Author: Silvia Deurwaarder
ďPush yourself to the maximum; donít take the easy way out!Ē
Interviews are most of the time very personal, but I never had an interview like the one with Tuomas Holopainen of Nightwish. Heís the spirit behind this successful gothmetal band and a very sensitive person. The conversation in the cantine backstage in Belgium wasnít very comfortable and I had problems with concentrating myself, but it went unexpectedly well. Both of us were very surprised with the result and I must say that, even though I canít bring back the atmosphere, you can sense a small part by reading the interview and hopefully you discover what I mean.
The band is just back from a tour period in England where all the shows were sold out. More than 2500 people came to see the shows. Tuomas tells that it was better than he expected: ďIt was exceptionally good. The people over there are the most polite people in the whole world: everything with ďSirĒ. It was great, but still there were some things; like there wasnít always a shower. All in all, I am very satisfied with this tour. Itís the longest tour so far but we still have some free moments.Ē
He really looks forward to go home: ďI live in the middle of nowhere, next to a lake. I still live with my parents. I just bought a house, but it needs renovation, so maybe I can get it in three years time. I love to meet people around the world, but when I am back home I love to be on my own. I am really unsocial at home: just me, my parents and my three cats. The last thing I want is going to a bar. I usual go to my summer cabin which is on a small island in the middle of a lake. It beautiful, especially in the winter. I have to punch a whole in the ice to get water, thereís no electricity.Ē
For many artists long tours have the risk that a lot of things become routine. The energy level is not always very high and the circumstances change a lot. Tuomas is very clear about that: ďIt never gets that far that youíre not exited at all or that it feels boring. Every single time it feels good to see the people and play. Some days are better and others are worse. Of course you have really bad days in the tour; when youíre really tired, pissed off or sick. Then you have to think that it is not always fun. Because it still is a job, work isnít always fun. One of the hardest things in this occupation, because you canít get away from your work. I really like this pressure."
He needs time to prepare himself for the gig: ďI really need to be on my own the last ten minutes before the show. Please donít talk to me then. I really want to go through the setlist by myself, to remind me what sound I gonna use on the keyboard. Everybody has to do their own part on the stage and do it perfectly. So when I screw it up then, I screw up the whole band. This is something I know, I can do it, so I get my vibes from it and gives all my energy.Ē
For the people who want to know what Tuomas is feeling when heís playing the songs on stage, itís difficult to describe: ďIt depends on the mood, the audience and the song. Sometimes itís just routine; itís in your memory and you donít feel anything and just check out the people. Sometimes you are really pissed and want to go off the stage. Thatís really rare, and usually you get a really good vibe when the audience is singing along and enjoying it. The ultimate experience is that you really get inside the song. You understand for what purpose this song was made. I feel the story, sometimes it happens... thatís the feeling I am always searching. When your mom or dad is there it gives you an extra kick.Ē
Unexpected he starts to talk about the difficulties he has with being an artist, who gets more and more fans. Many people think that the person on stage is totally different from the person in normal life, but it isnít.
Tuomas is very serious when he tells me that he finds it difficult to be open to other people: ďI have always been a ďnot so socialĒ kind of person. Itís just in my character that I donít really enjoy talking to people that much. All those fansÖI donít mean that, but it really takes me time to get to know people, but when I go on stage it feels like my territory: this is something I have created and itís all my creation. So now I can let it all out. It feels like a deeper person is coming out. I like being with peopl, but I need my first share of peace and solitude as well. Itís hard sometimes to be with the whole band on tour, but now we have our own hotel rooms. Sounds like a small thing but itís really important. After the show you have 12 hours for yourself. Thatís one of the reasons that this tour is going so well.Ē
The other side is that the music is something they have in common, but sometimes it can go wrong. Then is the pressure too high: ďI just had it once on this tour, in November, when I was a total wrack. I didnít even have the energy to act on stage. Sometimes you want to do that because of the fans. That was the first time in ages that I was just standing still the whole set. You shouldnít do that, because the people paid money to see you, not only to play but also to perform. Most of the time it comes natural, but this time it didnít and I still feel sorry for that.Ē
The band is very critical towards each other, because after that gig the other members warned Tuomas to never do it again. Because theyíve known each other for such a long time they donít have criticism that often: ďWe grown up so close together that everybody knows what each member can do. Now we get along better then ever.Ē
Tuomas is the one who writes all the lyrics for Nightwish. Heís the one who creates the other world. Itís difficult to describe that world, but itís very strong connected to the nature. When I ask him if this world has the same atmosphere as there is on the island, he has to think for a moment before he replies: ĒThe music that I do would be totally different if I would be living somewhere else, because the environment like the woods and the lake, have such an impact on me. I heard so many musicians say: donít judge me by my music: I just play music. I can only say that you can judge me totally by my music; thatís all I am. Without those songs I would have been in the ropes already. Itís just a way to get to know myself and to get those feelings out. You also get some satisfaction from the idea that other people read those lyrics and maybe feel the same. You want to share your painÖĒ
The record ďCentury ChildĒ (2002) was a very dark record in comparison to the last one ďOnceĒ (2004). The new record is not that melancholic and dramatic. Tuomas is very open about the fact he had a difficult period, but now heís very satisfied with how things go at the moment: ďThereís more light, because I was screwed when I was doing that album, but doing ĎCentury Childí was very bad. Now, when I look back, I can understand everything, but at that moment I didnít. Itís learning; growing up in a way. I will always be a child, but still...Ē
When you look at the lyrics of Nightwish most of the time they are very cryptic and you get the idea that youíll never completely know what Tuomas wants to say. He totally understand that feeling: ďI was just reading some lyrics of ďOceanbornĒ and ď WishmasterĒ some weeks ago and I couldnít even remember myself. What does it mean? That was so weird, but it always has a meaning at the point when I am doing it. I also want to keep a challenge to the people. Itís not that obvious.Ē
For many people the new songs have to grown on you more than the old ones from the previous records. Tuomas kind of feels the same: ďYou have to give it time. Thereís a special touch in those older songs. I definitely agree, but you grow as a person, so your songs will change. They are full (laughs) but itís a challenge and you have to listen to it more. I know itís hard, but the point is that I understand your vision. I donít want to minimize now, maybe in the future. Itís a feeling that burns inside and wants to get all out and I do it. I am an ambitious person. I think I wanted to see how big you can get in some way. I canít stop time. Thatís the fight I have with the producer, because I want more and he want everything out.Ē
With the last record the audience seems to be grown more and more. Almost all the shows on this tour are sold out and they have a huge success at the moment. Still Tuomas is very down to earth.
Heís a bit sceptical about all those fans: ďI donít know if they understand me. I donít think in that way.Ē When I explain that it must be weird for a composer that all those people come to your music. Then he starts to smile: ďOw yeah ok, definitely. You sit in your own room and write these lyrics about your own life and then it goes on sale and people sing along the songs. Itís a bit weird, but also very good, flattering also, in a way. Itís a bit of a contrast and I even donít know everything myselfÖYou make me think too, thatís a good thing.Ē
When Marco (bass player and vocals) joined, the band seemed to be more connected and everything seems to fit: ďIt was just instant chemistry. Everything worked that way. Tarja (front woman and vocals- SD) was also behind the decision and it was never a problem. I donít want to emphasize Marcoís impact too much, because it was not only him who saved the band from falling apart. He was a very big part and he really brought a lot of serenity to the band. Heís a very calm guy and almost never gets angry. Whenever we have fights, everybody starts yelling and he is the one who says: come on letís talk about it.
One of the things is that heís a bit older and he has seen so much. He really had a hard life, also in the music. He was trembling in the mud, but now he finally gets what he deserves I think. In many ways I found out that heís like me. We have this brother mind, even though heís more social, but we think the same way. I donít have to explain anything: heís the same songwriter; we have the same interests in books and movies. Thereís so much more what I donít have with for example Empu (leadguitar) or Tarja. I love all of them, but thereís not the same connection of the mind. It definitely gives me the motivation to go on.Ē
Tuomas is very critical and doesnít take the easy way out: ďWhen I doing a song I am mostly concerned: am I gonna like the song in the end? But then, what comes next is: that the other guys and Tarja must like it. Thatís the biggest concern and all the media and the fans come after that. The thing is when I am doing the song, honestly, I think about if itís too easy for Marco, to hard for Tarja or does Empu need a longer guitar solo? I shouldnít be thinking that, but I want to make stuff they enjoy to play too. I feel myself responsible for that. The most simple thing, I told this many times to the band and the crew, is: no matter what, I want that everybody has a good time.
Itís so simple as that: have fun! I wish that I could make people happy with their lives and what they are doing. I am responsible for them, because they tour with us. I spend half of my life with them, so itís my second family. Thatís why I get really upset when someone is not happy. At that point I get the responsible feeling that I should do something, because I have the final word to say about all matters which happen in the band. I hate that part, because I have to kick people out of the crew or something. I am naÔve because I am the leader. I have this naÔve thing in life. I push that away.Ē
Tuomas sounds sad when he continues. Sometimes he looks up to the back of the cantina to think about a question, but most of the time he sits there; relaxing, staring at the table.
ďI think itís going very well with everybody. The energy is back again. It was gone when we where playing in Helsinki and Germany at the end of the year (2004). We were so tired, but now it goes better. At the moment I am totally focussed on this tour, but I have some ideas for new songs.
I have a couple of new songs written in my notebook, but nothing concrete. Some lines and song titles. I know for sure how the next album will be called, but I canít say that. I know the whole theme already. Itís just coming out and then you work with it a lot. When you have a nice sound you work with it for a week and finally there is the perfect thing. Then you start with the guitars, then the bass and then you have the whole picture. Itís really hard to explain: it just happens. You have to push yourself to the maximum. Donít take the easy way out!Ē
Again Tuomas is silent for a second, his throat is hurting, but he goes on: ďI never didÖ Sometimes the writer block can be a very bad experience. You just get over it, just do something violent. During the sessions for the last album I broke my keyboard. I was so sweaty and tired, nothing came out, so I broke it.Ē
At the moment the band works on a very high level: the last album was received very well, the tour is going fine and the shows are selling very well. Unexpected Tuomas still has a simple goal in the future: ďThe next goal is making a better album. Iíve always been able to talk to myself through the song writing and stay true to myself and I just made sure that this line wouldnít be broken in two years. Iím feeling very confident at the moment, but everything can happen. Of course I dream all the time about concrete and special things: that keeps me going and let me dothe music. I like to see the world, to travel, maybe one day I get the house finished. Maybe some day I have someone to spend my life with, but itís not the time for that now. I donít know how the other guys do it. I really respect that. Sometimes itís overwhelming whatís happening now.Ē
The band is still very realistic and Tuomas is very down to earth when he talks about the success: ďI think I understand it better when all this is finished, but now itís just being in a rollercoaster and enjoying the ride. Itís totally amazing whatís happening now, especially because we never planned it: it just happened. Just try to have the same ideology that you had 8 years ago when we started the band. I think we managed to hang on to it very well. As persons weíve not really changed that much. We still do the same stuff we did 8 years ago, thatís the basic idea and that hasnít changed."
Tuomas Holopainen is the one who brought Nightwish this far and he always had a big devotion to it. He sounds surprised when I ask him about this, but after some seconds he smiles: ďDevotion is a good word. I have doubts sometimes. A prominent thing is that I never can draw a line between my personal life and my work. Itís all one big thing, the whole Nightwish and my life: itís everything I am, I do, everything I think. I donít care, I donít complain, itís a way of life. When it goes wrong, at least you can say that you tried your best. Thatís the most important thing.
Itís a good rule in life: nobody should expect more than try to do your best. It works for everything. Itís a hard world and you donít always know that you have done your best. Maybe I should have done moreÖ Wow itís something unique that I talked so much. Most of the time it doesnít come out and I donít know what happened now. "
Then Tuomas has to go, because he needs a cup of tea and prepare himself to go to on stage for the gig at Wieze (Belgium).
First of all I want to thank Tuomas for the kindness and all the time. Also the rest of the band who was very kind for me over the past few months and the crew: Toni and Ewo who always helped me out. Also thanks to Markus Wosgien from Nuclear Blast, who helped me a lot - SD.