NIGHTWISH´s new vocalist Anette Olzon & Tuomas Holopainen
Interview and pictures by Luxi Lahtinen
(except promotional pictures by Nightwish.com)
Nightwish´s whole history so far as a successful band, is like a fairytale story only a few of us could ever dream of. The band has sold over 2,5 millions albums worldwide, done several successful tours and overall become one of the most followed bands in the world.
However, almost every fairytale tends to gather some dark clouds above the horizon at some point, I guess that´s what happened to Nightwish as well when they fired their previous frontwoman Tarja Turunen in the end of 2005. After this news reached the public´s ears, the band went through a merciless crossfire that really tested the grounds of the band somewhat heavily. With all the strenght and faith they had in the band, they struggled forward, found Anette Olzon from Katrineholm, Sweden to unite the Nightwish´s troops, making it a stronger and tighter package than ever before. Nightwish is ready to conquer to the whole world again.
I met a good-humored, always friendly and ruminative Tuomas Holopainen and the new, lovely frontwoman of Nightwish, Anette Olzon at Hotel President in Helsinki on May 30th 2007 – and we talked mainly about ´the hot topic of the day´ Anette herself, the band´s forthcoming 6th yet-untitled studio album, and their upcoming world tour that quite surprisingly, starts off in Tel Aviv, Israel on October 6th 2007.
ANETTE – THE NEW SINGER OF NIGHTWISH STEPS IN
First off, my sincere congratulations for becoming this new, sort of ´mysterious´ singer of Nightwish, even if you are not that any more! ;o)
Anette: Thank you so very much… Thank you!
It goes without saying, but you must feel very happy about this situation…
Anette: Yes, of course!
What were your ultimate feelings and thoughts when Tuomas made this one important phone call to you on 30th January 2007 and announced that you would be their choice for the new singer of Nightwish? Were you first like, “Oh God, Tuomas you must be joking with me, right…?!”
Anette: Ha-ha… I think he was so calm and saying it like that. I was like: “WHAT?! What did you say a couple of seconds ago…?” – ha-ha! I really didn´t quite get his message first that I will have lots to do in Nightwish. Actually it took some weeks from me to understand that I really got the job.
Have you ever dreamt about being a vocalist of Nightwish, like when you heard the news Tarja was out of the band in the end of 2005?
Anette: No, I didn´t because when I applied I didn´t think that they would even get back to me since I didn´t have this opera type of voice and stuff. So, no – I never dreamt of it. But of course when the process went further and further, I thought I really would like to get this job.
But I assume you still knew Nightwish´s music from their albums before how they are musically…?
Anette: No, actually I just heard them a couple of months before. I had always heard the name of Nightwish, but never their music. I had heard other bands, but never Nightwish. So, I just heard them a couple of months before, and then I bought their compilation-CD, and after that got to hear ONCE. So ONCE and that compilation CD were the first Nightwish things for me personally that I heard from them.
What are your uppermost feelings right now when it´s finally been officially announced about a week ago that Anette is the new singer of Nightwish? I mean, it must have been kinda hard to keep her name under a rock for this long…
Tuomas: The uppermost feeling that I have at the moment, is relief because we don´t have to hide her anymore. And it must be a huge relief for her as well because like keeping her in a cave all the time, wasn´t that much fun. But it was something that needed to be done. And now, we finished mixing the album last Friday, so we have the album ready. She´s out, so in that sense I feel really, really good. Also, the people, the band and the media have welcomed her in a really nice way. I personally expected ´the barbeque´ to be much worse!
Tuomas: So, everything´s looking good; it´s really looking good…
In order to keep her name under cover for this long period of time (about 4 months), I suppose you simply must have had a really well thought-out, sort of masterplan how to keep her name unrevealed until 24th of May 2007. Do you have any funny stories to tell what kind of things you had to do along the way until you brought these sort of ´Breaking News´ to people on May 24th by announcing Anette´s name in public?
Tuomas: Well, we almost needed to blind date, but I lost the bet to our technicians, so I owe them… well, whatever! Who cares! I´m actually quite surprised myself how we managed to keep her in secret this long.
When did it actually become crystal clear for the band that Anette would be a perfect choice to step in Nightwish as the new vocalist of the band? I mean, you did receive well over 2000 demos from all around the whole world, so going through all that massive pile of demos must have been a hard task already in itself – just to pick up that one final candidate and eventually ask her to join the band…
Tuomas: It´s was in the end of January 2007. We had a very long discussion within the band members about our final decision for the new vocalist because we just wanted to go thoroughly through everything really, like you know, turn every rock. But I mean, she was one of the very first ones to send the demo to us. I think she was amongst the 1st twenty ones or so, and she sang “Ever Dream” – just this one song, and made a huge impression on us by even that song already. I think she really managed to set the scale for the rest to come. So, she was the present, like from the very beginning of this process.
THE BEGINNING OF NEW ERA – EVA
You were forced to release this ´Internet only´ single “Eva” a week earlier simply because it was leaked into the net from England by mistake, I guess?
Tuomas: I have know idea yet whether it was a mistake or did someone leak it onto the Internet on purpose, I just have no idea. We don´t even want to go any deeper into that matter. I think it will do other people than us…
How did feel to hear when those news reached your ears for the first time?
Tuomas: It was Wednesday morning when I woke up, turned on my phone, checked all my new text messages, I felt like, I don´t wanna get up from this bed. It felt really, really bad, I can tell. But in the evening of that particular Wednesday we were already laughing at that, like “Okay, things have been going pretty smoothly for us thus far, so…”.
I think it´s one of the biggest problems in the music industry nowadays that albums are leaked into the net so easily. There´s always someone out there that thinks he´s, or she´s doing some sort of ´favour´ to everyone by leaking albums for people which is sad and stupid in every possible sense…
Tuomas: Exactly. It is.
Anette: It´s really sad that kind of things happen these days…
Could you reveal with a bit closer thought what the cover of EVA actually symbolizes? As I could assume, there obviously is a closer idea there behind the cover…
Tuomas: It´s about a girl who´s been mocked at school. And she´s like… Well, she represents the ultimate good, and she cannot understand why she´s being mocked. She´s just looking at that school, and going there. That´s pretty innocent in itself, so it´s like I have been writing songs about innocence in the childhood all my life, so this is like the opposite side of the coin. This is what the song is about.
THE FORTHCOMING NIGHTWISH ALBUM
The forthcoming Nightwish album will contain 13 songs all in all. What could you say, are the biggest differences between these new songs – and the songs on ONCE from your point of view?
Tuomas: We recorded 15 songs altogether. Out of them 13 will end up on this new album. As far as differencies go, I think the biggest difference is sitting here next to me, so it´s the vocals. I mean, musically I don´t think the new album differs that much from ONCE. There´s some new elements on this new album – like there´s Celtic instruments, there´s a voice of sopranos, there´s a gospel choir and all little details here and there. But the overall feeling that the songs have, is a natural sequel fromwhat ONCE was. We didn´t wanna do anything too radical because she already is a radical change to our sound.
What could you say about the orchestra you were working with in London – and getting all these choir – and orchestrated parts recorded for this new Nightwish album? You used the famous The Abbey Road Studios for the recordings of these orchestrated parts where f.ex. The Beatles has recorded their songs…
Tuomas: We did those orchestrated parts in two parts; first in December 2006, and then in February 2007.
How was it different this time compared to the last time when you did those kinds of things for your previous album, ONCE?
Tuomas: Pretty much the same even if I also need to say this time recording those orchestrated parts was a bit bigger. There were 66 musicians in the orchestra this time. And in the choir, there were 33 people and 12 in the gospel choir. We were recording these orchestrated – and choir parts eight days altogether in the studios. Just amazing time…
I bet it also had to be way sort of way easier for you this time to record with this big orchestra as you already had this experience about the same thing when you did these orchestrated parts for ONCE.
Tuomas: Yes, that´s true, but I already kind of knew what to expect, so maybe that was the difference. It still blew me away recording with the orchestra.
ABOUT GOING TO EPIC FIELDS MUSICALLY
There also this one very lengthy song titled “The Poet and the Pendulum” on this forthcoming Nightwish album; it´s 14-minutes long and which is supposed to have a very sountrack´ish feel to it. How was the recording of that one? First Anette…
Anette: It was great, I have to say so.
Being such a lengthy and huge song, did you feel there was a lot of challenge to do your vocal parts for it?
Anette: Actually the vocal parts are not that big role in this song, I think. There were many orchestra parts in the song. But other than that, of course it was kind of challenge for me to sing because, how would I say – it was such a big piece of music and the vocals needed to be big, too. But then, there´s of course a combination always in. It´s almost like 3 or 4 different song put together in one song.
Tuomas: … more like five, I think.
Anette: Eh, more like 5 maybe, yes. So there´s a whole different feeling in that song.
Tuomas: It would be funny that if I listened to that song now, I mean, it´s so full of everything that actually there´s not that much singing, to be honest with you.
Anette: The singing that was done for it, is quite powerful anyway. Both Marco and me sang in that song, and we had to be powerful with our voices for it in order to give our full support for the overall feeling of the song. It´s a really big song in my opinion.
Would you consider this particular song as one of your most ambitious works to date during the whole career of Nightwish?
Tuomas: I think it´s my personal number one favorite song at the moment of all the songs that I´ve ever done. It is just that. I mean, for me it´s easier to do long and epic songs than 4-minute songs. To be able to do a song in 4-minutes long that could be even interesting, is much harder. It´s easier for me to do these long epics. This song is definitely also the most ambitious song that I´ve ever done. It´s like… It´s not even a song; it´s more like a theatre play type of song.
I guess it´s kind of easy for you to write these lengthy, epic songs because you´re a big fan of soundtracks and such kind of things as far as I know…
Tuomas: Yes, that´s where I get most of my inspirations from. I try to think our songs like a soundtrack play. But the amount of material “The Poet and the Pendulum” has absorbed, with the orchestra and the choir; and there´s the Celtic –fill, there´s the voice of soprano, there´s her singing and there´s Marco´s signing – and there´s even Marco growling plus all the sound effects created by Mr. Jussi Tegelman in Hollywood. It´s a really big song, I can tell.
You also recorded one extra track that hasn´t been composed by Nightwish, but some other composer. Who is the composer of that particular song in question and what song we are talking about here?
Tuomas: Yes. Anyway, we haven´t set the name yet and we are not ready to reveal the song´s name yet either. But it´s like a theme song for a movie.
I read from your website that you were waiting for a permission to get that song released on your new album. Have you gotten it yet?
Tuomas: Not yet. The destiny of that is still pretty much open. We don´t know what to do with it as we still haven´t got the permission to release it on this album. The guy who wrote it, hated our version, so… it´s still fine.
(*everyone burst into laughing*)
Tuomas: I mean, he has a right to his opinion, of course but c´mon… He has bored.
I think he just wants to tease you for a while before he makes up his decision… ;o)
Anette: Hopefully… really hopefully because it´s a really nice song.
Ok, we´ll come back to that later…
Tuomas: We´ll know it within a couple of weeks or so, I think.
What were the most challenging things for you during this whole process to get the songs put together regarding the 1st steps of the song writing process all the way to the recording process of this album?
Tuomas: Well, first of all, writing the songs was really easy. They came out really naturally. Then rehearsing songs was a lot of fun in a really good band spirit. Doing a demo out of these songs was fun, recording the drums was not problem, recording the keyboard parts was no problem either, she was no problem (*Anette giggles*), the guitar – and bass were recorded smoothly – yes. I don´t know if we even had any that big troubles to get everything done for this album. It´s was a really long process for being about 10 and half months in the studio altogether, recording the album. Choosing the singer, was a bit tough and… I don´t know. That was the hardest part really because like when we had to go to Petrax Studios to record her vocals, I wasn´t scared at all what she will do. We had three weeks – we had a lot of time to record the vocals, so we had enough time to do them. We already heard her rehearsing the songs and they sounded really good, so there was no problem there.
What did you consider the most challenging thing for yourself with the songs for this new Nightwish album? Were there any songs on the album that almost gave you a serious headache due to being very demanding and difficult to sing?
Anette: Well, I´m not gonna say any song titles, but at least the other cover song that we don´t know if we are gonna to release it. It´s pretty hard to sing as I need to go to quite high register in it. But it was good in the end. And then of course some new elements that I haven´t tried before vocally which I tried on this album. Of course in the very beginning when you don´t know – when you haven´t done anything like that before, it´s a bit scary. I mean, when you start to do something that you haven´t ever tried out before. So there is one song especially that had some new elements for me to sing… and you (Tuomas) sing my voice differently.
Tuomas: But to be honest there was not the simple like thing, or a vocal line or note that I had in mind that you couldn´t do.
GETTING GUIDED BY TUOMAS
If you weren´t quite sure what kind of vocal parts Tuomas wanted to get for some certain part of a song, what kind of guide Tuomas was for you to give you an idea how he wanted to some vocal part to be like? Can you name some sort of example about this?
Anette: Yeah, he placed it for me. And then I just had to get the melody and go and do it.
Tuomas: I even sang it for you…
Anette: Yes, of course he sang it also…
(*Tuomas gives a short lesson about his singing skills at this point*)
Anette: Tra-la-laa… That´s exactly the way I was working with my former band Alyson Avenue, too. It´s a same thing: We have a composer, he makes all the songs, they record everything and just at this point I go in and sing. So, it´s kind of the same. There´s always a challenge for you when you are a new to do something that you haven´t tried out before.
How much did you share the workload this time when you still were in the middle of song writing process of the album? How many songs did you write for this album by yourself – and what´s other members´ contribution for them?
Tuomas: Well, there´s one song that was done entirely by Marco and one song made entirely by Emppu this time. But all the lyrics are still mine. In the process in itself was very much the same as in everything before. The guys just came up with bass and solos this time – at least!
What about Marco´s contribution for the vocal parts on this new Nightwish opus? I only know he did some vocal parts for such songs as “7 Days to the Wolves” and “Master Passion Greed”, but I guess he also did some more…
Tuomas: I think you can hear a lot more Marco on this album than on any of our previous albums. And you can also hear his softer side in one of the songs. It will be a surprise. You´ll hear the ´romantic side´ of Marco, he-he!
He´s pretty good in that regarding how great ballad song he has done in his other band, Tarot…
Anette: Yes, I have to agree.
How much did you do some duets with Marco in some of the songs, like first you started to sing in some song – and then he came long and sang on the top of your voice, and then you were kind of changing these vocal roles that he started to sing, and then you came along ands so on…
Tuomas: There´s a few songs like that.
Anette: Yeah, I mean, I recorded something some days, and then he came and did his vocal parts to some songs I had already sung my vocals for. It worked out that way.
ABOUT FILTERING STUFF
Did you have to make any kinds of compromises with this album as far as the songs on it are concerned, like reject f. ex. some orchestrated parts that kind of didn´t fit in there for being like overly-made, or something alike?
Tuomas: Hmmm…there were some parts that sounded a bit too much like Abba and…
Anette: Oh-oh-ho-ho… what did you just say, Tuomas? I just heard it what you said!
No problem Anette, I can censor Tuomas´ comment away from the interview.
Anette: (*laughs*) Good…
Tuomas: … a few more like rock -orientated song, and maybe a bit too much orchestra full of songs. , but they just didn´t fit into the overall feeling of the album, so we need to cut them out. I would say like 95% of everything we wrote will end up being on the album as well.
Can you already tell what´s your personal favorite cut (or cuts) vocally out of all the songs on this new Nigtwish opus and why exactly?
Tuomas: “The Poet and the Pendulum” is actually my favorite off this new album, and then there´s a couple of other songs on the album that I like very much.
I know since this is your recently put together opus, my question may be a bit ´unfair´ for you at this point because every musician should take some distance to their latest works in order to make up his/her opinion later about their actual favorite cuts…
Tuomas: Right now I just feel like really, really great for the whole album. I can judge it more objectively when some time has passed by.
ABOUT SWEDISH AND FINNISH HUMOR
This next question goes out for you Anette. Since you come from Sweden and these other band mates of your happen to come from Finland, I´d like yo know is it f.ex. any hard to get into the strange world of Finnish humor as I´m sure it has some slight differences compared to the Swedish humor?
Anette: I think we are quite similar thinking-wise actually because I have this ironic side of humor in myself just like these guys, too. Sometimes of course it can be like I say something and they can look at me and…
Tuomas: ”Anette on juoppo svedu…” (”Anette is a Swedish drunkard” in English).
Anette: I really am badmouthing myself. I can tell really dirty jokes. Of course there´s always some moments when you get to know new people – it doesn´t matter if you are a Swedish or Finnish, but you have to learn how to say things, and how you shouldn´t take these things in a wrong way. So far there hasn´t been anything like misunderstandings between any of us as far as the jokes we throw to each other, are concerned. You can of course be sometimes like: “Hmmm… what on earth did he mean by that?!”. Maybe you don´t get things because of the English language also. You can tell a joke in Swedish and try to translate it to English. It can loose its feeling and meaning easily. And it´s the same with the Finnish jokes as well if you try some.
I bet one of your favorite topics is to talk about ice hockey, too… ;o)
Anette: Yeah, I know. That´s so cool.
That´s a lot of talk especially between the Swedish and Finnish…
Tuomas: Yes, it is.
Anette: But actually I love when the Finnish – and Swedish teams play against each other. I really do. I think it´s the best games ever.
(*coughs*) Ahem, now let´s get a bit more serious again if you don´t mind…
Any plans for the next Nightwish video what song would be an ideal song for that purpose?
Tuomas: Yeah, we´re leaving for Los Angeles for this Saturday (on June 2nd 2007). We will shoot 2 videos there. They are gonna be done by Antti Jokinen again. We are gonna publish the track list and the title of the new album on 14th of June 2007.
You´ll start your next tour from Tel Aviv, Israel on October 6th – and this gonna be your first time to play there. What kind of pre-expectations do you have about playing in Israel anyway?
Tuomas: I´m a bit scared…
Anette: (*begging ironically*) No bombing, please… When I got to hear the news that we are going to play there, my first reaction was like: “WHAT…?!” But seriously, everyone is telling that Tel Aviv is a quite calm and really good place to play gigs – and it´s a really nice place. I really like this amusement town and city, so… I think it´s gonna be cool to go there after all.
Tuomas: I´ve always liked challenging adventures, so… It was pretty much like the only weekend that we have off during the next year and half, so that´s why we have to go there, and play the gig.
Then you will head to the US -soil, starting this US -tour from Springfield on October 15th (which is a sold-out show already), and will be doing over 20 dates over there. What is a bit odd to me, why did you choose this US tour first instead of touring here in Europe for this album first? Or, does it really make any difference where you tour first?
Tuomas: There´s a very simple reason for that. We are not that known over there in the US. We get to play in relatively small places there, and we really need to run her in for singing, and it means that we have make 23 smaller shows first to adjust her in.
Anette: I also think it´s a good idea. And after that I think we will be really together like as a band I thi k when we get back to Europe and do bigger shows here. Then I believe we can give more from ourselves to the audience.
After that you´ll have 14 dates in all the Scandinavian countries which I bet is something you are really looking forward to as I believe playing in front of your home crowd is always something that kind of fuels your ´machine´ for bigger flames, right?
Tuomas: Yes. This Scandinavian part will include 8 shows in Finland, too. However, playing in front of my home crowd will make me scare as fuck.
Anette: Me, too. Actually I don´t feel so scared of doing these shows in the States.
Tuomas: Me neither, but the Scandinavian shows will get me on my tiptoes a bit more, that´s for sure.
Anette: Of course all of your friends will be in certain shows. When ever there are some of your friends in the audience or family or people who know you, it´s even worse to go onstage.
Tuomas: I mean, here we are big – and because of that we are under everyone´s magnifying class. You need to be perfect to do like… Or, let me put it this way: This is the band everybody´s talking about, so we try to be as ready as possible for these shows.
… and then, what else will happen for Nightwish touring-wise in 2008? Have you any dates scheduled for 2008 already?
Tuomas: Nothing has been agreed, but there will be an European tour coming up, another American tour, maybe Japan, Australia also – and a lot festivals of course in the summer. We are in Finland, so we have lots of possibilities to play at these summer festivals. But those will come later, so I don´t have much to say about them yet.
What about you, Anette? What kind of challenge has it been for you to learn all of these other Nightwish songs for the tour, expect the ones you sang for this new Nightwish album?
Anette: It´s always a challenge when you get to learn new songs. First time to try something new out, is always a very challenging time before you become completely familiar with the songs; get to know the lyrics the way you can leave the paper and just sing without looking at the paper. Of course adjusting my voice to old Nightwish –stuff that the band´s former singer did, is a challenge itself how I can sing the songs properly, in my own way. That´s of course the biggest challenge for me personally.
Tuomas: To be honest, she´s been singing really, really well the old songs; even the songs she made for the demo and sent over to us for audition. We will play those songs live as well that Anette sang for the demo. I mean, the songs she did for the demo, sounded really good.
Could we see your previous band Alyson Avenue warming up Nightwish some day?
Anette: Ha-ha-ha…!! Alyson Avenue is like down. It´s been for a while already. You know, we have been going on for so many years and sometimes you just go separate ways, so it was natural. But they have a new band, so maybe they can warm us up – who knows, ha-ha! Their new band is more melodic rock-orientated though, so maybe they exactly don´t fit that well to warm up a band like Nightwish. Anyway, I´m certainly not the one who makes a decision on that, so…
Ok, I think that was it. My time is pretty much up, so I just wanna thank both of you for your time and wish you all the best for these forthcoming tours. Hopefully you´ll be welcomed really nice and well in every place you will go to on the tours.
Anette: Thank you so much, thank you.
Tuomas: Thank you. It was pleasure talking to you.