Stalker magazine recently conducted an interview with NIGHTWISH mastermind Tuomas Holopainen. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow:
Stalker: The new album "Dark Passion Play" — what is, from your perspective, the most important song?
Tuomas: Well, it has to be the first, "The Poet And The Pendulum", it kind of defines what the whole album is about. It is kind of THE song for the album, with the pendulum on the cover and everything.
Stalker: What was the inspiration for this song?
Tuomas: It's like the soundtrack of my life, from the year 2005, what was going on. It's a really therapeutic thing to kill yourself in a song, like I do in this one: the blade slashes me in half at the end of the song. I love life, I think the world is a beautiful place and I would never even think about doing something like that, but sometimes you just feel so incredibly bad and hurt, that when you can do a song like this, it really helps you to move on.
Stalker: So there's a little bit of Edgar Allan Poe in it?
Tuomas: That's where the whole idea was born. I like Poe's work a lot and this is my favourite novel. It just clicked: "the pit and the pendulum." OK, "the poet and the pendulum!" There is a strong sense of symbolism here, and I am pretty proud of the word-play here, it really works. I felt like the guy under the blade which was descending and descending...
Stalker: Wouldn't it be difficult to perform that song live?
Tuomas: Well, the orchestra and all the choirs will be coming from the backing tracks, and we have been rehearsing it a lot, last night, and we are going to do it live, at least just give it a shot. It is a lot of fun to play, 14 minutes. I hope the audience will have the patience...
Stalker: You cannot help to associate some song titles on the new album with your past, as a comment, like "Bye Bye Beautiful"...
Tuomas: Yeah, it's no secret, this is like a farewell song to Tarja, and it's made in a good spirit. Even though the song sounds a bit aggressive, there is no bad feelings, like hatred or anything like that. It is more about, "Why did this have to happen?" and in this situation where nobody in the end was innocent, and It's a sad thing that happened, so bye bye beautiful." It could be "Bye Bye Ugly One," that would be hurtful (laughter), but that's why I'm a songwriter, and that's why we all play in a band, so we can emphasize those feelings we go through. So, of course, all things that happened, they affect you, and you want to let the demons out and make songs about them. So, I mean, there cannot be any person thinking that these things are NOT involved on this album. "Bye Bye Beautiful" is a concrete example of that. I hope nobody gets offended, because it's not meant to be like that.
Stalker: So how does it work with Anette, with rehearsals, is it more difficult as she doesn't live in Finland?
Tuomas: It doesn't matter, it's only 1.5 hours flight from where she lives. And also back in the beginning of 2000 Tarja lived in Germany for three years, and we were still able to do everything, so it is no problem, it just takes a little bit of organizing, but the world is a small place and all about organizing. Actually we start rehearsing with her today, we have been rehearsing with the guys for a week now, so that she doesn't feel ashamed when she comes to the rehearsal place (laughs). Let's see how it goes, we never played with her yet, so it's kind of exciting, let's see how it's going to work.
Stalker: What do you expect or hope from the future, at concerts, for example, from the audience?
Tuomas: I hope we're going to have a good time, and I hope for some courtesy from the audience. The comparison is always inevitable, but I still hope that people will have the courtesy of welcoming Anette and, you know... she never did anything wrong. It was an open audition, she applied for the job, she got the job. All that she has ever done was doing her best. So if you're throwing tomatoes on stage, aim at US, not HER, because we were the ones who chose her!
Stalker: How were the reactions of fans so far?
Tuomas: Very divided, which was to be expected, too, I mean, there's a lot of people who really like her, like "This was the perfect choice, she is not trying to copy Tarja at all, but she still has the emotion and the power in the voice, it's a good direction," and then there are the other people who think that Tarja was the only thing ever for NIGHTWISH and they are never going to listen to it again. Well, let them have their way, I have no problem with that. This is the way it's going to be, and especially when we're going to play the old songs live with her new voice, it's going to be a shocker for many people.
Stalker: But I had a look at the band-website guestbook, and actually I noticed that the majority was pretty positive...
Tuomas: Yeah, I'm kind of surprised, I was expecting much worse, so at least they are going to give her a chance, give US a chance. And there are surprisingly many people out there who have always enjoyed the music of the band, but never really liked Tarja's voice, because it was so high and loud and operatic. And they are like "Finally I can listen to this, because the singing is a bit easier to the ear." So there are a lot of those people as well. So for the fans we gonna lose, perhaps we gonna have new ones.
Stalker: Did you have to re-arrange the old songs to fit better with the new voice?
Tuomas: We have not re-arranged anything. She is going to change the vocal lines a little bit, to fit her voice, and she is going to sing them in her own rock voice, so the opera is totally gone, I'm afraid. But this is the only way to do it. The only song that we're never going to do again for sure is "The Phantom Of The Opera", because it was so focused on Tarja and the classical style. Pretty much all the other songs we could do... (long pause)... I think. I'll be much wiser tomorrow after tonight's rehearsals (laughs).
Stalker: Well, I have the impression that you still have opera in your music, the dramatic style, and especially this "Poet and the Pendulum" track is like a tiny opera, or a short film...
Tuomas: Yeah, in the music it's still there, and "Poet" is a bit soundtrack-ish, that's right... The music hasn't changed that much, I think. I hear all those comments saying that this is a complete new start, that the album is something completely different, and I really disagree. The soul of the music, the orchestra and choir, heavy guitars, ballads — the same elements are still there, it's just the voice that has changed. And even though it's a completely different voice, I also think that we left out the opera two albums ago! Even Tarja wasn't singing with that style on "Century Child" and "Once" anymore, so is that change really that radical and dramatic — I don't think so, actually.
Read the entire interview at www.stalker.cd.