Radio Metal recently conducted an interview with keyboardist/mainman Tuomas Holopainen of Finnish/Swedish symphonic metallers NIGHTWISH. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Radio Metal: What is your assessment of your first tour with Anette [Olzon] as a singer? What reactions did you witness and what are your thoughts on them?
Tuomas: I would give the whole tour an A-. We really didn’t know what to expect, how the fans would react. All the signs of a major catastrophe were there at some point, because you just don’t know how people will react. But we had a lot of confidence in her, and we had a really strong album with “Dark Passion Play”. So we had the confidence, but we still didn’t know. The tour was really long, really hard, and at some point people from the band and the crew started dropping like flies, but we still managed to do it and feel really happy and proud about it.
Radio Metal: You wrote “Dark Passion Play” without knowing exactly what voice was going to bring it to life. For “Imaginaerum”, on the other hand, you knew exactly what Anette was capable of. Do you think the album is better for this reason?
Tuomas: I think one of the most obvious things you hear when you listen to “Imaginaerum” is the vocal work. It’s on a different level. You can really hear her confidence. On “Dark Passion Play”, she was still a bit uncertain. She told me that all the while she was afraid she would be kicked out of the band if she sang poorly. But she sounds really good and more versatile on this album. There’s also the fact that I was able to write all the songs for her exact vocal range. I knew her strengths, I knew her weaknesses, so it was a bit easier this time.
Radio Metal: The album sounds much more like a soundtrack than a collection of songs. Ultimately, that’s what you always wanted to do in your career, right?
Tuomas: Soundtracks have been a driving force in my songwriting for years and years. I guess on “Imaginaerum”, it’s taken to the maximum. The most concrete reason for that is that we’re actually doing a movie. All the songs on the album are made for certain scenes in the movie. Before the first note was written, I had the idea of what the story was about: the jazz club, the ghosts, the Arabian death dance… All of those songs were made for these stories. That’s the major reason why the album ended up being so soundtrackish.
Radio Metal: Why did you not do it earlier? Did you really need a movie to write movie music, if you see what I mean? Since it’s something you love so much, did you really need the images to go along with the music?
Tuomas: It’s always been about creating the kind of music that the listener would see as much as hear. But before this album, I guess we were always happy with the audio aid. We didn’t need the visuals. But after “Dark Passion Play”, I just figured that this was so insanely big and diverse that we could no longer take it to the next level with just the music. That’s when I felt it strongly for the first time. Even after the “Once” album, I thought we could make it even bigger and better, but not after “Dark Passion Play”. Then it occurred to me, if we can’t do it with the music alone, let’s add another dimension, a visual dimension, to it.
Radio Metal: This new album is a firework of different influences and styles, and both Marco and Anette do things that we’ve never heard from them before. Like you said, there’s this very jazzy song, with a “Twin Peaks” vibe to it. Was this melting pot of different things sparked by this huge project? Was the movie the thing you really needed to start afresh and renew yourself musically?
Tuomas: I’m not sure we needed the movie. It was just a whole new idea to create an album. (long pause)
Radio Metal: In other words, do you think you would have written a song like this very jazzy track without the movie, for example?
Tuomas: To be honest, I don’t know. That particular song was based on a certain scene that had to be included in the movie. That’s why it’s there; once you see the movie, you’ll understand why this “Twin Peaks” song is in there. But, to be honest, I don’t know how to answer the question… But you were also asking about the versatility and the different elements. It’s more varied than ever before. I think it has to do with the fact that this is a thematic album, about the celebration of life, the privilege of life and all the wonderful, beautiful things we have in here. It’s about the versatility of everything we experience. That’s why we wanted to include all the elements that we could possibly put into 75 minutes of music, from the dark, jazzy stuff to the childhood nightmares of “Scare Tale”, to the Arabic influences, to the Celtic, having-fun kind of vibe, to the funeral procession of “Rest Calm”. It’s all the aspects of life.
Read the entire interview from Radio Metal.