Reflections from a melancholic country

With their second longplayer "Oceanborn" of 1999 Nightwish already have been very successful, but with their masterpiece "Wishmaster", released in 2000, they crowned it all. In their home country they even got a platin record for it which now decorates the living room at home. To make their Finnish die-hard-fans happy and to thank them for the honouring the band published a live DVD of a gig performed last December - exclusively in the land of thousand lakes.

To satisfy the demand of the European neighbouring countries Nightwish decided to release six live songs outside of Finland. In a addition to that Tarja Turunen and her guys recorded a nice cover song and two completely new songs (10th Man Down, Away) and added a new version of "Astral Romance" from their debut "Angels Fall First". For the cover song they chose Gary Moores classic "Over The Hills And Far Away". Tarja, happy and cheerful as always, explains why. But first she informs me about her physical condition.

"I´ve caught a really bad cold, but fortunately it´s getting a little bit better every day now. Nevertheless I´ll go jogging after the interview, because I always feel better after it. At the moment we only have 5 °C here in Finland and this is not nearly as warm as in Germany right now."

Well, I´m also freezing even though we have 25 °C. But let´s talk about something more important. The new Nightwish album has become a topseller. Why did you do a cover from "Over The Hills And Far Away"?

"The most important reason was the fact that all band members really like this song and they wanted to play it themselves. The instrumental arrangements and the choirs fit perfectly to our music. "Over The Hills And Far Away" was a very modern song in the 80ies. But it´s sad that here there´re not many radio stations that have ever played that song in one of their shows and that´s why only very few people know it here in Finland. It was really fun to record the song in the studio because there also was a little bit of "country-feeling" in the air. The greatest fun, however, had Tuomas and the other guys while I was trying to strike the right notes since I had to sing on an unusual low level. Tuomas was sitting on a chair and was convulsed with laughter. I like "OTHAFA" very much because there´s a lot of emotion behind it. This makes the song so special and I think nobody can blame us of having mutilated it somehow (laughs). It´s just sad that only very few people of my age know the song. I was 14 years old when I heard it the last time."

So maybe there will be another "county song" on the next Nightwish album ?

"Yes, sure (laughs). No, concerning the new album, you better ask Tuomas, of course. At the moment he´s already writing new songs for it and he again has a lot of good ideas - that´s what I can reveal so far. But I doubt that there will be a county song on it. Since I began to sing with Nightwish, the most important thing for me has been learning something new every day concerning music and singing techniques. This is what I like in this band. Every year I have learned a new lesson and every day is a new experience for me as a singer in a great metal band."

How successful was the "Wishmaster" tour for you ?

"With "Oceanborn" we already got gold in Finland, which was the bee´s knee for us. Now we could even increase this success with "Wishmaster" for which we really got platin. And this means 40 000 sold records in Finland after all. I still can´t believe that really, because it´s so crazy what´s happening in the metal genre in this country right now. There´s a very good atmosphere among the bands. There so many different bands here in Finland and lots of them become very successful right now. For Nightwish it was happening way too fast during the last years. Recently we released this special live CD "From Wishes To Eternity" that only is available in Finland. With it we want to thank our fans here very much for their loyalty and the success we had because of it. We´ll never forget the days of our beginning, because one year ago Tuomas and I regarded it as totally impossible to release a live CD one day and now it became reality. This is so incredible and fantastic for us! We never really believed that we will be so successful one day and to be honest I don´t trust in the whole situation and the success. This has nothing to do with pessimism. I just know from many other bands how fast everything can be over and nobody cares two hoots about you any more.
The live CD was a strange experiment for me, because I think it´s very confusing if I hear myself sing on a live record. Somehow I don´t like that at all, because I have to think of the situation on stage then, and I really hated it. You do on stage knowing that everywhere are microphones that record every breath you take. Everyone is listening especially to your voice tonight and thus the strain is very big. Basically I really like being on stage and actually I even enjoy it. I take to it like a duck to the water, you know , because I´m able to interpret the music and the lyrics there. The difficulty in a live show, however, is to get a perfect combibation of singing and music. It has to fit perfectly and there´s the danger of making mistakes.
For me the last three years with Nightwish have been a great step forward. In the beginning I just started to sing straight in hoping that I somehow come to grips with the music and my voice. Today I finally have found the right way to do it. It was very hard and difficult, but in the end it was worth it. At first it is really very exhausting being on stage and thinking about how you have to breathe all the time. Singing really is hard worl."

Did you ever have a loss of voice?

"No, I´ve been untroubled by this so far. Fortunately we always had a day off when I was feeling bad. But it gets dangerous if I´m really sick, because then I´m not a person to be trifled with. I can really be a pain in the neck of the people around me then. Strange things are going on in my body and in my head which you actually cannot really explain then. I ´m getting incredibly nervous and this is just panic that I might loose my voice during the gig or that I wake up the next morning being mute."

Because of the fact that Nightwish already released the live part of "Over The Hills" in Finland, the rest of the material only will be released as a maxi CD there. On the cover of the CD you can see a very cool concert stage with a background of mountains corresponding to the title. Can you tell us where the oics for the covers were taken?

"As far as I know it was a stage somewhere in Brazil, but I´m not so sure about it. Our label cose the cover, by the way, after we discussed it. I saw the cover first only two days ago. I like it very much because it fits perfectly to the title of the album, doesn´t it."

Absolutely ! The covers of all your CDs and booklets implicate a connection to the sea. Is this intentional ?

"Of course, it is. The sea plays a very important role in our lives, you know. It is something special for all band members. The sea has so many different and also contrasting meanings. It can be a grave as well as a bed or a cradle for your thoughts. It is so infinite and vast, it is comforting, but during a storm it is menacing. Tuomas is a real ocean freak and I´m fascinated by this vastness anyway."

(Note: The Finnish Lakeland area has about 55 000 lakes and there´re about 30 000 islands off shore. So it´s no wonder that the Finns are so besotted with water: about one tenth of the country is covered with water.)
But just one live record itself does not make a summer in Finland and that´s why the same concert will also be

available as DVD. Will this be the next medium for Nightwish par excellence ?

"I don´t think that DVDs will replace CDs in the near future. We´re the first band in Finland to release a live DVD of a whole concert. This gig was a great experience for us and we´ve never been as nervous as before this concert. And it caught me especially. I was running through the backstage area shaking like a leaf. And I had typical women´s problems: Is the outfit ok ? Does the make-up look good and does it fit ? Such things you actually don´t pay so much attention before a normal gig. But here I had a strange feeling in the stomach region because I knew that there will be some cameras and microphones in front of the stage. So we all were quite nervous before the show, and after finishing it we agreed that really many things went wrong. But finally it wasn´t so bad. Even though there some obvious mistakes immortalized on the CD and DVD all that actually matters is that we did a live CD/DVD. We know very well that we could do a better job, and this is very important for us. But it was an interesting experience and as is generally know you live and learn. In addition to the show the DVD also includes some live recordings of other concerts of the "Wishmaster" tour. And then there´re also our video clips on it and some really terrible pictures from the beginnings of Nightwish (laughs). At that time I still had very long hair and when I cutthem short everybody was angry with me. And there´re also some interview with Tuomas and me on the DVD. So as you can see there´s everything on it what a Nightwish fan needs."

Tarja, what is your most personal and biggest "Nightwish"?

"Oh, I have so many wishes in my life ! The most important wish is to find a place in this world where I can be happy. I´m not very happy where I am now, that´s just how it is. Constantly I´m searching for specific things and as it seems right now a lot of things in my life will change during the next months. I´m studying classical singing and till I can finish my study it will still take some time."

Were is this place in the world that only can make you happy ?

"Well, this place exists, but I need a special surrounding. I really wish that something specific will happen within the next weeks, so I just have to wait for it."

How would you dedcribe the direction Nightwish is going in the future musically spoken ?

"This is hard to say, because at our concerts there´re so many different people - from the Gothic fan to people who love classical music. And that´s why the sound of our music varies. Nightwish has been created out of a wish. It was a dream of Tuomas and to realize it he chose me as the singer. Back then I was exactly the right singer for Nightwish in his opinion and I was and I still am very happy to have the opportunity to sing in this band. While my voice is covering the classical part, the music definitely is metal. Tuomas loves soundtracks, and I think that our music also could be used as a soundtrack. He´s very interested in that and he really would like to do something like that. He only needs a good film for it (laughts). I know him very well and I also know that he wouldn´t refuse if getting a good offer."

I´ve read that you especially love the spring time. Is this due to the spring fever ?

""No, not really. It´s just so beautiful when you can experience that everything is turning to green and the birds are singing again after a cold and dark winter. It´s always a light bulb moment for me. Especially in such a melancholic land as Finland you need such experiences, otherwise you would fall into a deep depression."

Apropos depressions: What is the relationship between Nightwish and the Death and Black Metal bands of the north ?

"Last week I visited a Dimmu Borgir concert and it was downright funny. As soon as I appeared there I was besieged by countless Death and Black metal fans and they asked me what I´m doing at a Dimmu Borgir concert. They thought that this was great. I don´t have a problem with these dark bands - quite the contrary, we´re all colleagues and we also have a lot in common."

Yes, they also use make-up, right ?

"Yes, right (laughs) ! No, these people oftentimes are much nicer than other combos who appear to be more harmless. "

I´ve read that the show in Sao Paulo last year was the greatest live show for Nightwish. Why just this gig ?

"The metal fans there are just incredible and totally crazy. One hour before our gig they already were singing loudly and they sang the whole concert along with us. This was incredible. The whole South America tour was the greatest and the most impressive thing we´ve experienced so far."

Will we hear you sing a Finnish folk song on the next album ?

"No, I don´t think so. Tuomas didn´t have a good song idea for this so far. But you never know ! It is very difficult to sing in Finnish, by the way, even though I´m from Finland. To sing in English is much more easier."

Did you never have the idea to use an orchestra to interpret your songs?

"Actually there´re a lot of requests from internationally renowned orchestras, but we´re not sure yet, how exactly we should do that. At the moment we´re still looking for sponsors for some concerts with an orchestra."
The next question was especially funny for Tarja, because she never had talked about it before (No, not what you´re thinking…)

How often have you sent your personal sound technician to hell so far?

"That´s a good question that I didn´t have to answer before (laughs). We´re very happy with the people we´re working with at the moment. Of course, we had to grow closer together first. At the beginning there was many a thunderstorm between me and my technician, but this is normal. Everybody wants to work as perfectly as possible. Our technicians are working very professionally and we can totally rely on them. That´s why nobody has to be afraid of us (laughs)."

But how do you handle the smoking within the band ? Are the others considerate of you and your voice ?

"Yes, that´s not a problem at all, because within the band only one person is smoking and he´s very considerate. So it´s not a problem for me. But it really sucks that we perform late at night as headliners and at that time the clubs are already filled with smoke and the air generally is too hot. This of course it not good for my voice, but you have to grit your teeth and go on with it. You cannot put a "smoking prohibited" sign there.