Heart of Steel: Interviews

Tarja Turunen:
The illuminate vocalist of Nightwish

Intro & Interview by Luxi Lahtinen
Interview pics by Humberto Sanchez
Thanks to Spinefarm Records for promotional pictures.

ONCE, the title of Nightwish´s most ambitious, most pompous, yet most matured album to date could be considered as one of the most anticipated releases in 2004 amongst the Metal fans all over the world. On ONCE, the whole band has truly outdone themselves in many different ways, so one may wonder whether they have already reached some sort of a culmination point in their career as far as nearly a musical absurdity of their ´everything-stronger-everything-bigger´ song structures on this new album are concerned.

Since I already managed to discuss with Tuomas Holopainen the songs on ONCE earlier this spring, at the pre-listening session of ONCE, I was also eager to get the female aspect for the album as well. A possibility for this was arranged by Tuula Salminen from Spinefarm Records – and on 14th of May I found myself sitting at one restaurant in Helsinki, and Tarja Turunen, the absolutely wonderfully talkative and easy-going front lady of Nightwish, was sitting in front of me on the other side of a small table. I put my tape recorder rollin´ and started inquiring a a few things from her about the new album, touring plans, and basically trying to overall cover all those things that have raised some sort of curiosity in my own mind as far as both Nightwish as a phenomenon, and also Tarja as a person, are concerned.

So ladies and gentlemen… ONCE, by the words of Tarja Turunen respectively – and just much more...!

I heard ´an odd rumor´ that you Nightwish might have a new album coming out even relatively soon... (!)

Excuse me, but I´m quite not following you now... What ´rumor...´?!

(*both Luxi and Tarja burst into laughing*)

Ok, let´s continue a bit seriously now. There are two weeks remaining before the official release (in Finland) of Nightwish´s new album titled ONCE. What kind of expectations do you have about your album concerning how it will be received amongst Nightwish fans around the world?

Oh my God... I´m mingled with fear, ha-ha!! No, just kidding. Of course it gives me some chills to think what people will think of it when they get a chance to hear it. With this particular album, I´m especially very excited about at the moment because out of all Nightwish albums I´m personally most satisfied and happiest with ONCE so far. I would be lying if I said the rest of the band wouldn´t think the same way. So yeah, I must say that I actually feel pretty confident about this album and hopefully our fans would like the album and appreciate all our efforts we put into it, too. This is the first time for me personally when I can proudly say I´m 100% satisfied with my vocal parts on this album specifically. Now I feel like my voice on ONCE is as natural and relaxed as it can be in the first place and I don´t sound ´forced´ or ´artificial´ as I partly tend to sound on our previous albums. And this is actually what I have tried to achieve for Nightwish albums for so many years already. First of all, keep in mind this once so little and fragile girl who started studying classical singing, has grown up A) from that little girl to a woman during the whole career of Nightwish. I was very young when I started in Nightwish as a vocalist. Then B) this little girl has matured and progressed as a singer during all these years in Nightwish and right at the very moment I could say that nothing seems to be impossible for me any more as far as some certain vocal techniques and stuff are concerned. I have pretty much achieved many those things vocal-wise what I actually have been looking for all these years for my singing. I feel really comfortable with my vocals on ONCE for the very 1st time in Nightwish and that´s the thing what makes me really happy.



Quite a many (media) people both here in Finland and abroad have been privileged to hear ONCE in advance and so far what I have heard or read, it has already become very evident that people consider ONCE as your best album to date and actually no one has said a bad word about it. And even I personally think that using such words as ´great´ or ´brilliant´ or ´amazing´ to describe how I feel the album, is a bit ´lame´ and just does not do enough justice overall for the songs on it...

Thank you... thank you! It´s wonderful to hear those kinds of words about it!!



I love it!! I really do... But anyway, one of the facts behind this album is, a relatively good bunch of ´outsider´ people; all those supporting invisible forces who have constantly been working for Nightwish for your success, really seem to believe in a true potentiality of this album in order to give you an ´extra push´ for the next level on your way toward even more successful times.

We have a new international record company outside of Finland releasing ONCE all around the world and we are one of their most important, top priority bands these days. So just like you already said it, there´s a really huge marketing strategy behind us right now as far as ONCE is concerned. It´s been really wonderful to notice that something in this ´big´ scale is really happening to us right now. It kind of works out as an ´extra fuel´ to us and gives us lots of self-confidence for sure without doubts as we know lots of people truly believe in us what we do. I think it´s also that kind of capacity for us a certain way that has never existed so strongly for us before. Everyone of us must be truly grateful and happy that we have reached a bigger step with each of our release so far during our career to reach a wider audience for our side. CENTURY CHILD as an album, was sort of a channel for each of us to discharge some stress and frustration. I have to say that quite a big amount of stress and negative pressure was unleashed through that particular album; it was a very dark album all in all now when thinking of it afterwards. As for ONCE, when Tuomas started working with the songs for it, he started doing the wholeness for it from a grass (roots) level, giving a birth for the songs on it in a good and positive mood. And all that really shows on this album as I feel like this album is everything what we have been trying to find with Nightwish musically. ´The whole package´ seems to be working now... and by that ´package´ I of course mean both the band and people behind us feel that finally we are approaching together toward something where we all firmly believe and have 100% trust to.




What was the most challenging thing to you personally when thinking of the whole making of ONCE? Has it has become sort of a trademark for Tuomas by now, he just never underestimates his skills to write either ´too-taken-for-granted´ song structures or lyrics for Nightwish, so didn´t you have any problems to fit your vocal parts to some of his songs that probably felt kind of tricky or complicated at first either structure – or lyric-wise?

Hmm... that´s a quite hard question... now let me think for a second. Well, according to some of my principles in general, when I should go a studio and lay down my vocal parts to some new song, I always tend to talk with Tuomas in what kind mood I probably may be at that day. The basic rule for me personally to sing songs that Tuomas has written, depends on my mood really. If I may a bit angry or frustrated or even aggressive, then it´s always easier for me to try out some of those heavier and more aggressive songs by nature that he (Tuomas) has written. If I feel tired or somehow lazy, then there´s even not much point to try out those types of songs in the first place you know what I´m saying? But of course Tuomas also writes songs where I should try to change my singing style from more mellow vocal parts to more aggressive vocal parts, so in that sense I just have to give the best out of me, no matter what mood I may be at. For example the 9th song on ONCE called “Ghost Love Score” is the type of a song which demanded me a lot because the song has three different parts that are very different from each other structure-wise – even in those three different parts there´s many minor little parts where I had to change my singing style from one type of mood to another type of mood and that was quite a task in itself. People should keep in their minds that my voice is only one instrument amongst other instruments and using my voice its own separate instrument is quite challenging. I honestly think that with this album for the very first time in my life, I have better managed to become ´one of the instruments´ in Nightwish´s music than with any of our previous albums, without thinking too much that there´s my voice versus an arsenal of other instruments on ONCE. But I do also confess that ONCE was more challenging album to me personally to fit my vocal parts in for sure. But as I think I managed to stay in an amazingly positive mood during all these months when we were recording the album, it turned out to be kind of an easy album for me to do after all. Probably one of those things that made it such an easy album for me this time, was the fact I wasn´t forced to be in the studio from early 10AM to 10PM; it was more like being in the studio for example from 10AM to 1PM for me, ha-ha!! I may have sung my vocal parts to 1 or 2 songs only at maximum in a day. And that was the biggest difference compared to my own working methods of the sessions of our previous album CENTURY CHILD.



So you spent drastically much more time in the studio when you were working on with your vocal parts for CENTURY CHILD...?

Yes, I can say I did. Overall the recording sessions for CENTURY CHILD had much more frustration involved in them and nothing seemed to come out as effortlessly and painlessly as for this new album of ours. Of course I have to admit while we were recording CENTURY CHILD, I was suffering from some health problems as well. I was very sick at some point of the recording and I think it surely had some effect on my vocal performances on that particular album. I never felt that comfortable with my vocals on CENTURY CHILD when I was singing them for that album. I was kind of seeking constantly ´the right formula´ to get my vocal parts sung for CENTURY CHILD and that was quite hard for my, I must say. Luckily I eventually knew what type of vocal parts the songs on CENTURY CHILD needed from me even if it took some time from me to go there. On ONCE everything was simply much easier for me due to a number of things.



Did you have to do any compromises for ONCE as far as your vocals are concerned? I mean, did some of your thoughts and visions about some vocal parts differ from those what Tuomas had originally been thinking for some certain songs?

He-he... now when you are asking this, there´s one song on the album which caused some serious conversation between him and me. That song in question was “The Siren”. There´s some chanting parts in that song that, believe me or not, have been done by me, ha-ha!! Both Tuomas and me were thinking that this song missed something; something that could be sort of reflect some Middle Eastern vibes musically. Then I started, kind of like for my own fun, imitate some Eastern type of signing which I had never done in my life before, kind of my own speaking voice yelling to Tuomas: “Hey Tuomas, what if I sang this way... ”. And right from that very second Tuomas commanded me: “That´s EXACTLY what this song really needs...!! Now where the hell is a tape recorder... and microphone, etc!”, ha-hah! So that Eastern type of part turned out very improvised and spontaneous way for that particular song and I´m actually quite surprised myself that I was capable of creating that type of thing for it like out from nowhere. I guess many people may not even realize that it´s actually me behind that voice when they get a chance to hear the song. I really am very proud of that specific part myself.



And then you had this so-called “London Session Orchestra” on this album that contains over 50 professional classical musicians. Bringing it in for the album as its own separate instrument didn´t cause any ´xtra´ troubles to you personally to get your vocals to fit into the songs and especially into those many orchestrated parts?

No, not at all. On the contrary, I felt like it was a real pleasure for me to sing my vocal parts right into the middle of everything as most of the melody lines were already there and Pip Williams, the conductor of the orchestra, kind of knew already in advance what kind of vocal parts these songs arrangements would demand from me as a matter of speaking. Tuomas and Pip worked really hard for these orchestrated parts, so the table was kind of already served for me when it came my turn to add my vocals into this massive wholeness. In fact, 4 songs out of the all songs on ONCE, were already completely finished when I entered the studio to sing my vocal parts for them. So it was absolutely wonderful surprise for me to notice how easily and painlessly I got my vocal parts into the songs on this album. In my opinion all the orchestrated arrangements of the songs have been done perfectly thinking of the band´s needs and overall expectations how the songs should be like musically.




Marco Hietala surely brings his own welcomed contrast to this album – as he did on CENTURY CHILD already for the first time. What have you learned sharing and singing songs with him now when you are much more experienced with sharing vocal lines with Marco? I guess you are pretty much used to it and feel the presence of his voice comfortable nowadays?!?

Yes. But I have to tell you that when Marco was introduced to me for the first time as Nightwish´s 2nd vocalist, I honestly felt very nervous about it. And that´s the truth, he-he! Just imagine a situation where Marco sits in a studio, behind monitors and on the other side of the glass of a mixing room and I should prepare to singing in the front of him. I was thinking back then for the first time: “Oh my Holy... whatever! Now please get out of here and QUICKLY if possible...!! ”. But eventually I luckily didn´t tell him to do so, but I think he also sensed some tension in me in that particular situation for sure. I was kind scared to sing while he was there present at the same time, I can tell. I think we should keep in our minds that we both came from so different circumstances: Marco already had a respectable long career in some Heavy Metal bands as a singer/player and I was just learning to do some classical vocal singing properly. And reflecting all Marco´s experiences to my short experiences as a vocalist in Nightwish back in the day, I felt like I was in David´s tiny sandals against Marco´s Goliath´s boots, metaphorically speaking, of course! Luckily soon I realized that it´s simply a great idea and experience to share some vocal parts with him. Marco definitely brought his own contrast, an additional spice into wholeness and overall he was a complementary element to other already existing elements in the sound of Nightwish. Usually Marco´s role in Nightwish is to bring these, may I say, more ´evil´ vibes into the songs; he´s the ´bad, evil guy´. And in contrast to Marco´s ´evilness´, my role is to be that more sensitive, feminine and ´good person´ in certain lyrics and music in this band. What is so great in Tuomas´ way to arrange songs and write lyrics in my opinion, they both tend to go hand-in-hand all the time. Also, it needs to be said about Marco, I feel like Marco also enjoys using his very masculine voice next to my voice. Now when Marco has established his place in the line-up of Nightwish, I feel much comfortable and secure in a live situation when someone is also there helping me out with some vocal parts. I do consider it as a true advantage for myself. I think Marco supports me very much nowadays in a live situation as now it´s not only me who sings there. His support to me is very precious indeed; even when I have a bad day for some reason or the other, he´s the one I can always turn to and talk him whatever may bug me. He always manages somehow to find those supportive words to me and cheep me up out from that bad mood.



What I personally find so cool now in Nigtwish´s music nowadays, is this strong and occasionally even a very huge contrast that can be created in the songs of Nightwish by using both your and Marco´s voices in very different and effective ways. Marco´s voice basically fits very well into those types of atmospheres where Nightwish want to sound dark, mean and nearly violent whereas your voice, generally speaking, fits into everything from mellower to calmer to ballad types of parts incredibly well in my opinion. Two totally different voices definitely open new opportunities to Nightwish to expand its sound even further...

Yes, I just couldn´t agree with you more!! To have both a female and a masculine voice in the same band, gives us a whole new view to look into all those opportunities ahead of us for us. Now we are not so limited to my voice only, like I said earlier, Marco has brought more depth and new opportunities to bring this thing even further musically which is only a positive thing for this band.



Talking about your gigs a little bit here as well... Now when you have an album full of new songs ready, it also may automatically mean that your live sets may get a bit longer and if they are meant to get longer, it also may put your voice to a tougher and harder test when you hit the road again. I have to wonder how on earth you are able to keep your voice in  good condition and unbreakable during these long tours, gig after gig, night after night, etc.?

You tell me, he-he!!

I bet every professional singer who has been trained to sing opera, must take care of his/her voice constantly; otherwise you are in trouble with your voice eventually...

That´s true. I need to keep my voice in a good fit all the time. It´s a self-evident truth for me personally that since I started singing opera and learning different and useful techniques to use my voice as professionally as possible, one of the most important things is to make sure you are able to sing effortlessly. Being a singer has become a way of life to me and being aware of that is at present all the time there for me. When we are on tour, it´s quite difficult for me to follow all those rules what comes to my normal daily routines concerning overall work, food, sleep, etc.. I mean, in my own private life I don´t go to bars every second night for just hanging out. And when we are on tour, I try to avoid smoky places as much as it´s only possible and try to sleep enough and eat properly and regularly during all these tours. I have learned to know what´s good to me when I´m on tour with this band. For example, a stomach´s well-being is a very important thing for a singer. I have to tell you that my own stomach has constantly been causing some troubles to me – and especially on tour. When you travel a lot, tour a lot and get tired eventually, I start feeling like my body becomes a foam rubber, so you can only imagine how difficult and hard it may be for me to sing when this kind of annoying situation hits me. When you are singing opera, you body simply must be as flexible as possible without feeling any kind of stress or tension in your body. Otherwise it´s very unlikely that you are able sing properly. When being stressed, it has a negative effect on your voice and when feeling tired, it has a negative effect on your body again. So with all these symptoms together, you are only able to use one thirds out of your voice capacity at maximum. And it feels really so bad. I have to say that I have sacrificed lots of my time just to keep my voice fit, trying to explain politely to my band mates whom I´m working with on tours daily basis that my voice, which is a very fragile instrument, can be damaged so easily by many things around me. I have explained to them that I need a bit different conditions for me on tours because if there´s like a half dozen people around me (for example) in a tour bus and everyone smokes close by me, then it just simply has a destructive effect on my voice in a long run. Singing two hours in a row at 11-12PM, when you normally should go to sleep in your private life, is so huge physical experience for me that there simply must be a certain kind of special conditions for me when touring. Touring and living on the road, is a very hard thing to do in itself. You should maintain a certain positive mood in you all the time ´coz it´s a part of a good promotion. Also there´s certain rules how I should be dressed when seeing and meeting fans on tours as it´s a part of this whole circus as well as far as promotional purposes and values are concerned. It´s kind of an exhausting life both mentally, but also physically all in all as you should take so many things into consideration at the very same time. Keeping my voice in a good shape during the tours depends on how I sleep, what I eat and how I manage to avoid and keep away from certain things that may cause some troubles to my voice. It´s a really long list of things, but it´s all essential and necessary for my voice without doubts...


Are you able to sing when you have flu, by the way...?

I just almost recently sang in two classical concerts in South-America and I was suffering from a very bad flu at that time. I avoid talking as much as possible as it was tough for me in that condition, but luckily I still managed to sing in those two concerts. In fact, there´s a big difference between talking and singing. Namely talking in itself is much harder for one´s voice than singing actually. Especially singing classical music is healthier for one´s voice than talking to someone with a normal voice.

What´s the most difficult thing overall to sing the way you do - for example, reaching the highest octaves or something...?

No, not at all... Actually reaching your own harmonious and stable well-being, that is. When you are performing as an opera singer, you also have to be natural with yourself and with the whole situation. In order to reach that, it normally takes many years to become one with that kind of situation where you are supposed to perform in the front of 1000-or-so people. It simply isn´t that easy as one could imagine in the first place. If there´s some tension in your body while performing, it´s nearly impossible to sound natural. And learning to sound natural, it´s the most difficult process which takes years – and it has taken even years from me to learn that. This also varies on a daily basis, depending on where you perform or in what mood you are at that time, for example. Last week I had a concert in Romania and since then I haven´t been training my signing at all. Even this week´s break is too long for my voice and I should start rehearsing my voice again soon in order to get it back into good shape. If you don´t train your voice regularly for a quite long while, then your talent to be able to sing, gets rusty. That´s how it simply goes...



So it could be compared to training 110-metre hurdle, for example. Without training it you kind of forget how to run fast...

Yes, exactly! Without training your skills, you unfortunately cannot go too far. I always tend to train my voice during tours as much as it´s possible because to learn signing properly is a continual learning process in my opinion.



Do you have any sort of ´icons´ or ´idols´ as far as some opera singers are concerned? I think I haven´t read even one interview ever where you could have mentioned that you admire some opera singers by name or give some credit for them for being sort of an influence for your own vocals...

I have to say that I don´t have any certain models if we keep this restricted to some opera singers only. I honestly think I have worked pretty alone in order to reach all that what I have become as an opera singer. Just thinking of Nightwish alone and me as a part of it, I think this certain formula that we have in Nightwish, is pretty unique after all. There´s no other band around these days that could sound like from us in my opinion. Of course I have to admit there are really wonderful singers amongst classical singers nowadays who I do admire and appreciate a certain way; the way how they sing and their ability to be so versatile talented within their style of music. I have a huge arsenal of classical - and opera music at home; lots of different female singers that I love to listen to when I´m at home. I have to confess that I´ve been collecting a certain type of singer´s music for my own collection that kind of remind of my own voice a bit. But back to your original question, I do not have any ´idols´ THAT way as people often tend to think.


I was wondering, have you ever even tried to rip some parts from some other singers, let´s say for pure experiment´s and new challenge´s sake, just to see whether you might be capable of singing the same way as some of these certain singers; doing something that you have never tried out with your own voice before?

Well, let me tell you something. My own singing teacher who is a Japanese woman and has been teaching me in Germany, she has a very special and distinctive voice by herself, and when I heard her voice for the very first time, I kind of realized that it would be totally absurd if I ever even tried to achieve some traces or tones out from her voice into my own voice because almost every singer in this is world, is so different from each other and everyone has a very special and personal voice of her own, so copying or trying to imitating her voice would just be a sheer impossibility for me. Of course you can listen to other singers more thinking of how they sing technically and so on, kind of giving you a clue that it´s also possible to sing this and that way – in a way allowing for myself to try out the same thing if it can work out for me as well. Maybe it just doesn´t work out for me the same way, but there´s no harm trying something out even just for curiosity. But like I said, imitating someone´s voice, is a whole different thing and most often it is a failed attempt for any singer to sound like some other singer on this planet.




Now if we return back to ONCE, have you already possibly noticed that there´s some song on this album which pleases you more for some reason or another than some other songs on it and can you find any reasons why it is so? When I talked to Tuomas about two months ago, for him it was “Creek Mary´s Blood” due to this certain and very special atmosphere in it...

I was just about to say that particular song HAS it all; this very special atmosphere simply reeks from it! I honestly have no idea that it also is Tuomas´ favorite song off the album as we overall haven´t been talking to each other that much about the songs on it. Ha, in fact we have even been doing interviews when both of us have been in different rooms, so there really hasn´t had much chance for us together to talk about the album yet. So I must say that I really look forward to go to our hometown Kitee with other guys to play our album release show 22nd of May 2004 because at least then we will have a good chance to talk about the songs on it; how they feel the new songs and overall what kind of other thoughts they have toward ONCE. But I have to say that my favorite song on ONCE right at the very moment “Creek Mary´s Blood” as well. John “Two-Hawks” brings a really special and unique feeling into that song, so it´s hard to not like that song. In my opinion it´s breathtakingly beautiful song and it has basically all the elements that a song needs on the whole. It has a really nice beginning, a great ending, a very pompous performance of the ´London Session Orchestra´ and all those harmonies in this song are what Nightwish is all about 100% musically. I think John´s contribution for that song really spices the whole song up. Without his excellent contribution in this song, the song would offer so much less to a listener. I´m very amazed by his guest appearance in it and I really love this song very much myself. It´s such a song in my opinion it even might work out as late night music for some Nightwish before they go to sleep. It has a beautiful and relaxing atmosphere and it really fills you up with a good spirit and a good feeling, I think.

I remember Tuomas telling me that he flew all the way from the States to Finnvox studios and did all that what he did for the song at Finnvox studios. Did you have a chance to meet him when he was visiting here in Finland?

Unfortunately for my great loss, I wasn´t in Finland at that time. But Tuomas has shown me some pics from him and told me many things about him via email. I was in Argentina back then and got a couple of emails from Tuomas where he told how great and really a cool dude this John was. It would have been nice to meet him face-to-face, though.



In my opinion bringing him onto this record was actually a very clever move from Tuomas ´coz I think this was the first time from any Heavy Metal band to bring this type of a ´special spice´ onto an album; and even this successful way as it can clearly be heard in “Creek Mary´s Blood...”

I agree totally with you!! Also, I think even for many people that read about this via press kits, interviews, etc., may get them even more excited and curious about us – and eventually they want to kill their curiosity about this John´s guest appearance in this particular song by finding out themselves how this song is like actually.



Could you honestly claim that the songs on ONCE represent that type of Nightwish for you personally that you have always wanted to do most as far as the songs musical ingredients are concerned?

Absolutely...!! I can fully subscribe to that. In all its heaviness, it´s truly that kind of Nightwish I wanna hear more from this band in the future. I really do enjoy when Emppu churns out some of those damn heavy and shredding guitar riffs in some songs on ONCE as every time when I hear them, they go right through into my spine and give me some chills. I have to say I have learnt to like that type of stuff little by little; that kind of heavy sound, I mean. To be real honest with you, I have been longing for those types of things into Nightwish´s sound for quite a long time as a matter of speaking. I have always felt that ´something´ has always missed from our previous albums and now he has got it finally on ONCE. And that feels very good, I can tell. The whole album is so much better than anything what we have done before; all those different and varied things on ONCE simply make it one massive wholeness. There are so much different things on ONCE that it´s sometimes hard for me to understand they are all there actually.



Tuomas even told me that during the recording, they almost had some problems to get everything recorded for ONCE as the studio equipments´ capacity wasn´t originally meant to capture this much stuff for just one album...

Ha-ha... that´s right. I felt almost sorry for the guys while they were there and pondering anxiously how on earth they get everything done there as they had originally planned. Couldn´t say I could have envied them a bit, he-he!!




I remember very well the times when Nightwish became a more known band everywhere in the world when you released your 2nd album called OCEANBORN. It´s surely one of the cornerstones on the whole career of Nightwish and having a real opera singer in the band brought even more attention and publicity for Nightwish without doubts. After that, even some others also thought that it would be a cool concept to start a Metal–orientated band because Nightwish had become a quite popular band amongst the Metal listening audience and a few hundred thousands of your albums were sold worldwide. This was especially noticed in the States where ´this-one-female-fronted-band-called...´ came from eventually....

Just please tell me no more, ha-ha-hah...!!

So what do you think of them honestly... I mean Evanescence?

Well... hmm... I see it as a rather positive thing after all, even if I need to point out they have simply nothing to do with Nightwish´s music. They do a very different thing musically compared to us and I also need to say they are more like a ´product´ in the true sense of the word that was built up by media when the time was right for their type of band. And with that massive promotional organization they had behind them at that time, it was never meant to fail. The timing was absolutely right for them – and nowadays they have become a damn huge name all around the world. But it´s only a positive thing because it seems that finally people are not thinking that conservative way in the music business any longer. And hopefully this more open-minded thinking amongst people in this business is here to stay from now on, keeping the doors open for bands similar like them, y´know. I think that there are always some closed doors inside the world of music that just need to be opened by new bands in order to achieve something different and unique musically. For example, we have been quite a ´gate crasher´ here in Finland by our very distinctive sound as there are no other bands around here in Finland that could sound like us. Just think of all those other Finnish (metal) bands that have also done something unique musically much before Nightwish that have also succeed in doing their own thing without copying or ripping off some other bands musically. I think this is one of the strongest reasons for all that why Finland is such a known country globally as a very Metal–producing country. As long as I can remember, people are always asking what on earth we Finns have in our drinking water because we have always had so many talented and successful Metal bands coming from our country through many years already.


I really cannot do anything else, but completely agree with you Tarja because I have been wondering the same thing myself for many years already. There just MUST be something in there, in our drinking water, I mean, heh! I honestly think that the Finnish Metal scene is damn strong, unique, and especially very varied these days and I´m sure many will surely subscribe my statement without any hesitations. And that leads me toward a bit sadder music related topics. Isn´t it quite a pity that apart from our largely known and strong Metal scene, everything non-Metal related as far as music overall coming out from Finland is concerned, doesn´t arouse screaming storms of applauses amongst people in other countries. Well, just think of our ´glorious´ achievements in Eurovision Song Contest over the past few years or so...

Oh my... don´t even remind me, ha-hah...!!

Hah... I just couldn´t avoid the temptation. You were easily nominated as No.1 Finnish act a few years ago by the Finnish people when people got a chance to vote their favorite artists in advance via phone. But the highly respected (!) judges didn´t have the balls to send Nightwish to this competition... and as a result, Finland, as a musically isolated and abandoned country, continued crawling on this already familiar miserable path into an eternal oblivion again... poor us Finns.

Oh yes, I remember that very clearly. Our song “Sleeping Sun” was one of the nominees for Finland and just like you mentioned, it was chosen as No.1 song out of all nominees by majority of votes given by the Finns. It still was a good experience for Nightwish in this kind of ´questionable´ song contest, but eventually I think I should be glad that we weren´t chosen to represent Finland to that particular song contest (which was arranged in Gleben Arena, Stockholm, Sweden in 2000) because those type of competitions have not been meant for a band like us. The positive thing was that we got a great bunch of new fans for Nightwish by the help of that song, so in that sense it was worth it. But all in all the whole Eurovision Song Contest is a plain joke for me personally; a big and laughable joke if I can be this honest with you. And I believe many other Finnish people seem to consider it nowadays as a joke only. Even this year the Finnish tradition to be one of the poorest countries music-wise, was continued by ´a-song-I-refuse-to-remember-right-now´. I just came to Finland and just missed this competition in question for like 30 minutes when I opened TV at the hotel. I think it´s actually a very hilarious entertainment to watch them and it´s odd to think how many people watch them every year all over Europe – like 200 hundred million people watch them every year. It´s simply just amazing...


Alright, just FUCK Eurovision now... let´s get back to this new Nightwish album. As I already mentioned earlier, what has become quite evident by now according to some advance comments about ONCE, many actually think that this new album of yours is kind of is supposed to be Nightwish's ultimate breakthrough album; or if it isn´t, then nothing won´t be! How do you feel about this type of comments yourself? Does it give to you any extra pressure, any extra heartbeats to think that way?

I would be lying if I denied it completely... Of course it does! But we have put so much money into this that we realistically don´t have any other choice, but believe that all our efforts will pay for us eventually. We simply have to believe in the potentiality of this album; there´s not much other choice for us after all, or is there? Also, when all the marketing people truly seem to believe in this album, of course it creates some extra pressure toward us, too. But I have to say that all those people that have been working with us with this new album, have been really supportive and encouraging to us so far. It´s still a funny feeling that even if they believe and trust us so much and we should have nothing to be worried about at all, all this trust from these people toward us still kind creates some pressure for the whole band and that´s exactly that thing what us so excited about the new album. If this album turned out to be a letdown album from us i.e. it wouldn´t sell as well as record companies behind it expect it to sell, then it would be a shattering disappointment for everyone involved with this for sure. The way artists usually seem to think is that at least they have done their best and if that won´t pay off for them, then it´s their fault even if that´s exactly how it is not.



It´s all about how a certain product is marketed today; the more promotion a certain release gets, the better chance there is to make it available for all those potential people that may even buy it...

Exactly!! A properly and well-done promotion means incredibly much, I totally agree with you!! On the other hand, I think right now we have such an album in our hands that really has a very good change to be the most successful album in our career thus far; I honestly think that this even may be a potential breakthrough album for us. It´s a great album in so many ways in my opinion and definitely the best Nightwish album we have been capable of creating during our career so far. But despite of this – and like Tuomas has stated sometime, everything that matters to us is the fact we know that we have done our best with this album and as long as this fact pleases us, we should not let any other people ruin that spirit for us or let them put us down even if it wouldn´t sell as much as people in general seem to expect it to sell in the long run. The pressure certainly is at present there all the time as far this thing is concerned, but we shouldn´t care for it a bit. What may come, comes, but if that won´t happen, then... oh well.



However, in all fairness it would be kinda ´utopia´ or even ´absurd´ to think if your new album belly-landed totally...

Well, of course I think the same way, but when speculating with that thought, it´s somewhat impossible to think or deal with that type of negative thoughts right now because it´s not even out yet. I guess we need to wait a few more months before we are all wiser concerning this how well or badly it was received by our fans around the world. Like I said earlier, we have done everything possible from our side for the album and we all feel very secure and comfortable with this album. If that´s not enough, then there´s simply nothing we could do for it any more. But feeling this great toward the album as everyone of us is doing right at the very moment, pleases us enough for sure. It really pleases us so much and I hope our fans will get pleased the same way by that album.



You will have your album release party in Kitee Icehall, 22nd of May 2004. What are some of your top feelings about it in advance?

Oh no...!!! I´m really very much thrilled about it in advance already, I can openly confess that for you now!!


I just saw the press kit for that event and noticed that, according to your opening time, you should start playing at 8.30 PM and the ending time for the concert was 00:30 AM?! So I assume there must be some error there on that press kit, right? I guess you won´t be playing that long set, though...?

What? Seriously...?! There must be some misunderstanding there then. We will play a long set – that´s already for sure, but 4 hours... no way!! In that case it seems like someone has screwed the ending time for our set on that information letter.



So are you going to play all the songs from your newest album ONCE at that night?

No, not all of them as right now it´s simply a plain impossibility for us to perform all of them live due to some of the most orchestrated parts in our new songs, but we´ll anyway play 6 new songs off ONCE. And of course we are also going to play sort of ´best of´ set, containing songs from each Nightwish album we have done thus far. I think we have a good set coming up for our record release gig that should please most of the Nightwish –fans for sure. It´s been a while since we have played last time, so it will surely be a very special gig for all of us and even that´s why all of us may probably feel a bit nervous about it in advance, but certainly a positive way.



Also as Kitee is considered as Nightwish´s hometown for most of you, it also must add its own ´special´ feel all over it even more...

Yes, that´s right. It´s also great to know at this point that many people from some other countries will arrive to this little town called Kitee just to see us playing there. For example, when I went to Argentina to do a concert there, I managed to speak to some local persons there and they told me that they will fly over to Finland to see our record release gig and that really proves that we really do have some very devoted Nightwish fans probably in every corner of this world which is fantastic in my opinion.



What´s actually the whole capacity of that Kitee Ice Hall? How many people can be pulled in before it can be considered sold-out?

Well, as far as I know, over 3500 tickets have been sold so far and there´s 200-300 tickets more still left, so I suppose maximum capacity will be near by 4000 people or something...



As you have lots of experience performing in the front of thousands of people when doing gigs both with Nightwish and your own classical concerts all around the world, could you say that nowadays when you walk onto a stage, you are secure and confident about yourself that you are not afraid of performing or don´t feel any shy even if the whole concert hall would be packaged by thousands of people?

Yes, I feel very confident every time when I go and perform to all those people when doing concerts. If I lost that feeling and felt nervous to perform to all these people, it just would not work out for me. I remember that back in the early days I was kinda nervous to go there and I always had to go through each song from our set alone in my mind beforehand for a concert in order to avoid any mistakes as much as possible I may have done during the concert, trying to find a moment of concentration for myself before going onstage. I have maintained my professional attitude toward a concert situation because that´s my job and I get paid for that. I just never take our (/my own) concerts lightly or underestimate our audience. Never... All the actual preparing to perform, thinking all those different faces amongst the audience, etc., it really charges your own batteries and when performing onstage, I always try to give the very best out of me for them. Also, it´s always very important even for myself that I never go onstage when I have a bad mood ´coz it will ruin your performance. I myself have experienced and seen bands that have played for their audience when having a shitty feel inside a band and they cannot hide it. They may think that their audience cannot sense that, but they are wrong ´coz they do. For me personally it would be totally horrible if I went onstage in a shitty mood because I probably couldn´t perform in that state of mind at all.



Do you have any sort of methods or ´rituals´ in Nightwish before the actual show-time where you gather together in some little corner and try to pump a good spirit in each of you up a little bit so that everyone would feel great or relaxed before entering onstage?

Each of us has very individual ways to concentrate on gigs. Everyone of us is kind of a hermit in his/her own way, wanting to spend some time alone before going onstage, but right before that moment when we are supposed to go onstage and play all those people in the audience, we tend to hug each other. This ´hugging thing´ has become sort of routine inside the band during past few months actually after we have some hard times going on at one point of time when we were touring for our previous album CENTURY CHILD. Hugging itself feels so great and that´s what we always do together before a gig as we always wanna give our best performance each time for our fans who have attended to a Nightwish gig. It´s really wonderful to notice that we have really grown together as a band during all these years and we all feel that this bondage between each of us is much stronger and more powerful than it has ever been in this band this far. I have to say that I´m really anxiously look forward to go on tour again and play for all those Nightwish –fans all around the world again even if I know long tours will be again a very demanding and challenging time for me both physically and mentally. But even if I know what may be ahead of us, I´m still very excited to go touring again. Playing in different countries and cities is absolutely a wonderful experience, I have to say.




You will play a bunch of outdoor festival gigs during this summer before starting the actual touring for ONCE. One of the bigger outdoor gigs that you will play this summer, will be the Dynamo Open Air Festival in Holland 5th of June. Have you ever been there with Nightwish, by the way?

No, never... Somehow we have always managed to pass that particular festival for some reason or the other. Seems like our previous tour schedules have never fit to us in order that we could have performed there during the previous years. The beginnings of June's of the past years have been hard periods for us to get us gigs fit in as it seems. So this will be the first time for us to go there this year and I have to say that I really look forward to play there. I think outdoor festival gigs basically are great to do because huge audiences will provide you a great feeling to get started touring for indoor gigs later on tour.



I checked from your website almost recently that you will also have your first US/Canada –tour coming up...

Yes, that´s our first tour there, starting from the mid of August and if I remember correctly we will have 15-or-something gigs on this US –tour. We have only done some one-off gigs there before, so this is gonna be our first real tour in the States and it´s really nice to go to play for all Nightwish –fans there, too.



And from this US/Canada –tour you´ll return back to Europe again and continue touring on many places of the European territory...

Yep, that´s right and after that we´ll be heading our way to South-America again, playing countries like Chile, Argentina, Brazil and such countries in the fall of 2004.


What about touring in Japan; have you had any talk yet about touring there possibly during 2005, for example?

We´ll do a tour in Japan next spring...


And that´s ´official...´ info already for any curious parties or...?!

Eh... (!), let´s just say that it´s being worked for us right now, he! Also, I´m not sure if I can tell you next thing ´officially´ yet, but we have already been booked 4 gigs to Australia which is a really cool thing for us, too. Also, as for this Japanese tour, in the very same breath I can already tell that we will go to Korea and probably even some other Asian countries during the spring 2005 as well. I don´t know that for sure yet, though.




As you have been touring with Nightwish to almost every possible corner of the world, could you mention some special gigs or countries that have stuck in your mind for some reason or another? What have been the most memorable ones thus far?

Well, probably for all of us it´s South-America as a whole as the fans over there are really incredibly devoted and even fanatical to us. I remember when we were there for the very first time there, basically having not any kind of expectations from those gigs, whatsoever – and they really showed whole-heartedly to us how much they love Nightwish´s music there and it was all like a big dream for us; a totally incredible experience for all of us, I have say! When we played those few gigs there, I can honestly confess that I cried a few times after the gigs were over. And for all this great feeling I have to thank all our fans in those countries. I remember that I always kind of needed to ask from myself: “How on earth can this be possible...? Is this really happening to us or is this only a plain dream...?!”. Y´know, all this type of questions... I was really moved when seeing the audience´s great joy and feeling the energy and all that noise coming from this massive amount of people when we played there for the first time. Sometimes I have had moments when I have been physically so sick that I have been afraid of going onstage for not knowing whether I am able to pull off trough the whole set with my voice. Going to a gig when you are sick, and knowing that you might be able to use somewhat fully your voice during your set, is always kind of playing on the edge of your health as it surely is not healthy for my voice in the long run. When you are sick, you should really spend time by resting only and making sure you´ll get well first before continue doing gigs because signing itself is such a physical thing for myself in the first place. But going to the front of that many people who are incredibly supportive - even fanatical toward you right from the very start of your set to the very end, really gives you an extra dose of fuel and energy to pull through your own part during a concert. For example when I was a bit sick in London last time we were there, my band mates told me after the gig that I was signing like an angel even if they knew that I wasn´t in my best shape at all. The guys said to me that I sang probably one of my best sets ever and they were very much moved by my performance back then. I had lost my voice totally for talking, but still managed to pull my part off quite well eventually. And even if I was kinda sick at that particular gig, the absolutely wonderful and totally supportive crowd helped me so much to get the best out of myself in that condition. So all the thanks to all those people who came to see us there at that night. A good crowd is always a great blessing nowadays when you have such fans amongst the crowd who really show their joy and support toward us. I think I even wouldn´t be here talking to you right at the very moment if things weren´t the way they are for us right now. We have been a very lucky band in many ways, I guess.




As a closing thing for this chat with you Tarja, I would ask you to describe us what kind of memories you have toward each of your studio album you have done so far – let´s get started from ANGELS FALL FIRST which you recorded 7 years already, in 1997 precisely.

First off, I have to say that it was overall a completely new experience for me to sing on a Heavy Metal record. I hadn´t ever done anything with that type of music before. I was just started taking lessons for a classical signing and it felt kind of strange that I got this somewhat extraordinary opportunity to be a part of something like this, y´know. I wasn´t even quite sure what I was doing back then when I was signing my vocal parts in the studio for Nightwish´s first album. I was really skeptical about myself whether I can even sing my vocal parts for all those songs on that album. I was honestly kind of lost, heh! But luckily everything still went well for me now if I´m looking back to those times. Somehow this once so little classical music student managed to sing her vocal parts for that particular album quite successful way indeed. And I think it was a very unique thing back then to have a female vocalist for a Heavy metal album who even sang classical music.


And then OCEANBORN which was a very successful Nightwish album all in all...

Gosh...! It was a really demanding and difficult album for me personally as a studio album. It still gives me so creeps when I´m thinking of it, huh! Now when I´m thinking of those times concerning OCEANBORN, in my opinion Tuomas wasn´t that capable of writing song compositions that were especially meant for my type of vocals. That´s what made it a very hard and difficult album to sing. He even wasn´t aware of a wide range of my vocal skills back then. I think if you are a singer, it´s very important that a composer of songs has also ability to pay attention to certain vocalists´ needs to be able to sing his creations ´coz vocals are also one of those instruments there just like guitar or drums are. Nowadays Tuomas knows exactly how to write songs for my vocal parts, too - and I feel really comfortable singing them. He has also admitted to me that how easy it is actually for him to write new songs for Nightwish nowadays, now when he knows how I´m able to sing his songs he has written as far as my vocal parts are concerned. I remember when I was singing my vocal parts for OCEANBORN, I was sitting and crying on the floor and the other guys were yelling to me: “Sing, dammit...!!”. (*laughs*) It was quite a tough experience for me after all to get my vocals recorded for that album, but on the other hand the songs on OCEANBORN are also quite complex and difficult structure-wise all in all, even for all of us. My own skills to sing that kind of music were quite limited at that time, let´s say, compared to the current times what I can do with my vocals within the music of Nightwish. There´s a huge difference there, I can tell. It would be very nice for me to sing my vocal parts for OCEANBORN all over again some day so that people could hear and realize how differently I would be able to sing all those songs on that particular album in the first place. Back then, however, I was still going to school and I had not that big chance to practice my voice as much as I´m doing nowadays. But still compared to our first album, I had developed and matured as a singer on OCEANBORN; I was more self-confident about myself and we had already done tours in Europe and even in South-America for OCEANBORN for the very first time with Nightwish. All that of course gave me more experience and self-confidence for me to do music with the band and naturally the whole band had become more secure and trustful about the music we did back then. OCEANBORN was also that sort of an album for many people who thought that it was a truly magnificent and overall fantastic album from us, causing some “Wow!” –feelings in many people...


And up next WISHMASTER...

Heh, if OCEANBORN gave this type of “Wow...!” –feelings to people, then WISHMASTER´s whole era was ended to a certain burst of different type of problems inside the band. We had been touring like hell for that album, got very exhausted for touring and even got tired of seeing each other´s faces at that time. Eventually everyone of us thought that things just didn´t seem to turn out as smoothly and effortlessly for anyone of us as we were hoping for and all this was culminated pretty heavily into the recording of WISHMASTER, the mother of all our troubles that we channeled right into the stressful studio sessions of this particular album. We kind of managed to get rid off our shitty feelings right after we had finished the recordings for WISHMASTER and because of that it was much easier and more comfortable for us to start doing gigs again. Because of our somewhat shitty feelings during the recording sessions of WISHMASTER, it turned out be to a damn dark and even scary album both musically and lyrically in my opinion.



Shortly, a very good album in my opinion all in all and already had something in it that kind of showed us a direction for what our latest album was about to become musically – and even more even! The first Nightwish album in which I shared vocal parts with Marco, too...


What about your new album ONCE then? How would you crystallized the excellence of your latest work by a few words; even if I know you do lack of any memories for it yet for an obvious reason...

He-heh... It´s ´a new beginning and life´ for us; I could sum it up exactly that way. It could be said that it´s really the new life for us which contains elements from all of our previous albums. All those elements from our previous albums have just been updated on ONCE to fit us better these days. When I have been listening to songs on ONCE, I was thinking many times that many elements that we have on ONCE, sound like the OCEANBORN album for my ears. Or some other elements there sound like something off WISHMASTER. I noticed some of these certain elements between those albums when we all were at the studio and listened the songs for ONCE, I got very strong feelings out from these listening sessions that we could have been going through the entire history of Nightwish musically thus far. I really feel like ONCE is somehow a new beginning for all of us. Thinking even carefully what we will be ahead of us in the future concerning our next album from this, honestly scares the hell out of me!


I wanna thank you Tarja for talking to me and for Metal-Rules.com, so thanks a lot again for this great chat. It was my pleasure to talk to you really...

Thanks to yourself... it was nice talking to you, too!

Official website: www.nightwish.com

Read Our Reviews of Nightwish Releases

Past interviews in Metal-Rules.com:
- Pre-listening session for Nightwish new album "Once" (2004)
- Tuomas (2002)

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