Steven Rosen of Ultimate-Guitar.com recently conducted an interview with bassist/vocalist Marco Hietala of the Finnish/Swedish symphonic metallers NIGHTWISH. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: What was it like working with [former NIGHTWISH singer] Tarja Turunen?
Marco: Well, working with Tarja at first was really easy; she was — at least at the time — she was down to earth like a Finnish country girl and we were Finnish country boys. So, pretty easy. I still think that basically what led to the breakup was she listened to some really bad advice from her husband and ended up thinking she, as herself, is way too valuable compared to us. And [that] they can dictate the rules. However, it wasn't that way. We didn't put up with it and that's it.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: What was that process like in replacing Tarja? Did you think it was going to be an impossible task or did you feel secure that you could find someone pretty easily?
Marco: It was really funny because I think we got over 2,000 demos and we basically listened to all of them. I think I listened to something like 700 myself. What I found out was there were like a lot of potential singers, a lot of good singers, but people who were still wet behind the ears. So, in order to grow into the band they would need like one or two albums and probably would have done well after that. But of course we wanted to have somebody who would have the sounds down immediately. And this is how we ended up with Anette [Olzon] because she sounds like she had her thing down; she had a lot of energy to pull out and a high voice that has this really good like a tone of her own.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: What were some of the early recording sessions like with Anette? Was it a simple thing to work her into the framework of the band?
Marco: We basically had like instrumental versions of the old albums and she sang over them. Then we kind of invited her over to Finland to a rehearsal room and did some of those live and could hear that, "OK, she can do it." And then we moved with like a few of the demos that we've done for the upcoming album which eventually became "Dark Passion Play" and she sang those over. We were pleased.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: So, when she was actually in the studio and the record button was pushed, you knew that you had made the right decision in bringing her into NIGHTWISH?
Marco: Pretty much, yeah. Well, I guess we had a few songs from the new stuff and she went over them and we were really pleased. She could keep the tone, have the strength and have the sensitivity and all those things in between and everything. So, yeah.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: And then logically, let's talk about how the tracks themselves were recorded. The first single from "Dark Passion Play" was "Eva", a symphonic ballad with strings and piano and horns. There is a brilliant modulation following the solo and every aspect of the instrumentation screams epic. In fact, the classical instruments are recorded completely separate from the guitars and drums, correct?
Marco: Well, the studio process for "Eva" and for the whole album was, when we still didn't have a singer, we still spent two months in the summer of 2006, going over the stuff, rehearsing it and everything and discussing about what kinds of like orchestral stuff we would like to have on it. Even though mainly Tuomas [keyboards], of course, he writes the music and all the lyrics, (there was) some musical input from me and Emppu, the guitar player, as well. After some while after that, we got into the studio and started recording things. You know, what basic studio work is: You do like bottom line where you try to play as much as you can with the whole and then you're starting to go over bass tracks and guitar tracks and stuff; dubbing and doing like new stuff, keyboard stuff. And then the guys go to this orchestra and Abbey Road Studios for it in London. I was pretty pissed because I had to miss it; I was doing some vocal arranging and producing for AMORPHIS, if you know the band? That thing, it got stretched and we had to book four more days and everything so in the end, I missed the Abbey Road because of that. But from the guys I heard that it was pretty really amazing to hear like your stuff by played by real, real goddamned professionals! Still, about the studio thing as well, we had basically all the orchestral stuff recorded before we actually took Anette then into the studio to record the whole album. And, of course, I think it was something that she was a little bit scared but still managed to do a really good job. And by the time we get to the next one and everything, I think she'll be more involved in the whole like thing when we rehearse and arrange the whole stuff together. This time, she didn't really have a chance for it.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: We touched before on the heart of NIGHTWISH's music and that was good songs. But it's more than that — the music is smart without sounding overbearing; it challenged the listener. The band is like an acquired taste — it requires multiple listenings to really understand everything that is going on.
Marco: That is something I agree on. For instance, "Dark Passion Play" is pretty heavy to take on in one listen. And to be honest, in the process of making and listening to it multiple times, I kind of found myself into it. Even though we had done real rehearsing for a long time, but still, getting it down, getting all the instruments, the orchestras, the choirs, getting vocals and everything, it grew onto me. And even though I had a great trust for the whole project, even when we started it and I heard some demo songs from Tuomas and he heard mine, we had this kind of trust, "OK, we're gonna build this into something really good." But then again, the end always seems to surpass the expectations.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: Have you thought at all about a new album?
Marco: Yeah, I know that Tuomas has some songs; I've got some stuff that when we get off of tour, I should demo at home. We'd like to start exchanging some CDs and stuff and see what comes out of it.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: And something you referred to earlier, that this would be Anette's second album with NIGHTWISH and that you think her involvement will be much greater.
Marco: Yeah, that is true. This time around we were just trying to find out where we were in the woods so to speak because we really didn't know that. From the demos we had some inclination about what kind of ranges and what kind of keys we would use for the songs and all that. But this time, it'll be a lot easier; we can walk her straight to the business when we start out.
Read the entire interview from Ultimate-Guitar.com.
Fan-filmed video footage of NIGHTWISH's November 21, 2008 concert at Obras in Buenos Aires, Argentina can be viewed below (clips uploaded by "Luchoevolution").
"The Poet And The Pendulum":