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Sonata Arctica – Replacing the Blank File

By: David E. Gehlke

Blistering.com: With the fast songs and per the whole “challenging yourself” idea, how quickly do you think you could spit out an album comprised of all fast songs?

Hmmm…I don’t know [laughs]. Hard to say. I always try to challenge myself and when I was writing those songs back in the day, I was trying really hard. When I was arranging them, I always tried to come up with some twist or turn, or something unexpected. It always takes time, and it’s not always easy. I think about if I just sat down and started writing, I’d have about eight songs in a week. I’d think if I did that, I could write at least one song per day. I should actually try that – good idea!

Blistering.com: I won’t take any credit for it, Tony.

Yeah, I don’t think it would be released [laughs]. There’s bound to be some good ideas in there [laughs]. I could strip down all of unnecessary shit and take all the good parts and make one fantastic song.

Blistering.com: If you go back to the Ecliptica days, you had so many words to cram in per each song. With the new one, there’s seems to be a few focused ideas, which work really well.

I enjoy writing stories. The more lyrics and the more twists and turns you can put in the lyrics, the better for me. That of course, is a nightmare when trying to do it live [laughs]. You have two or three pages of lyrics you have to remember. Somehow we always managed, but then another problem is I never gave myself any room to breathe. I’d sing a line, then gasp for air, then start again [laughs]. With this album, I tried to be as simple as possible, and rock albums don’t necessarily have ten pages of lyrical content. It’s something people can sing after you hear it a few times.

Blistering.com: Speaking of the old Ecliptica days, what do you remember most about that time? That’s when Stratovarius were immensely popular, and you were compared to them rather frequently.

We were kids. We were really excited about the whole thing, like we got to go into the studio and someone else was paying for it. Of course, the band always pays in the end [laughs]. But still, we didn’t have to make our own down payment. And writing songs that we knew would be released someday, which was a dream come true. When it was released, it started selling like butter…it was fantastic and something we couldn’t understand. The same day when the masters of the album arrived and the record label was there and said, “Oh, you have some support dates coming up.” And we were thinking someone like Helloween was coming to Helsinki was coming, but he said, “It’s seven weeks with Stratovarius.” I was like, “Jesus fucking Christ!” I almost crapped myself [laughs].

It proved to be a great tour. It was our first time outside of Scandinavia. Seven weeks on a bus with Rhapsody, opening for Stratovarius and becoming friends with those guys. We had a dream start. I would happily give such a great start for any starting band.

Blistering.com: What kind of things did you learn from Stratovarius?

We did see them on 60 shows that year. That was one thing – seeing your idols onstage, doing big things, so you learn from that. Then of course, we’d talk to the guys as well about the business, especially Jorg [Michael, drums]. He wanted to know what we did and wanted to take care of us so we wouldn’t be doomed at such an early age and not put our names on paper. We learned a hell of a lot, and we owe them a hell of a lot. It’s safe to say that I probably wouldn’t be talking with you if there wasn’t Stratovarius at some point. I might be in a reggae band…who knows [laughs].

Blistering.com: We were talking about social media earlier in regards to “Shitload of Money,” but you were ahead of the game with “Blank File,” which you released in 1999. Did it ever dawn on you that were at least, slightly prophetic with how strong of an influence computers would have on the world?

Yeah, on the last tour I realized that. We put “Blank File,” in the setlist and it was about Facebook. I had a vision of how things would be in the future [laughs]. Now that we’re in the future, it’s not as horrendously bad, although people are being really bad about their privacy. If you upload your family pictures online somewhere, even if you think you’ve erased them from the server, they’re still there. “Blank File” is all about that. I saw it happening…I’m a Nostradamus [laughs].

Blistering.com: I’m trying to think about how the Internet was in the late 90’s. It was predominantly email, so how did that topic strike you early on?

I didn’t consider computers per se at the time. I had a computer, but I wasn’t spending much time online. I had to dial through a phone modem [laughs]. It wasn’t quite as fancy as today. The starting point was all of the phone cards we had at the time, and when you’re shopping on the concord, someone knew what you bought. I found that somehow, disturbing. It’s great to realize that after so long, your songs are still valid. Maybe not in the original sense, but still important.

Blistering.com: Finally, any plans for North America?

Not this year. Right now, we’re getting ready for summer festivals in Finland, then mainland Europe touring starts. Sometime next year, in the first half of it, we’ll come back to North America.



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