we put on 64 cellos, but most doubled tracks are mixed in the background. Only one cello played live blows away the whole record, so we wanted to try to get out the maximum possibilities for the album.
There are two Metallica songs on "Cult".
Eicca Toppinen: "Until it sleeps" was kind of an experiment. The track is on the album, because we thought we were able to stage it in a completely other way than Metallica does.
Perttu Kivilaakso: We covered "Fight Fire with Fire", 'cause we had the feeling we could play the number faster than Metallica. And we managed it.
No, you can’t blame them for being slow.
Information from www.apocalyptica.free.fr