Interview with Nightwish 123

Source: Metal Hammer 07 2006

typed by Nocturna from the official Nightwish forum


High and Dry

On the brink of global success, Nightwish lost their singer and all momentum. David MacNamee talks to Tuomas Holopainen about how the band don't plan to disappear any time soon.
There's an incredibly touching moment in Nightwish's 2003 DVD 'The End Of Innocence', where the band's songwriter, keyboard-player and leader, Tuomas Holopainen, ponders sadly on how his artistic inspiration, his self-esteem, the camaraderie and integrity of his bandmates had deteriorated since the release of their breakthrough album, 1998's 'Oceanborn'. Corrupted, he believes, by the Finnish symphonic rock group's own success. "I've lost most of what remains of my innocence," Tuomas laments. "In two things I've managed to keep it intact. I've always been loyal, and I've always been true to the music. These two things I won't compromise. If I didn't have them, life would be even more strenuous. Music in itself is such a beautiful thing."
Nightwish's then-frontwoman, the four-octave operatic diva, Tarja Turunene - she posessed of a bewitchingly, um, angular beauty - is largely absent from the documentary.
"The more time you spend in this business, the much more cynical you get," Tuomas tells me. This time, he doesn't sound particularly sorrowful. Quite the opposite. he sounds hardened. "You stop trusting people, in a way. And you stop trusting yourself as well. You know...you try to stay neutral and not calculate, but all the people around you are calculating so much. It's pretty hard. Success in some way always affects you, no matter what you try to do."
Was eliminating Tarja from Nightwish an attempt to exorcise that corrupting influence of success?
"Man, it's really hard to say." You can hear him squirm slightly. "This is still something I don't really enjoy talking about that much. People don't realise that it really hurt to do it."
Everybody knows what happened. Turunen was expelled via an accusatory open letter posted to the world's media the minute Nightwish finished their performance in Helsinki last October - a gig that, unbeknownst to the frontwoman, would be her last with the band. The alleged bullying, narcissistic diva-like behaviour of the singer and her manager-husband was violently at odds with the all-for-one camaraderie that Nightwish was founded on.
Potentially, it brings to an end an era in metal. In 'Oceanborn's wake, an armada of similar-sounding, identical-looking, diva-fronted pomp rock bands invaded the charts and rock media. The frontwomen of many of these bands - Leaves Eyes, Visions of Atlantis, Elis, Forever Slave - are now very publicly jockeying for the position of 'the new Trja'.
"Yes, Simone Simons from Epica, Amy Lee from Evanescence...There's close to 10 of them who have already been announced as our singer!" Tuomas chuckles. "They are really lovely ladies but they have their own bands. It's just media play - they are making up these articles. You shouldn't trust anything unless it's on www.nightwish.com, always."
Metal Hammer actually asked Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil if she'd be interested in auditioning for the role. She seems to be the obvious choice in a lot of people's minds.
"So what did she say?" He sounds intrigued.
She seemed to have some concerns over the way you'd handled things.
"What do you mean? The way..?"
The way Tarja was fired.
"Yeah, it seems like everybody has an opinion about that," he grumbles. "People have to trust us when we say this was the only way to do it. For the past year this matter was on my mind every single day, night and morning. I don't have anything else in life besides Nightwish - I don't even have a family. This is really, really important to me and I'm not going to watch it go down the drain because two people got really, really difficult all of a sudden."
Do you feel guilty at all?
"I have not felt guilty a single moment," he states flatly. "But it's also a mixed feeling between sadness and relief. Some bittersweetness as well."
Nightwish have listened to approximately 400 demos from prospective singers but have yet to audition anybody. The reason Tuomas is speaking to Hammer isn't to announce that Evanescence or whoever have bitten the dust from Singer Transferral Syndrome. He's promoting a new live DVD, recorded at the Helsinki date. The last ever performance of Nightwish mk1. Nocturna side note - 2, surely? What about Sami?!
How do you feel watching that DVD now?
"I feel really proud. That would be the first thing. I'm so proud of the guys, I'm so proud of her."
Be honest, how much of Nightwish's appeal do you think can be laid at the feet of Tarja?
"I think it was a great deal," the songwriter admits. "She was the most recognisable point of the band - both the voice and the face. She had a huge charisma and everything. But I also think - I'm not trying to be egotistical here - I also think every piece of music always starts with a good song. No matter how good a singer you are, if you're performing a lousy song it always fails. So you need to have the song." But...but...but. Here Tuomas lets out an exasperated sigh.
"That's actually something that hurts quite a bit," he says. "That accusation that Nightwish would be nothing without [Tarja], that Nightwish is just an average heavy metal band - nothing extraordinary, just an ordinary heavy metal band. I really have to disagree on this one. Because even if you take the vocals out and listen to the music, I would like to think it's something unique. 'You know, using the orchestra and the Indian guy...all these things," he explains, or tries to explain. But he's still a bit exasperated. He's right in one respect. Given the omnipotency of this particular strain of metal - of which Nightwish are considered to be both founders and leaders, and which they themselves perfected almost a decade ago - as a frontwoman, Turunen has become pretty much interchangeable. The truth is that it could be Simone Simons or Amy Lee or Cristina Scabbia wailing out Tuomas' inconsolable hymns to evaporated innocence over Nightwish's Wagnerian stormtrooper pop, and not only would most people not know the difference, they can now take their pick from an infinite number of Nightwish-a-likes. Nocturna sidenote - which just goes to show how stupid most people - and Metal Hammer - can be.) The problem is this: by the time Nightwish re-emerge - scheduled for the end of this year - with their new album and singer, will anyone still care? (Outraged Nocturna sidenote - um, YES!!)
Metal fans have felt alienated by some of Tuomas' experiments with the formula and brand name - entering Eurovision in 2000, (Nocturna sidenote - this after a double page feature on Lordi in Eurovision, you hypocritcal bastards) their cringeworthy cover of 'Walking In The Air', or the perplexing Native American poetry (from 'the Indian guy' John Two-Hawks) that marred 2004's 'Once'. Nightwish are a band that are wrong at least as many times as they are right - although they are always gloriously entertaining.
Tuomas already has the next Nightwish album written and demoed - having recorded and played everything himself.
"The music will stay heavy and metal," he affirms. "That's what Nightwish is. I would like to experiment with the vocals a bit. I wouldn't mind having a little like...soul touch. You k now, like Alicia Keys maybe."
Tuomas, be honest: these days why should anyone give a shit about Nightwish? (Irate and wrathful Nocturna sidecomment - I feel a patented Nocturna rant letter coming on...)
"Well, the truth is you always lose somebody," the Finn reckons. "Y'know, you can never please everybody. You just do the music that you like yourself. I think you have to be really selfish. In this way, the fans will appreciate the honesty.
'I have never really understood the way that some bands think that we are making music for 'the fans'," he says.
"I don't think it should be like that."

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