Interview with Nightwish 87

Source: Metal Hammer
July 2002

Interview with Tarja about the Nightwish album "Century Child" and her studies

The Primadonna of Heavy Metal

The new songs are more epic and more aggressive. Have you expected this change?

Tarja: Unfortunately not. I left Finland when Tuomas wrote the new songs. So I had to wait until the postman brought me the demo tape to Karlsruhe. My first impression was: "Whoops, that´s damn tough!" The songs differ from the songs we did on our elder albums.

Do you have an explanation for that?

Tarja: Tuomas must have had a bad time behind him when he composed the new material. He travelled alone to Chile and Australia. I guess he took most of his ideas from this journeys. Luckily, there are some romantic songs like "Ever dream" and "Forever yours". It´s easier for me to sing more depressive songs.

Are you a depressive person?

Tarja: Actually I would describe myself as a happy woman. It´s easier for me to put myself in the right mood when I´m singing sad songs. Maybe because of my finnish heritage. My colleagues from my university keep telling me that "I´m singing as if I moan alone in the forest". (laughs)

Isn´t it strange for you that you don´t have any influence on the new songs?

Tarja: I never participated in the songwriting except some vocal lines and choirs. And I´ve never been and I´ll never be a band member in the common sense. They´re the band and I´ll join them when my voice is needed. So we´re doing our rehersals a few days before a tour starts, so it´s no big change for me. I don´t want to interfere with Tuomas´ style of songwriting. He is the soul of NW. His lyrics were very personal on this record. I was shocked when I read the lyrics for the first time because he´s opening his soul to the outside world. I wouldn´t be able to do the same. That makes it harder for me to sing the new songs.

May you tell us something about the recording session?

Tarja: Well, I joined the band in the studio for just two weeks. Tuomas simulated my voice on the demo with a keyboard. Afterwards he sent me the lyrics by mail. So I praticed a little bit in Karlsruhe. The vocal lines are very deep for my standards. It was hard for me to keep my voice deep. [...] But after the recordings I´ve been surprised how easy it was for me to sing in that way. I´ve invested more time into my voice during my studies and now I take the benefit.

When did you hear that your old bass player Sami left the band and that he has been replaced my Marco Hietala?

Tarja: That was another surprised for me (laughs). It seems that it was Sami´s will to leave the band. I know Marco for a long time and I knew that he´s a good bass player and a good singer as well. So there´s no need for an objection on my part. I guess that it was his idea to participate in the songwriting and as a singer.

Would CC sound different if you´ve still been in Finland during the songwriting process?

Tarja: No, I don´t think so. Tuomas wanted to try something new. There are certain parts on CC where a male voice is necessary. My voice is powerful, but not so metal-like like Marco´s. It´s a nice variation even for the concerts.

Tuomas explained his decision to you?

Tarja: No, I didn`t even ask him about that.

Isn´t it strange to have another singer in the band?

Tarja: Of course! There have been male vocals on our records. Tuomas e.g. sang on our debut AFF but he didn´t feel very comfortable. When I came into the studio and listened to Marco I tought: "Wow! He´s very good!" There´s no rivalry between us. It was the first time that I had a really good time in the studio. Maybe because we hadn`t seen us in four months.

Will we hear more duets like "Dead to the world" or "Feel for you" in the future?

Tarja: Possibly - but one thing is for sure: I´ll never be only the second vocalist in NW. In this case I won´t be a part of NW anymore. I know my importance and I´m not afraid that one day a male singer will be put in front of me.

When did you hear the final mix of CC?

Tarja: You´ll laught: The postman again! It was strange because I didn´t know if there had been any changes. I still can´t believe how my voice sounds in certain parts. It´s more whispering than singing.

You used a complete orchestra on CC. Is that necessary regarding today´s technical possibilities?

Tarja: I insisted on using a real orchestra. The sound is much better. I can hear the difference between a real orchestra and a "synthetic" orchestra. The toughest part was to find the right mixture during the mixing.

Who had the idea to do a cover version of Andrew Lloyd Webber´s "Phantom of the opera"?

Tarja: Tuomas has been thinking that this song would fit NW for a long time. I´ve heard this song first when I was 12 or 13. Then I decided to become a singer. Today this musical is to smooth in my opinion. I prefer e.g. "Hair". I really loved "Phantom...", but unfortunately my performance isn´t that brilliant.

In which way?

Tarja: I wasn´t able to get into a suitable mood. This siren-like singing doesn´t fit me very good. There are lots of versions of this song but I couldn´t find an own access to the song. That´s a pity, but we can´t change it now.

Many people see parallels between metal and opera. Do you understand that?

Tarja: Hmmm, I guess so. The scenes are similar. Many people would never go into an opera. It´s the same with metal. But the true fans are incredibly loyal. And both styles are bombastic and tell about strong feelings.

Why did you move to Germany for your studies?

Tarja: I couldn´t concentrate on my studies in Finland when NW became so famous. We sell more records than many pop bands, we received platinum with each of our releases. I had no private life any more. Everyone noticed me in the streets, I took part in many TV shows, I even participated in cooking shows. Then I knew: "I have to go!" And in addition to that, I didn´t receive any respect at my school in Helsinki. I was fed up with my situation and had this classic burn-out syndrome. And I´m just 24! I had to hit the emergency breaks. After I went to Karlsruhe, my life has changed to the better. I´m happy with myself, my private life, my studies and with NW.

Why especially Karlsruhe?

Tarja: This school has a good reputation in Finland. That´s why there are many finnish people at this school, too many to be honest (laughs). They recognized me and I don´t feel homesick. Maybe I´ll stay here after I`ll have gotten my diploma in 2004...who knows? It´s easier to get a job as a classical singer in Germany. That´s why I´ve been learning a lot of german during the past months. Therefore my english get´s worse.

How did Tuomas react when you told him that you´re going to move abroad?

Tarja: He was surprised but he could understand my reasons. The problem is that my move to Germany has a big effect on NW. There´s not much time for recordings and tours. We´re only able to tour during my holidays, so I won`t be able go on vacation this summer. I need to know any dates concerning NW at least half a year in advance. The regulations on my school are very strict. If I miss some courses, I would have to repeat a whole semester. But my status here is better than in Finland. My singing teacher knows about NW. She understands it and respects that it´s my job.

Are there big differences between the finnish and german mentality?

Tarja: Oh yes, you germans are so pünktlich (german for "be in time"). German people do everything in time, while finnish people push some tasks a few days back. In the beginning, I had some problems to deal with that. But now I see the advantages. I´ve never worked so hard as I did here. Actually I´m a pretty lazy person whose ass needs to be kicked from time to time. And I got one here.

Are you a person who doesn`t have any problems in getting contact to other people when you´re in a foreign country?

Tarja: Absolutely! I´m not a person who spends the whole day in front of the TV. I really love to go out and learn about new areas and new people. I lived in eight different cities in Finland. The biggest step for me was to leave my mother in Helsinki behind. My phone bills are sky high. (laughs)

To be honest: I thought opera singers are egocentric people.

Tarja: That´s true, especially when I´m on tour with NW. Each day lots of people are around you and you should be nice to everyone. You can´t be nice to everyone everytime. I´m happy to have some time for myself. When I feel bad, I´m in a bad mood when I´m talking to the press or the fans. I don´t act happy. Either the people accept me as I am, or they should leave me alone. When I´m on stagappy. Either the people accept me as I am, or they should leave me alone. When I´m on stage, I feel totally different. I never felt bad while being on stage. And yes, the reason why I´m still in the band are the concerts, the live experience and the fans.

You´re a student, you´re a singer of a very succesful band, you´re travelling around the world - do you have any time for hobbies or a boyfriend?

Tarja: For both, but let´s talk about hobbies only (laughs). I´m jogging through the beautiful parks in Karlsruhe very often. Singing is a competitive sport. There´s no much time for other things than music. But I don´t care about that. Music is my hobby, my job and my life.

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