» Henrik Klingenberg - Sonata Arctica
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Interview conducted November 11 2019
Interview published January 12 2020

"In the beginning of a tour it's easier and fun, but as the tour goes further on, the bus for some reason becomes smaller, smaller and smaller."

Sonata Arctica put out their latest effort Talviyö in September and as the band played in Stockholm a couple of months later Metal Covenant got some time in the band's tour bus with keyboarder Henrik Klingenberg.

Tobbe: The new album came out a couple of months ago and now when the album is released how do you see it differently comparing to when you recorded it?

Henrik: I don't think being released changes anything, but when we worked on it about a year ago, then of course it felt different than when we completed it, which was, like, in the beginning of the summer. So I think releasing it doesn't really change anything. But when you get it done it feels a bit different than now of course when we have some time apart from the music and the album. But it's still quite close to when we were working on it. So I think we still need some distance to properly evaluate what really happened.

Tobbe: Most fans say that an album grows over time, but for an artist, in what way do you guys see albums grow over time?

Henrik: The songs will start to evolve when you start to play them live, because first you play them as on the album, or you try to at least. And then you play them, like, half-different after 30 shows, or 60 shows, or 100 shows. Then maybe it's not in the setlist for a while. Then you bring it back. So all the songs have, like, a different kind of evolvement and they grow at different times as well.

For example, the songs we are playing live now are evolving all the time, but the other songs on the album that we don't play are still stagnant, you know. But if we start to play them, then they start to grow again.

Tobbe: Tony [Kakko, vocalist] is a keyboard player too and he writes most of the songs, so how much do you guys clash heads when recording stuff?

Henrik: It depends on the day. I mean, sometimes the stuff that he has done is really good. He uses a lot of software synthesizers and I think a lot of them sound like shit. So I do a lot of sound replacement when I play a part that he has written, with a different kind of sound, or with a different keyboard, for example.

But then he also tends to overwrite so there's a lot of keyboards all the time, so it's a matter of finding the stuff that actually needs to be there and then try to get rid of the other stuff, and that's where I think we clash the most. And then of course sometimes we have different ideas of how the keyboard track should be. [Laughs]

But I think we're getting better with it, and that's maybe because when we're getting older we calm down a little bit so it's not so intense and we can actually talk about it in a more reasonable way. Of course every once in a while it gets heated, but we at least manage to have a conversation that is somehow on a decent level [Laughs] and manage to figure it out at the end of the day.

Tobbe: When you're playing keyboards you're using your hands in a similar way all the time and do you ever get problems with, like, stiffening fingers and stuff?

Henrik: No. But sometimes I had that when I used a shoulder keyboard some years ago and played it really hard. I try to make sure that my limbs are warm when I start. I don't warm up, but if I'm cold I have to do something to make sure. I didn't take care of that too much and then I got a strain, so I needed to have some massages and take it easy and stretch a little bit. But that's the only time.

Other than that I haven't had any problems. I started playing piano when… Well, I was so young that I don't even remember it, so. So it has always been there and I've had good teachers over the years, so I'm pretty confident with me technique. It shouldn't be a problem.

Tobbe: What do people in general don't know about keyboard players playing this kind of music?

Henrik: I think a lot of people don't know anything about keyboards anyway, so. But that's fine. [Laughs] For a metal band it's a bit unique that we have a lot of keyboards. A lot of metal bands that have keyboards don't have them in such an important role and it's more about guitars, drums and vocals.

But I think it's a bit interesting, because there's a lot of different things to play. At least with this band there's a lot of space to do things. But still, keyboards are mainly just like spices and not the basic thing. I mean, with rock 'n' roll it's always about the drums, guitars and vocals, and everything else is just… You know, we're just here to spice it up and make sure it sounds good.

Tobbe: For a band that has been around for such a long time now, is it hard to meet expectations from the fans and the press all the time? How do you handle those kinds of situations?

Henrik: Well, we start with ourselves. So it starts with Tony making music that he's happy about, and then he shows us the demos and hopes that we like it. And then from there we start to work on something that we can present to everybody else. But whenever you put out an album, or you play a show, or whatever, there's always gonna be somebody who doesn't like it, and if you wanna focus on that, then it's just depressing.

So we try to focus on people who do like it and luckily there are plenty of them and there have always been. There's always somebody whining about something. You know, that's just part of the job. When you say "How do you deal with it", it's like "Well, we don't.". We focus on other things instead.

Tobbe: You know, doing album cycle after album cycle means writing music, recording, touring over and over again. Doesn't it ever get boring?

Henrik: Of course. But not playing music. That's not boring, but everything else. I mean, you can take any job and you'd do that for 20 years, of course, sometimes it is boring. Somehow people think "But you're doing what you love, so you cannot complain about anything.", but I think trying to explain what it's like is really hard, especially the traveling part of going on tour.

There's so many young kids who are getting excited and learn to play an instrument, and they have a band, and "We wanna go on tour. It's gonna be awesome.". And I hope they get to do it, because for example, in this band everybody who's not longer in the band has basically left or been kicked out because their inability to cope with the touring. That's how relentless it is.

And there's some amazing players that just can't be in a band because they can't handle it, so. It's a really tough aspect and it's really hard to explain. On this bus we have 13 people + the driver, and of course these are people that we have chosen to be here. In the beginning of a tour it's easier and fun, but as the tour goes further on, the bus for some reason becomes smaller, smaller and smaller.

It's very interesting, like psychologically what happens and how different people cope with each other. It's easier now when everybody is calmer, but when you're in your 20s there might be some egos involved and people have shorter fuses and stuff like that and then it can get really intense.

Tobbe: Will there be a live video or something like that out anytime soon?

Henrik: We have been talking about doing a live DVD at some point, but nothing concrete. I mean, it has been some years since the last one, so. [Live In Finland, 2011] For now it's just, you know, streaming some songs on Facebook and stuff like that.

Tobbe: What's the most peculiar thing you have ever heard someone saying about the band?

Henrik: Well, there was one weird comment when our former guitar player [Jani Liimatainen] was in the band. He used to dye his hair red. I think he still does that. Somebody wrote "I wanna have babies with Jani, so they can get red hair.". You read that and you go like "I hope you don't get babies anytime soon, because that's not how it works.".

Tobbe: Sonata Arctica has been active for over 20 years and is kind of midway through the music career and how do you reflect on the coming 20 years?

Henrik: Now that we are in our 40s we realize that it's not gonna last forever. But I think it's just important to focus on what we're doing now, and make it count, and then we just consider ourselves lucky and go on as long as we can. We usually have plans for 1 or 2 years ahead, but that's about it.

The thing is that if you make plans for too far ahead, then your feelings about some things might change, or you might wanna do a different thing, or whatever. And if you don't make any plans, then everything is always a surprise and it would be impossible to do this because there's so many people involved. So you have to plan ahead somehow. And also, believe it or not, but we do have lives outside of the band and that's impossible to have if you don't have a schedule.

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