I still remember when, over 14 years ago, I saw the video for the Apocalyptica version of “Nothing Else Matters”; although I was surprised, and thought that the whole thing was weird, I also really liked it. It was nice to see people showing that heavy metal was not a “dumb” style of music, but rather a genre that gathered people from all walks of life and backgrounds.
Well, fast forward to 2011. Gone are the days when metal fans looked at Apocalyptica simply out of curiosity. The band has become famous and popular, collaborating with musicians such as Corey Taylor (Slipknot)and Till Lindemann (Rammstein). They tour constantly, with lots of gigs in every tour.
Today they play at Wacken, one of the most important metal festivals in the world, and this is what Paavo Lötjönen had to say.
MB: After 15 years, starting as a minor -even obscure- band, your popularity has risen dramatically. Why do you think this happened?
P: If you go back to the early days, we did it spontaneously, we didn’t have any plans. We didn’t even plan to make any albums. We just tested the waters with the first album and… well, it was a surprise. We expected to sell maybe1,000 copies, and it sold over 1,000,000 copies! Now our albums have sold over 4,000,000.
Although we’ve had a lot of good luck, there’s also a lot of hard work behind the whole thing, but still… maybe we were born under good stars.
MB: The 7th Symphony took 3 years, as opposed to your usual 2 years, to be released. Is there a specific reason why this happened?
P: Perhaps we were touring too much. We played over 250 shows, so maybe the touring was the reason. Also, there’s the fact that we had never played so many shows in America, while in this case we played over 100 shows there. Maybe that was the reason.
MB: Although at the beginning you were purely instrumental, later you incorporated guest musicians to sing your songs. How do you select them? and is there anybody you’d still like to work with?
P: Well, it’s a complicated thing. Every song has its own story. The basic thing is that we have to like the artists that are collaborating with us. It depends on the song and what kind of singer would be fit for it.
We have a sort-of wishlist for the singers we’d like to work with, including names like James Hetfield and Björk, but it’s unrealistic for us to try. Although we have a pretty close relation with Metallica, we have never even dared to ask… maybe one day.
MB: Back in your early days, how did your fellow cello musicians, react when you said “We wanna play metal!”
P: In those first 3 years we played only a couple of times a year, and it was a lot of fun. Our fellow musicians liked it and that we were having fun with it. They were the ones telling us that we should make the album, even though were were laughing even at the idea of doing it.
MB: What’s your favorite song to play and which one is the hardest?
P: Well, there is a song that we’ve always played, maybe since our very first show all the way until today: Inquisition Symphony. That’s perhaps the most played Apocalyptica song ever.
And the most difficult song?… there are no difficult songs. Well, there are some difficult songs, but those are the ones that simply aren’t fit for our live performances.
MB: What are you listening to right now?
P: Everyone of us has a different taste when it comes to music. In my case, I try to listen to as many types of music as possible, from pop to metal and classical music. For example, today I started with Wagner, a really have thing for the morning… heavier than Judas Priest!
MB: Who’s your favorite classical composer?
P: Sibelius. A Finnish composer that is close to my heart and my soul and to the Finnish mentality. I like Wagner as well, but it’s not my favorite. I’ve played Wagner with the Finnish National Opera, where I played for a couple of years.
MB: What are the plans for the band now?
P: We will tour during the next year, then we’ll have a year off… and then we’ll think about what to do next. We are planning a South American tour for next year!
MB: Any final messages for your fans?
P: I’m really thankful for all of our fans, there are some long time fans, so I would like to send a special message to them, the ones that have been our fans for over 10 years. Thank you!