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Apocalypitca-Proving cellos are rock and roll

By Erik Schultz


It has been a long and winding road for Apocalyptica. Wait, that was a Beatles reference and these are the guys who play Metallica songs on cellos. I am so sorry. It has been a sad but true, nothing else matters kind of career for these three Finnish fellows. Back in the mid 90’s Apocalyptica took the world by surprise with an album featuring Metallica cover songs done only with cellos. Now they are trying harder with each album to be known as a great rock and roll band and not just an artsy novelty act. I had the chance to sit down with Eicca Toppinen to talk about what has changed over the years and how they are trying still, to break the metal cover curse. 

It has been almost a 10 year reign for you guys. How have you grown as a band over the years? 

I think the biggest change has been that there wasn’t the “band” when we made the first album. We were just playing metal music for fun. Just for ourselves. Then when we wrote, we realized that the first album sounded completely different than what the live sound is. So we tried to update the songs for the second album. The album “Apocalyptica” is the first album we can say it is a real band. We feel like a real band now. 

I know that it has still been a challenge for you guys to break out of the “metal covers with cellos” novelty artsy stigma the media has branded you as. 

That is why the music has to be in the main focus and not the cellos. Then you don’t think about the image or anything. We just try to make as good a song as possible then try and make them sound as good as possible. I would rather see Apocolyptica, rather than just a cello band but as a progressive, our century, modern rock music in a way. Something new and something different but it is not classical. When people see the live show they really see all about it. The first album we were a little bit stuck in the instruments by thinking that the cello should be the main focus. But later on for the “Reflections” album and “Apocolyptica” record we decided that the music must be the thing that is the main focus. Then after that, comes the instruments that we play. We think rock music is rock music. It is just that we play classical instruments. We wanted it to sound like rock music more than some kind of arty crossover music. 

Are you trying to pull away from those types of songs in your live show now? 

It is an important part of our history. We would not exist without that. We don’t take it as a big problem but it seems to be harder than we thought to get past that. It would be easy to play Metallica karaoke night but that is not what we want to do. The whole show is based on original songs but then we put a few Metallica songs in there for fun. We want to present the best show we can. Take it or leave it. 

You have had some great guest vocalists such as Lauri Ylönen from The Rasmus, Marta Jandová from Die Happy, Nina Hagen, Matthias Sayer of Farmer Boys along with many others. 

We want to give a singer a different playground to work in. It is cool to give a different kind of sound. Then sometimes the singers can do something a little bit different. We can give them that platform that maybe they can’t do in their own band. 

You have been touring across the world now constantly in support of different records for different release times. What are some of the differences you see in crowds? 

I think now the audience has more classical folks in the audience because of the first album and the last couple had not been so properly released in the US so most people know us because of the first album. In countries that know better what Apocolyptica is today, we have more a wide audience. Mix of different people, different ages, and different social statures. Metal fans, classical fans, rock fans, pop fans just a big picture. It is very cool that a lot of kids come to the shows. 

What influences you when you sit down to write? 

Any kind of painting, writing a book or whatever it’s always like you are filtering your own experiences through your own personality. What you have experienced and what has impressed you. For me personally, I am a big nature lover. It is very important to me and for me I need it. I really need it. I feel that my roots are really deep in the nature. I think that is a big influence for me. It is a big part of my personality and in our music.




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