By Carl Begai
The day after it was announced that NIGHTWISH touring vocalist Floor Jansen (REVAMP, ex-AFTER FOREVER) had been made an official band member, BW&BK was given the opportunity to speak with keyboardist/mastermind Tuomas Holopainen about the band's forthcoming live/tour documentary DVD Showtime, Storytime. Good thing they took care of business before press began, because if they hadn't most of this conversation would have consisted of yours truly telling Holopainen he would have to be a special kind of insane to let Jansen slip away. But really, it's no surprise that Jansen was asked to stay considering her monumental efforts since coming on board at the last minute to replace the booted Anette Olzon back in October 2012.
"I know it didn't come as a surprise to anybody," Holopainen says of the news. "We wanted to make it official at this point because we knew we were going to do a lot of promotion for the upcoming DVD. It's just easier to do things this way; we don't need to keep our mouths shut."
The documentary portion of the DVD begins appropriately with footage from Denver, Colorado as Nightwish makes a mad scramble to put together some semblance of a setlist in the wake of Olzon falling ill. With their singer unable to perform and an audience willing to stick around for whatever the band can come up with, Nightwish enlist support band KAMELOT's backing singers Elize Ryd (AMARANTHE) and Alissa White-Gluz (THE AGONIST). The rest is a pretty amazing piece of history. Holopainen is caught on camera after the show stating that he'd never been as scared as he was two hours earlier.
"That was the truth," he admits. "The whole day is just a hazy dream to me now. It was such an awkward moment. A big hand to Elize and Alissa... they were amazing. But that's what doing live shows is all about. Sometimes these things happen and it's really memorable stuff; a mass karaoke with those two lovely girls joining us, doing some instrumental stuff as well. It was something different and I don't think anybody left the venue upset or annoyed."
Olzon, on the other hand, was genuinely upset and took to her official website to air her feelings. She made it clear
she thought the band was wrong to go ahead without her. On October 1st the band released a statement announcing Olzon's departure and that Jansen would be filling in for the rest of the tour.
"We got quite a bit of criticism for doing the show without Anette," Holopainen reveals. "Some people asking us how we could be so selfish and do the show without her. It was quite the opposite. We had to think about the 1,600 fans, the promoter, the crew, everybody. Seriously, if something happened to me or any of the other band members, I'd do anything to still make the show happen. We offered the money back from the tickets. We told the fans how the show was going to be, so of course if they wanted to leave they should get their money back. It was seven refunds out of 1,600 so that was pretty good."
Nightwish haven't elaborated on the reasons for firing Olzon and it's doubtful they ever will, even as they move on with Jansen.
"The split is like a divorce and nobody likes to talk about a divorce publicly. We released a statement, with Anette, and that should be enough for everyone."
Suffice to say, there's a certain amount of bad blood still floating around. The documentary begins with a disclaimer stating that "due to the circumstances surrounding her departure, the former vocalist insisted that she would not be seen or heard in the documentary."
"That's something I can clarify," says Holopainen. "It did come as a surprise to all of us. The documentary was about 80% finished and Anette was in it giving interviews, there was nice live footage of her, but in March this year we got an email from her manager saying that we needed to cut her out of the documentary, audio and visual. That's something we didn't expect, so we had to decide if the documentary was even worth doing anymore because it was an essential part of the tour. The director, Ville, told us to give him a chance. He wanted to take a few weeks to see what he could do with the editing. And now when I see the footage I've got to give it to the guy, he's a wizard. It's beautifully crafted. The drama is there, the beauty is there. Occasionally you might think 'Okay, where's the vocalist?' but when Floor comes in you can really enjoy it."
Jansen has fronted Nightwish since October 2012 and has had a much easier job winning over the band's legion of fans than Olzon did. Take a cruise through the library of live footage on YouTube and you can watch her grow into the role of being front and center on the Nightwish stage.
"I have to agree. The first couple of weeks that we did with her were good and she was really impressive, especially with the time that she had to prepare. Looking at her now - and I only saw the Wacken Open Air footage for the first time only two weeks ago - I'm thinking 'Wow!' Watch the DVD and you can see that Floor owns the stage and the audience."
Asked if he remembers when the band came to the conclusion Jansen should be fronting Nightwish permanently....
"Yes I do. It was spring, about six months after Floor came in. We agreed that she was a lovely person and that she really could sing, but I was wondering if we really needed to be talking about all that stuff just yet because I was having such a good time on tour. It eventually got to the point where we said 'Why not?' It was after the Sauna Open Air Festival in Finland at the beginning of June, after the show in the hotel lobby, where we encouraged ourselves to go to Floor and ask her how she would feel about continuing with us in the future. She gave us an immediate 'Yes.' We didn't think it was going to be an 'of course' answer, though. We didn't take anything for granted, but she was really happy and really motivated. And right after that we asked Troy Donockley (uilleann pipes, low whistles, vocals) about joining the band as well. He said yes too, so it was a happy evening (laughs)."
Donockley's confirmation as a full band member may seem odd considering he's "only" been a backing musician on tour. Holopainen will tell you different.
"He's been part of the band for the past 18 years, not only because of his musical abilities but also because of his personality. What does it mean to be in a band? I think Troy is a prime example of that because he brings a lot of light and joy and musical abilities to the band, so why not make it official as well."
Taking nothing away from Donockley, Jansen is the focus for the moment and has been since she stepped foot on the Nightwish stage. Her vocal range gives them the chance to perform old material from the Tarja-era, something that was hit-and-miss with Olzon up front.
"There's definitely some potential to do that," Holopainen agrees. "When I listen to Floor sing songs like 'She Is My Sin', it's quite grand. I really like how she does the old songs, so yeah, I've been toying with the idea that we might dig up some of the older stuff on the next tour and see how it works. If it doesn't feel then we won't do it, but we could give some of the songs a chance. Maybe something from Oceanborn..."
Bottom line is Jansen can sing anything from the Nightwish catalogue.
"Pretty much so, I have to agree. At the same time I want to give Anette some credit because when you listen to Dark Passion Play and Imaginaerum, I don't think there's another person on this planet that could have done a better job on those songs. They still sound really, really good. But, like you said, Floor can do every song we've ever written so that they sound good at the very least (laughs). Usually they sound phenomenal when she does them. When Floor sings 'Ghost Love Score' and 'She Is My Sin', they're pretty out there."
For the future, we'll have to wait until late 2014 or early 2015 for the next Nightwish album. The ball is already rolling, however, at least in Holopainen's mind.
"From the begining of November on I'm going to go into very deep hibernation and work on new Nightwish material until next summer. It'll be about seven months of just staying at home and writing songs with a vacation in between. On July 1st we'll gather together in the Nightwish camp and start working on the next album."
As to what direction the next record will take, it's anybody's guess. Go bigger than Imaginaerum (which would be a bloody epic task) or go back to vocals/guitars/bass/keyboards/drums basics?
"The gut feeling I have at the moment would be somewhere in between those two places," says Holopainen. "It's never the purpose to be bigger and bigger and bigger. It doesn't need to be bigger as long as it's interesting and brings something new to the show. The 'being bigger' issue is just nonsense. We just do the things we feel and the way we want to do them. When we did Imaginaerum, we wanted to do a big orchestral theatrical album and take down the guitars and bass a little bit. At the moment, I and I think the rest of the band would like to take a step back and do things in an old school band-orientated way. That's how I would like to do things. We're never going to get rid of the orchestra or the choirs because they compliment the music so beautifully and we love that, but maybe the next one will be a bit more of a band album."