Interview with Nightwish 11

Source: Zillo

Zillo: Am Ende der Welt (2008-06)


Translation from Nightwish Official Forum:

At the end of the world

Nightwish have nearly perfected the game with the media, through painful experiences and years in the spotlight: the ever-identical questions are answered with ever-identical responses. But if an unexpected event breaks the interview's routine, much deeper insights into the Finnish superstars' inner life are possible. Emma Perez starts out for an interview for Zillo, but things turn out very different..

Toulouse? Why Toulouse? The day starts pretty confusing: A mighty hum hammering in the head, a cotton mouth and a bad taste on the tongue, and a body that still feels like it's swaying even though it's lying down. Thinking is hard - especially with panic taking over. The bed at home seems to have turned into a coffin. The head hits a hollow-sounding ceiling after only a few centimeters, body parts hit walls everywhere around. What's going on here? One wall gives in and reveals to be a curtain. Alright, a cabin in the nightliner. At least part of the hum comes from the motor and is not to be interpreted as an unpleasant relict of a cheerful night. Most of the curtains of the corridor are still closed as a sign to be quiet and respect the other travellers' privacy. But there are muffled voices coming from behind the door to the driver's cabin, where tables and seats are placed as well. It's high time to find out what's happening here. Behind the door, there are sitting Nightwish's manager Ewo Pohjala, keyboarder Tuomas Holopainen, drummer Jukka Nevalainen as well as bass player Marco Hietala, having a men's breakfast composed of coffee and cigarettes, greeting me with a broad grin. "Welcome to Toulouse", blond Ewo says, and indeed, there are a rich, southern french city's neat houses passing by the window. Touluse? No, that wasn't planned. What happened last night? Memories return with a cup of coffee...

[headline I can't think of how to translate properly, including fish soup and a German expression with food my dictionary claims to mean "fiddlesticks" in English]

The day before, in Marseille: Not too many bands find their way to this slightly worn-looking seaport at the Côte d'Azur. They usually only head to Paris, Lyon and Toulouse on the common way from Germany to Spain, or vice versa. In the tourist guides, Marseille is, if it all, only mentioned because of its fishy speciality, Bouillabaisse - and you had better not call it "fish soup" in a native's presence! Marseille doesn't have a chance against Nice, the glamorous bath, or the film-festival's home village Cannes, plus, french rap is the undisputed local master of music of this multi-ethnic city. But today, Nightwish are coming. And it's not only the local metal or gothic fans swarming into the biggest event hall "The Dome"'s cupola, but there are fans of the Finns from all of France travelling to the mediterranean coast. Even local experts are stunned by the throng. "It's hard to believe, but Nightwish are drawing more visitors to this hall than Slayer and System Of A Down together", marvels for example Michael Berberian, boss of the local extreme label Season Of Mist. Only one year ago, loads of false prophets had predicted a heavy decline of visitor numbers to the band without their charismatic front woman Tarja Turunen. All wrong - the interest into the Finns has even grown in all of Europe.
Not even band leader Tuomas Holopainen had dared to dream of this kind of evolution: "No, we really couldn't expect such a run", the keyboarder tells during a short backstage talk, a few minutes before Pain's show, who have been around as Nightwish's opener for some weeks already. "We were mentally prepared to take a few steps back and, in the worst case, start right from the beginning again." The well-trained Finn with the dark, curly hair gives a very relaxed impression, unlike a few months ago. His eyes / his look (?) are/is awake, his posture upright, sometimes there's even a little smile on his face. "I can't complain about anything at the moment and I'm just happy", says Tuomas. "A special thanks goes to our fans out there who believed in us and can accept the change." Then, he reschedules the talk planned for now until later because he wishes to watch his Swedish colleages perform. He doesn't mind being accompanied to the stage's edge, though.

Stylish record hunting

From the stage border it's easy to see how Pain, repeatedly re-composed by band leader, guitarist, singer and abyss studio cult producer Peter Tägtgrän, have turned into a real unit in the meantime touring with Nightwish. Moreover, it turns out to have been a clever move by the electro-metal guys to have re-included their Beatles cover "Eleanor Rigby": The French audience make noise as if they were to cheer for the headliner. "We've had the craziest audience until now in France", Tuomas comments on the racket. "The noise reaches South American levels, and in Paris, the roof seemed to take off!" His obviously satisfied face proves that cheering for favourites on stage is worth it. During some German concerts, the atmosphere didn't go down to zero, but was a little worse than during the last tour with Tarja. Forthermore, the visitor numbers were slightly going back, whereas records have been broken during the rest of the tour and Nightwish reached a new all-time high in Zurich with 13000 visitors. "I don't see any difference in Germany", Tuomas comes to his fans' defense. "Up to 9000 tickets were sold to our concerts there for one evening, and "Dark Passion Play" has nearly reached platinum. No, our German fans have always been faithful to us, and nothing has changed about that." While Pain step on it once more with "On And On", the keyboarder draws back to the backstage area. That's where Nightwish prepare for the show - completely shielded from externe influences like the press or fanclub members visiting. That hadn't always been the case in the beginning of the European tour, which is a possible reason for a few shows with poor concentration, like in Berlin. The problem has been talked about, recognized and consequently banned during the weekly meetings newly introduced by Anette. Still self-absorbed, the musicians concentrate before entering the stage. Only blond prankster Emppu Vuorinen makes some jokes with his guitar for the crew standing around. So, Marco gets to enjoy a little massage from the bottom [wtf?!], which he only comments with a inflictively raised eyebrow. While Emppu winks back at him with a broad grin, the Intro starts. It's answered by rhythmic clapping and a loud choir of "Nightwish"-shouts from the audience. With drummer Jukka entering the stage first, a deafening screaming breaks loose. There are a lot of very young girls among the audience who nearly get another hysterical attack with each member entering the stage: "Bye Bye Beautiful" is booming from the loudspeakers, and the band goes for an instant start. Tuomas is hammering the keys in a white jacket and a grey top hat - a souvenir from the shopping district Camden that that's accompanied the keyboarder since London. Anette is whirling over the stage in a black and white dress that immediately makes you think of french fashion designers. The singer likes including fashion bows to the host country in her daily changing stage outfit. That's another difference to her predecessor, who prefered a fixed succession of dresses matching the songs every evening. But Anette was from the beginning on determined to go her own way in the band - and he's pretty stubborn.

A clueless fighter's heart

When, after a long wait and an already received refusal, Anette finally got the job as the band's new front lady, the Swede had already thoroughly thought about it. "It wasn't all just about the question whether Nightwish wanted me during our first meeting in Finland", the self-confident singer had stressed shortly after her official introduction. "I as well first had to find out whether I really wanted to get on board with the guys." Already having some stage experience, she felt very assured that she'd be able to cope with the band's extensive touring. But back then already, Tuomas predicted: "Anette doesn't have any idea yet what he's gotten herself into with Nightwish." The keyboarder should be proved right. The Swede had underestimated the size of her task, which is a small wonder when it comes to the dimensions prevailing with the Finnish super stars. "We probably should've chosen a better start than going to the US of all things", Tuomas shows to be self-critical when looking back. Alhough their intent was a good one: Anette was to be prepared to the big European halls by the smaller shows. But the conditions in the US aren't exactly ideal to musicians, with long ways and bad event halls with little hygiene and greasy food. Plus, the media hassle didn't diminish in the US, either. Consequently, Anette, to whom all of this was new, could hardly handle all these impressions and got close to the border of exhaustion. A fellow traveller's insight is characteristic for her situation. "If my manager wanted to land so much additional work and stress on me during a tour as it happened with Nightwish in the US, I'd long have kicked his ass hard", says Greg Mackintosh from Paradise Lost, who were touring the US with the Finns. Although Anette, who, according to Tuomas, has a real fighter's heart, didn't break down under the pressure, she noticably began to change. Those who met Anette in Germany got to know a woman who withdrew herself quite often and looked for support in Emppu, to whom she's developped the closest bond in the group until now. A few months before, she made a very open, curious and outgoing impression. "Anette is still looking for her own place in the band and the public", Tuomas says. "If you're around for years, like us, you just take certain things as given. Then, suddenly, there turns up a girl that has no idea and asks unpleasant questions like "Why are there so many people in the backstage area? Isn't that our room to withdraw?" You start thinking, then. Now we always have two rooms: One for meeting friends and guests, and one exclusively for the band family." Obviously, it's not only the singer that has to arrange herself in the group, but there's some time needed for everybody until a new balance is found.

Labor pains and toads

On the other hand, many things have sorted out themselves on stage already. To the cheerful audience's bliss, everything runs smoothly. During the second song, "Dark Chest Of Wonders", the top hat has to go, and Anette has the occasion to prove that she's made many songs that were recorded by her predecessor Tarja her own, or changed them to fit her own rock style. When singing, the Swede begins to flourish. She practically sucks up the French's enthusiasm and affection, and gives them back with an energetic performance. Anette flies from one end of the stage to the other, dancing and jumping, and flashes her smile to the audience. She's clearly in her element up there. "We, all of us, haven't seen the best she can do yet", Tuomas later proclaims with noticable pride. "Anette continues to develop herself each day. What she's shown in her first shows can't be compared to her performances now at all. Nobody expected her to start out as the perfect Nightwish front woman." Neither could you expect there to be no trouble at all. Tuomas openly admits: "We had some problems during the last weeks." To the outside, Nightwish didn't let anybody notice anything. Still, there were little signs, so that a little alarm signal started to blink with experts. Small gestures, that can rather be felt than seen: The length of the hug before the show, the tone of voice when entering the nightliner, who meets (or doesn't meet) whom to go shopping, members withdrawing and missing group appointments. But nobody has to fear a new catastrophe like the band disbanding: those are just very natural labor pains of new group dynamics. "Moreover, Anette and I had to fight a tough illness for five weeks", the band leader tries an explanation. "That's twice as hard if you run a marathon nearly every evening. At some point, that's bad for everybody's mood, until a lot of frustration is bottled up. In the end, you say some bad things [litterally: toads] and one word leads to the other."


Butterflies and principles

These are unusual relevations for the reserved Finn. The lively and always very direct Swede brings out completely new sides of reserved Tuomas. "We learned our lesson", Tuomas admits with a wry smile. "So we now sit down around a table and talk openly about our problems." Now, at the latest, it's time to remember Tarja's eternal complaint about how problems were never discussed in the band. But at this topic, the keyboarder pulls down the shutters again. "There are things you can't discuss, and sometimes it's too late for talking", Tuomas dismisses further questions. But he becomes more talkative again when it comes to Anette's little flaws. "One day, she proclaims that she loves sleeping in the bus, the next day she misses a decent room", says the Finn with a feigned sigh. "As soon as we tell her that we'll be spending a night in a hotel again, she'd rather prefer the nightliner." What Tuomas thinks to be a process of settling in, rather sounds like a typical female day's mood - a woman is better at understanding that. "That's not meant to be a serious complaint", the man appeases. "It's just an amusing observation. It's just when I'm in a bad phase myself that such things annoy me." Apparently, Tuomas has yet a lot to learn about women. When compared to his shy behaviour during the interview, the text of "Whoever Brings The Night" seems quite cheeky. This song by Emppu is next in the set at Marseille, and the blond guitarist can finally show that he has a power metal heart. The refrain goes "All your love is a lie (etc pp, you all know it tongue2.gif it's translated to German in the article)". It's a handy assumption that this could be a bittersweet ode to the discreetly treated topic of groupies. But there's nothing like this to be seen anywhere. Or is it just the Finns being better at keeping things secret? "I'm just like Marco happily married and I have two kids that I love more than anything else", comments at least Jukka later. "I wouldn't risk any of that for a short so-called one night's pleasure. There are no groupies coming to my cabin!" Marco nods fervently, and Emppu denies all fault: "Hey, only the music is by me, Tuomas wrote the text, as always", the blond guy averts the attention from himself. Indeed, the keyboarder only starts talking again when it comes to his lyrics. He allows musical contributions by the other band members, but he insists on his monopoly when it comes to words. "It's a selfish trait of mine, but the lyrics feel like my own little world", Tuomas admits shame-facedly. "But I'd nearly feel raped if there were somebody else's lyrics on an album." Obviously, the Finn makes little exceptions, for example when it comes to John Two-Hawk's indian word contributions in "Creek Mary's Blood", but apart from that, he stays 100% true to his principle.

Tears for the lighthouse keeper

Marco as well had to make this experience when he composed "The Islander". This calm song at Marseille is put in after lively "The Siren" and the hit "Amaranth". But instead of complaining about the supposed party pooper (weird expression), arms and lighters are raised. Even the Finn's lable has noticed how great this simple yet catchy song is and has brought it onto the market as the third single from "Dark Passion Play". The video premiere is only going to happen one week later, but Tuomas shows the clip on his computer: The band is sitting serious-faced in a strange landscape inside a ring of fire, while a lighthouse keeper is pulling a floating ship with a trailing anchor behind him. The visual impression is fantastic. "I may be biased, but to me, this is our best video ever", Marco says - and he's completely right with it - which makes Tuomas do a side-swipe: "When we were shown the finished clip for the first time, I noticed a tear in our bassist's eye." Who only growls something like "But it actually was a very emotional moment", and rather enjoys the video's next turn. In the beginning, there were only to things: A big fan of the classical, northern british rock band Jethro Tull called Marco Hietala and an acoustic guitar. "Jethro Tull's influence really can't be overheard in this song", the bass player rejoices. "Everything you love shows somewhere. I was just playing around, then suddenly, there was a nice riff. A few minutes later, I also had a refrain." In a backstage room in Stockhold, the song's trail is re-found. "Marco played me a song before the show, and I immediately saw the sea, an island, an old man, and a light house before my inner eye", Tuomas tells. "It was nearly scary how the lyrics wrote themselves." The keyboarder spontanously ask the bassist to leave the "celtic" song to him for the next Nightwish album. "About one half of the songs I play to Tuomas end up on a Nightwish album", Marco happily tells. "Sometimes it's hard to let a song go. But I already had my eye on my own band Tarot and the song "Howl" for my own lyrics." In the studio, "The Islander" takes its final shape, with everybody being involved agreeing quickly not to use any electronics, apart from the keyboard parts, because of the tune's acoustic nature. In a step before the last, Troy Donockley's low whistle and uillean pipes are added during the orchestra sessions. "That was a big, but wonderful surprise for me when Tuomas came back from London with these fantastic sounds", Marco tells. "We had to tune the whole song down to b-minor, though, because the bagpipes can't reach c-minor. But that was really worth it." Nightwish have by now found a loyal friend in the person of the Scotsman Troy. He even skipped his work out of amazement: Instead of only playing the London gigs, he followed them all around the British Isles and even turned up in Dublin as a surprise guest for the band. "The Irish went crazy when one of their national instruments turned up on stage, and our jaws dropped because we hadn't expected Troy at all." The bag pipes player even followed the band to Lapland to immortalize his contribution in the video for "The Islander" as well. Like so many things did when it comes to this song, the shooting for the video went unexpectedly smoothly. It seemed that even the weather wanted to help: "It was a cold day in the far north, but we were unbelievably lucky when fog came down.", the bassist wonders. "We didn't need the fog machines." He tells vividly how band and film crew were pulled through forests and rocky fields in a dangerously swaying trailer by a tractor. The journey's destination was on a rocky hill's top. "The inhabitants call this place "devil's field" because nothing at all will prosper there." No black metal fan could complain about Nightwish now - religious fundamentalists would smell hell's brimstone scent here. Marco doesn't care for that in the least, though, because he finally had his way in another domain: "On the album, the last chorus isn't to be heard as I originally wanted it", the man with the two-parted beard tells. "When I had the opportunity to put in my ending for the single, I immediately rushed to the sudio and recorded it. I shouldn't have given in in the first place, it's only now that it really rocks. Ha!" You can hear an artist's finally satisfied soul in Marco's triumphant outcry. Apparently, his colleague's correction had disturbed him more than he wanted to admit. A smaller problem is the fact that the bassist had recorded all guitars for "The Islander". "Emppu had to learn the song from scratch on while we were already performing it live. That's why we re-baptised it "The Thailander"", Marco tells, and the guitarist jokingly grouses back: "It was a damn stupid idea to train me like that!" This last comment is followed by more or less sympathetic laughter from everybody: they're in a great mood. "The whole last week was our best until now with the current line-up", Tuomas confirms.

Friendly assassins

The is fantastic as well during the rest of the concert at Marseille. The monumental "The Poet And The Pendulum" is first followed by "Dead To The World", and then a big surprise: "While You Lips Are Still Red" from the finnish movie "Lieksa!"'s soundtrack is performed, and Anette as well as Emppu can take a break backstage. The rest of the set follows the known pattern: "Sahara" and "Nemo" as would-be last song, then the encores with "7 Days To The Wolves", "Wishmaster" and "Wish I Had An Angel". There's a difference to be noticed, though: Anette now masters the classic "Wishmaster", that never seemed to work again without operatic vocals. That confirms what Tuomas said, i.e. that the singer is developing and improving all the time. The french probably would've sent their favourites to the party night with standing ovations even without this special extra. Nightwish have a spontanous little party after this great success, and manager Ewo isn't without fault at that. His new favourite drink is called "Dennis The Menace" (see below), and during mixing, the title melody of the children's comedy of the same name is to be hummed. When the securities send the band to their busses, the party continues in the modifed Mercedes transporter. Anette is dancing until the bus is shaking, and Peter Tägtgrän explains why Tattoo's new disc has a great production. At some point at night Ewo simply proposes that I should come along to Toulouse in the empty cabin of the Nightwish bus, because the Pyro technicians are going to be sent home there with a bang! Then, memory is lost in the fog. "Dennis The Menace"? That explains the cotton tongue. And the Bang? That's actually two: First, smoke bombs are installed under Pain's transporter and the driver is called to park elsewhere under some pretext. Fortunately, the guy has a sense of humor, since they explode with a mighty boom and smoke. Pain are very amused and coincidently come running from everywhere with fire extinguishers. But the Swedes don't know that Nightwish have gotten them a decent pyro show for tonight. Flames and spark fontains induce a big fright and completely astonished faces. Afterwards, Peter Tägtgrän and his men bow deeply before Nightwish and their pyro technicians. "Which band gives their opener full light and sound every night and then buys them some real fireworks?", Peter thanks with wet shimmering eyes. "I've gotten the biggest respect for this band during the tour." With that, the producer of many black and death metal albums and mastermind behind Hypocrisy makes a huge compliment to the Finns, which Ewo returns instantly: "We never had a better opener than Pain - we love these guys", the manager says and starts humming and mixing a round of "Dennis the Menace". So that's why Toulouse...

Emma Perez
Photos: Emppu Vuorinen

Nightwish's home cinema parade 2008-05-21

Nowadays, each member of a band has a DVD player with them on their laptop whereever they go, no matter whether in their hotel room or in the bus. So, in nearly each bigger city they go to the shelves of some store for entertainment electronics (meh, crappy translation). Nightwish present their favourites and least liked movies exclusively for Zillo's readers:

Anette Olzon
Top: "Kohu 63 Amerikassa" - a finnish punk band in a road movie touring the US. When you're down during a trip, this movie will lift your spirits way up again. Apart from that, still, and anytime again: Gladiator. The best movie ever, in my opinion.
Flop: "Hated: GG Allin And The Murder Junkies" - some people apparently think it's cool if a singer empties his intestines on stage or does other, similarly disgusting things. I just feel sick. I quickly turned away from this disgusting documentary.

Tuomas Holopainen
Top: "Into The Wild" - A simple and yet very complex story. I also love the book, but Sean Penn gives an impressive performance in this movie. The storyline makes you think and shows you in a embarassing way how much crap you own.
Flop: "Evan Almighty" - I had been looking forward to a comedy as funny as "Bruce Almighty". But a weird story around the construction of an arc and bad actors' playing don't create any fun. I didn't laugh one single time.

Jukka Nevalainen
Top: "Into The Wild" - excellent, but "This Is England" touched me even more. It's about young skinheads of Margaret Thatcher's time. You can see all our reality's tristesse in their pointless xenophobia or, as Marco put it, you're astonished about so much stupidity.
Flop: "Black Sheep" - that was supposed to be a funny horror comedy, modeled on Peter Jackson. It's just that genetically modified killer sheep make a horrible movie. If you don't have more then 20 minutes' time, you can watch it nevertheless: afterwards, anyone will skip it, anyway.

Emppu Vuorinen:
Top: "Into the Wild" - This movie has to be at the first spot for me. It shows us how we all hang on to money and material things too much.
Flop: "Black Sheep" - I can try as hard as I want to, I can't think of any other candidate to beat this mood killer (bad translation again). And I have to tell: Marco watched it until the end - with the bad excuse of having nothing better to do. Three minutes are enough.

Marco Hietala:
Top: "Withnail & I" - Our friend at the bag pipes, Troy Donockley, had recommended this movie about a country trip of some unemployed actors from the city to Tuomas. I was positively astonished by its loving characterisations, and I also like this absurd british humour.
Flop: "Doom - The movie" - From an artist's perspective, this place goes to the film version of a computer game, featuring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. In the end, even the DVD player had lost its patience and strictly refused to show us the ending - it was probably better that way.

"Dennis The Menace"
Receipt by Ewo Pohjala
(having Anette's blessing)

Fill a 0,5 liter glass with:
4 cl of Vodka
(Tuomas: 6 cl are better.)
2 cl banana liquor
(Tuomas: 4 cl are more effective.)
milk, and ice cubes

Postat av: munizrepk

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2013-10-31 @ 23:54:27

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