Nightwish, som haft en ständig svängdörr för sina sångerskor, är nu redo att släppa lös första albumet med Floor Jansen. Fansen lär knappast bli besvikna och albumet bjuder bl a på bandets hittills längsta låt, “The greatest show on Earth”, som klockar in på 24 minuter. Bandledaren Tuomas Holopainen har snöat in på evolutionsläran och plöjt böcker av kända ateister som Richard Dawkins, som gästspelar på albumet, och numera bortgångne Christopher Hitchens. Just den långa låten, som sammanfattar 5 miljarder år, är något som Tuomas är extra nöjd med:
“The whole subject was so fascinating and so inspiring, we really didn´t have any problems bringing that whole thing together. It is the ultimate theme, the evolution of life on earth, from the beginning to far away into the future, so we had a lot of fun toying around with it. Even now I think it´s a bit short.”
The quote ”Endless forms most beautiful”, what was it about those words that made it become the album title? Were there other Darwin quotes floating around?
Tuomas: Well, at one point the album was actually gonna be called “Èlan”, but after googling it, we found out that there´s a ski company called that. There´s also a company in Ireland who produces medicine and that kinda stuff, so we thought it might be too much of a risk. The song title “Endless forms most beautiful” was there all along and we were kinda struggling with what to call the album and then it just occurred to me that we had that title and it sounded really good. And it fits with the theme.
Marco: You do have to know it´s dark and not cheesy. (laughs)
Is the theme of the album “the meaning of life” or “the evolution of life”?
Tuomas: “Endless forms most beautiful” refers to the diversity of life on his planet. A lot of the songs are inspired by evolution, science, the beauty of reason, magic of reality.
Floor, what´s it like coming into a band like this? I read somewhere that you said Tuomas challenged you during the recordings?
Tuomas: Yeah, I had a whip! (laughs)
Floor: I like to use the colors that I have to offer, but it doesn´t mean that I have to, unless it fits the music. That I thought, was really challenging, to put everything at the right moment. Where do you keep it small, where do you make it big? Where does the aggression come? The most challenging part were the very soft and small parts, losing power and I went deeper into the smaller sounds. It was a personal ambition, to look into that, but singing in a metal band doesn´t always facilitate that. This album really did.
Is it difficult finding your place in a band that´s been around for some time?
Floor: Actually no. I think that if I would try and put it that perspective, like there´s the band and there´s me… but for me it became Marco, Tuomas and so on and we make music and I hope I have something to add there. That is a way more easy approach than thinking; “Oh my god, this band´s been around for so long! What will the fans expect and I´m the third singer?” But you can´t really do anything about it. You work with keeping your mind into where you´re actually are and the comfort of this group, which I found really nice and easy going. That just did it and it works way better than the other thoughts.
The last song on the album, “The greatest show on earth” is your longest yet with 24 minutes. Was that the most difficult and challenging song on this album?
Tuomas: I don´t think so. Not at all.
Marco: Maybe if you ask some of the other guys, it might be the most challenging. There´s quite a lot of details that we paid attention to in all of the songs. There are small add ons, nuances and surprises all the way through, but it wasn´t the hardest one.
Floor: Maybe to make it one song? But that´s more songwriting.
Tuomas: The whole subject was so fascinating and so inspiring, we really didn´t have any problems bringing that whole thing together. It is the ultimate theme, the evolution of life on earth, from the beginning to far away into the future, so we had a lot of fun toying around with it.
Marco: If you think about the whole album, it was overwhelming and easy at the same time, so it´s pretty hard to say if something was harder than anything else. It didn´t feel like it. Nothing fell apart. It was just like, Hey, if we put this there, it would be even better!” and we´d go; “Ok, it is better!” and that was it. (laughs)
Tuomas, I understand that you´ve read the books of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and so on. Have the rest of you guys read any of them?
Floor: Not everything, but it was very inspiring to hear about it, because in all honesty, I didn´t know that much about it. We had a lot of campfire evenings, talking about the subject, our opinions, having discussions and it was very, very interesting. We´ve watched a couple of DVD’s about Dawkins and Darwin. Very interesting! Everybody in the band have their own opinions of course and it´s not about forcing an opinion on anybody else, but just to get into all this material was very interesting.
Marco: I haven´t read any Dawkins, but I´ve been a science freak ever since I was a kid. I thought I was gonna be an astronaut, but an astronomer would´ve been fine as well. It didn´t really happen but I think I got close enough to the stars anyway. (laughs)
It´s the kind of subjects that come up at three in the morning after a few too many drinks.
Floor: It would be so cool if you could remember it all the next morning. (laughs)
Marco: You found the answer last night! But now you don´t remember it. (laughs)
Floor: Yeah, I did, didn´t I? (laughs)
Are these books you´ve been reading over recent years ,or is it something that kinda popped up recently?
Tuomas: It´s quite a new thing for me. About three or four years ago, I read my first Dawkins book and since then I´ve read them all and seen all the documentaries. I´m really fascinated with the guy and it´s obviously had a big impact on me. It´s very inspiring stuff.
The lines he says in the song “The greatest show on earth”, are those your lines or did he come up with them?
Tuomas: The first two quotes are from his books and the last one is from Darwin. The opening lines on the album, where he´s talking, that´s something I came up with. It seemed like a nice idea to open the album with Dawkins and also finishing it with him.
So this is probably Dawkins first metal experience?
Tuomas: I would assume so. (laughs) To this day, I don´t really know why he agreed to do this for us. I wrote him a handwritten letter last January and he replied that he´d never ever heard of Nightwish before and he said; “I went on youtube and listened to some of your stuff and enjoyed it immensely, so I’m looking forward to the collaboration with you.” I couldn´t believe it.
What is it that makes a song become 24 minutes long? Do you know from the start that it´s gonna be a long one or do you just keep adding stuff to it?
Tuomas: When you think about what the song is about, it´s rather difficult to make it a four minute song, since it´s about a 5 billion year evolution. You have to make it an epic one, to get the story told. Even now I think it´s a bit short. (laughs)
Is that a song you see the band performing live?
Tuomas: Most definitely, yeah! Not the whole song though, but some parts of it.
The song “The eyes of Sharbat Gula”? I kinda remembered that name and of course googled it and it´s this beautiful Afghan girl who ended up on the cover of National Geographic. I also then remembered that the photographer went back several years later and took her photo again and she looked a lot older than she actually was. Why a song about her?
Tuomas: I came across that issue of National Geographic and found the photo really inspiring and then just decided to do a song about children in war. I really struggled with the lyrics for that song for a long time. I didn´t really have a starting point and it was actually Troy who last summer told me to not put lyrics to it, but make it an instrumental and make the message even more effective, and right he was.
What´s the song “Edema Ruh” about? Are they like a travelling people?
Tuomas: That´s right, but it´s all fantasy and they never existed. It´s a series of fantasy books, but they are based on this medieval gypsy culture, when they went from village to village and performed for people as a way of earning a living.
It made me think of the situation in Sweden right now, with all the people from Romania sitting in the streets begging.
Tuomas: This song is much more down to earth and we´re not trying to make a political statement.
Floor: There´sa difference between those and especially this group of people were just artists performing. And that situation is not just in Sweden, unfortunately.
How do you go about picking songs off of this album for the upcoming tour?
Tuomas: It´s gonna be difficult, but it´s a very positive problem.
And I guess a whole new stage show?
Tuomas: There´s some really, really cool stuff coming up. Obviously we´ll try and bring some of thematic of the album on stage.
Floor: We were thinking about dinosaurs. (laughs)
Tuomas: Inflatable dinosaurs. (laughs)
I mean, Christian science believes that man and dinosaurs lived side by side in the beginning.
Tuomas: And they actually teach that in some schools.
Yeah, there´s a big debate in some parts of the US, about how schools should not just teach about evolution.
Tuomas: Yes, like teaching alchemy beside chemistry and the stork theory about where babies come from, just as an alternative. It´s ridiculous.
When you´ve finished an album like this one, do you always look at it as your best one so far?
Marco: You never know. We´ve all had really great vibes about this one. I can´t be objective, but I do that this is a really good thing we´ve achieved. Time will tell.
Tuomas: It´s a question that is impossible to answer. It´s like the old comparison to who´s your favorite kid? You just cannot say that, but the latest gets some special attention from you, naturally.
Marco: This is the youngest child, so you kinda show it extra care. (laughs)
Did you have a lot more songs than what ended up on the album?
Tuomas: Just one more song called “Sagan”, which is gonna be a bonus track.
About Carl Sagan?
Floor: Did you have to google that one too? (laughs)
No, I actually know who he was. (laughs)
Marco: Worship Sagan!
Tuomas: That´s a t-shirt, “Sagan worshiper”. It´s really good. Seriously.
Well, these are questions you could discuss at length.
Tuomas: People are already doing that in the Nightwish forums. It´s wonderful stuff, because all we want to do is give food for thought and raise awareness, not preach. People are already discussing all this and that´s a very positive side to it and that´s what people should be doing.
Floor: This album is not about what Dawkins thinks or what we think, it´s about what you think after listening to it.
Things are different today. Everything is out there. You post studio reports and you can hear snippets of songs before the album is out. There´s no mystique to an album anymore. How do you feel about that?
Marco: I think we feel absolutely the same.
Tuomas: We´talked about that when we were listening to the album. There´s been many discussions. Let´s bring mystery back to music and the hype surrounding the album release!
Floor: I actually read a quote or a reaction to our latest album trailer. We´ve released 10 trailers about the making of this album and there´s no music, so there´s still mystery surrounding those trailers, but one reaction was; “This is a completely useless trailer, because it doesn´t play any music!” I mean, there´s still 30 minutes of material that´s triggering something about what´s to come, but you still really don´t know what is coming. How do you create mystique to this new generation of teenagers who are used to having access to music right away? I taped stuff from the radio when I was younger, but our generation is “dying out”. How do you bring it back to generations that are used to getting hold of everything fast?
And getting it for free.
Floor: Yeah, and that´s even worse! It´s definitely an interesting concept that we´ve been trying to play with. How do you give enough to keep everybody interested, but not enough to basically just give it all away? And when you do that, how do you build it up? Record labels also follow the trends of course, so how do you as a band say; Wait a second! How can we do it our way?”
It has to be difficult because you can´t go into total silence, you have to give the fans something, otherwise they might move onto something else, considering the attention span kids have today?
Marco: You just have to keep giving them as little as possible and just enough to remind them.
Floor: In the end, the music should still do the talking and that is also something we were discussing earlier. You have different medias offering music and you download it and play it on your phone and that´s how people experience music today. People spend so much time making a nice song with layers and sounds that you can´t hear on a lousy mp3. How can you get back to really valuate what music is actually worth? We´re still in a fortunate scene where people want the artwork and all that.
Marco: It´s a favorite subject of mine and I might ramble, but I think that laptop speakers and phone speakers should be illegal! (laughs) People should be forced to buy really good headphones or speakers and at least once in their life, try listening to an album through those.
Tuomas: A comforting thought, never the less, is that mankind still wants to hear music and even more than before. They want music.
Marco: Another comforting thought is that you can never beat a good live show! Albums might be better sounding or better produced, but the vibe you get from thousands of people, you can´t beat that shit!
Text av: Niclas Müller-Hansen
Bandfoton: Ville Juurikkala från bandets hemsida
Livefoton: Therés Stephansdotter Björk