【face-to-face / interview】APOCALYPTICA

APOCALYPTICA has just released « Wagner Reloaded – Live In Leipzig », a live collaboration with the acclaimed MDR Leipzig Symphony Orchestra and German producer Gregor Seyffert. The album’s release is perfectly timed since 2013 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of iconic composer Richard Wagner. For the occasion, we met Mikko Sirén (drums) at Hard Rock Cafe, the day after their concert in Paris (France) for the fourth edition of the Bring The Noise Festival.

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How did you come-up with the idea of paying homage to Richard Wagner’s music ?
Mikko : The original idea came from Gregor Seyffert, a German producer and choreographer known for his absolute amazing technical skills and his unique realisation of character roles. A few years ago, he had a vision about how he could honor Richard Wagner’s music for the year marking the 200th anniversary of his birth and the 130th anniversary of his death, which, obviously, occurs in 2013. Gregor Seyffert wanted to do something very special, original and creative, for the event. So, he contacted us through our management, stating that APOCALYPTICA’s music would fit his project perfectly. We met him to talk about it. We were simply thrilled with his vision. Even then, three years ago, he had a very clear idea of the stageplay, the scenes and the script. You know, he has earned many international honours and prizes, so we just went for. We developed the project and luckily, were able to produce it in Leipzig. At the begining, he wanted us to write new music only, so, though we included Richard Wagner’s music in the end, it is not really about his music, it is more about his life. There are only three pieces of Richard Wagner’s music in the final product.

Indeed, the project is more than just about music, it also pays homage to the man’s life through a theatrical performance. What do you like best about Richard Wagner’s character ? What are the main character traits you wanted to convey through this performance ?
Mikko : Actually, I am not that familiar with the character. I know that he was a lunatic, and that he thought that his work had to be greater than anything else (laughs). I love the fact that he was a weirdo (laughs). And therefore, the project had to be massive, « Wagnerian ». The man was famous for being over-the-top. He has crafted musical masterpieces but I don’t consider him as having been the reincarnation of God, which is what some people thought. The most remarkable character trait that we wanted to convey is his craziness. Hum… Yeah, the craziness was really driving this project from the very beginning. He was a strong character, and strong characters are always interesting because they play with different rules. You should ask this question to Gregor Seyffert. He is the one who knows exactly what character traits he wanted to underline though the project.

What was the biggest challenge of such an epic project ?
Mikko : There were so many people involved. There were a billion of different elements that needed to match-up to make the event run. It did pretty well but that was the most challenging part. And even up to the last minute, things were still kind of floating, but still, it somehow worked out.

The project features MDR Leipzig Symphony Orchestra. As for you, what was the most interesting part of working with the orchestra ?
Mikko : The musical approach is very different : from the way to rehearse to the way to perform. Everything is so different ! That was very challenging because their approach of music and ours can seem to be antipodol to each other. But, if you are open-minded enough, you can pull it off, and take advantage of those differences. You can benefit from them. It was difficult to play because orchestras are noisy. Musicians play loud and there were dozens of them on stage. Also timing-wise, we are used to playing fast and the orchestra has to be very precise. We have different playing-rhythms. We had to find balance in between those differences. Kristjan Järvi, who was the conductor, did a wonderful job. He can hear the music, no matter what style it is, which is cool.

Have you learnt anything from that live-performance ?
Mikko : Oh yeah, for sure ! Especially as a drummer. Drummers are, in general, stucked in thinking rhythm vertically. Classical musicians, however, concentrate on the whole aspect of a performance and the music, they focus on developing intensities and tensions, in the long term. I tried my best to absorb that way of thinking to develop my skills. In general, every time you are in contact with another musician, who thinks differently, that is a place for you to learn.

What about Gregor Seyffert ? How is he to work with ?
Mikko : I am simply amazed by his talent. It was absolutely great to work with him. He is one the greatest dancers in the world, you know. He is phenomenal ! He is passionate by what he does and collaborating with passionate people always brings out the best of you. He is a funny guy but when he talks about art, he becomes very serious. When working, he becomes so deep that he can sort of make you enter into his mind. He has a special aura ! He is very inspirational. He is always 100% committed to everything he does. He gives his absolute best and that is very enjoyable.

Did he give you advices on how to perform ?
Mikko : Hum… Music-wise, of course he didn’t. Performance-wise, he sure did. He told us to add intensity here and there by being more energetic. He sometimes told us to be more relax, or be still so the audience will concentrate their attention on a part of the stage and not another, that kind of stuff. He had a very clear vision on how the performance would be from the very begining. There were so many people working together on stage, we had to have someone to master it all.

On stage surrounded by many musicians and dancers, did you feel different from when you play with APOCALYPTICA only ?
Mikko : A lot different. When we are on stage by ourselves, everybody’s attention is concentrated on us, which may affect the way you play music in a certain extend. We know we are watched, and therefore, we probably have this delusional narcissistic way of thinking that, because every one is watching me, I have to look good (laughs). When playing with so many performers, you realize that people do not give a shit about you, they are here for the show, not you. You know ? Playing with many musicians may also affect your musical expression because, you sometimes need to pull back and play in retreat so the attention of the audience is focused on a certain part of the performance. It is very different and I loved it so much !

In Germany, there are controversies regarding Richard Wagner’s political choices. Have you ever considered that fact before starting the project ?
Mikko : Yes, a lot ! We talked long about it. We wanted to make sure that we won’t be associated with his possible political choices. In general, people do not look at Richard Wagner as a political character. His music is part of the cultural heritage of Europe. But yeah, it is a complicated issue. We talked a lot about it, but as the project was big and massive, we eventually went for it.

Some people say metal music is the successor of classical music as it involves the master of instruments. As a musician who has an interest in both, I guess, what is your point of view ?
Mikko : I am not the biggest classical music listener nor expert in any way (laughs). Those guys are (pointing at Perttu)… But I can feel from their approach of music, how they compose and perform it, that there is a part of true in that statement. If Richard Wagner was living today, he would certainly use electric guitars. I think that these two types of music, as well as jazz, require a more attentive listening to music than any other genres. But, my knowledge is limited, I can’t answer that question properly.

Are there plans to bring the event to other parts of the world ?
Mikko : Yes, absolutely ! We are working on it, but I think it will take long to schedule a proper tour. The project is made for big arenas, big venues, we can’t bring this massive production exactly like this anywhere. We would fucking love to get « Wagner Reloaded » on tour. Hopefully, we will bring it to many places but, obviously, we cannot have the full orchestra, the full choir, the full performers and so on. For sure, we will try to keep it as massive, epic and powerful while making it possible to pack it into trucks (laughs). Probably in Autumn 2014 ! Fingers crossed !

The band will release a new album next year. Can you tell us more about it ?
Mikko : We are at the very begining of the process. We wrote demos. We started to contact people with whom we want to collaborate. Everything is in the earliest stage. We are actually aiming to get in the studio in late spring. I think, it will be out at the end of the year. We are very excited about working on a new studio-album. It has been such a long time. We are ready to be back !

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