Interview with Nightwish 60

Source: Highwire Daze

Nightwish is a very well known band in their native Finland and all over Europe. With their recordings now being released domestically through Century Media, music fans in the States may witness the band's visionary mix of progressive metal and operatic female vocals. Interviewed here is keyboard player and main songwriter Tuomas Holopainen.


Highwire Daze: Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Nightwish, and tell me how long the band has been together.

Tuomas Holopainen: The band's been together since the beginning of 1997 and I'm the keyboard player and songwriter also. I make all of the songs and the lyrics.


HD: Nightwish has had some great success on the Finnish charts. Were you surprised at first and did you even expect it at all?

Tuomas: I can honestly say that we never expected anything and we are so surprised about all this. The whole thing started as a project and we had no ambition at all. The idea was to make music for fun - not to have a record company and never do any shows live. But in less than two years, it all got out of hand. We started selling gold records, even platinum records and going on world tours. I'm just going with the flow and being happy about it.


HD: Prior to forming Nightwish, what kind of bands were you in?

Tuomas: At first I played the clarinet in a classical orchestra and then I played the saxophone in a jazz band. Then I entered my first metal band at the age of 16 called Dark Woods My Bethrowed and I also played in another band called Furthest Shore. But now I only play in Nightwish.


HD: What made you decide to form this type of band?

Tuomas: Because I was playing in those two other bands and they were real heavy. Dark Woods was more into the Black Metal scene. I wasn't allowed to do songs in those bands and that was the thing that I wanted - to make songs. And that's why I started the whole thing.


HD: How much are you inspired by classical music and what made you decide to start playing the keyboards?

Tuomas: People often thing that I'm a classical music fan and listen to all this classical music - but I'm not. I don't listen to classical music at all. The only classical influence that we have comes from Tarja, the vocalist, because she has a classical education for her voice. I've played the clarinet and piano when I was a kid, so that's why I chose the keyboard for the metal band as well.


HD: Where did you meet Tarja and what made you decide to use mainly female vocals for Nightwish?

Tuomas: We are all old school mates. We all went to the same high school and I have known her since ten years before the band. The same goes for the other guys in the band. The idea of Nightwish in the beginning was to make acoustic mood music and we thought that a soft female voice would fit this kind of material perfect. She had such a dramatic, strong voice, that was the reason we changed the style into metal from the acoustic mood music that we started to make.


HD: What kind of vocal training does Tarja have?

Tuomas: She has studied in a music university here in Finland for the past four years. She started as a church musician playing the organ and taking piano and vocal lessons. But she really didn't like it, so now she's specializing in opera singing, which is her passion. Someday she would like to be a professional opera singer.


HD: On your website in the bios, all the Nightwish members list metal bands as their favorites. Yet Tarja lists Celine Dion as a personal favorite. Do you find that disturbing in a way?

Tuomas: (laughs) Actually, no. I think it's just exotic to have this kind of singer who really doesn't listen to metal music. Before Nightwish, she had never heard a single heavy metal band. She had a lot of prejudice against them. I still think she really doesn't like to listen to heavy metal music, except for some bands with a good singer. But she really enjoys singing with Nightwish, so it's kind of a weird thing. But I don't care...


HD: What are some of your favorite metal bands or any kind of music?

Tuomas: My real passion is film music and movie soundtracks. That's where I draw most of my influence. Like Hans Zimmer is a god to me, Danny Elfman and James Horner - all these great movie composers. I like to listen to soundtracks. But from the metal scene, I listen to all kinds of metal - from Rhapsody to all the Finnish metal bands like Amorphis, Children Of Bodom and Stratovarius. Also the blackish style like Dimmu Borgir and Cradle Of Filth. And I love Pantera.


HD: Where do you get the ideas for the lyrics, especially on Wishmaster?

Tuomas: I'm very selfish with the lyrics. I do all the lyrics just for myself just to ease up my own being. There's no deeper meaning, there's no purpose in changing or saving the world. I don't want to take part in any political or environmental things. I just want to write about my own feelings and my own visions and wishes. There's a few exceptions, like for example the song "The Kinslayer" - it's based on the Colorado massacre which happened two years ago.


HD: I wanted to ask about the song "Dead Boy's Poem." What is that inspired by and is that what the Wishmaster cover is based of off?

Tuomas: Yeah, the cover picture is based off of that one. The "Dead Boy's Poem" is the most personal song I've ever done. For me, it's also the best song that I've ever managed to do. It's just like my own personal testimony to the whole world - I wanted to apologize about things for some people and I figured out that this would be the best way to do it - with a song. On the other hand, it also deals with the fact of what this band Nightwish means to me at the moment.


HD: There's some samples in there too. And some spoken word.

Tuomas: It worked out really well. We just had a poll on our website and the fans voted it to be the best song on the album, which really surprised me. I think the structure on that song is not that catchy - it's kind of a hard song - very artistic. I was really surprised that the fans liked it so much.


HD: What is a live Nightwish show like for those of us who have yet to see you play?

Tuomas: It's very energetic. Live, we have an even more rougher sound. We like to move a lot and we look like an energetic metal band. We just don't stand there and play. We like to move a lot and deal with the audience a lot. We usually play a one-hour set, taking songs from all the three albums.


HD: I understand you've already had your North American debut. How did that go?

Tuomas: We went to Montreal to have two shows. We've never been in the U.S. yet. It was fantastic. Again, I had no expectations about it. I didn't even know that the record had been released in Canada. The first show was sold out and the audience was just fantastic. I hope that it will happen in the States as well. The thing is, we haven't had a license deal in the U.S. - it has been a real big problem for two-three years now. Now it finally happened, so I've got very high hopes for it.


HD: Have you heard anything about Nightwish playing here in the States?

Tuomas: I've heard some rumors, but nothing concrete. I think it will happen sometime next year, not this year.


HD: What do you think of the state of the current metal scene, first in Finland and then the rest of the world?

Tuomas: If we're talking about the metal scene here in Finland, I think we can talk about a phenomenon. Finland is the only country in the world where bands like Nightwish, or even Children Of Bodom, Sentenced, Stratovarius - they all go number one in the charts. We were there for two weeks. Children Of Bodom were in the charts for four weeks in the single charts - they were selling platinum with their "Hate Me" single. Stratovarius went number one. The metal scene is just incredible here. I think in the rest of the world, it's going there as well - slowly. Of course it depends on the country. I have imagined that, for example, in the States, the metal scene is very poor at the moment - but growing up little by little all of the time.


HD: It's definitely getting there. Right now they consider Korn, Godsmack and Limp Biscuit our metal. What do you think about bands like that?

Tuomas: I don't personally like them. They have their good moments. For example, Pantera I like very much. I don't know why, but I really love that band. But I don't like this rap style metal, not at all.


HD: With Wishmaster being released in Finland in May of 2000, how close is the band to releasing new material?

Tuomas: We just finished our DVD project and it took a lot of time for us. And now we are recording a mini-CD, with three new songs, one cover song and two live tracks. But our full-length album is not going to be released until next year, maybe April or May. We have been far too busy touring all over the world, so we haven't had time to make songs or to go into the studio. And that's why we're making this mini-CD, to give a little bit of something for the fans before the full-length album.


HD: Can you divulge what the cover song is going to be?

Tuomas: Gary Moore's "Over The Hills And Far Away."


HD: What made you choose that song?

Tuomas: It's one of my all time favorite songs. I've listened to it since I was a kid and I've always loved that song. We just figured out that it would fit our style pretty good, being a melodic heavy metal song.


HD: If there was one thing you'd like to leave the listener with after hearing the music of Nightwish, what would it be?

Tuomas: I think it would be like a feel of surprise and desire at the same time. It's hard to explain.


HD: Do you have any messages for Nightwish fans or for people who might be interested in checking out your music?

Tuomas: Just keep an open mind, because this music takes a few times to listen before it opens up. Give it a chance!


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