I was one of a lucky group of journalists who were invited along to
an exclusive listening session at Phoenix Sound Studios, in the
shadows of the cranes that are building the new Wembley Soccer
Stadium. The studio is actually a huge hall, big enough to house an
entire orchestra and choir, in fact probably big enough to house a
A small party, comprising Tuomas Holopainen of Nightwish, Manager Ewo
Rytkõnen and recording engineer Mikko Karmila had flown in from
Finland on Saturday night to complete a day's recording before
returning to Finland on the Monday.
Their objective was to complete the recording of the orchestral and choral parts for 5 of the eleven
songs on the album, having already completed 4 of the nine songs on
the album that will feature the orchestra. Recording took place
throughout the day, with the London Session Orchestra recording their
parts during the morning and afternoon, `electric violin' was
recorded between 5pm and 7pm and then during the evening session, the
choral parts were laid down.
The songs which were worked on included "Nemo" (the song which will feature on the new upcoming
Nightwish single and as a video clip), "Wish I Had An Angel", "The
Siren", "Higher Than Hope" and "Dark Chest Of Wonders".
Upon arrival at just after 6pm, I was escorted to a room with comfy
chairs and a great Hi-Fi. The new Nightwish disk was already playing
track 2. I settled down and recorded my thoughts on some of the
tracks as follows:
- Planet Hell - Very heavy and surprisingly dark for Nightwish.
- Wish I had an Angel: Catchy with a good sing-along chorus, it
sounds like a sure-fire second single.
- Ghost Love Score - A fantastic epic (over 10 mins long). It
featured the orchestra and choir quite heavily.
- Creek Mary's Blood - Another one which already featured orchestra
parts, it was a slow ballad. At times it seemed like Tarja was
singing over 'film music'.
- Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan - a nice ballad sung in their native
- Nemo - A fairly standard Nightwish tune with a chugging guitar riff
- The Siren - Tune which features a lot of eastern, Arabic sounding
1 of these was a ballad, which was pleasant enough but nothing
special, another was a little heavier and a fairly standard Nightwish
tune. The third however, entitled `Where were you last night?'
sounded like a missing track from a Bon Jovi album in the 1980s.
Once this was complete, Ewo then led us down into the main control
room of the studio where we watched producer and arranger Pip
Williams and his team record the choir singing a number of parts for
various songs, one of whom was `Dark Chest of Wonders'. Mikko and
Tuomas were also present with Tuomas signalling his satisfaction or
otherwise with the singing, while Pip communicated with the conductor
and the leader of the choir as they fine-tuned their performances to
After an hour or so, there was a `tea break' (we are in England after
all) and I was guided to the cafeteria where I had the chance to
speak to Tuomas for about 15 minutes. I began by asking him about his
impressions of the UK dates that the band played last year, at the
Bloodstock Festival in Derby and at the Mean Fiddler in London.
TH: They were amazing! In the sense that it was the first time that
we came to the Uk and I didn't know that we had any following, so I
would have been surprised if there would been like 100 people who
came to see us because I don't think that any of our records has been
released like officially here.
CF: `Century Child' and the others have now come out
TH: Oh, OK,
CF: ... but it was after Bloodstock.
TH: Right, right ... So it was a HUGE surprise for me. I mean it was
very nice, English people are the most polite people in the world -
well that's the impression I have right now. Very nice.
(I then explained that after the UK gigs I also saw the band at the
Progpower Festival in Atlanta and then in New York).
TH: You did? What's wrong with you? LOL
CF: The reaction in the States was pretty good too.
TH: Yes it was. Pretty much the same as for the UK. I didn't know
that we had any sort of following over there either, so it was
AMAZING! Something's definitely going on.
CF: The crowd in New York were fantastic.
TH: They were because Century Child hadn't been released there at
that time and the people were singing along with the songs and I was
like `What?!?' Incredible! Very flattering.
CF: So why did you pick London and this studio to record parts of the
TH: Well the simple reason is that we really wanted to have the best,
you know. It sounds kinda corny, but we wanted to have the best no
matter the costs, and our record engineer Mikko Karmila, he had some
connections with Pip Williams who is doing the arrangements and he
recommended him to us. We contacted him and he was very interested in
us and then he booked the orchestra for us. To be honest, the whole
thing, the orchestra, it costs like twice as much as the whole
previous album altogether. But it doesn't matter because the result
is so awesome. So I'm very proud to be working with them.
CF: The rough mixes we heard before ... how much is going to be
TH: There's gonna be 11 songs on the album and the orchestra is
playing on 9 of them, so you just heard pretty much nothing.
CF: Well, there were one or two songs that had a lot of
orchestra `Creek Mary's Blood'? and `Ghost Love Score' ?
[I tried to make sense of some of the notes that I had taken. We had
been given the names of 11 tracks, but the demo CD we had heard
contained 14 tracks...we were all thrown out because the title to track number 9
was in Finnish, but it seemed to be number 11 on the CD.]
TH: Yeah, because the tracklisting was all messed up. The first 7 of
them were right, because there were like bonus tracks in between them
and everything so ...
CF: A-ha! Bonus tracks in between rather than at the end?
TH: Yeah, exactly.
CF: (laughs) Oh well you really confused us - everybody.
TH: Sorry about that.
CF: What was that last track?
TH: `Where were you last night? It's a cover song that we did.
From Anki Bagger. It's a Swedish Techno hit from 1989.
CF: (laughs) People were saying, `It must be a Bonus Track - its Jon
TH: Yeah - I heard that before. No. It's a Swedish Techno hit - like
Disco, Trance something like this. And the whole point in doing that
is that we wanted to make a statement `Don't take us so seriously all
the time, please'. (Laughs) But it is a bonus track - definitely.
CF: Will it be a Japanese one?
TH: I don't know for sure, but we're gonna postpone it as much as
CF: There was one other song which had a slightly more oriental...middle-eastern feel
TH: The Siren
TH: Yeah well it also lacked the chorus, orchestra and violin solo.
It's a very nice song.
CF: I just wondered what had influenced you to include something like
TH: That song in particular? I just wanted to do something Eastern
like Egyptian or Arabian. Then I saw the Disney movie `Sinbad' Have
you see this movie? (I had to admit that I hadn't)
TH: There's this scene of about 5 minutes where the sirens come and
tempt Sinbad and it has AWESEOME music behind it and I said `I wanna
make a song about this' ... about Sirens tempting the listener -
that's the whole idea of the song.
CF: I just wondered, because you toured with After Forever, and Mark
Jansen (Epica, ex-After Forever) is quite interested in oriental
sounds which he incorporated in a couple of After Forever songs and I
just wondered if there was a link there .. but obviously not.
TH: Not like that ... No.
CF: And also the guitars seem to be more prominent or heavy on quite
a few of the songs.
TH: Yeah, I think so too because they are much more to the front in
this album. This album is more riff orientated - guitar riff
orientated but still there is more orchestra and the choir so its
CF: Was it hard to write? On `The End of Innocence' you talked
about `Century Child' being a really difficult album to write.
TH: It was very difficult and this one was equally difficult, but its
been more fun than ever though. I mean its been in a very positive
spirit, both for me and for the whole band. The whole process has
been really smooth even though it has been really difficult and
really long but we're all having the time of our lives here. I think
that there is a bit of a positive touch to this album, more than
before. Just fun, having fun doing what we're doing.
CF: Did you feel that you had more freedom because you were between
TH: I don't think about that kind of things. No, not at all. I just
do my thing.
CF: I wondered if there were any particular inspirations behind the
album? Anything that motivated a number of the songs?
TH: I wanted to take this album even more to the Film Music
direction. I want this to be not a metal album. I wanted this to be a
film music album which is covered under the mask of Heavy Metal.
CF: Because there are a number of songs where one thinks `This could
be Film Music'
TH: Exactly, and you haven't heard the rest of them yet - you only
heard like less than half of the orchestra on the demos so, its gonna
be. Like I said, when I listen to the album I just see movies in
front of me. That was the whole idea.
CF: and er, did you prepare the music for the orchestra? Or has Pip
helped with the arrangement of that?
TH: I had a lot of ideas and we made a demo recording where I played
the keyboards, the choirs and everything. I wanted it to be like
this, but I talked to Pip and said that you can have a free hand to
do whatever you want and he has done an AMAZING job with the
arrangements, you know. A lot of new ideas, I don't understand
anything about notes, so he has written all the notes and everything.
He has a very strong part in this album. He's a great guy.
[Pip had prepared a full score for all of the parts sung by the choir
and, I suspect, for the orchestral parts too. This was used by the
producer himself and by the musicians and singers.]
CF: I know that most metal musicians can't write music, so I wonder
how much he was involved and it sounds like he was a big part of it.
TH: Yeah he is, he really is.
CF: And moving on to touring this year. You mentioned in some
interviews that you will be coming back here (to the UK).
TH: Next fall we will. I think like September / October.
CF: After you have been to the States?
TH: Yeah, yeah. That will be the first one. Definitely during this
year, we are coming back, in the Astoria this time.
CF: great, perfect, nice big stage.
At this point the singers began to make their way back into the
studio and I wondered if it was time for us to conclude the
interview. Tuomas told me to continue, but in fact I only had time
for one more question.
CF: The other thing that struck me, I didn't hear the first 2 songs,
but I heard the rest, was that Marco didn't seem to be as prominent.
TH: Actually, actually he is pretty much the same on all of the
songs. There is 3 songs where he is singing lots of solos and I think
6 or 7 songs with background vocals, so I think its pretty much the
same as `Century Child'. Too much, takes off his power so you have to be
really careful with that.
Nightwish's manager Ewo then appeared and signalled that the
interview session was at an end. I thanked Tuomas for his time and we
made our way back into the studio control room. Unfortunately I was
unable to stay for much longer as I had a ticket to see Soilwork
later that evening, so I thanks Tuomas and Ewo and made my way over
to The Underworld in Camden.
Interview/Photograph © 2004
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