Interview with Nightwish 67

Source: Mindcage


by Audrius Ozalas


Already the debut album ["Angels Fall First" 1997] of this young Finnish band was a promise that one day we would be able to hear another powerful melodic metal group. Nightwish's new album "Oceanborn" surprised even the most enthusiastic optimists, marking a clear progress compared to its predecessor. Nightwish are already a cult band in Finland, and it's only a question of time when the world scene will be opened for them. Actually, it is already happening now, and Nightwish are one of the hottest bands in the scene. Tuomas Holopainen answered my questions.


The first songs of Nightwish were recorded in 1996, these were three acoustic tracks. Have you re-recorded some of them later, and what they sounded like?

The idea behind Nightwish was to make acoustic mood music, in the beginning. The first demo we made sounded just like that, very calm, moody, and atmospheric. We were pretty satisfied with them, and the making of those songs was a great experience, but we`ll never re-record or publish them, that's for sure.


How have you come along with Tarja? Listening to her voice, it seems like she has a professional background, is it truth? By the way, I've heard that she sung at opera festival, can you tell something more about this event? And maybe Tarja had offers from other famous groups during these years?

Tarja is studying her third year in Sibelius Academy, which is a university-level music academy in Finland. At the moment, she studies classical singing and church music but her real passion is opera, and she will specialize in it from the beginning of next semester. The opera festival she sang in is an annual event which is well-known all over the world. Tarja has also been asked to join the Norwegian band Covenant, but she didn't think it's the kind of music she would like to do, even though she was taken by the offer.


Your first album "Angels Fall First" had two editions. As I understood, one of them was self-released, another was released by Spinefarm. Do both these editions differ a lot, were the songs re-mastered for your label-debut? And is the first edition still available for collectors?

The first edition is sold out (500 copies). It contains two songs that are not on the official AFF-album and lacks four songs. The cover is a little different, too.


Was the offer from Spinefarm the only one? For how many albums you've got this deal? Does the label makes any pressure on you, asking to play in one way or another, or do they leave 100% artistic freedom? Most labels do have certain wishes when investing big amounts of their money.

We received a couple of offers but Spinefarm's one was definitely the best one. We have a three-record deal with them, and so far we've been satisfied with their work. They have a very nice habit of letting us do our music without any pressure. They never tell us how and what to do. Spinefarm has licensed us to some bigger companies, for example, Drakkar in Germany and Toy's Factory in Japan.


Already now it is clear that your new album "Oceanborn" is going to be one of the best albums released by Finnish band this year. Your success in Finland is stunning also, "Sacrament of Wilderness" entered #1 on the official Finnish Top 40 single charts, "Oceanborn" was #5 on Finnish Album Charts. Is it natural thing in Finland for metal groups to reach such high positions, is metal music considered as essential part of national musical show business?

During the past couple of years, there has been a huge revival of metal music here in Finland. It must have something to do with the success of Stratovarius, Amorphis, and Sentenced abroad. It's not very common to reach the charts with this kind of music, but it seems to happen every now and then.


In our country, the group which enters #1 in charts is considered as "stars." Could you say that you managed to get this status in your country? For example, you played live in a Finnish-charts show this year, which means something. And what does it mean to you? Are you able to live only from your music now?

No. It still is relatively rare that somebody identifies us on the streets (it happens sometimes). None of us considers himself or herself as a "star." And NO, we are not rich and cannot live with only music now. Maybe sometime in the far future but not yet.


Your music on "Oceanborn" is more catchy, melodic, and can reach a really wide audience. Have you been thinking about that when creating music, is a possible reaction of audience one of the main factors in which direction the music must develop?

No and never! We never had any expectations about the response to the album, and we definitely didn't think if it was the kind of music that would sell, etc. I don't think it ever works that way, at least, it shouldn't. All the development in our music has been and will be natural and honest.


Some groups like The Gathering changed their direction a lot after the coming of their singer. Now it seems that The Gathering, for example, orientate their music only to express all the possibilities of their talented singer. The music seems to stand in the second place. You also have a perfect singer; don't you think that all the musicians must create right possibilities for her or you think about it differentlt? By the way, what do you think about The Gathering?

Of course, Tarja is the key element in our music, and we must think during the songwriting and arrangement process if the melodies and the riffs fit her voice. Still, there's much more to Nightwish than just that. Our songs are a musical journey that requires a full effort from each instrument and so everything must be in balance. I think The Gathering is a good band, even though I don't really enjoy their latest release. Still, I think every band has a right to develop their music into any direction they want and there is nothing wrong with that! (Metallica, Paradise Lost, Ulver...)


The last track on "Oceanborn" was your cover of a soundtrack. Why namely this film, were there other candidates?

The Snowman is a 30-minute cartoon which is shown every Christmas eve here in Finland for the last 15 years. It's a beautiful tale about a little boy and a snowman, who comes alive after midnight. This cartoon has always been the highlight of Christmas eve for me, so it is full of childhood memories. And the theme song ("Walking in the Air") is probably the most beautiful song I've ever heard. H. Blake is an English composer who wrote the music just for that cartoon.


It seems like you are getting major success now. Maybe you could tell where is the biggest following of Nightwish? Maybe you know some sales figures of your first and second album? I think that many people heard about you after the release of your second disc, but was the first disc also commercially successful for you?

Our first album had a surprisingly fine success in Finland (it entered the charts at #31 at its best and sold 8000 copies in Finland). "Oceanborn" has now sold 18000 in Finland but we don't know the sales from abroad yet.


You all are quite young as professional musicians, so sometimes it is strange how you manage to create this music. Is Nightwish the first band for all of you, have you learned to play by yourselves or you have had lessons? To me, it always seems like you must have had classical music background, as your music has strong strong classical influence.

We have played in many smaller bands before, all of us. Me and Sami played in Nattvindens Gråt, I played in Darkwoods My Betrothed, and all the rest have had their own bands, too. My main instrument is the clarinet, but I also studied the piano in a music school. Besides me and Tarja, we are mostly self-educated musicians.


It also seems that you have many different influences. Could you name the biggest of them? I know, it's always difficult, but maybe you could also find the nearest companion to your band?

I like to listen to film music (Vangelis, Kitaro, J. Horner, Mike Oldfield, etc. ) and metal (bands like My Dying Bride, In The Woods, Amorphis, Arcturus, Rhapsody, The 3rd And The Mortal...). Other members are more into traditional heavy metal like Stratovarius, Yngwie Malmsteen, Dio, Rainbow, Helloween... So as a songwriter, I could name film music as my biggest influence! The nearest companion... I could live with comparisons to Therion, Rhapsody, and Stratovarius.


I know, it is only my personal opinion, but the places where male and female vocals are combined on "Oceanborn" are a bit disturbing to me. Don't you think that sometimes this can destroy the harmony, and do you plan to explore both vocals in the future also?

The male vocals on the album are merely an effect due to the plot and dialog on the two songs.


All your lyrics are in English. Don't you have plans to record something in your native language? Amorphis did it quite successfully.

That's an idea that has been spinning in our heads for quite some time, and I'm pretty sure we will use Finnish sometimes in the future.


Finnish metal scene seems to be rich enough these days. Do you agree with that? Do you take an active role in metal-scene's life? And a related questions is, have you been involved in underground movement and found it necessary to become known, e.g., spreading the flyers, contacting with zines, etc. Most groups do it at their beginning but later forget about underground when success comes to them. Are you still interested in underground nowadays?

I think the Finnish metal scene is one of the best in the world. (Great bands like Stratovarius, Amorphis, Decoryah, Embraze, Sentenced...) Naturally, we started on an underground basis, but we are a little out of that nowadays. I hope people will understand this because our time is limited due to our success. The underground is interesting, however, and I'm glad to follow it the best I can.


Could you tell something about your future activities, when do you plan to begin recordings of your next album?

At the moment, we are concentrating on doing concerts in Finland and abroad, as well. The third album won't take place until the spring/summer of 2000. Hoping to see you on our European tour!


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