Interview with Nightwish 116

Source: Revelationz
By: Roy Kristensen
Photo: Kristine Dufey

I’m a lucky bastard. My favourite two passions are travelling and music,
and with Nightwish I get those two together – Tuomas being lucky

Well, Tuomas, how are you these days, being in Norway and going to Bergen soon?
“Hmm, I don’t know about this Bergen thing, since it’s a playback session. To do the signing-sessions and give away autographs are cool, but doing playback is more like a necessary evil. It’s not that I feel bad about it, but it’s not something I really enjoy.”


As Tuomas says, signing-sessions are cool and he likes it because it’s easy work, people are cool and he gets free drinks. I guess he’s feeling fine being in Norway these days then, 21st of July?
“Yes, it’s very, very good.”



When I meet Tuomas in a hotel in Oslo, he’s very sweaty. Actually I had just been jogging myself and was more or less in the same state, without the alcohol of course. So, I assumed it had something to do with three concerts in four days, being all that sweaty and exhausted? Tuomas begins to laugh, and explains me the obvious…
“Nah, we were just having one hell of a party upstairs, and I was dancing all over. About the concerts, it’s just fine. You see, we’re playing in the same place all three days, so can leave the equipment in there, which makes it a lot easier for us.”


Is it hard to play three shows in four nights?
“No, not at all. As I said, we don’t have to carry the equipment back and forth. We just relax all day, and then we do our job a few hours. It’s really easy.
Nowadays it’s easier to tour. It’s all about making schedules and getting a day off at least every third day. We never do more than two shows in a row. When we did the tours for “Wishmaster” we could stay on the road for three months and we did maybe 5-6 shows in a row. That was really bad for us, and especially to Tarja’s voice. So, now we have this deal where we don’t do more than two days in a row. And we’re not touring for more than one month at the time. In addition two of us have children. And it’s good to our mental health as well.”


I see. Speaking about Tarja’s voice, I really understand because she sings with a lot of power and conviction.
“You see, it’s harder for her than the boys. We can be a bit sick and still do the show, but she can’t sing if she’s in fever you know.”


Yesterday I witnessed a spectacular show. There were loads of explosives, a cool water-effect and confetti all over the place. How important is this to you?
“It’s not the main thing. Our music will always be most important. However, I think our music is very visual, bombastic and cinematic and we want to bring that into the live situation as well. Thus, lots of pyros, lots of lights.
Actually, this is the first tour we do where we can afford this. These things cost a lot, and we have finally got the opportunity to use pyros properly. It’s good for the band’s stage-performance. Our pyro-technician and I work this out together. I show him the set and we talk about where it is best to use the effects.”


Due to the high amount of effects I had to ask Tuomas about the combination between the music and the effects, and if he’s afraid the effects take away some of the focus on the music? Tuomas doesn’t hesitate a second.
“No, not at all. It’s like being in a circus, and it gives the audience something more than just the band.”


I was told a few days after the interview that Tarja almost fainted on stage due to the heat on stage. I guess we should blame the pyro-technician since he brought outdoor-explosives and used it inside Rockefeller. Well, it’s metal you know, so what can you do? The show must go on.
How do you decide which songs to play live?

“I choose the set-list. The others do have ideas, and I listen to them, but in the end it’s I who decide. I’m pretty hard hearted when it comes to these choices. I include old songs in our set, because when I go to see one of my favourite bands, i.e. Metallica, I would become rather disappointed if they did only new songs. Obviously we have to do a lot of news songs, but we must never forget the old ones.”


But no “Ghost Love Score”?
“No, we didn’t, but it’s the song we have to practice for the European tour. This song seems to be everybody’s favourite from the album, so we have to give it a try despite all the work with the mini-disc. We’re not sure if it’ll work in the end, but we’ll do our best.”


You didn’t do any songs from the two first albums this time.
“We’ve done those songs for six years now. Songs like “Elvenpath” and “Beauty And The Beast” were included in every show for six years. You just have to leave some songs out, and I think there’s no room for those tracks anymore.”


How does the audience react to that?
“I guess some hardcore fans miss them, since they’re used to those from the beginning. Some even think “Angels Fall First” is the best album yet, and they miss “Beauty And The Beast” a lot. It has turned into a cult-classic.”


I assume there may be a day where Dimmu Borgir doesn’t do “Mourning Palace”.
“To us it’s the same with “Wishmaster”. We hate to play this song, since nobody in the band likes this track anymore. But, it’s a must.”


I begin to laugh a bit and tell Tuomas that I can see them on stage being forty-fifty years old still doing “Wishmaster”.
“Actually, we’ve talked about daring to leave the song from the set next year. After all, everybody has heard it by now, so…”.


What about “Creek Mary’s Blood”?
“No, we can’t do it because we would really need John Two-Hawks on stage, and he doesn’t have the time to travel with us, so… We’re gonna have these gigs with the choir and the orchestra by the end of the next year, but we don’t know the time or location yet. I guess we’ll do them a few times in a row, and it’ll probably be some places like London or Berlin, or… We want to do a DVD for this event, an event that is like a dream come true.”


Well, we better start saving some money now.
You’ve done numerous shows now, and it all exceeded on the “Wishmaster”-tour a few years ago. How do you think you work together as a band on stage?
“The best thing is that you cannot learn to play live by practicing, you learn to play live by playing live. It doesn’t matter how many hours you spend in the rehearsal room, because you learn the routine up there. We always get better and better after a few shows, everyone knows what the others will do, it’s like a symbiosis.”


With only one guitarist, I thought on beforehand that Nightwish could sound somewhat weaker live. Have you ever considered two guitarists on stage?
“Umm, yeah… I thought about this for five minutes a few years ago. What we’re doing is not that guitar-based compared to other bands, and our keyboards can even be considered as our second guitar.”


You aren’t afraid the keyboards and the music those deliver are loosing too much power on stage? And why three keyboards on stage?
“Well, you should never compare the studio album to a live situation. We always start with blank sheets when we begin to rehearse the songs. It’s not an aim either to make the songs sound exactly as on the albums. What’s the point doing that? We could do the set with only two keyboards, the third is for visual reasons.”


Tuomas is seemingly serious, so I tell him I won’t let anybody know. Jokes aside, and Tuomas continues:
“I use the third keyboard as well, since it’s easier to work with three compared two to. And, it’s nice standing there in the middle of these. It’s like an altar…”


It’s not an altar of sacrifice I assume. Come to think of it, Luca Turilli told me it was boring to do the same solos as on the album, so there you go. I like bands that differ the tracks a little bit compared to the studio albums. Since it is Tuomas who’s written 98% of Nightwish’ music and lyrics I had to ask him how he feels being on stage with ‘his’ children?
“Sometimes it’s hard, other times it’s fine. Usually it’s a grandiose feeling, they’re my songs, they are personal to me, and they are made in this little house in the countryside in the middle of nowhere. It’s very special when we’re in South American, Europe or wherever and there’re two thousands listeners singing the same songs. I’m gaining this perverted satisfaction, and we’re sharing the feeling in this interaction. It’s a musical orgasm.”


What’s the most enjoyable thing being on stage? Tuomas thinks for three seconds…
“Enjoyable? It’s a euphoric feeling, and sometimes I just close my eyes and go into the songs and become one with it. I start seeing the song in front of me. This may sound a bit corny but…, every tenth gig or so I get this incredible feeling. I really am “Walking In The Air”. And, when all those people singing our songs I get those most wanted goosebumps. It’s a very harmonic feeling.
It’s not always like that. Sometimes it’s more like work, and then I just try to have fun.”


To what extent do the audience affect… Tuomas knows exactly what I’m going to ask and he says:
“That affects our performance a lot. It’s a mutual reaction. If the audience is cold, meaning they do not clap their hands or yell or anything, we’re trying to do our best but it’s not that easy. Luckily this doesn’t happen often, since metal people usually are into ‘the thing’ and have a good time.
The show yesterday was pretty good, and in the end those in the balcony were singing along and having a good time.”


I saw that in “From Live To Eternity” Jukka did the show without wearing any shirt. Wouldn’t this be a great idea for the whole band? Tuomas looks at me and starts to laugh.
Seriously speaking, how do you recover after playing a gig? You seem to be pretty exhausted, and not all of you can do the show without wearing any shirt I guess…

“Before the show everybody has a ritual. The guys and me usually get a drink or two, while Tarja doesn’t. Personally, I always have these 10 minutes in solitude where I go through the set in my head and see in example where I have to change the sounds and other things I have to do during the show. Nobody is allowed to bother me during those minutes. After that we have this ‘hugging thing’ where we hug each other and get each other going.
After the show it’s drinking water, drinking beer and having a good time talking to people. You know, it’s always nice to hear if the audience enjoyed the show, that brings back some energy.”


So, it’s really hard work playing live. Not that it surprises me because you seem all pretty sweaty after a performance. Do you work out or anything like that to keep in shape?
“Yeah, it’s pretty exhausting doing one and a half hour of music on stage. It’s really like working out, and I confess that I should take more care of my body in general. I think Jukka and Tarja are the ones who’re sporty in their freetime. Still though, we’re not as old yet. To me the most important thing is that I get the obligatory eight hours of sleep.
It’s a good thing doing a trip to Norway like this. A few occasional interviews, the shows and the rest are about chilling out. I can sleep as long as I wish.”


Yeah, you can sleep as long as you wish, Master. Though, not now because we’re turning into another subject, namely the albums Nightwish has created thus far.


Tuomas confirms that Nightwish was started back in ’96. I suggested we should travel a bit back in time, so I asked him how he considered “Angels Fall First” looking at it in retrospect?
“Well, there was a period where I felt a bit embarrassed about the whole thing. But I guess I grew up a little bit. I think there’s a lot of effort into that album and a lot of innocence, we didn’t care about anything. I think it’s a sweet album, though I admit the production is really poor and there are some corny lyrics in there (Tuomas smiles)”


I had to listen to the music during my research for this interview, and it surprised me that this album is quite strong. After all it’s only a debut album, and it’s better than several other albums that have been praised in the press, like the first album of Lacrimas Profundere, Within Temptation, Theater Of Tragedy’s debut. And I think Tarja sang pretty well. Tuomas agrees to the last remark and says he stands behind every song. I smiled and said that he had short hair and did some vocals. Tuomas laughs:
“I would rather say I tried. I think my singing is the worst aspect of our debut album. Hehe, I learn from my mistakes.”


Wasn’t it you who did the vocals for Nattvinden’s Gråt?
“No, it was Wilska. I only did keyboards.”


With Nightwish I feel I can do almost anything and it would still sound like Nightwish”. I can fulfill all of my musical perversions – Tuomas being perverted

“Oceanborn” was a huge step forward. It has catchier melodies and is bigger than your debut. In a way you seemed way more confident on this album. Wasn’t this your breakthrough in Finland?
“Yes, it was. It managed to enter the nr. 5 in the hit list, and we got a big name in our country.”


How did it do in the rest of the world? As far as I’ve understood “Wishmaster” was your step forward outside Finland…
“Yes, that album did well and especially “Century Child” was successful. “Oceanborn” was our step outside the underground. If I remember correctly, it even entered the German charts at 90-something. We gained some success from it, and I think it has sold like 150.000 copies, which is pretty good I’d say. To me it’s the only album that can be referred to as classic.”


Personally I think “Oceanborn” is better than “Century Child”. Tuomas can understand that.
“Many people say that, and I totally agree. Even if it’s not the best-produced album, nor is the arranging of the songs that good, we consider this album to be created when our band was at its best. The expectations weren’t high, there was no pressure and all the doors were open. We were crazy like hell, we were pushing that album and having a lot of fun. I think you can hear that in “Oceanborn”.”


When I listen to it I get in a good mood. It’s an uplifting album I’d say…
“Yeah, I totally agree. I think it has the same innocence as our debut, but after that it was gone.”


“Wishmaster”… Hmmm, there’s something about it. I don’t know, some heaviness, some seriousness… Tuomas sees my point and says:
“Yes, there is seriousness. It came with the pressure, and everybody was expecting this album so much. Fact is, my favourite Nightwish albums are “Once” and “Oceanborn”. I’m not that much into “Wishmaster”. “Century Child” is OK, but there sure is something about “Oceanborn” that I like.”


Wishmaster” naturally owns a better production and the arranging is better. But it lacks something…
“…spirit”, Tuomas helps me. When I think of the whole package I think the colour thing related to “Nightwish” is interesting. “Angels…” is red, “Oceanborn” is blue, “Wishmaster” is red, “From Wishes…” is red, “Over The Hills…” is blue, “Century Child” is dark blue and now “Once” is lightly blue. Is this a twist of fate, or are the choices consciously made?
“When I start planning the covers, I see them in front of me. In “Oceanborn” it had to be blue, since I saw an image of a girl in the sea. “Wishmaster” had to be read, but with the new cover I didn’t have any idea how it should be. But I wanted it to be pretty white. And then I saw the fallen angel in front of me.”


Tuomas says that “Oceanborn” is the album that gave Nightwish the identity they have today. Nightwish is a symphonic and very melodic metal band. They have released five full-lengths by now and to me “Once” is their best. But already “Oceanborn” and “Wishmaster” are really magnificent albums. So, I had to ask Tuomas how he develops the band instead of making “Oceanborn” pt. 2, pt. 3 or “Wishmaster” pt. 666?
“It’s very important to think a little bit ahead. I try to never make the same album or even the same song twice, I search new ideas and aim to bring in new elements all the time. With Nightwish I feel I can do almost anything and it would still sound like Nightwish”. I can fulfill all of my musical perversions. You know, we have this really heavy song “Slaying The Dreamer” which is closer to Pantera. On the other hand we have one epic track which includes an Indian chanting his words. “Wish I Had An Angel” is reminiscent of Rammstein. We have ballads. So, we can do anything and it still sounds like Nightwish.”


Do you think there’s any limit to Nightwish?
“I don’t think so. You have to use some common sense. You won’t find any jazz or electropunk in our music. I think we work fine together as a band, and what we do simply is Nightwish.”


“From Wishes To Eternity” is a live album that can be considered a summary of your three first albums. I guess this release makes it less necessary to do the older songs, or is the reason that they bore you?
“Well, we’re tired by them and we have to leave songs out to make room for the new songs.”


Yesterday (21st of July, 2004) you played for one and a half hour. Is that your regular playing time?
“Actually, 1.30, 1.40 is the top limit. And we have to do a song in the middle of the set without Tarja’s vocal because she needs to rest. There are some things with her voice that people don’t understand. I mean, even us in the band don’t really get this. And we have to be careful with the pryo-techniques as well.”


Why a Megadeth cover? Tuomas admits it wasn’t the most obvious choice.
“It was a last minute thing. We thought about a lot of different songs, but couldn’t find the right one. Then Marco came up with the idea of doing a Megadeth cover, and we all agreed in the end.”


Hehe, they didn’t go for “Hangar 18”. I guess Emppu’s fingers wouldn’t survive. Nor would be band, Tuomas suggests. Well, “Symphony Of Destruction” did well enough for me.
“Century Child” is a more brutal/darker album compared to “Wishmaster”, and I’ve read that you thought it could be your swansong. As you write in “Slaying The Dreamer”, “…Swansong for the Wish of Night…”. Why did the album hurt so much?

“Yeah, this album lacks the whole and the humour that’s present on the other albums. It’s really hard and dark. I mean, with Nightwish I’m always writing a kind of diary of my own life. At the time there was a bad feeling within the band and I had a hard time myself. It was the shittiest year in my life, and I was doing those songs being in that mental stage. Whenever an artist, a painter or a musician makes something you can rest assured his or hers mental state of mind will reflect the final result. I was feeling really bad back then, and of course it reflect the songs on the album.”


How do you feel about revealing yourself to the world? Tuomas says that he has been asked the question a lot, but he doesn’t think about it like that.
“I just make the music and the let it flow from ‘here’ to ‘here’ (he shows me, moving his hand from his body into the air). A lot of people feel associated with my songs and themes, and that gives me a kind of perverted satisfaction. Some think in the same way and share the same feelings – that’s cool.”


Did you solve the problems?
“Yeah, actually we did. He’s one of the solutions (points at their manager Ewo Rytkönen). We got a new bass player, and now we feel that we can focus on the musical matters.”


I think Tarja sung wonderfully great even back in “Oceanborn”, though she improved a lot on “Wishmaster”. But, I think it is on “Century Child” that she seems to have control? She’s confident and she varies her voice more than ever. Like in “End Of All Hope” she gives all power, while on “Ocean Soul” and “Feel For You” she is more safe and controlled if you see what I mean. How do you view her development thinking of the development of Nightwish?
“It’s a continuous learning process, and she’s getting better all the time. When we did “Century Child” we changed her voice a lot, and that’s one of the major criticism we got for the album. “Why is she singing this ‘popish’ way”, we were asked all the time?
Tarja is very talented, and her voice is not one-dimensional. She sings in a classic way, but she can just as well sing in a more popish style. She can be easier to the listener’s ear, and with “Century Child” we wanted to try something different. After all, the three first albums were quite operatic. I think it felt right, and her voice fits the songs on that album.”


So, it’s due to the development that you felt ready to do “Phantom Of The Opera”, since her voice would be compared to Sarah Brightman’s no matter if you did a metal version of the track? I mean, it’s pretty daring to do this song…
“I guess so. But I had this song in mind for year, and I don’t really know why we didn’t do it earlier. I think this song fits in the album. Speaking of “Phantom Of The Opera”, it is this song that made Tarja start singing. She heard this song when she was like seven years young, and after that she always wanted to be a singer. I love this song and the opera as well, and when we did the album I went to London to watch this musical.”


Yeah, I think this is a fantastic musical. I went to Denmark three years ago together with a fantastic woman. And we became quite surprised when they began to sing in Danish. Tuomas is surprised and laughingly doesn’t know what to think. Well, it was really strange the first ten minutes but after that we loved it, and since they sung in Danish it made everything an even more special event to us.
Nightwish has surely developed throughout the years. How do you view Tarja’s development thinking of the development of Nightwish? In a way I feel that you’re skills and hers have walked hand in hand. I mean, you would probably not have been as enthusiastic if she hadn’t developed and vice versa…

“I have never thought about that. I think the doing a new album is a learning process, and we’ve been through a learning process playing together for so many years.”


How hard was it to write the lyrics for “Century Child”? I mean, you probably worked a bit more than you did with “Nymphomaniac Fantasia”… Tuomas begins to laugh. We’ve talked a bit about this already, but still I ask “Once” more. How hard was it to write these lyrics, knowing that people would read it and look closer at you…
“Eh, frankly speaking I didn’t care. Things were really bad and I remember writing the lyrics coming home from a bar at five o’clock am. I was really pissed off. So, usually it was like that and I went to sleep. When I woke in the morning I read the lyrics and surprisingly found them rather good, though I got rid of all those ‘fucks’. They don’t fit in Nightwish at all.”


I laugh. But, how do you develop the lyrics into the final result?
“I work a lot with them. Usually I have an idea about the song before I write the music. Basically I write whatever comes to my mind when I’ve thought about what I want to say. Then I start rearranging them so that they fit the vocal-melodies and making ending-rhymes. I think phonetic rhymes are good enough, as I think it would turn out too corny in the end with real rhymes.”


Do you have an idea of the whole album from the beginning, or is it more like a coincident in the end? Like, this is song number one and the next I write will be number two…
“I guess it’s pretty much the whole thing. When I start doing the album I have a list of the songs in my mind; this song here, that song there, one ballad, one heavy track, another ballad… and so on.”


Both “Wishmaster” and “Century Child” ends with big tracks that are varied and heavy while “Once” ends with the beautiful “Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan” and “Higher Than Hope”…
“It was obvious from the beginning actually, to include “Ghost Love Scroe” as the final track on the album. Then we thought about it and figured that since we’d done this four times by now, ending the album with a massive long track, we wanted to try another solution. So, it ended up as the ninth song, and in the end we all saw that “Higher Than Hope” would be the perfect ending of the album.”


Do you know how the listener feels about that?
“I don’t know. You tell me.”


“Yeah, I shall tell you” I say to Tuomas. “The first time I heard “Once” I thought I should kick you in the head when I got to meet you. After several listenings I reconsidered my first thought because it feels right after all. Yeah, normally you, Rhapsody and most other bands have this epic long song as an end of the album, but with the new album you’ve made something different. It’s nice to get a moment of silence by the beautiful Finnish song. “Higher Than Hope” is also a ballad, but it’s bombastic and lifts me up again. Instead of being exhausted, I’m relaxed after listening to “Once”, and I like this feeling.”

“O N C E” – T R A C K B Y T R A C K

“Dark Chest Of Wonders” is heavy and bombastic, and I was surprised that you opened with such a straight-in-my-face track. How did it end up as the first track?
“It was obvious from the beginning, and we didn’t doubt about it for one second. The song makes no sense, there are so many styles of metal into four and half minutes. So, we wanted to introduce the listener to the album and show what’s to come, a kind of prelude if you will. Add to this that we wanted to open with a kick-in-your-face track and show that Nightwish is not going balladish.”


“I Wish I Had An Angel” is even heavier in times, and it is your most brutal track. How did you feel after you had recorded the track and discovered its heaviness?
“It was a natural development. I didn’t think I had to make harder songs or a heavier album. I guess one reason could be that I used the electric guitar when I wrote the music, so something like 50% was written by using the guitar. I can’t play the guitar, but still I managed to make melodies and riffs. I experimented and found out how to make these. You know, learning by doing.”


“Nemo” is the successful single. Are you pleased with the video?
“Let’s say like 90% of it. There were some schedule problems, so we had to rush a little bit towards the end. Still though, it’s definitely our best video so far.”


I inform Tuomas that there’s a program on one of the TV-channels in Norway that invites the viewers to send a SMS and vote in their favourite video. “Nemo” is one of the top-5, so there’re a lot of opportunities to watch it. Tuomas likes what I tell him. But why did you choose this as your first single?
“Again a very obvious choice. If you look at the whole album, I’d say there are only two songs that are actual singles, “Wish I Had An Angel” and “Nemo”. We thought “Wish…” would be too much of a shock, so we ended up with “Nemo” as the first single. This track is not one of the best songs on the album, but it has the necessary catchiness to it, especially in the chorus, and there’s no double-bass drum so maybe some radios would play it. It’s also short enough, so it was obvious to us.”


When I heard “Nemo” as a single I didn’t really know what to think. I’d heard about the orchestra and choirs, but after “Nemo” I became less interested. However, when I got to hear the whole album the track fell into place, and even if it still isn’t the best track I like it quite a lot, despite the lack of major orchestration. Tuomas explains:
“The choice of “Nemo” as a single was one of the reasons I put “Dark Chest Of Wonders” and “Wish I Had An Angel” as the two first tracks. Those who thought Nightwish had turned into some Gothic Rock band had to think twice when they got to hear the album.”


“Planet Hell” is my favourite track on “Once”. It has everything. Was it a hard song to produce thinking of its complexity?
“No, not really. For me the longest songs are the easiest ones to record. It’s hard as hell to do an interesting song that’s not more than four minutes. I like to do these songs where the moods and tempos changes, like “Dark Chest Of Wonders” and “Ghost Love Score”. Even “Nemo” is four and a half minutes, and that’s 30 seconds too long for the radio. “Planet Hell” has the best intro we’ve ever done for a song, but it’s not one of my favourites because it’s a bit boring musically speaking even though I like the intro. However, it has the best lyrics for the album.”


“Creek Mary’s Blood” is totally different from everything you’ve done so far. Was it hard to gain an atmosphere which would make the listener go back in time to the Native American’s peek in time?
“I watched “Dances With Wolves” several times when I did this track. It’s my all time favourite movie, and I wanted to capture the mood and how it made me feel. In addition I read a couple of books on the subject. This song ended up being my favourite Nightwish song, and I can assure you I’m a 100% satisfied with it.
I spent a lot of time with “Creek Mary’s Blood”. I had to make the lyrics good enough, and it wasn’t that easy to get hold of the Native Indian guy that chants. Now that I hear the final result I’m very proud of the song.”


One interesting aspect with it is the way it moves in waves. Tuomas understands what I’m trying to say.
“I didn’t want to do a long ballad, that’s for sure. So, I included the hard section in between two nicer parts. I wrote the Lakota-lyric in English and it was like this (he shows me two hands close to each other). Then the guy translated it into Lakota and it became like this (he shows me the same two hands far away from each other). You know, it turned into one and a half minutes of reading.”


When I hear Johnny Twohawks begins to read/sing his part, I travel back in time and it’s like I’m right there in the middle of it all. Cowboys, Indians and all that…
“Cool. If you can see that, it’s the biggest compliment you can give me.”


On “The Siren” Tarja really has to sing as a, ahem, siren. She’s marvellous on this track, and I wonder if you had to record her several times, because to me it sounds challenging?
“Actually this was one of the easiest songs to do. Guess which one that was the hardest? (imagine me looking like a question-mark - Roy) We had to record it over and over again three times. For the first version of the track we spent like eight hours doing the stuff again and again. This is a really hard song to sing, and track is “Nemo” (you got me there, Tuomas – Roy). “The Siren” was pretty much OK and Tarja was just improvising the “glrghglrghlgrh”-stuff (Tuomas tries to show me, but it sounds more like he’s drowning or something, and we laugh – Roy).”


“Dead Gardens” is a track that is less intriguing but has the most beautiful refrain you’ve done so far. Why didn’t you choose this as your single? I mean, it’s catchy and listener-friendly in my opinion…
“Yeah, but I wanted our first single to include some orchestra and choirs since there had been a lot of hype concerning this. “Dead Gardens” is one of the two tracks without these elements, so we couldn’t do it. This track was the first one I wrote for the album, and it deals with ‘writer’s block’. I had a huge writer’s block when I stared doing the album, and I was really pissed. So, I got the idea to make a song about these feelings and it kinda broke the ice.”

“Romanticide” is again a brutal track, and towards the end it’s very sexy. After the chorus it turns and goes into a catchy tune. Do you feel the difference recording such a track which has its light moments compared to the more brutal tracks, like “Wish I Had An Angel”? Or maybe you don’t think about this at all…
“No, I don’t. I just tell the guys how the riffs are, and they play it.”


Thinking about it, is it different to record the various songs?
“Yeah, we try to get each song into its mood. Like, whenever we record a ballad we have to have candles in the studio. It helps to set the right mood, and it may even inspire us to develop a song, to add small things and to make everything better. When we have the energy and are feeling real good, we do the hard songs and the solos. Towards the end of the night we may be a bit drunk and tired, then we do the ballads.”


“Ghost Score Love” is the major track on this album. It’s perfect, though it’s not my favourite track. I do wonder though, did you have a vision of this before you did your time in the studio?
“I knew the song before we begun to record it. I knew it would be long, because I had done the lyrics and made the various parts. I just visualized the whole story and did it from beginning to end. Many people are asking me; “how are you doing this? You’re a genius…”. But, it’s the easiest song of the whole album. I knew it was going to be a long song, and didn’t have to think too hard about the arrangements, I just let it flow.”


Do you think you can overdo this track, without making a soundtrack like those for The Gladiator or Conan?
“Overdo? No, never. There’s no such thing with Nightwish as overdoing (we laugh). Seriously, we can always do better, that’s something I am confident about. I’m sure we will do even better on our next album, which I guess will be out in three years or something. Something new is going to come, it always does.”


Can we expect more orchestra and choirs next time? There’s no doubt in Tuomas’ mind.
“For sure. But we’re always playing by the rules of the song. If the song requires it we take it, if it doesn’t we leave it out.”


When I hear the latest Dimmu Borgir album, there’s a lot of orchestra on the album. And when I listen to it in my headphones, I often get surprised by hearing something I didn’t hear the last time I listened to the album. The same effect can be heard on “Once”. I mean, I’ve heard the album more than 50 times by now, and why didn’t I hear that before… Is this something you think about when you record the album?
“I try to think about the album as a whole, and I struggle to be neutral about it. It’s more like focusing on what’s good or not. But, we’re recording so many tracks in each song, so I understand if you hear something new every time. Even I do.
Every string part that I do with my keys I records two or three times. On the top of that there’s the orchestra, which is doubled as well.”


“Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan” (no, I didn’t pronounce it correctly, since Tuomas corrects me). So, the obvious question is of course why you did a track in Finnish?
“To be honest, it was just a curiosity. I even had the lyric in English in case it didn’t work with the Finnish version, but when Tarja sang the song I was very touched by it. In my opinion it’s the best ballad we’ve done so far, and the Finnish language doesn’t sound corny. Normally I think it does. On beforehand I thought the song would be the B-side to the single, but when Tarja started to sing I immediately heard it was the most beautiful thing we have ever done, so it had to be on the album.”


I don’t speak Finnish, and I had to hear the song numerous times before I got used to the wickedness of it. Then I realized Tarja’s vocal turned into an instrument of its own instead of being the vocalist of Nightwish.
“This is the key-idea of everything I do with Tarja, I want her to become an instrument on the same level as the guys in Nightwish. We are not a ‘Tarja’s band’, we are a unity where every instrument plays an equally important role.


“Higher Than Hope” is a superb ending for a superb album. Howcome you ended “Once” with a bombastic ballad instead of the more obvious “Ghost Love Score”?
“It feels good. It kinda pays homage to the whole album. “Higher Than Hope” is based on a true story, on something sad that happened so I thought it is worthwhile to be included as the last song of the album.”


“O N C E” – A L B U M

So, thinking of the album as a whole, did this capture your vision and mission?
“For the first time it did. “Once” is our fifth album, and it’s the first one I don’t have to push the skip button when I listen to it. On every album there’ve been one or two tracks I don’t like. On “Century Child” I have to skip “Feel For You”, I don’t like “Crownless” from “Wishmaster” nor “The Riddler” on “Oceanborn”. On “Once” every song has its justified place on the album, and I’m really satisfied with it.”


The album is very fluent, and it floats in a way that makes it comfortable. It’s thorough the way I sense it.
“Yes, that’s what I was after, and I am glad you see it like this.”


Instead of diving into each lyric, I want to ask about two of your lyrics. The first is “Planet Hell”. The obvious interpretation is that you don’t give much hope for mankind?
“I don’t think we should be expecting the end of the world, because it has already happened. The lyric is naïve, but it’s just the feelings that I have when I’m looking at the world today. I have lost all hope by now, life is just a struggle to manage everyday-life on this Planet Hell.”


We’re not being political or anything, but do you know how people react towards your lyrics? I assume they write you and tell you…
“Not about this song, more about the personal songs like “Nemo” where they tell me they feel the same as I do and that I put words (and music) to their thoughts. “Planet Hell” is not such a personal song. It’s not a political song, it’s not an anti-USA song, it’s just how I feel about our planet.”


So, what do you actually feel about USA?
“Do you really want an answer to that?”


Nah, I didn’t have that in mind. But, if you have something you’d like to tell, feel free.
“I like the USA. I have always been a fan of her, I have a lot of friends there and it’s one of my absolute favourite countries to visit and to travel in. I don’t agree with Bush, but that shouldn’t take away the good things about this country. It has now become a trend to be anti-USA, but it shouldn’t be that simple. It’s not a black/white issue, there are always at least two sides to the story. So, don’t blame the American people, blame the politics. (PS, go the Anti-American ??? article – ED)”


When I read the lyric for “Planet Hell” I think that you really want this world to become a better place for all beings?
“I wish, but I really don’t see any hope.”


Well, after all you are the “Wishmaster”. Tuomas laughs and grants three wishes for everybody. He continues:
“I write my lyrics being honest, I don’t think about the reactions concerning my thoughts and words. In this way people can make of them what they want, to each his own interpretation.”


Do you wish to affect people, since Nightwish is a bigger band now, selling loads of albums and people are more interested in what you actually have to say?
“Maybe in the sense that I want people to feel better about themselves, enjoy life more and escape to the world of music. As said, I don’t want to be political and write about environment issues, I rather want to invite them into our world and let them dream for a while.”


Usually it’s a grandiose feeling, they’re my songs, they are personal to me,
and they are made in this little house in the countryside in the middle of nowhere – Tuomas on playing live

How is your life these days?
“Really good, actually.”


Thinking about “Romanticide” it seems to me that you aren’t the luckiest around? I mean, “…Romance is lost…” and “…Heart once bold Now turned to stone…”?
“Yeah, well, it’s more like growing up loosing your childhood innocence. I have had my fair share of unlucky love, but at the moment things are very good. I can understand that people interpret it like that, but it’s more like romance is lost within myself, so I don’t see things the same way as I used to when I was a kid. The sky is not that blue anymore.”


It’s cool that we interpret things in different ways.
“Yes, but now I’m telling you how I think about this and now everybody’s going to interpret it like that.”


Well, could be but personally “Romanticide” is still about unlucky love to me. However, I understand your point, Tuomas. This is also why I try to come up with thoughts based on the lyrics and often tell my interpretation first, before I ask about the interviewee’s opinion. When it differs I feel good, and so does the writer of the song. I mean, the typical questions, “what’s “Nemo” about?” and “what’s “Ghost Love Score” about?” are boring. Thinking of the topic I wonder if you feel we need more happiness, love and innocence in the world?
“Innocence was the word I was going to say, but you said it yourself. Don’t forget the child in yourself, and remember to watch Disney movies.”


Don’t you think it’s a bit strange that you’re asked about ‘this’ and ‘that’ now that Nightwish has turned into a success, while ten years ago nobody cared?
“Well, I’ve never thought about it like that. If people are interested in my opinion that’s fine, it’s just a part of the show.”


Where do you find inspiration to come up with new ideas all the time, Tuomas? I have enjoyed your music even since “Angel’s Fall First”, though it was “Oceanborn” that really did it to me…
“Imagination is my main source of inspiration, no doubt. In addition I gain extremely much inspiration from soundtracks and movies. Danny Elfman, Hanz Zimmer, James Horner, they’re all great. Lyrically I write from my own imagination about my own life, it’s like a diary. And let’s not forget about Disney. It’s half my life, I’ve been to Disneyland three times and despite the commercialism I love it.”


From talking to you for more than an hour I figure you like splatter movies as well?
“Oh yeah, “Braindead” is incredible and it’s funny as hell. “Bad Taste” is a classic and don’t forget about “The Evil Dead”.”


Go figure. Isn’t it just typical that Tuomas have a go for splatter movies as well? He reminds me of, uhm, me.

T H E E N D (o f a l l h o p e)

Well, Tuomas, we’re close to the end so let’s Finnish off with a few shorties.

What’s your favorite colour? (thinking of the covers, I guess blue/red)?
“Ehh, uhmm, purple.”


So, why is it blue and red on the cover albums, I ask but Tuomas just laughs.
Who’s your favourite keyboardist?

“Hanz Zimmer and Vangelis. Those two are equal.“


Favourite country besides Finland (and it’s not allowed to answer anything else but Norway)? Tuomas begins to laugh and asks me what I want him to say? Well, I just forward the next question instead.
Favourite country besides Finland and Norway?

“Thailand. We haven’t played any shows there, but I have been there on a vacation and I’m going back in January. It’s incredibly beautiful, but people are kind. There are a lot of countries I do like, I have mentioned The States, I like Canada and so on.”


You’re very lucky, but do you manage to see anything in those countries during your tours?
“Yeah, actually. I’m a lucky bastard. My favourite two passions are travelling and music, and with Nightwish I get those two together. Then I love Disney, and Nightwish will play in Disneyland, so it’s all just great to me.”


I suggest that Tuomas can’t stop writing music. He’s addicted to it. Tuomas laughs a bit and says:
“It’s like a drug, a good drug. I’m going to write music to the day I’ll die. Everything I see and sense around me is transformed into music in one way or another. I’m thinking like; how can I transform this into music?”


It’s a good thing you can make your money from the music. It’s like a dream come true for you?
“Yeah, I am lucky. There are so many people who’d like to live from music, but they can’t afford to try and have to do their regular jobs. I make enough money from this, and I’m very grateful for this.”


In which track do you think Tarja does her best vocal performance?
“I have to think about this a little… I have to say “Higher Than Hope”. She was very emotional when she sung it. The song meant a lot to her as well when she did it. I have never seen her like this. The same thing that happens in the song happened to her a month prior to the recording of her vocal.”


Name your three favourite bands (and Rhapsody has to be one of them)?
“Yeah, I would have mentioned Rhapsody no matter, so in addition you get Metallica and My Dying Bride.”


Well, that’s it. So, what’s next?
“Actually we’re going to the rehearsal room to practice a couple of songs. We want to change our setlist a bit because we’re already somewhat bored. I assume “Ghost Love Score” will be one of the new songs in our set list. We will tour, drink booze and have loads of fun. Thank you.”


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