Big favourites with lovers of so-called "Andrew-Lloyd-Webber-metal", Finland's Nightwish have, in the last few years, become one of extreme metal's "bands to watch". In the wake of the mass popularity Evanescence recently achieved -- and the breakthroughs that Lacuna Coil, crucially, made shortly before -- the now-Nuclear-Blast-distributed, female-fronted Finnish five-piece look set to take the metal mainstream by storm with their forthcoming fifth full-length, _Once_. In the first week of March, I called up keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen to chat about it, the high-profile video the band had filmed with director Antti Jokinen for _Once_'s first single, "Nemo", and what Nightwish were up to for the rest of the year.
CoC: You did two sessions with the London Session Orchestra -- and with the second, on February 29th, finished the recording of _Once_. What was it like working with the London Session Orchestra?
Tuomas Holopainen: It was totally, absolutely incredible. The first time we went there I was actually pretty scared 'cause I hadn't heard any of the arrangements, but I was pretty confident in Mr. Pip Williams and I was definitely confident with the orchestra as well, because the same guys played in the "Lord of the Rings" and "Harry Potter" films. So I had all the faith in the world in them, but it was still a very exciting thing to hear them play: it was one of the biggest experiences of my whole career, to have them play my songs. Both sessions were incredible and they really gave a new touch to the album, for the overall concept of the album.
CoC: So you think it enhanced what the album -was-?
CoC: So now you've finished the album?
TH: Basically, yeah. We started mixing it today. All the recordings are made and we have about a month's worth of mixing to do.
CoC: Where are you mixing the album?
TH: At Finnvox studios, in Helsinki.
CoC: Is there a release date for it yet?
TH: It should be the 7th of June. The beginning of June, definitely.
CoC: So everything went to plan in the end, there were no setbacks?
TH: No, not in the whole session, really. We had been in the studio since mid-October. The only bad thing about this whole thing is that it's taken so long. But the atmosphere within the band and in the recordings has been really nice, and much better than doing the _Century Child_ album. It's been a real nice process. Too long, but that's a small thing.
CoC: When the album comes out in June, what's the plan? Are you planning a tour?
TH: Well, we have a few festival shows during the summer, only festivals. I don't know much about that: a few shows in Finland and in Europe. The actual tour starts in August. First we go off to America -- we have fourteen shows there -- after that there's the Finnish tour, Scandinavian tour, European and South American tour. Then we take a Christmas break and continue touring after Christmas in 2005.
CoC: You recently did a video clip with Antti Jokinen, who has done videos for Celine Dion, Eminem and Shania Twain, and is currently working on "Exorcist: The Beginning" with Renny Harlin ("The Long Kiss Goodbye"). How was that and what sort of visuals have been prepared for that?
TH: To be honest, I haven't seen any of the stuff yet. The original idea for the story was made by me, actually, and then the director saw it and he thought it was pretty cool, but he changed it quite a bit, actually. The band is pretty much playing in a snowstorm so it's a very snowy kind of video with huge special effects -- at least, with our budget, what we can do. But it's something that, at least, nobody in Finland has done before. Antti Jokinen is amazing, he's like a Hollywood star so he really knows how to do this thing and we just wanted to give him a shot and, like I said, I haven't seen one second of the final result yet so I can't tell you anything more.
CoC: Are you looking for this album to make you a much bigger band in terms of pop success?
TH: Well, that was never the intention, and once you hear the album you'll understand what I mean. This album is gonna be pretty difficult -- difficult is the word, because these songs don't have much "hit potential", that's what I think. Only the single, "Nemo", is written in the "hit song" structure. We just had to do one of them, because of the single. The album has a lot of orchestra. It's very massive. It's very much different parts in the songs. It's more like film music than normal heavy metal songs. It's definitely something unique, and I'm very proud of that. We'll see what happens.
CoC: When you go on tour, are there any plans thus far to replicate the orchestral sounds with live players, or is that simply out of the question financially?
TH: It's gonna be mini-disc at least for the first shows. We just can't do it because of the money -- it's gonna cost like hell. But there are some plans, some preliminary plans for sometime in 2005, to do some shows with the orchestra and a choir. It would be a dream come true for us. It's gonna take a lot of arrangements, but I think that we're gonna do it.