author: Vanessa De Campos
"I have been a fan of Nightwish for years and have waited centuries, it seems, to finally see the band live. After rescheduling their North American tour that was set to take place in 2005, everything was canceled. Since then, American fans waited and waited only to be shocked at the moment the band fired vocalist, Tarja Turunen via an open letter through the band's official website. The letter swamped the internet immediately and the news spread like wild fire. All was set just after their sold out gig in Finland, where the End of an Era DVD was recorded.
Those waiting patiently are blessed, as is the world now that Nightwish are back on their feet with Anette Olzon taking the stand as front woman. I had the honor and privilege to interview founder, and mastermind of Nightwish, Tuomas Holopainen just before their South Florida gig on 14 November 2007. Before you continue to read, you will notice how humble of a man he is, and I just have to emphasize that. By now, it's obvious that the past is the past, but still we are curious. What can we expect for the future? What inspires the one man behind the music who has influenced dozens of other bands? What does he like? Tuomas digs deep in the past, present and future of Nightwish. The press, future tours, personal likes and dislikes, North American, and even life in Finland.
VD: Tuomas, before we start I want to say "Welcome to Florida!"
TH: Thank you very much. First time here with the band.
VD: How has the tour been going so far?
TH: Let's say phenomenally well, compared to what we were expecting with the change of the singer and a new album coming out. Everything was a big mystery like 'What's going to happen?' So we didn't really expect much. We were actually prepared for a total inquisition from the fan's side. But they have been so friendly and nice and the response has been better than ever, so it's really really encouraging.
VD: Have you guys had any fans directly come up to you guys with negative feedback? Screaming things, maybe booing or holding up Tarja signs?
TH: It's really amazing that we have not encountered anything like that. There was one girl, I think in Philadelphia doing this the whole show [raises middle finger], but we have done 22 shows now so far, something like that, and that's the only time that I have seen a middle finger in the crowd. So the percentage is really good. It's going good but still, the human mind is a weird thing. And Tarja was a big icon to the band and there are a lot of die hard fans out there. So there will be, I think, some conflict at some point.
VD: Ok. So what has been the best city this tour so far?
TH: There hasn't been a single bad one. But the most memorable ones were San Antonio and Los Angeles for some weird reason.
VD: How does that feel? Because in Europe you guys are playing in arenas, and when you come to America you have to play at small clubs.
TH: We don't have to play; we have the privilege to play. I love playing small clubs. There is nothing wrong with big arenas but the atmosphere is a bit colder. In small venues you get the sweat and the slime and the smell of beer. You know a really intimate feeling with the people. You know, you can flirt with the people in the front row and touch them. The interaction is much more present. In Europe they are far away. It's great to hear 5,000 people singing, it has its own kind of feeling as well. But I kind of prefer it like this. It's never about the size of the crowd, never ever - Usually the smaller the better. I don't mean 10 people; it's a bit too little. But if you have a small club that's full, like 500 people, that's good.
VD: Out of all of the countries you have visited, what is probably one of the most memorable, most energetic countries you have played?
TH: South America. All of the countries in South America. It's the Latin blood. I don't know where it comes from. But the people are so passionate and wild.
VD: Do you speak Spanish?
TH: "Habla Espanol. Como estas? Una cerveza. Puta Madre!
VD: Any South American tour plans?
TH: Yeah. There's going to be another South American leg at the end of next year.
VD: Do you ever plan on playing in Puerto Rico?
TH: I can't believe how many requests we get. We get lots of requests by e-mails, the forums, and people who come to our shows from Puerto Rico. I don't know. I have to talk to the big guys about that.
VD: You guys have two future US tours, one already has some confirmed dates. How does that feel, you're going to be on the road for two years. Are you regretting this? Are you excited?
TH: Yeah, the third one is going to be in September of next year. I'm really excited. I mean, I love the whole thing going in cycles. We are going to go home next Monday, so we have three more shows. And the moment of coming home is one of the best feelings in the world. But after being at home for a week like we now get to be, you really want to go on tour again. But in the name of honesty, we have been here on this tour for four and a half weeks now. And everybody is a little bit tired and really wants to go home and see their kids, and wives and stuff, so. But it's good that it goes in cycles. I'll never do it Metallica style, like two years in a row and never going back home. So we have scheduled the whole two years so that it's never more than five weeks in a row and always one or two weeks in-between.
VD: It's really nice that you guys are giving so much thought into the American audience now. We had postponed tours, canceled tours in which Sonata Arctica was supposed to be the supporting act a few years ago. Are you guys ever going to consider doing a tour like that?
TH: Yeah we are. Yes! But nothing is confirmed or anything. But it's been planned, let's put it that way, hope it happens.
(Dates have now been scheduled for the Fall. Check the Nightwish.com for dates.)
VD: You share the same label (Nuclear Blast) as Within Temptation in the U.S., would you ever consider doing a tour with another female fronted band like that?
TH: Yeah, that's one thing that we have been talking that we wouldn't do. Not in Europe, not in the States. We want to keep things a bit different. Within Temptation, I love the band, I really do. But I don't think we would make a good package. It's a bit too close in my opinion. I mean, both of us have our own styles and our own identities, but still, a Metal band with a female vocalist with the classical elements, a lot of keyboards and stuff, it's too close. Sonata Arctica for example is perfect. There are some similarities but still different.
VD: This is the first time that the album (Dark Passion Play) was released in America right after the European release, now you can see the sales here. Everyone before had to buy the imported album.
TH: Yes! Yes, yes, that's right.
VD: The American release of Oceanborn had "Sleeping Sun" and I have seen some of the set lists for this tour, why aren't you guys playing songs like "Gethsemane"? Why isn't their much focus on that album?
TH: It's so hard to play that song, we suck at playing. We are getting worse and worse. And we tried it a couple of times and it just doesn't work. [Laughs]
VD: Well, you have to keep trying!
TH: We have to keep trying, yeah I know. There are just so many songs on six albums. Basically we have chosen the set lists very much according to with what Anette feels good about doing. The first three albums, they were so operatic, she can do them but it doesn't feel natural for her. She prefers the last three albums. We are still playing "Wishmaster, Come Cover Me, She Is My Sin, Sleeping Sun" stuff like that but the focus is a bit more on the latest three albums. "She is my Sin" is probably the hardest song for Anette to sing out of all of the songs that we have rehearsed so far. So she is a bit picky about that. But we have been doing it and she likes singing it, it's just that she needs a good day to do it.
VD: I heard you guys rehearsing inside earlier. You guys were playing "Dead to the World", are you playing that tonight?
TH: Yeah, we are playing �Dead to the World� for the first time. We are just going to give it a shot and see how it goes. It's replacing "Come Cover Me".
VD: I like the replacement. It's okay. I give you the permission. [Laughs]
TH: Alright, thank you. Thank you ma'am! [Laughs]
VD: I noticed that you're not playing "Master Passion Greed" at all.
TH: No, there's a reason for that. Let us forget about the whole subject. It's kind of weird to play some of the songs now because the songs for the new album were done in 2005 and I was totally a different person � well, not totally different but I was thinking and feeling about things in a different way. So getting in the mood for songs like "Bye Bye Beautiful" or "The Poet and the Pendulum" seems a little weird.
VD: But you're opening with "Bye Bye Beautiful" every show.
TH: Yeah, we are. It's kind of a statement that the past is the past and this is it now.
VD: How do you feel when you hear all of your fans singing "Bye Bye Beautiful", that must feel overwhelming.
TH: Yeah, it does. When I'm playing that song live I'm not thinking what the song is about. I just think of it as a really simple, groovy rock tune good to open the show.
VD: You had 10 female vocalists in the end, what about Anette really captured and attracted you about her?
TH: It was the voice and the personality. Those two things combined, and a lot of experience in music. But basically the voice was exactly what we, I mean, it was an instant click, that yes. It's nothing like Tarja but it still holds the power and the emotion so she will not be a copycat. And the other thing was the personality. She's from Scandinavia. We share the same state of mind, the same really bad sense of humor; you can talk to her about anything [laughs]. She has a good sense of humor and a really good self esteem as well. Staying in a bus for five weeks with fourteen guys, you really need have to have a good sense of humor. And in the very end, it was more like a matter of heart. What you felt right here among all the candidates. And now when I look back at the whole thing I think it was really easy to pick Anette. It was a unanimous vote for her.
VD: There were a lot of rumors on the internet about the new singer being this girl in this band, or that girl in that band. Did you guys consider even, inviting another female vocalist that was already in the music industry?
TH: No, all of these girls, like Simone of Epica, Liv Kristine, Vibeke of Tristania, all of these, we never ever contacted those at all. They have their own bands and we did not want to interfere in any way. There was not a single one we ever contacted. We just put our trust in all the demos that were sent to us.
VD: How many demos did you get in the end?
TH: A bit over 2,000.
VD: And you went through all of them?
TH: Yes. Well, it was in the period of about 14 months so it was alright.
VD: In the beginning, I'll be honest; it was weird because it was a big change. I know that Once cut down a lot on the operatic style. But after I listened to it a couple of times, I thought it was for the best and maybe we need somebody better like this.
TH: Yeah, that is a really healthy approach towards the whole thing. At first it was incredibly divided. You hate her or you love her. It still is but it's coming down a lot. People are starting to accept. Seeing that this was the best choice, I mean, because the last thing we wanted to have was a copycat of Tarja, so no operatic, no classical.
VD: Is the press in Finland really brutal with you?
TH: It's not that bad. You just have to be really careful what you say and what you do. Especially now, because we are like really hot stuff in Finland, followed all the time.
VD: Really? Do you have paparazzi following? Ever have people in your bushes?
TH: A couple of times yes, it happened to Anette as well, when we revealed her identity there was this Finnish press who went into her house and put some roses in her mailbox and stuff and just photographing her house.
VD: Yeah and she has to deal with that now. How is she dealing with this every night?
TH: She's doing very, very well. I think there was an initial culture shock in the beginning of this tour. I remember telling her you have no idea what you are getting yourself into and she told me, yes I do, I do, I do. And after one week on the tour here I said, I told you, you had no idea what you were getting yourself into and she said I was right.
VD: What is the biggest pressure for her do you think?
TH: I think it's such a big boost to feel and confused of this kind of lifestyle, and her being sick in the beginning. All of this combined with a lot of hassle and unprepared things going on. There was a weak moment there, but now she's doing fantastic.
VD: Did you guys have to talk to Anette about being really warm and outgoing with the fans or is it more of a natural thing?
TH: She does it very naturally. I mean, we all have our good and bad days. And some times if you're really sick or if you have something really important to do, there's only so much that you can do. But so far she has been handling things really well. Some times it takes a lot of understanding from the fans and the media if you cannot do everything.
VD: Tomorrow you're playing in Orlando (Florida). The venue was changed from House of Blues, I know you're a big Disney fan and it's in downtown Disney, how did you feel about that?
TH: I was a little offended by the whole thing, I took it personally [laughs], but I also think that Uncle Walt would be turning in his grave if he knew what the Disney Corporation was doing these days. It's such a double faced thing that they are not allowing any heavy Metal Bands on their premises to play, but still they are like idolizing pirates. Like psycho paths, rapists, drunken people and Jack Sparrow is like every kids hero now. I don't mind, I think he's a cool character and everything. There is a lot of hypocrisy involved, just one example.
VD: You guys have a day off on Friday, are you going to any theme parks?
TH: Oh yeah! We are going to go to Islands of Adventure. I have been there five times already. Five times in Florida and six times in Disney land. I am a freak when it comes to this stuff.
VD: What is your obsession with Jack Sparrow? You look a bit like him [Laughs].
TH: It's not an obsession. The whole thing is that I have been looking like this for five years, and I get a lot of this "You look like Jack Sparrow" shit all of the time [Laughs], so just to emphasize the whole thing I put the doll onto my keyboard to give people more to whine about, you know, that's the whole thing. But I think he's a cool character. Johnny Depp is actually one of my favorite actors. I love the movies and everything, but I have no obsession with him and I am not trying to imitate him in any way. Blame my mom and dad.
VD: How do you parents feel about this? You're multi platinum now with the new album, what do they say?
TH: They are so proud! My mom and dad were actually in California and in New York at our shows. So they are really really supportive. Some times my mom even sends back letters to fans. She collects everything that is ever written about us. She has this book. So they are really proud and I am pretty happy for that.
VD: It's great to have support from your parents playing heavy music.
TH: Exactly. It's not always like that. I mean, for me, it was always like that. But for many people, it's not.
VD: Your song "Whoever Brings the Night", is that about groupies?
TH: Not about groupies, no. It's a song about the real dirty side of the human mind. Some times you get really scared about the wrong thoughts and dreams. But this is more like the sexual side and the really dark side of the human mind. That's what the song is about.
VD: Clearly your lyrics are poetic; would you ever consider releasing a book of poetry some day?
TH: I don't know. I love writing lyrics but I don't consider myself as a poet. I like the idea of combining lyrics with the music but I don't even read that much poetry. I love Walt Whitman, though, and some Finnish poets. But a poet is something different. I'm a songwriter, a lyricist. A poet is something bigger.
VD: Well, I am a poet. And you are my biggest influence. I know this is an interview, but for example on myspace it asks "Who I'd Like To Meet" and I would have always Tuomas Holopainen.
VD: Yes, always.
TH: Well, hello! Nice to meet you! [Shakes my hand] That's kind of flattering, you're blushing me. [Laughs and covers face]
How does it, you know, I am not a native English speaking person so how do the lyrics sound to your ears? There must be a lot of grammar mistakes and stuff.
VD: I've never really noticed. Now this is an interview with me? [Both Laugh]
TH: Yes, yes I am asking you!
VD: I've never really noticed. You write probably better than a lot of English speaking people. You have such great grammar and the way you phrase your words are so poetically well done. It's beautiful.
TH: Really?? Wow.
VD: Absolutely. So, obviously life inspires you, but what has been the most emotional song you have written for the band?
TH: "Dead Boys Poem, The Poet and the Pendulum, Higher Than Hope." "Dead Boys Poem" kind of like, identifies the band. We are not playing it anymore. But yeah, I like it still.
VD: Ok, Tuomas. I want to keep asking questions but I don't want to take up too much of your time.
TH: No worries!
VD: Are you sure? Cause I can keep you here for hours.
VD: What is your favorite food when you come to America?
TH: That would be the only thing I don't like about this country, the food. It takes a lot of effort to find something healthy, something good here. I don't like burgers or fries at all. I never eat them. I like pizza, but everyday that's not good for you either. I love sushi, it takes a little effort but there are some sushi places here. Usually what you get backstage is pizza, white bread, cheese and meat. Like ham or turkey. I really miss rye bread and fresh vegetables. A typical Finnish dish is rye bread, potatoes and some kind of meat, meatballs.
VD: Can you cook?
TH: I like cooking. I pretty much suck at it, though. But I really like cooking. I live by myself so I some times take a lot of time just to cook for myself. It's a bit corny but it's a lot of fun.
VD: So, are you used to this, people coming unprepared for an interview?
TH: It's much much better than you reading from a note. Its best, therapeutic conversations, that's what it should be. Like this, it's kind of fun. It's good to be random; you should never be too prepared, too academic. I'm so glad you didn't open up the interview with "Why did you fire Tarja?" I still get that a lot, it's kind of annoying.
VD: Before I got here I was nerve wrecked.
VD: Why? Because you are Tuomas. Not to sound like I am glorifying you but you have been a big influence to me, a big inspiration.
TH: Well, that's really flattering but we are all the same.
VD: Yes, you're right. But you're a huge influence to me poetically.
TH: Stop it! [Covers face and laughs]
VD: Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview and for coming here.
TH: It was my pleasure!