On January 10th 2020, Apocalyptica will release their latest studio album, ‘Cell-0.’ I spoke with Perttu Kivilaakso about the forthcoming release, as well as the bands upcoming tour in Europe, and when they plan to be back in the U.S.
This coming January, you will be releasing your ninth studio album, Cell-0. How does it feel to reach such an exciting milestone in your career?
We are really excited with the release. Because after Shadowmaker was released, our previous album, we toured for a number of years. Basically, more or less, we went straight away into the anniversary tour, which was the ‘Plays Metallica By Four Cellos’ tour. Which that lasted nearly two and a half years. So it meant that we played some wonderful cover songs of Metallica, the way we started years ago. That actually gave us kind of the direction we wanted to go with this new album as well.
So we got the idea of going back to the roots of making cello-driven instrumental music. The entire concept basically grew inside ourselves doing the Metallica tour. We were kind of passionate about the entire thing. We wanted to self-produce because of that same reason. We wanted to have this feeling that now we don’t actually have to listen to anybody.
We wanted to make music that we like, and really try to find and challenge ourselves as musicians and composers. And, yeah, that’s the main ideas behind Cell-0. Which is pronounced “cell zero”. It’s the zero particle, a mystery. Not really sure what it means, I just know that it’s doomy and Satanic.
I know a lot of people here in the states have been trying to figure out how exactly you are going to pronounce the “cell o” or “Cello.” It’s been a debate among us to see how you guys are going to present this to Americans.
Yeah, but it’s “cell zero”. I think we need to pronounce the zero because otherwise, at least we stupid Europeans, we don’t realize that it’s not an “o,” it’s the number. (laughing)
Some of your new songs have an interesting complexity to them. Was it a conscious creative choice to strive for a more challenging and diverse sound?
I think the main reason is that most of this came from the fact that we wanted to feel liberated out of everything, you know? We didn’t want to feel that we have a need of certain composed types of songs. Then those songs just started to become kind of loner like, more progressive, and weird. I think from the beginning it was really obvious that most of the songs felt like they were like paintings.
They are paintings that we are creating that tell certain types of stories. Many of the song titles existed already during the composing and demo sessions. For example, ‘Beyond the Stars.’
It started to feel like it’s kind of an epitaph for humankind. It felt like it has to be the end. Like we are sending a message by satellite which travels in outer space long after we already are gone from this planet. I have been actually very anxious when thinking about the planet, when thinking that the shape conditions of the planet that we humans treat everything here.
Those kind of worries. I think they became quite a lot of inspiration to the songs. Therefore, I think with Cell-0, we were thinking that it is kind of a God Particle or something that doesn’t exist.
But everybody should have, and we hope, that people would find their inner Cell-0 and understand that we need to take better care of each other and the planet. So in a certain way, I think the Cell-0 albums concept is quite dramatic. We destroy everything, we put a nuclear bomb out in the first song, which brings everything into ashes.
Then we started try to rise everything, or make our own evolution again to create a better picture of ourselves. And I hope that these are the kind of ideas that the listener could understand as well. Which, It’s kind of complex to explain.
I like how you compared the songs to painting. It’s artistic, it encompasses all artistic aspects. So you’re not just focusing on the audio, you’re thinking about visual elements as well. You just recently released those first singles, “Ashes of the Modern World,” and “Rise,” as you mentioned, and I think these tracks seem like they represent the rest of the record very well.
Yeah, I think they are good examples about the different aspects of the album. Have you heard the whole album or just those two tracks?
I’ve heard the whole album.
Brilliant. So we spared a couple of the more complex tracks. We want people to only hear those from the album. For the first released singles, it’s always kind of tricky what to choose. We wanted to talk about using ‘Ashes of the Modern World’. Since the very first demo, it felt like something that’s an opener.
The first thing I thought was this song has to be the first song of our concerts, kind of entrance music. So in the end it found its place as the first track of the album. That was also the same reason why we chose it to be released first, kind of an introduction to this new modern Apocalyptica sound. We are very happy that we had the chance to work with one of the greatest mixing engineers in the world.
And so it’s thrilling how good the album sounds, even though we are talking about weird cellos. So I think all of us are very happy about the final result. It’s so exciting to get to play those songs live and in concerts. I think during the making of the album, we already had all of theses ideas for the stage setup, and what should be on the video screens.
I think it’s really exciting that you have a story without words, that tells so much. Of course, we hope that everybody who listen to it can feel their own flavors, own stories in there, but we want to guide them a little bit. It would be wonderful if people listen to this music and consider, “How do I live? What is my legacy? What do I leave behind?” and “Do I just destroy theses little particles?”
Everything is created from those tiny little pieces of cells or atoms. So, we humans, we maybe have a chance either to create, to heal, or destroy, and those choices, they are the difficult ones we have to make.
I think that’s what sets us apart from other animals as well. Is that conscious decision-making.
Yeah, it’s not only about the animal instinct. Even though at times it feels like that’s just what people follow.
So it’s like with this album and the live shows, you’re going to be lighting a path, but not leading. You’re going to light the path for people to kind of discover what they need to do with themselves? In terms of what direction and approach they’re going to take with their path in life, and in terms of taking care of the earth.
I think it definitely would be great. Then people should consider a bit more, I would say. It wouldn’t do any harm to anyone to consider just a little bit of how we consume, how we live, and we we do with those the possibilities. And of course, I don’t want to be and sound like somebody who is horrible in consuming stuff. That probably is the reason, because for me, the most important thing has been that I started to self-criticize myself and my own actions. I felt like, “Oh, shit, can I do better than this?”
From those kind of aspects, at some point in your life you realize like, “I’m not a good example,” because of flying so much, which is horrible. This profession is, you know, killing everybody. We just have to travel everywhere and play our cellos and it’s a horrible natural disaster. I mean, when you consider try to be better, that’s already quite a big step.
So it’s just making the conscious decision to try to be a better person.
With Apocalyptica, you have pioneered a very special sound and there are many artists who are trying to follow in your footsteps. How does it feel to be such an influential act?
I’m honored if you say so! I don’t know about how big of an impact we have had, like with really influencing bands. But of course happy to hear those kind of things. There are many times when younger cellists or people who play say that they started to play this instrument because they heard us play back in the day, and that feels lovely. It’s amazing. It’s great to hear that if we have managed to do something that encourages people to grab whatever instrument, it doesn’t have to be a cello, and actually it would be even better to take something else other than the cello, because cello is so horrible. (laugh)
It’s a heavy instrument and I always suffered while carrying it. But, no, the cello is a lovely instrument. It has so many possibilities. I think we have shown that it works even as a heavy metal instrument. You can play the most beautiful stuff with it. So it really is a great instrument in that sense.
But that’s some of the best feedback you can get, which is that your work encourages others to play music. I think that’s a great thing. When someone plays music, It creates good vibes in the universe. So of course it is like food for soul. And, yeah, there are definitely worse things than playing music.
Yeah, there could be a lot worse things. I think there needs to be more music in schools, and it should be something that should be available to more people! I also wanted to talk about how this past spring, you worked with Sabaton and released a cover of “Fields of Verdun” before their own version was even released. So how did this come about and what was it like working with them?
The Sabaton guys are absolutely lovely. The Swedish people are our neighbors! Pär had a great idea, and he wanted to try something really different, which was that they announced a new single and whenever people went to watch the new Sabaton single, it was actually performed by another band.
I think that idea was so crazy, and it worked. Because it was a surprise, especially in Scandinavia and in Europe, we got lots of attention and of course naturally Sabaton fans who didn’t know about Apocalyptica before, they were checking it out and were like “what the hell is this shit? I was promised some good Swedish metal but instead I get this shit?!” (Laughing)
But I’m sure that we found some new listeners for ourselves, but also probably brought some other people to Sabaton. The great thing here is that we are going on tour together. We are playing our first ice hockey arena in concert Saturday in Finland. And next January and February we are touring all over the Europe with Sabaton.
I think it’s not the most typical match for ourselves, but it’s an exciting thing. I think the Scandinavian connection, the mood, and the feeling of the guys, and they are hilarious. I’m loving the things they are doing so it’s going to be great.
Do you have a tour slated for the U.S.?
We actually are announcing our US tour I think, tomorrow.
Oh, that’s awesome! Will you be coming to Detroit?
Not Detroit this time. I have some have great memories there, and once I broke my wrist in Pontiac just next to Detroit, so was an experience.
I was just shooting there last night. That’s an unfortunate place to break a wrist at, in Pontiac.
I remember it well. I went to the emergency room in the morning, and had to wait for maybe seven hours. I was little worried about how we were going to manage with the tour. But of course, I’m now realizing that there were people who know either overdose, or they were stabbed, or shot. Then I realized that, yeah, my little wrist is probably not the biggest thing in here that they have to take care of. There were people there that needed more help than me.
Well, you seem like you have very big heart and a very kind soul.
No. That’s just illusion. I’m honestly just an asshole. (laughing)
Well, I’m looking forward to you guys coming to the State’s. I grew up listening to classical music, and I was as a ballet dancer. So it’s nice to hear. It’s a different take on classical music and I think that it’s opening up like you said. It’s introducing new instruments and some new sounds to different people. Like when you’re with Sabaton, you’re kind of mixing genres and people are able to explore and find new music and that’s really exciting. It’s something that brings people together.
Thank you. And actually I do feel like this is a duty of the band because we are so in between of those two worlds. So I feel likes it our duty to show the kind of funny, sweaty, brutal side of heavy metal music to people who never heard about those styles. Like the classical listeners and also the beauty of classical music to the heavy metal festival people. So it I think those contrasts is what makes the most fun out of this. You can hopefully effect people a little bit by opening their eyes and mind to different stuff.
I have to confess that I was so narrow-minded in childhood. I never listened to anything else other than classical music. Then when I fell in love with bands like Skid Row, Judas Priest, and Metallica, I was a pure Metalhead for 15 years. I listened to nothing else other than Carcass and, you know, black metal. But nowadays I’m enjoying it all so much. There is so much great music in all the genres and the world is full of wonderful music. Video game soundtracks, or movie soundtracks, they have great symphonies or great symphonic metal bands. Or even techno or whatever.
I think it’s really different colors that gives much to life if you are not restricting it. I think the world has opened a little bit. I would say that people are not so strict any more.
Yeah, simply just sticking to one one genre of music and not going outside of that, not experimenting or opening up to the possibility of any other type of music.
Exactly. And of course, you can choose the one that is your thing, but there is no harm in stepping out of that circle and taste. Then you have an opinion. Either you like Blues or you don’t. But you can’t really say anything about it if you never went to a concert or listen to any albums. So that’s the thing. People seem to have many opinions about things they didn’t even check out and that’s kind of dull.
It really is. And it was so nice to talk to you. Is there anything that you would like to say to your fans or anything else that you would like to add?
I’d have to praise my bandmates. It’s incredible that after like 23 years to stay in such a good mood with the people you are working with. They really feel like brothers. That’s why I would consider that being the biggest achievement. Working so intensively, but we always thought that this brotherhood of friendship is the most important thing to take care of. That really reflects for everything you do. Which is for the music and the passion.
You have a common goal. It’s great to get the chance to make an album and play it to our audience which is fantastic. I think it’s incredible because, if I’m once again being honest, there have been difficult times. Just like in any relationship, we have our uphills and downhills. But I am really thankful that we can be there, and we still have the audience that sticks with us. It’s amazing to get this chance and I love it, and couldn’t imagine anything else at the moment that I’d rather do. So we are very happy and waiting for the tour next May, and once again in the States, we hope to see everybody in Detroit. We love you guys!
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