Love and death are clichés that only living can bring to life. During the last year Tarja Turunen has been living on the verge of emotions. The experiences can be heard on Nightwish's new album, the interpretation of which has boiling and healing powers.
Today Tarja Turunen got an amazing gift. A French fan had sent the singer a registered letter with a note. It read: "Your voice and Tuomas' music are pure gold. Don't ever stop." In that same letter packed in a small plastic bag was a gold coin from 1909.
Turunen gets a lot of gifts. At home in Kuusankoski there are piles of paintings, portraits, drawings, poems and flowers, flowers, flowers... The smell of roses follows Tarja where ever she goes.
- Our tour buses are filled roses. Sometimes I get to hear about them, when they start to smell and flies appear. The guys ask can't I take them away.
The roses are often accompanied by a greeting with the same content as the French coin: "Don't stop". Those words crystallize Tarja's whole career so far. She's always been the freak in metal music, the voice that would belong in a classical music concert hall.
No wonder that the fans and other Nightwish-members have been waiting with fear when Tarja announces she's leaving.
- It took me many years to convince the band I wasn't going anywhere, the singer grins right before the release of Once.
On the fifth Nightwish album Tarja Turunen sings with more soul than ever before. She suprises by combining pop-tunes and ethnic interpretation to classical singing.
- I've been training my voice for many years for it to fit Nightwish's music and it really hasn't been easy. I'm shockingly critical towards my own performance. When I heard Once for the first time I thought that now I can finally listen to one of our albums. Only now I'm 100 percent ready to sing for this band, to feel this music in my heart, Tarja rejoices.
The change has taken seven years. On the bands first album, Angels Fall First, Turunen was still a school girl from Kitee, who wanted to sing classical music. She knew nothing of metal. She still doesn't listen to heavy at home, but still a genuine crush for heavier music has been born.
- With metal I've found sides of me that I didn't know existed. I've thought of myself as quite sensitive person but sometimes I'm quite fierce too. Maybe my femininity stems from Nightwish. I've grown into a woman during Nightwish, the 26-year-old Turunen says.
Tarja Turunen's favourite rock-singers:
1. "Type O Negative's Peter Steele is amazing. Very hardcore."
2. "My brothers listened to Iron Maiden and AC/DC. Bruce Dickinson was the first heavy singer that impressed me."
3. "I've heard many wonderful female singers in Argentina. There are extremely many of them there, but I don't know any names."
No parties on the bus
A few years ago Nightwish's inner problems had became so inflamed that songwriter Tuomas Holopainen decided to call it quits. For two weeks Nightwish was practically dead. Then reason and feeling won. The band changed their bass player and was back better than before. Century Child, which was released 2002, was a dark album with lyrics about the real problems inside the band.
Also Tarja has been forced to face problems. The biggest problem being blending in with four metalheads.
- It took a while. It took the guys years to understand that I'm a woman and a classical singer whose voice is a delicate instrument. I don't like parties on the bus. I can't sleep and I should sing the next day. That just won't do.
At times Tarja sulked in the bus alone and wondered why no one was taking her into consideration. Years on the road have taught the musicians to talk to eachother about problems.
- We've learned to know eachother. Today the guys take really good care of me. And there's nothing diva about it. I have sense about the fact that this is my job. I still want to be doing it when I'm 60.
The determined attitude has spread to the rest of the band. Nightwish knows what it wants and the members know how to require what they want. For example the smoke on stage is special that doesn't strain Tarja's throath.
- Now we have it easy. When we go to a new place, everything is ready for us, Turunen smiles.
Nightwish in a Hollywood-movie
With a budget of 200 000 euros Once is the most expensive rock album ever made in Finland. To crown it all Nightwish has payed for everything from its own pocket. The risk has been huge but the future seems bright. The album's first single Nemo has climbed charts all over Europe.
- Of course succees feel good. But we have certain backgrounds and history. Certain supporters already exist. Now it's time to open new doors, Tarja says calmly.
Musically Nightwish isn't knocking on doors but rushing through walls. Once is the most gigantic block a Finnish artist has ever casted on the surface of its cold home planet. The megalomaniac visions of Tuomas Holopainen defy superlatives. The Londoner symphony orchestra known from the Lord of the Ring-soundtracks and a doom day choir inflate the emotional side of the album outside rock or any other scale.
The grandiloquent songs are like made to accompany an action scene. Tarja hints that the headbanging song of the album, Wish I Had an Angel, is going to be heard in a Hollywood-movie.
- It's a big movie that has its premiere later this year. That's all I can say at this point.
Homes in Kuusankoski and Buenos Aires
As the buzz around the new Nightwish album escalates the press has lifted the band in the competition for the lord of Finnish export rock. HIM, The Rasmus and Nightwish are standing out as the top three. There is no golden club however, since outside the profession the rockstars have very little in common. Tarja Turunen doesn't know Lauri Ylönen or Ville Valo.
- We don't do the same things. I've once talked to Lauri on some festival in middle-Finland. With Ville we haven't been face to face except saying hi in the studio's halls.
One reason is as well that Tarja doesn't spend time in Helsinki's rock clubs. The singer says she loves nature and peace. She recently bought a piece of a row house from Kuusankoski with her Argentinean husband Marcelo.
- It's a lovely, safe place within an hour and a half away from Helsinki. We have a lot of friends and familiar musicians near Kouvola. I've lived at Helsinki's Munkkiniemi earlier but I didn't get much out of it. I am at the end of the day a country girl.
Besides Kuusankoski Tarja spends her time at Marcelo's home town Buenos Aires.
- It's my other home. I alway wonder how people are so positive there, eventhough Argentina has had some serious financial problems lately. In Buenos Aires people actually dance tango on the streets. It's great to look at but I haven't been mixed with that yet. My husband doesn't dance tango.
Though having two home countries is definitely a fortune it does cause the couple some headache. After the wedding last summer Tarja and Marcelo have coped with long times in a long-distance relationship where time together is hard to find. A relief is coming soon when Marcelo heads on a world tour with Nightwish.
Skeletons in the closet
The Nightwish-musicians can be heard in suprising connections:
1. Erno Vuorinen plays on TV almost every night. The guitarist has done many 'heavy-tunes' for sport shows on MTV3 and Nelonen. For example Ruutulippu (a show about motorsports) and Hockey Night are made by the Nightwish-guitarist. Erno's latest work is the theme music for the Toni Wirtanen Undercover-show.
2. Tuomas Holopainen has been in the live assembly of Timo Rautiainen & Trio Niskalaukaus for a while. Holopainen also has a side project called For My Pain.
3. Marco Hietala, who has been addressed our contry's best heavy singer, is still a part of Tarot, the perpetual motion machine of härmäheavy. In the future Nightwish and Tarot might be seen on the same festivals. Hail, Marco!
4. Tarja Turunen has lied-concerts regularly. In the future she will visit her brother Timo "not the child star" Turunen's schlager album.
Tarja as therapy
Nightwish's music paints the lowest depths of hell in front of the listener, but Tarja's beautiful voice brings comfort to the situation. The feeling is liberating. Also a group of psychiatrists have figured this out. A Romanian doctor saw Nightwish's Sleeping Sun and watched it 48 hours in a row without eating, drinking or sleeping. After the experience the doctor started to use Tarja's voice in therapy and helping psychosis children.
- At the moment my voice is healing small children in Romania, Tarja spreads her arms in astonisment.
Since Tarja has met the doctor in person.
- He's a special person who sees energy fields and can tell if someone's lying. The first time we met the hairs on my body stood up. I could feel his gaze going straight through me.
Last Christmas the same medic visited Tarja's Christmas concert in Valkeala's church with his patients. The show was recorded without the singer knowing about it.
- Apparently the tape has been used for something but it's only positive if music helps, Tarja smiles.
Exactly the healing voice and cheerful country girl-attitude make Tarja a contradictory character - she sings in a band, whose style is based on bombast and gloominess. Tarja is everything Nightwish isn't.
- But the other elements are in me too. I love drama and the feeling when I'm going onstage. When I know no one can perform there songs better than me. I've always wanted to be on display. For me performing is a pervert pleasure. But when the spotlights go out the feeling goes away and I don't want to be the center of attention.
There's a deep abyss between the worlds, crossing it is at times emotionally hard.
- Sometimes I feel like a bunny jumping from a bag. I've suffered many times in a live-situation when the extremities of feeling change so rapidly. It's hard work to keep up. If your mind wanders your body does too. Then singing won't work.
Now Nightwish faces its career's longest tour which will last a year and a half. Tarja confesses that the future frightens. The singer has planned to start yoga practices to learn to keep her mind clear.
- But surely all band members have the same insecure feelings. The guys will take care of me.
The important points of the Once-album to a second:
1. Wish I Had An Angel (3:48 )
Tarja Turunen screams on an album for the first time. The voice was so loud that the singer moved four meters away from the microphone just in case.
2. Creek Mary's Blood (6:59)
Indian John Two-Hawks reads a lakotan poem which is translated in the booklet.
3. Dead Gardens (3:38 )
Jouni Hynynen from Kotiteollisuus visits the band for one scream.
4. The Siren (2:41)
Is it a bird? Is is a UFO? Is it Mari Kaasinen from Värttinä? Tarja suprises by singing with an ethnic style.
5. Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan (1:54)
Tuomas Holopainen considers this cello solo the album's high point.
6. Higher Than Hope (3:13)
The song is dedicated to a Nightwish fan who died due to cancer, he talks about his illness at this point.