We recently did an interview with Mais Hukari, drum technician
(and acoustic reinforcement) for Sonata Arctica and gitarist of Alavala and Amoral.
Read all about it below!

Hey Masi! Thank you again for agreeing to do this with us!

My pleasure. Always fun to talk to Sonata people .

How are you doing?

Really well, thanks for asking just got back from Hungary where I was teching for Tommi at Rockmaraton. Today I spent some time with the acoustic Sonata material for next weekend’s gig in Laukaa.

Can you tell us a bit about what you have been up to lately?

Well as you know I have been playing 2nd guitar with Sonata this summer on the acoustic shows. Apart from that my own bands Alavala and Amoral are doing some shows and Alavala is preparing to release our third album.

Sonata is in the process of finalizing the new album. Have you been working with Tony on the vocal recordings again? If so, how does that work – does he actually listen to you?

Unfortunately due to conflicting schedules that wasn’t possible this time. We went over the lyrics and worked on those a bit together, but I wasn’t present for the recording this time around. Hopefully next time! And yes, Tony is a musician and one thing musicians do really well is listen 🙂

Is there anything at all that you can tell us about the new album?

(Spoiler alert!)
Yeah sure, I’ll spill the beans on this one!
Elias must have been secretly practicing his ukulele, because that is pretty much featured all over the new album! Henkka found an amazing 80’s Casio keyboard that he plays on every tune and my god, does the cowbell that is on every song sound humongeous! They really hammered that one home! And it’s mixed awesomely loud too! But fear not, Pasi did such an amazing job at mixing the album that the cowbell never over powers the killer pan flutes and bongos that are on the record! Well done lads. Well done indeed.
In other words: could but won’t spoil the suprise. It’s nothing like I described, I promise!

Sonata is doing some acoustic festival shows this year, and you’ve joined them on stage for the first time at Vaakuna Piknik. What was that like?

A lot of fun and a tad nervous on my part. If I was just a random musician playing with a band I’ve listened and liked for over 13 years it might have been terrifying, but thankfully over the years I got to know the guys really well and it felt like coming home in a way.

How long did it take for you to be able to play the SA repertoire?

5 days of very intense practice, one 1,5 hour guitar session with Elias where we mostly drank beer at my place and exchanged guitar riffs before the whole band and I went to a Steve Vai show in Helsinki. The next day we went over two tunes on the tour bus and decided that we are oh so awesome and we can just wing it on the gig 🙂

Can we hope for more acoustic stuff in the future with you on stage?

I hope so. We talked about it, but it really depends if you guys want to hear it! Stand up and be counted! Who wants it to happen? Would be great!

hen you’re not on tour with Sonata, you’re also a member of the band Amoral, together with Ari Koivunen.You released a new album in February, “In Sequence”. What can you tell us about that? Any plans to tour Europe, or did we already miss our chance?

There’s been talks and we have a budget for it so we’ll see what happens.

Are there any other musical projects you are currently working on or will be working on in the near future?

Yes, of course 🙂
Music, like language is a virus. (Thank you W.S.Burroughs) It just keeps spreading.
I’ll be in the UK in September working with Andy Willoughby on some improv-poetry shows. We recorded an album of that in Helsinki in June. Awesome stuff!
I’m also doing some film scoring later this year and really hoping to get Martin from Dark Tranquility onboard with that! We talked last week and it seems good, but…you never know.

Do you have any other plans for this summer?

Haha! I’m planning next summer now 🙂
If I have a few moments off, I’ll go skateboarding or read some books about places that I have been to on tour, but didn’t get to see 🙂

Any last words to all the readers out there?

No.
See you later crocodile? After a while alligator?
Fuck last words. We’re still alive.

  • Elias Viljanen - 08/11/2015

    On the 8th of November, Silent Voices with special guest Elias Viljanen performed at the Bosuil venue in Weert, The Netherlands. Our own Elise was there and took the oppertunity to sit down with Elias and have a little chat!

    I am here with Elias from Sonata Arctica and also E.Vil, your solo project.It’s been a while since you actually worked with E.Vil, how does it feel to get back into it?

    I’ve been with Sonata Arctica for 8 years now, so I didn’t have time to do E.Vil anymore, because we’d be touring and doing records and stuff like that all the time. At one point I had the time to record the third E.Vil album, that was back in 2009. Now we have a 4 months break, so when the guys from Silent Voices asked me if I would be available to do this tour, I was basically more than happy to give it a go. And at the same time I was also a bit insecure, because I knew that maybe not so many people are going to our shows. But I still wanted to do it, and this whole tour has worked great. It’s been an experience, and we met a lot of fans, and it’s been great playing with Henrik and Pasi. They play keyboards and bass in my band, and the drummer is Tomi Ylönen. I have been playing with him since the first E.Vil album, or before even that, 15 years ago. Tomi also happens to be the brother of my guitar tech Tero Ylönen, who works with Sonata nowadays.

    So you would say you are glad you’ve gotten back into it then?
    Yeah, I mean the newest songs that I wrote back then are maybe 5/6 years old and the older ones are over 10 years. It makes me think about when we played back then, we were much younger. And even though they’re still the same songs, with the experience of music and life we gained over the years, they seem to get a new life. I get a great sensation out of that.

    Okay, talking about experience. I imagine in all those years you might have gotten some preferences. What do you look for in a guitar in terms of looks, tone, and playability for example?

    I have been using Ibanez guitars basically all my life, but then I switched to ESP, like maybe 3, 4 years ago. When they approached me and wanted to do a signature guitar, it was the first time that I really had a chance to create my own guitar, with the specifications that I want myself. In a way it was a great opportunity for me. But yeah, playability. I need Floyd Rose or the whammy bar that is flexible, and basically I would go for 24 frets. Because usually Les Pauls and the older ones have about 20/22, or something like that. And I’ve been playing with a 6 strings, but for maybe the last 10 years, I have been using also 7 string guitars, so ESP has given me both. It comes handy, for example with Sonata. Tony writes the songs, and usually he doesn’t think of the music in the guitaristic way. So when I have the extra string, I can be more flexible for his writings. But also, if you play the 7 string guitar, it’s more heavier, or lower, more dark.

    So for your solo album for example you would prefer the 7 string, or would you say the flexibility of the 6 string?

    For this tour I’ve been using only the 6 strings. I have a few songs that I do with the 7 string normally, but I didn’t bring it with me because it’s just for a couple of songs.

    Well, we were already talking about this tour. You’re currently supporting Henkka and Pasi with Silent Voices, and does performing as E.Vil differ very much from being on stage with Sonata? Because you’re doing your own thing right here.

    Of course it is different, in a way, and it isn’t. Because if you go on stage you would always have to get ready, and be self-confident. But with E.Vil there is no singer or a vocalist, so I am in the center of the stage, I have to be the frontman. That makes it a bit different, but I enjoy it the same. I mean, during Sonata I enjoy being the guitarist, and I would say also that I enjoy being just the guitarist. Because now, with E.Vil, I am always in the center of the attention, but I suppose it’s okay. I mean, when I do the melodies for the songs, it’s like vocals for me. And then my songs are pretty simple. So there is like a verse, chorus, intro, like every other song. I just close my eyes and play, it’s fun.
    Since we’re talking about that, in what way do you go about songwriting for E.Vil? Are you using typical elements, or putting it in order?

    Of course my approach is more in a guitarist way. I do some playing on the couch while I am watching TV, and usually the chords come first. Then I might be humming some melody or something like that. And if I think I have enough good stuff, I go to my home studio or my computer and record the idea. Then I maybe start working on the drums, or start to make some details, like drum fills or a guitar solo, doodling around, soloing for hours…

    Then what is the most important thing when it comes to playing the guitar and writing music for you? I mean, you obviously still enjoy doing it, if you can keep it up for such a long time.

    Most important, I get a kick out of it. I mean for every person it’s a different thing what they enjoy doing in their life. For me that’s guitar playing. I don’t have a clue, you know, but when I pick up the guitar, I always have goose bumps when I play. I don’t know why but it’s been like that since I was 9 years old.

    So that would be the age you picked up your guitar? Did it actually start out as a hobby?

    Yes. Actually my father had an acoustic guitar, but he didn’t play himself, he played an accordion when he was a kid, and then he had an organ or something like that. He had this acoustic guitar lying around, and somehow he told me when I was 9 years old, “I was going to sell this guitar, but I am not going to sell it, because you will learn it. That’s a deal?” And I was like, “No, no, I will not do it by any chance.” And he just kept on going, kept insisting like “You have to do it.”

    Okay, he must be really proud of you then?

    I suppose he is, yes, but first I said no, and we were arguing for hours. He didn’t let up though, “Take the guitar. Here is the guitar. Take it in your hands.” And I was like “No.” And eventually maybe after 2 hours, I took the guitar and then he just started to teach me some basic stuff. He had a cassette and some books with basic guitar stuff. Then after I learned my first things with the guitar, I was hooked instantly.

    He might have foreseen that then I think.

    Maybe, maybe, I don’t know. I suppose that one thing I instantly realized is, I had a KISS album – ‘Destroyer’ – and there were these cool super creatures on the cover, and I realized that they are playing guitars as well. So if I would want to be like them, like I did, I could play guitar, so I could become a member of KISS or something like that.

    So would you say they are your main influence when it comes to writing?

    No, I wouldn’t say that. KISS has a long career and a lot has happened but I really enjoy their music. It’s really difficult to say because through the years I’ve been listening to different styles, first KISS, W.A.S.P. and Twisted Sister when I was maybe 12 or 13/14. And then I started to listen to Anthrax, Slayer, Metallica, and then after that I listened to Dream Theater, and Steve Vai, Joe Satriani. Music is inspiring to me, it’s not a general genre or anything like that. If you hear music that inspires you, that gives you goose bumps or makes you feel good, makes you feel sad, it doesn’t matter what kind of music it is. It can be disco or anything.

    So are there any specific skills or techniques you’re particularly fond of when it comes to songwriting? Or is it more of a “whatever works” kind of thing?

    I usually find myself tapping, like earlier Joe Satriani and Eddy van Halen, I like doing that. And I often play high notes. It’s like I find my inner voice, when I hum the melody, it turns out the notes on the guitar are quite high. I notice when people, my fans, my friends, my kids, whoever, hear the song through the earphones, they start to hum the melody. And I know that the music is transferring to them, like that is my point. But usually the scale is quite high.

    So you’ve been playing for quite a long time, we’ve talked about that and also what you would prefer. But are there things, technically or creatively, techniques or whatever that you find hard, or that took you longer to learn?

    With a guitar there’s always new stuff to learn. It’s like a never-ending story and you cannot learn it all, because we’re not machines, but I still have stuff to learn every day. I just enjoy music and playing, and then I know that I still have time, discovering new things every day, like the secrets of the guitar. As for technique, I am not sure. I mean when I was younger I started to practice the rhythm guitar like heavy metal riffing, like James Hetfield and stuff like that. That came out quite naturally for me I think, I didn’t have to work so hard. And after that I started to do the solos, and that came naturally as well. But you know, I was in a certain age back then, like 12/13, so I really enjoyed playing and practicing every day. But of course there is always a term for a certain kind of playing. You are sweeping, or you are tapping, or you are wiping your kitchen table, I don’t know. For me it’s like I just play the guitar. I’ve come across the younger guys, and they ask ‘do you know how to sweep’, or ‘do you know tapping’, or anything like that. And I am like yes, it’s a technique. What about it? I’ve never been so much into naming techniques.

    Your father told you to start kind of, you told me that. Is he the one who taught you?

    No, he just taught me the basics with the cassette and the book, but after that I did a little bit on my own. And then I went to some school every Monday and Thursday for a year. And I got the basic course there, and after that I went to some sort of night school for 2 years. By that time I was maybe 12 or 13 years old, and I started to find a teacher for how to play Metallica and Anthrax, that sort of thing. But I couldn’t find one, so I started to practice by myself. And by that time we were starting to form bands with our friends. There were a lot of guitarists by the age of 13, and we were trading ideas and stuff like that. So we learned from each other.

    So you partly got classes, and you’re also partly self-taught?

    Yes. Well I have to add that when we were teenagers, my wife took classes for classical guitar playing. She was there for 3 years, it was like a real school of classical guitar playing. She even got homework every week, and of course I just learned from there as well.

    We already talked about your signature guitar, is that where the E.Vil logo comes from? Or was it designed before that?
    The E.Vil logo is from when I made my first album. A friend I met in school is a graphical designer. I gave him instructions, that it had to be a tribal and it has to be guitar shaped, and it has to show my name. He did like maybe 10 or 15/20 different kind of suggestions, and from that I picked one and then we made little adjustments.I would say it became a very good choice. It turned out really good, and actually the shirts are really great as well with the logo and all that.

    Yes I would say so, too. He’s really talented.

    This one might be a little bit of a hard question. Because, well, everyone who writes songs gives a little bit of themselves in each. I am still going to ask you anyway. What would you say is your favorite song from E.Vil albums?

    Oh, well that is a difficult question. In a way I would go with the older ones. Some of the first ones maybe, because during that time the songs came really spontaneously. I would say… I’m not sure, maybe the ‘Evil Rock’ that we played also tonight, it’s like a bluesy rock and roll song. And the song construction is like the basic stuff. Basically it doesn’t make any sense, the song is not even good I would say, it’s just like a general blues rock and roll. But the song structure is like, it keeps on going, keeps on going, and I just play a little bit more every time. So in a way that is maybe my favorite.

    ⁠So your favorite is not even a good song?

    Yeah, it’s a rock and roll song in which I can play my heart out. And I remember when it was maybe 15 years back, when I play it now I am 40. I can think what this guy, me, was thinking back then when he did that song, so it’s interesting. But I have a lot of sentimental songs, and ballads and stuff like that, I like to play them as well. In a way it could be any other song as well.

    I am going back to the teaching for a little bit. I mean, we’ve talked about how you got taught how to play the guitar. But I was wondering, have you ever taught anybody else?

    Yes I have. As a hobby, not professionally. I’ve been giving lessons for a few young kids. For maybe a year or 6 months, something like that. That was just before I joined Sonata Arctica, and then I had to stop everything because I started to get so busy. But you know, it’s something that gives you also a lot back for yourself.

    Would you ever consider doing it again? Now you had 4 months off, you went on tour to play E.Vil, but for example if that would happen again, would you ever consider picking that back up?

    Yes, and no. It’s something that takes a lot of time of course, and it will have to be really well organized, and I am not sure if I have time to do that. I could use my profession to show a professional approach, maybe do some clinics or stuff like that. That could be interesting.

    What would you say would make the perfect E.Vil album? Do you have any people, like guest artists you would like, or any musical influence, instruments?

    Of course. Right now, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Battle Beast singer, Noora. It would be perfect if she would sing.

    She can match your high notes for sure.

    We haven’t been speaking, or I haven’t told her anything about this, but that could really inspire me to do some vocal songs with her. Because she’s so heavy metal, and a really nice person. She has the right attitude, that could work. But it’d have to be totally different from Battle Beast, like maybe more rock’n’roll-ish.

    The last time we spoke you were considering releasing another album on your own, are we progressing with that? Or is that still something for the distant future for now?

    Yes, I suppose that it is. I have some songs in my drawer. I am sure that I will do it some day, but it’s really difficult, I don’t have a record label or any promoting, I can’t do that on my own. It would maybe sell 5 copies, and then everybody can hear it on YouTube, or something like that. And I am not sure that I would want to do it for free or with my own money. I could do it, because I am so into music. Let’s see what happens.

    Do you have any closing words for fans from E.Vil, or Sonata Arctica, maybe some words for beginning or elementary level guitarists, some advice?

    Just keep on practicing. And do your thing. It’s like that.

    Thank you for your time, and I hope you guys will have a couple more very good shows in Finland as you are leaving for that tomorrow. It was very good talking to you.

    You too, thank you.

  • Tony Kakko - 04/08/2015

    Recently we did an interview with Tony, who’s currently flying from one country to another to perform at summer festivals. While waiting at the airport he was kind enough to take his time to answer all our questions! Enjoy reading!

    Hi Tony, Currently the band is having a well deserved break from touring all around the world. How are you doing at the moment and how do you look back on the tour?

    Well, a break and a break. I would not call it a break, really. These summer festivals take a lot of time, especially for us who live here in far reaches of the known universe, haha! It’s practically one extra travel day in one direction. With some limited travelling possibilities, reduced flights to and from out small town and so on, just as an example, this one show we have in Spain is a four day trip. So much for this vacation.But yeah, it’s not touring per se. PC/Ecliptica-tour has been full of good moments. First real tour with Pasi and all. For me he’s been a big moral booster on long tours, as for the first time ever I have someone in the band who shares my interest in visiting places and seeing things. Lots of walking and litres of coffee. Haha! Haven’t really had a decent “sit-down” to reflect on the tour as a whole yet, but it’s been a very positive experience again. Last year was quite consuming, lot of shows both with Sonata and Raskasta Joulua plus some extras meant, I spent roughly 150 days on the road in 2014. I’m really looking forward to my first real writing break in…I think Henrik said we have not really had one since he joined the band…I’m sure we have, but it’s been for some years now. I need it now. And deserve it as well, I think.

    Were there any aspects of the tour that were better/worse this time compared to the last tour?

    Well, as I mentioned, Pasi was a major change for me. And of course a new member in a band in general mixes the soup a bit and makes things fresh again. Honey moon. I hope to keep this honey moon going. Also I think we really went in the right direction musically with “Pariah’s child”. We all enjoy doing these new songs live a lot. On top it’s been fun doodling about with the “Ecliptica” tracks as well. I think these thing combined with mixed songs from other albums have made a nice live set.

    As with every tour you have your standard duties like doing interviews. Can you still be suprised (in a positive or negative way) by the questions or the way the interviews are being held.

    Oh yes! There are some journalists that really have original questions every time you work with them. I like that. And let them know this too. Negative ones are rare, or then I’ve been very lucky. Of course when the interviewer does not answer the phone, it sucks. It happens. But I don’t really get these “so let me know the history of the band”-questions anymore. Good thing too!

    What are the things that can bother you the most during interviews?

    Ha! I would very much like to know in advance if the interview is filmed. Like the previous day. I’m not walking around stage ready 24/7. Far from it, actually. And generally I don’t enjoy filmed interviews much anyway. It’s disturbing. But of course the fans love those and they are necessary. I’m just not the biggest fan of making them.

    Besides your family, what are the things you really miss while being on tour?

    My house. Sauna. My musical instruments. My bed. Silence (which I don’t have at home, really!)

    Let’s take a trip down memory lane. When you started your career as a musician, what visions did you had in mind? Did you want to conquer the world? did you just want to make music? Did you already had a particular path in mind you wanted to take?

    I did not really have any visions. Like dreams, that it would actually take me somewhere, really. It was just a nice hobby I was happy doing while studying and waiting for life to happen. I really just wanted to make music and that’s it. It has not actually changed from
    that whole lot. I still just want to make music. Everything that comes along with it is just a nice bonus or in some cases extra weight you just need to carry around as it enables me to keep doing this on the level I want to do it. As a professional. So I take both sweet and sour. We all have to. With pleasure. Path vice, well, this is the road that chose me. It just happened so. I like all sorts of music and metal just happened to be the style that bound me, made me who I am professionally. So despite I often feel like doing musically something totally different, I always, somewhere deep inside, am writing Sonata songs. Even if it was seemingly a jazz song or something like that. No, I’m not writing jazz songs, it was just an example! Haha!

    How do you look back on those pre-Sonata Arctica days, when you just made music with a bunch of friends in someone’s rehearsel place?

    Beautiful, innocent times. I sometimes wish I could go back there and adopt a little more professional touch on things. But then again…Maybe things went the good way they went, because everything was done the way it was done.

    At which point did you really have the feeling Sonata Arctica had the potential to be something big and change your life in a certain way?

    I think after “Silence” was out. I decided to drop out of school (children, stay in school!!) because I had to skip so many months of school in a year due to touring, that it started to feel awkward. Of course, fundamentally the life had already taken a turn in a certain direction the moment our demo was sent to Spinefarm, but I did not really consider the whole thing to be but a chapter worth moment in life. Now it’s really colouring the whole book, more or less. It seems so at this point. I like it.

    Would you say you are pretty satisfied with everything you have done with the band so far? Or do you still sometimes think about certain things you would have done differently that could have changed how certain things are now.

    Oh, well, I thinking back there are many things I would do differently in hindsight, but it’s all just worthless speculation. One thing always leads to another and you should always embrace the choices you make as opportunities. New windows and doors you can explore. Even the one you find after a not so good choice. Penicillin was found after an experimental “bacteria farming” went wrong, right? Haha! Like I know had we not started to experiment musically, Sonata would at least have a different singer, that’s for sure. I was done with. But then again, there’s no knowing how that path would have worked and where we would be. Useless speculations.

    Do you think you have achieved everything you wanted to achieve as a musician so far or are there still some unfulfilled dreams?

    Far from ready to quit!! I can’t really start naming any things I would dream about. Some folk would consider me pretty arrogant if I started listing things. Lot of them are currently thinking way out of my league, but hell, you never know. Always remember to dream, children!

    Last month the English version of the Sonata Arctica biography was released. Have you had time to properly check out the book yourself yet and if you did, how was it to look back on 15 years of Sonata Arctica?

    I am yet to see the whole book! Dammit! The Finnish version is cool. It could have been three times as big and wide, but you know, time and resources… There are a lot of things left out, because we did not simply remember while being interviewed. Had we, it would have been pain in the arse deciding which we leave out due to lack of space. My novel would have been a good start there, despite I did enjoy writing it.

    Recently we did an interview with Mape Ollila, the author of the book, in which he was asked to describe you. In return, how would you describe him?

    Haha! Pretty insightful! Yeah, I’ve taken this approach in this thing, that I could not just keep a straight face playing a role and say we’re hard core. I am what I am. Although it is a role. At home I’m different than on stage. Off stage I’m different than on stage, already. Singing I do take extremely seriously. I used to have a lot of problems with it, mostly due to simply being out of shape. Lately it’s been better and whatever problems I have are due to other things. This would so easily turn into a talk about what would I change…haha! My stage clothing. Not as colourful as they were, but I used to have this approach that it’s good when people talk about the band. Even if it’s just because of the singers stupid outfit. I’ve had a few “do-I-dare”-moments with those. Hell yeah I dare! I would be a laughing stock on stage also wearing black leather gear with studs, would I not? I rather just be…me.

    Through the years you have grown as a singer, but do you also feel like you have grown as a musician?

    As a singer and composer yes, as a musician no. I just don’t have enough time to play any instrument, and it’s tearing me apart… But then again, quoting a line from the Steve Jobs movie: “Musicians play instruments. I play the orchestra.” Yeap!

    Do you ever miss being able to perform certain songs live on stage behind the keyboards?

    Yes! Really? I don’t feel a need to add anything to that.

    The last time we saw you with an instrument on stage was when the band performed an acoustic set during the shows. Is this something you would like to do again in the future? Like some bands have these acoustic tours within their own country, in which they perform in small, intimate theaters. Does that idea appeal to you? And what are your thoughts on a full acoustic Sonata Arctica album?

    Yes! We’ve been actually talking about doing something like that. It would be simply dreamy to be able to take this kinda acoustic tour around the world. An album…maybe an acoustic live album would serve a purpose. That might work. We’ll see. Would you come to see such a show?

    One of the opposites of an acoustic album is an orchestral album, something we have seen alot with Nightwish the last few years. Do you think the music of Sonata Arctica would go well with an orchestra?

    I think any music with strong enough melodies and structure would translate also in the orchestral environment or in any style for that matter. So yes, absolutely.

    Speaking about albums, the Sonata Arctica Tribute album is going to be released soon. What is your opinion about it? Lots of suprises? Anything that stands out?

    I’ve heard it once and I don’t actually have it. Yet. But yes, there are quite a few surprises! I actually enjoyed the album. I was happy to notice some bands have BOLDLY gone and made the song into their own. I remember one song at least being barely recognisable. GREAT! Can’t recall the name of the band, but the singer in this group that played “Black Sheep” sounds quite a lot like me when I was younger. Some of the guys were actually stunned by the resemblance. Funny. I’m happy this album got done.

    As we all know you have been involved in alot of guest performances. Your most recent project has been with the band “Trick-or-Treat”. What can you tell about the song you collaborated on with them?

    The song is called “United”, or at least it was when I sang it. Nice, melodic track with cool hooks and things to sing. Have not heard the final mix yet with choirs and all. Alle is fantastic singer and the band are all very cool guys, so I was happy to join in. I don’t know why actually, but they got left out from the tribute album. Damned! Would have been so cool to hear their rendition of any of our songs.

    Usually you are the one being asked for a guest appearance on an album, but what if a specific artist or band you really appreciate would announce there is an open spot for a guest appearance, on who’s album would YOU volunteer yourself?

    Oh, many I suppose. Nightwish for starters. But you know, this music business is also a game of publicity. Therefor when I am seen and heard, Sonata is as well. So I would seriously have to consider accepting an offer from any BIG band. I think the rest of the Sonata guys would whoop my ass if I did not. Haha! But surely there are some bands that I would be more honoured to sing with than with others…

    Not too long ago you provided vocals for the video game “Karmaflow”. How was it to take part in this project, which also involved many other talented artists and what do you think about the game? Have you been able to play it yourself yet?

    Such a surprising offer was that! Damn! Yeah. I was frankly a little suspicious at first, but the whole thing turned out to be really great! The whole production was very professional, at least judging from my seat. I enjoyed it. As stupid as it sounds, I don’t currently have a
    working PC powerful enough to run any “cool” games. I’m thinking of getting into it when the nights get dark and I actually have time to sit on my butt and… play. Looking forward to that. A lot!

    In the meantime we have reached the festival season again, which means bigger stages and bigger crowds. If anything was possible, would there be something new you would like to try out? Like a certain stage layout, certain special effects, anything different than usual?

    If anything was possible, I would probably ask some professional stage/show designer to make some plans and tell me what actually IS possible. If we could actually be the first ones to do something, it would be cool. What that would be…that’s the thing I would need to ask from the pro. Pyros, choirs, orchestras, wolves, penguins…haha!

    One of the most popular music related shows on TV these days is “The Voice”. If you were ever being approached to be a coach on “The Voice of Finland” and you would have the time, would you be interested in this? And how would you feel about coaching new young talent in general, who might learn a thing or two from your 20+ years experience?

    No. And not really. I was asked as a “heavy-day” coach on this other music “contest”, but I was unable to do it. Would have been weird too, having someone like Jarkko Ahola there as well as one of the competitors. Haha! I don’t think it’s really my cup of tee. If I have time, I much rather use it writing new music and doing other things. Of course kids might be able to learn something from me, but I don’t really consider myself being a teacher type. I don’t have the patience for it, I think.

    Who would you say are currently potential rising stars within the music scene in Finland, with whom you might have worked before or seen or heard about?

    Well, depending on what cards they hold and how they play them, bands like Lost Society and Santa Cruz. Other than that hard to say. I have not watched TV or followed the “scene” really in two years, so I’m a bit lost here. I hope there are some who could make it internationally!

    Recently the countryside of Kemi (Keminmaa) celebrated it’s 150th anniversary. As a local celebrity you were there as well. Can you tell a bit more about that day and how you were involved?

    Well, we were also celebrating my 40th anniversary at the same time there, which was both nice and wee bit awkward. Being the centre of attention like that. But it was a nice gesture and I appreciate it. Happy I had most of the band there with me. I wrote a song for my “county” some years back and got to perform it together with miss Katja Lukin, who actually recorded it for her album as well. It was a nice party with a some speeches, bands playing and a stand-up artist later on at this “after ski party” 🙂 I got nice gifts two! Like a quadcopter from my band brothers! How cool is that!

    Does is happen often that you are being approached to take part in local events?

    Frequently. Not every day or month but like once or twice a year. Nice events. Later this year I’m gonna be a judge at this local young bands competition. A tradition we started last year.

    Through the years you have received many gifts from caring and talented fans. Some of these items might have received a special place in your home. Can you name a few of the things that really stand out and which you are really proud of?

    I have some of the drawings/paintings on my wall. There are so many that I don’t simply have enough walls to hang them all. Plus it would be rather freaky to have your walls filled with drawings that are made of you, right? Right? Soft toy wolves have their rather large pack already in a corner my study. There are a lot of miscellaneous stuff that have found their place from the wall, floor, vitrines and such. Small memorabilia.

    Can you recall some of your special moments with fans? Something that left an impression on you?

    Oh yes. Like meeting someone who has actually come to see her last live show due to illness, for one. Those moments leave a mark. Some are very saddening, like that one. Some fans and moments just fill you with joy and thankfulness that I am doing what I do. I also met one of my today good friends like that. He came to see us on our tour with Stratovarius back in 2000 and just made such an impression it was impossible to forget him. Later on he just became a friend. One of the few “fans” that have visited my home. Weird to call him a fan, actually.

    Thank you again for this interview! Is there anything you are looking forward to at the moment?

    I’m especially looking forward to the actual tour break! Other than that, I´m happy to have a show with Kemi city orchestra in Kemi on the aug 29th. It’s gonna be very nice and different from my usual work. Had one show such like this a year ago in Oulu with Oulu Sinfonia. It was a
    blast!

    Any last message to all the fans out there?

    Don’t go anywhere! There’s tons more to come. I can’t wait to get back to the creative side of things and show you what I have in mind. 🙂 Gonna miss you guys and the road, but hey…won’t be long, won’t be long.Before that I think it’s in order for me to wish you all a happy rest of the year, merry Christmas and a happy new year 2016! May it bring us all back together again!

    Much love,
    ~Tony –
    Aug 4th 2015
    Oulu Airport, Finland.

Crew & Friends of the band
  • Mape Ollila - Author SA Book - 2015

    On the 25th of October, 2014, Sonata Arctica’s official biography (Finnish) was released. This book was written by Marko J. (Mape) Ollila, who is also the author of “Once Upon a Nightwish: The Official Biography 1996 – 2006”. Recently it was announced that the English version of the book is going to be released in May. It seemed like the perfect time to catch up with the man himself and get to know more about the mystery man called Mape Ollila.

    Hello Mr. Ollila, thank you very much for agreeing to do this with us! For those who don’t know you that well, could you tell us a bit about yourself?

    I’m the webmaster of the Finnish metal website Imperiumi.net. I also have history of working in a record label and a long past as a pro nerd.

    So, last week you’ve been on tour with the band on merch duty. How were the shows, do you still watch them or are they getting boring after all these years?

    I was, yes. If there is a line of sight from the merch booth to the stage, I of course watch as much of the show as I can. I must’ve seen Sonata some 80 times or so, in Finland, Germany, Sweden, Japan, The USA, Canada and so on, starting at their first proper show in Helsinki’s Tavastia Club in 1999.

    What is your history with the band, how did you get involved with them?

    Read it in the book, ha ha ha. No, seriously, “read it in the book” is the worst possible answer to any question ever. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I’m friends with Spinefarm Records then-A&R manager Ewo Pohjola, who played their demo to me and asked me to come up with a new name for the band. So, later that evening I called Tony and told him his band’s new name. So, in a way, I’ve never been in contact with anyone in Tricky Means, but I’ve still followed Sonata already before they knew they were Sonata. After coming up with the name and phoning Tony, I gave another call to the graphic artist of our then-Amiga demo group for a logo. So, I’m also the the link between Sonata and ToxicAngel.

    Who came up with the idea to release the biography? Were you approached, or did you approach them?

    I think the idea came up in the States on a tour where I was working for Nightwish and Sonata was the support band. I had written a book some time prior and I happened to mention to Tony that if I ever write another book, it’d probably be about Sonata. Me and my big mouth… The idea came to fruition seven years later when I found out my publisher was a Sonata fan. So, basically you can blame him for this, I just do whatever I get paid for! All job offers accepted so if you’re in need of e.g. a drug trafficker, give me a holler…

    What was involved in the process, did you do it all on your own or did you have some help?

    Naturally I had some help. Sonata Arctica fan extraordinaire Masa Eto helped me a lot. We compiled the book’s Sonata release list together and he also provided me with a lot of photos. I even interviewed Masa for the book, but never used the interview (sorry Masa!!). Also the band’s all round ninja Antti Punkki helped in more ways than one, providing the book with stuff (riders, stage plans etc.) no one on this planet else would’ve been able to give me. Kudos must also go to all my photo sources and all the journalists whose articles I insensitively and unabashedly ripped off. Cover artist ToxicAngel and the guy who did the layout for the picture spreads and also my editor were already paid for their efforts so no way am I thanking them!

    During research for and work on the book, did you learn anything about the band you hadn’t known before?

    Lots! Very little of it ended in the book, though. And if I told you I’d have to kill you.

    How came the decision for Paasilinna as a publisher to be?

    Their CEO is a Sonata fan. He made me do it!

    Before the Finnish version of the book was released, there was some talk that the international version would have some differences. For the non-Finnish readers who can’t get both versions and check for themselves: Are there any differences now? Or was it simply translated as-is?

    I had the idea of having different pictures in the English edition. I also toyed with the idea of stripping the international version of some of the unnecessary minutiae like the venues and locations of some shows. I didn’t see how it would benefit a fan in, say, Argentina, to know that “on Dorisday the 32th of Rocktober Sonata played a show in Köyliön Lallintalo and on the 33th they played in Euran Osmantupa”. It’d suffice to say that “they had two domestic shows”. However, the translation process became a hot mess, so all ideas I might’ve had were canned.

    Who translated the book into English?

    I translated the biography myself. Tony’s short story was translated by a Finnish/Canadian guy by the name of Michael Majalahti (Starbuck), who also acted as Tony’s pronunciation coach on the Unia album.

    Is there any notably interesting or funny occurrence concerning the work on the book you would like to share?

    No, not really. It was mostly just toil and suffering.

    Which part of the book did you, the band and those who were also involved in the process find particularly interesting, in terms of both writing, research and content?

    Let’s face it: Sonata is not the most interesting band around! I of course got most of the reminiscing of the Tricky Beans/Means era, because it was all new info to me. The band, I think they might have found some closure on Jani’s departure in his astonishingly candid interview. When he left the band, he wasn’t equipped to speak of his trouble to the extent he confided to the book.

    After everything is done now, would you do anything different if you had to do it all again?

    I would do the translation process completely differently, but it wasn’t my call this time around either. I did what needed to be done.

    In which ways was writing a biography about Sonata Arctica different from your previous work with Nightwish?

    This one was way easier to write. This time I knew how to keep my eye on the ball, so to speak. The Nightwish book tries to cover absolutely everything anyone in the band did in their time. That’s why it structurally became a borefest to read, it’s at times like reading a damn calendar. Right off the bat I decided that this wouldn’t be a book about The Northern Kings, Altaria, Silent Voices and what have you. The guys in the band can each write their own memoirs.

    Are you still involved in the process of publishing the English version, and if so, can you tell us anything on how it is advancing?

    I’m not involved with the publisher anymore at all. Like previously told, the translation process was a mess and I unfortunately am a straight shooter when it comes to voicing my opinions. Not all people are able to receive unpleasant feedback.

    If you had to find one word or sentence to describe each member’s (current and ex-) on-stage persona, what would that be? In addition to that, what would the counterpart for the off-stage persona be?

    It’s probably impossible to put it in one sentence, let alone a word… and at any rate, I’m not a part of their lives apart from Sonata so it’s not my place to tell you what they are like apart from the band. But onstage and on tour, that I can try to explain.

    tony-miniTony is The Goof. His garments look like he nicked them from a clown. Oftentimes he also talks like a buffoon, especially when he has no voice problems. His self-proclaimed inability to take the job seriously sometimes shows through…

    tommy-miniTommy is Steady, he’s the ground that everyone can build on. He’s as unflappable onstage as he is off it. He’s actually a lot more talkative than most people give him credit for. He’s a regular chatterbox and an extremely funny guy.

    pasi-miniPasi is the one I know the least. Solid would probably be the word. He’s solid as a rock, both as a musician and also as a person… even though “solid” as a description of his musical prowess is the understatement of the decade…


    henkka-miniHenkka is Mr. Not-Here, he looks disinterested on stage even though he isn’t. That’s definitely something he needs to work on. Or the again, it might be a sort of “aloof cool” factor that I just don’t get. He (or Lance, rather) used to be a riot on two legs, but he’s tones down. The age, you know… or could it be Lance perished of alcoholism unbeknownst to Henkka? Now there’s a thought…

    elias-miniEnska in Mr. Too-Nice. He has probably the smallest… (Ha! Gotcha there, didn’t I?) ego of any guitarist that I know. He’s said he made a conscious decision to be an obnoxious rock star, but he’s a guy who couldn’t act obnoxiously at gunpoint. An-almost apologetic virtuoso guitarist who plays even the wrong notes with extreme virtuosity! On tour, he’s even-keeled 99% of the time but the rumor is when he’s not, everyone better take cover… never seen that side though.

    marko-miniMake seems to be in a good place now. He’s employed himself as masseur, but as far as I know, he still plays guitar for fun. Last time I met him he seemed happier with life than in a long time before it. I just hope he and Tony can patch up their friendship one day.


    jani-miniJani nowadays is a consummate musical pro writing songs for living. The new Cain’s Offering rocks and you better check out the next Stratovarius album as well, Jani’s got his paws in the songwriting on that one as well. He can still party with the best of them but to my understanding, he no longer lets the partying bleed into his work.

    mikko-miniMikko was, is and always will be Mr. Worrywart. He has the tendency to ponder about things until he becomes a mess. A fiercely intelligent person, yet so devout in his beliefs that he lets them bite him in the ass all the time.

    janne-miniJanne I never really knew. When I toured with Sonata in Japan in 2001 he was already out of the band.


    Last but not least: Anything you want the fans to know?
    Sure. If you’re one of the fans who thinks Sonata lost something from their music sometime around the Reckoning Night/Unia era, I bring good tidings to ye all: whatever it was they lost, Arion found it in mint condition! Check them out, but sit down first because bricks will be shat! Jani has his hands in this soup to boot…

    Thank you, we really appreciate you taking the time to answer our questions!

    Thank you, this was a pleasure.

  • Masi Hukari - Drum Technician SA - 2012

    First of all, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. How are you doing?

    Thanks for having me! I’m always happy to talk with people who are in to Sonata. I’m doing great. Just returned from a few Amoral shows in China and Japan. It was a blast!

    For the people who don’t know you that well, can you tell a bit about yourself?

    I’m Masi and I’m Tommi’s drum tech. I also play in a metal band called Amoral and a rock band called Alavala. I like skateboarding, reading nerdy books and having a great time with great people, who I usually meet on the road

    How long have you been working with Sonata Arctica and how did you get in touch with them?

    I’ve worked with them for two years now and how I got in touch was that Tommi had got my number from somewhere and asked if I was intrested in being his drum tech. I think we hit a good note from the first phone conversation. My first gig with Sonata was on my birthday at Provinssi Rock 2010 so I guess it was a cool present.

    How is it to work with them and how would you describe them?

    The whole organization is really great! That “Band of Brothers” thing is not a joke! So I guess the crew is like the “Crew of Cousins” or something

    How is it work with the rest of the crew?

    At first I was really blown away by the level of professionalism and felt a need to step up my tech game as well. Every one definitely knows their way around and the job gets done in good humor…most of the time anyway.

    Can you tell us a bit about some moments you will never forget while being on tour with the band?

    There’s so much to experience if you keep yourself open to the possibilities. Some of the moments that are most meaningful and personal to me are small things that might seem boring to listen to, but just the experience in the context might make it cool for me. Sorry, I’m not really trying to take the back door out of telling any crazy road stories

    What have been your favorite places / countries of everything you’ve seen while touring?

    I’m pretty easy going, so I do tend to love where ever I am. I dont think of places being cool or not, I think you experience a place through what you bring with you. However… I loved being in Buenos Aires, Argentina! And I want to go back there to spend some time.

    The band recently released their latest album “Stones Grow Her Name”. How was the whole recording process for you and what was your role in it.

    Well, I was only involved with the recording of the vocals. Basically Tony has great pitch and an amazing vocal sound. The guy could be singing a shopping list and it would reek of emotion! So I was there basically to proof read the lyrics, suggest some lines and alterations here and there and make sure the delivery was “there” in terms of flow and feel. All in all a nice intence time up north.

    What do you think of the end result and what is your favorite song of the new album?

    I think it’s an awesome album. When Tony and I were working on the vocals all I heard was demo guitars and synths, but even then I could tell that we were working on a monster. Each song has been my favorite at some point, but “Somewhere Close To You” gets me every time.

    Besides your work with SA you play in a band called “Amoral”. What can you tell about this band and its future plans?

    We’ve released 5 albums. 4 on Spinefarm and our latest “Beneath” on our own label. We plan to tour until the fall of 2012 and the take some time writing a new album.
    The music used to be technical death metal, but the last two albums are definately more into the melodic and progressive vein.

    How long have you been playing guitar and do you also play any other instruments?

    I’ve been playing guitar since 1991, so I’m starting to get the hang of it! I play a lot of other instruments on a hobby basis, these days mainly tenor and soprano saxophones.
    I’m also desperately trying to learn the drums, but I have no 4-way cordination, so that sucks for me.

    Who are your influences as a musician?

    Thank You. You’re the first one who asks about musicians instead of guitar players! I would say: Astor Piazzolla, Fredrik Thordendal & Meshuggah, John Coltrane, Edward Vesala, Frank Zappa, Steven Wilson and Steve Vai.

    Do you have any hidden talents not alot of people are aware of?

    Probably not. I believe if you’re even half talented in something let it shine for the enjoyment of others.

    Which bands or music genre do you listen to yourself?

    I listen to all and everything, so it changes month to month. Some of my all time favorite bands are: Meshuggah, Extreme, Skid Row, Kiss, Van Halen, Megadeth, Winger, Porcupine Tree and Refused. Lately besides the new Sonata album I’ve been listening to the new Dragonforce album, a whole bunch of Miles Davis and Adrenaline Mob’s Omerta, since Amoral is their opening band here in Helsinki

    Are you looking forward to go on tour again with Sonata?

    Absolutely! I’ve had some of the best times of my life so far on the road!

    Thank you for the interview! Do you have any last words?

    Too early for last words, since I plan to be around for quite some time. I would like to thank everyone for their support of Sonata Arctica and especially you guys for doing this zine.

  • Janne Pitkänen - Album cover artist SA - 2009

    First of all, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. How are you doing?

    First of all, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. How are you doing?

    Hello everybody – to put it simple – busy 🙂 Other than that I’m doing ok, swamped with various commissions, but doing good!

    For the people who don’t know you that well, can you tell something about yourself?

    Well, I’m selftaugth artist. I’ve been drawing and painting all my life really – first the traditional pen/paper way, and later on digitally. The digital stuff started way back in Amiga Demoscene days, when i was lucky enough to get in to one of the groups as an gfx artist. Then, I managed to gear myself up with the pc’s and tablets etc, and the hobby suddenly got turned into work, and this is what I’ve been doing for the last 7 years now. First for various other companies, but now for the last 3 – almost 4 years for my very own.

    Most of our readers know you as the designer of the Sonata Arctica cd covers (and other merchandise). When did you first got in contact with the band?

    I think it was about the time when they were signing to Spinefarm Records. I got a phone call from my friend, that Spinefarm was looking for somebody to draw a logo for a band called Sonata Arctica, and asked if I could do some sketches for Spine to take a look at. So i guess it was just be for the first single came out 🙂 So, I made (three I think) sketches, and they liked one of them and that’s how things got started. Then, I think it was 3 years later, I got a call again from spinefarm and they told me to talk to Tony about the “Songs of Silence” -live cover illustrations, and it’s been on-going after that…

    Did you had all the freedom while creating artwork for them or did they give some input /ideas as well?

    Usually I want to get some ideas from the band themselves. To be honest, it’s really hard to start painting anything from the scratch without knowing that the band is looking for. So, we usually talk over the phone, or sit down to discuss about the ideas, and/or special concepts or themes the band has in mind. After that, it’s pretty much just turning the ideas into images. I love working with Tony, because he usually comes up with the main concept and leaves the rest of the “visioning” to me. It makes it easier for me in many ways. First, i don’t have to waste time and paint / sketch out something that really doesn’t fit to the mood or concept of the album, and secondly, when the initial concept and ideas are done, it’s easy just jump in and start working with them. I have to mention that hearing the demotracks or early versions of songs helps me tremendously too. Somehow my head works the way that I “see the music” as images, instead of hearing the actual song 🙂 But to really answer your guestion, usually band leaves the painting/creative process/pain to me. I show them the progress stuff, and different ideas and versions, where they can decide if it’s good enough or not, or is there something they want to add/remove/alter etc. Like i said – I love to have the band involed in the creative process!

    Of all the work you made, which one(s) are you the most proud of / satisfied with?

    Hmmm… I honestly cannot say. I like bits and pieces of some of the images, but usually not the whole image. When I do commissions, I try to do something that client is happy about. If client is happy, then i’ve managed to at least please them 🙂 But, like I said – I honestly don’t know – I’ll leave that to somebody else to judge, if there’s some people out there, that liked what they saw, that’s cool 🙂

    For approximately how many bands have you done artwork by now?

    I haven’t counted, but I’d guess that it’s close to 20 right now. I’m just happy that so many people have found our (mine and Gina’s) art and wants to use us for their projects!

    Which kind of things are the inspiration for your artwork.

    This is a long list … hmmm…. let’s make it short as possible : music 🙂 To be honest, i hardly get any inspirations from anywhere else that from music. I get some ideas for illustrations while reading some stories or books, but like I mentioned earlier, music is just a huge resource of inspiration for me!

    How much time do you spend on a piece of artwork (It depends on the complexity of course, but give us an idea)

    Yea, like you said, i really depends on the complexity, and of course there are matters such as the size, details, if we have to model/texture/render something that we already haven’t done etc., but i’d say, if i start painting an image from scratch it usually takes about 3-7 days, if my nagging shoulder/back let’s me do the reqular 12-16 hour painting days 🙂

    Are there certain parts of designing, that you aren’t doing much these days, but would like to do more in the future? (like doing more with animation for example.)

    Oh man – there’s a lot of things i’d like to do, or love to try, but the problem usually are the deadlines, and where do i find time to practise those things before i try to put them to use 🙂 Learning more of the animation, or visual FX work have always intriqued me. Also, learning movie style mattepaintings etc. Like i said, there’s so many things i’d love to learn. But first and most importantly – i’d love to learn how to draw or paint properly – it would make life so much easier *LOL*

    Beside your talent as creator of great artwork, do you also have certain talents as a musician?

    hmmm… i’m far from being talented in any sort of stuff, but as a musician – i’ve played drums about 17 years, so if that counts as a talent – then yes 🙂

    Any (long-time) favorite bands??

    Mmmm… not really – there are always some bands that stick with you after you first hear them. Sonata is being on of them. Then there’s Tarot, Nightwish, and ofcourse Liquid Tension Project, Transatlantic Project, Shadow Gallery and King Diamond 🙂

    Which goals do you still wanna achieve in the future?

    To be able to continue working with all these wonderfull bands/people and continue doing what i really like !!

    Any last words?

    Thank you so much for listening to ramblings, and like Timo Kotipelto says it : “Rock the Metal”.

  • Gina Pitkänen - Designer cover For The Sake of Revenge - 2008

    First of all, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. How are you doing?

    Greetings and thank you for your interest in me and my work. I am doing fairly well, I have been dealing with some health issues for the past several years and I finally have some answers about what has been going on. So I am looking forward to getting back to doing the things I love

    For the people who don’t know you that well, can you tell something about yourself?

    I am Gina Pitkanen aka Ravnheart. I am 38 and from the US, but I have been living in Finland for the last 4 years. I married Janne Pitkanen aka ToxicAngel and moved here. We have also formed a company together called Inferi Art, this is a portfolio of our professional work. Since coming here I have found a inner peace and my work advanced to a higher level. Most people think that my nick name stands for having a black heart, this is not what my nick name stands for. I am part Cherokee Indian and really love ravens. So my nick name stands for having the heart of a Raven

    Some of our readers will probably recognize your name from the Sonata Arctica DVD. It was the first cover art that you did for the band. Who approached you to do it and how long did it took to create it?

    Well the Cd cover actually started as a t shirt design, which was one of my first to do for the band. After I had gotten it done they loved it so much they used it for the DVD cover. Tony was the one that wanted me to do a wolf that was coming at you snarling, so the image was born.

    When was the first time you met the band and how was it?

    Actually I met Tony long before meeting the whole band. The first time I met Tony he was coming through Lieksa and stopped for a while to see us. Since then every time he comes this way he stops to see us. The first time I met the band was when I went to shoot some band photos for them. It was really wonderful getting to meet all of them. They are all so easy going and fun to be around. Even though it was a very early and cold morning that went on through till the evening, we all had a blast and they kept me laughing all day. I also got some fantastic images.

    Will you do more cover art for the band in the future?

    I hope so It also depends on what style they are looking for. Janne (ToxicAngel) and I have different art styles, so it really depends on what style they are looking for. The cover for Unia was done by Janne and the booklet was done by both of us, also I took the photos that was used in the booklet as well. I think we make a great team

    Obvious you have a lot of talent and skills (Photography, 3D Modeling, Making Jewelry) So what is the thing you enjoy the most to do?

    All of them, hehehe. I have always been the type of person that is always creating something. I create the native American chokers when I want to take a break from painting and other things. Its something I can do with my hands while I am watching TV or something. I really got serious about photography a few years ago and love it, its another way to express myself. Modeling is really Janne’s job, but I do all the UV lay out and texturing for them. That was my main income before the artwork started. Of course the painting is my first love and the main thing that keeps me going. I have always dreamed of being able to do what I am doing now.

    Which of your artwork are you most proud of?

    Hmm, that’s a hard one. I think I am like most artists, very critical of my own art. Usually after finishing it I see all the flaws in it. There are several images that have special meanings for me. The Nightwish portraits (Highest Hopes inner Booklet) which was my first work of a CD. For the Sake of Revenge (Sonata Arctica) CD cover and even went gold. Arctic Beauty because it was published in Exotique 2. Islander for the Dark Passion Play for Nightwish because I used my Dad for the model. Though each image I paint has some sort of special meaning to me. So really each one is special in its own way.

    Together with your husband Janne “ToxicAngel” you are running InferiArt. Do you get a lot of requests for several artwork?

    Well within the last few years the requests have increased, which is wonderful. I also hope they continue to increase. Though soon we are going to have to have clones made

    For the designers among the readers. Can you tell which programs you are using mainly?

    Well my main program I use is Photoshop CS with a Wacom Intuos tablet. For modeling we use Silo, with DeepUV for doing the UV maps.

    What do you still want to achieve in the future?

    Well what I would really like to achieve is to get more of my work on covers and other things. Also more money would always be good

    Originally you come from the US, but you’ve been living in Finland quite some while now. Are you used to the Finnish culture and habits now? And how good is your Finnish?

    Ill be here 5 years this May It was a bit different from what I was used to, but I love it here. After being here I think everyone in the US should have sauna. There is nothing like going to sauna and just relaxing. As for my Finnish, I know a little bit and learning more. I have to say I never expected a language to be so difficult to learn. Thank goodness Janne’s English is wonderful

    To which bands or music genre are you listening?

    I like so many different types of music, and it depends on my mood as to what I listen to. Though some of my favorites are Tarot, Sonata, Nightwish, and Northern Kings

  • Toni Härkönen - Photographer SA - 2008

    First of all, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. How are you doing?

    Hi there, I´m fine. Tired, but fine. We have a 7 months old kid at home, so there´s no much time for sleeping. His name is Leevi and he is an extremely funny guy. My first child, so I´m quite excited about it.

    For the people who don’t know you that well, can you tell something about yourself?

    Well, I´m 36 years old photographer from Helsinki. Fat sick bastard, they say. Mostly working with catalogs and other commercial stuff, band photography is more like “hobby” to me.

    Most of our readers will probably recognise your name from the Sonata Arctica promotional pictures. When was the first time you met the band and how did it go?

    It was before first album came out. I had shot tons of bands for SpineFarm, so they called to me to fly to Kemi and there it started. I don´t remember the year, but it was before their first album. Shooting itself was ok, couple of locations in and around Kemi. It was the band’s first shooting, but they were very co-operative. It was easy, and hilarious, working with them.

    You have been taken pictures of Sonata for a long time now, so how well do you know the guys by now and how is to work with them, while taking pictures?

    I guess we have learned to know each other quite well during these years. I have had a really good time with them. The guys are very easy-going and we laugh a lot. Shooting sessions are more like hanging around with the band than work.

    With how many bands did you do photoshoots by now?

    Whoaah… too many. Different bands are about one hundred or so, and then with some bands numerous sessions. Quite many band shooting sessions anyway. Together maybe 300? I really dunno.

    Which artist(s) would you still like to take pictures off?

    Motörhead and Hermano.

    Do you travel alot to different locations to do the shoots or do all the bands visit you?

    It depends, sometimes I travel abroad, but mostly bands are coming to Helsinki.

    For the readers with intrest of photography, what can you tell about your camera and equipment?

    I use now Canon 1ds MkII and Mamiya RZ with Sinar M digitalback. Both with wide variety of lenses. Apple G5 computers. Photoshop CS3.

    In the studio we have lots of studio flashes, Hensel and Pro-photo. I guess that’s it. But cameras are only cameras, work is done in your head.

    What was the best picture you ever shot?

    This is so cliché, but the first shot of my newborn son. Lots of emotion in it.

    Which bands or music genre do you listen to yourself?

    All with six strings. Rock, like Motörhead, Kyuss, Unida, The Wildhearts, Hermano, Clutch, Mike Oldfield, Abba, Monster Magnet, Schubert……

    Do you play any instrument yourself? (if so, do you also play in a band?)

    Yep, I play guitar in finnish rock band called T55. Lyrics are in finnish, but feel free to check us out www.t55.org It is rock with bit of stoner and heavy.

    Any last words?

    Have a beer, kippis, perkele!

  • Antti Punkki - Production manager and light designer SA - 2008

    First of all, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. How are you doing?

    That’d be a cliché answer: fine thanks. I’m at home, Levi (in Lapland, pretty high up on the map of Finland), trying to relax and get over the last Finnish tour. Also at the same time I’m focusing on the production issues of upcoming USA-South America tour. I was planning to go snowboarding as soon as the slopes are cleared of most tourists becouse I haven’t had the time to do that yet. I just got a new snowboard as a christmas present.

    For the people who don’t know you that well, can you tell something about yourself?

    I’m Antti Punkki, on the road a.k.a Punky, the production manager and light designer of Sonata Arctica. I’ve been working for SA now about 3 years and been in the business approx. 7 years. I’m (at the moment) 27 years and living happily in the north, at sking center called Levi. I enjoy both , silence and rush, as well as outdoor activities which is why I live here. We also have one of the Finlands’ biggest venues here which is nice workingwise. My bad habits are smoking and drinking and
    worrying too much about everything. I love my work in general (I work as a sound engineer too) becouse it keeps life interesting and there’s not 2 similar days ever.

    Can you tell somthing about your job as production manager? And about the good and bad sides of it.

    The word production manager sound more fancy than the job actually is. Why I ended up/started out being the prod. manager is because I’m the only guy of the crew who actually can handle light and sound as it would be my own yard. The good point in being the production manager is that I know the stuff ahead. It used to be that when we went on tour we had a little clue of what gear and what kind of clubs we’re facing. Now it’s easier for crew since we know most of the stuff already. I also enjoy the challenge of organizing everything,

    As a production manager it’s also being partly a crewboss as well on some occations a tourmanager. I’m trying to say that it’s sometimes pretty far from what a real production manager actually does. Usually prod. managers plan the tours technicalwise and also manage the stage and all gear on location. I do plan all techstuff in collaboration with crew and tourmanagers but on stage I have to slip from my position as soon as the get in is done. My bigger concern is lighting focus and all stuff that’s involved. This is sometimes a stress since I still have the main job as a light designer when we’re on tour.

    The bad point is that pretty much always there’s things that cannot be handled until the last minute and I hate the stress of getting things done then. I also dislike the crewboss idea which mostly results into situation that when responsibily is to be taken – it’s mine, when respect is needed – it’s hard to get. But we have a very good
    understanding on these issues anyway among our crew.

    How long do you know the sonata guys by now and how would you describe them?

    Haha (lol), I’ve known them personally about 3 years from now and I gotta say they’re a funny bunch of different personalities. Let say that everyone has their moments and their special ways of appearing in different situations. Haha, I’m trying to go around this as easy as I can… (lol). I gotta say I like this band and crew a lot and somehow it
    has formed from a touring party into a family. I just love (feels gay to say it when you’re a finn) all of our people. It’s just a lot of fun on tour. I’ve done some tours with other bands and it’s always the same result. I start to miss our own guys.

    How is it work with the rest of the crew?

    Well, first of all the crew used to be called as “Tornio-crew” because all crew members (except Ahti) are from nearby town Tornio (as the band is from Kemi). All of our crew go way back in Tornio music scene. I used to be a gtr-singer in my old rock band Exter, Bill (mon tech) used to be the same in his band Paiste. Tapsa (the dr tech) still is a gtr-singer in his band Freeride and Ehu (the gtr tech) is playing in Lambs and recording with Duskfall. All of the crew have recorded at some point with their bands in Ahti’s Tico Tico Studio. You see the picture here :o) Also me, Bill and Tapsa have been going to same schools and being friends for a long time.

    So, back to your question after this brief look to Tornio-crew’s history: It is mostly very easy and fun to work but sometimes there’s a too friendly argues. That is of course inevidable when you work with close friends. The biggest advantage is that everybody’s from Finland and from the same area which makes it easy to understand each other without saying any words. This applies to the cooperation with the band as well. All of our guys are very top professionals on what their doing and also getting better and better all the time. We also have had some replacements from german crew and it’s always been a nice add on the normal basic tourlife. Basicly getting new views from other crewmembers helps us all getting better.

    If you look back to the European tour, how did things went for you? What were the highlights and what were the downsides?

    The European tour was probably one of the best band has had so far, I think so at least. Productionwise it was awesome step to take. We managed to bring over a truckload of production from Finland and everything worked out very smoothly. Also the production was really easy to adapt on venue sizes. Audience was great everywhere and…. you know it was great. One the nicest things was that we got a specially modified double decker bus (usually the band prefers singledeckers) which gave everybody more space and more comfy.

    Maybe the downside was that we still had some too small venues ( I like it big and flashy). This is always extra work of getting only the small parts out of the truck and extra rolling of cases. Imagine if you come to a bigger venue you just roll in everything and put ’em up instead of wondering where to fit everything.

    Upside was that the whole crew had really good gear everywhere which makes the working fun. The minor downside is that it gets more boring when you get more and more ready out of truck. When you go to the next level when you get a full setup traveling with you then it’s really boring but also then it’s perfect. This is what we had on finnish tour on christmas holidays.

    Maybe this European tour lacked these fun offdays and activities we usually have. It’s also the time of year which makes it depressive. This is the “tourist-aspect” of touring and when you don’t have it, the tour starts to wear you off fast. This how I feel at least.

    Next month the band & crew will be in America again, are you looking forward to it?

    (lol) I would if I’d be going there. Yes, it would be fun to go as it always is but truthfully there’s not much for me to do on these areas tours. Most of the venues are too small to have so much crew with, and it’s also not very cost effective. So, the lighting guy is always the first one to be dropped out (lol), tough luck. I will be flying straight to South America and will join the tour there which I AM really looking forward to. I still have to prepare all techstuff on this end for the guys to USA so I’m involved on it seriously. Unfortunately I can’t joint them on the first leg and I have to snowboard all the time at home :o)

    Are you planning to see anything specific while being there?

    Well, it’s a work trip and less tourism so I see whatever we have time to see. We’ve always laughed with our monitor engineer Bill that we’ve been to many basements around the world. Fact is, that when you wake up noonish and start loading into venue, the next time you’ve time to get out is when it’s dark and everything is closed.

    What are the first things you do when you come back from a long touroutside Finland?

    I have a sauna and drink some Finnish Karhu or Lapin kulta beer on top. I also appreciate eating some home made finnish food like mashed potatoes with meatballs or reindeer. Of course there’s some other needs that will have to be fullfilled too :o) One of the best moments ever was when we flew from USA tour and I had a rush connection in Helsinki bringing me really fast home. The leap was from NYC to Levi. So, when I threw my bags in at home and took a cup of coffee going outside for a
    cigarette, I could HEAR the snow come down. Think about it.

    Which bands or music genre do you listen to yourself?

    Hmm… my musical history is so long that it’s hard to select a certain type. I usually let my girlfriend to play whatever she wants since off duty I rather enjoy silence. But she basicly enjoys metal and so do I. But my personal favorites is blues and maybe at times a little bit of Toto (sound engineer music) lol.

    Do you play any instrument yourself?

    You asked for it, this’ll be a long one :oD I make it short. Like I already mentioned earlier I play guitar. I actually started out with trumpet when I was 8 years old and played it active ’til I was 19. I played in blosorchestras and symphonyorchestras as well as big bands. When I was 13 I got electric guitar on top of my trumpet playing which lead to the try to achieve rock’n roll stardom (lol). My bands’ rehearsal place was in our garage (surprise) so I had all gear there and managed to learn to play drums and bass too. I playd bass in soul band later on. There you go. Basicly I reached my dream on touring the world, it’s just that I’m not on stage. As we say in finland, every engineer is
    a failed rockstar.

    Is there anything left that you wanna say to the readers?

    Same thing as Tony always says. Come to the shows next time and bring you friends with you. See you then!!!

    I almost forgot. Remember to check our blogs. If we don’t bother to
    write in english, there’s some pics at least you won’t see elsewhere.

    punkki.blogspot.com
    vhaivala.blogspot.com
    eliasviljanen.blogspot.com

    Parhautta!!!

  • Zelian Games - Developer Winterheart's Guild game - 2007

    Could you tell us something about Zelian Games?

    Our company is based in the UK, and is self-funded – essentially this means that we don’t yet have a major publisher showering us in cash. A lot of the work being
    done on Winterheart’s Guild is actually outsourced to contractors and freelancers in other countries, including South Africa, Finland and Ukraine.

    What gave you the idea for a Sonata Arctica game?

    The Winterheart’s Guild CD cover made us think “Hey, this looks like a game”.

    To what extent has Sonata Arctica been an inspiration to the game?

    The original idea was inspired by the artwork and style of the CD, which was done by ToxicAngel. We also realised that some of the Sonata music would easily fit into a game world. Of course the overriding thing was that we were fans of Sonata, and thought it would be exciting to create a game that is loosely based around them.

    How did the band react to the idea?

    The initial response was mainly positive, but of course slightly reserved. I think most of the guys in the band are pretty positive and excited about the game.

    Are you all Sonata Arctica fans?

    Mostly – some of the people involved in the project do not have a previous background of listening to Sonata stuff, but we’re working on converting them

    Could you tell us a bit more about the process of making a game like this?

    This one could fill a few pages. I suppose in “real” multi-million dollar game dev companies,things would work a bit differently, but in our case, it was mainly a matter of biting off more than we could chew, and figuring it out as we go.

    A large part of the development effort has to do with our game engine, which will actually be used in several games in the future. The development of the core engine has burned many many manhours, and has caused the development of the game itself to be a tad slow at times. But recently a lot of the effort has gone purely into gameplay related development.

    We’ve also made a few smart moves recently, such as licensing SpeedTree, which will save us a lot of time and effort, especially for a game such as Winterheart’s Guild that is mainly set outdoors in forest environments.

    In terms of the ideas and knowing how to make the game fun – we’ve been gamers for a long time and this type of thing comes quite naturally. We see things we like in other games, and use it as inspiration for Winterheart’s Guild, without copying an idea directly. As we go along, original ideas pop up and make it into the game. The main thing is that the game should always “feel right” – you sometimes start up a game where the controls just don’t feel right, or the gameplay is frustrating due to the difficulty level being too high. We want the game to be polished and fun from start to finish.

    How many people are working on the game?

    It varies – we have several contractors and freelancers that contribute to the development. On the art side, for example, we’re now working with a Ukrainian company called Ulysses Games, who are providing some of the character artwork. On the programming side, we have a few programmers working from South Africa.

    Could you tell us something about the storyline of the game?

    Other than what is already out there, not much. We want to hold back on any specifics until we are confident that the release date is in sight.

    With what games can we compare WHG?

    Without naming any specific title, I can say that Winterheart’s Guild has the feel of a first person action game, but the RPG aspects in the game are much deeper than some of the typical action RPG games out there, where you have only a handful of character stats that are not really meaningful. The character attributes, skills and perks system is pretty in-depth, and players will be able to tweak the strengths and weaknesses of the character in many ways.

    When can we expect WHG to be released?

    Maybe it’s best not to speculate about the release date right now. Let’s just say that the scope of the game has grown since the original idea came up, and that we are working hard on making good progress every day.

    Will the game get a worldwide release? / Where will people be able to purchase it from?

    It will be released on the shelf in several countries. For those countries that we do not have a publishing deal in place, we will sell the game online in downloadable form. let’s just say we will make sure it is available everywhere that there is demand.

  • Masa Eto - Long-time follower and friend of the band - 2007

    First of all, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. How are you doing?

    Thank YOU for inviting me for an interview, it’s a great honor. I’m doing fine, just hate this shitty weather in Germany… raining all the time.

    For the people who don’t know you that well, can you tell something about yourself?

    My name is Masa, born in Japan, living in Duesseldorf, Germany since 1999, and running “Sonata Arctica Japan” website since September 2001. I have another website called “21st Century Metal Net” (www.21stcenturymetal.net) and it’s more like my own metal webzine. This one is since summer 2000.
    Otherwise, I’ve just started my own recording project called METVSE (pronounced like “metju:z”) last March and already released the first demo. Check out if you’re interested in Thrash metal without vocals (www.myspace.com/metvseproject). Actually, it was Tony that gave me the name METVSE…

    What do you do in daily life?

    I’m working at a German pro-audio company as a web editor/Japanese copywriter since May 2002. My company is producing a wide range of gears such as mixers, microphones, speakers, guitars and stomp boxes etc. When I’m at home I’m either listening to good music from Jazz to Metal or playing guitars or bass to record my own stuffs. And of course eating, sleeping and a lot of farting, to be honest. No TVs at all. Boring as hell for me.

    How did you get know the band?

    It was a compilation CD of Rock Hard or Metal Hammer magazine, issue March 2000 or something. “Kingdom For A Heart” was on it and I liked the song at the first listen, wondering what this band is doing might hit my taste quite perfectly. Somedays after that, to be precise it was March 13, I went to Cologne to see Running Wild live, but as I left home way too early, I had a lot of time to kill there in the city. I went to a CD store and I found this band called Sonata Arctica. It rang a bell right away, and I bought their album. It actually took a week or so until I really started to dig their music… The CD grew on me so much day after day that I just couldn’t stop listening to it. I just can’t remember what else I was hearing back then at this particular point of time (end March and early April 2000)…

    When was the first time you saw the band live?

    I was luckey. Soon after I got really into Sonata, I found out that they would be on tour with Stratovarius and Rhapsoy soon. As I liked both bands too, I decided to go. I bought a ticket for a show in Bochum, April 12, the day that changed my life. Literally. The venue was Zeche, quite famous metal club in Thr Ruhr Area, but I had no idea where the earth it was, so I left home early to find my way to the venue. I arrived there around 5 or 6 in the evening. As there was almost nobody there, without some crews working, I just entered into the building from the door next to the main entrance. It was an entrance to the bar. It was still quiet and no one was working as it was still too early. I just went in and the first thing I saw was Jens Johansson sitting behind his keyboard and showing something to some young boys who turned out to be Sonata Arctica. I went to them and just spoke to them, and I can tell you, I was fuckin’ nervous and my heart was beating like a hammer!! After introducing myself, we exchanged some words together and they went back to the bus, promising we would see again after the show. We did see each other again after the show and I went back home with some souveniers they gave me. You can see some of my pics from that moment on my SA page. One of my greatest memories. I was happy as a clam at high tide. It’s great they are now my real “friends”.

    What was the greatest concert for you till now?

    Of Sonata? I just can’t choose the best one as I saw them so many times and I liked every single concert they did… I mean, if you love the band you just love the moment they are playing even if they sound no good to other people. I know I’m kind of blind when it comes to Sonata, but that’s the way it is. If I must pick up one, it would be my first at Zeche, Bochum. I could sing each and every line of lyrics and I could see Tony was impressed! Hahaha!

    Have you met alot of people through Sonata Arctica?

    YES!!! There are so many good people with whom I wouldn’t have met without Sonata. I hope I will meet another bunch of cool people through Sonata in the future, and I’m sure I will.

    With who of the band do you have te most contact?

    Tony, definitely. When I meet Henkka online we chat for half an hour or so, just talking about music or some bullshit. I used to mail with Jani a lot some years back, but unfortunately not now anymore. No time for both of us.

    What are the greatest moments you had with the band the last couple of years?

    I had a lot of fun when they were touring with Nightwish in 2004, but if I have to name one, it was during their domestic tour in March 2003.

    Hennka just joined the band beforehand and they had some gigs in Finland coming up. I planned to follow them for some days during this tour to check out the new chemistry of the band. They were supposed to travel by small van with Tupi, the sound guy, as a driver. It was a small van for 8 people, but as there was an empty seat they invited me to come along, driving from city to city together. They shared a hotel room with another member, like Tony with Tommy, Marko with Henkka, but Jani was alone. So I was in. Jani was brave enough to sleep with me in the same room!! So I was with them 24 hours a day. The best thing is yet to come.

    On March 21 they had a show at Lutakko in Jyväskylä, but Tony had a sore throat and he could hardly talk before the show, but they went on stage. No wonder Tony lost his voice almost completely after some songs. He asked the audience if he should stop the show or go on. The audience wanted more, so Tony kept singing with his now legendary “black metal” voice. Hats off to Tony, but he got a doctor stop for the further shows and they canceled the rest of the tour and decided to go back to Kemi. And now? My plan was to stay a few more days in Finland, but the dates were canceled. I was at a loss what to do.

    Then the band kindly invited me to Kemi to stay one more day with them so I don’t need to drive down to Helsinki alone for nothing. They drove me north and here we are in Kemi, the hometown of Sonata! I was thrilled!! I was so thrilled because there was NOTHING! Just snows, trees and dark roads.

    Jani, again, offered his place for me to sleep. That night we went to a bar (Ahti joined, too) and then off to a disco. I guess you can easily imagine that I got dead drunk!!
    I woke up next morning with a bit of headache, but the plan was already set. They (Tony the driver!) drove me to show the city of Kemi. We went to Tony’s house, Marko’s, then the harbour, their very first rehearsal room, and of course “Lumilinna”, The Snow Castle. Lumilinna was the place where they shot promo pics for Silence album. We had a great time there. After having dinner with them at a Chinese restaurant, we said goodbye. My night train came around 9 o’clock and I left for Helsinki.

    How big is your own Sonata Arctica collection by now?

    117CDs including promos and some bootlegs. I counted a double-disc bootleg as 1 CD, so it’s quite a lot of collection I guess? There are some 10 LPs, I’ve just got 2 LP version of UNIA, one for listening, one for keeping! A total of 30 T-shirts and hoodies that I have in my closet. There are girlies and jackets as well. Pictures I took for them/with them are just countless. And many other small stuffs like autograph cards, stickers, what do I know the rest…

    To which other bands or music genre do you listen?

    Even though I like metal and plays metal myself, I love 60’s and 70’s classic rock, 80’s AOR and Jazz and blues!! I grew up listening to bands like The Beatles, Deep Purple, ZEP, UFO, MSG, Van Halen, Aerosmith, Mr.Big… but it was not until 18 or 19 that I started to like power metal or neo-classical stuffs such as Gamma Ray or Yngwie. Aerosmith was my favorite band for quite a long time, but after I discovered Sonata, they are the king and they still are. No chance for Rap, HipHop and Techno.

    What is your explanation for the succes of Sonata Arctica (and other metal bands) in Japan?

    The combination of melody and speed. Bands such as Helloween, Gamma Ray, Angra, Stratovarius are great examples, they are (were?) all successful. Dramatic melodies, soaring vocals, technical guitars and fast double-bass drums. In addition to these, Sonata have crystal clear keyboards that add an extra drama to their music in a perfect way. I think the combination of all these elements hit right in the middle of the heart of Japanese listeners, not only Metal heads.

    How many finnish words do you know by now?

    Finnish is one damn difficult language to learn!! I don’t know many words, but I can say some funny and nasty stuffs with a good timing when I’m drunk :))

    What do you expect from Sonata Arctica in the future?

    Great music and a lot of fun on the road. I love what they did in the past and I love what they are doing now.