Nightwish – Tuomas Holopainen
Written by Simon Lukic
Transcription by Mike ‘Fucking Hostile’ Holmes
One of Metal’s biggest headlines was the “open letter” served to Tarja Turunen by Nightwish band leader Tuomas Holopainen. It not only bought an end to one of the genre’s greatest pairings, it also would cause a great deal of concern amongst Nightwish fans as many felt the band would never be able to find a worthy successor. After going through some 2000 applicants a replacement was found and everyone should now be aware of Anette Olzon – a 36 year old Swede who managed to impress the band the most. While opinions regarding Anette are still divided, the release of DARK PASSION PLAY seems to have reinvigorated the band and the interview I had with Tuomas highlights the fact. I trust you will enjoy our discussion and appreciate Tuomas’ honesty and dedication to his band.
You must be pleased with the way that Anette has been embraced by your fan base?
I’m really, really pleased. I was expecting something so much worse. Of course opinions are divided but I think that it is smoothing down a little bit now. Opinions were really divided when we introduced her back at the end of May. People seem to be calming down now and she has been accepted very, very well. It’s like one big boulder coming off our chest.
I would imagine so. At what stage in your audition process did you believe that she was the one?
We made the decision last January. She was actually one of the first ones to send in a demo, so it took more than a year to decide who it was going to be. She kind of set the standard.
I understand that you initially had a problem with Anette? She has a child and you weren’t sure that she would be able to commit to the band because of the obligation.
Yeah, that’s true actually. For once the rumor has a truth behind it and that was totally my mistake. I actually had a talk with Anette and when I found out that she had a little son…I really didn’t want to take any chances at that point after everything that happened with Tarja. I really was a bit hasty and I am sorry about that, but she is a real stubborn girl and she convinced us that it wouldn’t become a problem.
You obviously didn’t want a Tarja clone and that was pretty obvious in your choice. Was it something that was at the back of your mind?
Absolutely. Well that was the only thing that we knew for sure. We really didn’t have an exact profile of what the new singer should sound like. We kept all our options open but the only thing that we knew for sure was that we didn’t want another classically trained female vocalist because Tarja was so good at what she did. The idea was to find somebody with an equal amount of power and emotion in her voice but could sing in her own way.
The whole affair was very big news. Did all of the attention surprise you?
Yeah, especially here in Finland where it totally got out of hand. Maybe we were a bit naïve and childish but we thought this wouldn’t be such a big hassle, but it truly was. In Finland, the Prime Minister even had something to say about the whole matter. It became like a national tragedy and a soap opera. So, no I never expected it to be this big.
What did your Prime Minister say exactly?
He was being really diplomatic. He was asked by the media about this because it was the number one headline in the Finnish national news.
No offense, but with all of the problems going on around the world it’s quite amazing to think that a band and a singer could get so much attention.
I know. It was incredible.
With that being said, you were able to keep Anette’s identity under ‘wraps’. In this day and age where everyone wants to know everything, you need to be commended for doing such a great job.
I’ve had a lot of criticism about this. People where saying that this was a publicity stunt and that I’ve been teasing the media, but that was never the case. We just wanted to keep her in secrecy up until we had something concrete to tell people. That could not have happened before May, so that’s why we had to keep her in secrecy for five months. It was almost like playing a CIA agent or something…booking into different hotels, taking different flights and avoiding being seen with each other.
Moving on to the album, was the majority of it completed before Anette came on board?
That is kind of a funny thing – all of the songs were written and even recorded except for the vocals. Everything was done and we still didn’t have a singer at the end of January. So we really had to make a decision, rehearse the songs in three weeks and then go into the studio and let Anette do her part.
That’s doesn’t sound like a lot of time for the vocals.
Well, it didn’t take that long but we had three weeks and it actually took a week, maybe a week and a half. That was after spending about twenty days in the studio for only the vocals. We really wanted a relaxed atmosphere there.
Did you have more time to compose because you had no vocalist?
It actually didn’t affect my songwriting at all. It’s kind of a funny thing because even though I had no idea who our new singer was going to be, I had heard this female voice in my head when I was doing the songs. I somehow heard all of the melodies and harmonies, so that was never a problem.
So, if things hadn’t turned out the way they did with Tarja, would the album have come out a lot earlier?
I don’t think so. We pretty much set the schedule back in 2005. We knew that we had to find a singer by end of January 2007, then go the studio and release the album by September 2007. So it was pretty much planned in advance.
What songs are you the most proudest of at the moment? I can imagine that they would change constantly.
Yeah, they do. Right now my favorite tune is ‘The Poet and the Pendulum’. It kind of sums up what DARK PASSION PLAY is about. I’m pretty proud about the fact that this album is really diverse. It really shows the extreme sides of the band.
It’s pretty ambitious starting off the album a near 14 minute epic. I think that was a strong way to begin the album
Yeah, it would be cliché to put the long song as the last track of the album. That was done to avoid clichés.
Were the choices of singles and videos important in introducing the new look ‘Nightwish’?
This is something that I really had trouble with. Choosing the songs really helped the album and I think they really show what Anette is capable of.
I believe that there is a 3rd video clip on the way?
Yeah, we just filmed it about a week ago.
That’s the one you’re not telling anyone about?
Well, we were told not to say anything about it. I have to respect what the record label says and it won’t be released until February or March.
I really like the concept for the ‘Bye Bye Beautiful’ video clip, whose idea was that?
It was actually our manager’s idea.
It showed the lighter side of the band in a fun way because everything is not always dark.
Absolutely, and that is something that we wanted to emphasize. Not everything is serious all the time.
Speaking of serious does DARK PASSION PLAY reflect your love of composing film scores in any way?
I see the album, DARK PASSION PLAY, as 50% metal and 50% film music. Someday I would love to do film music – like a full length score to a movie or something. At the moment, I hope that I don’t get any offers. I want to just focus on the band right now and see how far we can go. We still have the energy for long tours, but maybe in a few years when we want to lay back a little bit then I’ll start thinking about doing film music.
Does Nightwish’s popularity still surprise you?
Yes, it keeps on surprising me day by day. When you think about the concept of the band on paper, it really shouldn’t work. The music is so diverse…and then we have this big drama. The biggest icon of the band leaves the band and still it seems that we are growing. We just heard that the album went #1 in Germany, it’s just incredibly encouraging. So yes, it really does keep on surprising me – big time.
The band made its official live debut on Saturday (6th of October in Tel Aviv) with Anette. How did that go?
It was ok, you have to remember it was the first show that we ever did. It was the first time that we played in a big hall with Anette and there were almost 4,000 people over there. The routine wasn’t there being that it was the first show…but the people over in Tel Aviv were fantastic and very accepting to the new material. They were very accepting of Anette, which is very encouraging.
What’s it like when Anette covers the old songs?
We think she is doing a wonderful job. You sometimes see some ‘middle fingers’ from the audience, especially when she is singing the older songs. I can also understand that because people have been listening to the songs for years and years and it’s really hard to accept anything new.
Are there any songs that you may not touch because Anette may lack the range?
Actually, believe it or not she has the same exact range as Tarja. When you think about the notes, she can do pretty much do everything. But there are some songs that fit her much better and we just have to find the right ones. For example, I don’t think she will ever do ‘Phantom Of the Opera’ because that was so focused on Tarja. But with some songs like ‘She’s My Sin’, or ‘Nemo’, or ‘I Wish I had An Angel’, she brings something really cool and fresh to the songs. So we just have to find the right songs.