Interview Sonata Arctica: Tony Kakko

Artiest: Sonata Arctica

Geïnterviewde: Tony Kakko

Label: Nuclear Blast

Ter ere van het nieuwe album 'The Ninth Hour' dat op 7 oktober uitkomt onder Nuclear Blast, schotelden we Sonata Arctica zanger Tony Kakko heel wat vragen voor. De vriendelijke man beantwoordde ze een voor een vanuit zijn luie stoel in Finland.

Hello Tony, how are you doing today?

Doing fine, thank you for asking. A bit gray day weather wise, but suppose it only makes the next sunny day sunnier.

Are you excited for the new album release?


I already said about the previous album that it sounded like the happiest Sonata Arctica album ever made, but I have to repeat myself for ‘The Ninth Hour’! What do you think?

Well, wow, I don’t know. Musically I suppose it’s rather happy at many points, but lyrically it’s somewhat on the serious side. But then again, many of our albums are, so suppose on the average this is sort of a happy album. Interesting. I frankly need to reflect this thought a bit. Thanks!

Most of the songs seem driven on keyboard this time, it sounds more overwhelming than the other instruments and is more present than on previous songs. Do you agree? Was this a conscious choice?

Suppose that comes naturally, as I write all the songs with keyboards. Overwhelmingly vast majority anyway. We always were a keyboard driven band. An equal 50/50 with guitar at best.

Can you explain to us the title of the album and the story that is behind it?

On the cover, the background and forefront we have this utopian future, when all things nature and human with all our technology are in harmony, balance. The future we can have. Unless…the main object on the cover is this hour-glass contraption, with dystopia on the left side “cup”, with no nature left, us suffering. On the right side we have only nature, that’s had a chance to heal itself. We’ve annihilated ourselves. Underneath all that we have a wheel with arrow, which represents all things we’re doing to destroy this planet of ours, our only home. Every act of polluting and destruction is equal to meddling with that wheel. Eventually it will cause the hour glass to tilt in one or another direction, choosing one of those to us so unfortunate alternatives for the utopia. So it’s heavily environmental.

The name then, it sounds biblical, but that’s not my meaning here. I just took this one phrase from the bible, regarding the ninth hour and it is something like this: “On the ninth hour God only wants us to sacrifice and to repent.” I feel it is the same thing with us and this Earth. We need to make sacrifices, small and large, to allow the environment, this planet, to survive us. And in many cases we already should repent, be sorry. We’ve destroyed already so many things we can’t get back. That’s it pretty much.

Can we go deeper into the artwork? We see a lot of things, the wolf, a woman with a red umbrella… Who is she and why a red umbrella?

She is just a human, who still has a heart and will to live. But the past generations have made it extremely different. She is your daughter or your grand daughter… At the bottom there is a futuristic city in the middle of nature.It represents that the utopia we should aim at.

All of this is connected to the big tree and the what seem to be clock mechanics, can you explain?

Plain and simple the hourglass needed a stand. Nothing more to it, really. Decorated, fitting the style.

How did the recording process go this time? Any difference with previous recording sessions?

Oh good grief it was different this time! 'Pariah’s Child' was a nice, easy going thing, with all the songs ready way before entering the studio, time to rehearse and even record demos. With 'The Ninth Hour' none of that was so. It was an extremely intense 3to 5 months from writing songs, through recording, mixing and finally mastering. I’d prefer the 'Pariah’s Child' style the next time.

White Pearl, Black Oceans has made its return. Was it the right time to continue this story/series?

Suppose it was, since it happened. You guestioning that? Haha! It’s been brewing for a good while. Happy I got it finally done. But I don’t see myself continuing this any further. Two part story is enough. next something new.

I get a folky mountain vibe with We Are What We Are, or it even reminds me of recent Nightwish melodies. Where did this influence come from?

Some parts of this song are years and years old, some more recent. Anyway, I had the song ready sometime last year already. As usual, the music came first. Lyrics much later. I suppose nature was my inspiration from the get go in some ways. How we could do many things to make things better, but ultimately fall short on those good intentions because of a very fundamental error in our making: Greed.  Troy from Nightwish actually plays the whistle on this one.

The album really ends in closure as the title mentions, Closure to an Animal. How did you get this idea?

Well, the song is actually called On The Faultline. The closure part is just an addition, underlining the fact that this last song and the album opener Closer to an Animal are basically the same song, approaching a different theme in a very different way, but still…many of the melodies are the same. I actually wrote this slower version already some years back, but it never found a right place. I was considering giving it away for someone else to sing, until one day I came up with this more metal approach version of the same song. The only way I could use both versions was to put them on the same album and in some way underline the similarity. Personally I like this slower version better. Original is always original. But anyway I think having them both on the album kinda binds this whole album together.

Soon you’ll be touring Europe again. Will you still play some old songs or will you fully focus on the new album and recent hits? What songs of ‘Pariah’s Child’ will you keep, any idea yet?

We’ll play both, naturally. Quite a few new ones, of course, but also re-introducing some “forgotten” songs from older albums. So the setlist will change a lot from the last years. One song making a comeback after 14 years is The Power of One from our second album 'Silence'. Such changes. What 'Pariah's Child' songs… well, at least The Wolves die young.

Belgium is again not included in the tour dates so far. Any idea when we can expect a Belgian show?

Yeah, this first leg in Europe is such a stub, very short, because we already had this  seven week North American tour booked well over a year ago. But we’ll be back in February touring Europe again for seven weeks. Not 100% sure, but I believe Belgium will be part of that tour. Have not actually seen the final dates, but they’ll be announced soon. Keep your fingers crossed!