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26 tablatures for Sonata Arctica

Sonata Arctica - At first the Arctic Circle, then the world? - March 2000

The debut of young Finnish newcomers SONATA ARCTICA has hit home like a bomb. Even though it doesn't exactly shine with originality, it mostly received rave reviews. So what would be more logic to call frontman Tony Kakko and go into the past of this young quartet.

I think that despite the great reviews that "ECLIPTICA" has received so far, many people still don't know the history of SONATA ARCTICA. So could you give us a short wrap-up of SONATA ARCTICA so far?

The band has been formed under the name of TRICKY BEANS in December 1995 and at first we played mainly versions of SPIN DOCTORS and MEGADETH, but I was not really happy with those songs, so I started writing my own material.
The first song I've ever written was "Letter To Dana", which also is on our album. After that we have done a few demos. The biggest change in the band took place in 1997, when I first heard STRATOVARIUS' "Visions"-album. I really got into it and it really influenced my song-writing very much - and here we are...

How did you get your name SONATA ARCTICA? It's not a usual name for a Metal-band.

When we got a deal, a friend of ours, from Finnish magazine "Perkele", came up with the name, because it fit our music far better. The SONATA-part from the music we play, with all the classical influences and the ARCTICA-part from where we come from, the north of Finland.

Where exactly are you from?

Kemi, Lapland, near the Arctic circle.

You mentioned STRATOVARIUS as influence, were there other bands, too?

When I was younger, I listened a lot to QUEEN and MIDNIGHT OIL, but STRATOVARIUS with the mixture of heaviness and melodies really struck me and after that I found NIGHTWISH really exciting and I am really looking forward to their new album and they'll actually come to see us live next week.

Now you don't use the typical battle and fantasy lyrics that are so common within the Power Metal-Genre. Could you tell us a little bit about the lyrics of "Ecliptica"?

Mostly with human relations in their different forms, love and hate and then we also have songs like "Blank File", which is about postcards, when you go into a store and buy something, you have those postcards and somebody somewhere else can see what you have bought. Since then, I don't buy any postcards anymore, hahaha.

You are writing all the music and lyrics. Don't the other guys try to get their ideas into the music, too, or are you a tyrant, who wants to do it all by yourself?

Well, Jani, our guitarplayer is one guy, who is writing songs besides me, he was co-writer on three songs on the album, "Replica", "Picturing The Past" and, ehm, and... actually I can't remember anymore, haha.
But he's a very tough arranger, we all arrange the songs, but Jani has the biggest influence in the actual outcome of the songs from then on. But sometimes he just wants to be a co-composer.

So you write and he arranges...

Yes, exactly. We are the power in this band!

How did you get in contact with Spinefarm? They usually don't sign many acts.

When we were doing our last demo, a friend of ours came to the studio and we asked him, what he was thinking and he knows somebody from Spinefarm quite well and so we gave him a demo and he gave it to the people at Spinefarm. We never have sent our demos anywhere, not even to magazines to get demo-reviews, and also never to labels, we've been a little lazy about this, haha.

But still you had success...

Yes, it seems that we are really lucky guys.

Also your sound is quite uncommon for Spinefarm, which normally are more into the heavier/darker side of the spectrum.

Yes, but they also have sub-labels like Spikefarm, which feature other styles as well. They now also have the STRATOVARIUS-license for Finland.

Had it been planned from the beginning to do a two-track-CD ("UnOpened") in advance to the album? It's rather unusual for a newcomer...

Well, we were in quite some hurry to release the first single, the songs came almost directly from the mixing, because there was this Swedish band called ZONATA and we managed to release our first recording before they did, haha.

On the album I missed the track "Mary-Lou" from the single...

It was left out intentionally. It most probably will be our Japanese bonus-track and should be on a limited vinyl-version, too. I would have hoped that it were included, but Spinefarm didn't want to use the B-side of a single.

In April you will be on tour with STRATOVARIUS and RHAPSODY. Which expectations do you have for that tour?

Well, I only expect to survive somehow, because I think that it will be hard mentally and also physically, especially if there is something to drink, haha.

And it should be like a dream come true for you, to be able to play with your biggest influence...

Yes, in fact I HAVE dreamed about this ever since we started to play this kind of music, to be able to play with STRATOVARIUS someday somewhere, for one gig, and now it has turned out to be a whole tour. When we heard that, we all went "Aaah!", went completely bananas.

As you live high up in the north of Finland, do you have many chances to play live?

Well, we don't get many chances, because we are studying, so we can only play gigs on the weekends, but we'll have around 20 gigs altogether before the tour begins.
And also there are not many places, where you could play here in Finland, so if you do a really intensive tour of Finland, then it would take you around two weeks and you have played in every place you can play, that is one of the problems we have.

Have you been surprised by the great response you got for "Ecliptica", because I think with only very few exceptions you received only very good reviews here in Germany?

Yes, most definitely. We had no high expectations at all, so it has taken us completely by surprise.

With so many Power Metal-bands releasing albums, don't you fear that SONATA ARCTICA might actually drown in that wave, despite the good reviews?

I hope not. I trust that we have a bit more to offer than most other bands, something deeper, because many songs are not that great, haha, because they are not in it with their hearts and use a lot of technical tricks to play. When I write a song, I want to be able to play it just with a guitar and not need samples or a whole orchestra to perform it. I hope that people just notice it.
But there also are most definitively a few very good bands coming to surface through that wave that would not have had the chance otherwise.
What I don't understand is that people are calling us a pure copy of STRATOVARIUS, but that shows to me that they haven't heard the whole album.

In the past months some great bands have emerged from Finland, CHILDREN OF BODOM, NIGHTWISH, SONATA ARCTICA, and all were discovered by Spinefarm. What do you think is the reason for this, is Spinefarm so much different from other labels?

Well, they somehow are able to bring new talent to the top, to the attention of people. They really put much effort into their signings and they don't sign too many bands, so they can really concentrate on them. In the past that had not been the case, when they had 20 bands or so under contract, but they have gotten rid of those and are more selective now, they look more for quality, that's why they have signed us, hahaha.

You had mentioned that you are studying, what do you do in your spare time, if there is any?

Except for one we have girlfriends and what we all enjoy very much is playing computer-games.

Alright, to come to the end: What is your favourite question about SONATA ARCTICA that you haven't been asked yet, but would still like to answer?

Oh, that's a really hard one... One moment, I'll ask my girlfriend... (Pause with some Finnish discussion in the background) OK, she said my favourite colour and shoe size, those are things I've never been asked about yet. So my shoe-size is 42 and my favourite colour is yellow.

Well, with these ground-breaking insider-information, back to the news-desk...


1999: UnOpened (MCD; Spinefarm)
2000: Ecliptica (CD; Century Media)

Alexander Melzer

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