Interview conducted November 27 2019
Interview published January 8 2020
"We are not independent and we are not gods. We
are cancer cells of the world."
Apocalyptica's new making Cell-0
is out on January 10th and Metal Covenant were given some time together
with Eicca Toppinen.
Tobbe: What kind of stuff does Apocalyptica
come out with this time?
Eicca: This time it's an epic, fully instrumental,
very Apocalyptica album. It's a very interesting record and somehow
maybe related with an attitude to the album Cult , which is our
third album and the first one with original music. This time just with
all the experience we have gained during all these years, when it comes
to songwriting, arrangement, production, and sound. All that stuff just
brought into a different level.
think the album is a very colorful journey, you know. I think it's very
rewarding for people who want to sit down and concentrate. It's very
cinematic in many ways. I call it a journey, because that's what it
does when you listen to it; that it brings you imagination somewhere.
It creates thoughts and it creates visions and stuff, so. I haven't
found any album that I could compare it with.
There's no album that I would say "It's
a little bit like that. It's a little bit like this.". So I don't
know anything that would be kind of from the same territory. But maybe
that's only because I don't know enough music. [Laughs] But it's pretty
unique and a very high-quality product.
Tobbe: In a time where people stream their
music a lot, and also have their own playlists with one song from there,
and one song from that band, you create a 54-minute instrumental album.
That's kind of the opposite to what people would expect nowadays. Isn't
that kind of a bold move?
Eicca: For us it felt like it was the only move
we could do, because that was the most interesting thing for us. A couple
of years ago we did Plays Metallica By Four Cellos  - The 20th
anniversary tour. We had been touring with that for two and a half years.
It was fully instrumental and we brought it into the classical venues.
We played the first album first, in the way that we were just seated.
We just played the album from the beginning to the end. So we actually
went really back into the core and the very starting point of Apocalyptica
and that kind of gave us a new kind of perspective and, like, "We'll
go to find the Cell-0 [Cell Zero] of Apocalyptica.".
Cell-0 for us is the origin of everything in
the universe, because of the fact that everything comes from the same.
It's just different kinds of cell structures, where the Cell-0 is the
origin of everything. So we wanted to find the origin in Cell-0 of Apocalyptica
and to build the music out of that. And it felt very clear, to do that
we didn't want to have a producer. We wanted to self-produce it because
we know ourselves best. We don't want anybody that we need to explain
to what we want to do and we don't want anyone to explain to us what
we should do.
thing with featuring artists; we didn't want to involve anybody. We
just didn't want to involve anybody else. We just locked in ourselves
in the studio. The 4 of us + 1 recording engineer. We didn't play the
music to anybody and didn't get any feedback from anyone. We were just
focusing on, you know, what we want to do, and how we feel, and try
to making it exciting and meaningful. And then actually it started to
grow; the whole Cell-0 themes. All the song titles and everything actually
relate to our feelings of being part of the universe and being part
of this bigger picture.
We feel that the human race has kind of lost
its grip on that and kind of the understanding and the respect so we
have become ignorant to the fact that we are actually part of this bigger
picture. We are not independent and we are not gods. We are cancer cells
of the world. We are doing all our best to kill other living organisms
and forms of life. You know, for our benefit. Not understanding that
it's not actually for our benefit, because in the big picture we are
just a piece of shit in a universal perspective.
So we are not that important. We can be wiped
out easily. We can wipe ourselves out and nobody cares, really. And
everything else will grow again, you know, in a matter of time. It's
kind of something that we should understand, that we need to realize
that we need to be respectful for the nature. The fact that we can create
places like towns and that we can create digital worlds, and whatever,
is fucking nothing in the bigger perspective. And actually a very short
time ago we were still climbing in trees, you know.
But it's part of the human race that we are ignorant
to the history. We forget all history and what happened 30 years ago.
People don't even remember anymore. People don't remember things from
Second World War [1939-1945], even in Finland and it was a big thing
for us. So it's important to know your roots, and understand where we
come from, and to be in touch with your human kind, and therefore respect
all the beauty around you. And I think this album became some kind of
manifest of those kinds of thoughts. And with the music we want to give
people a platform to think by themselves and experience it themselves.
the song titles we give a little guideline to the territory where the
music maybe comes from. But not explaining more, because we don't want
to tell people what to think. We want to give them a platform to think
by themselves. Everyone of us has our own responsibility. We're one
little, little piece in this huge organism. And I think that's what
the album is reflecting mainly. In a micro level to the universal perspective,
because it doesn't change and the same elements repeat in all perspectives.
Tobbe: If people listen to Apocalyptica
for the first time, how will you convey this full meaning to them, just
by letting them listen to the music?
Eicca: The beauty of instrumental music is that
every listener can experience it in their very own unique way. And that's
why the music needs to work without any side story as well. But it's
like with every art. Like acting for example. When you act in a movie
or on TV, every actor needs to go inside the story for the role. It's
important to have it because that comes through somehow in the final
And I think it's the same with the music. You
know, when we have an inner story in the music somehow, that somehow
comes across without explanation. Not in detail, but instrumental music
shouldn't have details. It's self-explanatory in a way. And experiencing
music and art
We can still feel completely opposite emotions and
feelings experiencing the same music, you know.
Something that is very beautiful and light for
me can for another type of person be miserably dark. I've experienced
that once while I was doing music for a short movie, like, 20 years
ago. The director and I, our objectives were not the same. You know,
she was saying something and I was trying to do that and she felt that
it was so far away.
Again, if someone would listen to Apocalyptica for the first time, would
this be the record to listen to or is it maybe better to start with another
Eicca: This would be the record to listen to,
because what we have learned during these years when we were doing a
lot of those vocal tracks and singles with really great producers is
how to help the listener to listen. There needs to be a red line through
the song. The more complex the music is, the more clear it needs to
be. You know, "Where is the point? What's the attention point for
And I think in this album that really works.
Even after the first listening, you can follow up the music and you
can understand the music. But then, when you listen to it more and more,
there's so many sublayers and subcolors and feels that require many
times of listening.
Some of my favorite albums I understood by the
fifth listening, because it was as a fluffy mess until I got used to
the sound and got used to how the songs are going. But I think on this
album, for the first-time listener, things are actually presented in
an understandable way.
Tobbe: I personally prefer to listen to
this album through my headphones. For me it is kind of the right thing
to do, instead of having background noises and stuff, and you can concentrate
a little bit more and see the full story in a different way.
Eicca: Yeah, it's like that for everybody. You
know, when you have drums and vocals in a song, they take up most of
the space, and other things are just colors around that. But now when
we don't have vocals, all these little colors and flavors are telling
the story, and that requires more attention. And that's why listening
without interruption is actually necessary for this kind of music.
you listen to it in a noisy situation, especially for the first time,
if you don't know the music, it actually becomes disturbing. I wouldn't
listen to this in a noisy place, unless I really know the music and
know how it goes so I can imagine what I don't hear. But when I don't
know that, then it's just noise.
Tobbe: You mentioned something about unique
in the beginning, and I think many bands struggle to be unique, but you
guys don't have that problem, because you are one of the most unique bands
out there in the metal genre. So, how may that affect your songwriting?
Eicca: Actually it's interesting that you say
that, because I think with Shadowmaker  we tried to not be very
unique. We tried to be like others. You know, that's why it's a very
vocal driven album and the songs have a certain form. I was curious
to see how far we could go on that path. Like kind of ignoring the instruments
and just taking the songs, the sound, performance and lyrics
think we almost got a big loss with that.
And like I said earlier about the Plays Metallica
tour, it's was actually very important to come back to the roots, because
that helped us to see what people outside of the band see as most special
and most unique in Apocalyptica. We have kind of ignored that for a
while now. "Maybe we should actually take a look at it and grow
things out of that."
And that's exactly what I explained about the
Cell-0 thing. Because of course during these years we sometimes have
been a little bit annoyed that we are a cello band and we don't belong,
kind of. We are not counted in with the real bands sometimes, or whatever.
It's kind of like we're all the time somewhere in between, but now we
think that that's the coolest thing you can be. [Laughs] So let's put
our strength, energy and focus on that and make that even sharper, you
Tobbe: It's interesting that you admit that
you have looked back at your past work and created something out of that
and tried to build from the start, because most bands don't admit that
they are actually looking at their past work.
Eicca: I think as a human being it's part of
understanding who you are. You need to be able to reflect on the past.
It's a completely different thing than living in the past. That's the
most stupid thing you can do, to live in the past. You need to be able
to kind of see the facts.
more like try to see the facts from the past and try to learn something
out of that. That's how we can grow as human beings and understand ourselves
better. And as a band it's the same kind of process. To understand our
band better we had to look at things, like, from the outside. Like having
a therapy type of thing.
Tobbe: How are you able to get so heavy
without using the traditional instruments? What's your secret?
Eicca: We play heavy. The way that we play is
actually the biggest part of it. Cello has a rich sound. There are certain
qualities in guitars that cellos can't reach. The easiest thing for
us is to make cellos sound like guitars, but we are trying to avoid
that, because then why play with cellos, when it's fucking 10 times
more difficult than to play the same style with guitars? Why make all
the effort if the result would be the same? [Laughs] So the challenge
is how to keep it heavy, but still unique and cello-ish.
Tobbe: Do you think that people will be
able to create real cello live sound with computers one day?
Eicca: Hm. I think sound-wise, yes. Why not?
Because if you are nerd enough you can spent a billion hours of programing
every detail. I don't see the worth of it, but you can see big movie
composers in Hollywood have, like, this army of computers creating a
full orchestra. And it sounds pretty much real. So that seems not to
be a problem anymore, to imitate reality.
You know, [The] Prodigy did metal with computers
already, like, 20 years ago. But what computers can't do, at least so
far, and I don't see that happening in the long-time future, before
there's a kind of computer brain, like a solid one, is to create the
magic that happens in the performance, you know. And on a record I don't
know. Whatever can happen and it's a matter of who wants to do what.
But in a live situation a computer can't replace
a live player. And as long as the game is not completely lost with the
human race, people want to be connected with other people, and that's
the magic of a concert situation, for example. We connect with the music,
as a tool. We connect with all the people in the hall and they connect
with us on stage.
that's why I love to play shows. That's the only reason. Otherwise,
if it would have been more mechanic, why do it so much, and why repeat
it every night? Because the connection is not repeating anything. It's
like creating a unique moment once again, and once again, with different
Tobbe: About live shows: I come to think
of that you recently played a live show with Sabaton. But first, you recently
recorded, or re-recorded, a song with Sabaton, and tell me about that
Eicca: Yeah, the whole collaboration with Sabaton
has been very interesting. You know, Pär [Sundström], the
manager and bass player of Sabaton, came to see us on tour maybe two
years ago, and he told us about his tour and his idea that he would
love to have us with them. His idea in general was that they wanted
to create the best possible evening for their fans, and that's why they
wanted to be very picky with the bands.
But also, from the very first date, put us together.
To have us do something together. To really make it into an event. You
know, we have side projects, like we did a version of Fields Of Verdun
[Original version is on Sabaton's album The Great War, 2019], for the
first single. And then now we've made Angels Calling [Original version
is on Sabaton's album Attero Dominatus, 2006].
And we just played with them. We actually joined
them on stage, in their set, so we combined the two bands. We actually
took it to another level, because we had Elize Ryd from Amaranthe singing
with us. And actually Perttu [Kivilaakso] from our band is gonna join
Amaranthe for one song. So we are combining and the whole idea of why
we do this is, first of all, because we like each other, but it's also
that we want to connect fans of different bands as well. When we unite,
maybe it creates a feeling in the hall that every single person in the
venue is part of the event, and that makes the event very special.
So it has been really cool, because the Sabaton
people are super nice. Pär really wants us to have the best show
possible. It's not like "They can't have this and this light, because
then our show doesn't look so great.". It's more like "Everybody
should be great.".
Tobbe: And even if you guys do a great show
before Sabaton, people won't forget about Sabaton's show anyway.
Eicca: Yes, it's much better, the better mood
the audience is in. If people are excited when they come on stage it's
much better, rather than there is a support act that the audience hates.
So everything is built up really, really nicely with Sabaton. I'm super
excited. This one-off show in Helsinki was really great, in all possible
ways, and I can't wait to get properly on tour with them. It's gonna
be a great tour. It's called "The Great Tour" and it's gonna
be a great tour.
also: review of the album