Last night’s Nightwish concert was pretty incredible, and I’ll have a full write-up for that on the site tomorrow, but right now, I thought I’d share one of the coolest things to happen so far this year … my interview.
Just after sound-check I was able to go backstage and talk to Tuomas Holopainen and Marco Hietala from Nightwish about … well, a lot of things. This is the biggest band I’ve ever interviewed, and I was so freaken nervous. And when you’re nervous, you tend to babble incoherently and say the wrong things? Yeah, I did that a bit. But they were seriously cool guys, and despite the three innocently dodgey comments I made (only one of which is recorded here for prosperity), it was so much fun being able to talk to them. Here’s what we chatted about:
Tuomas: has someone got a clock to time this thing?
Steff: There’s a clock on here (pointing to my Dictaphone)
Marco: What did you say?
Steff: There’s a clock on here.
Marco (laughs): Ah. A clock. It is your accent. I thought you said something else.
I am now bright red. Great way to begin an interview.
Steff: First of all, I just wanted to welcome you both to New Zealand. I know you’ve never been here before, and it’s great to have you here. How are you enjoying our country so far?
Tuomas: Well, so far we have seen two days of hotels, and a little bit of Queen Street.
Marco: I actually did a bit of walking today. I walked quite far. I wanted to find something worth looking at. There were lots of things.
Tuomas: The harbour was nice, the cemetery was nice.
Marco: We went to the cinema to see the Life of Pi. It was unbelievably good.
Tuomas: So the first impression of the country is unbelievably positive. And tomorrow we’re going to have this little trip into the island, so we’ll get to see a bit more of it.
Steff: It’s been a tumultuous year for Nightwish, with a whirlwind tour, the release of Imaginarium and Floor replacing Annette in October. I know you don’t want to comment about Annette, but-
Tuomas (laughs): but you’re going to ask about it anyway!
Steff: I was going to ask about it in a roundabout way.
Marco: and you will get a no comment in a roundabout way. (laughs).
Steff: I was just going to say with all the changes, how is the band doing now? Are you enjoying the challenge of working with someone new?
Tuomas: It hasn’t really been a challenge. Since day one, it’s just been really good.
Marco: We’ve been settling into it, and that’s it.
Tuomas: The fans love her, we love her, it’s just been amazing. And that’s all we have to say about it.
Marco: And the way she took a hold of things and handled everything. From the first shows she didn’t have anything except for the plane flight to listen to stuff and figure out how to do the songs and … yeah. Wow. I am impressed.
Steff: The question on everyone’s lips is, of course, what is the future of Nightwish? Will Floor be joining you full time?
Tuomas: The future will be incredibly bright, no matter what happens. I’m absolutely confident of that. We are in a very lucky position, in that we don’t have to know yet – we’re just dating. We’re going out with her. We don’t have to make any decisions yet. Everybody knows that we’re still doing shows till the end of August this year, and then we’re going to take a little break, and write some new songs, and sometime in the first half of 2014, we’ll have to decide what to do. But until then, we’re just enjoying the moment.
Marco: It’s a luxury to just be able to travel, do the shows, and hang around in backstages, aeroplanes, whatever, getting to know each other before making anything permanent.
Steff: For many people in this country, being able to see Nightwish live is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Bringing over European bands – especially bands as big as you guys – is so expensive and we just don’t usually have the numbers to make it viable, so this is a real treat. The show tonight is one that many people will remember for the rest of their lives. I was wondering, was there a show that you played, or that you saw, that changed your life?
Tuomas: Soooooo many of those. In a way, it’s an unfair question, because there are so many. The first time we went to South America, in the springtime of 2000, it was unbelievable, because of the fan reaction. And the first time we went to London to record the orchestras for the Once album … there are so many. I mean, coming to New Zealand is actually one. You think this is a treat for you – it’s double that for us.
Marco: We’ve never had the chance to come over here. This is pretty much the furthest place I’ve ever been from home.
Steff: Yeah, we’re pretty much on opposite sides of the globe.
Marco: It’s exotic, even though you speak English … pretty well. (laughs).
Steff: The movie Imaginaerum, is released in November. This was a unique project for a metal band. Did you ever see yourselves doing something like this?
Tuomas: I saw it through the summer of 2007 when the idea grew to have the movie go along with the album. It’s just one of those little-big dreams come true. I mean, we’re not going to continue walking that path. It think it was a one-time experience and we’re all really proud of the result, but we’re already looking to the future and finding new dreams, so it’s not so relevant for us anymore.
Marco: and, at least for me, getting involved with the movie business taught me that it’s even more chaotic and mixed up than the music business, and I don’t really fancy the music business either. So with all the details and all the headaches and chaos – not really my cup of tea. Unless someone hires me to do some shit – then it’s a different story.
Steff: What have the fan reactions been to the movie so far?
Tuomas: Fan reaction has been really good overall, but critics … they are their own breed. Which was kind of to be expected. It was a band movie, and band movies have a reputation all of their own. So I think it’s a challenge to watch that kind of movie objectively.
Marco: Of course, we haven’t really received any criticism so far from outside of Finland. The Finnish critics pretty much hammered it, but that’s to be expected, because we are a small country. I am biased about this thing, but I can read between the lines that they think “who are these overambitious natives who are trying to be prophets in their own country?” So until I start to see some criticisms from outside of Finland, I will not be taking them that seriously.
Steff: Imaginaerum the movie was released with a red-wine. Can you tell us a bit about how that came about?
Marco: It’s a logical continuium – it’s alcohol made by alcoholics, sold to alcoholics, so that the alcoholics get more money for alcohol.
(Tuomas cracks up laughing)
Tuomas: (shakes head). I can’t add anything to that!
Steff: Being on tour must be exciting, but also exhausting. Do you have any rituals, or ways you relax or prepare for going on stage each night?
Tuomas: It’s not that exhausting actually, at least for me. A lot of that depends on the tour, and of course you have your weak moments, but it’s not like you’re totally fucked after doing six weeks in Europe or something. We enjoy every moment. We wake up, there’s lots of travelling, and of course you’re weary, but it’s not exhaustion, it’s not burning out.
Marco: You’ve got to learn your ways of handling things, and learn how to kill time. Otherwise you’ve got to have … off-time activities (taps the beer bottle on the table). And of course, my iPad is filled with books and games and movies and music and blah blah blah.
Tuomas: it’s very easy to lose your sense of reality here, and you have to find your own personal ways to deal with stuff because there’s a lot of free time, as we have here in New Zealand. So you have to really keep your mind occupied so you don’t lose it. So you need some good books and games and friendship and movies and sightseeing.
Marco: We got to the Life of Pi yesterday and it was wonderful.
Tuomas: I’m still drunk about that movie. The scenery was unbelievably beautiful.
Steff: Have you seen the Hobbit yet?
Tuomas: Yeah, absolutely! It was really good.
Marco: I loved it too.
Steff: If you could choose an artist, anyone in the world, to re-interpret or cover a Nightwish song, who would it be and what song would you choose?
(Both look stumped).
Tuomas: Hmmm, that’s a new one.
Marco: … some artist … to cover Nightwish … (strokes beard) … Tom Waits.
Tuomas: Tom Waits, yeah!
Marco: What would be the song … (strokes beard again) … he would need something sinister.
Tuomas: You picked Tom Waits, let me pick the song …
Steff: He could do a whole album.
Marco: That narrows down the scope a little bit …
Tuomas: I was going to say Leonard Cohen, but that’s kind of in the same territory.
Steff: The next few questions are from readers from my site. Robert wants to know what is the likelihood on a scale of 1-10 of Floor staying with the band?
Tuomas: That’s a trick question. I’d say it’s somewhere between 1 and 10.
Steff: Maese was wondering if you’ve had to make any special arrangements or change things in the current songs to fit Floor’s range or performance?
Marco: We didn’t change anything.
Steff: Has song-writing got harder for you over the years, or do you still find it flowes easily? Where does your inspiration come from for songwriting?
Tuomas: The basic philosophy about the songwriting process has always remained the same, for the 16 years the band has been together. So it’s hard to say if it’s become easier or more difficult, it really depends-
Marco: I’d say it comes and goes. Century Child was a really difficult album to write. After that we did Once, which was really easy. And then came Dark Passion Play, which was the easiest album ever to write, with all the stuff that was going on with the band and within our personal lives. And inspiration is pretty much everywhere-
Tuomas: -just plugging into life and experiencing-
Marco: -and then you filter it through the grey sponge (taps his head) and then you spew it out.
Steff: Alisa wanted to know what bands you’re enjoying right now and what you do when you’re not writing and performing?
Tuomas: When we’re not writing and performing we’re just leading an everyday life, life everybody else, enjoying friends …
Marco: … hanging around in our underwear, eating cold sausage from the fridge, having a glass of milk, dripping the sausage into vinegar. That’s good. I really like that.
Tuomas: And occasionally laundry. Wherever there’s a machine. But you were also asking what music we’re listening to right now? Sabaton might be the biggest band for me right now, and also the new album of Wintersun, we’ve been listening to that a lot. I listen to a lot of soundtracks as well, and my latest favorite is definitely the soundtrack of Amelie, the movie. Really subtle, French … stuff, which I find really intriguing.
Steff: Sofia was wondering what can Auckland fans expect from the show tomorrow night? Are we going to hear a lot of older, operatic style songs, or more of the newer tracks?
Tuomas: Most of the tracks in the show are from Imaginaerum, but of course there are some older songs. And we had a discussion because Floor’s got the voice, there are some places where you can hear some more operatic stuff. It should be a good mix for everybody.
Steff: You’ve had a tremendous career so far. What would you like the world to remember about Nightwish and your music?
Marco: We recycle milk cartons!
(Tuomas cracks up)
Tuomas: Again, what can you add to that? I was going to go really deep, but … I think that pretty much covers it.
Marco: But, when you think about it, what is deep? Because if you care about the whole world so much …
Tuomas: Just … remember the music. Like you said. That’s the important thing. Not the man-made soap opera that sometimes surrounds us. That’s irrelevant. That’s the music.
Steff: And lastly, can you say some final words to your New Zealand fans?
Marco: Well, every time you’re in a different place, people ask you, do you have a special message for your fans there. Basically, you don’t, because the message is always the same. There was a band. The band makes music pretty much the way it wants to. And somehow we were really, really lucky, the planets have aligned, people seem to like what we do, we have a fanbase, we have fans here, and all over, and without that, we wouldn’t be here, we wouldn’t be playing over here in New Zealand, if there weren’t fans and people to book us and bring us over. So basically, the biggest motor that keeps this thing running is that you have people that appreciate what you do – the music, the shows – and for that, I have respect for that.
Marco: Because they keep us alive, and keep us doing what we want to do, and I’m grateful for it.
Thank you so much, Marco and Tuomas, for taking the time to talk with me! And thanks to Chaos NZ for organizing for a ‘lil old metal blogger, and for bringing over such a fantastic band and putting on a killer show.