Sitting down and chatting with Nightwish‘s jack-of-all-trades Tuomas Holopainen would be something straight out of my dreams as a kid first getting into power and symphonic metal. When I first got the opportunity, a surge of excitement and nervousness came over me, but after a few days of thinking about the things I’d ask, I graciously accepted this opportunity. Tuomas was a very friendly guy, making for extremely easy conversation. We discussed the current tour, the new album Endless Forms Most Beautiful, all topped off with a follow-up on the controversial remarks of Floor Jansen in a recent interview.
(laughs) Oh not it’s quite alright. You can’t imagine the amount of free time that you actually have on tour, honestly.
So what is it that you do with your time?
Loads of good books, movies, long walks, and some tourism along the way. Went to see a film yesterday in Nebraska, the horror flick, Unfriended, it was quite good. I like the original idea that it has. It was all on a computer screen, nothing else!
And you guys have been on tour for a couple weeks now? How have the fans been reacting to hearing some of Endless Forms Most Beautiful live?
They seem to like it. We enjoy playing it! It’s always like when you have a new album out and play the new songs, people seem to just listen to them more. And then when you play the old classics, they just go mental! And that’s always the case, and how it has been on this tour as well. And as a band, it is always nice to play something new and different, not the songs that you have played four or five hundred times.
And you’ve been sharing the stage with Sabaton and Delain, how has that been so far?
I think it is the best possible combo you can have, I love both of them! Delain is an all time favorite of mine, and Sabaton is one of the best bands to come out in the past ten years in the metal scene. We, musically, kind of sail in the same waters but with our own unique boat, so it is a good combo for the audience as well. They are really nice people as well. No complaints there!
The US doesn’t get bands like Nightwish around here too often. Especially through states like Iowa, where I grew up. Bands really tend to skip over that whole part of the country. So how was the last show you played on Sunday, in Iowa?
First time ever in Iowa! And you could see and feel the enthusiasm of the people, around 2,000 of them there. It was just totally crazy, even though it was a Sunday night.
Yeah they just really don’t see bands like Nightwish around those parts.
Well that’s what they told us! And you could totally just feel it in the atmosphere there. But I also got to meet up with my host family from my year as an exchange student in Kansas, 23 years ago. The mother and the brother came out to see me there. I haven’t seen them for 17 years, so that was quite the moment as well. We got to spend a couple of hours together before the show, and a little bit after the show, talk about nostalgia.
Wow! How was the adjustment for you from Europe to Kansas?
(laughs) I loved it! But I was only 15 and here for a year, but it really feels like a distant dream at the moment, but no I was actually there in high school.
Alright, so the new album Endless Forms Most Beautiful, it’s cracked the US Top 40, and has already sold more copies than Imaginaerum already, so I am sure you guys look at this album with just as much pride as any previous releases?
Oh yeah we sure do! Now I refuse to answer ‘Is this the best album’ or ‘What is your favorite album’ it’s just not really relevant, because all of our albums reflect the time that the band was at the time the album was made. I feel equally proud of all of the albums including the new one.
With the addition of Floor, at least when I listen to the new material it seems like it is Nightwish re-energized, with a lot of strength and confidence, and brings about a new power, do you agree?
There was something going on on the album that was lacking a little bit, before Jansen, and I think the main reason for that is that we spent a lot of time in rehearsal with the whole band together. We could just go over the songs again and again with the whole band, and get that organic vibe of playing together, and we were able to capture that atmosphere into the album. I really think that is the biggest difference.
Did the rehearsing together test everyone musically, bouncing ideas off of each other constantly?
Absolutely, yeah. Musically, and emotionally as well.
I really want to talk about “The Greatest Show on Earth”, as I think it is one of Nightwish’s strongest moments, musically, as it is so massive, theatrical, and just gorgeous. You have never really written and epic like that before right?
Definitely not on that scale. It clocks to 24 minutes. And the way I personally see the album is that you have nine support acts, an interlude, and then the real band hits. So the first nine songs are supporting, then you have the “The Eyes of Sharbat Gula”, and then the main act. And it really works, dramatically. But yeah it would be the proudest achievement that I have ever done. It’s just, I remember the moment I got the idea. Evolution, planet Earth, I mean, could we actually do a song on the evolution of planet Earth from the beginning to the distant future? Could we really use the animal sound effects, the formation of the Earth, and the coldness of space? Then imagine what the world may sound like in fifty million years, after mankind has vanished, and I was just so thrilled, like absolutely this is the best idea ever!
And originally, I think the song was 35-40 minutes long and we had to rearrange it to be more compact, but it really really works. I am so proud of that result. And of course the icing on the cake is Richard Dawkins, that he actually agreed to come and talk on top of that!
How was it working with Richard Dawkins? He is such a legend, I couldn’t even imagine!
The ultimate fan boy moment for me. I already had one with Don Rosa on my solo thing [Music Inspired by the Life and Times of Scrooge]. When we went to Oxford last October, and I saw him through the studio window, I mean my heart was just beating so hard. But he was really polite, like your stereotypic English Gentleman. But what really flattered me the most was the fact that he put so much effort in the reciting. He didn’t just come to the studio and read the words, he actually made markings and asked me questions like ‘How would you like this to be emphasized?’ so he put a lot of heart into it as well.
And we met again a couple of months ago in London, as we did a couple interviews together. I got a chance to play him “The Greatest Show on Earth” for the first time, and he seemed sincerely impressed. It was something else.
Back to your tour, you have a show coming up in British Columbia at the Orpheum. You guys are recording it though, so is that for a new live DVD?
We haven’t set any concrete plans yet, but we are going to film a few shows here and there on this upcoming tour, then decide what to do with it. There isn’t going to be a live DVD release in the near future, but we are collecting stuff so we can do something with it in the future.
There was an interview with Floor Jansen posted by Owais Nabi, of Metal Nation Radio and Metal Wani a couple weeks ago at this point. It went viral online, both in agreement and disagreement with her, and I just wanted your opinion on the matter. In this interview, she really stressed the dislike for being called a female-fronted band.
So would describing Nightwish as female-fronted symphonic metal would be okay? Or is it still too limiting?
(laughs) I mean, I would just leave the female or the male out of it. Would there be like a male-fronted band? It is just silly categorizing the music in that way!
And Nightwish is always full of surprises, but is there anything that we can expect from you in the near future? Anything new and exciting for you?
Absolutely yes! But it wouldn’t be so exciting and surprising if I told you (laughs). But yeah, we have some plans! We pretty much know what we are going to be doing until 2021 to 2022, so some really interesting stuff happening for sure.
Alright! So Metal Wani, the website I work for, is based out of India. They would kill me if I didn’t ask you, is there any plans of Nightwish going to India?
Well there have been many occasions in the past years that we almost got there. But for some reason, it was always cancelled. It is not really up to us, it’s the booking agent, but they are talking about it. Again, because we are going to have shows in the far East, Australia, Japan, so I would love to be able to go. It is my favourite cousine in the world! Curry! For a vegetarian, it is just easy and I love it.