Interview & photo: Ivana Sataić

Nightwish is a band that truly needs no special introduction as this symphonic metal fairy-tale which started its journey in 1996 from town Kitee inFinlandduring its first decade and a half wrote millions lines of fans emotions and memories all over the world. Nightwish leaded by the perfect mind of Tuomas Holopainen has released the eight studio album ”Imaginaerum’ last year and soon the light of the day will on the premiere inFinlandsee the same titled movie. Towards the end of the first leg of the tour, only few hours before the sold-out concert in Viennese Gasometer for Venia-Mag I had extraordinary pleasure to talk to the first man of the band, Tuomas Holopainen, who in short biography on bands official web says: ” Nightwish is my soul image, my retreat, trash can & life’s work all rolled in one.” How honest are these words you can witness also in the lines below.

VENIA: The first leg of ”Imaginaerum” tour will end in a week. There have been so many words said about the album so I won’t ask you about it…
TUOMAS: Yeah, it’s pretty much out of everything already.
VENIA: But at the beginning, can you tell something about the same titled movie as it is now already pretty close to its premiere?
TUOMAS: Well, just about two minutes ago in the backstage we were writing e-mails to the producers in Canada as there are still hustle going on but a few days ago we released the first teaser for it, it can be find in Youtube. It doesn’t really give you a clue what the movie is going to be about but just a little teaser as it is a teaser. We’re hoping to be in schedule for August premiere but we have now idea when there’s gonna be theatrical release outside of Finland and Canada because all the distributors want to see the trailer first and we all got it done now so in a few weeks we will know more. 

VENIA: OK, and what is it about? What can you tell about the story in the movie?
TUOMAS: Mmmm… it’s about the old man who used to be composer and he’s just living in this imaginary world and going back through his life, through his memories and imagination. And there is this father-daughter conflict going on in the same time. That’s the basic scenario. And the main idea behind the movie is to show the power of the imagination, memories and love as it should be, that’s the key mind. 

VENIA: What exactly is the connection between the album and the movie? It’s the same title…
TUOMAS: It’s the same title and they deal with the same thematic but we wanted to make it really clear from the beginning that the album would work out as its own individual so the songs on the album are not about the plot of the movie at all. They’re just dealing with the same thematic – imagination, memories and love. That’s it. But, you will hear all the songs from the album in the movie in the same order as they’re on the album just in total different versions.
VENIA: Hm, this is interesting.
TUOMAS: Yeah, we have been working with a score for about the year now so there are no any new music composed but everything is re-arranged.

 VENIA: And what is your favorite part of the album?
TUOMAS: The album?
VENIA: Yes. I know it’s hard for you to tell but…
TUOMAS: *thinking* Huh…. If I have to mention one it would be the last chapter of the song called “Song Of Myself” with the long poem in the end.
TUOMAS: It turned out to be exactly the way I wanted to be the end. It’s such a weird idea and people don’t really get it and that’s really fascinating. But it’s soul full of emotion and love and, you know, everything that “Imaginaerum” is about really captured in that six and a half minutes. 

VENIA: Now when you mentioned that people sometimes don’t get it, as an author/composer, what do you feel, are you understood or misunderstood?
TUOMAS: *laugh* I don’t feel misunderstood, not at all. That’s the beauty of poetry and music because you can always interpreter them in your own way, that’s the whole idea.
VENIA: I agree, but I asked you this because there are some authors like you who said like: you know there are thousands of people screaming but maybe just a few of them really understand.
TUOMAS: Well, they don’t really understand but think and like. That’s a different thing. I mean… I heard some really interesting interpretations of our songs and lyrics which is something totally different that I had in mind. But it’s equal in write. 

VENIA: Ok. If we talk of Nightwish over the years, what do you think how has the band’s sound evolved let’s say from your first album to this latest one?
TUOMAS: I’m really proud of all the albums and all the songs that we have done but you can clearly hear the evolution and it’s…. I don’t think we’ve ever done the same album twice so there’s always been the clear progress. The first album was this The Gathering style, atmospheric gothic metal. Then we went to power metal with “Oceanborn” and “Wishmaster” and then left the power metal elements behind and went into symphonic soundtrack thing. And this new album “Imaginaerum” is for me even more music to feel then metal, it’s really theatrical. So that’s the direction that it went through but also we have never lost the soul of the band or done anything too radical like for example Metallica or Paradise Lost did at some point.
VENIA: Yeah… but in the same time Paradise Lost is now kind of returning to the sound where they begin.
TUOMAS: Yeah, but I think it was really cool what they did. I enjoyed it as there was something real about that as well. A band should never ever be typed to some musical boundaries, it’s just a bunch of people doing the kind of music they want to do and I think that’s the really important thing to understand. You know, we have to do this because we are Nightwish or we have to do this because we are whatever, that’s just stupid.
VENIA: I agree, that would be just to put music into one box.
TUOMAS: If a five of us feel like jazz is really the real thing we want to do, then we should do jazz. And we don’t need to change the name of the band because of that. 

VENIA: What would you name as Nightwish‘ best and worst characteristics at the moment?
TUOMAS: *long thinking* Hmmmm…. Well…. I think the best characteristic is that theatrical side of the band. I truly think that we are doing on the album and also in the live situations something that’s outside of the normal heavy metal concert, rock concert and that’s delivered decision. It’s not a heavy metal concert anymore, it’s like a circus side show with all those visuals and screens and pyrotechnics and stuff. It’s like a really thought over circus show. We play like three ballades in a row at one point and then there is a lot of drama. We just wanna to leave that “are you hot tonight, let’s have some heavy metal and clapping your hands” stuff away because that’s never been our thing.

VENIA: And the worst one?
TUOMAS: Well, some people have a clue of us being insane in risk taking when it comes to doing this album and especially the movie now. There is still little bit stretched with the money because it’s about four million Euro movie and the band had to pay a lot by ourselves so pretty much everything we have earned in the past years we put into movie and there is no  guarantee we would ever get anything back so… But this is also something that I enjoy doing in this band, being insane. So far it has paid off in many different ways.

VENIA: In your music you often thematically lead your audience back to the childhood or some steps forward into the future. If you could witness any moment in history in person, what would it have been? 
TUOMAS: A big bang. I really would like to see what there was before.
VENIA: Cool.
TUOMAS: Really. 

VENIA: Ok. And what basic philosophy do you try to express in your music generally, not only on this album or this movie or both?
TUOMAS: Well, above all sincerity and honesty. Just do the kind of music you want to do, the songs as they feel right for you. We’ve never used the producer outside of the band and we never ever calculate in advance. That’s the biggest strength of the band. Sometimes because of this stuff get a bit a naive side when it comes to music, lyrics and the image but it’s still really honest in the way we done. 

VENIA: How does your typical song come to life?
TUOMAS: First of all you have to have the story that is actually really inspiring you or you say: wow, what about that. Then you feel how can you put this story into music or just channel all the emotions you need to get out of your system into the music. That’s the way for me. But many people just go to the rehearsal room and jam and come up with songs. That’s another way of doing it.
VENIA: So you first have the picture and then…
TUOMAS: I just need to have the picture first for some reason. Ok, now I have the story that I want to tell people so what is the best way to bring it to life… is this a metal song, is this a jazz song. Ok, this is the ballade, definitely the ballade but should I use the acoustic guitar or piano or many instrument. I just play around with it; I try to find the right way to tell the story. 

VENIA: Great! In your opinion, what role does the modern metal or rock music play in society today?
TUOMAS: Well, metal music used to be really rebellious but there is no danger or rebellion left in at all anymore because our parents are listening to the same stuff. Maybe in the 60’s or 70’s Black Sabbath was really rebellious, in the 80’s Iron Maiden was really rebellious. I remember my mom seeing the cover of the “Number of the Beast” album which my brother was listening to and she was really horrified but when you tell them about Iron Maiden today, the guys are flying in the airplane and all that stuff, there is no danger and I absolutely have no problem with that. I never understood that philosophy of it needs to shock, it needs to be rebellious. If the music appeals to you and you feel it, who cares.
VENIA: I asked you this is because when I think of that impact music have on society sometimes I think of some classical composers like for example these from Austria like Mozart or Strauss who were composing music that gathered people together on some balls and they were dancing and hanging around together. Today sometimes I have a feeling it’s different, there is so many different kinds of music and it seems that separates people more then connect them because there’s always someone who’d say: you’re fake because you listen to, I don’t know, Lady Gaga or something.
TUOMAS: *laugh* Yeah! Just listen to what you want and what makes you happy. It’s simple as that. And also really funny contradiction is that sometimes I get this older people come to me: you play devils music, you should listen to Elvis and John Lennon. And if you know anything about how these guys lived their life it’s really funny. 

VENIA: Oh, yeah! As we know today are so many, let’s say, younger bands that does this or that. What do you think that makes your band different as you are around pretty long and very successful?
TUOMAS: Again it is the honesty in it. We just doing everything by ourselves and put a lot of ambition and time into everything that we do. I think people can hear that. And the fact that we are doing actual albums where every single song and every single second is thought over and is there for a reason. I mean, many bands and artists today are doing that have these two or three great, great songs that you listen on the radio and then when you buy the album it’s just crap. Because that’s the way of modern world, the internet and everything downloads. If you download those songs they are great but people are not concentrated on doing the full albums anymore. Think about “Thriller” of Michael Jackson or “Black” album of Metallica, there isn’t single bad moment on those albums. These are perfect master pieces of art. And today you have Lady Gaga with “Poker Face” which is a really, really good song and when you try to listen to the whole album it’s just doing the trick on you and the feeling that I get is it’s not album, it’s more like product. I might be wrong and I think she’s much better than her reputation but you know what I’m trying to say….
VENIA: Yeah, yeah, I know.
TUOMAS: I was truly happy about the song when I heard it, I thought this is really good song, I have to check this out but then I was just disappointed by the rest of the stuff.
VENIA: Yup, it’s pretty much like that.
TUOMAS: It happens quite often with many bands these days. 

VENIA: What inspires you the most, your own life or when you observe someone else’s life or hear about it?
TUOMAS: It kind of depends. The previous album “Dark Passion Play” was really, really personal. It was all about my own thoughts. But then again this “Imaginaerum” is more like observing the world and one mess of everything. The same was the album “Once”, it has song of native Americans and stuff that are not so personal but something that really interests me and the band. 

VENIA: What was the smartest advice that someone gave you?
TUOMAS: Smartest advice?
TUOMAS: *long thinking* Well I… My all time favorite movie number two is Dead Poet Society.
VENIA: Mine also.
TUOMAS: The stuff that is John Keating saying in that movie is the smartest advice. I remember seeing this movie when I was in high school for the first time and all that carpe diem and make your life extraordinary and laugh about the stuff and dig yourself into poetry and the goodness and everything. So I think that has had a huge impact in the way I see things. Carpe diem from John Keating! 

VENIA: In the end, do you have some message for your fans inCroatia as we don’t have the chance to see you there on this tour?
TUOMAS: Yeah… well… I’m sorry about that.
VENIA: Well, no prob!
*both laughing*
TUOMAS: Well, that’s my greeting. *laughing*
VENIA: So next time?
TUOMAS: Next time, yeah! But… *thinking* We’ve been inCroatia twice I think.
VENIA: Mmmmmm… once.
VENIA: Yes, on the last tour.
TUOMAS: Yeah… I remember the Finnish skating team, that was it. All I have is good memories about that show. So, cheers!
VENIA: Thanks! 

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