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[Original] Interview with Jukka Nevalainen (2005-12-28) - Interviews

Author: Silvia Deurwaarder

Interview with
Jukka Nevalainen

“I have no dreams left when it comes to the success of Nightwish”

At the end of September we took the opportunity to interview Jukka at the hotel before their sell out show at Hammersmith Apollo in London. This interview had been planned earlier on in the summer and it was now time for Jukka to spend a little time in the spotlight. We met at the hotel in the afternoon before they were due to play their biggest show in the UK yet. Motorhead and Iron Maiden played the Apollo some weeks later and these names alone will give you an idea of the size of the venue and Nightwish’s popularity in the UK.

It is hectic in the foyer of the hotel because there is a fanmeeting due to take place. After Jukka collected some beers and water he is ready. When I ask him what he expects tonight he starts to smile:
,,It is the biggest show so far in Great-Britain (5000 people – SD) and this time we have pyrotechnics with us so it will be the whole set. I look forward to seeing the audience here.”

A few days before the band played in Slovenia for the first time. ,, It was really good. There were 3000 people and it was sold out. It was as great as always. I think we will be back there in the future."


Now the world tour has finally come to an end it is a good time to look back and wonder if it was hard to be on the road for such a long time. Jukka needs to think about that:
,,It is how you take it. Sometimes it is boring as hell and it’s hard, but when you don’t stress too much it is all a pleasure. It is like a double sided sword."

People expect a lot don't they?
,, It is quite easy. Even when it is tough and you are really tired or you have a hangover, or whatever. When there is one hour to go before the show and you start to warm up and hear the audience, you have a few drinks and get yourself together. It works: somehow you get some energy to do it. It is always 100 precent then."

How important is that group feeling, the chemistry between each other, before you go on stage?
,I don’t know… I guess it comes automatically. Everybody knows their role and what needs to be done. It is routine now."

How do you warm up before going on stage?
,,I think I should like stretch more. Useally I take my sticks, turn them around a few times and take a few drinks. That’s all. That is my warm up."

He looks to the table, drinks some water and continues:
,,It is always the first song that warms me up."

Drummers are not in the spotlight on stage. Before I can finish the question Jukka says enthusiastically: ,,They should, we are always in the back!”

You are one of those drummers who has a lot of light around their drumkit. Is that something you asked for?
,,Yes I asked for that many times because I need to be seen as well. It is not the number one priority. I know that I am just a drummer in the background. I need to get the beat in, but I take it easy. There is always the singer in the front who is the most important. I don’t need to be in the spotlight all the time."

Still, when I see you during the gig you are working very hard.
,,Yes, because it needs to be done like one hundred percent, but it’s not the number one priority to be seen all the time."

The positive thing is that you can look right into the audience: you can see everything.
,,Actually it is quite nice. I can hide myself from you if I don’t want to be in the spotlight."

There are a lot of misunderstandings about your role in Nightwish because there is not that much information about you like, for example, Tarja.
,, I just do my job and enjoy the rest of it. I have never felt the need to say anything. That is not something I miss. I have everything, so it is ok.”


Jukka has been a member of Nightwish from the start. He has seen the band grow and change. When I ask what he thinks when he looks back he is silent for a moment.
,, I don’t know. It is so hard to think about it, because it is all amazing. Nobody thought that we would play sold out gigs around the world. There are no words for the whole process.“

How do you stay so realistic?
,,I think it is something Finnish people do very well. We don’t take success so seriously. We enjoy it, but it doesn’t get inside us. We don’t make a big number out of ourselves.”

And that makes it easier to handle all those things? When you see all those masses of people, sold out gigs: that could be a pressure.
,, Yes it is easier. It doesn’t need to be taken that way: just do your job, enjoy it and hope that people will like it. So far they have liked it, so it is all easy. It is not as complicated as people think. Just know how to do it well and come up with results."


With their last record there was a long writing process. Jukka tells me that Tuomas writes everything including the lines of the drumparts:
,,Tuomas (former and songwriter of Nightwish - SD) basically writes everything for our music. He has some ideas, saying like: ‘you might use this kind of sound.’ When we start to practice in our rehearsal place it changes all the time. We are trying to get the best out of it. Everybody tries to bring in their own elements, their own things into the songs and the result is what you hear on the album. Tuomas just brings the raw lines and raw pieces to us. We put them together and make it happen.”

We are sitting in some big ‘feuteuilles’ in the lobby of the hotel. Sometimes Jukka bends forward when he wants to explain something. At other times he looks to the ground and needs to think.

That is what happens when I ask him if there is place for his ideas also, after some hesitation he answers: ,,Yeah .. of course I have ideas about drums and can freely use them, but of course the drums have to serve the whole music, otherwise they will say: that part sucks and then it has to be left out even when I love it, so it is democracy and it is like a whole process. It is all four of us at the rehearsal place."
And that all works perfectly? ,,Yes it does. It is the only way to do it."

Jukka also has to play all these songs. When the other guys come up with an idea can you say ‘it’s too easy’or ‘too difficult for me’?
,, I trust it when the other guys are saying that this part is good and another is bad. I trust them, so it has to be that way…because I am too close at the drum parts and it is just a general opinion.”


Altough I don’t know much about drum technics it is good to see that Jukka has a very technical drum style during the live gigs. When I ask him if he is very straight in his playing and doesn’t make it easier for himself, he starts to laugh.
,, Actually my technical skills are quite limited to be honest. I just try to make it as hard as possible when I play live. I hope that is works in some way and usually it does."

During the gigs you make those movements with the drumsticks.. Jukka interrupts me:
,, Yeah also something I love to do. When you play live you also need something for the show. Still you need to concentrate to play the right parts, but you also need something else other than just the music. You need to make it a show, something catchy. Some cheesey tricks. I don’t practice them a lot..I think I should practice more. I used to practice them three years ago, but after I learned them I just use them every now and then."

So you make it more easier for yourself now?
,, Yeah I do. Actually I should been practicing more to put it on a higher level I think: better trained. I am too lazy for it. Basically I just hang around, try to have some fun. When I am back home I have to practice more, but usually I find something else to do. Watching movies, internet or something. I like every kind of movie but my favorite one is 'Gladiator'."

Sleeping Sun

That brings me to the new Sleeping Sun video. Jukka starts to laugh: ,, I knew that this was coming. Maybe after this video we have the chance of a part in Gladiator II as actors!.”
He still sounds a bit amazed about this last video: "We were so good in this movie. There are some new skills coming up."

In the beginning Jukka has the important role of the dramatic knight with a arrow in his chest, left alone after a battle. He is proud about it, but also very shy:
,,The whole idea of Sleeping Sun video..when we first heard about the idea, we didn’t want to do it. We said: , No we are not gonna do something like this. We never do a video where we are acting. Only videos on which we are playing, because we are no actors.’ Then the director talked with Tuomas and explained what he wanted to do. Tuomas became convinced that it would be great and told us about it. Little by little we started: ‘Ok maybe this is something we can try and see how it goes.’ Now when I see the result I am very happy that we did it. I know that there are many people who are saying that it’s so cheesey, or something they shouldn’t have done. It was great fun and I think it looks really good."

You say this with a special kind of energy and enthusiastic feeling. ,,Yeah I try to convince people. It was way better then when we heard about it in the beginning."

So is there a chance of something like that in the future again?
,, Actually we talked about that. At least I would love to do something like that on the next album. To make some videos where we are not just playing. It makes it more interesting and not just seeing some musicians playing there. Some little acting there would make it interesting: that’s fun!”


Jukka said that it is all amazing what happens now, so does he have any dreams left for the future?
,, I have no dreams when it comes to the success of Nightwish, because all my dreams are already fulfilled and like ‘doubled.’ Everything we thought we could do. Of course maybe some day, playing stadium tours: that would be nice, but it is not like a dream. I am already so statisfied with the situation. We can just do music in the future as well and make tours. That is enough for me, no matter if it will be to 1 000 people or 50 000, it is all good."

Then there must be a lot of devotion is there?
,, Yeah I think so. It is all fun. That is my dream: to be able to keep it going as long as possible and to enjoy it.”

So you still enjoy it every moment of the day?
,, Not every moment. There are also those ‘situation moments’ that you don’t feel ok, like if it’s worth it? But then you get back to the venue and see the audience and get the first song starting, then you know: ok it is all worth it. The exctement always comes back."


You also have a family at home don't you? ,,Yes, I got married in July. Our second child will be born in December.”
That will make it harder to be away from home? ,,Yes, but it is also the way you take it. I think it is harder for my wife that I always leave her and she stays home with Luna and soon with two kids. When I am back home I always try to make it up to them, just being with them as much as possible. Not going out with the guys when I am home. So actually my old friends are maybe suffering more because I have no time at all to meet my friends. It is all work. She knows that I love this.”

Soon you will have a break for a year and a half: finally some rest?
,, I don’t know if it will be rest because our second child will be born then. There will be sleepless nights, feeding him or her. I look forward to that period. It’s nice, new experiences. I also take care of all the paperwork of Nightwish, so I don’t have time for a full time job. Plenty to do.”


When there is the opportunity I also want to go back to the first period of Nightwish. Jukka has been a member of the band from the start and has seen the band grow. Suddenly it came to a higher level with more gigs. Was there a certain point that is became more professional in your opinion?
,, It came little by little. It wasn’t like yesterday I was working somewhere else and now I am a full time musician. Little by little it gets bigger and bigger. Doing a tour, the next tour a bit bigger, selling more records and they were all very easy steps, little steps all the time. We ended like: ok we are musicians and this is our job.”

It was all clear from the beginning that everyone in the band wanted to do this?
,,Yes. Of course when we did the first album we were not supposed to tour at all. Then we got on tour and we realised that it works live as well. We definitely need to do shows and tours.
When things went on it was the only way to do it: make albums and go on tour as much as possible. That was very natural for all of us.”


Was there a change when Marco (bassplayer - SD) joined the band?
,, This didn't change anything about the touring. He brought so much musical talent, but not in the way of how we do the shows.”

You work with this band all the time, is there still a special feeling?
,, Just a feeling that five people together have a nice time and forsee that also the audience love it. That gives us all a special feeling in a way. Everybody has their place in the band and in the music. Everybody knows their place and then it is easy. Just five people together. A long time ago everyone found their place very natural. It is something that's just there, I can’t describe it, it is just there. Nowbody knows what it is.”

The fact that you want to give everything for this band takes a lot of energy or not?
,, It goes both ways. It also gives me a lot of energy. There are no words to describe what is there. The feeling that makes Nightwish like Nightwish. It’s just something it is. It is not complicated, but it is just there.”

When I ask Jukka why he started to drum as a little kid he smiles: ,,Why? I don’t know. No idea why it was not guitar or something. It just came and just got there little by little. Why does the sun rise every morning, who knows? It is just there: it rises and sets."

So you were lucky when you realised you had a talent for the drums?
,,I am lucky that I have some talent for drumming and I was also lucky to meet Tuomas and Emppu (lead guitarist - SD) when they were putting the band together. I got into the band and had a change at least. Emppu and I were in the same grade, since the third grade I guess. We both listened to the same records and were into power metal music. Actually we had a band before Nightwish. We have played in bands together since the ninth grade.

From the past back to the future. Nightwish will have a break but after that the ‘machine’ goes on. Jukka: ,, In June 2006 we will go back to the rehearsal room. Tuomas will write some new songs at the end of this year.”

So Tuomas is the only one who has it on his mind?
,,No, everybody needs to add something. Actually I don’t have anything for the new album yet. I am always waiting for Tuomas to give me the songs. Then I go them over and find my parts.”

How hard is it to understand the feeling that Tuomas puts into the song and then add your parts to it?
,, That is much easier now than in the past. Everybody is thinking in the same way. When Tuomas brings the songs to the rehearsal place and explains: this part will have that kind of style, a choir there and with orchestration or this will be a raf feeling… usually we have the same feeling about it. Not always, and then we have a conversation and decide how to do it: democratically what’s the best way."


"On ‘Once’ we all made it a bit more straight. I always want to make drums sound like they are supporting the music itself. Drums are not a solo instrument, so even though I may be would like to make some bigger peels or more difficult beats in some songs they wouldn't necessarily serve the song. So I need to make some compromises for the sake of the music. That is the way I think.”

So you prefer a more basic sound above full songs with a lot of drum parts?
,, Well it isn’t that black and white. That is also one of those things you can’t explain. That just happens. The result of ‘Once’ is a result of half a year: practicing, going over them again and finding new ways to play. Some parts are left out and some parts are changed: the result is on the album. We have to work hard but it comes naturally even though it takes a long time. I am not thinking I have to do it in that way, it just happens.”

Do you also have emotions when you play certain songs?
,,Oh yeah. I think that you can see that with ‘Slaying The Dreamer.’ I really feel the lyrics when I play that song. It works so well live: it is a nice song to play."

Then the conversation goes back to the preparation for the gig. Jukka tells us that he is right handed and that his playing is really routine these days. ,, It is routine now, so I just can enjoy myself now. It happens automatically when the clicks start in my ear and count the song off. It is all somewhere here”

He points with his finger to his head where the red bandana covers his hair. He very quickly goes on: ,,It is not boring because now I am able to enjoy the show and make it a real show. Not just playing. When playing comes automatically you can concentrate on the show, to make those tricks as well. A kind of flirt with the audience or something. I think that also needs to be done."

Even faster Jukka makes his statement: ,, I think there are too many drummers who always are in the back. Too many drummers let it be that way: in the back, just playing their part and concentrate on playing: now I have to do this and that. Also drummers can make a little show. Add something for the live situation. At least that is the way I want to do it. I hope I can do it that way. Then I show that I am a real member of the band. Something to keep as well."
Then he laughs again: ,, I will keep an eye on that in the future, watch me today!”

When we say goodbye he tells me: ,, These were nice, but diffcult questions. I have never gone so deep. Like I said: It is just that I play. I know what to do and I do it my way. It just happens and I enjoy every second of it. It is good that you made it hard but you don’t have to reveal everything to keep a little magic!”

I would like to thank Jukka, Ewo, Toni and the other members of the Nightwish crew for their help.

added by Lonnie on 14.05.06article also available in:  | printer friendly version

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