On Thursday, August 19th I had the pleasure of interviewing Marco (bassist) and Emppu (guitarist) of Nightwish. I brought my friend, Marina, along with me cause she wanted to ask some questions too... and for support. We arrive about 40 minutes later than we probably should have due to traffic, we left like 3 hrs before scheduled time. We were lucky because the people who helped put this together were nice and very helpful. The interview was conducted in a conference room. most of the conversation was between Marco and I, but Emppu and Marina had some important comments. It seemed like they were nervous and excited as well as us. Overall I had a great time even though they aren't the lead members of the band. I actually think this was good because I got a different perspective of the band. They were funny guys and there was laughter throughout the whole interview. It was definately a positive experience. I hope you enjoy reading it.
Zack (zMETALlica): What kind of musical education did you receive prior to Nightwish?
Marco: well I guess I started beating up my father’s old acoustics when I was like 11 or 12. After I played for a couple of years, I got a personal tutor for a couple of years then went into musical college where I studied some musical theory and classical guitar. So there’s the basic education I had, though I had some lessons after that, but it was some pop jazz concert stuff, which wasn’t my thing anymore. I had an hour lesson a week, or a couple, and I kinda figured out that I figured things out faster than they could teach me. Then I just started playing with the bass and that sort.
Zack: Did you learn more on your own than you were taught?
Marco: Na, I think with the musical theory thing, I think that was the useful stuff along with the acoustic. I’ve been playing bass in different bands before, almost since I started. The knowledge has given me a perspective of how I should write bass lines and how to keep up the melodies and keep up the pump and the rhythm and understand the whole thing, how it grows up to guitars and keyboards and vocals and all that stuff. So it was useful time.
Emppu: hmmm. I guess I picked up my first acoustic guitar when I was 11 and I played at home very many hours every day. I didn’t really have any formal education.
Zack: What do you think of bands that start with nothing and then get signed to a major label and then blow up and top the charts selling millions of records, while you guys work very hard to get where you are now. Does this make you annoyed or just don’t care?
Marco: It depends on the band. With some groups you hear great stuff. And some well yeah… with this business you have to be at the right place at the right time. There’s a lot of luck involved. Some people have had more luck than others. There’s also some stuff that I hear that sounds like it has just been hyped up and all that shit. But anyway you gotta have the perspective to find out what’s valuable and what’s not.
Zack: Recently I read on some news sites that one of Nightwish’s records went “gold” and “platinum” in other countries when only a few thousand records were sold. In the US it is only after a million that albums are considered “platinum” worthy. Any comments on this?
Marco: hmmm well it’s a new area for us, so everything is like starting over again. I don’t really don’t’ know what to expect. It takes a lot of luck, you gotta be at the right place at the right time. The band is good, everyone knows how to play their stuff. And we can get pretty heavy and convincing on stage, if you come see us we will blow you away. If it depends on us, we can do it, but it depends pure luck and other things, so I just don’t know.
Zack: When comparing the last 3 albums there has been a continuing evolution and change of sound. Personally I feel evolution of a band is a good thing. What are some of the thoughts and ideas that helped create these past two albums that inspired such a change? Of course it would be easier if Toumas was here…
Marco: …probably, but the basic idea of what he had there was for the band to grow. If you talk about the album and how the sound has developed and its kind of a maturity. If you can talk about mature things with these guys… and me included… but it’s more than just the music that’s maturing, it’s also the ambition behind it that has grown. I guess you gotta top the things that you have done before. And I mean every time. Some more things will change in the future as well.
Marina: so you mean you will just keep switching your sound and your not looking to stay with one ‘sound’?
Marco and Emppu: no.
Zack: Do you think Nightwish will go back to any of the styles in the days of Ocean Born or Angels Fall First with that softer sound?
Marco: Maybe, but I think its more a question of what kind of songs Toumas will be writing next time. And then when we get together to rehearse we’ll get our input down.
Zack: And how much is that?
Marco: We wrote some stuff, and it depends on what kind of stuff we come up with sometime in 2005 or 2006 and at that time we can see if it comes up to our personal standards and see if its worthwhile doing. And decide what kind of topics we’re gonna have, and how much orchestra and how much all that… it might be simpler next time or it might be more over the top it could be a combination of the two.
Zack: After toping the euro-charts, how do you feel about your new album being leaked onto the Internet? Do you think this helped promote the album and increased sales, or just hurt it?
Marco: My opinion is that I’m happy
Zack: Are you happy that people are downloading it, or are you happy that people are still supporting you?
Marco: yeah, I’m happy about people buying into the thing and supporting the band and getting to the shows and all that. Downloading of course is kind of like a two edged sword. I mean I know that there are people who are poor and after all the main thing about doing this thing is trying to do something that would impress people and make them happy, so in that way its really a two edged sword. There’s a lot of risk making this album we paid for the masters and all that ourselves and for the video we paid for half of it. So I don’t really feel comfortable ripping off our work.
Zack: What about when people randomly download music and finding out how amazing the music is and then go out and buy the album.
Marco: That way it helps the band as promotion, which is the positive end of it.
Zack: You recently changed record labels. Why?
Marco: well I guess you would have to ask our management about that, but I guess there was a lot of negotiation (laughs)
Zack: Was there a problem with the label? Did you want more exposure that Roadrunner has?
Marco: No, actually we had many labels offer deals, but Roadrunner seemed to be the best because they seemed like a big metal label in the US and they seemed the most promising and convincing.
Zack: Any hopes for the new album with the new label?
Marco: Yeah for it to be big. (laughs) I hope they can use their experience in the US to bring the band over here.
Zack: How does your band stand out from the rest of the bands in your ‘genre’?
Marco: In all ways. We have a certain groove in it that has become a kind of melodic symphonic gothic metal to speak for it, but it’s also just a rock and roll band. I think we can hit really hard when we do things live. I think with every band that has grown to be something big, you gotta know how to rock.
Zack: Do you guys play any video games or anything?
Marco: yeah, I just played probably like 4 hours with my game boy advance game on the plane ride here to the states. It was some old Sega RPG that was reissued for the game boy advance.
Zack: Believe it or not, there are actually bands out there in the US, and even in Europe, that cover music from video games. Would you ever consider doing something like this with Nightwish?
Marco: I don’t think I’d ever cover the music straight, but sometimes I hear some things I hear some things that I have to admit I’ve tried to rip off.
Zack: Having a female singer in the band can create more attention to her from the media. People will see her and think ‘oh she’s hot this band must be good’…
Marco: Well she is (everyone laughs)
Zack: Well yeah but how do you deal with that, that she’s getting all the attention, if she even does?
Marco: Quite a lot actually.
Emppu: It gives us more time to drink beer
Marco: It makes things easier for us
Marina: So you guys did not have any problems with that, you aren’t in any situation where you wish you were more involved with the media?
Marco and Emppu: naw
Marco: its important to realize the the real ethics of the band and how it works. I think without the voice and the face of Tarja there would be no successful in our band.
Zack: How would you define talent?
Marco: (pause) Give me three more of these (pointing to his beer) and still be able to play some Black Sabbath.
Zack: Do you have a personal meaning or connection from making music and touring? For example spreading a personal message.
Marco: na not really.
Zack: Could you speak on Tuomas’ behalf since he writes the songs?
Marco: I think it’s the same thing with him as it is for us, but the lyrics he writes is very personal. I guess we’re just in this to do a good show, you know for the people to have a good time.
Zack: So it makes you happy when you see your fans happy?
Marco: yeah I mean it’s the big thing. It’s the best thing you can have when you get on stage. It’s like hey you’re in the palm of my hand, THIS STAGE IS MINE! And that’s a great thing to feel.
Zack: When you go on tour in other countries you may not know the language that well. How do you relate to the fans?
Emppu: We have to speak only in Finish.
Marina: So you never had trouble with the fact that you couldn’t really communicate with the fans?
Marco: umm no. hold on I have to think back…. No. No.
Zack: How often does the band practice together?
Marco: Well not that much. I think we had a really good session right before we started the album and then we had some really good sessions before we started the tour… we haven’t really practiced together, which is a shame because it would be nice to have everybody living at the same place. Living closer together everybody could get together and play.
Zack: When starting up did you have any troubles meeting?
Marco: well you gotta have a pretty good time schedule. We all live in different cities different heights.
Zack: Does Toumas have any certain method of writing each song that is used? Does he use anything to help him do this, such as a computer?
Marco: well he uses a lot of red wine when he composes. He mostly uses the keyboard to write, but I think the main thing about the new album is that he wrote a lot of the music playing guitar and he’s said it himself that he’s a lousy guitar player, so he’d play really simple on every riff, so that’s how some of the stuff came to be. I don’t think the songs are lousy, just simple and heavy.
Zack: Do you collaborate on any songs as a band, or are the songs mostly prewritten and presented to the band to add in their ideas and opinions?
Marco: That’s mostly the way things happen, he has the whole idea of most of the song and he brings them to us and then we see how well it fits to our style. We change a few things here and there. The arranging of the songs happens together as a band when we rehearse. I had a few ideas for like 3 or 4 songs for the last album, so I ‘demoed’ them, and they eventually gave seeds to our new songs. I picked up a few things from a guitar riff for romanticide …
Zack: Do you write your solos?
Marco: most of the solos aren’t written, we just take good things out of the air.
Zack: What is the inspiration for Creek Mary's Blood, the song is quite different from anything else they've done, why did Tuomas choose to write a Native American themed song.
Marco: (sighs) where’s Tuomas. We’ll he’s been reading a lot about things on that subject matter. And we’ve talked about it. You have to admit it was tragedy that these two cultures come together and they don’t really understand each other. And it ends up being a massacre and a war and all that. So about the history and this tragedy, I guess he was touched and wanted to write a song.
Zack: Do you still practice or experiment with new techniques to gain skill and knowledge as musicians?
Marco: yeah, but having the twins its hard, I gotta wait til they take day naps cause when the evening comes they’re asleep and your tired yourself. I’ll play some guitar and bass then. But not enough, I’m rusty.
Zack: How do you deal with touring when you have a family? Do they come with you on tour?
Marco: Na, we don’t have that kind of money to bring them along. We’re here with just us guys and one girl. Sometimes it’s really hard the little boys are up to the age where they understand that I’m going away. And they say “pappa don’t go,” but a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.
Zack: Do you have any advice for a band that’s just starting up? Musician?
Marco: Get a real job, like my father. Seriously though, you really gotta have ambition and you gotta have guts and do it well. There’s too many people trying to do it now. So persistence and guts is everything… almost everything. You gotta have some talent.
Zack: Recently a few shows were cancelled in the current tour, does complications like these occur often in the bands career?
Marco: No, not that I recall. Though getting to the US these days is a bit more difficult. Last year when we came to Atlanta and NY to play, our guys at management had an agency that helped us. We had to pay a certain amount of money per person and they would help getting the people there faster. This time we got the papers forward between march and may. The agency said it would be ready in about four or five months, they said it would be ok and they would come in time, but they didn’t.
Zack: Any similar problems happen with the recording process of the latest album, or any album for that matter?
Marco: No, the studios have been very friendly to us.
Zack: What was it like working with the orchestra?
Marco: hmm no, we really didn’t get to see the orchestra. But I can hear from the quality of the recording and the playing, that it was a good one. When we were rehearsing we asked at times what Toumas was thinking about to have there or is there gonna be any orchestra there? Or why did you have it like that. We had the band at full force even though we didn’t really know what was gonna happen during the orchestra parts, but we knew something was gonna happen.
Zack: How do you feel about playing at a different venue than last year, since that venue closed down? Do you prefer large venues (outdoor) with big crowds or smaller venues like clubs?
Marco: I do like small clubs myself. You see people drinking beer and you smell the sweat, the blood, the atmosphere, and the smoke, which you don’t have anymore here in New York. But anyway I like those situations: it’s an intimate thing. But then again I also like playing festivals that have tens of thousands of people where you have a big crowd and a big stage where you can walk all over and be like hey, again, this is my stage. My opinion about playing at a different place in New York is that you get familiar with one place and to get to know the people working there, and at times playing there, so its hard.
Zack: I actually had two of my friend’s bands opened for you last year, Operatika and Divinity Destroyed.
Marco: ah, well I saw those names, but I can’t remember who they were.
Zack: Did you listen to any of the opening bands? Or were you getting ready the whole time?
Marco: well I went out there a couple of times. But it was a bit impossible to stay out for a long time, so I just went back stage and had a few beers.
Zack: What was the worst incident that happened during a performance?
Marco and Emppu discuss the question in Finnish.
Emppu: ok, well maybe three years ago. We had some gig in Mexico I think, and Tuomas had this keyboard and there’s this demo song. And he accidentally hits the start button. And this demo song starts rolling. And everyone is like, “what’s this song what’s happening?”
Marina: Do you make any decisions on the art of the cover of the album?
Zack: When you were starting out did you have a ‘dream’ or ‘goal’ as a musician?
Marco: Be able to impress people with the few simple things I do.
Emppu: Be loud and heavy.
Zack: Was there any point in your career where you thought that the band wouldn’t make it? If not what gave you constant faith?
Marco: eh well myself I can tell that I’ve had none but then again I joined the band two and a half years ago. So this is the first time I ever made something. No not really. I’ve done things a lot and at some point in time with different bands I have seen that things are opening up, but it doesn’t go over well because of bad tidings, bad friends, bad managers, etc.
Zack: What bands or person do you look up to in the music industry?
Marco: Cliff, the bass player from ACDC and Geezer Butler from Black Sabbath.
Zack: Would you ever plan on working with anyone, aside from Nightwish, in the future?
Marco: well I’ve done bass playing for other people, but no one I’d really like to play with.
Emppu: I have a couple, but I think they’re not that great.
Zack: So what can be expected of the band in the future: New record? More touring? Sound?
Marco: no rest til 2005 or 2006 maybe.
Zack: What do you plan on doing after that?
Marco: Well my passport runs out then, so I plan on renewing it.