Apocalyptica

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Just a few hours before Apocalyptica’s show in Athens, Mikko Sirén stands opposite George Terzakis and Rockpages.gr camera to talk about the band, the new album, Metallica and his quite original drum kit. The way he talks and his body language are both full of energy, just like his playing. Something you might don’t know about is that he is a huge fan of… Asterix! Interview: George Terzakis, Camera: Yiannis Dolas, Editing/Post Production: OneManArmy, Photos: Despina Stamataki

Rockpages.gr: How did you come up with the idea to tour for the “Apocalyptica plays Metallica with four cellos” ?

Mikko Sirén: That was the whole idea of this tour that we’re going to kind of like celebrate the beginning… the roots where the whole band started and as the first album is just for cellos, nothing else. And we wanted to bring that exactly as it is for the audience and that’s why we have the fourth cello player even with us now on this tour. Normally we are just three cellos and drums. So, this time we have even him with us just so it would be as original act as the band was then. The second half is kind of like all the other Metallica tracks you’ve done before. We were so happy with this thing that we then decided to do an instrumental album. We are going to release actually pretty soon some vocal tracks as well, but they won’t be on the album. So we’ve kind of like wanted to make an instrumental album. We wanted to make one whole album, which is one entity with instrumental music and then on top of that we will bring in some additional music. So, we are going to actually release quite a bit of music within the next year. We hope our fans like that… And we are really proud of the product we have been able to make now. It really tells where we are at the moment. It’s as good album as we ever could have made in 2019 and to get the audience feedback… “This is the reason why I started to listen to the band”, or whatever the comments are, but the overall vibe is that people are really excited to get an instrumental album from us.

Rockpages.gr: How come there are no special guests in the new album?

Mikko Sirén: When we made “Shadowmaker” we recorded it in 2014. If I’m not all wrong then we were kind of like bit fed up with all this hassle… It’s never a hassle with the artists themselves. When we work with a singer or when we work with another instrumentalist musician it’s never a hassle. But,  when we do include the record companies, when you include the managers, then it becomes a mess. And then you cannot use his vocals in this period of time because we have other releases going on and it’s all these like crazy stupid  laws that you need to obey to and that was a bit tiring. So, therefore the previous album “Shadowmaker” was done just with one vocalist, but now with this new thing we wanted to be even more free. We just want it to be us the four guys that we are and we wanted to create music together. None of us wants to be stagnant. We don’t want to repeat what we’ve done before. That’s kind of like why on every album we do something new. We have taken in the guest vocalist or we have decided that we have all our vocalist or now that we are making an instrumental album. All the time you need to Recreate and express yourself. And that was the also in the very beginning. Like when they had done two albums with  cover songs. Eicca was fed up. He said that he doesn’t feel inspired doing it all over and over and over again. He wanted to do something new and that’s how “Cult” became. They just  felt that they needed to do something new and inspiring.

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Rockpages.gr: Do you have any idea how Metallica reacted when you released the “Four cellos album”?

Mikko Sirén: I think they were quite flattered or at least interested of the first album because I think it was the sixth gig of Apocalyptica when they were supporting Metallica in Helsinki. So, in the very early stage already Metallica kind of like showed their interest and their support for us. Ever since then we have performed many many times with them supporting them in festivals. We even got to play on their 30th Anniversary they had in San Francisco in 2011. So, we have had a really really good relationship with the band and they’ve been very supportive for us. And for us it’s always exciting to see what they are doing and what kind of music they are doing and we have even had a possibility to use partly the same people in making of albums. We have had the same mixing engineers. So still it’s a highly influential band for us. We have not ever thought that we would cover let’s say Black Sabbath or that we would cover something else. We haven’t had ever thought of that. Metallica has been sort of like in the core of everything and in the beginning, of course, we have done also covers of Faith No More, Sepultura or Pantera, Slayer or what not so fun to do a whole album of that at least at the moment we don’t need for that. 

Rockpages.gr: Over the years you have become a multi-instrumentalist. How did that happen?

Mikko Sirén: Yeah, I played lots of instruments in the albums… On the forthcoming album I play some notable by some keyboards and lots of percussion. I was studying at a Pop & Jazz conservatory when I was a kid and so I’ve been studying a lot of instruments and lots of different styles and still do but… of course this band is a great platform to play around and goof around and try new things… and like with the double bass… Surely, I’m not the greatest double bass player on Earth. Pretty far away from it. But in this environment we support each other and we have fun and we we try out new things. Like we’re playing all the craziest stuff in the new album as well. So it’s it’s always that thing. Like in music in general that we get to play, we don’t need to take ourselves serious while creating. Even though we do everything with our full heart and we put our all in but still there’s room for playing around.

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Rockpages.gr: How did you assemble your drum kit?

Mikko Sirén: It took maybe three months all in all to create it like trial and error… Mainly error! And it came actually from the need. Because, we as we aim to play mainly in classical concerts venues. To bring a normal drum kit over there is a bad idea. It’s meant for acoustic music and the drum kit is such a noisy bastard! If you bring that in more or less destroys everything else, so it started from the need that I needed to create something which I can play with full energy, but it doesn’t create so much… noise. Exactly and that is how it all started. I went to junkyards all over South of Finland gathering crazy crap stuff… I still have lots of those in our rehearsal room which never made it on a tour because they were just poor ideas. But that’s how you do it. When you don’t know then you just feel… I have those like suspenders, those springs from a truck side, and made percussion instruments out of those and it sucked! They were terrible. They look fun, but they make terrible noise. So I build all kinds of crap which never made it on a tour. Finally,I finished after maybe three months and then it was sort of there and then sitting for the first like the production rehearsals. Then I needed to define… of course with our sound engineer, because they are weird instruments, how we can make them sound reasonable, even though they are weaker than mine. All the time my goal was to not use triggers because we go acoustic and that was kind of like the guideline… Let’s make something real! So, we needed to put some extra effort too. When I was building it was just me and then every now and again guys come to the rehearsal room and it looks like a junkyard… The whole rehearsal room! and then they’re “okay, so this is what you’re thinking”. No. No, no don’t blame me guys. It’s in the middle of a process that don’t don’t blame me after that. It’ll be cool and in a weird way they like that as well.

Rockpages.gr: Would you say that the music of Apocalyptica attracts both classical fans and metalers?

Mikko Sirén: I think that’s one of the features of the band… our audience is so spread apart that we have like people from the truly classical world who are just interested of the instrument itself, the cello and how the guys approach it in a new fresh way. Then we have these metal heads who are just like fascinated of the metal approach of a classical world and everything in between. Also, we have audience from like 10 years old to 60 or 70 year old people and we are always really pleased for that thing that we’ve been able to kind of connect those two people or two groups or even three four groups together. Those classical music people they wouldn’t ever be in the same hall with those metalheads!  Never, ever! But, it’s harmony… and that’s the thing. Music shouldn’t never divide people. It should bring people together. Never mind what is the category of whatever… it’s good music, or bad music and we try to make as good music as we ever can. 

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