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Jukka Nevalainen (Nightwish)

Interview with Jukka Nevalainen from Nightwish
by Yiannis Mitsakos at 27 May 2004, 12:31 AM

When you are going to get an interview from one of your favorite bands and the heavy traffic gets in your way, one can only curse the time that we got the damn CocaColympics. Anyway, Jukka is a great guy (who likes beer) and didn't mind me being late. We had the chance to talk about the new fantastic album from Nightwish, its cover, the past and future of the band, piracy from a record label and lots of other interesting things.

Everyone has got his own idea about the new album’s cover, showing an Angel of Grief. What’s the concept behind it and how come you decided to do something completely different instead of following the previous artwork style?

We knew that we wanted to get a different kind of cover than ever before. We wanted to get rid of this painting kind of covers we have been doing for most of the albums. And the idea of the angel in it and maybe the circle as well came from Tuomas. Our artist Markus Mayer came up with the actual picture for the cover. In the end it was Markus’ wish and idea to make this with the tribals in the cover and stuff.

Someone mentioned in your forum that the actual statue is from a graveyard in LA.

This statue is in many cemeteries, there’s one in Berlin I guess, another in Italy, but the original one, I don’t know…

Have you noticed its resemblance to the Evanescence EP cover?

Actually when we first released the cover for our homepage, we were very anxious to see people’s reactions for it  and you can imagine our feeling when we saw a topic were someone was putting a link there and it was like check this out, click this and it was Evanescence EP from year 1998. I was like what the fuck, it’s the same angel as the one in our cover. It was really weird…

Not the same one, but almost the same, I mean you can’t put a copyright on a work of art without an artist to claim it as his own.

Yeah,  I agree.

Let’s move on to your new work. Judging from the single, Once is probably going to be the most complete Nightwish album. What were the feelings that drove Tuomas writing the music and lyrics and everyone else during every creativity related process?

We wanted to once again top our selves in every scale of music and now that we hear the final version of the whole album, everyone -for the first time in the band’s history, I guess-  is 100% satisfied with the result and I think we came up with some very nice and fresh ideas and very nice elements in our music. But still not forgetting where are we coming from; there’s still this Nightwish kind of dealing going on all the time, even though there are many new elements and stuff going on, on top of it.

You decided to experiment with Once, judging for your cooperation with two native Americans for Creek Mary’s Blood. Should we expect any more surprises?

There are actually many different kinds of experiments. Like in Tarja’s voice, it was used in much new different kinds of ways, there’s this Indian kind of throat singing and sometimes she’s screaming and in one song she’s almost rapping, nothing like nu-metal and stuff but some kind of speaking. So we definitely did a lot of experiments on this process but there’s still this old Nightwish that can be heard, but it’s dressed in a different way than before.

How was it working with the Session Orchestra of London? I think that their contribution in the orchestral parts was amazing to say the least.

You know it was a dream for all of us, especially Tuomas to have his own songs played by this huge skillful orchestra and choir as well. Actually, Tuomas was the only one from the band who was at the actual recording session of the orchestra, but I got an SMS from him from the very first song that was recorded which was Ghost Love Score and he was like this is something awesome. Musicians were so skillful and the sound was so good from the very beginning. He was totally amazed.

Actually the whole orchestra hadn’t seen or heard anything about our music before they entered the studio and our arranger, the guy who made the orchestrations, Pete Williams, who actually booked this very orchestra and made all the arrangements for it, hadn’t heard anything about our music.

He just got the notes and just started to play. From the very first moment it was perfect all the time, so, for Once we had very skillful musicians playing our album and that’s a very nice thing.

Were they surprised that they were playing for a metal band?

As far as I know they were very ok with that, they were very open for all kind of experiments, I guess they have been playing much different kind of projects in the past, so I don’t think it was any kind of special thing for them. Tuomas told me that the orchestra was very happy to do it and they were very anxious to be part of this project.

If everything goes as planned with the new album, meaning big sales, should we expect Nightwish to cooperate with an even larger orchestra for a much bigger project?

It has to be said that this was not the whole London Session Orchestra, it was only 52 members of it and the whole orchestra is 90, I guess. But for us it was huge of course.

I think and I hope that there will be even bigger projects in our forthcoming albums but you never know, Tuomas always comes up with new ideas for the new albums.

You are having a late summer tour in the US. How different is the European public from the US one?

I guess metal audience all around the world is kind of way similar, but of course there are differences in between, like Finnish audience and maybe Greek audience, you may show a little bit more feelings, Finnish people are just listening to the band and stuff like that. But the audience in USA as far as we know (we played two shows there last fall for the first time in our history and they were both sold out) was a huge, pleasant surprise for all of us since we didn’t really have any expectations about the success of Nightwish and the forthcoming shows there.

About the forthcoming tour, now that we know that there is definitely a fan base in USA as well, we are waiting to give some very nice headlining shows to be played all over the States and maybe get our music more known and sell a little more.

Your band and Spinefarm are very concerned about piracy. Recently you released box sets to keep the people from buying fake pirated Nightwish box sets.

What are the reasons in your opinion that drive someone to prefer a pirated copy besides the apparent one, the cost of it?

Actually the fans themselves really didn’t know that those 2 CD box sets were pirated versions.

 They were that good?

They were released by the label that released Century Child album in France, so they were totally quality versions but they didn’t have any permission from the band or from Spinefarm to release them. Actually they sold those box sets in Amazon as well as in many record stores, so it was very confusing.

So Spinefarm released the official versions to get some money for the band and the label as well because from those pirated versions we naturally didn’t get a penny.

 So this time the pirate was a record label…

Yes and that really sucks!

 That’s a first…

That’s really bad.

Your music has reached fans beyond metal, yet the big music networks refuse to promote you and prefer more commercial bands instead. Have you ever considered changing your sound to something more mainstream to reach an even bigger audience, or are you happy with the current fan base?

Naturally we always want to get ourselves forward as musicians and also as a band and of course we want to sell more all the time. We won’t deny it, of course we do.

But when it comes to making music and composing songs we never think about sales when we are in studio; it sounds kind of corny or like a cliché but it’s definitely true, we are very honest with our music. When we do our music, arranging and recording it, all we think about is that we are trying to do an album as good as possible and to be as true as possible to the album and the music itself.

You have very devoted fans since you are a very special band. Have you ever received gifts from them? If so which ones are your favorites and which ones are the weirdest?

Actually my favorite and also the weirdest is the same gift I once got. There’s this German guy - I don’t know his name- but he knew that I love beer because I have this big fascination about beers…

…who doesn’t (laughs)…

(Laughs) All people do, at least men… And he came up with the idea to send me some very special beers from Germany which he liked them very much himself and one day there was this UPS knocking at my door. I was like who is sending me stuff? and it was beer bottles sent from Germany to Finland. It was very weird you know, in the morning you just do what you do on Mondays or Tuesdays and you get beers from there, it was weird really. But it was also very pleasant because I love beer.

I know this is tough to imagine but it has surely crossed your minds. Where do you see yourselves in 10 years from now? I mean are you happy enough with Nightwish to see them last that long?

That is a very tough question… You never know because if you look 10 years back at what we were then we couldn’t even imagine being at this point that we are today, so I really can’t tell. But what I would like it to be, it would be to be with Nightwish still because I think that we still have so much to give. I think our source of music and source of new ideas for music and elements is kind of endless, at least it seems like it.

Seeing Tuomas doing better and better songs all the time you expect him all the time to be able to top himself.

You never know, hopefully we will go on being even bigger and at the same time doing even better music.

 You almost answered my next question. I mean you’ve got gold and platinum releases, in Rockwave festival you are playing just before Judas Priest with Rob Halford, along with the legendary Queensryche and your band has still a long way to go. Could you ever see that kind of success coming when you first started out?

We never even thought that we would have this kind of success. Even after releasing the first album we could swear that we would only do this album and maybe do a few more studio albums and that’s it, but then little by little we saw that people were very fascinated and interested in our music and about the idea of having a female vocalist in a metal band. We thought that maybe we should give it a shot and maybe try it also in live, it started to work and little by little we got to the point that we are at this moment. So it really didn’t happen in a second; it took years and years.

 Now for a personal question. I noticed your favorite book is Dragons of Autumn Twilight. Are you a fun of Dragonlance in general and perhaps D&D?

I used to be very fond of that kind of literature but right now I don’t read fantasy books that much any more. I prefer documentary books of people and bands, stuff like that but two or three years ago, I was really into that kind of thing. I read all the Margaret Weis and David Eddings books, all in a row; I was very into that kind of stuff. Naturally they still mean a lot to me since I think that their books are the best ones, and also Tolkien’s of course, so why reading some new books about the same idea which are almost similar? Maybe I will end up reading books like these again some day, but I will need to take a break of some years…

 Finally you’ll get to perform in front of the Greek audience. Have you been informed from other bands what should expect?

Actually when I heard the Stratovarius live album, which was partly recorded in Greece, I felt that it’s one of the crazy audiences; so we are really looking forward to play for you for the first time. For some reason we haven’t had any shows here before and also in Italy we only had one show, we really don’t know why but it’s very nice to be here for the first time and see how it goes. Appearing between Queensryche and Judas Priest is like…very nice for a starter band in Greece. It’s very interesting, I am looking forward to it.

You’ll want to come back for more, trust me…

Yeah, I think so, I saw some shots from the very same festival on the Dream Theater DVD and it looked really good, it seemed great.

 Ok thanks for your time.

Thanks, it’s been great, see you soon!


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