"There's more to music than Spotify"
Last year Nightwish released the acclaimed "Endless Forms Most Beautiful", which put the band back in a stable position and, probably, the best in their entire career. Floor Jansen played a major part in that process, giving the band plenty of options to work with, in both live performances and studio recordings. As the release of the new live album "Vehicle Of Spirit" is coming up, we had the chance to talk with the Dutch frontwoman about massive stage-shows, the creation of their latest offering and her views of today's music industry.
First things first, I want to wish you all the best about the pregnancy.
You toured quite a lot while you were pregnant, even after you announced it a couple of months back. I can't help but think that it must've been pretty difficult for you, performing, singing, running...
No, not really actually. A pregnant woman can really do tons of things, it's not like you get sick or something and when you're healthy you can do a lot of things.
As for the future, I guess that the band's plan is to continue touring on that scale and figure a way to find time to be with your family in-between.
No, we're not going to stop touring, no.
The tour for "Endless Forms Most Beautiful" was a massive one. I guess it's safe to say that it was a lot different from the previous tour.
Why would it be different?
I mean, in the "Imaginaerum" tour you joined the band halfway through and had to learn a complete set of songs in a short period.
Yeah, that's the same for both tours though! The start of course was very different. I came in on a short notice and had to learn a lot of new songs. But when you do a new world tour there are also a lot of other things you need to prepare. But I think you mean to say that the beginning of the whole thing was different, because now I was already on the album of the tour we were going to promote and yes, in that sense it's absolutely different.
I attended the Wembley Arena show and I have to say it was spectacular. What has stuck with you from that night?
Thank you! Well it was a very special one, it's a legendary venue. The whole thing becomes special because you know that it is. In the end it's just an arena, funny enough, same kind of building as we have been touring at that time for five weeks, as it was the end of our European tour. Which was a good thing, because you don’t want to get too nervous, knowing it is Wembley Arena and not just any arena. [Laughs]
And, well, we had Richard Dawkins on the stage with us, which is something really unusual and spectacular. He was there already in the afternoon, going through his parts with us.
To be honest I was kind of surprised to see Professor Dawkins up there with you. He doesn't look like a rock kind of person and yet he seemed to enjoy himself.
He is not at all a rock kind of person, but that's not really why he's there. He's a very open minded man, he has a strong message in life and I think any platform will do for him. He recognized what Nightwish is somehow, which is great, and he was open for a co-operation like this. To stand in front of a 12.000 capacity, sold-out venue was also something that he didn't do before, but it was great! [Laughs]
You included "Stargazers" in this tour, which was a nice surprise for old-school fans. My question is, how difficult is it for a band like Nightwish, that's been around for 20 years to select the tracks for concert setlists?
It's so difficult! There are so many songs we'd like to play! [Laughs] That's part of the reason why we play two hours also, 'cause anything shorter feels too short and there's so many that we didn't play already. It's definitely a challenge! [Laughs]
Was that part of why you decided to have two shows and even some bonus songs on "Vehicle Of Spirit"?
Not because of this particularly. It was more because we wanted to show the different sides of Nightwish on tour, the different shows, one outside show, one inside...
Yes, the Finnish show was open air...
Exactly! And also the different places in the world. Not everything is a massive stage with pyroes and screens and the whole nine yards. Nightwish plays everywhere and anywhere for that matter. It's the music that makes Nightwish what it is and us playing it, whether we stand in front of massive screens or just a backdrop. That's very important for us to show how it is for us, but also how fans are worldwide different, so it became a total tour documentation.
Looking back on creating "Endless Forms Most Beautiful", how different was the creative process in comparison with ReVamp where you had complete creative control?
It's incomparable. With ReVamp I was leading the whole operation, so to speak, and co-writing. But to work with a team as experienced as Nightwish, to have a composer as fantastic as Tuomas Holopainen, there is no need for me to say that I want to be involved more just because I'm used to it. You want to be involved because you think it would better anything. That is the goal of a co-operation; it's not an ego-driven thing. So for me it was very natural to await the material and to, then, put in my creative energy into it. Like, how to sing this melody that is now played by a piano and the lyrics, how are we going to phrase the words onto the melody, what kind of emotion should this have, what is the colour of the voice, what is the intension, the dynamics.
There's a lot that you can play with, where I had full freedom and where we really went into creative process together. We rehearsed the basic setup of the songs for six weeks and then they were ready to be recorded. That was definitely a band effort, something I never did like this before, but also the band has never done before, to have a vocalist already at this part. Usually they had a vocalist only singing on the album and not being part of rehearsals. I think that was super important, at least for me it was, and it was great to do so. I've given what I had to give for this album. [Laughs]
So, can we expect to see some stuff written by you in the future?
Hmm, I don't think so, but you never know. Like I said, it's not an ego thing, it's a quality thing. And when you have Tuomas Holopainen in your band...
On every album though there are tracks written or co-written by Emppu and Marco...
Yep, absolutely! If it fits, it fits, but I find it more important to state that my ego does not need to write songs just because I can. I don’t think Nightwish's music needs this to be complete, it already is. But if I happen to have a brilliant idea, I'll bring it forward!
I know you're taking some time off, but have you had any discussions with the guys about new music? What do you think is coming next for Nightwish?
Well, I don't think, but I know what's coming up! [Laughs]
Of course you do! [Laughs]
Of course I do! Nightwish is not really a band that takes a break and next year somewhere we go like "Hey guys, what are we going to do next?"; it's a bit too big for that. We plan ahead years, so this break was already planned from the beginning of the world tour, for instance. It's not something that came up. It's a big machine, Nightwish, so you can and need to think ahead long. Which I think is fantastic, because it's really a nice feeling to know what's coming. Of course you never know what's really coming, but there are guidelines like one year we're going to tour, the other we're going to do this and that. So we knew 2017 was going to be off, we decided this together and we also decided what we're going to do next and that we're not going to tell anybody, because it's going to be a surprise! We have something really cool in mind and I'm sure that every Nightwish fan will find it's worth waiting for, so we're not going to spoil it by saying what it is.
Throughout your career you've tried a lot of different vocal styles, from rock to operatic. One that really stands out for me is the aggressive approach, like on some ReVamp tracks or "Yours Is An Empty Hope". Do you think there's a chance we'll get to hear some more of that?
Oh, I don't know yet! I mean, it depends on what songs come out. Sometimes when I make my own interpretations of the old songs, this kind of raw, nastier approach comes out, but it's totally up to the music. Just like any other vocal set for that matter, if it fits the atmosphere it might be the operatic stuff or rocky or poppy or whatever the songs desire. It's great to have this rich pallet of colours to choose from. I worked very hard to get it and it's really a nice puzzle.
If you were to choose a Nightwish album to be performed in its entirety which one would it be?
I never thought of anything like that. I don't have an answer to this, I don’t have that ambition! [Laughs]
Earlier this year we got to hear two beautiful songs you recorded with Evergrey. How did that come up?
We're friends. I mean my fiancée is an ex-member of Evergrey and we became friends because of this. I knew them since I was a teenager, I've been listening to them for many many years, so it was really funny for me to get to know Tom and his wife. It was actually his wife that said that Tom had been talking about it and he didn't really ask me yet and what I would think of it. I was like "Are you kidding me? I'd be more than honoured! Damn, I've been a fan for years"! Later my fiancée said that I was the first non-Englund to sing on any Evergrey album, 'cause it's always been Tom's wife or daughter, so from that point of view it was super nice. Then, when he got me the music it was really cool, he gave me "Into Orbit" to work with and while we were on the studio I did some additional vocals on the other song. It was a creative process between friends for me, which is the best in the world.
You're going to, once again, be a part in the Ayreon project. Can you disclose anything about it?
Yeah! Ayreon put some snippets of what I've recorded online, so you can guess who's going to be the next vocalists, there are several musicians. So from that you can already kind of hear what I've been doing. It's going to be very diverse, as Ayreon's music is. Arjen said that I have quite a big role in this story and my position is quite big, I'm the Biologist in this one. But even I don't know what it is about. He gave me some snippets, but it's going to be great to see this puzzle unfold. I can tell you that I think it was great and it's great to work with Arjen. If he asks me, it's always a no brainer. It's just "Yes, send me the music". If it was anybody else it would be "Yes, send me the music and if I like it we'll go from there" but with him I know I'm going to like it and I know it's going to be good.
You've been in the scene from the early days, with After Forever, to the global success of Nightwish. How much would you say that changes in music industry affect the bands and eventually the people in them?
Well a band is part of the music industry. It's not band versus music industry.
I mean that two of them must work together and it doesn't quite seem to always work out.
Music industry is the industrial part around music. Everything commercial in music is music industry. So your CD is music industry. If you want to be a musician on your attic room and not sell it to anybody else, then it's just music. But any band needs to be part of the machine called "music industry". To get a smooth cooperation has been a struggle obviously for decades where musicians wanted to be musicians so much that smart managers took advantage on a massive scale. And I guess it still happens, but the way things have evolved throughout the years mainly because of internet, things have really changed. The cards are on the table completely differently. Power and money have shifted and bands became smarter. Richer record companies lost a lot of money when CDs were not sold anymore and music wasn't bought anymore and streaming and all of that became something that everybody needs to deal with. It's on a constant move, where smart bands are part of the music industry in a leading way and not in a following way, as they did before. I think that was always the healthiest option and I think that's what it is, a constant dance between powers. And I think it's getting better in that sense, even though the way people consume music is a very worrying thing...
Yes, it's kind of insane the way I see it. There's the rise of vinyl on one hand and low quality streaming on the other...
Yeah! The good side is that more and more people get more music. There's more music consumed than ever before. But somehow along the line people started to think, the new generation started to think, that music is for free, because you can download it on your cell phone and you can play it from a crappy speaker. If that is how you were raised and think that's what music is, yeah, phoof. Then there are also the purists who say that need a hi-fi installation and want a physical copy, exclusive vinyls and play it in their home as a whole album. I think it's also because so many people became aware, that's the upside. When it comes to raising the new generation about music it's really up to us, as musicians and up to schools and parents to teach children what music is and how you can enjoy music; that there's more than Spotify and mp3s on your phone. And then it's up to the kids to decide what they like! [Laughs]
And for the obvious, question; what are the chances to see a Nightwish show in Greece? Last time the band played here was almost ten years ago and everything kind of went wrong.
I don't know about that, but the first good offer will get us there! It's not that we don't want to, it's that whatever came up was impossible for us to say yes to; unfortunately.
Thank you very much for your time, once again my best wishes and really hope to see you sometime soon!
Thank you so much and I hope so too! Just so you know, we don't forget about Greece, we never did. Just the right opportunity needs to show. Take care, have great holidays and we'll catch up in 2018!