Interview – Paavo Lötjönen – Apocalyptica

After bringing the mammoth tour to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their debut album; ‘Plays Metallica by Four Cellos’, to its conclusion, Finnish rock band Apocalyptica turned their attention to the imminent release of album number nine; ‘Cell-0’. Going somewhat back to their roots, ‘Cell-0’ is entirely instrumental, and cellist Paavo Lötjönen was on hand to answer some questions about the thought process behind the album, once he navigated the Helsinki traffic that is.

Apocalyptica“I’m stuck in a traffic jam in Helsinki city centre!…but the days are shorter now and the sun is setting already, we have a little snow and it looks quite beautiful, so it’s not that bad”.

Sounds beautiful, unlike Scotland where I’m calling you from, at the minute the showers of rain are being interrupted by even more showers of rain! I hope the cell reception means you understand the accent?!  

“Scotland yeah? One of our cello techs is from Glasgow, so I have no problems with your accent!”

Excellent! Before we move onto discussing the new album, you’ve just finished a 32 month tour to celebrate the 20th anniversary of ‘Plays Metallica by Four Cellos’ – how do you feel?

“We try to keep the tour blocks to a maximum of four or five weeks, then we always take a short break at home to have a rest. We’re not young anymore so we need to take care of ourselves, not having a constant party!”

Now that you’ve put that chapter of Apocalyptica history to bed, you must be buzzing to move onto ‘Cell-0’?

“Yes of course, it’s an interesting thing, even doing interviews about the new material is eye-opening. To be honest, we are talking about our instruments and music; it’s like abstract art as it’s without lyrics so it’s really difficult to talk about. We don’t want to explain too much about the music and what it means to us. When people are listening to our music, it could create mindscapes and feelings and memories; it’s a totally different approach to our songs with lyrics. It’s more abstract.”

ApocalypticaIf you listen to an album with lyrics, then you come to your own conclusion what each song might be about, and more often than not it’s the wrong conclusion. But with an instrumental album there is no risk of that and, like you said, it can spark many memories…

“Definitely yes, music is just that. For me it is a time machine. If I’m listening to the music that I was listening to as a 15 year old, then it brings back the same feelings as it did then. Sometimes even the same smells! We are going really deep into your memory. When you listen to this kind of music you should close your eyes and think about what kind of scenery, what kind of stories that it creates for you. That’s the fantastic thing about instrumental music. Of course there are song titles, but they are just small hints…”

How long did it take to compose ‘Cell-0’?

“We started to compose the songs in the Autumn of 2018. I wouldn’t call them songs actually as there are no lyrics, so I would call them compositions. Some of them were created really fast, but some of them took a lot of time. If you were to ask a composer about their pieces of work then they would say that some of them came from an idea that’s been in their head for many years and not come out. The final result is always created in the studio; we did some early demos and some of the tracks on the album are very different to the demos. The creative process is always different, there is no ready made formula.”

Was it difficult recording the album when you were on the road for such a long time?

“When we are touring it’s impossible to record at the same time, so that’s why we didn’t have any shows at all from January through to March. We reserved that time just for recording, and we wanted to record in Helsinki because we had been away from home for so long. Even when we were recording, we were able to spend the nights with our families.”

Apocalyptica‘Cell-0’ is your ninth studio album. Looking back over the decades, did you ever think that Apocalyptica would get to this stage?

“I would say that ‘Cell-0’, and the process of recording it, reminds me of ‘Cult’, our third album. That was when we started creating our own instrumental music. The first and second albums were basically covers, and somehow by the third album we had the feeling that we had done the covers enough times. The record company was suggesting that we play AC/DC ‘Thunderstruck’! We felt that was just so cheesy! I’m happy to see that Two Cellos did it, and we are proud of those guys, but we didn’t choose the easy way. If we had then Apocalyptica would not exist any more; that step to create our own music was needed.”

Apocalyptica are due to join up with Sabaton in early January for an arena tour that seems to be going down a storm. It’s heartwarming to see that the dates are selling incredibly well..

“Yes! It’s fantastic to see that. We’ve already played one show together in Helsinki. It’s Amaranthe playing first, we play a 50 minute set, then Elize Ryd from Amaranthe joins us for two songs; she’s a fantastic singer. We then join Sabaton for five songs during their set. It’s an incredible evening with all these great bands and it’s really enjoyable and entertaining. That runs in January and February and after that we play our own headlining shows. First we will play some in Finland, then during April and May we’ll be playing in the United States. After that it’s a select few festivals in the summer, then a full European tour in the autumn.”

It sounds like you have a busy year ahead of you Paavo, thanks for your time, and hope you get out of traffic soon!

“Thank you, have a great time in Scotland man, hope you get some snow soon!”


Sabaton/Apocalyptica tour dates –

17 Hallenstadion, Zurich, Switzerland
18 Schleyerhalle, Stuttgart, Germany
19 Olympiahalle, Munich, Germany
21 Gasometer, Vienna, Austria
22 Arena, Budapest, Hungary
24 Torwar, Warsaw, Poland
25 Max Schmeling Halle, Berlin, Germany
26 O2 Arena, Prague, Czech Republic
28 Alcatraz, Milan, Italy
30 Arena Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany
31 Festhalle, Frankfurt, Germany

1 König Pilsener Arena, Oberhausen, Germany
2 Sportpaleis, Antwerp, Belgium
4 Sant Jordi, Barcelona, Spain
5 Vistalegre, Madrid, Spain
7 Zenith, Paris, France
8 Wembley Arena, London, UK
9 Afas Live, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
11 Sporthalle, Hamburg, Germany
12 Forum Black Box, Copenhagen, Denmark
14 Scandinavium, Gothenburg, Sweden
15 Hovet, Stockholm, Sweden
16 Spektrum, Oslo, Norway

Pre-order ‘Cell-0’ here

Interview – Dave

Live images – Becky O’Grady

Image on header – Ville Juurikkala

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