Frustration and lust
Shortly before the end of the two years long tour that led Nightwish around the world the Finns hardly have a chance to calm down. In addition to the last concerts both record companies go on publishing stuff of the band and let the band do interviews non-stop. During the conversation with ‘Zillo’ singer Tarja Turunen and bandleader Tuomas Holopainen don’t mince matters regarding this situation.
Tuomas Holopainen is having a break at the moment. Once again the quiet Finn is on the road. Yesterday and today there are shootings for a new video in Praha. But even in the few moments of rest no calm is grudged for the musician. The Finnish record company Spinefarm arranged engagements. There is a new compilation –‘Highest Hopes – The Best of Nightwish’- to advertise. Holopainen takes one more deep drag from his cigarette und with a crooked smile he begins with an intentional false start. “Do we have to talk about the compilation?” the keyboarder sighs deeply and then relents. “Really? Well, ok.” The sampler is absolutely no matter of his heart for the Finn but a troublesome exercise that he wants to leave behind as soon as possible. “Well, I can understand our record company”, Tuomas starts to explain. “They have to do their job and we have to do ours. With this sampler I feel fairly all right. After all we were informed about it in the beginning and we contributed our part to it.” Obviously Nightwish do not have big expectations of their label. At least the cooperation confines itself to the necessary things: “I had the idea for the cover artwork and we worked together on the outlines of it”, Tuomas tells. “Additionally I gave my agreement for the tracklist.” People who compare the chosen songs to the last compilation ‘Tales From The Elvenpath’ (2004) of the former label Drakkar will realize the big overlap with after all nine identical songs. “These songs probably represent the general taste in the best way”, Tuomas says. “Besides, as you know the band didn’t took part in the first selection at any time; that is way we do not take it into consideration”. The fans do not have to care about the politics of the label but after all the publications aim at their purse. Do two samplers in such a short time make sense anyway? “In this business there are so many things that do not make sense at all”, the Finn groans. “Because of that I rather do not give an answer to the question.” Disarming honesty. In contrast the communication with Spinefarm regarding the songs on ‘Highest Hopes’ didn’t work without little disagreements. Tuomas got to know about the limited edition with the bonus videos of ‘She Is My Sin’, ‘Dead To The World’ and ‘Kinslayer’ from the M’Era Luna Festival 2003 just later. “The news about the extra tracks surprised me three days ago”, Tuomas tells. Still the band boss isn’t at daggers dawn with his labels. “I stand behind our record companies Spinefarm and Nuclear Blast for one hundred percent”, Tuomas emphasizes. “It is not about personal things but clearly about business. I only want the fans to know: These compilations don’t make me proud at all!”
A matter of taste
For the Finn it is not only about a question of honour but also about the personal taste. “I like neither sampler nor live-discs”, Tuomas informs. “For me all albums mean a completed unity which should not be torn to pieces that disrespectfully.” Apart from one ‘Best of Pantera’-album you can find only originals in the collection of the keyboarder. And since the man is on to talk himself into an unusual rage and attacks the common politics of publication in the music industry singles cannot be missing. “I do not like singles as well”, Holopainen grunts. “These things hint to one single song of the album. This is not really representative.” With the unharmed condition of his works the musician shows no dignity. So it fits very well that there is a new single on the market – ‘The Siren’. “Only fourteen months have passed since ‘Once’ came out”, Tuomas lets the sarcasm flow. “Apparently I have no understanding for such things. But it seems to be necessary for our label – so I don’t mind.”
A new edition
On the wrong going clip for ‘The Siren’ Nightwish had no influence once again. According to rumours these product is even embarrassing for the responsible record company. The current shootings are not about a try to save the failed siren but the classic ‘Sleeping Sun’ shall be wrapped up in a new disguise optically after it got an acoustic renewal. Such actions mean a considerable risk. This song is still one of the favourites of the old Nightwish fan-community which will observe every change of their ‘favourite’ with suspicion. “Well yes… I know… well”, Tuomas winds his way insecurely. “If there is another thing that I cannot stand, it will be re-recordings.” For this step the musician can name a couple of good reasons after all. “First of all Tarja wanted to do her parts again by all means – that is ok for me”, the band boss starts with his enumeration. “Second it turned out that the old keyboard tracks are missing in the archive. I had no other choice than recording the song again. Only the guitars and the drums remained the same. In order to show the new version clearly we made a different mix of it.” Still the song-writer doesn’t feel comfortable with the whole matter which he underlines with a comparison. “At a funeral you rather bring flowers to the grave than digging out the coffin”, Tuomas considers. “I still do not really know what to think about it. Honestly said the re-recorded version feels like a sacrilege to me.” With so much insecurity the question arises if Mister Holopainen lets himself being pushed around by his record companies in the meantime. “Perhaps I approach these things too naïvely”, the musician ponders. “Actually I only want to leave all these diversions behind me so I can take care of my next album in all calm.”
Until the break there are still twelve concerts and above all the current shootings to do. The question about the course of his movie career hits Tuomas and happily he starts telling about the impressions: “Yesterday we got a comprehensive training in mediaeval swordfight”, the Finn is pleased. “When I read the concept I almost wet my pants. I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry because it looked really kitschy. But our director (the main director of Rammstein Jörn Heitmann) was able to convince me in a conversation after all. By now I am really enthusiastic about it.” The fight-scenes and the shoots of a battlefield strewn with corpses form a sharp contrast to the wonderful ballad ‘Sleeping Sun’. “The contrast of soft music and cruelty shall form a paradoxical unity”, Tuomas analyses. “I am anxious to see the final result because we will go on with shooting the whole night”. There will be no calm for the Nightwish boss until the big farewell-show of the ‘Once’-tour at the 21st of October at Hartwall-Arena in Helsinki. But the musician doesn’t want to let his obvious tiredness show. “Slowly i t is time for a break”, Tuomas just admits. “ But we will not make less effort because of that and we will do decent shows for our fans. “Without a doubt success also brings along its shadow sides especially for such a friendly contemporary as Tuomas Holopainen for whom it is not easy to refuse the desires of the people around him.
The conversation with Tarja takes part under completely different circumstances: Between the engagements the singer sits in her cosy little house in Finland relaxed and surrounded with her husband and makes herself at home with a steaming cup of tea. Miss Turunen thinks about the compilation in a relaxed way. “We didn’t ask for the publication of it or did a lot for it but at least the record company asked us before”, the dark-haired beauty smiles. The Finnish woman kept herself out of the works on the album and refers to an important fact regarding the choice of the songs on it. “We played all these songs live”, Tarja emphasizes. “So it really concerns our best known songs.” But ‘Highest Hopes’ shares this fact with the first sampler ‘Tales From The Elvenpath’. For the fans the membership to a certain label hardly means an understandable argument. “I can truly understand it when people criticize this”, the singer takes side with her fans. “We are also quite unhappy with the situation. The first compilation came out just because of the interests of our ex-partner and we were quite disappointed about his action. The current sampler was already planned back then. Finally it remains business. That is way I can even understand our former label Drakkar.” A real dilemma for every band. Caught between the expectations of the fans and all the demands of the industry – without a real way out. Because Nightwish cannot refuse these editions to their labels, no matter if it is the old or the new one.
In contrast to Tuomas Tarja is very happy about the updated version of her classical ballad. “When I heard about the idea of another ‘Sleeping Sun’-video it was clear to me right from the beginning that I didn’t want to do shoots to an old sung under any circumstances”, the Finn points out. “It wouldn’t have been fair for Marco to move to the bass-lines of our former member Sami. Additionally I absolutely wanted to re-record my singing parts because both my voice and my skills developed a lot.” With the previous result Tarja hasn’t been content since a long time and in the end she was able to get her will accepted by Tuomas who -according to his words- wasn’t really pleased with the idea of a re-recording. The singer doesn’t want to know anything about a ‘sacrilege’. “I am just a perfectionist”, Tarja starts laughing. “That is why I cannot listen to the old version anymore.” Miss Turunen doesn’t mind that the new version brings across a changed atmosphere – no sentimentality.
The aspects mentioned above are the reasons why Tarja was able to start with the shootings for the new video really relaxed. “Of course I had to run around the set at my birthday of all days in the middle of the night”, Tarja grins widely. “The guys were allowed to act for a clip for the very first time and it was a lot of fun to watch them doing this.” With her education and her experience the woman in the band is a big step ahead of the men of course. “Last I acted in a Finnish comedy series in spring which will be shown on TV soon”, the singer tells cheerfully. “Since my childhood I stood on the stage again and again. So there was a lot of time for me to learn from my mistakes.” That is why the shooting was easier for the singer especially since she didn’t have to take part in the fighting scenes directly. “The crew consisted of professional stuntmen and experts from the Czech Republic”, Tarja shows her respect for the team. “Things were pretty tough at times. I take over the position of the narrator and as the queen of these ages I walk across the battlefield where dead soldiers lie – people of my country.” The royal part should be fitting to the proud looking singer pretty well. The only bad aspect was the cold during the shooting at night. “When we shoot a video I always have to freeze properly”, Tarja laughs and jokes: “Perhaps our next story should finally take place in a sauna.” About that the fans would surely be completely enthusiastic. For her future after the tour the restless singer also has her plans ready in her pocket. “I will do a little solo-tour in December with Christmas songs and classical accompaniment”, Tarja informs. “There will also be one date in Frankfurt and one in Berlin.”
People for whom this holiday doesn’t mean a change of their dark mood should hurry and get one of the only few tickets. After all every product that has the Nightwish logo on it sells as quickly as sunshades on a gothic festival under a clear blue sky. That is why you can bet that the second compilation in the course of one year will sell gold soon, as well as its predecessor.
Nightwish’s way through history – how Gothic Metal learned to walk:
Of course the idea of Nightwish didn’t come into being in a vacuum and the genre of ‘Gothic Metal’ which in its classical form consists of hard metal with male growls and a sweet female voice established itself long before. The album ‘Gothic’ from the English Death-Metal band Paradise Lost from 1991 is regarded as an ignition and gave the genre ist name. Singer Nick Holms grunted against Sarah Marrion’s clear voice. In the Netherlands Bart Smits and Marike Groot picked up these combination for the band The Gathering that published their debut album ‘Always…’ in 1992 and varied the formula successfully three years later when Anneke van Giersbergen was the only one responsible for the singing parts on ‘Mandylion’. In 1995 as well Theatre Of Thragedy and Liv Kristine Espenæs established the Norwegian branch of this style with her self-titled debut. However they were strongly influenced by their countrymen of Third And The Mortal who presented their EP ‘Sorrow’ and the album ‘Tears Laid On Earth’ one year earlier. The young Finnish keyboarder Tuomas Holopainen who still played for the dark metallers Darkwoods My Betrothed and Nattvindens Gråt back then was especially taken with their singer Kari Rueslåtten. That is why it doesn’t really make you wonder that Tuomas names The Gathering, Theatre Of Tragedy and The Third And The Mortal as his sources of inspiration for the combination of metal and a female voice. In 1997 Nightwish published their debut ‘Angels Fall First’. In the same year the album ‘Enter’ came out which was also the first album of the band Within Temptation and there was a mini-album as Tristania’s first sign of life. Since 1997 Gothic Metal really started to explode and despite fierce resistance of a few incorrigible macho-traditionalists it started to conquer a steady place in the hearts of the fans of hard music. 1998 Nightwish gave a full start with their second work ‘Oceanborn’ while other debut albums came out in quick succession in the centres of the genre. In Norway these were The Sins Of Thy Beloved (1998), Madder Mortem (1999) and the splitted off Sirenia (2002) while the Dutch bands followed a bit delayed with Autumn (2001) and Epica (2003). In the meantime the Finns of Nightwish received their final breakthrough with ‘Wishmaster’ (2000) and mainly with ‘Century Child’ (2002) and took over the leading position of Gothic Metal which they had never striven for but which was still undisputed. Everyway in Europe countless other bands followed their role model and even the music industry tried to get a piece of the cake and set pop-clones without identity more or less successfully on mankind. Not even these snares could stop Nightwish who established themselves as an absolute authority in the scene definitively with their fifth album ‘Once’ (2004). How long will the boom go on? We will see.
Watching Finnish works
- Comments on the albums, videos and compilations by Tarja Turunen –
CD ‘Angels Fall First’ (1997)
Nightwish feel their way to their own style. Tuomas’ influences by The Gathering and The Third And The Mortal are clearly audible – with a naïve charm.
Tarja: I hate this record. When we went to the studio I sang music that was completely unknown to me. In a very innocent way I wanted to make Tuomas happy and fulfil his musical visions. Not the smallest thought of what was going to happen with it in the future dawned on me.
CD ‘Oceanborn’ (1998)
The first album with the classical Nightwish sound. Metal meets opera singing.
Tarja:The singing lessons changed my voice a lot. For the first time we were recognized in Europe and then we toured with Rage very excitedly. The album consists of hard songs with very special harmonies. We almost weren’t able to bring the songs on stage back then and it was an extremely tough fight for me.
CD Wishmaster (2000)
Nightwish set their course and avoid the weaknesses of the previous record.
Tarja:: Finally I had an imagination of what I was doing and where it would lead me to: to Europe and South-America. It was even fun but I was fed up with Power-Metal like ‘Crownless’. I told Tuomas that these stupid doublebass-drums have to vanish. So that was their end.”
DVD ‘From Wishes To Eternity’ (2001)
An early concert-DVD/video/CD in good quality.
Tarja: In Finland we already had a big fan base and we played a big show in Tampere. These professional recordings during the show were really exciting for us. Luckily I only had to correct a few things in the studio. Oh, now I told you about it, hehe.
EP ‘Over The Hills And Far Away’ (2001)
A mini-album with a beautiful cover-version and B-side-songs.
Tarja: To sing the ‘unknown’ title by Gary Moore meant an interesting experience. The rest didn’t turn out that well. My voice was reaching higher in the meantime and I asked Tuomas for composing not that deep anymore so I didn’t had to grumble. A nice interlude for our fans.
CD ‘Century Child’ (2002)
The breakthrough – even though it meant a shock for many fans: dark, dramatic and with changed vocal parts. Outstanding.
Tarja:: This album cleared all the problems of the table that stacked up for the band since ‘Wishmaster’. When I heard the songs for the first time I got a sad feeling but it was an important step. Unfortunately I got ill in the studio. My nose was running and only one week later I would have sang better. At first I didn’t like the new less operatic singing style. A dark chapter.
DVD ‘End Of Innocence’ (2003)
Mister Holopainen allows open and relentless insights into the inner life of his band
Tarja:On the DVD Tuomas mainly tells the story of Nightwish. A special bonus for our fans with less music.
CD ‘Once’ (2004)
Orchestral, full of variety and successful: ‘Once’ leaves for new shores without losing the identity of Nightwish. Another climax in the band’s carrier.
Tarja: Despite of all the experiences the big success surprised us. Still I wasn’t able to enjoy it – with the long tour in front of my eyes. On the other hand I’m finally happy with my vocal performance and so I can listen to the album contently. Our work in the studio was fun and the songs reflect that.
CD ‘Tales From The Elvenpath’ (2004)
The ‘unwanted child’. A farewell-compilation of their ex-label with four rare tracks.
Tarja: What a ‘nice’ surprise. Nightwish were not involved in the making of this sampler.
CD ‘Highest Hopes – The Best Of Nightwish’ (2005)
The second ‘Best of’ in a short period of time. This time it’s an official one with current hits and the re-recorded version of the classic ‘Sleeping Sun’.
Tarja: Another collection that our record company wanted to do. There are songs of all our records included but it remains only a selection. Listen to the real albums.
For real collectors you have to refer to the twelve singles (some of them in different editions), box-sets and vinyl-LPs as well. You can find a good overall view on: