Apocalyptica – Looking for the God Particle on Planet Earth – ‘Cell-0’ Interview with Perttu Kivilaakso

In support of 'Cell-0', Apocalyptica join Sabaton on a 15-country, 23-date European tour, including an appearance at Wembley Arena on February 8....

Words : Adrian Hextall

Finnish cello rockers Apocalyptica brand new single, “Ashes Of The Modern World” is taken from the band’s upcoming ninth studio album, “Cell-0”, which will be released on January 10 via Silver Lining Music.

The recording of “Cell-0” followed a four-year break between albums that gave the band — Eicca Toppinen, Perttu Kivilaakso, Paavo Lötjönen and Mikko Sirén, all of whom are classically-trained musicians — a fresh perspective and affected the way they approached the new music. The album sees them return to their roots and is the quartet’s first instrumental album in 17 years, finding Apocalyptica challenging themselves to discover new flavours and colors in their respective instruments.

We sat down with Perttu Kivilaakso in advance of the album release and an eagerly anticipated live performance on stage with Sabaton at London’s prestigious Wembley Arena on February 8th. A few special things to expect during the show will be covered in the article below:

PK: We are simply so busy right now, finalising the album, flying to LA to work on a couple of singles and of course rehearsing for the upcoming tour. But it’s great, I think it’s one of the coolest things in this profession, that you can be so busy but we still find the time for all of these things as well.

When we are away from home, we’d prefer to play a show almost every day. It’s time well spent shall we say. It means we get the most shows for the least number of days on the road.

The time on the road, with Sabaton has been teased somewhat with the release of the latest Sabaton single that sees the two bands performing together in the video for Angels Calling which can be watched below:

The expectation therefore is that the band will be performing on stage with Sabaton during the headliners main set. With a smile, Perttu acknowledges what we have all hoped for:

PK: They approached us actually and it’s been a wonderful opportunity to produce something together. We have something that will still come out in early 2020 but the work we have done with Sabaton means that we are able to unite forces on the tour and we’ll be playing together for about half an hour during each show.

We already played the first show of the tour together in Helsinki a few weeks ago and that went really really well. Amaranthe were also on tour with us and I am also playing in Amaranthe’s set as well. It’s a wonderful thing and I think some sort of Swedish clever business sense that sees all three bands on the bill working together. I can only admire the guys who really look at what the fans want and will enjoy and make it happen.

If you look back at our association with Sabaton, on the Great War album, the first single ‘Fields of Verdun’, this was played by Apocalyptica and when our instrumental version came out, Sabaton had been teasing the fans with ‘new material is coming’ and then the first thing they get to hear is this instrumental version played on cellos by us [laughs]. In reality it was a great start to the collaboration which as you say now sees us on tour with them as well.

In going out on tour, the band have their own new material to promote, the imaginatively titled ‘Cell-0’. Is it pronounced “Sell-O” or “Chell-O” or something altogether different then? 

PK: “We actually see it as ‘Sell-Zero‘ [sic]. It has nothing then to do with the cello other than the spelling of the word. We see it more as the creation of what we loosely refer to as the ‘God Particle’, something we feel is lacking at the moment in a word that is just heading in a really shitty direction. Cell-Zero then is about the search inside humanity to find the one thing,  the one particle that actually makes us care about everything that’s going on around us.

We basically had this idea where the humans were destroying everything on the planet, everything is shattering to pieces.

It also explains why the doom laden riff on the debut single ‘Ashes Of The Modern World’ has a lot of dark thought behind it. It also hints towards a new style and direction that Perttu agrees with.

PK: It’s also going to be the show opener for us as well as it sets out our new sound, approach and style and makes the audience think from the beginning about the darkness and the destruction we cause. When we also play the title track, ‘Cell-0’ , it can be viewed as the bad cells in the body like cancer but also where the human race is the bad cell in the body that is planet earth.

In addition another take on it would be the silent voices of those that are unable to speak up. There are so many animals affected by what we do on this planet but they are unable to speak out or be heard and the music is our way of highlighting what we are doing to that silent majority.

So of the songs really get their sound and mood from that sense and we let then the listener make up their own mind about what can be done. We don’t need liner notes, we have the beauty of an instrumental album where we don’t need to say too much but instead let the listener interpret the songs as they see fit. For us, yes it was dark, it had a lot to do with the environment, subjects like pollution, but then we throw the ball to the listener and we want them to connect and start to ask questions, “am I doing everything I can? Am I doing my part with recycling, am I being a better person to other people?” We are hoping that they too go looking for Cell-0 , the elusive God Particle and maybe it helps them become a little less ignorant about the world.

The past few albums have seen Apocalyptica utilise the skills of numerous vocalists to the point where 2015’s Shadowmaker saw just Franky Perez taking the lead vocal spot. This time however, everything is once more about the cellos and the cellos alone. 

PK: We always want to be the band that challenges itself. We would hate to release an album that sounded the same as the last one or got the same reviews as the previous one. We always find new things to say and we look at the best way to present it. Shadowmaker was our decision to remove all of the guest vocalists as that had become something that we were known for. So we decided to just use Franky and then go on tour with him as well.

After we completed that, we then did a 20th anniversary tour of the ‘Plays Metallica by Four Cellos’ debut which is just instrumental. We did that over two years, playing purely instrumental shows. The audience seemed to really be into it and we realised that the thing that really makes us unique is the thing that’s always been there and that is the cellos. It gave us the idea that perhaps we should return to an instrumental album. We still love working with vocalists but it’s a journey, maybe we have gone all the way from the beginning to the end and we once again get to show what I hope is the best of what Apocalyptica has to offer.

It’s the thing that makes us unique but I also believe that it puts us back on track. If you look back at when we first started, playing metal songs on cellos as spotty teenagers, I think we have come, 20 years later, to a point where we have managed to capture the same energy and fire that we had once more on this album. We’ve made the album that we wanted to, it’s an artistic release, a album for fans and one that probably won’t get much radio airplay.

Of course the classical music stations are another matter. There’s every chance that ‘Cell-0’ will get picked up by the classical stations so the test will be to see where the band do end up playing, where they go next and whether their audience changes once more to include people who’ve never listened to the band before.

PK: We’ve never set out to make the album ‘easy listening’ so it will be interesting to see what the response is like. There are lots of layers to the songs. I hope they will open up on the second or third listening to the new audiences and then perhaps we will have new fans as well!

In support of ‘Cell-0’, Apocalyptica join Sabaton on a 15-country, 23-date European tour, including an appearance at Wembley Arena on February 8. Following the European tour, the band play a headline set of shows in Finland before heading across the Atlantic for a North American tour. Autumn 2020 will then see the band return to Europe for a full headline tour in further support of ‘Cell-0’.


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Photo Credit: Ange Cobham

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