Interview with Nightwish 18

Source: Blistering

By: Justin Donnelly

While the use of orchestras is very much commonplace within metal these days, there are few that have pushed the boundaries as far as symphonic/power metal act Nightwish.The five piece Finnish act (Led by operatic vocalist Tarja Turunen, and supported by guitarist Emppu Vuorinen, bassist/vocalist Marco Hietala, keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen and drummer Jukka Nevalainen) literally pushed themselves beyond the confining limitations of their previous four studio efforts, resulting in the bands biggest, and most successful release to date in 2004's ‘Once'.

While on tour in Germany, I caught up with Nightwish's creative mastermind Tuomas Holopainen in Braunschweig (Where they happen to be playing a gig later that night) to find out just how successful ‘Once' has been since it's release in June 2004, how the album has altered the bands current tour plans (Which is set to include Australia) and just which musical direction Holopainen can see Nightwish taking in future.

"At the moment, I'm very happy. The biggest dream for me to ever come true was when I had the final master copy of ‘Once' in my hands. When I heard it, I thought it really was the best effort that I could have done at that time. I was a big highlight for me last year to have the album finished, and to be that proud of it. From the fans perspective, I think they had very high expectations from us on a musical level, so I really wanted to do my best, without any compromises. That's why we hired the best possible orchestra (Who were the London Academy Of St. Martin In The Fields Orchestra) and choir that we could get. That was also the reason why I had (Native American) John Two-Hawks perform on ‘Creek Mary's Blood'. We didn't want to make any compromises on ‘Once'. I also wanted to meet my own expectations. That to me is always the most important. It's always the quality of the music that matters to me. Of course we wanted to be able to top the previous album (2002's ‘Century Child') in sales too, and be able to tour some new places, which we had never been able to do before with that success. Fortunately, all that happened, so we couldn't be happier."

While Holopainen's musical expectation have well and truly been met, it's in sales that Nightwish have really made an impact as well.

"Everything has been doing so much better than we could have ever expected. I mean the sales for ‘Once' worldwide are somewhere around eight hundred and fifty thousand as of right now. Who knows, maybe by the end of the year it could be closer to one million. It seems so absurd for this kind of music! (Laughs) I'm not complaining though. I think it's awesome."

As mentioned before, the increased sales of ‘Once' have mean that Nightwish has made inroads into territories that once seemed distant to the band, and therefore make touring something of a new challenge rather than treading over familiar ground.

"For the first time ever we toured the U.S. last August, and that was very good actually. We also did our first tour of the U.K. And in a couple of weeks we'll be touring Japan for the first time, with Australia straight after that. So we're finally hitting these hard markets. There has always been a really good success in Scandinavia, central Europe and South America, but it's the bigger markets like Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. that have been really hard for us to break into. But finally, something is happening in these countries. It helps enhance the touring experience. I wouldn't think that there's any chance for Nightwish to sell any more albums in Germany (Where the album has gone platinum) or Finland (Where the album has sold triple platinum), so of course we want to extend into other territories and spread our wings. Otherwise it tends to be the same time and time again."

What is not so well known amongst fans is the simple fact that with every new territory that the band plays in, it brings out a nervous disposition within Holopainen.

"I'm always nervous. It's part of my basic character. I've been nervous all my life. I come from the countryside, as the rest of the band do, so this performing in front of big audiences with all these public appearances is something quite weird for me. It's something that I'm still trying to get used to after all these years. I still find myself getting nervous every night before playing a gig. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, because you always get an adrenaline rush before going onstage when you feel a bit nervous. Of course it gets easier when you do long tours and a routine of sorts is there. But when you're performing in a new place for the first time, at the beginning of a tour or even after a long break between tours, it can get really hard! (Laughs)"

Like most international touring acts, Holopainen has little idea what to expect when Nightwish make their way down to Australia for the first time in March for four shows. But he does believe that fans of the band are very much the same worldwide.

"We really don't know what to expect at all. I personally don't know what the album sales are like there, how the shows are being booked or how many people are going to be there. So in a sense we really don't have any expectations. But from experience, I would say that Nightwish fans are so much alike no matter where you go. Whether it's in Finland, South America or the U.S., there's always the same loyalty for the band. There's always the same wild, fanatical touch to the fans. I guess I'm just expecting the same reaction from the fans there in Australia as well! (Laughs) But the band is really looking forward to playing there. I only wish that we could have some time in Australia than we have booked at the moment. We all want to see some sights because Australia is so exotic to us Scandinavians. It really is the further part of the world to us. I just hope we have some time to see something while we are there. I am determined to fit something in amongst the tight schedule we have."

And it's not surprising to find that the Nightwish schedule is still very much packed with touring off the back off ‘Once' going well into late this year.

"Touring is going to keep us busy until the end of October. That's the plan. The whole tour started at the end of May in 2004, and we have been touring pretty much ever since. So all up, it's going to be around a year and a half of touring. That doesn't mean we've been on the road throughout that whole time. We're usually on the road for around three to five weeks, and then go back home for a week, and then start all over again. There's a lot of married people with kids in the band, and also in the crew, so that's the sort of things that you need to keep in mind while touring."

But as successful as touring is for Nightwish, the need to head back into the studio will see the band finish up this year. Providing of course that the band as still intact that is!

"Right now we're just trying to cope with touring, and hope that the band is still together by the end of October! (Laughs) But if it is, I'm pretty sure that we'll enter the studio during the first half of 2006, which means that the next album should be out at the beginning of 2007. But anything can happen, and at the moment, that's just a plan. Nightwish is always a little volatile. The band will only continue for as long as the fire is still there. At the moment, that's still there. That's been the ideology for the band from the beginning. We wanted to do this band on a grand scale, and to do it for as long as it was still fun to do. I just wish that we could all have a good time, all of the time and enjoy it for what it is. Of course, it feels like work some days, but you have to have the fire and the passion to do this. And right now, it's stronger than it's ever been for the band. I'm already writing a lot of new songs for the next album, so I'm one hundred percent sure that there will be another Nightwish album, and another Nightwish tour. But as to how long this whole thing will last is anyone's guess. It may be as little as two years, or as long as twenty years. I really don't know."

But as to just how much bigger Nightwish can get sound wise in an album sense after ‘Once', Holopainen is far more certain as to where the band will head next.

"Anything is possible! (Laughs) That's my life philosophy. I still think that there's some things that we didn't do on ‘Once' that we can do when it comes to how bigger sounding the music can get. I have some really big ambitions for the next album. So there's definitely a next level that has yet to be taken in that area. But of course, too much is too much, so I may also have to start thinking about something else as well! (Laughs) I don't know where that cut off point is just yet, so we'll both have to wait and see what happens next! (Laughs)"


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