Nightwish: Passion for the Opera
05-Jan-2013 Words: Brendan Crabb
Pix: Timo Isoaho
Latest release: Imaginaerum (Roadrunner/Warner)
Band site: www.nightwish.com
The second half of 2012 was marked by two major events in the Nightwish camp. First the Finnish symphonic metallers said bye, bye, beautiful to Swedish vocalist Anette Olzon, who had performed on 2007’s Dark Passion Play and latest studio effort Imaginaerum. In an official statement, the band claimed they had “decided to part company, in mutual understanding, for the good of all parties involved”. Dutch singer Floor Jansen (After Forever) is filling her spot in the ranks for the remainder of their current tour, although it remains undecided whether she will become their new permanent vocalist. Last November also featured the world premiere of Imaginaerum, a musical fantasy film developed with and featuring reinterpreted music from the band’s studio album of the same name. Nightwish also have featured roles in the film.
The day of the first show of the band’s current Australian tour in Brisbane, Loud spoke to bassist/vocalist Marco Hietala about what they learnt from the very public and bitter dismissal of original vocalist Tarja Turunen which they later applied to Olzon leaving, being a movie star, their next album and more.
Q: It’s been several years since you were last in Australia.
A: Yeah, I think that was in 2008, or was it 2009? It was 2008 I think. So it’s been a while. We’re here in Australia with Sabaton as well and this is the first time we actually get to meet the guys. I do know that there are some fans also in the band; I guess Tuomas (Holopainen, keyboards/main songwriter) listens to their stuff quite a lot. To be honest, I haven’t really heard that much (of them). There’s such an abundance of bands coming out these days that I am pretty much out of the picture myself I guess (laughs).
Q: (Laughs) This is your third tour here and you’ve had a different vocalist in tow on each occasion. How has Floor slotted into the band?
A: It’s been coming together really well. I mean, of course we knew her from like over ten years back when we were doing a tour together. In 2002, After Forever was warming up for Nightwish and we’ve known her since then. We knew that when we had kind of an emergency, she would be one vocalist who would be able to pull it off, and not only that, be able to pull it off fast. And she really did, so she’s got my respect as a professional and the way she handled the fast call of the whole thing. She really nailed it down really fast. So it’s all for the good.
Q: She’s out there performing material that was obviously written for other vocalists. Do you think she approaches the songs somewhat differently to her predecessors?
A: Well, of course you’ve got to have room enough for the vocalist to have some kind of an interpretation of her own in the songs. It’s just a matter of physics, that some things actually fit some people better. As a singer I know it myself, that it comes down to little things also, and you’ve gotta have room enough. But I think she’s been able to give quite a nice, personal perspective into the songs that she’s doing live now. I’m really pleased with the way she’s doing her thing.
Q: It seems like the band are taking baby steps with the whole process too; taking her on tour and seeing how she fits into the band, without the pressure of having to make a final decision yet.
A: Yeah, because this is the thing, that when you need to change vocalists in the middle of the tour, you actually give yourself the luxury of doing just the immediate plans. Like, ‘let’s do the shows and see how it goes’ and really get to know each other backstage, sitting around in the pubs and bars, buses and aeroplanes and all that. All this is in order to see how we fit together. So that is kind of a luxury that we’ve never had before, that we can do the shows and everything and then make our decision based on how well we really got along.
Q: Regarding Anette’s departure, I know Tuomas has been asked in other interviews about it and his response was that the statement the band issued at the time said all that they wanted to tell the public about the split. Did you learn something from the manner in which Tarja left that you applied to the situation with Anette?
A: Yeah, we learned that it’s probably better if you don’t go into too much personal detail, and just let it lie. We agreed that this time we would do it this way in order not to create too much media hassle; which was pretty overwhelming at the time with Tarja, when the split happened with Tarja. Like six months in Finland doing no interviews at all and still the press found something to write every day. So yeah, we wanted to keep it simple this time.
Q: Do you now have any regrets about writing a song like “Bye Bye Beautiful” (from Dark Passion Play, which clearly spelled out the remaining members’ feelings on Tarja’s departure) then?
A: Well no, it’s no regrets or anything like that. I mean, it was something that needed to be done at the time. But of course the skin probably is thicker these days, so no need to do anything like that again (laughs). And we also dropped the song out of the live set, because I kind of asked for us to not do it. It would be a nice song, it has a good punch and everything, but when you sing certain kinds of lyrics, they always also bring in your mind the things, the reasons why they were written in the first place. And I personally would like to forget it, so the guys respected that wish and we haven’t done it on this tour at all.
Q: I can completely understand that, but just for the record, I really like that track (laughs).
A: Yeah, because it feels like it was… It was kind of like trying to put your tongue on a sore tooth that isn’t there anymore. I mean, the time has moved on.
Q: Indeed. Looking forward, what are the band’s plans for 2013?
A: Well, actually we spent most of the time on the road last year and this is one of the last things that we’re going to be doing here in Australia. We got like three months off after this and we got plans to go to Japan, possibly in May, and then do the summer festival season. Then have a year of a break and at that time we’ll be swapping demos and seeing what kind of ideas we have for songs. By summer 2014, I guess we’ll get together to have our traditional summer camp rehearsing, barbecuing and whatever, and put the ideas together to have the next album. But that is the raw structure of the whole thing; there is nothing concrete yet.
Q: The last record was rather diverse. Are there any new elements you’d like to introduce into the Nightwish sound?
A: Yeah, the one thing that I really liked about Imaginaerum as an album is the whole versatility of the thing. A lot of different atmospheres and everything, and that came to be because we basically don’t plan that much of what we do. We have a bunch of songs and if we like them we’re going to be doing them. Also, people in the band are really open-minded about different things and all that. The honesty of not planning anything, not planning to write like a “Nemo Part II” is what keeps things interesting. That is how I imagine it’ll happen next time. So we’ll just go over what we like and what we don’t like that much, and then put together the things we most like. So far as a really great bonus it seems that every time we do this thing this way, people end up pretty much liking it also.
Q: It must be reassuring to have such a loyal fan base who will respond to your music so positively, regardless of which direction you decide to take it.
A: Yeah, that’s true. Of course, it’s not a safe business, a safe kind of job. People – the audience and the public – are fickle. So I just hope that we will eventually get a bunch of interesting ideas. So far it has been a really good bonus that whenever you do the album the way I described it, the people end up liking it. That’s just great. I think that the open-mindedness and the honesty of the way that we do it, is pretty much responsible for that. So let’s keep that; then we do not have to write the recipe any further from that.
Q: In the meantime, you’ve also had the premiere of the Imaginaerum film in your homeland. Is there a worldwide release in the pipeline?
A: I think it’s possible that it’s going to be shown at like the Berlin International Film Festival in February, which will pretty much also set the tone for how it’s going to be released and if it’s going to be having theatre distribution in other countries. Because there you have got the people that are the right connections, and if they get interested there’s going to be a lot of things happening. Otherwise, we already have plans for the finished DVD and Blu-ray release later on in 2013. So far we’ve only had like a theatre premiere in Finland. It didn’t get that good reviews (laughs), but I also know that in Finland it’s pretty much a fact that, it’s a small country, six million people, and if you present a big enough target a lot of people will want to throw darts. From the reviews that I read; for instance, from the biggest daily paper in Finland, it seemed from reading (between) the lines you will really read that these are these over-ambitious guys playing their fantasy games and want to be bigger than ever. But I’m kind of waiting for the movie to get outside of Finland and then when I read the reviews from the guys who don’t live next to us, then I’ll start to believe what they say.
Q: What’s it like seeing yourself on the big screen?
A: It’s kind of funny. We’ve already done a lot of things during the over a decade that I’ve been in the band and it all seems to fly by really fast. Unless you start to think about touring and albums and all these things, then you realise that you’ve actually been part of a group that has done a lot of things, and now there’s a whole movie as well. So yeah, I’m kind of pleased that we got into the financial situation in order to realise these kinds of things, really put them up there for people to see. I mean, we had some talks and meetings about this already when it was being planned and I was already back then, my position was that if we don’t do it, we’re going to be regretting it, so we better do it. So far, at least for myself, I’m pleased with the result. I think if you check out the movie with an open mind, it’s a chance to be a really good trip for you. It has the traditional movie things like acting, dialogue, a storyline and everything, but then you’ve also got this hybrid of having a lot of musical background in it. A lot of things are dependent on soundtrack and you get this kind of a hybrid, where you have a music video kind of vast scenery, but it leads on to another thing and another thing until you’ve got like a whole full-length movie there. That’s the way I see it myself.
Q: As a child, did you ever envision a career as a movie star?
A: Not really, and I possibly will not be with this face (laughs). There are other ugly guys in the (movie) business. If you look at Gérard Depardieu for instance, I don’t think he’s that hot for some ladies into movies anyway (laughs). So, who knows? But doing the movie did tell me one thing; that the movie business is even more chaotic, has even more people and has more little details to go over than the music business. And I already hate the music business, so… I love playing, but the business side is the necessary evil that I could live without.
Q: Well said - any famous last words?
A: I don’t know about famous, but as last words, it’s good to be back in Australia, haven’t been here for a while. The shows seem to be doing quite well in the pre-sales and everything, so it’s nice to see that we’ve still got the fan base and everything. Without that, there would be no sense in trying to keep the band alive, if there weren’t people that actually like you. So my respect to all those fans - greetings, hello and all those kinds of best things, cheers.
Nightwish is touring Australia this month:
4th January – The Arena, Brisbane QLD (+ Eyefear + Black Majesty)
11th January – Enmore Theatre, Sydney NSW (All Ages) (+ Sabaton + Darker Half)
14th January – Palace Theatre, Melbourne VIC (+ Sabaton + Eyefear)
18th January – HQ Complex, Adelaide SA (+ Eyefear + Black Majesty)
20th January – The Metropolis, Fremantle (+ Eyefear + Black Majesty)
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