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"Tyson, Sagan, Dawkins and Hitchens are my heroes. I think the world needs more of those guys, that's the way to make the world a better place."

Interview with Tuomas Holopainen (NIGHTWISH)

On this last day of Nightwish's french tour and after a really long train trip to Toulouse, we are finally ending this triad of interviews with Tuomas Holopainen, the famous maestro of Nightwish. After asking him about his health (the previous day, he told us he had caught a bad cold, but it seemed that a good nine hours sleep in the tourbus put him back on his feet), the interview can begin.

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Interview done by Sabrina, Guillaume et Elise in Toulouse, the 26th of november 2015, and transcribed by Sabrina.

Vous pouvez également lire notre interview en français

Sabrina: How is the tour been going so far?

Tuomas: Just wonderful! I mean, it wasn't until yesterday morning that I checked the Amsterdam shows for the first time on youtube. I never realized how it looks like from the audience. You don't get the same sensation than from the stage. And I was really impressed about the visuals, the screens, the pyros and the lights! So we owe a huge thank to the technicians. But it's the full production and that's very special, that's what I like the most.

Tuomas Holopainen on stage at Bercy Arena, in Paris, the 25th of november, 2015

Guillaume: Were you allowed to used all the pyros yesterday?

No, because after the very first loud bang, the police took our pyro technicians and said we couldn't use anything anymore and that's why they were left off the first and the beginning of the second song. But then they had a really quick discussion and said: "OK, you can use the pyros but not any sound". So, yes it wasn't the complete set!

Sabrina: So last night, you said you wanted to talk about books and movies and food.

I'll talk about anything you want, I was a bit drunk last night! (laughs)

Sabrina: You also talked to us about fantasy hockey and we're a bit curious because we don't really know what it is!

Well, fantasy sports in general are huge in the US and Canada, they even have magazines! So since I'm a big hockey fan, we have this league with 60 persons. It's played on the internet, it's called fantrax.com. You can also use Yahoo and there are many other services that do it. And you just basically form your own team from real NHL players and then whenever your player does a goal, you get a certain amount of points. And it goes on for the whole season. It takes months and it's really hardcore stuff, we have our own jerseys printed, we meet two or three times a year with all the people. It's a social thing as well and just a wonderful hobby. And it's also incredibly addictive, so I wouldn't recommend it to anybody. It takes one to two hours everyday for me! (laughs)

Sabrina: Even on tour, you have the time to play?

Yes and even if i don't, I will wake up an hour earlier! But it's the ultimate relaxation, it's another world: it's a safe world and this community that we have is really nice, very good friends, all from Finland!

Sabrina: Do you have any books, movies or food to recommend to us or the people who will read this interview?

About movies, I'm a big fan of horror movies, I love scary movies but I haven't seen a really good one, a scary one in years, except a while ago a film called "It Follows". So if you're into scary stuff go and see that! It's already out on DVD, scariest film I've seen in twenty years! It's an excellent film! It's an american film but very independent, you'll find no known actors or anything. And about books, there's "The Martian", I've just finished it. I haven't seen the film yet because I wanted to finish the book first.

Tuomas Holopainen during our interview in Toulouse, the 26th of november, 2015

Elise: I've read the book as well, I was scared but the film is really good too.

Oh good, Marco has seen it as well and he thought it was pretty good! That's the best book I've read in a while. And food?

Sabrina: Yes, you said you wanted to talk about food so...

I really like cooking, vegetarian cooking since I've been a vegetarian for a few years. I really like sausages and it's really hard to find good vegetarian sausages so I've been trying to perfect the recipe on my own without really succeeding. So that's what I've been doing! But I just really like to cook, never desserts though, I don't like desserts but all kinds of veggie soups and things like that.

Elise: So on another topic, your t-shirt. Tyson, Sagan, Dawkins and Hitchens. Why do you like each of them?

Well, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, I found him from the remake of the Cosmos series. I really liked his stuff. I've seen everything that he has done from Youtube. And Sagan of course is my hero, Dawkins and Hitchens as well. They're my heroes. I think the world needs more of those guys, that's the way to make the world a better place.

Elise: Yes, especially right now.

Guillaume: The album has a big meaning about life, creation and even religion. Did you want to share your own thoughts about religion or was it more like an observation of people's thoughts?

Listen to Tuomas' answer

Well, there's one song on the album "Weak Fantasy" which deals with these themes. And I was really careful about how to write those lyrics, we talked about them with the whole band, so that everybody agrees within the band. Because it doesn't want to be too preachy, but we want to make a statement and I think we succeeded in that. I just don't find it any kind of virtue to believe in anything without evidence. I don't understand why many people consider faith a virtue. There are certain reasons why we have a justice system in the court or in the world. You question reason, you have evidence, evidence, evidence and then you make a verdict. I mean, it's like you're accused of rape, we have absolutely no evidence but I have faith that you are guilty so you will go to jail for 10 years. It doesn't work like that, the world shouldn't work like that but with religion it's allowed and that's something that should be discussed especially these days. All religions, they're a bit immune to criticism, and open discussion, and updating. I'd rather follow a science based, evidence based facts of morality as well, one that's reasoned and discussed as well, than a 2000-years-old book.

Guillaume: When did you decide to add the subliminal message "wake up or die" at the end of "Weak Fantasy"?

It was much before whatever happened. It was supposed to be there during the festivals but we kind of forgot about it. So it was added just before we started this tour, about three weeks ago. It's taken from the comedy documentary called "Religolous" by Bill Maher. It's excellent.

Amateur video of Weak Fantasy at Bercy Arena in Paris, the 25th of november, 2015 (NIGHTWISH)

Guillaume: The album has a strong message and imagery with a recurring theme. It may be a little early to tell, but is there a new topic that you feel like you want to tackle on the next album?

It's been about seven months since the release of the album and I still feel this mental hangover. When the album was finished, I was totally morally destroyed in a happy way. But listening to the album, especially "The Greatest Show On Earth", I was kind of like: "what are you going to do next?". And I still have no idea, I haven't had any urge to do any songwriting. So I guess I'm still suffering from the hangover. As is the rest of the band as well. The album is already the ultimate achievement for us personally, and I don't know how the other persons feel about it, the fans for instance. But we generally think that this is the best one and especially that song. But thinking about what we're going to do next is going to take time, and I think it's going to take years for the next album to come. The DVD is coming out next year though.

Elise: From this tour or this leg specifically?

We've been working on it. But Wembley will be filmed too as were the Espoo, Mexico City and Vancouver shows. And we're not quite sure of what the release is gonna be like. There will be one show from beginning to end and then there's gonna be some extra material like interviews, stuff like that. But we're not quite sure what it's going to be. But that's going to be released at the end of next year if everything goes as planned. But the next Nightwish album is far into the future!

Guillaume: This is a question that we already asked Troy but do you know if there is a chance of a second european tour in 2016?

No, because we don't really have the time. There will be a whole bunch of European festivals, but no club shows. Because in january there's Australia, then another North American leg, then China and Japan and Russia. And then we're in June already which is the festival season and the tour is going to end in october.

Elise: Maybe this is far fetched but we noticed that the tracklists of the albums follow the same pattern like you have the big song at the end and the first single usually at the beginning. And even for "Edema Ruh" which was supposed to be a single, it was track n°3 before "Elan" took its place and became the single.

Well, on Dark Passion Play, the big piece is at the beginning and on Once "Ghost Love Score" is next to last.

Guillaume: Yes, there are some exceptions but in general do you follow a recipe?

No, it's not a conscious thing at all. It's very important to think it through but it just happens to be like that. I haven't really thought about it. The band decides it. Like I had originally "Edema Ruh" being number 3 and "Elan" being number 8 and then it's Marco who said it should be the other way around and I said "OK"!

Tuomas Holopainen on stage at Zénith, in Toulouse, the 26th of november, 2015

Sabrina: About "Edema Ruh", the theme of the song makes us think that it would be a great song to play live cause it's about performers going from village to village. Do you plan to add it at some point on the current setlist?

Yes, even on this tour actually. We've been practicing it but it's not quite there yet. So maybe the day after tomorrow in Switzerland or something like that.

Elise: We saw Troy on monday and he told us that today there would be two new songs.

Yes that was the original plan that we would play "While Your Lips Are Still Red" and "Edema Ruh" today. But we already played "While Your Lips Are Still Red" yesterday and like I said we're not quite ready for "Edema Ruh" yet! It needs more practice but very possibly in London.

Elise: Do you have some anecdotes from the tour like technical glitch or funny moments? Things like that?

(laughs) There's been a lot of poker dicing between the shows and after the shows. Everybody's super happy all the time. We're having the time of our lives, so nothing serious yet.

Guillaume: The life in the tourbus is doing OK or do you prefer to travel by plane like you do in South America for instance?

Yes, I love the tourbus. There's no place where I sleep as well as in the tourbus. Maybe it's because of the movement or something. I really sleep well there. But in South America, we had like 18 flights in three weeks or something. A lot of airports, a lot of security, a lot of flying, it's a bit consuming. Whereas in Europe, you can just be on the bus and be at home. It's wonderful.

Sabrina: Back in 2004, you used to perform a cover during every tour. Is it something you'd like to try again sometime with Floor?

Well, she actually suggested before the tour that she'd like to do "High Hopes" again. I think it's one of her favorite songs. But it felt like we already have a lot of our own songs that we'd like to perform. So, not this time. And I seriously doubt that we will ever play "Over The Hills And Far Away" because everybody got pretty bored by that.

Guillaume: How did you decide that the shows will be two hours long instead of one hour and a half like it used to be?

It just felt like the right thing to do and different people have different staminas.

Sabrina: But we're glad to have a two hours show!

It goes by pretty quickly. It doesn't feel like two hours on stage.

Sabrina: What are your plans after the tour? Do you have side projects maybe?

There's something going on. The year 2017 will more or less be a sabbatical. I don't think there's much happening. But this off year is something that we've been planning for 2017. We haven't made a decision yet but that's something that will probably happen. Maybe because the making of the album and this tour have been very consuming in a good way, so we need to take a little breather, to get the awe and inspiration back, especially for songwriting and all that stuff. We have made some long term plans and it's looking really promising. There's some interesting things coming up and everybody has their own side projects in music as well. Nothing that will be released yet, but we will stay more or less active during the off year. I've been writing a lot of stories and I'd like having a book published so there's that. The book is something I had in mind for a few years so let's see if I can finally do it.

Elise: Is this something that you plan to do alone or with someone else?

That's alone. I've been writing these short stories for years.

Elise: Fantasy or horror or something else, maybe ? And can we hope for an english translation?

Fantasy, horror, weird Neil Gaiman & Stephen King kind of stuff! And there's a publisher who's already interested in it so it's nice ! And I will assume there will be an english version if it ever happens.