JUNE 11th 2015

On their latest album ‘Shadowmaker,’ Finnish cello-meisters Apocalyptica have brought aboard vocalist Franky Perez to tackle all the vocals on the album. In addition to ‘Shadowmaker’ marking the first with a singular vocalist it’s also their first ever concept album. As you know on previous efforts the band featured numerous special guests on vocalist. MetalTitans caught up with cellist Perttu  Kivilaakso while travelling to their next gig in Boise, Idaho. We talked about the new album of course, Perez joining the fold and gear.

By Ruben Mosqueda

MetalTitans: ‘Shadowmaker’ marks the first record that Apocalyptica has done with a singular vocalist at the helm. I know Franky came into the fold a while back for live shows. How did you come to the conclusion that he was the guy?

Kivilaakso: We sent out an email to different people in the music business letting  them know that we were looking for a singer for the next album and tour. You have to remember that at that time we didn’t even have a record deal in place. We received a number of  suggestions which we went through and asked the five (candidates) that we felt were the best fit to sing “I’m Not Jesus” and had them send it back to us. From those we asked three to sing a little part of the new song “Hole in My Soul.” Franky was clearly the most interesting singer. We are really happy that he agreed to come and join us.

MetalTitans: You brought Nick Rasculinecz on board to produce ‘Shadowmaker’ what was that experience like?

Kivilaakso: We knew Nick’s previous work and also some people who have worked with him. After having a chat with him we got a strong feeling that he was the guy to help us to achieve our vision for this record. We felt going into the recording of ‘Shadowmaker’ that we wanted to make it the defining record of our career and I feel that we have achieved that.

Nick is inspiring and great on keeping the mood alive in the studio. He also facilitates that everyone gives their best performance; because recording this album was all about getting the best performance. We also had an opportunity to do pre-production together, making sure that songs and the arrangements were right.  Nick made process intense and at the same time very relaxed. It exceed our expectations. I have to mention that Nick is one of best producers of this era and helped bring out the best in us and was able to outline where we want Apocalyptica to be at this current moment.

I think that we were very focused on ‘Shadowmaker’ and you can hear it in the final recording. I think all that extra stuff that we spent on the arraignments and pre-production helped us realize the vision of making Apocalyptica’s defining album. And it’s a concept record too!

MetalTitans: So what was the time frame in recording this album in Nashville?

Kivilaakso: We spent about two months in Nashville making the album and doing pre-production. It was a liberating experience. We were living in the woods which is where the studio is. We actually all developed cabin fever! (laughs) There was nothing else around us except the music...and rattlesnakes! (laughs)

MetalTitans: You made mention that ‘Shadowmaker’ is a concept record. How tempting is it for you to play that record in it’s entirety? I know most bands go back and play a classic album top to bottom but you have such a rabid fanbase that you could pull off playing ‘Shadowmaker’ and wouldn’t get flack that your contemporaries would get?

Kivilaakso: We’re playing in the setlist between 6-7 songs from the new album and they have all been very well received. I think to do an album from the top to the end is very exciting to me. We have been talking about this and I think we will do that at some point.

MetalTitans: what the writing process like? You’re not in a conventional band in the sense that you play cello exclusively. Do you write songs on cello or do you write on let’s say guitar or piano then transcribe it to cello?

Kivilaakso: I actually write the songs on guitar. Will sit at home fron of my computer recording song ideas on the guitar. I think if I’m looking at creating something that is more of classical peice then I will record it on the cello.

MetalTitans:  What kind of gear do you run your cellos through? The way you guys play you create these monster sounds that sound much like a galloping guitar.

Kivilaakso: Oh, yes! We use tons of effects of course. You mentioned the ‘galloping’ sound. The cello is an interesting instrument in the sense that it already has that ‘gallop’ to it naturally. It’s interesting because the more aggressively you play it the more it will sound like a guitar. On the ‘Shadowmaker’ there is a lot of natural cello sounds that you couldn’t believe it’s cello because it sounds like a wall of guitars. I think our sound is defined by our brutal approach to the instrument combined with the use of Blackstar amplifiers and some delay effects. You can hear that sound refined on ‘Shadowmaker.’

MetalTitans: What’s you touring arsenal look like? I know that guitarists carry several guitars while on tour. How many cellos do you bring on tour? Those things are massive.

Kivilaakso: While on the road we only have one cello per band member.  We only carry one spare in the event that one of the main cellos get broken. I like to have this personal relationship with the instrument not too dissimilar to someone that plays guitar. I feel that it’s very important that you learn to use the one and one specific cello in the best way possible.

Sometimes I wish that I could use one of my beautiful prized cellos for the acoustic parts; of course you wouldn’t want to bring those instruments with you on the road since they are valued in the thousands of dollars. We used modern day cellos which aren’t cheap either but in comparison to our cellos in our collections they are better suited for touring.

MetalTitans: You must have a large collection of cellos then?

Kivilaakso: Oh, yes. For the recording sessions in Nashville we flew in a number of cellos to use for specific songs. When you do something like this you have to buy a seat for the cello on the plane! (laughs)

MetalTitans: Now that you’ve tour North America several times; what do you like about North American audiences?

Kivilaakso: Fucking hell! American audiences are passionate about music. I stop to think I composed this song at home, I recorded it and now I’m playing it in front of an audience that is just as passionate as I was when I created it! Ruben, you Americans you’re not afraid to show your love for the music. You react strongly to the music; contrary to some European countries where people think that they have to behave. They are more reserved. I love playing in the USA because of the connection we have with the audience.