"This album is a tribute to the magic of reality" - hmv.com talks to Nightwish
Symphonic metallers Nightwish have been through a lot since their 2011 album Imaginaerum hit CD shelves. The band had already been forced to replace long-time singer Tarja Turunen back in 2005 and thought they'd found her permanent replacement in Swedish singer Anette Olzon, but, as it turned out, that wasn't to be. In the end, Olzon would only last for two albums and departed the band during their world tour back in 2012.
She was replaced, initially temporarily, now permanently, by Dutch vocalist Floor Jansen. Jansen, who had been in Dutch metallers After Forever, initially came on board to help the band finish their tour, but is now fully on board and makes her recording debut on the band's new album Endless Forms Most Beautiful, which is released on Monday (March 30th).
That wasn't the only difficulty to strike the band during the making of this album, long-time drummer Jukka Nevalainen was forced to drop out of the sessions and the band's planned tour after suffering from crippling insomnia. He was replaced by Wintersun drummer Kai Hahto, who will also join the band for the forthcoming tour.
But out of all that change and difficulty came a new start and a new album. We chat to Nightwish keyboardist and key songwriter Tuomas Holopainen about making Endless Forms Most Beautiful, adjusting to life without Olzon and Nevalainen and why Charles Darwin and Richard Dawkins inspired their new album...
This is your first album for four years, was it a tough album to make?
"Quite on the contrary. Even though it took its time once again, (a couple of years to complete from the songwriting process to the mastering), it was a very smooth process. The songs were born really easy, we had loads of inspiring ideas and stories to work with, the vibe within the band was uplifting and the summer at the rehearsals camp treated us with lovely sunshine and warmth."
How did you want the album to move on from Imaginaereum?
"I don't think the evolution of music is something you want to calculate in advance. It comes naturally. It's nonsense to plan ahead things like "let's do a heavier album", or "let's use the orchestra more", or "how about trying to compose a hit single", etc. You feel inspired about a certain theme or story, and try your very best to bring that story alive. First by yourself as a songwriter, then together with the band family. Be humble before the song and not do things "just because you can"."
"At some point during the rehearsals we realised that the songs have an old school Nightwish touch to them, and that the album has a strong pro-life theme running through it. One way of putting it is that Imaginaerum was a tribute to the power of imagination, whereas Endless Forms Most Beautiful is a tribute to the magic of reality."
This is your first album with Floor on vocals, how did she come to join the band and what impact did she have on recording?
"Floor hopped aboard during our North American tour in October 2012. Things happened quick and today I have but distant memories of that era. The band was a survival machine on wheels for a couple of weeks but then things started to click and it's been a wonderful ride ever since. Floor has brought loads of good vibes, motivation and dedication to the group. Watching her truly nail the delicate essence of 'Our Decades In The Sun' in the studio was an overwhelming moment."
You were without Jukka during the recording for the first time, was it difficult to adjust to playing with a new drummer?
"We knew Kai beforehand, his down to earth personality and immense skills, so it was never a problem. Time was against us, though, since we had exactly 6 days to practice 12 songs before the drum recordings began. Kai had quite a few sleepless nights in his cabin writing notes for the songs."
Did you experiment with any new instruments on this album?
"There were a few, yes. Nipple bells was my favorite! It can be heard in the track 'The Eyes Of Sharbat Gula'. Troy also plays the electric bouzouki in 2 tracks, beautiful stuff, as well!"
Why did you decide on the title of Endless Forms Most Beautiful?
"It perfectly reflects the praise of the natural world - philosophy, which is present all through the album. It brings out the poetry in science. Classic Darwin!"
A lot of the lyrics seems to be inspired by evolution and the works of Charles Darwin, why have you focused on that?
"For me it's hard to imagine anything more inspirational, more beautiful and comforting than the fact of evolution by natural selection. All us living organisms are cousins, sharing a same common ancestor, made of the same stuff."
You’ve got Richard Dawkins on the album, how did that come about?
"I wrote him a letter a bit more than a year ago and explained the ideas we had for this album, mainly to do with evolution. Since one of the tracks would be named directly after one of his books, it felt like a perfect match to try to get him do some reciting on the album. He sent me an email a few weeks later accepting the invitation. Later in 2014 we then recorded his parts at Hats Off Studios, Oxford. This is a huge honour for us, since Dawkins is one of our biggest heroes and his writings have been huge inspiration for the album."
The last track on the album clocks in at 24 minutes, how long did it take to put that together?
"For some reason long songs are rather easy for me to write, so it didn't really take any longer than any other song on the album. The mixing process for just that one song took about two and a half weeks, though."
What are your plans to take the album out live?
"The tour begins in April from North America and off it goes until the end of 2016. We also have a show in Wembley Arena on December 19th, 2015! Every musician's dream come true!"
Nightwish's new album Endless Forms Most Beautiful is released on Monday (March 30th). You can pre-order the album in-store now.