Apulanta breaking the law

We have an animated talk with Toni (vocals and guitar) and Sipe (drums) about their history and their new album that was released that same day.

Why the name Apulanta (fertilizer)?

Toni: When we formed the band we were very young. I was 13 and he was 15. We were punk rockers at that time and we just decided to choose the worst possible name for the band. I think we succeeded pretty well…

Sipe: What can you expect at that age…? The first point was that it had to be easy to remember and the second point was that it was funny.

Toni: There have been one or two occasions when we came to regret the decision; it is an ugly child, but it is our child!

How did you get to know each other?

Toni: We went to the same high school.

Sipe: And we were basically the school outcasts. When you are an outsider and you do not have friends, you seek out similar people. So, we met at a disco where we both were trying to get girls, but instead we met…

{mosimage}And you formed a band!

Toni: We both come from this small town called Heinola. At that time, in the early-90s, there was nothing going on there, no sub-cultures of any kind. We were the only guys at the high school who were wearing band t-shirts, as we were into heavy metal, trash metal and death metal at that time. It was kind of a “t-shirt” incident that led us to meet each other. I saw that there was one guy with almost the same kind of t-shirt that I was wearing, I said: “Hi, what is your name? Do you play anything? Why don’t we form a band?” So actually, that was simple.

It was like a Aki Kaurismäki dialogue…

Toni: Yeah it was.  A couple of months later {quotes}Sipe stole his first drum kit{/quotes}

Sipe: Actually, this is the first time we say it in public!

Toni: It was actually a place owned by city of Heinola. It was a nasty thing to steal those drums, but years later I think we have paid it back with taxes and so on, so it was a kind of “investment”.

How was it living in Heinola?

Toni: Actually, Heinola is a nice place and I would like to return there at some point. I get my dose of “action” on tours, and, for example, we will perform over 100 this year, starting this Friday and will probably end in November, so after spending so long in rock clubs I really need peace. Well, when you are a 19-year-old guy in a rock band you need more than peaceful countryside, so Heinola was good for growing up, but it was also good to get out of there.

We have seen Apulanta live several times before. It seems that you love having these acting shows, such as being disguised with strange costumes.

Sipe: There is a lot of time to kill on the tour bus…

Toni: I kind of like it. It keeps us occupied, we do it for ourselves. A couple of times we have gone over the top with it and the show became more important than the music. Once we had this outrageous theatrical thing: knights versus orcs…Lord of the Rings style.

Sipe: Sadly, there were only seven or eight songs in our festival set…. But playing punk rock songs is basically “the thing”…

Toni: At the end, punk rock is the thing. Not the other things. It was fun for one summer. Then we changed the line up and we couldn’t hide behind masks anymore. We had to come back to our roots, do what a band is supposed to be doing and that is rocking, writing good music and entertaining the crowd. We had to leave the costumes.

Sipe: Well, since the tour starts on Friday, we have to concentrate on music. So no costumes… for few months at least.

We know that Toni likes to appear in movies, making small cameos, such as in Kuutamolla (Lovers and Leavers), or playing a role, like in Pitkä Kuuma Kesä. How was the experience?

Toni: Yeah, I did some of those in the late-90s and early-2000. It really was not my thing, it was more arrogant attitude. When you are a young guy and all of a sudden you become successful, you think you can do everything. You can do a movie; put together an art gallery… I realize now that I completely suck as an actor.

I like the name for the film’s band you led, Vittupää

Toni: We actually wrote the songs for the movie. We went to Lahti, 30 kms from Heinola, by bus and wrote three or four songs on the 30-minute bus ride to the Lahti studio, so in the whole process of getting our asses on the bus in Heinola, going to Lahti, recording some songs, mixing the songs and back to Heinola took two hours. It was very fast and very fun, kind of very punk. I really liked the songs. In fact, we still cover those. There is one very good song, which translated means: ‘Cop is a Nazi Bastard’. Where did we steal that riff, Sipe? We stole most of the riffs for those songs…

Sipe: I think that was a Black Sabbath riff reversed and played.

Do you feel you have softened your style?

Toni: In the late-90s we went in a softer direction, but lately we are back to our roots; I think that is a natural evolution of a rock band. You kind of walk a circle, as simple as that. I don’t really feel like going soft. I really enjoy playing the new album – it is quite hard with technical riffs and very aggressive. I enjoy aggressive music these days. {quotes}We are in pretty good shape to play aggressive music these days.{/quotes}

You have two albums in English in your discography: Viper Spank and Apulanta. What can you tell us about them?

Toni: When we started to sell big amounts of albums in Finland, we generated interest in other countries like Germany and Spain. They asked us if it was possible to make some translations – that is basically what they wanted us to do, so we did these couple of albums. Viper Spank is a collection of hit songs with the re-recordings, and it was nice. We had some success, not anything big, but we went to different countries to play and it was nice to do.

You have a very long discography already. Do you feel pressure to release new albums often?

{mosimage}Toni: We live through music. We are both music lovers. It is natural to work a lot. Of course, when you do nine albums, you have to reinvent yourself because you do not want to make the same song over and over again; that would make it very uninteresting for people and for us. With the latest album we worked very hard to make it a living breathing album, and I think that we succeeded in that.

Sipe: We are very proud that Apulanta is a band with roots. There are not many bands with 16 years of history, and every year doing better and better. The previous album, Kiila, that was released a couple of years ago, was the best album we ever made and stuff like that, so it created a lot of pressure, cause you never want to do an album that is not better than the previous ones.

Sipe: It sounds like a cliché, but our fans seem to be a pretty loyal bunch of people, so we really do not want to let them down. We want to do things with a lot of heart.

Toni: I think that the respect for the fans is one of the things that keep us trying new stuff. The loyalty and dedication they have given to us. The fans have bought me my shoes, my t shirt, my car…it is for all those people who decided to spend 20 euros on my album that I have these things, so they deserve the best they can get.

I think it works both ways, that you are one of the bands in Finland you take more care of the fans. In concerts there is always a great feeling. You put in a lot of effort.

Toni: I think that is due to the punk scene we come from. It has always been about interaction with people. We had this crazy Japanese girl who flew from Tokyo just to see us, she spent all the money she had just for that, that was crazy dedication. We got to know her pretty well and she ended up spending several weeks with us on the tour bus.

Sipe: We obviously took care of all the expenses…

Toni: Of course, when somebody says that you have a nice 19-year-old Japanese girl who wants to join you…you cannot say no…

Sipe: I have one reference case of a thing like this. In 1993 in Provinssirock, my “gods” Bad Religion played there and we had a chance to meet them, they spent 2-3 hours with me, and I was just a teenager from Heinola, so that was sort of a lesson for me: being a rock star does not mean that you have to be an asshole.

You have been playing for 16 years. Starting so young, and after so many albums and songs, is there a point you could feel “burnt out” in the music business?

Toni: At this point…when you complete an album you can feel empty, but at the moment, it has been a very refreshing experience… You never know what the future brings, but I do not see any point in quitting at this stage, when the band is still at the top.

Sipe: We still have lots of ambitions. We want to do better shows, better albums, know how to play even better, when we started we were not the best musicians in Finland, and we still have a lot to achieve. I think that our band is needed in the Finnish scene; I think that it is our duty to be here.

 

Pick up your copy of FREE! Magazine to read more of the interview with Sipe and Toni 

Photos by J.M. Rodríguez