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Nightwish - Dreams of Disney - June 2001


The name NIGHTWISH should have reached even the remotest Metal-fan's ears by now, being one of the most successful bands of the genres at the moment, the current album "Wishmaster" reaching platinum-status in Finland, a great achievement for a Metal-band. I've been able to get a hold of mastermind Tuomas Holopainen schnappen, to turn him upside down and some pretty unexpected things tumbled from his mind...

Compared to "Oceanborn", the music is less, well, "wild", a bit more mature. Was this a conscious step or was it a natural progression for you?

I think that it pretty much came naturally, we just wanted to do a natural sequel to "Oceanborn", because I think that with this record we had found the style that we want to do. We wanted to improve everything, for I think that "Oceanborn" is a great record, but it lacks the good arrangements and at some points Tarja sings too high and things like that. So we only wanted to make things a little better and in my opinion that is just what happened.

You could have easily dwelled in the success of "Oceanborn" by simply doing "Oceanborn 2". Did you get any negative feedback about the refinement of your style on "Wishmaster"?

No, actually not like that. I have been very surprise and the biggest complaint we received was that we had not changed our style enough. They more or less said that we HAVE done another "Oceanborn", but I still think that it is pretty much different.

You've had quite a bit of criticism for "Wanderlust" that it sounded too close to "Oceanborn"...

Yeah, like "Gethsemane" actually...

...but in the same breath they praised "Crownless"...

Yes, some people just want to find something they could criticise. I guess that's OK.

Tuomas, you do almost all the music, how do you compose a song? Is there any kind of "formula" for it?

Well, it differs. You know, I always have the idea of what a song should be about. I just cannot start playing without having any ideas yet. That's the basic thing, I need a vision, like with "Kinslayer" about the Colorado-massacre, then I try to think, how I could transfer that into the music. It sounds a bit corny, but that's how it usually goes.
The first thing I create in my mind are the vocal-lines. I hear Tarja's voice in my head, then I make the chords and the basic structure of the song. Then I take the song to the rehearsal-room and the whole band does the arrangement, which takes a long time, because we want to make it, well, perfect. Only after that I start to write the lyrics.

Do you have any problems writing the vocal-lines for Tarja?

It's no problem at all, I consider her just like a normal, very good Heavy Metal-singer that just happens to be a woman. I don't see any difference in that. But what was funny was that "Wishmaster" has been the first record, where during the making of the songs I thought about her range of voice. At the "Oceanborn"-album I didn't think about that at all and just went to tell her to sing like this and she just went "Oh, I can't sing that, make it an octave lower." It was stupid of me, but now I know her range, so I can make the songs according to that (laughs).

NIGHTWISH had started out as an acoustic Folk-project and quite a few melodies still are influenced by it. Does this come naturally or do you try to include these kinds of melodies?

That again is something I do never think about, because I don't listen to Folk-music. And neither do I listen to classical music, people tend to think that I'm some kind of classical freak or something. That all just comes absolutely naturally and I do it to make the song sound good.

So what do you usually listen to?

I listen to film-music, movie-soundtracks a lot, I love these bombastic compositions of writers like Hans Zimmer, James Warner, Danny Elfman... But apart from that I listen to all kinds of Metal, Black, Gothic, Power, anything.

So you do not limit yourself in your taste...

No, I don't think so.

Where do you draw your inspiration from, musically and lyrically? Are there any bands, artists or events that influence you?

Well... (thinks) My own personal life and my own experiences and feelings are the source of most of the songs. I am a very selfish guy, I write all the songs basically to ease up my own feelings, to realise my own ideas and visions. I do not want our music to be considered as the saviour of the world or something like that. To tell people to stop pollution or to stop killing each other, that's nothing for us.

And how DOES it come that you write almost all the music? Do the others have no ideas of their own?

No, they can give me as much input as they want to, but apparently they are satisfied with what I come with, with what I do. But NIGHTWISH had been my idea, I had founded it, so I'd like to keep it in my hands, too, the songs, the concept, the music.

You had not been satisfied with the cover of the European version of "Oceanborn", so are you satisfied with the cover of "Wishmaster"?

Yes, I am very satisfied. We had been very satisfied with the original cover of "Oceanborn", but the German record-company wasn't and decided to have it repainted. I do not like that one at all, it's stupid, it's more like "Swampborn" or "Corpse In The Swamp" or something like that.
For "Wishmaster" both the cover and the inlay are very good.

Is there again any connection to the title?

Yes, actually it is a weird thing, because it more reflects the song "Dead Boy's Poem", even though the album is called "Wishmaster".

Had you been surprised by the success that "Oceanborn" enjoyed?

Veeeery surprised. The whole thing just went uphill from the start and it is so amazing, I still cannot believe it. Because I had thought that this kind of music was very marginal, even in the Metal-market, but "Wishmaster" even went platinum in Finland, so I cannot really cope with it yet. What the hell... But I don't mind (laughs). People seem to be more open-minded than I thought, I should stop to underestimate people (laughs).

And how had been the reactions from outside of Finland?

Very good as well. Germany is very good for us, all of Europe went well, France was amazing, we had been there for the first time on the "Wishmaster"-tour and the reaction was, pf, almost South America-like! So, looks very good. The only mystery is Japan, because almost all Finnish Metal-bands do extremely well over there, but despite the huge promotion we haven't heard anything yet...

Did you get any response from North America, too?

It's a very hard market and we only got a license-deal for all three albums not soo long ago, but our shows in Canada were all sold out, so it seems that people like us over there as well (laughs).

Speaking of license-deals, has "Angels Fall First" ever been officially released outside of Finland?

Yes, since Spinefarm has some distribution-deals outside of Finland, too, so it has, but the success only came afterwards, so...

What has changed for you since the success of "Oceanborn"? In private as well as a musician?

Oh, I had to quit my studies and now am a full-time musician and that's just fine with me. It was a very good excuse to quit studies (laughs). I had not time for anything else anymore. That's the way it has changed my private life.
As a musician I hope to keep evolving all the time, especially as a song-writer. That's what I hope most for myself. I don't think that I'm so much of a musician or a performer, I'm rather a song-maker, that's the thing that I love and that I want to be.

On tour, how do you manage to keep Tarja's voice in perfect condition? I could imagine that the smoke and that all in the clubs is not the best for her... What do you do to preserve her voice?

It's always something very subtle. Of course we don't smoke at all in the bus or backstage, so it's only on stage, where the smoke is. We just have to make compromises, like more days off, so she can recover, three gigs, then one day off and that's the absolute maximum. Even that is almost too much for her voice. It's no problem for us, but there is a very delicate line for her voice...
Her voice is very sensitive and she says herself that the style that she sings in the clubs is more or less destroying her voice, much more straining than singing in the classical way.

So should Tarja one day get an engagement as an opera-singer and would decide to leave NIGHTWISH, would it be the end for the band or would you look for a replacement?

I personally think that should Tarja leave the band, it would be the end of a whole story, but I don't think that it would be that big of a problem. She studies in her fifth year at Sibelius Academy, so one day she WILL be an opera-singer, but she's told us that she loves what she does with us and that she will keep on doing it as long as possible, too.
We only think about half a year ahead and that's it.

Before NIGHTWISH you had also been very active, NATTVINDENS GRÅT, FURTHEST SHORE and DARKWOODS MY BETROTHED...

Those were it, but I also played in a Jazz-band and made two records with them...

Are you still active in any of these bands or are they completely in the past for you?

I still play as a session-musician in DARKWOODS MY BETROTHED, that's all, NATTVINDENS GRÅT does not exist anymore and FURTHEST SHORE only had been a project of a friend of mine.

Something that caught my attention with all of those bands and also NIGHTWISH, everywhere there are only the first names stated. Is there any particular reason for this?

I never thought about that... "Wishmaster" is the first one that has the family names in it, but that's really something I haven't realised before, hm, strange thing...

What is your personal opinion about the internet? Do you see it as a chance for promotion or as a threat to the scene as we know it?

It's a very hard question, because we have thought about that a lot, because we had a big pirate-problem with "Wishmaster". I think that the internet is very good in some parts, like promotion, the homepage we have is very good and you can make samples of new songs, but there is always the big negative side, like the whole "Wishmaster"-album had been available on eleven different addresses in Finland before its release. That really sucks!

So to end this interview, just as always, what is your favourite question about NIGHTWISH you haven't been asked yet, but would finally like to answer?

Never been asked... Phew...

Or are there any questions you've never been asked before?

S**t, there are so many of them...(laughs). Oh boy... No one ever seems to ask be about Disney, even though we have a song completely about Disney on the "Wishmaster"-album. I wonder why reporters never ask anything about Disney... It's one of my favourite things in the whole world!

Is it some kind of tribute to Disney?

Yes, "FantasMic" is, it doesn't make any sense, it's just parts of the movies and comics and stuff like this, I just wanted to make it a tribute to Disney. That's a big part of my life.

So could it just be that nobody realises that it is about Disney?

Might be so, but I've always been very open about it in all my interviews, normally you should just read the lyrics and you should see...

But that often is a problem with promotion-CDs...

Yes, they often have no lyrics, I hate that! I also do not like that people do their reviews just because of the promos, only with the music, with no chance to read the lyrics as well.

Discography:

1997: Angels Fall First (CD, Spinefarm)
1998: Oceanborn (CD, Spinefarm)
1999: Oceanborn (CD, Drakkar)
2000: Wishmaster (CD, Drakkar)

Alexander Melzer



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