Interview with Nightwish 59

Source: Tuonela Magazine

Nightwish has become known as an individual Finnish band which combines both opera and melodic heavy metal and which is very hard to define to a certain subcategory of heavy music. After two masterpieces band's third album Wishmaster succeeded in reaching the position #1 in official Finnish album chart - this may be just a start, though, 'cos band's performances have only become better along its development and there seems to be very much creativity within.
We contacted Nightwish's keyboardist, lyricist and main composer Tuomas Holopainen to ask him some questions. Because the lyrics are a big part of the whole Nightwish business and Tuomas has commented that lyrics aren't treated enough in reviews and interviews we wanted to fix this for our part and to concentrate in Tuomas's role as a lyric writer.


Let's take some warm-up. How was your summer? Gigging around...?

-During the summer we toured in Finland quite intensively but also other countries got their part. We had a couple festival gigs in Germany and Belgium and a three-week tour in South America. Between those, there was time enough to sojourn at summer cottage and to wander in Lapland.


How has Wishmaster been received abroad? I spent three weeks in France and there, in local metal magazines, were very good reviews to be seen...

-Yes, the album has been received very well also outside Finnish borders. I guess could be said that after Oceanborn Wishmaster had no that kind of a "shock-value" 'cos people knew what to expect. Most of the critic we've got has remarked that Wishmaster is too much like its predecessor, although eg. better produced and arranged. Also a cover story in Rock Hard magazine was of course really great...


In a way, Nightwish sprang straight from the campfire to the charts, which perhaps was quite a blow on a personal level - have you now, after three albums, got used to the fame?

-This is a lerning process really. Of course fame is welcomed but most important, though, is to be able to develop yourself and the band by having your feet on the appropriate height from the ground.


You have mentioned that the lyrics of Nightwish there isn't concentration enough in lyrics in reviews and interviews - how big is the part of the lyrics when it comes to the entirety of the record?

-Of course it depends on the band itself. For us the lyrics are an essential part of musical entirety. Eg. I wonder why most of the record review are done with a ground of a promotion record which has no lyrics included. In heavy music it's often quite hard to understand the words just by listening. (Also in our case)


You take care of the lyrics of Nightwish - have you perhaps studied literature or are you just interested without particular reason? Do you write anything "outside" Nightwish?

-I haven't studied anything since Senior High :) Writing, especially song-making, is the best way to discharge your feeling - that's the start for lyrics. Literature and even poetry I read much. And of course I read also different bands' lyrics, some of the favourites are My Dying Bride, Tiamat, Pantera, Timo Rautiainen & Trio Niskalaukaus...


From where have you got your impressing English vocabulary, some words I can't find even from a dictionary... Do the extraordinary words give an extra spice for the lyrics?

-Actually, I try to write as much as possible without any dictionary, but sometimes I have to use it, though. Those more "extraordinary" words are usually based on the phantasy and mytology subjects.


Wishmaster's lyrics feel a bit more easy-to-understand than previous records' - was this conscious?

-No, it wasn't. Maybe it's because of Wishmaster deals more with subjects that are taken from life itself and own experiences. Only Wishmaster and FantasMic songs keep up the actual phantasy theme.


Whatkind is the typical process of writing lyrics; where do the subjects and influences come from, do you write straight in English, how long it takes...? What would be three most typical subjects? (My guess: romanticism, religion and life itself)

-I always write straight in English. Usually the subjects come from my own life experiences and feelings, except "The Kinslayer". If I had to choose three, they would be life of my own, love and nature.


Do you perhaps need a certain atmosphere when writing or do you believe in intuition/do you use it?

-Always there has to be a certain emotional charge but it definetly doesn't need to be full moon or two per mille alcohol in blood. Usually I have a notebook with me so I can write down ideas and moods 'cos too often I tend to forget some great ideas as I haven't written them down.


You also compose a majority of Nightwish's music - are the words or the music born first or perhaps do they develop simultaneously. How difficult is to attach the lyrics to music or vice versa.

-First there is always an idea/a subject for the song and thereafter comes the music. After the arranging process I write the final lyrics. Sometimes in rapture the lyrics and music go very easily together but usually they must be treated for days. That's work really.


Before the greater edition of Angels Fall First Nightwish released a 500-copy edition on which are the tracks Return To The Sea and Once Upon A Troubadour. On the official debut these tracks have been replaced with a couple of...well...better songs. According to your homepages, the lyrics of Return... and Once Upon... are not published because of your request - why's that? However, could you tell what these song tell about?

-Well... They could be published if I was bothered to write them to the homepages sometimes. It's only because of that. I find Return... completely poor presentation but the lyrics of Once Upon... are quite amusing actually. A long time ago I got the idea from a bar scene of David Edding's book. :)


Your worst nightmare is reportedly linked to spiders - are you really afraid of spiders? On Return To The Sea I heard a line about 'giant spiders who learn how to swim' - is this a freudian occurence?

-Rather something like darwinian... And yes, I have somekind of a complex with spiders. A trauma from childhood, I don't know. Yak.


The Kinslayer tells about the school massacre in Colorado and the stanza "Need to understand/ No need to forgive/ No truth no sense left to be followed" describes perfectly the feelings aroused by this kind of incidents. The event in question was tried to understand as if it was inspired by The Matrix-film and music of Marilyn Manson - how big do you find the claimed effect of films and music in the cases of murders and suicides?

-It can always be speculated but I think it's totally futile to blame music or films for someone's deeds. Nevertheless, I could imagine e.g. a violent film as a launching factor but then the problems must be much deeper in the head of one's own.


Referring to the previous question, do you ever feel yourself limited because of this kind of events? I mean, is there something you can't write because it would be seen e.g. immoral by your family or fans?

-No limitations with moral.


Is there something you wouldn't write otherwise? Politics maybe?

-Well yea, that's not my or Nightwish's issue. Generally I wouldn't write that kind of lyrics by which society or politics would be tried to influeced or world tried to make better. That just isn't our cup of tea.


By the time of Oceanborn's release I read the guestbook of your homepages and there was a comment "Fucking Jesus-metalists!". The next message was like "Hope you ain't some satan worshippers 'cos Devil And The Deep Dark Ocean refers to somethin' like that..." Do you ever get pissed off because of these kind of comments and prejudices which propably have been drawn just by superficially browsing through the lyrics of a certain song? I've understood you have also worked as a teacher of religion in the school - has it caused somekind of reactions among fans and have your lyrics caused somekind of reactions in the teachers' room?

-Superficially deciphered lyrics piss me off very often. The Devil...-song caused one hell of a hullabaloo. I've got messages telling that a fan's mother has confiscated Oceanborn because of that very song. In Kitee (Nightwish's domicile -ed.) they even contacted a clergyman because of it. And on the cover of the record some see an inverted cross. In one city the spreading of Wishmaster-poster was banned because its still life is satan worshipping (a little boy is reaching towards the band) (Oh dear mother of god that people can be stupid! -ed.) Also Kinslayer tells you to slaughter your family and claims that God doesn't exist... There are many examples. But I think that majority of heavy metal bands have suffered from the same (e.g. HIM), so these kind of things just must be dealt indifferently.


Is the world already ready to hear the official piece of information about does The Carpenter tell about Jesus?

-Hahahaa!!! Yes it does. Would this be clear now?!


By the way, thanks to its story and dialogue Devil And The Deep Dark Ocean is pretty much like somekind of a play - what's the basic meaning of the song?

-Once I had to decipher this song, word by word, and I will never do that again. It's stupid if I'm interpreting my lyrics because it takes the listener's change for own imagination. I try to tell as little as possible about the lyrics.


In Dead Boy's Poem appears a concept of 'ocean soul' as well as in your thank-you list - what's the definition for 'ocean soul'?

-Check the previous answer.


Also 'mirrors of a wolf' appear in two different songs - has this concept an important meaning?

-Check the previous answer. :)


There is very much symbolism in your lyrics but can there be found also some hidden meanings? If yes, could you reveal an important one?

-Well, ocean is an important symbol for me and it recurs often in the lyrics. Ocean is stormy like the feelings, it is beauty, calmness, cradle, grave, great, unknown...


Generally, I heard a writer stating that the standard of Finnish rocklyricism is very high if compared with common 'I love you zubbi dubbi duu'-stuff - do you agree?

-Mainly yes. I believe that basically Finns are very profoundly thinking people. Northern melancholy prevails in lyrics and music.


Do you perhaps have a favourite lyricist/poet or lyrics/poem? Which Nightwish lyrics you concider very successful? Is there some which rather shouldn't have been written?

-Aaron of My Dying Bride has been a great inspirer for a long time. I concider Dead Boy's Poem and Gethsemane as the best and someone could bury Nymphomaniac Fantasia behind the outhouse.


So, I guess it's time to conclude this interview. Yet we'd be very delighted to hear something about Nightwish's future plans.

-On the day after tomorrow (4.10) begins a European tour with Sinergy and ETOS (Eternal Tears Of Sorrow -ed.). In the end of November one week in Canada. January-February a couple of gigs in Finland and in March to a studio to record an MCD, containing 1 cover, a couple of new ones and some live tracks. New full-lenght will be out either in the beginning or in the end of 2002.


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