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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.