Anette Olzon Central@ Your 1st Source on ex-Nightwish singer Anette // Thursday, 18 November 2010
Credits go to Cursarion on the Nightwish Forum for this translation and to Afrodite for the scans
Nightwish's new album is born in the peace of nature
A million copies sold Dark Passion Play received its final form in the village of Jäävi in the Tampere region. The guidelines of the next Nightwish album, to be released at earliest a year from now, were set in Kitee - and in Australia.
Tuomas Holopainen sits by a sparking camp fire. On a adjacent grilling underlay, a varied set of both meat and vegetables waits for its turn. At the same time, the Sun is sinking beneath the horizon and just a few meters away the darkening waters of Ätäsköjärvi bathe in dozens various colours of the Autumn for only a bit longer. The view is outsandingly beautiful - right now it's not weird at all that Nightwish decided to hold their 8-week summer camp right here in this North-Carelian landscape.
- At first the only concern I had was that I might leave the camp too often during the evening - after all, this place is close to my own home. The concern was disturbing, because the point of this summer camp was to separate us completely from the everyday life and concentrate for the next two months only on the next Nightwish album, says cheerful Tuomas and sneers:
- In the end, my concern was quite unnecessary. I've slept only one night at home during the past 8 weeks. So the concentration has succeeded pretty much perfectly. And that's good, because we're building quite an entity.
It's the second Saturday of September. We're about 20 kilometers from the centre of Kitee. The distance is roughly the same to Tuomas's home. The campsite is at Kiteen Karhu-Pojat ry owned camp center Röskö, which spreads around the camp filling three and a half hectares. There are 13 separate buildings. There's the main building with its kitchens and several habitations of varying size and quality, and small private cabins have housed the Nightwish musicians for the past weeks.
- The abundance of accommodation wasn't a problem. Since we have spent so much time here, we naturally needed to have enough space for example for the families of the band members.
Röskö has been built for the last 60 years mostly by local voluntary work, and the site has been the location of very various camps, among others. The Nightwish members from Kitee have experienced Röskö several times during earlier years.
- I went to the confirmation school here, as well as Jukka and Emppu. There's the camp church right on the Röskö mountain - and right by it there's a big fissure, which is, according to an old tale, mark of a lightning sent by the devil. So, there are various tones to this area, says Tuomas while beckoning towards a nearby hill.
- Yeah, we started thinking a while ago where to find a good camp site for training new album material. At some point I remembered Röskö. That it's a gorgeous place, and not far away either.
Tuomas had few doubts before going on a scouting trip.
- I wasn't sure fi the Karhu-Pojat dare or even want to rent such a wonderful place to a band. Or that if a heavy band fits in their image. In the Summer of 2009 I told them what I had in mind and they said yes immediately. On the other hand, this is very easy the Karhu-Pojat: they have a very reliable tenant for 8 weeks.
There were huge storms in the Eastern Finland in the late Summer, but Röskö was spared from the strongest winds.
- It was quite fierce here too. The storm raged about 10 kilometers from here, and it snapped a lot of trees there. It looked quite formidable in Simpele, too. It looked like a giant army would've stormed through the area.
Long camping isn't obviously really new to Nightwish, as you could've read already from Soundi 08/2006. Back then, in the summer of 2006, Nightwish retired for a few weeks to the Sävi camp center in Suodenniemi, to practice and arrange the material of Dark Passion Play, later released in September 2007.
- The idea of renting Röskö was naturally kind of conceived from the experience we had in Sävi. It was awesome there and the band was knitted together like never before, after some very rough stages. But surely the Sävi memories have been gilded by the years - we didn't even have a singer back then, hems Tuomas and continues:
- Anyhow, we decided already back in Sävi to masquerade the working and arranging of Dark Passion Play's follower as a long summer camp. And it's easy to say now that we'll be doing this in the future too. I hope we'll find a great and most importantly peaceful place when we'll need it.
Yeah, basically anyone could've come to Röskö by a car or by a boat, regardless of the "private event" signs. But the peace has remained?
- Yes. We haven't seen unknown vehicles, except for two occasions. The locals have surely known who has rented the camp center, but in the Finnish tradtion we've been left alone.
But since we're speaking of Kitee, a lot of friends have passed by.
- It's been an awesome Summer, water temperature +31, wonderful surroundings... Let's say that I've been returning empty bottles to the store quite a few times, laughs Tuomas.
In the end of August Röskö was visited by Formula 1 driver Heikki Kovalainen and Apulanta mainman Toni Wirtanen. With world-famous consequences.
- It got completely out of hand. The guys came for a visit and strayed to the training room in the evening. Heikki announced he has some drumming skills and we instantly decided to form a new line-up. We distributed rest of the instruments, and as a result, we had a band called The Myötähäpeä. Our versions of songs "Sukset" and "For Whom the Bell Tolls" are quite the hits already. Next we'll do a ballad like "Nothing Else Matters" or "Wind of Change", and next thing we'll know we'll be touring, Tuomas laughs.
Speaking of other bands, Tuomas presented the ideas ordered from him also at the demo sessions of the next Kotiteollisuus album, to be released early next year.
- I'm sincere when I say this: Kotiteollisuus is about to release a very fresh-sounding album. The band has taken a completely new approach to things, believe or not. And they've been preparing the album with special care - Hynynen had even written all the lyrics beforehand.
But let's forget the other bands after all. Tonight, Saturday 11th of September, it's a small occasion for Nightwish. The reason for that is rather good - just a few hours before singer Anette Olzon finished her parts of the demo version of the next Nightwish album. She was the last of the quintet to deliver her parts. In other words, all the instrument tracks and vocal parts that were planned for the demo have been recorded on hard disk.
- We arrived to Röskö in mid-July. After a few days of probing we started working and processed the new songs with a good intensity... Everything we had planned was recorded, even though the melancholy of atmospheric heavy metal was occasionally at trial, when we worked hard in the sauna-like heat of the training place, Tuomas sneers.
- We realized quite quickly that it's no use trying to force the work. The main idea of the camp was, of course, to finish my demo songs with the other members, but another idea was to raise the spirits in the band after a long break. The mood we achieved here will surely be heard on the final product as well.
Many fans wondered the summer camp diary of the Nightwish website, that have they even touched an instrument, when there were blog photos only about fishing and waterskiing.
- Naturally we've had a plenty of free time, because we also live here. Try it yourself; when you play for 6 hours in tropical indoors you find waterskiing very appealing. Or going to a Kitee Pallo match. Or virtual hockey, to which I've fallen completely. Forming your own team and thinking about all the tactics really captures you. It's twice as addicting as smoking.
Spring and Summer 2010 of Nightwish went along the same lines as the times preceding recording of Dark Passion Play. The preparations for the summer camp were started well in the spring, after Tuomas recorded rough home demos of all new 12 songs. Next, the song billets were sent to the other musicians for evaluation.
- In principle. the songs were quite ready already in the Spring, when I presented the ideas to the others for the first time. For example the tempos didn't change during the summer training, but some song structures underwent slight changes. We also worked the arrangements to be smoother, adjusted the vocal melodies and so on. It's pretty much what we did the last time, Tuomas nods.
What's also familiar from the Dark Passion Play era is that there's one song from Marco among your compositions.
- True. Marco's song joined in half-way through our last tour. He was playing a nice melody with acoustic guitar and I encouraged myself to ask if it's going to for Tarot. It wasn't, so it came for Nightwish.
- Still, there are some differences in the process of working, in comparison with the previous album. This time I had in advance even a clearer view of both the separate songs and the whole album. The song order and everything, Tuomas stresses.
- By the way, people occasionally ask why you make such a perfected and thorough demo. There are many reasons for that. For example, we don't need to do that during the actual studio session. In addition, Pip Williams (the orchestra/choir arranger) needs to have a perfect idea of what kind of things the album is going to have. Otherwise his job work will be crucially harder. It's the same thing with the multi-instrumentalist Troy Donockley, who was in with the previous album too. He has even a bigger role reserved for him on the album, and one of the songs is even written for his contribution. So the old gang is back together again!
Certainly there's an elementary difference between the Sävi and Röskö camp sessions - a difference called Anette Alzon. In the Summer of 2006 the Nightwish group was living a time of great dubiety, regardless of plentiful material, since the band was still looking for a new singer to replace the fired Tarja Turunen. So Tuomas had to work the Dark Passion Play material without knowing the sound or the range of the vocalist who'd be going to sing them. This time the situation was different already from the starting points.
- You can write music without a singer, but of course the present situation is much more pleasant. Now I knew from the start the range and talent of the lead vocalist, and what she is best at. Every vocalist has their own manners and weaknesses, and knowing them makes the job easier for everyone. The letter A is easy to sing with a high note, but for example the letter I is a lot more challenging. You might not realize to think about this kind of stuff as a songwriter.
- Lucklily the demo singing sessions went extremely well. Both singers had really done their homework. There was nothing in the songs that I would've needed to fix for excessive hardness or problematic pitch. However, we do have two excellent singers, and I don't really need to think about the mentioned restrictions that much. Anette and Marco can carry out almost any idea. And that is of course extremely soothing for me.
But are you ever nervous to present the vocal melodies to the experienced vocalists of the band? The question makes Tuomas laugh.
- Yeah, usually I have croaked the tentative vocal melodies and... Well, it's been clear enough for them. But these kind of situations don't make me nervous anymore, I've known Marko for years and Anette's been in the business already for an album and a world tour.
- Actually, lately the presenting of the singing stuff has gone to that I play the demo vocal melodies with piano sound and give the lyrics to the vocalists. After that they realize what I've been after. So we've formed a very fruitful symbiosis between us - I recognize the vocalists' talents and they can interpret my piano melodies.
How strong emotions do the fully complete, sung vocal melodies usually raise in you?
- It indeed is so that the song truly blossoms only after the vocal performances. The instrumental version is what it is, but only the human voice bringing life to the text brings the final feelings.
How's the vocalist proportion on the next album?
- I think the parts of both vocalists are pretty much how they were in Dark Passion Play. Maybe 73 and 27 in percentage? Or 67 and 33?
Darkness has fallen over North Carelia a good while ago. The time has come to familiarize with the new Nightwish demos. A lit walking path leads from the Röskö's roofed camp site to the reddish building couple of hundred meters away. The bottom floor has the sweat room/training area, while the upper floor floor has the demo singing studio of the vocalists. Very homespun, not pretentious.
The trusted long-time recorder and technician of the band, Tero "TeeCee" Kinnunen is still working on the Nightwish demos, moving files from one place to another and doing some light demo mixes on the fly. However, soon the MacBook spits out material at a volume which allows nearby bears and wolves to hear new Nightwish.
A few circumstances are made clear very soon. As Tuomas already stressed, they've been doing a lot more than waterskiing: a sound this massive isn't born on its own. Another thing I quickly picked is the diversity of the material. In addition to shorter songs in style of "Bye Bye Beautiful" and "Dark Chest of Wonders", there are meandering compositions. This isn't really a new thing, since the previous album had 7-minute works like "7 Days to the Wolves" and "Meadows of Heaven", not to mention the epics on Once, "Ghost Love Score" and "Creek Mary's Blood".
- This time we're clocking new numbers because the last song is about 20 minutes long. On the other hand, the album will have couple of songs which are under 4 minutes long... But the material and sound of this band has grown bigger and more dimensional phase by phase. To me, the Nightwish discography shows itself as a kind of continuum, and yet again it's time to open a whole new page, Tuomas describes and continues after a while:
- It's a new page also in that sense, that this time the album tells a coherent story. Now I had a very strong idea about what I want to say with the album, since the very beginning. This carried the song material to a direction that's even more diverse than before. There's ghost atmosphere, night club atmosphere, deranged fairy tale characters. Definitely some things will bring divided reactions, but that's how it must be. There's no point in fearing ideas, that's how you go wrong.
The discussion continues for a good while. There's talk is about how precisely Nightwish is going to plan their future tour schedules ("Dark Passion Play world tour was quite rough for the band members with families..."), there's talk about Röskö camp fox, there's talk about the orchestra and choir recordings of the future album ("in mid-February we go to London, we'll have the same orchestra and choir as the last time, with few additions").
And at some point Tuomas says few sentences which seem to in some way encapsulate Nightwish's whole career this far, and the fantasy world created by the band.
- Much of the band stuff is that you play together and play concerts and drink booze and give the fans experiences. But maybe the outsiders don't always understand that artists also have a need to do something meaningful. I mean really meaningful. You want to do something which really touches people and even makes the world a better place.
CHECK THE PHOTOS SCANS at tuomas-holopainen.com