An Interview with Henrik Klingenberg of Sonata Arctica

On the 24th of September in rainy Vancouver, I got the chance to sit down in a small, stuffy room at the front of Venue on Granville Street to talk to a veteran of the Finnish metal scene. The progressive power metal band Sonata Arctica was in town for the last Canadian date of their Child’s Pariah tour, and Henrik Klingenberg, keyboardist and keytarist extraordinaire, graced me with his presence and satisfied my curiosity by answering my questions about the tour and their plans for next year. He even taught me the most versatile word in the Finnish language.

Today is the 17th date of the tour, you are smack dab in the middle of it.

I’m glad that somebody’s counting. (laughs)

How has it been going so far?

Ah, it’s been going really well. I think of course everybody has had a little bit of the flu coming on lately, but that always happens on tour, so we’re up and running now and I hope we can keep it up until the end of the tour. It’s been good so far.

What has been the best date so far?

Oh, that’s a tough one. I don’t know, it was pretty good in French Canada. In Montreal Québec, it’s always good. New York was really good as well. It’s been mainly good shows, I would say. We haven’t had any real disasters yet. (laughs)

I’m sure that’s not going to happen.

I hope so!

You guys have a vast repertoire of songs. You have a lot of albums and a lot of covers that you have played live as well. How do you manage to narrow it down for your setlist?

It’s been tough, but the thing we’ve been doing lately is that we switch around a couple of songs every night, just so we don’t have to narrow it down that much. But yeah, it’s really tough. Some people want to hear certain songs, and we wanna play certain songs. Then, one guy doesn’t want to play this song, and the other one doesn’t want to play that song, so it’s a struggle. And it’s not becoming any easier. We just try to balance it out somehow, and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

I guess it doesn’t work that much to your advantage on the side that you’re very prolific and pump out a lot of albums.

Yeah, I mean, it’s a lot harder. You first start out, you have one album, you play all those songs and that’s it. And when you get a second one then you can pick and choose, but after that it’s all downhill.

So, what are your favourite songs to play live? Which ones do you enjoy the most?

Well, the new ones, usually because they are fresh. You play a song like “Full Moon” for the 7000th time, it’s, you know, kind of…been there, done that. It’s always nice to play basically any song that we haven’t played in a while, something that’s been out of the setlist for years, and then, of course, always the latest album, because they are still fresh so it’s nice to play those songs.

You guys are from Finland. You’ve toured extensively in Europe. What do you find are the main differences between the North American and European crowds?

I wouldn’t say there’s so much of a difference. I would say it depends on the night. You can get a totally wild crowd in the states or in Canada, or you can have someone who’s just looking and enjoying the show, and everything in between. The same can happen in Europe, so it’s more a night by night thing. Of course, on the weekends people are more drunk so they are more excited. (laughs) And, so, yeah, it’s really hard to put your finger on it. And of course, in South America, everybody’s crazy all the time; that’s their thing.

You guys have a new album that came out in March, Pariah’s Child. What has been the reaction of the people when you play the songs? Has it been good?

Well, you’d like to think that way! (laughs) It’s hard to tell. Some of the songs are going over really well, and then, of course, if you play something more difficult or more prog, people are maybe more listening… So, it’s hard to tell. I think it’s, you know, at least for us, it feels like people like the new songs, so, we’ll see.

You guys have been touring pretty much the entire year and you have your new album… What’s coming up in 2015 for Sonata Arctica?

More touring! We’re going to be on the road until the end of next summer, I think. It’s usually, we tour for a year and a half with each album. Sometimes, we’ve done two years one tour, we tour a bit more, but it’s getting to be a little bit too much. (laughs) We try to keep it down to a year and a half.

A lot of people list you as one of their favourite bands, so I’m curious to know what are yours?

Alright, well… metal or no metal? Does it matter?

Nah, anything!

Lately I’ve been listening a lot of Lana Del Rey, and Frank Zappa is a favourite of mine for a long time. And of course, since I’m in Canada, I have to mention Rush. (laughs) That was the first band that I really got into to the point where I wanted to have all the releases and everything. I was really crazy about them when I was a teenager. That, and then the usual Metallica, Pantera, Slayer, all that classic stuff.

What got you into this, basically…

Yeah, exactly.

If you could go on tour with any band that you wish, disbanded or not, and you could go anywhere, who would you pick and where would you go?

Oh, I would probably go to South America. It would be cool to play with Iron Maiden again. I think it would draw a really big crowd, so it would be good for us. (laughs)

Alright. Lastly, I always like to ask to people who speak English as a second language what their favourite word in their native language is, so what is your favourite Finnish word?

Perkele*!

Of course.

Of course! Actually, English is my third language.

Oh, what other languages do you speak?

Finnish and Swedish. We got a small minority in Finland of people speaking Swedish, so my two mother tongues are Swedish and Finnish.

So what is your favourite Swedish word, then?

Ah, I don’t know. I’m trying not to curse.

Again.

(laughs) Yeah, again. Ah, I couldn’t pick one. I mean, I did enough already with perkele. (laughs)

Do you have any last words you would like to share with us?

Hello, if you’re reading this. You might or might not have been at the show, so maybe we catch you next time. Thanks a lot, cheers, I will go to sleep now. Bye bye.

Alright, that’s it. Kiitos**.

Ole hyvä***.

*Perkele is a very versatile Finnish curse word pertaining to Satan.

** Kiitos means ‘thank you’ in Finnish.

*** Ole hyvä means ‘you’re welcome’ in Finnish.

Written and Compiled by Kai Robidas
Photo by Stephany Robidas

About Kai Robidas 45 Articles
Kai is a pint-sized writer based in Vancouver who enjoys things that start with the letter S such as sloths, snow, stories, and sesquipedalianism. She has a penchant for any music that involves unusual instruments and is partial to folk metal, classical, and pop-punk. Kai loves winter and history and can be found on any given day listening to her favourite bands at a borderline unhealthy volume and studying Finnish. She finds great amusement in saying the words hurdy-gurdy and vispilä.

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