Interview with Nightwish 23

Source: Greek Metal Hammer

(Comments by translator)

NIGHTWISH – Once in a lifetime

Is there any doubt on who is the central person in Nightwish? Probably not. And when the continously rising finnish band release their best album, where do the highlights go to? To the singer, Tarja Turunen, who, on the way to some airport in northern Europe, tries through a mobile phone and a really bad phone line to give enlightening answers about “Once” and not only that. In a parallel universe, the drummer Jukka Nevalainen and the keyboarder Tuomas Holopainen visit Athens. Exhausted but pleasant, they dedicate some of their more and more precious time to the Metal Hammer. At least this discussion has no breaks.

Tarja Turunen as “The Beauty”

Where did you disappear? You weren’t in Finland last month nor did we see you here with Tuomas and Jukka.

The guys combed Europe for the first interviews of the “Once” promo-tour. During the past week I’ve taken over some of them, because earlier, for about 20 days, I was giving classical music concerts in Latin America and then Romania. We had a great time and now back to the hard work with Nightwish. Not that I don’t like it, hehe!

Tell me about these concerts, before we start talking Nightwish for good.

I was with a Japanese pianist, with whom we used to play in university, in Germany. There are two more sopranos with us, from Finland like me, with whom we also used to study in the same university. We went to Chile and Argentina for concerts for the first time exactly two years ago. This project is called “Noche Escandinava”, which means “scandinavian night”. At the start we used to perform songs from the whole Scandinavia, but now only finnish ones. This thing is really successful.

Good. As for “Once”, what are the first messages like?

Ah, really good! Both the journalists who have heard the album and many people, welcomed it in the best way. The burden on our shoulders is of course big, huge… We have to do many things from our side. I consider the album to be really good and for the first time in my life I’m totally satisfied with what I did on it. I’m very strict with myself and I didn’t really like the way I used to struggle with my voice in Nightwish. Think of it as an endless procedure of learning: you sing and learn and improve. So even if I improve year after year, I still have way to go. I finished my studies but I’m gonna have private lessons for many many more years. Now, though, I’m at last satisfied with what I hear in “Once”.

First of all, tell me which is your favourite song from the album.

“Creek Mary’s Blood” (interviewer’s comment: I bet!) creates an unbelievable feeling, mainly because of the Indian who sings and plays with us, John Two-Hawks. He has a very original voice and an equally original charisma. He adds the most important part to the song: his feelings about the facts, to which the lyrics refer.


Another track worth mentioning is “Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan”, as its lyrics are in finnish.

This track brings great sorrow. Its title means “death creates an artist” and lyrically it refers to life and what many happen after it. It’s ruled by negative feelings and consists a tribute of Tuomas’s soul.

Is it easy for you to interpret what Tuomas has in mind when he writes such songs?

Sometimes it’s quite hard, because Tuomas is very sincere and open when he writes lyrics. Get to think that he writes from his diary. On the one hand I like getting to know him better this way, but on the other hand I think that the best is that I put aside what he might be thinking, when singing Nightwish songs. If I thought of Tuomas, the whole process would be very hard. So, when I interpret a song, I have in mind another story, another person, so that I manage to get the meaning nd perform as better as I can.

Tarja, you had classical education and we had gotten used to you singing more in this style. But, in the albums “Century Child” and “Once’ your vocals are much more –let’s say- pop. Is this a challenge to you?

Things were definitely hard when I started trying to sing softer, to use my voice differently for the first time. I also was very ill during the recordings, I couldn’t even talk. So I don’t really like the result in “Century Child”. I wasn’t sure how to use my voice because there was no one there to teach or guide me. The thing is that, when you start singing classical compositions, then you can’t even talk like you did before. Consequently, it’s hard to sing in another way. But now I can say I’ve taken a big step forward, having managed to colour my voice in many ways. My teacher in Germany helped me a lot to this direction.

Two years ago, the band announced that they’d have a break because of your studies. How are things now that you’ve finished them?

Everything’s ok now, though then there were several problems in various levels. Without this short break, I believe that we wouldn’t be as “strong” as we are now as a band, which set the foundations for the release of a new album. In personal level, I now feel full of energy for new things and have more self-confidence concerning my voice. Now, on the one hand I want to see how much all this was successful and how far I can go, though on the other hand, the whole band really waits impatiently for the future. We want to try our skills, after this break that I consider to be defining.

This time you’re sharing the vocals with Marco again. It worked out well, didn’t it?

Yeah, I love this phase because it’s like a dialogue and it’s more pleasant to me and easier to feel that I have some special role in the track. I’m always the good character in the “play” that unrolls in every song and Marco is the “evil” one, the bad side. It’s very interesting, I think. Then, Marco is a very nice guy and I like the fact that there’s another singer in the band, with whom I can discuss the interpretation, the feeling… In general, it’s good to know that there’s someone beside you, to support you. Apart from that, he’s a good teacher from the aspect that he has a completely different background.

Tuomas has always been the basic composer of the band. Have you ever felt the need to contribute to the band as a composer?

No, because I honestly trust and respect Tuomas very much and I adore his music. I wouldn’t dare to stand in the way. I leave everything up to him and don’t feel the need to invade his domain. Besides, he gives us his “baby” and each one of us develops this treasure in the best possible way, as each member organises the orchestration about their own instruments. In the end, the tracks are very different –to the best- compared to what Tuomas had given us as a base. He is of course the brain, the soul behind the compositions, the man who gives us the motive to be the best of ourselves.

”Once” is probably the most “ambitious” Nightwish album up to now. What happens if it doesn’t have the success you expect?

I don’t know (laughter). If the band is satisfied by the album, that’s enough. We feel enormous pressure, so we have to gather material, record, promote the album to the media and the audience. We’re very nervous when we expect the first reactions. This time, I think we did something completely different in every way. It’s what we wanted to do and hadn’t managed to before. We are content and this is the most important to me now.

Tuomas told me that, when he first talked to the band about the idea of using an orchestra and a choir more extensively, you faced him a bit suspiciously.

Yeah, we all were a bit suspicious, mainly because many bands used an orchestra or a choir as well, but didn’t use it right. That means that the result wasn’t what it could have been when someone has this luxury. You need to have the necessary background in order for what you wanna achieve to work, and you also need very careful mixing. It’s anyway not easy to combine different kinds of music and get something good as a result. But fortunately, Pip Williams got in our way, who has a great experience, as he has helped many bands create albums that lasted in time. We trusted him, we invested in him and I think that it worked. His role has been more than defining.


Something else that’s extraordinary about the album, is the video you filmed for “Nemo”. It was the most professional that you’ve done so far.

Yeah, we had the chance to cooperate with experienced people, such as the director Antti Jokinen, a very nice guy and famous all over the world. It was obvious that the result would be satisfactory. But in general, we had a nice time at the shooting, and that’s what counts the most to me: it’s a plus for the band to have something to show people. Videoclips have evolved into a very important part of the whole thing.

We talked a bit with Jukka about the big concert in your hometown, Kitee, that’s gonna happen in a few days (the interview was taken on 12/5 and the gig was on the 22nd). How do you feel about playing “at home” in front of 4.000 people?

It’s unbelievable! We haven’t played in Finland for long and this case is very special, mainly since people from so many countries are going to attend it. Imagine how it is for so many people from all over the world to come to see you play where you were born. God! I just realised it’s next week! But, ok, we have started intensive rehearsals and hope that everything’s gonna be alright.

And this concert signals the beginning of a big tour.

Yeah, and this is extraordinary, because though we’ve played in the US, this will be the first time we’ll be the headliners. Let’s see what happens… We’re also gonna visit countries where we haven’t played before, Greece for example.

Jukka Nevalainen as “The Beast”

One can tell by the very first notes that there are basic differences. Which are they, apart from the orchestra and the choir, the presence of which is much more intense this time?

I think it has to do with the fact that, even though he first joined the band in “Century Child”, Marco brought a very friendly atmosphere with him. His ideas were also important, as a new approach of our music. After the release, we toured together for about a month and a half and spent a lot of time with him, so as a result we’ve all been tied with him. He’s the only one of us who lived all this madness of the 80’s, as an active member of the heavy rock scene of our country. He plays very differently compared to us and it was natural, from a moment on, that we got many elements from his playing and incorporate them in the new album: bass, guitars and drums are totally rock concerning the sound. The album creates much of a “rock feeling”. The basic difference is of course the more extensive use of an orchestra and choir, as well as the introduction of much more elements and ideas from Tuomas’s side.

In a few days, the long-promoted concert in your hometown, Kitee, is going to be held. How many people are you expecting?

Loads! There are already huge problems concerning the accomodation of all the people who are coming to see us. Kitee is a town of 10.000 inhabitants and there’s only one big hotel and some hostels. There are gonna be about 4.000 people at the show, that’s the capacity of the ice rink where the concert is gonna be held. Most of them are not native and this means that many of them will have to sleep under the sky (laughter), though fortunately the weather has been getting warm (2-3 degrees Celcius… terrible heat  ) so I don’t think things are gonna be that bad. The tickets were sold out since the very first day of presale, which surprised everybody, if you get to think that after the release of “Wishmaster” we played at the same place in front of 1.500 people. We knew that this time the audience would be bigger, but the response almost shocked us. The most extraordinary thing is that there are gonna come friends of ours from all over the world: Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Mexico, USA, Canada, Russia, Japan and from most european countries. It’s gonna be an international night.

What will the ones who won’t come miss?

It’s gonna be the first show of the tour, so there are probably gonna be problems, mainly with the pre-recorded parts, those of the orchestra and choir. But the whole evening is gonna be a huge spectacle, with huge quantities of fireworks and amazing lighting effects. If everything goes as we wish, it’s gonna be an amazing audiovisual experience. Besides, I don’t think something can go wrong, as the crew consists of professionals, and we also know our tracks very well. In any minute we’re returning to Kitee to start the final rehearsals so that we’ll be prepared.

How does it feel like to be in a band that actually spins around one person, meaning that the lights are usually turned towards Tarja?

I don’t consider it bad nor does it annoy me that things are this way. Every band needs a face for their music. In our case, it’s obvious and natural that this face be Tarja, since Nightwish consists of four not-so-handsome men (  ) and a beautiful woman with an angelic voice (I smell someone’s in love  ), haha. It’s absolutely normal and actually satifying that she is the public persona so that we concentrate on the musical part.

The Rockwave is also near. First time in Greece for Nightwish…

The Greek fans who sent us e-mails asking us to come play at your country were many. We hope you’ll come to the Rockwave Festival to see us. I think it’s worth it. We also have a nice line-up: after Queensryche and before Judas Priest. I believe this is very good for the band. Isn’t it unbelievable that we’re playing after Queensryche? Especially “Operation: Mindcrime”, I’ve heard it countless times and I respect their work very much in general. Scott Rockenfield is one of the drummers whom I admire a lot. It’s a bit weird that we get the opportunity to play after them and I avoid thinking of it. We’re coming to play our music and if the audience appreciates it, even if such a band has preceeded, we’ll be satisfied. We anyway do something completely different.

Stay tuned for Tuomas’s and Jukka’s NW album reviews!


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