I was very happy about this interview. Since Dark Passion Play is two years old, I decided to push promoting that album to the side a bit. I think the interview with Marco a couple of years ago covers that. Whenever possible I like to interview the members that write the songs in the band. I have noticed that there is something unique about all these people. People such as Tobias Sammet, David Defeis, Tony Kakko, Derek Bonner, and Tuomas Holopainen. I like to delve into these folks a bit to try and find out how such great music is created.

Once again my encounter with Nightwish was pure class. I feel I have to mention this at every opportunity because for a band of this caliber, they are completely courteous professionals. From their tower of power manager Ewo, who is to Nightwish what Rod Smallwood is to Iron Maiden, to the crew, and the other band members themselves, everyone was total class. Nightwish are the de facto standard on how to be a professional touring and recording band.

Left to right: Marco Hietela, Tuomas Holopainen, Annette Olzon, Emppu Vourinen, Jukka Nevalainen

This first question I gotta ask because I am very curious. On your bio on the Nightwish site you have The Dark Tower series listed with your favorite books. What did you think of the ending after all these years?
I really liked the ending but I felt so completely empty because I knew that this was it. I had been reading it for years, waiting for the story to go on. When it ended, I was sitting in a hotel room and when I read the last page I got the shivers. This was it. I felt really sad it was over although I liked the ending, I thought it was really good. I heard some rumors that they are making a movie out of it or like a mini series?
Yeah it is on for sure but they haven't decided on a movie or an HBO series thing. Have you heard about the comic books they're doing? One's called The Long Road Home and it's an original story about Roland and Cuthbert going back after Wizard And Glass?
I've seen some of the comics. Just seen them though, I haven't read any. I think that The Dark Tower series is Stephen King's best work, one of the best stories ever written. That, The Talisman, and The Lord Of The Rings are all three on the same level for me.
I have a question for you about The Sound Of Nightwish Reborn. This was a digital only release and I'm curious as to why you guys decided to do a digital only release. Was it because the material was b-sides and demos or was it supposed to be your first foray into a digital only outlet?
You know, this was completely the record label's idea. I haven't sacrificed a single thought on this release and I haven't seen it, never heard it, I don't even know what songs are included. I've just heard that this kind of release exists, that's all I know about it. Really! Honestly, I don't know. It seems that record labels these days are putting out all kinds of stuff and when they asked us, it was "Ok, go ahead."
What are your thoughts on digital only releases? Do you see yourself going that way in the future or do you prefer to have the actual hard copy as long as its possible?
I detest digital stuff to the bone. Maybe it's the thing for the future and that is a scary thought. I don't even own an Ipod and I have never downloaded a single thing from the internet, I don't even know how it's done. I want my cd in my hand so I can see the cover and read the lyrics, everything. Just my opnion.
You seem to be a person that is very in touch with nature. I remember on the End Of Innocence DVD you spoke of your family's cabin with fond reverence. When you were down and out in 2001 between Over The Hills and Century Child you went to the woods with Tony [Kakko] and that was a very rejuvenating experience. How do you think that being in touch with nature and having an appreciation for nature affected your songwriting in the early days, and then how do you think touring the world and seeing all sorts of different cultures affected your songwriting if at all?
I think that everything you see and experience in life affects your songwriting on a subconscious level. But the fact that I've been living in the middle of nowhere in the woods all of the thirty two years of my life, that has certainly affected what I am as a person and that way to my songwriting. I'd like to think that the songs I do are quite organic. I take alot of inspiration from the beauty of the world, the beauty and the purity of nature which I have witnessed my whole life. If I was a city slicker I think I would be doing something like industrial metal. I think that there is a strong connection with nature in everything we do.
This question is one my friend Damien brought up which is, have you written all your songs while home in Finland? Or have you composed songs in various places like the beaches in Japan or down south in Australia? Not just riffs or ideas but whole concrete songs.
I have never completed a song anywhere else other than my own room in my house. I'm gathering ideas all the time wherever I am. Right now I have a notebook, actually, two notebooks because one is full already, and they are full of ideas, lyrics, riffs, melodies, little lines. Touring the world I get inspired all the time by people I meet, different cultures and experiences. I feel the world so strongly and it feels good. But it is impossible for me to find the mood to complete a song in an environment like this. [touring] I need my peace and solitude at home for a few months to be able to put it all together.
Since Wishmaster, Nightwish's popularity has been on an increasing upward slope and with that comes more and more obligations. Do you still find time to practice as a musician, not just your songwriting but your technique such as scales, patterns, and stuff like that?
I don't have the time, but that's no excuse, I don't do it anymore. I used to do it alot earlier on but I don't do it anymore. To be honest I have seen my technique going down. Seriously! There are certain songs from Oceanborn like Pharaoh Sails To Orion or Stargazers that I still think I can do... but not so easily like I used to. I'm getting older and lazier. Just doing the technique, it's so boring. I would rather spend all that time and energy on the songwriting. But you do have a point. I've been thinking because I've seen when I play live that the technique is not like it used to be like it was ten years ago. I should get a hold of myself.
Oh, well hey man it's not a critique on my part...
Oh I know, it's just I've been thinking that myself and I've noticed it so it was a good point.
This is kind of a personal question but when you were growing up, did you feel like you were a bit of an outsider from most of the other people you knew such as your peers or the people you went to school with?
Very, very much. I had a nickname, "The Lone Wolf" when I was in high school. The thing is though I was never bullied or teased, I was just different. I had some friends but I really enjoyed being by myself. I spent alot of time at home with just me, my mom, and my dad. I would read alot and I watched alot of movies, or I'd just go out into the woods. I really like to be by myself. It wasn't like I was an outcast though in that sense. I did really well in school, I had friends, and I had my hobbies.
What was the first song that when you got done writing that you felt accomplished with because it tested your limits as a writer and performer and what has been the most recent song that made you feel this way?
It must have been one of the songs from the first album, Angels Fall First. When I finished with the song The Carpenter, even though it feels a bit corny to say these days, but I felt really proud of it because of the theme of the song and how it goes. That was also the first single that Nightwish released in 1997. Now when I listen to it I hear all the flaws but there is still something in there that I am really proud of. Of the recent doings, about a month ago, three weeks ago before we came on this tour, I got a song finished at home. Well, it's more like an interlude, three and a half minutes long, and it is going to be on the next album. I am just really, really happy with it. It's something really simple but I got the story that I wanted to tell into that song. This was song number three that I have got down for the upcoming album.
That's kind of a segue way into this next question. I know that alot of your songs are based on personal experience but I also know that you are a fan of Disney, a fan of the fantastical, with songs like Fantasmic, and The Pharoah Sails To Orion. What are some of your favorite fairy tales that you have written? The fictitious stories for Nightwish as opposed to the personal stuff on Century Child like End Of All Hope, Dead To The World, and Slaying The Dreamer.
I like the whole concept of The Poet And The Pendulum. It's related to Edgar Allen Poe's Pit And The Pendulum and I put myself onto the altar with the swaying pendulum on top of me. I really got the shivers when I thought that yes, this idea can work. The Poet And The Pendulum, there's that word play but also it had alot of symbolism because of what happened a few years ago. I felt like I was beneath this swinging blade and that it was going to come down any minute now and split me in half. I was really excited with the whole metaphor and symbolism of that. That is still my greatest achievement in music so far I think. I actually got the idea to put myself into that song, there's actually the word Tuomas in the song, from The Dark Tower series. Stephen King wrote himself into Song Of Susannah and when I read that I thought, "This is so cool, I have to do this with Nightwish." It's such a wonderful idea and it's so crazy that it really worked. It was a bit of a rip off but that's where I got the idea.
Since you are the main composer and lyricist, what do you find easier to express yourself emotionally within the music? For example if you are angry and write an aggressive song like Slaying The Dreamer, does the aggression come out in the music first and then the lyrics afterward, or was it easier to get the aggression into the lyrics and then compose the music behind them?
I think that when you talk about aggression and negative feelings, it is much easier to start with the lyrics. I still have my notebook from the Century Child era when I was writing Slaying The Dreamer. There's a dozen pages of this written down [motions angry, hard, handwriting in the air]. alot of "f" words, I was so pissed about something that I wrote down all the stuff, pages and pages. After that I started to clean it up and it became the lyrics for Slaying The Dreamer. It's the same thing with The Poet And The Pendulum. When it comes to aggression the lyrics are far easier.
Earlier back in the day I remember reading interviews from the Wishmaster and Century Child eras and I remember you commenting about how it would be a dream of yours to work with a full orchestra and choir. Well now that that has happened with Once and Dark Passion Play, what is next on your wish list of life goals to accomplish, not just in Nightwish but life in general?
First of all, when it comes to music and Nightwish I have a huge dream and we are doing everything we can to fulfill it on the next album. I am going to be a bit mystical here because I can't reveal to you anymore, but there is going to be a big twist so to say on the next album. I just hope we can realize that because it is going to be the all time dream come true if we can pull it off. It is going to take alot of time, effort, work, and money. We will see what happens, I am really looking forward to it. Overall in life I feel really happy because I am living in my own house in the woods by the lake. It is a perfect scenario. When I go back home in about a week we are going to plant some potatoes, some vegetables, and all that and I am going to go fishing. My all time dream is to be able to live from nature so I will never have to go the grocery store again.
At what point did you realize that Nightwish and your dream of writing music that this was it, this was going to be your life? Alot of people will get together and jam and maybe say, "Hey let's write some stuff," but how old were you when you realized this vision was your life and nothing was going to stop you?
It was during the songwriting of Oceanborn in 1998, early on. I was studying in a university back then and when I was studying I was writing the songs for Oceanborn. I felt so ambitious and so good about it that I couldn't care less about the studies. I think at that point I realized that I really wanted to give this a shot to see how far we could get with the band. Angels Fall First had already hit the charts so there was some interest from people and we had done a few shows. It just felt so good and the studying thing felt so wrong. I quit everything and just did Nightwish as a full time job. I would say the first three months of 1998 was the crucial time.
What is your favorite aspect of the music industry and what is your least favorite part? This could be anything from the songwriting process, to touring and seeing cultures, record label politics. Basically, what is your favorite part of being a professional musician and what is your least favorite?
By far my most favorite aspect is the songwriting process. The part where I get to be by myself at home and do the songs and then introduce them to the band and rehearse them. All of this, bringing the ideas together and creating music out of nothing. That is by far my most favorite part. Of course I like touring, I like meeting new people, being in different countries and seeing the sights, but that's secondary. The business part is by far the worst. I have taken a really naive approach to all of that. I don't talk about that and I don't want to hear about it because it takes all of my energy away. I am such a child when it comes to all this business stuff. People around me and even in the band, they criticize me a little bit that I should know where I'm going with the money and I just say that I can't deal with it, that's why we have the managers. We have two of them and our drummer, Jukka, takes care of all the business. I trust him completely. I have no idea how much we get for these shows, I don't know what the ticket sales are, I don't know how much money we are making and I don't want to know. It really gives me the creeps.
Does not knowing all that stuff and not stressing about it, does it feel like it allows you to be more pure?
Yeah exactly. Because I know myself. And I know my limits. Not dealing with that stuff in a way helps me to make better music. It sounds corny but that's the way it is. I even quit my email so I don't even have that anymore. Whenever I would wake up and check my emails there would be twenty new messages and it would all be record label crap, money business and all that. I just can't do this, sorry. So we made a deal and I stay out of it. Let other people who have the understanding and the interest to do that do it.
Do you have a specific time of the day that you enjoy to write during? Or a specific place like a writing room in your cabin? Something like maybe dusk at sunset is a great time or do you just write more or less when inspiration strikes?
Whenever inspiration strikes and it can happen at any time. But I have also noticed that mornings are the best time by far. The moment when you wake up, drink your morning coffee, and after that you sit in front of your keyboard. The next five hours from that moment are the best. For some reason this really works for me. I have talked about it with my colleagues and almost everybody in this business they say that night is the best time but it is the worst time for me. I don't know why, I get tired and woozied out. It's just not a good time for me, mornings are the best.
Your lyrics are very open to interpretation and complex. Do you think that your approach to English and writing lyrics is because English isn't your first language and that Finnish is your first? Cos the way that like you , Tony Kakko, and Timo Tolkki, the way you guys write lyrics are pretty profound and are a bit more in depth than "typical dumb American metal lyrics."
I know there are alot of grammar mistakes but I think that that is part of the appeal. I don't want it to be perfect because I am not a native English speaker. I guess it makes it a bit more charming even in a way. It is easier to write in English for some reason but I really don't know why. I try to avoid cliches to the maximum because I am writing about stuff that all the musicians in the world write about and that's love, dreams, hopes, fears, all that stuff. But you don't have to be so obvious. You don't have to go Bon Jovi, "baby I'll love you always, I'm just a man." That's crap. I mean it's a good cause because it's about love and relations but it's total crap. You just can't put it so direct there has to be some interpretation. That's what poetry is about, interpretation. It's giving you the images and not telling you everything straight.
Were there any particular writers or poets that influenced your writing style in terms of usage of metaphors or phrasing?
One of my biggest inspirations, especially in the early days is the guy from My Dying Bride, Aaron Stainthorpe. I still adore his lyrics. As a metal music lyricist he is still my biggest idol. I read alot of poetry and lately I have found these old American poets like Edgar Allen Poe is one of my favorites and especially Walt Whitman. His book Song Of Myself has kind of become my personal bible. It holds a life philosophy that I can truly relate to. It is the greatest piece of poetry ever written and I think that this will show on the next album very strongly.
Well I definitely have to look this up when I get home.
Please do.
I know you've done a million interviews but what is a question or topic that you would love to talk about but it hasn't been brought up yet in an interview?
I just counted that I've done something like eight hundred and fifty interviews during this past tour so almost everything has been answered. I love to talk about personal interests like Walt Whitman, Disney, movies, literature, and about music and how songs are made. I don't want to talk about the past of the band. I still get this every now and then. "Ok so here's Tuomas of Nightwish. Could you please explain to me the history of the band from the first album up to this day?" (laughs) And then it's just like," Oh fuck!" I couldn't name just one topic. Things that matter, that is what I like to talk about. This interview is a perfect example of that in every aspect. It's been a good talk about really interesting stuff. Stuff that matters, that fans want to hear, and stuff I like to talk about.
Because you write such very profound lyrics and because Nightwish's popularity is growing more and more do you ever feel that someone might have misinterpreted a deeply personal song that you have written in a horrible way and also in a sense do you feel that you have a bit of responsibility for these people who do take these songs in and think the world of them?
It's a really scary thought. I have thought about this alot in the past few months about the responsibility. It's an immensely scary thought. Some people have taken the songs that we do and the lyrics so deep into them and they are almost reading it as a bible. Sometimes you meet the fanatic fans and you see what it means to them and it's like... it is important, it is music and it's poetry but it isn't the whole world. That's something that I have a hard time coping with because I feel the responsibility on my shoulders and I'm not so sure if I can take it always. I've seen the effect that I or another band member can have on a fan. It takes one minute of your life to go and see somebody and take a picture with him or her, sign an autograph and chat a few words. And they live five years longer because of that you can see it in their eyes, it means the world to them. Sometimes you simply can't though, you don't have the time or the energy and you just can't do it. Later on you feel like "I could have done it." I have that power to influence people and make them feel really good or really bad by not meeting them or doing something wrong unintentionally and that I have a hard time coping with.
What are your opinions on the modern Disney movies as compared to old school ones? Like do you like the Pixar ones or do you find yourself more drawn still to the classics like Sleeping Beauty and Fantasia?
In a way I hate to say this because when you are a big fan of something you always say the older stuff was better. We get that all the time, "Yeah the new one is ok but the old stuff is really good." With Disney its the same way for me. I am not really into Pixar at all. I've seen some of the computer animated movies and they are good for a laugh, to see once but they just don't have the magic that I am after. I am still very deeply into the old stuff, Sleeping Beauty, Fantasia, even Beauty And The Beast. They did make some really good stuff in the nineties but after that they just didn't do the trick for me.