lördag 8 mars 2014

Intervju med Tuomas Holopainen i Nightwish.

För tredje gången har jag intervjuat huvudmannen i finska Nightwish och troligtvis blev det här den längsta och intressantaste intervjun. Fokus låg på hans kommande soloalbum, "The life and times of Scrooge" som ser dagens ljus i april, men det blev även ett samtal om en del annat.
De återkommande problemen med bandets sångerskor, hans familj, fiaskot med filmen, kommande albumet med Nightwish och en hel del annat.

You´ve thought about this album for the last 14 years. What was it that finally made you release it? 

Tuomas: Approximately 14 years. Maybe three things. The first one being that the noise inside my head just got too loud and I needed to get it out finally. It´s been like an itch between my ears since 1999. The other thing was that I knew that with such a bizarre project, I better pay for it myself and I finally had some savings to pull it off. The third one was that I realized at the beginning of last year, that we were gonna have a break for about five months, so I thought that this was the time for it.

Since you´ve been thinking of it for such a long time, are the songs old ones or were they written just recently? 

Tuomas: I wrote all the songs in the last year and a half or so. Whenever I read a story I hear music, but the music I heard ten years ago, I couldn´t record. (laughs) It´s just a thing with me, that every time I read something highly inspirational or see a really nice picture or a nature photo, I start to hear music. It´s a weird thing.

So you didn´t write stuff down during these 14 years? 

Tuomas: No, I didn´t. The thing is that whenever I write something and it sounds good, I can´t wait to do something with it immediately. I´m too impatient.

What was it about this story that captivated you the first time around? What makes it different than any other cartoon? 

Tuomas: First of all, I just think it´s such a magnificent story. So well crafted, so beautiful, very multilayered and full of wit, full of historic facts and it´s funny as hell. All those things combined with a lot of childhood nostalgia. I grew up with Disney comics and Scrooge and Donald Duck were always my favorites and then in the beginning of the 90´s, came this guy named Don Rosa out of nowhere. I started reading his stories and I was completely blown away. I mean, Carl Barks is really good, but Don Rosa is in the next league, at least for me.

How does all this work? Rosa works for Disney, right? 

Tuomas: It´s a bit complicated because everybody knows that Rosa is not on very good terms with Disney and he actually told me in the very beginning of this, that maybe I wanted to do this album in a way that Disney doesn´t have any copyright over it? That was my intention from the beginning, that I wouldn´t use any copyright character names or chapter titles. You can by inspired by anything to make art in this world, as long as you don´t step on anybody´s toes. That´s what I did with this album and why it´s “Music inspired by the life and times of Scrooge” and not McDuck. Just to play it safe, even though I´ve heard that Disney is really pleased about the project. They gave it their blessings, but we don´t have any kind of contracts between us.

You never know about these big corporations? 

Tuomas: Exactly and that´s why I´m being super careful and taking Don´s advice. (laughs)

Whether this becomes a success or not, is this something you could see yourself do more of? 

Tuomas: Maybe I shouldn´t say this, but I really think this was a one timer. I don´t have any ambitions of going solo. The whole idea of a solo album feels a bit wrong and distant to me. People are already talking about this being the beginning of the end for Nightwish. When you think about the concept, it´s just impossible to do this with Nightwish. It wouldn´t be fair to the other band members first of all.

Did you ever bring up the idea with them? See if they wanted to work on it? 

Toumas: I never even considered it because I wanted the album to be pure orchestrated stuff, so there´s only so much to do for bass, drums and guitars. No point in it.

If it all takes off and does very well, would you still consider it a one off thing? 

Tuomas: Well, if anything sells or doesn´t sell, is no motivation at all. I did it just because I felt so much while reading the story and I wanted to give a little bit back to Don Rosa, for this wonderful story. If it sells a million copies, it really makes no difference. I´m really happy if it does, because that means people have found this wonderful story, but it´s gonna be all about Nightwish for the next few years.

Still, you´re a musician and you depend on selling albums and doing tours. You need the money to make your art. Isn´t it any motivation at all, at least to make ends meet? 

Tuomas: The way I see it, is that I have never thought about that and that has taken me this far. We have sold 8 million albums without ever thinking about that and I can honestly say that we don´t think about that stuff. We did the movie “Imaginaerum” which was a disastrously financial flop and nobody cares. We just wanted to do it and we knew it was gonna be a flop, but you just do things for the right reasons and it will pay off in the end.

Same thing happened with Metallica. I kinda figured you both would have a lot of fans checking it out, but apparently not?

Tuomas: Well, life would be a lot more boring if you always knew what would happen. I never expected a concept like Nightwish to get this far. On paper it shouldn´t work, but for some reason it does. It makes life that more interesting.

Still, having such a big project turn into a flop, does that in any way scare you of doing something similar in the future? 

Tuomas: I´m not that naïve that I would say that money doesn´t mean anything. Of course it does. We need the money to book a big orchestra in London to play on the albums and we have to pay the technicians and the management and the band and everything, but you just have to do what the moment tells you to do. At the moment we´re doing the next album, we have booked the studios and we already know what it´s gonna be like. There´s not gonna be a movie, but there will be a music video and that´s all we know at the moment.

Working on this solo album, was it in any way freer than working on a Nightwish album? 

Tuomas: It´s really hard to say. In one way it wasn´t, because I was bound to one theme and one story, but on the other hand it was basically all me so that had its advantages and disadvantages. Sometimes you want a second opinion and there were times where I kinda missed my band members a lot, but then again it´s all you and that also gives you a lot of freedom. I would say it was the best of both worlds.

Did you write the album in a chronological order? 

Tuomas: I knew that the songs would end up in a chronological order because it had to be. But I didn´t write them in that order. I remember doing the song “Glasgow 1877” first and that´s basically the opening track, but the second song I did was “The last sled” and that one is in the middle of the book.

Was it just these songs or were there others that could´ve been used on the album? 

Tuomas: It was just these songs and no bonus tracks or nothing. I think there was an additional riff in the song “Duel and cloudscapes” that I left out, but that was the only thing that didn´t make it onto the album. It almost always the same thing with Nightwish. I´m just really bad at doing extra stuff. You wouldn´t know how much trouble we´ve had with that. I understand the bonus track principle, but we almost never have those and then we have to come up with these absurd remixes and orchestral versions or whatever. It´s a fun challenge and I don´t mind it, but it always takes a lot of imagination.

Was there a thought of having people reading the book while listening to the album as a soundtrack? 

Tuomas: That would be the perfect combination, but I also think that the album will work even though you don´t know Don Rosa´s work or have the book in your hands. I have a whole bunch of movie soundtracks that I love to listen though even though I´ve never seen the films, so this is kinda a similar thing.

Do you have any favorite soundtrack composers? 

Tuomas: At the moment it´s James Newton Howard, who´s done movies like “The sixth sense”, “Blood diamond” and “Batman begins” together with Hans Zimmer, for example.

Could you see yourself do movie soundtracks in the future, like in the style of Trent Reznor in “The social network”? 

Tuomas: I would love to do that at some point, but at the moment I just enjoy band work. I really like spending time with the guys and the girl, touring the world and doing things together. Myabe in a few decades or so if something happens to Nightwish or if we decide to take a longer break. It is something that I would love to try to do, but I also have the impression that it´s not as easy as it sounds, because you really have to go by the terms of the film and the director. That´s what I´ve heard from composers, that you have to kill your darlings.

Have you played the album for the rest of the members? 

Tuomas: No, I haven´t actually. We just mastered it two weeks ago and I haven´t met them yet. They´ve heard the single of course, but not the rest of it. I´m gonna meet them all in a week and we´ll have a band meeting concerning the upcoming album and the sketches and everything, so maybe I´ll have a chance to play it for them then.

Is there any plan for a carton movie to go with the album? 

Tuomas: No. Again, it´s a matter of money and Disney rights. I haven´t even given it a thought.

Will there be any performances of the album in any way? 

Tuomas: I highly doubt it, I really do. But then again, nothing is impossible. Maybe after the Nightwish tour, I´ll do a few special shows in London with the orchestra and play the album form beginning to end. It would be lovely and I would love to do it, but again, it´s a matter of schedules and money and rehearsals and all that.

What´s it like working with an orchestra like that one? 

Tuomas: It´s beautiful! We have used the same people since the album “Once” (2004). Same orchestrator, same choir, same orchestra, same percussionists. I´ve actually seen a cello player headbang while we were recording one of our songs. It´s 52 people plus the three percussionists. It´s always a really smooth process. They are the best prima vista players in the world. It´s unbelievable! There are never any rehearsals and they never hear the songs beforehand. They just put on the headphones and then we go. An hour later we have a take.

What´s the plan for the next Nightwish album then? 

Tuomas: I have given myself some schedules and I should have all the songs ready by the beginning of May. I have nine songs now and Marko just visited me about a week ago and gave me a CD full of riffs. We´re almost there and we´re looking at 12 songs all together. We will all get together on July 1st in my hometown and we have rented this beautiful camp site for three months. It´s actually where we did the previous album, so it´s the same place for three months to rehearse, arrange, fish, water ski, record, get drunk and if everything goes as planned, the album should be ready by the turn of the year.

Does recording an album in the middle of summer, in any way affect the sound, compared to record it in winter time? 

Tuomas: It must have something to do with it. I don´t know about the recordings because you´re inside a room either way, but as a songwriter I can´t do anything in the summer or in the evenings. It´s funny, I almost always do all of my songwriting in the morning or in the afternoon, so when the clock strikes five or six, I´m done. (laughs) And the band is called Nightwish, go figure? (laughs) I´m a morning person and I love to get up early.

Those 12 songs you mentioned, how long does it usually take to turn them into finished songs? 

Tuomas: It´s really hard to measure it because the songs are in process in my head all the time. Some of these songs for the next album were already born two years ago. Let´s say it takes about half a year to a year of 24/7 songwriting for me personally to get everything done.

What does Floor Jansen bring to the album? 

Tuomas: She brings a lot of interpretations, some arrangements and positive energy for sure, but she´s not included in the songwriting process. She told me that the first time around, she has Revamp and Marko and I will do just fine for now.

What is it about Nightwish and female singers? Is it a chemistry thing? 

Tuomas: Yeah, something like that. I don´t wanna go too deep into it because it´s just a never ending story, a never ending carousel. Maybe there´s just a little bit of bad luck involved as well.

Could Nightwish ever have a male singer? 

Tuomas: No, I think it has to e a female singer. It´s such an essential part of the band and what the band is all about. It´s been there from the beginning and the moment I formed the band back in August 1996, I knew that it was gonna be a female singer. That´s never gonna change.

It´s almost 20 years ago. Been a fun ride, I guess? 

Tuomas: Yeah, lot´s of ups, lot´s of downs and everything in between. Sometimes it feels really weird, like “What the hell´s going on?”. I just finished reading Rex Brown´s (Pantera, Kill Devil Hill) book and other bands have similar problems. We´re minor league compared to some of them.

It really doesn´t come as a surprise when you´re in a band. You spend a lot of time together, compared to the time you spend with your co-workers on a regular job. 

Tuomas: Absolutely. One more thing, and Marko put it really well. We look like we´re a bunch of Neanderthals against ladies and I guess it´s what it must look like, that we´re a bunch of chauvinist pigs or whatever, but the fact is that the band is full of males who have had relationships with females – our girlfriends, wives, sisters, mothers - our whole lives. Full of love and no conflicts and that´s all I wanna say. (laughs)

12 years from now when you celebrate your 30th anniversary as a band, could you see all three singers on stage, doing something together? 

Tuomas: Why not. Holding grudges and living with hatred is never good for anybody, so I really hope it happens some day. These kinda things take time.

After the new Nightwish album is released, I guess there´s gonna be a full blown world tour? 

Tuomas: If everything goes as planned and it´s a big if, we start off in April 2015 and then we do the summer festivals and so on. I would say we´ll be touring till the end of 2016 for sure. About a year and a half.

You mentioned that you never thought Nightwish would get this far. What was it back then that made you think that? 

Tuomas: When we released the first album every single band member was studying something or working with something. I was supposed to become a biologist, Jukka a computer engineer etc. We were doing this gothic power metal with female operatic vocals and it had all the signs of disaster, but something happened and we realized that there was something going on. None of us really enjoyed studying what we were studying and I didn´t like the university life at all and after about four months, I moved back to my mom and my dad. I borrowed money from my dad to buy a keyboard, wrote the songs for “Oceanborn” (1998), released it and here we are, still on the same path.

Were you the rebellious one in the family? 

Tuomas: I´m eternally thankful for my parents, because it must´ve looked terrible. I was studying biology at the university and then I come back home and go “Can I live with you guys and also, can you lend me money so I can buy an instrument and play metal?”. They never said anything. They lent me the money and said “You´re more than welcome to stay.”. Talk about loving parents. But yeah, we´re quite a bunch. My sister is an urologist, my brother is a pathologist and I play metal. (laughs)

It´s gotta make for some interesting dinner conversations? 

Tuomas: Yeah, there are some interesting stories here and there. (laughs)

Did you ever pay back your parents? 

Tuomas: I did. It was 8800 Marks, about 1500 Euros.

Do they come to shows when you play in Finland? 

Tuomas: They do. They´re both retired and it´s really sweet that they´re taking full advantage of it. They´re travelling all the time and when we´re on tour, they schedule their trips so they get to see many of our shows. They´ve been to Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas and all over Europe and Finland. It´s really sweet. My mom is always in a Nightwish t-shirt. If she goes shopping for groceries or to a baseball game, she´s always in a Nightwish t-shirt. She´s 73 and I even saw her in a Children of Bodom “Follow the reaper” t-shirt and I said “Do you know what that is?”. (laughs) She´s great.


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