I had the great pleasure of meeting Tony at the Finnish Metal expo in Helsinki in February 2010, and got really well impressed by his intelligence and way of thinking. On this interview we talk about the Finnish music market, music business, the scene, and Sonata Artica´s plans.
Maila: You play in one of the most popular Finnish metal bands, always part of festival lineups all over Europe, touring worldwide. Finland is the fad of the moment regarding its metal scene and people dream about becoming members of a Finnish band, just like you. What do you have to say to these people? Is Finland really this paradise they imagine?
Tony: Well no... We just have these people who play metal, a lot, it is part of the mainstream which is not common in most of the countries in the world. Even our president listens to this kind of music (Tarja Halonen at that time), you know, it´s a big thing here of course, part of our mentality, and I think in the last 10 years it became even more spread out in many directions. Well, you have to be a Finn to get to understand that kind of thing. Of course this Finland thing we have going on here makes it seems like a paradise. I don´t know if it is, I don´t know how lasting it is actually, ´cause it hasn´t been like this all the time, everytime. Metal is no more this bad thing, it doesn´t reflect your rebelion against anything anymore, it´s a mainstream thing.
Maila: So what does metal reflect nowadays?
Tony: Good taste! (laughs)
Maila: And do you think it´s easier to be a musician here in Finland, not only a musician but an artist since it´s a country that gives so much attention to culture?
Tony: I´m not sure if the governement is providing enough help for bands and music yet. It´s getting better I think but in some other countries like Sweden for example, I heard they are supporting this kind of music industry, because this is an industry, it brings income to the country, and we all pay taxes, and high taxes here in Finland so it should be considered as a worth thing to support. They give support to companies and some of them have no meaning, they don´t get anywhere, and there are still some bands we have with a lot of potential to sell like hundreds thousands of albums and become something really substancial but they are not getting anything. And of course, it works kind of backwards 'cause the bands who ”are nothing” but have the potential are not getting any money but once you make it, you´ll be something and get support from everywhere, you know, getting free instruments, endorsements, it´s kind of hard. You have something to warn, here is not a paradise to start a band.
Maila: Then what do you have to say for those who are searching for the metal dream?
Tony: The truth is out there, keep seeking. I think sometimes the journey is actually better than to get there, you know, hunt is better than catch. Keep hunting!
Maila: Talking about Sonata Artica, what can you tell us about your plans for 2010?
Tony: Well, we started this year with a few shows in Finland, took the whole March off, a deserved vacation cause we hadn´t done it for a long time, than in April, North American tour, and then it starts to be summertime. There are the summer festivals coming and later this year we are shooting a live DVD, our second one.
Maila: How does your process of music making go with the band?
Tony: Ah, well, I wrote all songs for the band, except for two, so it´s kind of my thing. I sit in front of my keyboard or just start playing my guitar and songs just come eventually. I record down or write down ideas and at a certain point when the tour starts, and when I know when it will end, and I have some kind of schedule, I should start writing songs seriously, getting ideas together, adding something, it´s like going uphill, you get steeper and steeper because of the recordings. And I still sometimes writing songs while we are recording, like this time, Tomy, it was his last day of drums recording and I still gave him one more song to record. So that´s how it works for us. Ah, and never demos or anything like this.
Maila: For those who are reading this interview but don´t know Sonata Artica yet. Which song would you suggest them to start up?
Tony: I´d go with something from the latest album. Maybe ”The Last Amazing Grays”, this one would be easier...
Maila: And why the latest album and not another one since you have so much recorded?
Tony: I know but it migh give some kind of wrong idea of the band if you start, for example, with the first songs of the first album, 'cause we´re not that band anymore. So, ”The Last Amazing Grays” from "The Days of Grays" album would be a good starting point. And then if you are interested in something more complex, maybe ”Juliet” or ”Deathaura”, something from the latest anyway.
Maila: What´s your favorite album from your career?
Tony: Unia, which is a one of a kind album since it´s totally different from everything else. I was totally loose when at that time, you know, not every people really appreciated that but some did and we gained a lot of new fans with that album. There were some people who said that we should absolute continue with this kind of style but then there were some other fans refusing it, saying this is bad...
Maila: Well but it happens...
Tony: Yes, it happens no matter what you do. If you write exactly the same kind of album as you did earlier they will say this is the same album, you are repeating yourself so, I´d rather renew the band, the music, and what I do now and then, keep things fresh for myself cause that´s what it means. I want to continue writing songs until I drop dead one day and the only way to do it is always finding something new everytime I do something.
Maila: Unfortunately our time is up so please, leave a message for those who are reading this interview.
Tony: Well, thank you! And check out Sonata Artica´s music and videos from Youtube, our website and come to see us live, that´s much better, so much fun!