Apocalyptica Turns the Page: A Conversation with Perttu Kivilaakso

It’s hard to believe that Finnish cello metal savants Apocalyptica are already on their third decade… But this year marks their 22nd as a band and last week saw...

It’s hard to believe that Finnish cello metal savants Apocalyptica are already on their third decade… But this year marks their 22nd as a band and last week saw the release of their eighth studio album, Shadowmaker.  The album marks a new chapter in the band.  Although they’re known for the plethora of guest vocalists who have taken lead vocalists on individual tracks throughout the years (including all-stars of rock vocals, like Cristina Scabbia, Corey Taylor, Gavin Rossdale, and Max Cavalera), for Shadowmaker they’ve taken on Franky Perez (best known as former guitarist for Scars on Broadway) as their full-time vocalist.  Apocalyptica are currently on tour with Nikki Sixx’s Sixx:A.M. and will find themselves on the stage of the Electric Factory this Tuesday, April 28th.  I recently got a chance to chat with Apocalyptica co-founder Perttu Kivilaakso, who told me about what they’re hoping for in this new chapter of the group.

Izzy Cihak: Since this is a Philadelphia-based publication, I have to ask:  What are your thoughts on the city?  Any particular favorite experiences?  You’ve played here a number of times over the years.

Perttu Kivilaakso: We’ve been many times in Philly, as we have toured all across the states pretty intensively in the last ten years… Actually, it also has been one of the rare cities I have had time to walk around a bit, so I remember some parts of the town (which is an exception, as I usually see only the loading docks and backstages of the venues). Beautiful city.

Izzy: You recently kicked off a tour with Sixx:A.M.  How has that experience been so far?  Were you previously fans of Nikki’s work?

Perttu: I hadn’t actually heard Sixx:A.M. before this tour but now have checked out a few of their sets and I have really fell into their music. It is done with great passion, just as we try to do ours, and that passion is always something I need to hear from the music that can touch my soul.  Nikki and guys being great people as well has made this one a pure pleasure!

Izzy: And you’re going to be playing Philadelphia again on Tuesday.  What can be expected of the live experience of Apocalyptica this time around?

Perttu:  We are very excited about the new album, new material, and that excitement can be seen and heard in basically everything we do at the moment, on stage too… It’s so amazing being able to get so deep in friendship and music-making, even after 20 years! This all, best ever good mood and love towards our work definitely, can be seen when we get to play gigs together as a solid unit, as a band!

Izzy: I see that you have a ton of dates throughout 2015 that last nearly through the year’s end.  Are there any cities that you’re especially excited to visit or any bills you’re especially excited to play?

Perttu:  This will be heavy touring for the next two years — we basically try to cover the entire world, much concentration in US naturally, but as well as Central/Southern Americas, Asia, Europe, Australia… all the places… Feels kinda cliché to say but I am actually equally excited about every evening, in every city… and that is only because of loving my life and music so much… I feel great and want to share this emotion with our audiences all around!

Izzy: You have obviously had a number of pretty diverse influences throughout your career.  What would you currently consider to be Apocalyptica’s most significant influences?

Perttu:  Musically, we are very open-minded… We listen all kinds of stuff, we all are also major music lovers, so therefore I think that Apocalyptica’s music is influenced by everything we have heard and loved, that creates the own musical identity, a mixture of different aspects… But also life inspires, the same way… For example, for Shadowmaker I composed few songs by thinking quite a lot of people I have lost in my life. Shadowmaker is quite a serious album as we wanted to dig in deep in human emotions.

Izzy: How do you feel like the album compares to previous releases, in terms of an evolution in your sound?

Perttu:  Shadowmaker is a very compact, fine-tuned, detailed album… We rehearsed, arranged, and tweaked the songs for weeks and months! Had proper pre-productions with the producer, Nick Rasculinecz, and when it came to the final recordings we knew already exactly what to do, to play. And then it was only a matter of capturing the right performance…I think this attitude can be heard in the record, as it sounds pretty amazing, kinda leaving no questions… Of course, working with amazing people like Nick or Greg Fidelman (mix) made us to want to deliver our very best as well!  Also the concept of having our own vocalist, only one voice throughout the album makes it easier to understand as a “band album,” not as a collection of separate songs.

Izzy: How would you characterize your current process of collaborating, of writing and recording together?

Perttu:  Me and Eicca did the basic composing work by ourselves, as usual, but this time we had even more of band influence in all arranging and stuff…  Also, the producer, Nick, gave us lots of cool ideas… We had a very clear vision how we’d like this album to sound already from the very start of the project.

Izzy: You’ve collaborated with a lot of really cool musicians.  Is there anyone that you would love to bring into the Apocalyptica fold (even if just for a song) that you haven’t yet?

Perttu:  At the moment, no, as we all just love this feeling having Franky Perez as our vocalist on the record and tours. We finally feel like have gained an on identity and feel of being a real band…

Izzy: And finally, what’s next for Apocalyptica, after you finish touring at nearly the end of 2015?  Anything you’re especially excited to work on?

Perttu:  Next year, 2016, will be equally packed with gigs, hopefully we get to do some new material meanwhile and can go to make the next album sooner than after too many years!


Band InterviewsLive EventsMusic

During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.