The last years, Sonata Arctica, one of the most accomplished metal bands of our times, is in an … acoustic … state of mind! The Finnish power/progressive metallers have released two acoustic albums and are on a long acoustic tour. Like it or not, Sonata Arctica’s endeavors are special and unique, and pique our curiosity. So, Myth of Rock tried to contact the band and finally, managed to discuss with the bassist, Pasi Kauppinen. It was a really interesting conversation!
by Dimitris Zacharopoulos
Hello Pasi, how are you?
Hi, I am fine, it is fall here in Finland and the tour has already began. We have played some shows here in Finland and we are heading to Europe. So we are back on tour!
So, there is a tour underway, how are the shows, until now?
Yeah, it has been really good. The shows we have played in Finland have all been in concert halls, they were not the normal electric shows in venues. It has been good. People have been sitting during the shows, so it is a bit different with these acoustic shows.
Sonata Arctica have released two acoustic album, “Acoustic Adventures – Volume One” and “Acoustic Adventures - Volume Two”. Why did you decide to release acoustic albums?
We started the whole acoustic thing already years and years ago. Even before I joined the band in 203, they had acoustic parts during their normal electric shows, in which parts they were playing two-three songs in acoustic versions. When I joined the band, we had some radio shows, exhibitions and happenings like that, where we could only have these acoustic experiences and performances. The whole thing went so good that we started thinking, “Maybe we shall do a whole acoustic tour!”. We started it in Finland, and then we brought it also to Europe, already in 2018. It went so good and people liked the acoustic arrangements and the acoustic shows so much that we talked about recording a whole album with the acoustic versions. But of course, we didn’t have time to do it in that period, because we already had that normal cycle of getting to the studio, then releasing the album and going on tour to support the new album … When the pandemic started in 2020 and all the shows were postponed or canceled and we couldn’t go on tour, then we started to think that maybe it was now time to hit the studio and do the acoustic albums.
With which criteria did you choose the songs, which you played acoustically in the acoustic albums and on the acoustic concerts?
Basically we decided together. We went to rehearsals, when we started to practice for the tour, and we decided together to release a bunch of songs that could work on live shows. Then we started the rehearsals and to arrange the songs we felt that would suit the acoustic form. Basically it was like that.
Which was your attitude towards the original songs? I mean, did you try to keep the character of each song or did you try to make changes to them?
It depended on each song. Some songs were already kinda acoustic or close to the acoustic approach, for example some ballads and songs like that, that didn’t need a lot of arrangements. We just took the acoustic instruments and started to play, thinking only a little bit how to change the approach for the acoustic theme. Then, we had the more complex songs or the faster songs, which of course we didn’t work in the same way. We started to play and hoped for the best, haha! We needed more effort on them, to find out what would be the best approach for each song, and often the final format was diverse from the original version.
People say that the acoustic versions are more difficult, because when you play acoustically, you can’t cover the mistakes. Do you agree with that?
Haha! Yes, that’s somehow true, but of course, I don’t wanna make a lot of mistakes in the electric shows as well, haha! So, I try to do my best all the times and in every approach, I try to do my best whatever song we are going to have. Yes, it is true that when there is an acoustic set, there is so much more air that you can hear the mistakes there better. I hope that we can avoid the mistakes, as much as we can, haha!
Pasi, were you involved in the mastering of these two acoustic albums?
No. Actually the albums were recorded at my studio, at the 57 Studio, which I own and I run. We went to my studio and recorded all the basic tracks live at the studio, all the drums, basses, pianos and acoustic guitars were tracked at the same live at my studio. Tony did some overdubs and vocals that were layered afterwards. And then, we have an outside producer, Mikko Tegelman, who produced the albums together with the band. We have also mixed the albums with Mikko, and then Janne Tolsa, from the band Turmion Kätilöt, was the one who mastered the albums.
So, you did two acoustic albums with Sonata Arctica. In general, do you like acoustic, unplugged albums?
Yes! Definitely I like this kind of albums, for example Mr. Big had released a really cool acoustic album - actually it was a live album, it was called “Live from the Living Room” (2012), and it had some really nice arrangements of their songs on an acoustic environment. You shall listen to this album.
After two acoustic albums, is it maybe time for Sonata Arctica to do an album with an orchestra?
We have been asked that a lot of times, haha! Of course, that would be really cool to do, but … ! I don’t know, maybe we will do something with a small orchestra, not a symphonic orchestra, because it is so huge and it needs so much effort and money of course, in order to hire such a big orchestra to perform the songs! So, if this possibility comes, we will definitely do it.
Let’s now go to your latest full-length studio album, “Talviyö”. How do you see this album right now?
I like this album. When we released the album in 2019 and started the tour, we managed to do the North American part and the European part of the tour. Then we had to do the Latin American part, but the pandemic hit and everything went down, all the tours went down and everything was cancelled. When we think of it now, it gives a little bit frustration, because we couldn’t do our job and go out to play. So, maybe we have forgotten this album someway, but definitely the album is really good and needs to get more attention. We couldn’t tour properly and everything was cut down, both physically and mentally, since we couldn’t work, we couldn’t do our job and perform shows. We shall give up with this album and start doing the next one. The tour of “Talviyö” has now gone. Maybe in some point in the future we will play it in its entirety, but I think this will be years and years later.
How would you define the current music style of Sonata Arctica?
Sonata Arctica has always had its own style. Of course, it has started as a power metal or melodic metal band, “Silence” and “Winterheart’s Guild” were pure power metal, more power metal than “Ecliptica”. The band started like this, but if you listen to “Ecliptica”, you will understand that this debut album already had all these kinds of elements, it wasn’t a pure power metal album, it had more complex songs. I think that this direction has been developed during the years, Tony Kakko’s songwriting has been developed as well. I think that nowadays the songs have more angles, when Tony writes them. Yes, our style is growing all the time, let’s wait and see what is coming.
Many fans of the band are disappointed with your change of music style. Of course, Sonata Arctica doesn’t sound like the way they sounded in albums like “Silence” and “Winterheart’s Guild”. What would you say to all these people who are disappointed with your style now?
Haha! I think that those years are kind of golden memory. When people have been younger and they have gone to concerts, all have been new and they have loved, have fallen in love with those songs and those years. Of course, the same thing happens now, even though we are not that young anymore. So maybe we have more experience and more mature approach for the songs. Of course we are playing a lot of songs from that era on live shows. And also, the new album has all those elements that we have already had, but maybe the general style has developed. And as I said, we are not that young anymore. Maybe we have more mature approach for the arrangements and stuff like that.
Have you started writing any new songs for your next album?
Yeah, there’s been a lot of time to stay at home, Tony writes all the music for Sonata Arctica and he has also had a lot of time, because we hadn’t gone on tour. Yes, there are new songs already written. I don’t know yet, when we are hitting the studio, but maybe next year we are going to record our new album and I hope that it will be released, until next year or at least early 2024.
Can you give us some info about the new songs and how do they sound?
I have heard a couple of rough demos of the songs, and we haven't started rehearsals or anything recorded for the album yet. So I have only heard rough demos of the songs. But if I tell something to you, of course you’ll have my opinion, it's only what I say or I feel now. So it's better that I won't tell anything yet, haha.
Pasi, how did you become a member of Sonata Arctica?
I have known the guys from the band years and years now. Henrik (Klingenberg, keyboards) is my childhood friend. We had a band called Silent Voices, we had founded the band in 1995 and we have done lots of shows and albums with Henrik, since that time. So, when Henrik joined Sonata Arctica in 2003, I began my studio career, I recorded and mixed some things for Sonata Arctica and then, I played in a band called Winter Born and we toured together in 2009 and 2010. So I knew the guys from that time, and when Marco (Paasikoski) left the band in 2013, they just called me and asked if I want to join.
Which is your personal favorite Sonata Arctica album?
Uhh, that's a hard question, because all the albums are special. So it's hard to put them in in a special order. But uh … maybe “Pariah’s Child” (2014) is really important for me, because it's my first album with Sonata Arctica. But of course, the latest one is always the one, for which you have gave all your effort and all your power to make that. So it's complex. So, the latest album is the best, my first album is the best and of course those albums, which started the whole thing, like “Ecliptica”, we have played a lot of songs from that. And “Silence” is actually the first album I heard of Sonata Arctica, it have good memories from that, “Reckoning Night” is a strong album also, so is “Unia” … , it's really hard to put them in order, haha!
You have never played with Sonata Arctica in Greece. Why is that?
Ahh, that's a good question. I really would want to come and visit Greece. I have been there on holidays and it's a really beautiful and great country. I have always liked the weather and people there. It's a really nice country, but … I don't know why …, we have a German booking agency, which takes care of our tours, Greek promoters have to get in touch with our agency … So we could come back to Greece to play shows. I hope that it will happen in the near future.
Yes, I also hope that! Pasi, send your message to the fans in Greece!
I definitely hope to come and play there, I hope that you all have checked out our latest albums. I wish everyone good fall, happy Christmas and having lots of fun with metal and everything!
Thank you so much!
Thank you, bye, bye!