Interview with Nightwish 61

Source: Euphony Online

Somewhere beyond the consciousness of most Americans lies a sophisticated westernized country, joined at the hip with our old nemesis, Russia. Four hundred kilometers north of its best known city, Helsinki, lies the small town (Kitee) of 10,000 people where all the members of Nightwish grew up.


"I live only 20 kilometers from the Russian border,"
Tuomas Holopainen says with casual unconcern, "But we are very westernized here, totally different from over there. People ask if we are worried being so close, but we are not."


Nightwish is composed of Tuomas, who founded the band as a hobby; Tarja Turunen, the opera aspiring and professionally trained vocalist; Emppu Vuorinen on guitars, Sami Vanska on bass and Jukka Nevalainen on drums. The members of the band grew up together, went to high school together and crossed paths playing in various bands, together or separately. Nightwish was born when Tuomas put together a 3 song tape with keys, acoustic guitars and Tarja's voice.


"She knew nothing about metal,"
Tuomas chuckles. "She is in school studying classical singing. We told her it was just an acoustic thing... When we went back into the studio with a full band, drums, electric guitar, bass, it was easy for the rest of us, who all had metal backgrounds. Tarja always wanted to be an opera singer but now she likes metal, too. It has opened up a whole new world for her. And," adds Tuomas devilishly, "She's developing a great rock and roll attitude!"


"There is actually a good metal scene here in Finland,"
Tuomas informs me. " It isn't easy to come from a small, remote country and say, make a career in the US, but the scene here has been opening up a lot in the last two years. In my home town, people stare when I walk around the streets, and come up and ask questions. It has gotten kind of obnoxious, to be honest. Fortunately in the rest of Finland I am not recognized like that! We signed with Spinefarm (a small Finnish label) and it has been good. They don't have the huge connections or budget but they don't tell us how to dress or write music either. They support us as artists."


"Everyone in the band is ambitious, and a perfectionist, especially me. We want to make everything the best possible way. We insisted on scheduling plenty of time in the studio and it was important to have a good budget from the label." "Perhaps that, along with your close acquaintanceship, accounts for the seamless music you create, "
I tell him. Music that flows like a river and never seems to be made of individual components, only one powerful surge of emotion.


"All the music that is made in the world should be based on emotions."
Tuomas is the band's main songwriter and he and I see eye to eye on what good music should communicate. "It's just emotions made in the form of sound and lyrics. All the songs I do I use lots of emotion." Curious I ask which emotions predominate with him, anger, sadness, lovelorn, happy? "All of them!" Tuomas laughs. "The most important thing is that you have a great feeling. It doesn't matter if it is negative or positive as long as it's a strong feeling."


Tuomas is still a bit surprised that his hobby took off like a rocket. "I am the most surprised," he confesses. "I had a place in the university and I just wanted to make the one demo, just for fun. Then we sent the demo out to Spinefarm... and the whole thing got out of hand! I had a "day job" but had to quit that because this hobby of mine became too professional. Now the band is a full-time job for me. Tarja and Jukka go to music school but the rest of us, the band is our job. Two years and we are touring the world, selling platinum. It's all gotten out of hand. But I don't care. It's fun!" I'm bewildered. As an aspiring musician, isn't this what Tuomas wanted to see happen? "It wasn't planned!" he says, still bemused. "I was supposed to have a big career as a biologist! This was just a hobby!" We both laugh.


Indeed the band has been playing 100 or more gigs in the past year, and has already completed several tours. The tours were arranged by the German label they signed to, which is supported by BMG. The first tour was in November 1999 through Europe. "It was fantastic," Tuomas smiles. They also spent 3 weeks seeing 5 countries in South America, but the closest they've come to us was two successful shows in Canada. And most recently, they headlined a 6 week European tour which also went very well. In fact, their shows go well everywhere. "I think we have the least stereotypical fans in the world," Tuomas comments. "I see everyone from 8 and 9 yr olds to black clad metal fan types to people in their 50's moshing their heads!" One has to feel for Tarja, though, who, as Tuomas points out, "is the only girl on a bus with 10 sweaty guys for six weeks in a row on a tour".


I fell in love with Nightwish when I heard their single, "Sleeping Sun" on Nuclear Blasts' Metal Dreams compilation. The song haunted me. It turns out the song was not pulled from an earlier album but written separately. "We were asked to write a theme song about the total solar eclipse in Europe two years ago by our German label," Tuomas relates. "So we wrote Sleeping Sun. It has turned out to be our biggest hit. We finally included it on the last printings of "Oceanborn" but it was not on the first 20,000 printings."


"Hmm. I guess other people will have to wait til you are doing a "best of" to get the song,"
I laugh and tell Tuomas. "Yeah, after about 10 records, we will do one," he promises.


I confess to Tuomas that one thing I minded on the review copy I got was the lack of lyrics. As I may have mentioned before, Century Media (the distributor in the US for Nightwish) does not provide CD booklets with the review copies they send out. Tuomas was shocked and a bit upset. "NO lyrics? But the lyrics are very meaningful and important for me!" "I know," I sigh. "And added to that, Tarja's gorgeous voice is not always understandable... she has an accent naturally enough." Tuomas understands. Fortunately, there is a solution.

"On our official website, we post all our lyrics," Tuomas explains. "Along with photos, and tour information and all kinds of other things!" (I checked it out and it's a great looking website. Find it at http://www.nightwish.com).


The band's current CD, "Wishmaster" is just now being released in the US, although it has been out in Europe for quite some time (as usual!). Not resting on their laurels, Tuomas tells me the band has just recorded a live DVD (and VHS as well).. a concert with backstage material and all their promo videos will be included too.. it is being released world wide in April. "We are also in the studio recording a mini CD with 3 new songs, one remake and two live tracks from Argentina." That's good news for their current fans and the legion of new ones they are sure to be making here in the US. Their hypnotic music is quite addictive... one keeps wanting more.


Though surprised at garnering a success he never even envisioned, Tuomas is finding his life much to his liking. "No point in getting my own apt, when I am either touring or in the studio all the time, so I still live with my parents," the 24 yr old mentions. "Travelling is my other passion, so I think it is just great I am getting to do so much! I enjoy seeing other places and people, other cultures. I really love it."


As a budding rock star, Tuomas has also encountered the other hazard of the profession: groupies. "Already this one girl from Germany just called me and told me she was coming HERE the day after tomorrow!" He says, sounding amazed. "I was like WHAT! That's the first time this ever happened to me. I was really rude," he says embarrassedly. "I told her not to come." "Well, your town is so small, you'd have nowhere to hide," I tease him. Tuomas is not impressed. Time for Tuomas to hide his phone number and such stuff. Up until now, these things have just not occurred to him!


If all goes well, Nightwish will get a chance to tour the US with their mesmerizing music next year, maybe in conjunction with a festival or two. By then Wishmaster's release should have created some hard core fans for the band. As far as I'm concerned the sooner the better, so after reading the interview would you please go get their CD? I'm already jonesing for more...


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