Nightwish - February 2005 (2)

tuomasInterview with

Tuomas Holopainen

“Push yourself to the maximum; don’t take the easy way out!”

Interviews are most of the time very personal, but I never had an interview like the one with Tuomas Holopainen of Nightwish. He’s the spirit behind this successful gothmetal band and a very sensitive person. The conversation in the cantine backstage in Belgium wasn’t very comfortable and I had problems with concentrating myself, but it went unexpectedly well. Both of us were very surprised with the result and I must say that, even though I can’t bring back the atmosphere, you can sense a small part by reading the interview and hopefully you discover what I mean.


Tour life

The band is just back from a tour period in England where all the shows were sold out. More than 2500 people came to see the shows. Tuomas tells that it was better than he expected:
“It was exceptionally good. The people over there are the most polite people in the whole world: everything with “Sir”. It was great, but still there were some things; like there wasn’t always a shower. All in all, I am very satisfied with this tour. It’s the longest tour so far but we still have some free moments.”

He really looks forward to go home:
“I live in the middle of nowhere, next to a lake. I still live with my parents. I just bought a house, but it needs  renovation, so maybe I can get it in three years time. I love to meet people around the world, but when I am back home I love to be on my own. I am really unsocial at home: just me, my parents and my three cats. The last thing I want is going to a bar. I usual go to my summer cabin which is on a small island in the middle of a lake. It beautiful, especially in the winter. I have to punch a whole in the ice to get water, there’s no electricity.”

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For many artists long tours have the risk that a lot of things become routine. The energy level is not always very high and the circumstances change a lot. Tuomas is very clear about that:
“It never gets that far that you’re not exited at all or that it feels boring. Every single time it feels good to see the people and play. Some days are better and others are worse. Of course you have really bad days in the tour; when you’re  really tired, pissed off or sick. Then you have to think that it is not always fun. Because it still is a job, work isn’t always fun. One of the hardest things in this occupation, because you can’t get away from your work.  I really like this pressure."

He needs time to prepare himself for the gig:
“I really need to be on my own the last ten minutes before the show. Please don’t talk to me then. I really want to go through the setlist by myself, to remind me what sound I gonna use on the keyboard. Everybody has to do their own part on the stage and do it perfectly. So when I screw it up then, I screw up the whole band. This is something I know, I can do it, so I get my vibes from it and gives all my energy.”

For the people who want to know what Tuomas is feeling when he’s playing the songs on stage, it’s difficult to describe:
“It depends on the mood, the audience and the song. Sometimes it’s just routine;  it’s in your memory and you don’t feel anything and just check out the people. Sometimes you are really pissed and want to go off the stage. That’s really rare, and usually you get a really good vibe when the audience is singing along and enjoying it. The ultimate experience is that you really get inside the song. You understand for what purpose this song was made. I feel the story, sometimes it happens... that’s the feeling I am always searching. When your mom or dad is there it gives you an extra kick.”

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Character

Unexpected he starts to talk about the difficulties he has with being an artist, who gets more and more fans. Many people think that the person on stage is totally different from the person in normal life, but it isn’t. Tuomas is very serious when he tells me that he finds it difficult to be open to other people:
“I have always been a “not so social” kind of person. It’s just in my character that I don’t really enjoy talking to people that much. All those fans…I don’t mean that, but it really takes me time to get to know people, but when I go on stage it feels like my territory: this is something I have created and it’s all my creation. So now I can let it all out. It feels like a deeper person is coming out. I like being with peopl, but I need my first share of peace and solitude as well. It’s hard sometimes to be with the whole band on tour, but now we have our own hotel rooms. Sounds like a small thing but it’s really important. After the show you have 12 hours for yourself. That’s one of the reasons that this tour is going so well.”

The other side is that the music is something they have in common, but sometimes it can go wrong. Then is the pressure too high:
“I just had it once on this tour, in November, when I was a total wrack.  I didn’t even have the energy to act on stage. Sometimes you want to do that because of the fans. That was the first time in ages that I  was just standing still the whole set. You shouldn’t do that, because the people paid money to see you, not only to play but also to perform. Most of the time it comes natural, but this time it didn’t and I still feel sorry for that.”

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The band is very critical towards each other, because after that gig the other members warned Tuomas to never do it again. Because they’ve known each other for such a long time they don’t have criticism that often:
“We grown up so close together that everybody knows what each member can do. Now we get along better then ever.”


Lyrics

Tuomas is the one who writes all the lyrics for Nightwish. He’s the one who creates the other world. It’s difficult to describe that world, but it’s very strong connected to the nature. When I ask him if this world has the same atmosphere as there is on the island, he has to think for a moment before he replies:
”The music that I do would be totally different if  I would be living somewhere else, because the environment like the woods and the lake, have such an impact on me. I heard so many musicians say: don’t judge me by my music: I just play music. I can only say that you can judge me totally by my music; that’s all I am. Without those songs I would have been in the ropes already. It’s just a way to get to know myself and to get those feelings out. You also get some satisfaction from the idea that other people read those lyrics and maybe feel the same. You want to share your pain…”


The record “Century Child” (2002) was a very dark record in comparison to the last one “Once” (2004). The new record is not that melancholic and dramatic. Tuomas is very open about the fact he had a difficult period, but now he’s very satisfied with how things go at the moment:
“There’s more light, because I was screwed when I was doing that album, but doing ‘Century Child’ was very bad. Now, when I look back, I can understand everything, but at that moment I didn’t. It’s learning; growing up in a way. I will always be a child, but still...”

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When you look at the lyrics of Nightwish most of the time they are very cryptic and you get the idea that you’ll never completely know what Tuomas wants to say. He totally understand that feeling:
“I was just reading some lyrics of “Oceanborn” and “ Wishmaster” some weeks ago and I couldn’t even remember myself. What does it mean? That was so weird, but it always has a meaning at the point when I am doing it. I also want to keep a challenge to the people. It’s not that obvious.”

For many people the new songs have to grown on you more than the old ones from the previous records. Tuomas kind of feels the same:
“You have to give it time. There’s a special touch in those older songs. I definitely agree, but you grow as a person, so your songs will change. They are full (laughs) but it’s a challenge and you have to listen to it more. I know it’s hard, but the point is that I understand your vision. I don’t want to minimize now, maybe in the future. It’s a feeling that burns inside and wants to get all out and I do it. I am an ambitious person. I think I wanted to see how big you can get in some way. I can’t stop time. That’s the fight I have with the producer, because I want more and he want everything out.”


Success

With the last record the audience seems to be grown more and more. Almost all the shows on this tour are sold out and they have a huge success at the moment. Still Tuomas is very down to earth. He’s a bit sceptical about all those fans:
“I don’t know if they understand me. I don’t think in that way.” When I explain that it must be weird for a composer that all those people come to your music. Then he starts to smile: “Ow yeah ok, definitely. You sit in your own room and write these lyrics about your own life and then it goes on sale and people sing along the songs. It’s a bit weird, but also very good, flattering also, in a way. It’s a bit of a contrast and I even don’t know everything myself…You make me think too, that’s a good thing.”

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When Marco (bass player and vocals) joined, the band seemed to be more connected and everything seems to fit:
“It was just instant chemistry. Everything worked that way. Tarja (front woman and vocals- SD) was also behind the decision and it was never a problem. I don’t want to emphasize Marco’s impact too much, because it was not only him who saved the band from falling apart. He was a very big part and he really brought a lot of serenity to the band. He’s a very calm guy and almost never gets angry. Whenever we have fights, everybody starts yelling and he is the one who says: come on let’s talk about it.

One of the things is that he’s a bit older and he has seen so much. He really had a hard life, also in the music. He was trembling in the mud, but now he finally gets what he deserves I think.  In many ways I found out that he’s like me. We have this brother mind, even though he’s more social, but we think the same way. I don’t have to explain anything: he’s the same songwriter; we have the same interests in books and movies. There’s so much more what I don’t have with for example Empu (leadguitar) or Tarja. I love all of them, but there’s not the same connection of the mind. It definitely gives me the motivation to go on.”


Critical

Tuomas is very critical and doesn’t take the easy way out:
“When I doing a song I am mostly concerned: am I gonna like the song in the end? But then, what comes next is: that the other guys and Tarja must like it. That’s the biggest concern and all the media and the fans come after that. The thing is when I am doing the song, honestly, I think about if it’s too easy for Marco, to hard for Tarja or does Empu need a longer guitar solo? I shouldn’t be thinking that, but I want to make stuff they enjoy to play too. I feel myself responsible for that. The most simple thing, I told this many times to the band and the crew, is: no matter what, I want that everybody has a good time.

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It’s so simple as that: have fun! I wish that I could make people happy with their lives and what they are doing. I am responsible for them, because they tour with us. I spend half of my life with them, so it’s my second family. That’s why I get really upset when someone is not happy. At that point I get the responsible feeling that I should do something, because I have the final word to say about all  matters which happen in the band. I hate that part, because I have to kick people out of the crew or something. I am naïve because I am the leader. I have this naïve thing in life. I push that away.”

Tuomas sounds sad when he continues. Sometimes he looks up to the back of the cantina to think about a question, but most of the time he sits there; relaxing, staring at the table.
I think it’s going very well with everybody. The energy is back again. It was gone when we where playing in Helsinki and Germany at the end of the year (2004). We were so tired, but now it goes better. At the moment I am totally focussed on this tour, but I have some ideas for new songs.

I have a couple of new songs written in my notebook, but nothing concrete. Some lines and song titles. I know for sure how the next album will be called, but I can’t say that. I know the whole theme already. It’s just coming out and then you work with it a lot. When you have a nice sound you work with it for a week and finally there is the perfect thing. Then you start with the guitars, then the bass and then you have the whole picture. It’s really hard to explain: it just happens. You have to push yourself to the maximum. Don’t take the easy way out!”

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Again Tuomas is silent for a second, his throat is hurting, but he goes on:
“I never did… Sometimes the writer block can be a very bad experience. You just get over it, just do something violent. During the sessions for the last album I broke my keyboard. I was so sweaty and tired, nothing came out, so I broke it.”


Goal

At the moment the band works on a very high level: the last album was received very well, the tour is going fine and the shows are selling very well. Unexpected Tuomas still has a simple goal in the future:
“The next goal is making a better album. I’ve always been able to talk to myself through the song writing and stay true to myself and I just made sure that this line wouldn’t be broken in two years. I’m feeling very confident at the moment, but everything can happen. Of course I dream all the time about concrete and special things: that keeps me going and let me dothe music. I like to see the world, to travel, maybe one day I get the house finished. Maybe some day I have someone to spend my life with, but it’s not the time for that now. I don’t know how the other guys do it. I really respect that. Sometimes it’s overwhelming what’s happening now.”

The band is still very realistic and Tuomas is very down to earth when he talks about the success:
“I think I understand it better when all this is finished, but now it’s just being in a rollercoaster and enjoying the ride. It’s totally amazing what’s happening now, especially because we never planned it: it just happened. Just try to have the same ideology that you had 8 years ago when we started the band. I think we managed to hang on to it very well. As persons we’ve not really changed that much. We still do the same stuff we did 8 years ago, that’s the basic idea and that hasn’t changed."

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Devotion

Tuomas Holopainen is the one who brought Nightwish this far and he always had a big devotion to it. He sounds surprised when I ask him about this, but after some seconds he smiles:
“Devotion is a good word. I have doubts sometimes. A prominent thing is that I never can draw a line between my personal life and my work. It’s all one big thing, the whole Nightwish and my life: it’s everything I am, I do, everything I think. I don’t care, I don’t complain, it’s a way of life. When it goes wrong, at least you can say that you tried your best. That’s the most important thing.

It’s a good rule in life: nobody should expect more than try to do your best. It works for everything. It’s a hard world and you don’t always know that you have done your best. Maybe I should have done more… Wow it’s something unique that I talked so much. Most of the time it doesn’t come out and I don’t know what happened now. "

Then Tuomas has to go, because he needs a cup of tea and prepare himself to go to on stage for the gig at Wieze (Belgium).
 
First of all I want to thank Tuomas for the kindness and all the time. Also the rest of the band who was very kind for me over the past few months and the crew: Toni and Ewo who always helped me out. Also thanks to Markus Wosgien from Nuclear Blast, who helped me a lot - SD.

(In the interview section there is an interview with Marco Hietala en Tarja Turunen also.)

{jos_sb_discuss:21}
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