Niclas Müller-Hansen of Sweden’s Metalshrine recently conducted an interview with keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen of Finnish/Swedish symphonic metallers NIGHTWISH. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Metalshrine: First off! If I’m not mistaken it’s been four years since your last album?
Tuomas Holopainen: Yeah, it was since September in 2007.
Metalshrine: Right, so it’s getting close to the style of DEF LEPPARD!
Tuomas Holopainen: (laughs) Even GUNS N’ ROSES! (laughs)
Metalshrine: What’s the reason for it taken so long? Was it that you just took a break or was it a difficult album to make?
Tuomas Holopainen: Basically for two reasons. The first one is that we had a two-year tour after “Dark Passion Play” and I’m just the kind of personality that cannot do two things at the same time. I guess I’m a typical male (laughs) when it comes to stuff like that. When I’m on tour, I can’t do songs. I can gather ideas here and there, but the actual songwriting doesn’t suit me if I have in the back of my mind that I have to go out on tour in a week, so we had to wait two years and then start the actual songwriting process and at the moment we have this movie project going on and it took a lot of effort to get the financing for that figured out, so this is basically why it took so long.
Metalshrine: I’ve only heard [the new NIGHTWISH album, “Imaginaerum”] just now, but for me it is a bit more theatrical sound wise and there’s songs that are quite diverse…
Tuomas Holopainen: I like to think of it as a free and twisted and warm album. There’s a lot of light at the end of the tunnel on this album, unlike “Dark Passion Play”. But it’s also really weird and twisted. This is because all of the songs were made for the movie and there’s a scene in the movie that takes place in a jazz club, like a ’30s jazz club and some weird stuff is going on there, so I just thought, “OK, this needs to be something like David Lynch and ‘Twin Peaks’! OK, we’ve never done a jazz song, so let’s try it!” (laughs) And there’s a scene in the movie which happens in a ghost circus where everything is really weird. It’s like a nightmare of this little kid, so… “A circus, OK!” (Tuomas starts singing something similar to circus music and claps on his knees. — Ed.) That’s why the songs sound what they sound like. They were made for certain scenes.
Metalshrine: That’s gotta be pretty cool, to see it come to life, so to speak? To have an idea and the see it come to life in front of you?
Tuomas Holopainen: It was one of the most emotional moments in my life, because, to be honest, getting the finance for this movie and getting it altogether, getting people convinced, was harder than anything I’ve ever done. Especially the finance. At one point everybody almost gave up. I had to go to the band and sell my house — almost. I wanted to do this movie and if it came to selling my house, I would do that. A lot of drama involved. Finally we got the financing and we got the production and we were there doing it and it happened. It was just, “Wow!” Then it turned into melancholy. We actually got this done and so, “Now what?”
Metalshrine: Where did the title come from and were there other titles floating around?
Tuomas Holopainen: No, it was “Imaginarium” from the very beginning. I wanted to make a thematic movie and album about the power of imagination and the roller coaster of life. All the wonders and all the good stuff and all the bad stuff and it just occurred to me. Originally I thought of something like “Imagine”, but “No, that’s the John Lennon song and that’s too obvious. Something to do with imagination… imaginarium, that’s it!” Then we had some troubles with that word from a couple of companies and they asked us if there was any way that we could change it, so we just changed a few letters and it was “Imaginaerum”. That’s the story.
Metalshrine: So you’ll be busy [touring] for another two years?
Tuomas Holopainen: One year! (laughs) We decided in the band, “Let’s cut it in half!”
Metalshrine: Yeah, I guess it takes its toll on you to be on the road for two years?
Tuomas Holopainen: It was a bit too much. It’s real easy to admit now that we were all a bit naïve when it came to touring last time, but we had a new singer and the pressure was huge, concerning her and then we decided to do this insane tour and then there was her divorce at the same time. There were a lot of different things within the band and the crew. People started dropping like flies at some point, so we decided it was worth the effort and we had a lot of wonderful times, but at some pint it just felt like it was not worth it. I have no idea how METALLICA did it after the “Black” album.
Read the entire interview from Metalshrine.