NIGHTWISH - Over The Hills and Far Away
With Tuomas Holopainen

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Interviewed by EvilG
Questions by EvilG and Luxi Lahtinen

I want to start out by talking about your new mini-album that's out called OVER THE HILLS AND FAR AWAY. I read on your web page that this album has only been out for a couple of weeks and it's already #1 on the Finnish charts and has gone Gold so, congratulations!

Well, thanks a lot! It's always an amazing feeling!


Definitely. So perhaps you could start out by telling me about the reasoning behind this release and why you chose the song "Over The Hills and Far Away" by Gary Moore to cover?

Oh, well since the deal was to record albums the gap is going to be like 2 years between WISHMASTER and our next album. We just wanted to give a little something in between for the fans. Since we didn't have time to do a full album we just decided to do a single release or an EP. The other reason was since we are touring all the time and doing a lot of shows then we want to have some new songs for the setlist as well. So this way we have some new songs that the audience knows. And why Gary Moore? Well, the simple reason is that it's just such a good song. The original version, I think is one of the best or heavy songs ever made. Also it has a lot of nostalgic memories because it came out in 1985 and that's the time that I started to listen to music. This was one of the first songs that ever really hit me. So, it's also like a tribute to that moment.


You also re-recorded "The Astral Romance" from the first album…

That's right. We just wanted to make a little special treat.


I also read that Tony from Sonata Arctica made a guest appearance on this EP. Could you tell me what song or songs he is on and how it came about?

Yeah, well he's singing the male part in the "Astral Romance" remake which I sang in the original version. So, he's doing that and also doing background vocals in "Over The Hills and Far Away." Yeah, I really like his voice I think he is the best male heavy singer in Finland at the moment so I like to use him. Probably we will use him also on our next album a little.

Yeah, they are definitely one of the newer bands to come out of there and grab my ear as well. (Yeah)

Regarding your new DVD, "From Wishes to Eternity Live", will this be released here in North America because the version that is available now is in the European PAL format. So, do you have any plans to release it over here in NTSC format?

Yeah, as far as I've heard from the record label it is going to be licensed to Canada very soon, like in a couple of months or so. It's going to be released in Canada but not in the United States.

Well that's ok, I'm in Canada (laughs)

That's right! I don't know, Canada has always been easier for us and for the market. In the states, it has been very hard in every case. In this case, they don't want to license the DVD either so there's nothing we can do about it.


Will it come out on a different label or distributor here?

Yeah. It will.


A few questions regarding songwriting and I know you do a fair bit of that for Nightwish, obviously. First of all, regarding lyrics. Do you consider yourself a storyteller as far as lyrics go because after reading through your lyrics is evident that you are most likely a reader of fantasy novels. If so, can you tell me who some of your favorite writers may be who have influenced you for your writing?

Yeah, exactly. Yeah, I'd like to consider myself a storyteller and as a song maker. I don't think of myself as a poet or a musician or composer or whatever...but just making songs and telling stories, that's the deal. With my lyrics I don't want to preach anything or make a statement about politics or environment or tell people how to live their lives. That's just not the thing for me. I just want to express my own feelings and tell stories and create visions, new worlds. This thing arises from my passion for fantasy. I really love to read fantasy books and watch movies and art also. My absolute favorite is Tolkein. But, I also love David Eddings and the Dragonlance series. Also just plain old fairy tales. I like to read them every now and then.


I assume you've used some of that as inspiration for some of your songs. Have you based any on a book or has it just been an influence?

I think it's more like an influence. They are not really based on books. I like to use some of the phrases or some of the terms and make like a tribute song. For example, "Wishmaster" was a direct tribute to Tolkien and Dragonlance books. Also there are some references, for example, in "Elder Path".


I guess songwriting must be for you kind of like it would be for anybody, kind of like an adventure. I was wondering which of your studio albums would you consider to be the toughest and most challenging as far as writing the lyrics and music, and why?

I think OCEANBORN was the hardest of them all definitely. Because after ANGELS FALL FIRST our first we had a little taste of success and I started realizing, I guess, to see the ability of this band and my talent of making songs. The ambition grew and we really wanted to show off with this album. So, it gave us a lot of pressure. I just remember that whole studio time and recording process was so terrible, the two months. After that, we learned from the mistakes and WISHMASTER was much more fun.


Can you tell me about your song creation process and how it usually works in Nightwish? Do you do basically work out parts together or are things done separately and brought together to the whole band?

Well, the thing is I do all the basics of the song. At first I must always have the idea or the concept of the song, what this song is going to be about. After that I start creating the music for that certain concept that I had in mind. And after I have made the basic structure for the song I introduce it to the other band members and we practice it and arrange it a lot. This process takes a lot of time and when we have arranged a song that is when I write the final lyrics.


Do you write the sketch outline of the song on the keyboards or do you play guitar at all when you're writing?

Very, very little guitar. I'm know like the basic guitar chords and some of the technique. So sometimes I use my acoustic guitar. But basically, I do them all with my keyboards or my piano.







How do you keep songwriting challenging? Such as, what time of day do you believe you're blessed with the most inspirational ideas and what type of environment do you require around you when you are composing songs?

Well, it differs a lot. It's not about the time of the day or the place or anything like that. You just have to have like a strong emotion going on. Either you feel real happy or you feel real pissed or sad or whatever. You have to have this emotion, it doesn't matter what time of the day or where you are.


Here's one that from the inside I don't know if you'll be able to answer. But, in your opinion what elements in a Nightwish song actually make that song sound like a Nightwish song? What is it about you that would differ you from, I guess, other melodic metal bands?

Whew.........Well of course the first thing that would pop into mind would be the Tarja's voice because it's something very unique. I don't think you have heard something like that as the lead vocalist in any band before. Yes, so I think that is the main part. But, also the songs. I would like to think of them like variable. There are very many different elements and no song sounds like another. So, I'd like to think that has something unique as well.


Can you tell me what Nightwish songs have a special meaning for you for some particular reason and what that reason might be?

Almost all of the songs are, more or less, somehow related to my personal life or my experiences in life. So they're all kind of personal. There are a couple that are extra personal for me. I would say "Gethsemane" from the OCEANBORN album. It tells like a true story from my own life and the same thing goes for "Beauty and the Beast" from our first album, ANGELS FALL FIRST. So I would mention those two.


As your fans have surely noticed, each of your albums have gotten, I guess, somewhat more complex, catchier, more powerful and more of everything. Has your goal been to show some kind of progression with each new release that you've put out or do you think you'll reach a point someday where you just cannot go any further in terms of complexity and these things?

No absolutely we will make a progress all the time, that's the deal. We never want to make two same kinds of albums. So, that's why I'm constantly always looking for new ideas, new instruments and new ways of making songs. But still trying to keep the original Nightwish sound so that we won't be upsetting the fans or ourselves. We just want to continue making the music we like to do.


Have you ever considered using a whole classical orchestra with your music or anything like that?

Yeah, all the time. That's a classic question. I think that it would fit our music perfectly to use much more real-like instruments and choirs but it's always a matter of time, money, arrangements so it's a little bit hard. But, on our next album we are going to try something very big. So maybe some real instruments, string sections, choirs. But nothing is certain yet.


What is your opinion on bands like Rhapsody who are pretty well known for incorporating choirs and orchestras to their power metal sound?

Yeah, I think that it is very good that bands are trying to find these new elements and bringing the classical music back alive like this. For example, I personally love Rhapsody. They are great, so all the best for them!


When you first started out, did you ever dream of the success and fame that would come with Nightwish that you've achieved in the past couple of years?

I think we are the only one of the bands that can honestly say that we never expected anything, never dreamt of success, because the whole idea of the band was to just be a project band; to go to the studio and make a few songs just for fun. Somehow the demo ended up to a record label and suddenly we had a deal and in two years we have started selling gold and touring all the time. It has just all got out of hand. We are just going with the flow and trying the best we can.


When you started out on day one you were obviously not the same as you are now in terms of your music. I was wondering if you could speak a little bit about the progression in the band and when you first started you weren't even metal I guess. It was more acoustic guitars and voice and keyboards and stuff like that. But, you have become known now as a melodic metal band. Was that something that was planned or did it just kind of happen that way?

The whole plan was Nightwish was supposed to be this all-acoustic mood music band. Because at the time, and I still do, I really like acoustic bands and acoustic music like Celtic music and stuff like this, film music, soundtracks... I just wanted to do something similar to that. But, after our first demo I don't know what happened. Maybe it was Tarja's voice, it was so strong and when you only have an acoustic guitar and a piano in the background it sounds kind of funny. Also all of the guys in the band, we had a metal background. So we just wanted to go back and do it the safe way because we all knew the metal. So, I think that's the story.


What is your opinion on why Nightwish is able to tour not only throughout Europe but most of South America while you have yet to do a tour in North America?

Yeah...(laughs) you tell me if you know. I don't know man. People all over the world are constantly looking for something new, a new sound. This is in music as well. They are looking for something new. There's some kind of melodic metal trend going on right now so I think we hit the right timing in that matter. But, there are two hard markets for us and that's the United States and Japan. Japan I believe the problem is that they are kind of conservative people at heart. In metal they require a male singer and this traditional Stratovarius, Helloween style. I don't know about the USA. Maybe there's too much information in our music or something for them. (laughter)


Do you have any idea what your album sales are like in North America or do you even need to crack at the North American markets since you have been doing so well in the rest of the world?

Well, of course we wanna break a little bit into the states because there are a couple of Finnish bands like Amorphis which is doing pretty good in the United States. So, there's always the hope. Our records were released only last February in the United States so, so far we haven't heard anything. Not very well I think.


You did manage to play a show last year in Montreal, Canada. So, that's the only show I believe you have done over here?

Yeah, actually we did two shows in in consecutive days in Montreal. It was fantastic. Again we had no expectations at all. I didn't even know our records were released in Canada, only that they asked us to come there and play so I was really overwhelmed by it. The first show was sold out with like 1800 people or something. It was fantastic and people really knew us too. They knew the songs and were singing along. It was a real break through.

Any chance of making another trip to Canada anytime soon?

Yeah, well they already offered us a show in like August or September but there's no way that we can do it because we are doing so much touring elsewhere at the time. So, I think it's going to be next summer I think at the earliest, after the next album. We really want to come back because it was a fantastic experience for us.


Yeah, I had heard the rumor that you might be coming here in August or September. I was kinda hoping but I also heard like a week or two ago that it was not going to happen because of schedules. Someday hopefully....

Yeah I'm sure someday, I can promise that.


A couple quick questions I guess regarding classical music. I've read that your vocalist has obviously studied classical music and opera and I was wondering if she's still continuing those studies or has metal completely taken her?

No, definitely not. It goes like 50/50 for her. She is really into this Opera thing and she really loves Nightwish. So she is just doing both walking hand in hand. It's a fact that her classical studies have suffered a lot because of Nightwish because we're touring all the time and she cannot concentrate. She has told us that she is going to take a little bit more time for this classical stuff next year. That's just fine with us but its not going to affect the music of Nightwish in any way.


And how about yourself? Do you listen to or play any classical music yourself or are your tastes a little bit different than that?

I used to play classical piano and classical clarinet a lot actually and I also listened to classical music. But, I kinda grew out of that. I don't listen to classical music at all anymore. I'm more of a film score and soundtrack kind of guy.


Do you listen to any metal yourself or do you kind of stay away from that?

I listen to some but not as much as this film music and new age stuff. Every now and then I do. I also follow the scene fairly close.


Regarding the beginning of the band. When you started out it started as kind of an acoustic project. I was wondering when you did start to include metal elements in your music did anyone say "Hey, wait a minute, what are we doing here?" or did your vocalist say "Hey, I thought we were doing acoustic stuff and now you're doing the metal thing!"

Yeah, well I think we all agreed that after the first demo that the acoustic stuff was really cool but its kind of weird. It's not any fun so we tried to do something else and everyone was straight into it. So no problem there.


One thing I was wondering was have you heard from any fans of opera music, for example, hearing and getting into Nightwish or does the hard hitting drums and distorted guitars kind of scare them away.

Actually we have and that's a very nice thing. We have a lot fans that are over 40 and even over 50. That is amazing as it sounds. I think it has to do with the vocal style and the fact that we have quite a few ballads that the older people kind of relate to. So, we have a lot of those fans who usually don't listen to metal at all and they come to us like "Ok, you're kind of cool" and "I like to listen to you every now and then". You can see them at the shows as well.


It maybe opens the door for them to check out other melodic type metal bands as well.

Yeah, yeah sure.


I know that my mother likes Nightwish now. (laughs)

Alright!!! Cool! (laughs)

She's not what I would call a metalhead but she likes it very much.

Well, she's the kind then that I was talking about.


So, a little bit about the future now. What are your plans for Nightwish for the coming year.

Well for the next month and a half we are touring pretty hard. We are doing a lot of festivals in Finland and then we are going to Europe. There's Wacken Open-Air in Germany. There's also one in Hungary and Switzerland and Austria. Then we have another festival show in South Korea. It is very interesting to fly us there just for one festival and back. That's kind of cool though! Then also there's also 2 shows in Russia. After that we have a two week tour in Finland and a long break. The break starts in the middle of September and then we're entering the studio in January. So we have like 3 months time to write all the songs and arrange them.


So, it's not really a break then I guess.

Well, not a break, you're right. Just a break from doing shows. After September we aren't doing any shows until next June.


Have you had any time yet to start any writing for the next album?

Yeah, I'm doing it all the time, everyday that I'm not on tour I'm doing songs. It's so much fun because I'm not in a hurry. I know that I have the time until December, so it's very relaxing and very fun to do the songs.


Any ideas yet on what sounds you might have on the next album or is it still too early to talk about that?

Well, I would say that it is a little too early. But, I could say that it's going to be a little bit different. I've become so passionate about film music and soundtracks so I think that that's going to be heard on the next album.


So you'll be incorporating more instruments I assume?

Yeah I hope so. Maybe a little bit more authentic sound.


Any lyrical ideas yet or do you usually do the music before you do the lyrics?

Well, I always have the ideas but the lyrics come after the music.


You write all the lyrics yourself?

Yeah I do.

No one else in the band has been into writing lyrics besides you?

No, they don't. I guess they are satisfied with what I am doing so...


OK, that's all the questions. I don't know if I missed anything in terms of news that you would like to pass on to people who read the interview? Or did we cover pretty much all the news?

I think we've pretty much covered it.


Ok, good. Well thanks again. Good luck on your tour and I hope to see you sometime here in Canada.

Alright, I hope so too!

Hails To Those Who Made This Possible

  • Hails to Craig for providing the transcription for this interview. Thank you man!!!

  • Thanks to Tuula and Spinefarm Records from Finland for giving me this opportunity.

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Saturday, November 17, 2001