NIGHTWISH "ONCE" IN FINNVOX, TUOMAS HOLOPAINEN UNDER ROCKUNITED TRIAL
Nightwish released their "Nemo" - single in the middle of April and Finland saw their video of it on 2nd of May. Coming up next will be the album, "Once", release date 7th of June. The band was still working with the album when we entered the Finnvox-studios on March 27th to find out how it sounds when only two songs, "Nemo" and "Planet Hell", were completely done. The place was packed with journalists, drinking beer and whatever they could find from the fridge, along with snacks. After some chit chat we entered the studio and the room turned silent. Tuomas and Emppu were standing near the door, probably a little tense from what reactions the album would raise.
"Dark Chest Of Wonders" began to play, a final mix version without mastering. The song is quite straight and really heavy, with catchy vocals.
"Wish I Had An Angel" was also the final mix without mastering. It has a really brutal beginning, which then turns into the familiar hammering we're heard in Nightwish many times before. But this song has a strange techno twist to it, you could call it a technometal song. This song made some people smile, the beginning is really rough.
"Nemo" is the most catchiest tune off the album, it's really melodic and sensitive overall. There aren't no choruses like these anywhere else on the album, the rest of the songs are more orchestrated and complex, yet real masterpieces in different Nightwish style.
"Planet Hell" starts out with an orchestra, then turns into the most devilish twisting ever, changing its pace all the time. If hell had music, this would be it.
"Creek Mary's Blood" and "Ghost Love Score" are the epic type songs here, but most of the songs run somewhere in four minutes. The first one starts out with a real Indian speaking out lyrics Tuomas wrote, translated into lakota language. This song has a huge mood to it, a slow song with a western metal section in the middle. The end of the song is more entertaining and classical. This one was a raw mix, but whatever the mixing, the work sounded amazing and the final product will knock you off your feet.
"The Siren" has it in the title, a defiant song enchanting and dazing you.
"Dead Gardens" has a playful drive to it, with multiple dimensions and rough hammering parts. This was another raw mix.
"Romanticide" is a typical fast Nightwish song. It also has a genocide and really dreadfull atmosphere, a scary song to say the least. Somehow this didn't work for me other than scare me. This was also a final mix, no mastering done.
"Ghost Love Score" is one of the best songs, amazingly bombastic with orchestration, a soulful, touching song that equals to the best existing film music out there. And in its ten minutes it keeps its grip on you.
"Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan", the 10th song, and the 11th and last, "Higher Than Hope" were both raw mixes, first one being melancholic with a wide sound, strings backing up the sad feeling the title about death carries out. The last song continues with the sad feeling and is a slower one, closing the album quite nicely, though leaving you speachless, which the whole album does.
The room seemed dead silent after the album ended. Tuomas and the band had once again left people in awe. The orchestrations fit perfectly for these songs and eventhough "Once" isn't normal Nightwish with the hitting choruses, this will freak out those at least who love huge orchestrations and larger than life arrangements. Tarja also excells herself, the vocals bring shivers down your spine and she also sings in different ways than before. On one-time listen basis "Wish I Had An Angel", "Nemo", "Creek Mary's Blood", "Ghost Love Score" and the last two songs struck me the most with their melancholy and the orchestra. After the album we listened to "Nemo" as the 5.1 version the album will also be released as, and this sounded even more amazing, the sounds capturing you in the middle of it all, even the tiniest thing waking up your senses. This version is a definite buy, I must say. When the rest of the journalists went to have a second listen to the album, we had a chat with Tuomas. Emppu decided he wouldn't be needed, and I almost agreed with him, but let him slip from this one, since he was having a hangover from the day before. He gave a puzzling smile to us and for a while sat on the coutch near us, watching some entertaining commercials from the tv...
RockUnited - Tell us what you've been up to lately, other than recording the new album ?
Tuomas - We've been in the studio for far too long, at least it feels like it. We went there in the middle of October and this will probably go as far as the middle of April. So it has then taken us six months to work on this album. Except for the one week break in December. But other than that we've worked every day and it's been fun.
RockUnited - Did you plan it to take this long or has the project grown while recording ?
Tuomas - We had it planned like this, yeah. But we had to take two more weeks for mixing, it can't be done in three weeks. So that will take five weeks altogether. So we did plan from the beginning that we'll take the time we need.
RockUnited - How did the recording process go otherwise ?
Tuomas - It went great. The difference between this album and the others is that earlier I've paniced from everything, I thought nothing's good enough and working out well enough and we're running out of studio time, etc, but now I'm confident about the material. Eventhough it's been really exhausting doing this compared to the other albums, it's been great for all of us.
RockUnited - So all of you enjoyed it mostly ?
Tuomas - Yeah. Earlier there's always been something that was bothering you. Like Tarja wasn't happy about her vocals or something's going wrong in the studio. It's like, every day I'm that close to tying a rope around my neck, 'cos things aren't going the right way...But I haven't felt like that at all during these recordings.
RockUnited - Now we could check out the songs, so please tell us about each song.
1. Dark Chest Of Wonders - There's no sense in this song. I've managed to include all the heavy metal genres into this song. There's also a traditional power metal chorus and some Pantera mixed in it. But it works like this. There's this certain feeling of joy in the song when you first started a band and begun playing. We didn't have that feeling on our last album and this has brought it back. The lyrics are "diibadaaba", you're flying somewhere in the sky with a snowman again, the whole thing's escapism really...but this song came off great.
2. Wish I Had An Angel - This song was an experimental one, we've never used machines before and we wanted to have this Rammstein-thing in at least one song. The difference between the first and the second song is quite harsh. This is the most down-to-earth song we've ever written. Usually we've had all kinds of emotion involved and historical lyrics, but this song got its spark from the Karhu-bar in Kitee. Just read the lyrics and you'll know what it's about. This will probably be the second single from us.
3. Nemo - This is the other single, which isn't about an aquarium fish or the captain of a submarine. This is latin and it means "no one". When I wrote this song I hadn't even heard of the "Finding Nemo" movie yet. So it was a coincidence that they both happened to come out at the same time. But this song was an easy pick for a single because of the catchy chorus and the song structure. The beginning reminded me about HIM a bit, like you said, it's slow and starts from low key. But most of all it sounds like Nightwish.
4. Planet Hell - This is the most weakest song on the album in my opinion. We included this on the b-side of the first single, because otherwise the single would've been too soft. But this song is fast.
5. Creek Mary's Blood - This is my favourites from all the songs I've ever written. It's been so from the beginning and still is. We have an Indian guest here. I've always had a fixation towards American Indians, I've always been interested in their culture and what happened to them is one of man's biggest sins in the last 500 years. The point for this song was that I wanted a real Indian in it. I found John Two-Hawks from the Google (laughs) and we sent him a cd and the song and he decided to do it. The words that he's saying on this song were written by me, but he translated them into lakota language.
6. The Siren - This is an experimental song, where we altered the mythology. I got an idea for this song from a documentary, which had an old scottish woman living alone on an island. Each night she'd go to the cliffs and play her violin to the seals. It was really incredible, so I had to write a song about it. This is almost an instrumental, with only a few lyrics. Sami Yli-Sirniö (Waltari/Kreator) plays citar here, so that brings an Indian touch to it. But when you think about the title, it goes to the Greek mythology. A song about Greek mythology with Indian melody about a Scottish violin player...I really like the choirs here. We got exactly what we wanted. This song has the most artistic touch to it on the whole album.
7. Dead Gardens - This is a total Kotiteollisuus-rip off concerning the guitar riff. This is the first song I wrote for the album and it's about the anxiety of creation. When I started writing songs for this album it took me a couple of months that I still had nothing, before I realized I could write a song about this feeling when I have no ideas. And "Dead Gardens" is the result.
8. Romanticide - Don't know what to say about this. The word "romanticide" is cool though, you can't even find it from the dictionary. It's similar to "genocide" and such. Killing the romance...
9. Ghost Love Score - This is the biggest and the most ambitious song we've ever written. There's no sense in this either, the song has different parts and changes its atmospheres a lot. The song was originally called "Ghost Love", but because of the nature of the song I wanted to include the score there too, so people will know what it's about. I had the idea that each song should sound like a five-minute movie soundtrack song. I worked this song to extremes.
10. Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan - I wasn't sure should we include this on the album, but when Tarja sang her parts we noticed that finnish language works really well with this kind of a song, and it still didn't sound too pop-like. It's one of the best ballads we've ever done. The cello that was used in the solo cost 3 million pounds and it sure sounds like it too ! But this song was basically written for the foreign people, that's why it's in finnish. We always want to try new things, that's why we've got a finnish song here, one with lakota language and a techno song. And eventhough this song has only ten rows of lyrics, I wrote them the longest. It was really tough to get it right. This is about my personal feelings, but people can interpret them how they want to.
11. Higher Than Hope - Marco Hietala wrote most of this song and I wrote the lyrics. It was clear that we end the album to this song because of the nature of the song. Marco came up with some riffs and ideas and I picked up something from them. It really works for this album. It's based on a true story about an American fan I made friends with, who died of cancer in October last year.
RockUnited - There's a couple of songs that are longer than average songs. Was it your intention to write a few long songs ?
Tuomas - "Creek Mary's Blood" and "Ghost Love Score" are the long ones. If you're writing an epic story about the history of the Indians, you can't force everything into three minutes. It just turned out to be this long. But "Ghost" was meant to be long. We wanted it to be complicated and see how it turns out.
RockUnited - There's also some songs that will be included as b-sides on your singles.
Tuomas - "White Night Fantasy" is the b-side of the "Nemo"-single, and it's really funny. There's different opinions about it, but it sounds like Björk (singer from Iceland). Tarja almost whispers the lyrics, but I really like the song, it's got a good feeling to it. "Live To Tell The Tale" is the worst song I've ever written. That will probably end up as a b-side to some Madagaskar single (laughs)...I guess we can use that song, eventhough we couldn't get it working at all. There's some curse on it or something. But people want b-sides, so...then there's the Anki Bagger cover song "Where Were You Last Night", which was done tongue-in-cheek. But I liked the song when I was a kid. But the melody and all sounds like us, so I thought we could use it. The lyrics are terrible though. And the point why we did this song was that people usually take us and the music too seriously, whatever we're wearing, what the lyrics are like, etc. Eventhough it's a good thing and also flattering, sometimes it really gets to you. It's like the football fans, same goes with the music fans, this is only music. So the point here is don't take everything we do so seriously.
RockUnited - But your fans are quite young, so they tend to criticize you more easily and take everything more seriously.
Tuomas - I guess that's how it goes. I must've been like that too when I was young.
RockUnited - How did you end up using this orchestra on the album, it's quite huge ?
Tuomas - We used the Joensuun Kaupunginorkesteri on our earlier album and it was good, but not even close to what we had in mind. This time we decided we'd find the best orchestra on the whole planet we could find, whatever the costs. Mikko Karmila knew Pip Williams, so that's how we got the London Session Orchestra for this album. We can't use the London Symphony Orchestra title here, 'cos there's only 52 persons playing on our album, when the Symphony Orchestra has 90 people. But we've got same people playing here who also played for the "Lord Of The Rings" and "Harry Potter". They're incredible musicians. They didn't rehearse the songs at all. When they saw the notes, they played their parts on the first take.
RockUnited - Who wrote the notes for them ?
Tuomas - Pip Williams. I went to London in the end of November with our demo and we went the songs through there. Then I showed him some parts with my keys, for instance how I wanted the flute to go, where I want to have a trumpet and a harp. He worked on those basis for two months and then started the actual recordings. It brought a difference to the sound. Originally the idea was to have the orchestra only on few songs or few parts, but Pip Williams got exited about the whole thing so much, that he wrote each song over again from beginning to end. But I don't mind.
RockUnited - Since you love film music, are there any plans of doing something in that area in the future ?
Tuomas - I don't have any plans yet, and I couldn't even think about doing something like that just yet, since the new Nightwish release will probably take two years from our lives. But one of my dreams is to write a full score to a film. *Hint, hint* (laughs). But this new release is almost like film music, disguised with a metal mask.
RockUnited - You will also be releasing a 5.1 version of the album. Was the plan to record such an amazing album from the beginning, or did it come to you as a surprise how good the album sounds ?
Tuomas - We had no intention to record that. Two weeks before we started mixing the album Nuclear Blast told us to record a 5.1 album. We came to the conclusion that it would be possible to record the album in two hours, you just add some echo behind it and stuff. We told them we could do two songs, the songs going to the single. And we would need time for it, since we wanted to do it well. So we put the keys, choirs and orchestra in the back and others in front and mixed it all. I'm sure 5.1 versions will increase in the future, but it's nice to be a pioneer and try stuff.
RockUnited - You can hear the album is really dynamic, so you've succeeded well enough.
Tuomas - I really hope this album grows on you on each listen, that it wakes your interest on the first listen, but you get in on it on the fifth listen. It would be really boring if it was all there already on first listen and you couldn't find anything new from there after that. You have to have some challenge to it.
RockUnited - And it comes through in your music that you listen to all kinds of stuff.
Tuomas - Everything I listen to comes out in my own music. I just write music that comes natural for me. Lately I've been listening to movie soundtracks, those are my favourites. We all love the Gladiators-soundtrack, it's brilliant, probably the best soundtrack ever written.
RockUnited - Marco used to play in all kinds of bands and projects. Have you made him decide between Nightwish and other projects/bands ?
Tuomas - I'm not that mean. But Nightwish is definately the number one thing and nothing can step over it. But whatever he does on his spare time doesn't bother me. When it comes to his vocals in Nightwish, it's not an easy thing. Some german fans have been asking why he's not singing more. But we wouldn't have the surprise element left anymore, if we used him in each song. And besides, Tarja's vocals are the main thing here.
"NEMO"-VIDEO, US TOUR, MAFIA AND THE DVD
RockUnited - The finnish director Antti Jokinen, who's shot videos for bands like Eminem, Wyclef Jean, Celine Dion and Shania Twain, also shot your "Nemo"-video. How much did he change the script you and Kinnunen had written and how did it all go ?
Tuomas - He changed it quite a lot, he deleted the suicide scene for instance, 'cos it was too harsh for MTV. But he's a great guy, he's the most self-assertive and confident guy you could ever find. He's a real professional. I haven't seen the video at all yet, it should be finished next Wednesday (end of March, '04). The original script included the band playing in a snow storm, that's what was left from the script. The snow was actually soap and I bet our equipments didn't like it at all. The ground was covered with salt. There were some really frustrated looking people cleaning up the place the next day, I wonder how they got it all off. It took us about twelve hours to shoot the video, we played the song through about 30 times. There's this gothic girl wandering in the snow storm and the crows are carrying her also or something.
RockUnited - There's a few promo pictures of you on your site where Tarja is using a cowboy hat. What's the deal with that ?
Tuomas - You haven't read our message board then. But that was my idea, any promo pictures you see from us, I'm the guy behind the ideas, blame it on me. The fans have been blaming it on the record label. I just told Tarja to put a cowboy hat on, just for fun. I thought it would look cool and there's one song on the album with a western story, so why not.
RockUnited - You're going to the US later this year, which might give you a go now since the nu-metal has pretty much ceized to exist there and HIM's music is quite popular there.
Tuomas - Yeah. We're also playing in Canada. We played two shows in the US last year and both were sold out and it was a great welcome. So there's certainly some kind of a scene...Evanescene...(playing with words, meaning Evanescence). But there's definately space for our kind of music and with good promotion it might work out. But we just have to see how it all goes. After that we do two weeks in Scandinavia and then the rest of Europe and South America.
RockUnited - How huge are the arenas you're playing at and how excited are you about that tour, anything special to wait for ?
Tuomas - The smallest place draws about 700 people and the biggest 3000. I'm just excited to drive through America, it's one of my childhood dreams. Like a road movie you know, though this happens in a tour bus, but it's close enough. We'll go and have an adventure and see what happens. Canada is already familiar to us, we've been there two times already and the scene is great over there.
RockUnited - You sold gold with your dvd in Germany as the first finnish band. Did this information take you by surprise, how popular are you over there and in the middle of Europe ?
Tuomas - We were quite surprised. They sent us great gold albums. We're still the most popular in Finland I guess. We've sold 100,000 albums in Germany, but we're doing good in Holland, France, mostly countries in the middle of Europe. Then there's South America, but we've got no idea about our album sales over there, because of the piratism. Our gig in Sao Paolo sold 8,000. But maybe someone buys the originals too.
RockUnited - There's also some sort of black market with concert tickets where they don't inform all the tickets sold and this way the bands lose even more money.
Tuomas - Yeah, there's a strange mafia. When we went to Mexico, they had a Nightwish market outside the concert venue and there were about 20 booths selling our stuff, all pirate stuff. Ash trades, statues, t-shirts and stuff. But I don't let it bother me, you're absolutely powerless against that. It's been there for so long that they've grown used to it. Mostly you just laugh at all that and maybe you can get a few free t-shirts as a compensation. But I'm doing good with my music.
RockUnited - Tarja sang in a finnish church last Christmas. How did that go and was there lots of Nightwish fans present ?
Tuomas - The church was full and 70 percent were actually metal fans, it was really exciting.
RockUnited - Church community dressed in black...
Tuomas - Exactly. But Tarja's doing some classical shows in Argentina now and they're also full of metal fans. We're breaking the boundaries once again.
RockUnited - Tarja got invited to the Presidential residence in Finland last December to celebrate our Independence Day. What was the feedback about that and how did it offend you, since you're after all the person who's behind Nightwish music ?
Tuomas - Tarja was in the daily newspaper, which was nice. She was in the paper in a positive way, she was voted as one of the most beautiful women in the residence that night. But she did good there and represented the band well. But I'm not offended by it at all, I'm really shy about publicity and will gladly stay in the shadow and let Tarja do all that, she does it better than me anyways.
RockUnited - But you should've been given the honour.
Tuomas - Well, maybe some other year then. I don't mind. But if I got invited I would go of course. It's not on my boycot list. And I can understand why Tarja was invited.
RockUnited - One of your future shows will be in Kitee, your hometown. Will you have a big show there ?
Tuomas - I guess we'll have something, there's some lasers, moving lights and bombs. It's probably the biggest show Kitee has ever had. I heard we'll have people from 17 countries in there, from Buenos Aires and New York for instance...they're coming to Kitee, which has only one hotel with 30 rooms (laughs)...it will be difficult to get a room.
RockUnited - You have two support bands there. One of them is a Metallica/Nightwish influenced Dunces, which made me wonder are they friends of yours ?
Tuomas - They're friends of ours. We wanted to help them out a little and asked them to support us there. But I don't know about them being influenced by us, you have to ask it from them. The third band will be Timo Rautiainen & Trio Niskalaukaus, they're also friends of ours, so we picked the bands from those basis. They'll probably draw in some fans who wouldn't otherwise come to see us. But it's incredible really, people are coming to Kitee, and the ice hall drawing in 4000 sold out in a day !
RockUnited - You'll be playing in Sweden Rock this summer also. Have you been there before and how's Sweden otherwise ?
Tuomas - We played some other festival in Sweden last year. We'll be playing the main stage in Sweden Rock and right before Judas Priest. Our last album sold 18,000 in Sweden, so it's been great there too. 25,000 is the gold limit, so hopefully we'll reach that with the new album.
RockUnited - Will you have any sets on the tour, like an Indian on stage or something ?
Tuomas - That Indian would be great, dancing around the fire. But I love pyros, so we'll have those. Our music is so visual and huge, so we'll have bombs and huge lights. I've never understood why you should only offer music for the fans. It's a show after all.
RockUnited - What's happening after the album is released, other than touring ?
Tuomas - I could try to have a summer vacation. This is the first Midsummer for me in seven years when I'm not going on tour. I can go to my cabin, which is great. But other than that we'll do the tour, some promotion and then some more touring. I couldn't even dare to think about the next album now and I don't have to.
RockUnited - What about For My Pain, what's going on with that band ?
Tuomas - The guys are recording the new single now and I should be doing my parts after this album is finished. But FMP isn't doing any shows. Or actually they have one, but they'll have a session keysman, 'cos I can't go there. It's a project after all and I do what I have time for. I only arranged the songs on the first album, I didn't write any lyrics or songs. I just went and played my parts, but I really like the album.
RockUnited - Would you like to say something to the fans as a conclusion ?
Tuomas - Damn, these are difficult. Hello to everyone, come and see our shows. Yeah yeah...(laughs) Buy the 5.1 version and listen to it really loud.
Interview by Satu Reunanen, email@example.com
by Kari Helenius, firstname.lastname@example.org