“At the back of beyond“
In the meantime Nightwish have almost perfected the game with the media through distressful experiences and years in the light of the public: Eternally same questions are followed by eternally same replies. But if an unexpected event breaks through the routine of the interview, all of a sudden there are much deeper insights into the inner feelings of the Finnish superstars possible. On behalf of Zillo Emma Perez set out for the interview appointment, but everything turns out differently …
Toulouse? Why Toulouse? The day begins rather confusing. The head is heavily ringing, the tongue tastes furry, and the body thinks that it staggers even in the lying posture. Thinking is difficult – especially when panic spreads around. The homes’ bed seems to have turned into a coffin. After a few centimetres of straightening up the head bangs against a hollow sounding roof and everywhere parts of the body knock against very narrow walls. What’s going on here? One wall gives way and turns out to be a curtain. Oh, a berth in a nightliner. At least a part of the roaring stems from the diesel engine and can’t be interpreted as an undesirable vestige of a joyous night. Most of the curtains in the corridor are still closed what means a demand of keeping silent and respecting the privacy of the fellow passengers. But muffled voices come from behind the door to the driver’s cab, where are also tables and seating. It’s about time to find out what’s going on here. Behind the door Nightwish manager Ewo Pohjola, keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen, drummer Jukka Nevalainen as well as bassist Marco Hietala are sitting together at a men’s breakfast of cigarettes and coffee and greet with a big smile on. “Welcome to Toulouse”, laughs blond-haired Ewo and actually lovely middle-class houses of a wealthy city in South France are passing by the windows. Toulouse? Oh no, that wasn’t part of my plans. What had just happened last night? While having a coffee the memory slowly comes back …
Fish soup and fiddlesticks
One day earlier in Marseille: Not many bands get lost into this slightly worn appearing port at the Côte d’Azur. On the usual way from Germany to Spain or vice versa often only Paris, Lyon or Toulouse are headed for. In the tourist guides Marseille is mentioned at best for its fishy speciality Bouillabaisse – and woe betide anyone who dares to call it fish soup in front of the locals. Marseille has nothing to oppose with the superiority of the fashionable seaside resort Nice or the film festival village Cannes and besides the musical sceptre is wielded by the French rap in the multiracial mixture of this town. But today Nightwish are coming. And not only the local friends of metal or gothic are flocking as jet-black crowd into the cupola of the biggest venue The Dome but also many fans of the Finns from all over France have travelled to the Mediterranean coast. Even local experts are surprised of the crush. “Hard to believe, but Nightwish attract more visitors to this hall than Slayer and Systems Of A Down together”, surprises for instance Michael Berberian, manager of the local extreme label Season Of Mist. Almost one year ago throngs of false prophets have predicted the band a massive decline in the number of visitors without their charismatic ex-front-woman Tarja Turunen. Fiddlesticks – the interest in the Finns has even grown in whole Europe.
Even the head of the band Tuomas Holopainen never has dared to dream of this development: “No, we truly couldn’t reckon with such a huge encouragement”, the keyboarder tells in a short conversation behind the scenes a few minutes before the show of Pain who participate as support act of Nightwish for weeks. “We mentally prepared ourselves that it could go some steps backwards and in the worst case everything starts in the very beginning.” The well-conditioned, dark curly-headed Finn gives an extremely relaxed impression in contrast to several months ago. An alert look, an upright posture and now and then even a fine smile can be seen in the corners of his mouth. “At the moment there’s nothing to complain about and I’m simply happy”, Tuomas says. “A huge thank you goes to all of our fans out there who did believe in us and can accept the change.” Then the musician adjourns the now planned conversation until later because he wants to see the show of his Swedish mates. But he has no objection to a company to the edge of the stage.
Styled record hunt
At the edge of the stage it’s easy to follow how the repeatedly by the bandleader, guitarist, singer and cult-producer of Abyss Studio Peter Tägtgren transformed Pain has grown together to a sincere unit on the way meanwhile. Besides it turns out a clever move that the electro-metal men yet included the Beatles cover “Eleanor Rigby” into their program: the French audience makes such a noise as if it’s necessary to cheer on the headliner. “Until now we have the craziest audience in France by far”, Tuomas commentates on the spectacle. “The noise level reaches South American dimensions, and in Paris the ceiling seemed to take off.” His obvious satisfied expression proves that it’s worthy to cheer one’s favourites on the stage. In some of the German concerts the atmosphere may didn’t hit rock bottom but dropped a little in comparison to the last tour with Tarja. Besides the number of visitors were slightly declining while new records were broken in the rest of Europe and Nightwish have reached a new top mark in Zurich with 13.000 visitors. “I can’t see any differences in Germany”, the Finn defends his numerous fans. “At our concerts in Germany up to 9.000 tickets were sold on one evening and Dark Passion Play have reached almost platinum. No, our German fans have always remained faithful and nothing’s changed.” While Pain once more stepped on it with “On And On” Tuomas withdraws into the backstage. In the meanwhile Nightwish are preparing there, totally isolated from external influences like press and visitors of the fan club, for the show. That wasn’t always the case in the beginning of the European tour which probably was responsible for one or another somewhat unconcentrated gig like that one in Berlin. In the newly by Anette introduced weekly meetings the issue was mentioned, recognized and finally solved. Still sunk in thought the members assemble in front of the stage entrance. Only blond-haired wag Emppu Vuorinen plays some little prank with his guitar for the surrounding crew members. So Marco can enjoy a little massage from down below which he commentates only with an inflictive lifted eyebrow. While Emppu gives him a wink grinning broadly the Intro starts. The hall answers with a rhythmical clapping and a loudly choir of ‘Nightwish’-shouts. A deafening squealing breaks out as drummer Jukka first enters the stage. There are many still very young girls in the audience who get another slightly hysterical attack with each further musician on the stage: “Bye Bye Beautiful” booms out of the boxes and the band makes an instant start. Tuomas hammers into the keys wearing a white jacket and a grey top hat which is a souvenir from the shopping district Camden and which accompanies the keyboardist since London. Anette whirls on the stage with a black and white coloured dress which immediately is reminiscent of French designers. The singer likes to incorporate fashionable bows to the host country into her daily changing stage outfit. Here also the Swede distinguishes from her predecessor who preferred a defined sequence of dresses matching the songs on every evening. But Anette was absolutely determined to go her own way within the band from the very beginning – and she is stubborn like a mule.
Clueless fighting spirit
When Anette at last was appointed to the position of the new front woman by Nightwish after a long time of waiting and a previously given refusal, the Swede already gave a serious thought to it. “The issue in our first meetings in Finland was by no means only about if Nightwish do want me”, the singer emphasized self-confident shortly after her official introduction. “First I had to be aware of if I wanted to join the guys at all, too.” Since she already have some stage experience Anette felt very confident that she could deal with the extensive tour life of the band. But even at that time Tuomas did prophesy: “Anette still has no idea of what’s in store for her with Nightwish.” The keyboardist should be right after all. The Swede did underestimate the strength of her task, which is of no wonder concerning the dimensions prevailing with the Finnish superstars. “We should have chosen a somewhat easier start instead of going just to the USA first”, Tuomas shows himself quite self-critically afterwards. Even though the intention was actually good: Anette should get prepared with the smaller shows there for the big halls in Europe. But the conditions in the United States are regarded by musicians as not exactly optimal with its long ways, poor venues with minimal hygiene and greasy food. Besides the hype didn’t have decrease in the USA, too. That’s why Anette, for whom many things were new, rarely couldn’t assimilate all impressions and got near to the point of exhaustion. A characteristic impression of her situation delivers an insight from a fellow passenger. “If my manager would saddle me with such an amount of additional work and stress during a tour as it was the case with Nightwish in America I already would have forcefully kick his ass”, thinks Greg Mackintosh of Paradise Lost who travelled the States with Nightwish. Although Anette, who really has the spirit of a fighter according to Tuomas, didn’t collapse under the pressure, however she began to change noticeably. Who met the singer in Germany got to know a person that often withdrew and looked for support with Emppu to whom she built up the closest connection in the group this far. In comparison she gave a very open-minded, curious and sociable impression some months ago. “Anette is still searching for her own space in the band and the public”, Tuomas tells. “When you are on the road for many years as we were, you take many things as given by experience. Then suddenly a girl appears that has no idea and asks uncomfortable questions like: ‘Why are so many people there in our backstage area? Isn’t that our retreating room?’ Thus you begin to brood. Now we always have two rooms: One to meet friends and guests and one exclusively for the band family.” Obviously not only the singer has to arrange with the group but it needs some time for all until a new balance is found.
Labour pains and ‘toads’
On the stage many things operating well together meanwhile. For the very enthusiasm of the lively audience everything’s going like clockwork. During the second song “Dark Chest Of Wonders” the top hat flies and Anette can proof that she already have acquired many songs sung in by her predecessor Tarja or which she revamped new to her rock style. While singing, the Swede blossoms out. She truly absorbs the enthusiasm and affection of the French and gives it back with an energy performance. Anette is dashing in a hopping dance step from one stage border to the other and gives her smile to the crowd. Up there, visible for everybody, she’s in her element. “We all haven’t nearly seen the best of her yet”, Tuomas later announces with audible pride. “Anette’s developing a bit more every day. What she has shown in the first shows is not at all comparable to her today’s performance. Nobody did expect from her to go into Nightwish as a perfect front woman.” Likewise couldn’t be expected that there would be no friction. Tuomas honestly admits: “We’ve had some problems with each other in the past weeks.” Outwardly Nightwish put up a good front. Nevertheless there were minimal indications which let sound a quiet alarm signal with some experts on the band. Small gestures that rather can be sensed than seen: the length of the embrace before the show, the tone of voice on entering the nightliner, who meets with whom or whom not for shopping, members who seem to make themselves scarce and miss joint appointments. But nobody needs to fear a new disaster like the disbanding of the band now: These are merely natural labour pains of a new group dynamic. “Additionally, Anette and I had to struggle with a tenacious illness for five weeks”, the band leader tries to explain. “It has a double impact when you are running a marathon almost every evening then. Sometime that affects everybody adversely until a huge frustration is dammed up. Finally some ‘toads’ are unintentionally slipping out of the mouth until one thing leads to another.
Butterflies and Principles
These are unusual disclosures for the reserved Finn. The lively and always very straightforward Swede is itching whole new sides out of the withdrawn Tuomas. “We’ve learnt our lesson”, Tuomas admits with a smirk. “Therefore we all got round the table and honestly talked together about our problems.” At the latest at this point it’s time to remind of Tarjas complaint for years that hardly ever problems are discussed together within this band. But concerning this issue the keyboardist is getting reserved again: “There are things you can’t talk about and sometimes it’s much too late for conversations”, Tuomas quickly wards off further questions. But he turns out more talkative again as the topic is about Anettes little quirks. “On one day she announces that she loves to sleep in the bus but the next day she misses a proper room”, the Finn sighs pretended. “The minute we announce to her that we’ll stay one night in hotel again she rather prefers the nightliner.” What Tuomas regards as a settling-in process sounds more like typical female daily mood – a woman can understand that better. “This is not meant as a serious complaint, too”, the man soothingly replies. “It’s just an amusing observation. Only when I have a moody phase then all of a sudden such behaviour drives me up the wall.” It seems that Tuomas still needs to learn much about women. In comparison to his shy behaviour in the conversation, the text of “Whoever Brings The Night” appears rather cheeky. Emppus song is the next on the program in Marseille and the blond-haired guitarist can show that he has a power metal heart at last. (In the translation) the chorus goes: “All you love is a lie/You one-night butterfly (an allusion to the mayfly)/Hurt me, be the one/Whoever brings the night.” One can assume that this is a bittersweet ode to the confidentially treated topic “groupies”. But with Nightwish any can be seen for miles around. Or are the Finns just more experienced in the matter of concealment? “Like Marco I’m happily married and have two kids who I adore”, at least Jukka comments later. “I would risk nothing of that for the short so-called pleasure of one night. A groupie in my berth is out of question.” Marco intensely nods and Emppu disclaims any blame: “Hey, only the music is from me, the text is written by Tuomas as always”, the blond-haired distracts from himself. Actually the keyboardist pipes up again as the topic are about his lyrics. He allows musical contributions from the other band members but insists on his sole reign over the words. “It’s a selfish characteristic of me but my lyrics feel like my own world”, Tuomas admits sheepishly. “But I’d feel well-nigh raped if there were somebody else’s words on the album.” Obviously the Finn makes some little exceptions in the case of the Indian verbal contribution from John Two-Hawks in the song “Creek Mary’s Blood”, but usually he sticks to his principles to 100%.
Tears for the lighthouse keeper
Marco had to experience the same when he was composing “The Islander”. This calm song is just employed after the passionate “The Siren” and the hit “Amaranth”. But instead of claiming about the supposed fun damper arms and lighters are raised in the air. Even the label of the Finns recognised how much the plainly but catchy track is a brilliant song and threw it as the 3rd single of “Dark Passion Play” on the market. Although the video première will take place one week later, Tuomas shows us the clip on his laptop: The band is sitting with straight faces in a fire circle located in a strange landscape while a lighthouse keeper pulls a flying ship with a dragging anchor on a rope end. The visual impression is incredible. “I might be quite prejudiced but for me it’s our best video this far”, adds Marco absolutely rightly what drives Tuomas to a small side-swipe. “As we got to see the result for the first time I noticed a tear in the eyes of our bassist.” He merely growls back an “It was a very emotional moment, too” and rather rejoice in the next run of the clip. In the beginning there were actually two things: a big fan of the classical, north British rock band Jethro Tull called Marco Hietala as well as an acoustic guitar. “The influence of Jethro Tull is clearly audible in this song”, the bassist is pleased. “Everything you love finds expression in something. I did just play around when a nice riff suddenly appeared from nowhere. A few minutes later a chorus was created, too.” In a backstage room in Stockholm the trail of this song can be found again. “Marco played a song to me before the show and immediately I had the sea, an isle, an old man and a lighthouse in my mind”, Tuomas tells. “It was almost eerie how the text was written as if by magic.” The keyboardist spontaneously asks the bassist for leaving him the “Celtic” song for the next Nightwish work. “About a half of the songs I present to Tuomas end up on an album”, Marco is pleased.
“Sometimes it can be hard to let go of a song. But for the text I already had my other band Tarot and the song ‘Howl’ in my mind.” Then in the studio “The Islander” finally takes shape in which all persons involved are in an agreement that no electronic except the keyboard input shall be used, because of the melody possessing an acoustic nature. In a penultimate step the Low Whistle and Uilleann Pipes of Troy Donockley are included with the orchestra recordings. “That was a big but wonderful surprise for me when Tuomas came back from London with these fantastic sounds”, Marco reports. “Although for that we had to tune the song downward to B minor because the bagpipes don’t get that up to C minor. But it was worth it.” In the meanwhile Nightwish have found a faithful friend with the Scotsman Troy. Full of enthusiasm he flaked on his work. Instead of joining only the concerts in London as planned, he travelled with across the British Isles and appeared as surprise guest for the band even in Dublin. “The Irish flipped out when one of their national instruments turned up the stage and our jaws dropped because we haven’t expected Troy at all.” Even up to Lapland the bagpipe-player scuds after the Finns to eternize his contribution in the video clip of “The Islander”, too. As many other things in connection with this song the shootings went off exceptionally smooth. Even the weather seemed to offer its help. “It was a cold day in the far north and we had unbelievable luck when dense fog descended” the bassist wonders. “We could do without the fog machines.” He vividly tells how band and film crew were pulled in a dangerously rocking trailer of a heavy tractor through the forest and stony fields. Journeys destination was the top of a rocky valley. “The locals call this place ‘The field of the devil’ because nothing wants to flourish there.” Woe betides any black metal man who dares to complain about Nightwish – after all religious fundamentalists would immediately sense infernal sulphur stench now at the latest. However Marco doesn’t care about that at all because he was able to prevail in another point. “On the album the last chorus doesn’t sound in the version originally desired by me”, reveals the man with the fork beard. “As the unique opportunity arises to incorporate my end for the single, I immediately raced to the studio and recorded it. I shouldn’t have given way initially because now it really rocks. Ha!” The finally satisfied soul of an artist expresses in Marcos triumphant shout. Obviously the adjustment of his mates rankled with him more than he wanted to admit. A minor problem is the fact that the bassist recorded all guitars for “The Islander”. “Emppu had to learn the song from scratch while we already performed it live”. “That’s why we relabelled it into ‘The Thai’”, Marco sneaks on Emppu and the guitarist jocularly grumbles back: “It was a totally stupid idea to train me that way.” A more or less commiserative laughter of the whole company follows the last comment. The atmosphere is brilliant. “The whole last week was our best time with this cast this far”, Tuomas affirmatively nods.
There’s a really terrific atmosphere during the rest of the concert in Marseille, too. After the monumental “Poet And The Pendulum” first follows “Dead To The World” and then a walloping surprise: “While Your Lips Are Still Red” from the soundtrack of the Finnish film “Lieksa!” is presented to the audience and Anette as well as Emppu can allow themselves a little pause behind the scenes. The further program follows the well-known pattern: “Sahara” and “Nemo” as apparently last song and then the encore part with “Seven Days To The Wolves”, “Wishmaster” as well as “Wish I Had An Angel”. Through it a distinction can be detected: In the meanwhile Anette masters the classic “Wishmaster” which seemed to function without operatic singing never again. With this, Tuomas’ statement is confirmed that the singer steadily improves and develops herself. Probably the French would have even sent their favourites without that icing on the cake, with standing ovations, into the party night. For such great success Nightwish spontaneously allow themselves a small party of which manager Ewo was not totally innocent, too. His latest favourite drink is called “Dennis The Menace” (see box) and while mixing the theme melody of the same named comedy for children has to be sung. As the security sends the bands to their busses the party goes on in the converted Mercedes transporter. Anette’s dancing until raising the roof and Peter Tägtgren explains why the hit record of Tattoo has a fantastic production. Sometime in the night Ewo probably suggests just to come with in the empty berth of the Nightwish bus to Toulouse, because there they will send-off the pyrotechnicians home with a bang. Then the memory vanishes into the fog. “Dennis The Menace”? That explains the furry tongue. But what’s about the bang? There are actually two: At first smoke bombs are installed under Pain’s transporter and the driver is called under a pretext for changing the parking place. Luckily the man has a sense of humour because the bombs blow up with a powerful bang and smoke. Pain are tickled pink and by chance come running with fire extinguishers from all directions. Although the Swedes don’t know that Nightwish have given to them a proper pyro show this evening. Flames and sparking fountains initially give Pain a good fright and they completely appear baffled. Afterwards Mr. Tägtgren and his team deeply bow to Nightwish and their pyrotechnicians. “Which group gives to their support full light and full sound every evening and additionally gets them a respectable firework?”, Peter thanks misty-eyed. “I have gained the biggest respect for this fantastic band on this tour.” With that the producer of many black and death metal albums and mastermind behind Hypocrisy expresses a big compliment to the Finns which one Ewo immediately returns: “We’ve never had a better opening than with pain yet – we love these guys”, the manager tells and starts with humming to mix a round of “Dennis The Menace”. Therefore Toulouse …
Nightwishs home movie parade 2008
Nowadays every member of a band has a DVD player in his own laptop with them everywhere, whether in the tour bus or the hotel room. Therefore in almost every bigger city the shelves of the first specialist retail for consumer electronics coming across are headed for. Nightwish present their latest tops and flops exclusively for the Zillo readers.
Top: “Kohu 63 Amerikassa” – “A Finnish punk band in a road movie on tour through the USA. If you suffer a low on journey this film cheers you up a lot. Otherwise my all-time favourite: ‘Gladiator’. For me it’s the best film ever.”
Flop: “Hated: GG Allin And The Murder Junkies” – “Some people apparently think that this movie is cult when a singer evacuates his bowels on the stage or gets up to similar disgusting things. However, as a result my stomach just turns. I quickly turned away from this revolting documentation.”
Top: “Into The Wild” – “A simple and yet extremely complex story. I also love the book but Sean Penn provides an impressive performance in the movie. The story brings you to brood and makes clear in a shameful manner how much junk you possess.”
Flop: “Evan Almighty” – “I really was looking for a similar funny comedy like its predecessor ‘Bruce Almighty’. But a confusing story about the construction of an ark and the blunder of acting give no rise to fun. Unfortunately I did laugh not once.”
Top: “Into The Wild” – “… is excellent but ‘This Is England’ has affected me even more. It’s about young skinheads in the period of Margaret Thatcher. In their blind xenophobia the whole sadness of our reality is becoming clear and you are wondering about, as Marco says, so much stupidity.”
Flop: “Black Sheep” – “This should really be a funny horror comedy from New Zealand, following the example set by Peter Jackson. But genetically manipulated killer sheep produce an incredible poor movie. One who has only 20 minutes still can get it: Afterwards everybody switches off anyway.”
Top: “Into The Wild” – “This movie ranks first for me. It holds a mirror in front of us all how we are clinging to money and material things pretty too much.”
Flop: “Black Sheep” – “Despite using all my strength I can’t find another candidate that can keep up with this piece of boredom. And I have to sneak on Marco: He checked out the whole movie – with the feeble excuse that he has nothing better to do. Even though 3 minutes are enough.
Top: “Withnail & I” – “Our friend at the pipes, Troy Donockley, did recommend this movie about an outing of unemployed actors from the city to Tuomas. I was surprised of its lovingly characterization in a very positive way, particularly as the absurd, British humour appeals to me, too.”
Flop: “Doom – The movie” – “From an artistic view the title for certain brings into with that computer game filming with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. In the end, obviously the player has lost its patience, too, and strictly refused to show us the finale – probably it was better that way.”
“Dennis The Menace”
Ewo Pohjola’s recipe
(blessed by Anette)
Fill up a 0.5-litre glass with:
4 cl of vodka
(Tuomas: “6 cl are better.”)
2 cl of banana liqueur
(Tuomas: “4 cl bring more.”)
milk and ice cubes
Translation of the captions:
Page 23: top right: The musicians work, and the technicians have a pause.
centre right: The Nightwish management is not just yet awaken: Toni Peiju.
bottom right: Jukka changes: Soon Emppu will sit in the very back …
Page 24: top left: Tuomas discovers his female side.
top right: Nightwish and the metal god: Visit from Tony Iommi!
centre left: Nice guests from the Netherlands …
centre left below: Peter Tägtgren (Pain) clears away …
bottom left: Marco: Resemblances are by pure chance.
Page 25: top left: Some like it hot: Video shooting of “Bye Bye Beautiful”.
top right: Emppu and the women …
centre right: Emppu: cock of the roost.
centre right below: Tuomas doesn’t feel like mess at the moment …
bottom right: Where is the rabbit?
Page 26: top right: Marco at the video shooting of “The Islander”.
centre right: The fire keeps warm …
bottom right: “The Islander(s)” surrounded by flames.