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"If I wanted to see my favorite band, I wouldn't want to see them in a stadium, I would like to see them seated in a nice arena or a small club."

Interview with Tuomas Holopainen (NIGHTWISH)

The Decades World Tour made its debut eight months ago in The United States but its arrival in Europe coincides with the twentieth anniversary of Oceanborn's release. On the occasion of the band's concert in Paris, this conversation with Tuomas gives us the opportunity to ask him about the future of Nightwish as we reflect about the past.

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Interview done by Elise, Guillaume, Nicolas and Sabrina in Paris, the 10th of November 2018, and transcribed by Elise and Sabrina.

Vous pouvez également lire notre interview en français

Cover of Decades (2018)

Elise: Can you tell us about the creative process around scenography?

Tuomas: About a year ago, I listened through all the albums in chronological order. Then I made a list of the songs that I felt we should play – the obvious ones like Dead Boy's Poem and The Carpenter – and gave it to the other members of the band to know what they thought. And I think there was only one change that was made from that list – a song called Astral Romance was there but we decided to replace it with something else. That's how it started. Then, long before Christmas as well, we got together with the screenmaker, Mikko, and listened through those songs and brainstormed what kind of videos we should include. Then we had a two to three weeks rehearsal with the band; first in January, then in February.

Nicolas: You recently changed "End Of All Hope" for "Dark Chest Of Wonders" as the opening song of the show. Is there a particular reason for that?

We just thought that it didn't have quite the impact that we wanted to start the show. It was okay but didn't have the punch enough, so to say. It was like this (claps his hands on the rhythm of the beginning of "End Of All Hope") and we wanted it to be like this. (claps faster) So we just had to change it.

Nicolas: And you also removed Deep Silent Complete from the setlist.

Yeah because the curfew in many of the venues is very strict. It can't go one minute over and our show is two hours and five minutes so we had to cut one song. We didn't want to do it but we had to.

Nicolas: Some artists nowadays are trying to ban cellphones during their shows. What do you think about it and what's your opinion about the increased number of people filming your shows?

That's why we have this special intro that you know of. I think banning cellphones is a bit too much. I'm a firm believer in freedom in every way. But I think it's also worthwhile to give people a message: don't be a slave of your machine and if you want to see live music, come and enjoy it live. I have absolutely no problem with people taking a photo or two but so often you see dozens of people in the front row filming through the whole show… I can't get it, what's going on? People are enslaved to their machines. This is something we want to give a reminder of through the intro, the speech. I think it has had a major impact: for example, in South America it's usually a sea of cellphones but this time it was only half of them. And very often we hear applause when the speech is done.

Guillaume: Have you ever been on Youtube to see the videos that have been filmed during your shows?

Basically I do it because I want to see how the big screen and the pyros look like and if there is something to improve. That's the only reason I go.

Nightwish's End of show picture in Paris the 10th november of 2018 shot by Denis Goria

Guillaume: These days, more and more pop bands and less and less rock/metal bands play in big venues… Could you imagine doing a tour in smaller venues in the years to come?

I would personally love that but it's not my decision. The organisation is always so big and so many people are involved, you have to think about the big picture. But at some point, maybe towards the retirement of the band, we could go back to the roots and do a small club tour. If I wanted to see my favorite band, I wouldn't want to see them in a stadium, I would like to see them seated in a nice arena or a small club.

Guillaume: Personally, I would like to see Nightwish in Tavastia Club, for example.

Yeah, I know what you mean but sometimes it's just impossible to do that. There would be a lot of angry people. Also, the production is so big and we want to keep it this way until the very end so the cost is also very high and if you go to a club of five hundred people, the maths just doesn't work.

Sabrina: Next year, Sonata Arctica will be doing an acoustic tour. Is it something you would like to do ? Or maybe just a small acoustic set within a regular show?

Maybe, I guess we could pull that up but there is too much ambition in the band at the moment to do a full acoustic tour. We have big ambitions when it comes to the tour in 2020 so it's not going to happen in the near future. But I kind of like doing a 20 minutes set with acoustic stuff in between the whole set…. Maybe.

Nicolas: You already have in mind what the next tour will be like?

Yeah, the idea is that we're just going to concentrate on the album in 2019 and hopefully get it ready by Christmas to get it out in springtime 2020. Then's it's going to be followed by a tour.

Nicolas: A big tour?

Not as long as we have done in the past. That was a mutual agreement in the band that we are never going to tour for a year and a half. So maybe more quality, less quantity. But it's going to be a massive tour if you can use the term.

Nicolas: Can you tell us more about the future live DVD? Do you already know the release date, their content or which shows will be on it?

Well, we filmed two shows for it: Bogotá, Colombia and Buenos Aires, Argentina. But Floor was super ill in Colombia so I think there's only so much we can use from that show. Hopefully something. But Buenos Aires was pretty good. So we have two shows recorded but we haven't even started the mixing or the editing. I hope it's going to see daylight at some point next year but we don't have a schedule or a release date for that yet.

Poster for the Decades Tour's Buenos Aires Concert

Nicolas: And whose idea was it to record a new DVD?

I think it came from the management again. Ewo. I toyed with the idea as well, even though I'm not the biggest fan of live DVD or live releases but some of these songs are only going to be played on this tour. Carpenter or Sacrament Of Wilderness are never going to be played again so this is a good way to immortalise those songs.

Nicolas: So why choose Colombia and Argentina this time?

Because we have never recorded anything there. (laughs) And also the audience is some of the best on this planet. So we've got a great ambiance.

Nicolas: What's your opinion on music videos and lyrics videos?

I have very mixed feelings about them. I loved watching music videos in the eighties and nineties. They were a rarity then. You got to watch them on music TV and all that. But I don't see the point of doing them in such scale again because now you can make a very beautiful lyric video with no cost at all. So I think we're going to take a different approach with the upcoming album. Not do a music video and come up with something else.

Guillaume: Can you see music videos on finnish TV these days?

No there isn't a single one. But it was the case twenty years ago so they had a meaning back then. But during the era of internet and Youtube, the noise is so massive and the amount of information and music videos is overflowing. A new music video would just be one amongst billions. So I think a different approach would be the best choice.

Nicolas: Which is?

I'm not telling you! (laughs)

Sabrina: Would you like to try something new for the next album? Like for instance, Muse who released a video for every song of their new album in the same universe.

That was our idea for Imaginaerum but it ended up being a whole movie. (laughs)

Guillaume: Do you already have an idea for a theme you might want to tackle on the next album?

Sure! All the songs are done. I'm lacking a few lyrics still but all the music has been done. So now it's all about getting it arranged. First by myself during the first half of next year and then together with the band. But the album has a title and it's looking good, I'm really excited about it.

Nicolas: Is it a traditional Nightwish album or did you try something new?

I'm not telling you! (laughs) But you know, same as always. Lots of familiar elements and some shocking surprises, some style that we haven't used before.

Elise: Are you still in contact with richard Dawkins?

Not really no. With his assistant yes. We sent him a get well soon SMS after he got a stroke about a year ago but haven't heard from him since.

Elise: Some of the lines he recorded for you weren't used for the last album. Do you plan on using them one day?

We had ideas of even using it on this tour, in live situations, like include them into the intro, but it didn't work out. But we have all those 38 quotes that he did still saved for future possible use.

Sabrina: And he gave you the authorization to use them any way you want?

Yes. You don't want to overuse someone like Dawkins though!

Sabrina: How involved are you in the release of the new versions of End Of An Era and Once by Nuclear Blast? Was it your idea or did you not have a say in the decision?

I just heard about it like two days ago. (laughs) I had no idea. It was just a label's idea. They sent me an email two days ago saying "can you check that the cover is okay?" because they made some minor changes and I was like "What is this?" (laughs) So I had no idea about the release but it's completely okay.

Elise: Was the cover okay then?

Yes! (laughs) Just minor tweaks.

Guillaume: For some of us, the last time we saw Nightwish on stage, it was in 2016, for the show in Himos. We really loved the beautiful setting, the show and everything! You were joined by Sami Vanska and Jukka. How did this become possible?

Listen to Tuomas' answer

Jukka was so nervous. I think it was a month before the show that he sent an SMS saying: "I can't do it. I'm too afraid." And then two weeks later: "Yeah I'm going to give it a shot. On just one song. Last Ride Of The Day. Then we played it three or four times in soundcheck and it was perfect the first time he did it. And I was like "What about you?" and he said "again" (imitates Jukka's serious expression). "Hey Jukka it's really good!" "Again". (laughs) So he was really nervous but he pulled it off and it was really nice to have him back on stage even for that one song. And we've been in contact with Sami for years now. We have this high school reunion thing. There's seven of us and we've known each other since we were thirteen and Sami has been a part of it for the past six years too. It was just an idea I had like "Do you want to come and play one song?" and he said "Yes why not?" and that was it.

Nicolas: Have you ever heard of those "...reacts to" videos?

Yeah I got sent a link a while back. I think it was "Females watching extreme metal for the first time" or something like that. Then there was this hip hop guy watching "Ghost Love Score" and Wintersun.

Nicolas: What do you think about it?

It's wonderful! It seems sincere, I don't know if it was staged but it looked sincere.

Picture of Floor during Nightwish's concert in Paris the 10th of november 2018 shot by Denis Goria

Elise: There are many of them. People discovering metal or even lyrical teacher watching Floor sing and commenting.

Oh yeah? That's interesting. I spend a lot of time on Youtube. It's a wonderful platform.

Guillaume: What is the best live show you have seen in your life / lately?

This is going to sound so so corny but I have to say it. Two weeks ago, just before I went on this tour, I saw a group called Gemini which includes my wife and her best friend Johanna. They're doing this three month tour in Finland and they're playing their own songs plus covers. It's a two and a half hour show with this whole band and it was the most magical show I've ever seen. And I'm not being biased at all. (laughs) But wow, it was so incredible, beautiful. They played the theme song from the Outlander series, Fields of gold, Jacob stream, Society from the film "Into The Wild". There was even the theme song from Skyrim, the video game and all kinds of Celtic stuff. It really is one of the top three concerts I've ever seen. Since you asked! (laughs) The other two were Metallica and Guns N' Roses in nineteen ninety-two, and Hans Zimmer in Prague five years ago.

Guillaume: Can you give us one book you read lately and one movie you've seen recently that you really liked?

"Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond". He's an American evolutionary biologist. He won a Pulitzer prize for that book in 2007. It's incredible, I recommend it to everyone really. Basically it's about why the people from Europe conquered the Americans and not vice versa and why do certain nationalities conquer so many others. Just super interesting stuff, written in a super easy way to read. So that's the best book I've read in years I think. Best movie lately is by far "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri". I've seen it three times now and it's the best film in ten years I think. Wow! The acting is incredible and the story is beautiful.

Sabrina: And the end is surprising too, everything is really perfect.

Yes everything is perfect!

Sabrina: We really loved Auri and we wanted to know if there was any news about a tour or new album ?

Johanna and Troy are working on new material all the time. I think, combined, there are already six songs. I've only been doing Nightwish so it's a good division of things. But yeah, they are really excited about it. Maybe during the next Nightwish tour at some point, when we have free time, we will record another album and then do a small tour after the next Nightwish tour. So we're talking maybe 2020/2021, something like that.

Elise: Why not an opening before Nightwish? I know it would be a long night for you but still, it would be nice!

Musically it would be a nice combo, it would be a perfect opening act for Nightwish but it would just take too much of the energy.

Picture of Tuomas during our interview in Paris

A big thanks to Denis Goria for sharing his photos of the concert with us! :)