"I wonder why women in the film industry never talked before"
After a two-year sabbatical, Nightwish returned with a retrospect-compilation, complete with music from their entire career; ahead of the release of "Decades" and the accompanying world tour, we had the chance to talk with frontwoman, Floor Jansen, about the past, present and future of the band, her new rock project, the current status of music and film industry and the songs she's almost forgot writing.
First of all, congratulations for the release of "Decades"! Obviously, some of the guys and you weren't in the band straight from the start, but you've been around, so it seems like a celebration for each and every one of you. How does it feel to be part of the scene for such a long time?
Yes, in that sense it's true. We haven't been in this formation for twenty years, but most of us have been around, playing in bands for exactly that time, or even longer, like Marco (Hietala) or Troy (Donockley). It feels really special to be a part of it now, and to think of where everybody was. In this case I can only talk about myself, where I was when certain albums came out or songs were released, you have different memories attached to the same songs and that makes it very special.
You chose to start off a best-of compilation with "The Greatest Show On Earth", a twenty-minute epic, which kind of is and isn't an obvious choice in my opinion. Was it your intention to make a statement or did I overthink it?
I think that it is a statement, to start with the longest song of the entire history of the band and start with the latest work, instead of following everything chronologically. It's like we travel back in time, instead of going the other way. So yes, that was a decision we made.
You've been playing with Nightwish for almost six years, but you've known the band for much longer than that; you even toured with them in your After Forever days. Back then, did you expect them to grow so much?
No, to me already by then they felt like the ultimate band. It was kind of hard to imagine that they'd become anything bigger or better! [Laughs]
Were there any thoughts to re-record any of the songs, something to use for promotional purposes, perhaps?
No, there never were. This is history telling, it's a road down memory lane; you don't want to touch that history, you don't want to rewrite it. Imagine the history of Greece, and there are parts of it that you don't like, and you'd just rewrite that. Like, there was someone ruling that you didn't like him or her, it'd be like you'd replace a character, as if it was a movie or something. It happened the way it happened and that's how you tell your story. And that's exactly what we wanted to do on this album.
But it is also there because we're going to play everything live; we're going to bring songs live that we have not been able to play for a very long time. So, instead of making a new album, where usually the focus of the setlist goes towards the new songs, we now have a whole tour dedicated to old stuff and that's something a lot of fans have been asking for a long, long time.
That's something that I love on "Decades", the fact that there's enough singles, but it is more of a retrospect rather than a greatest hits album. Will you maintain that kind of balance in your live sets?
Exactly! We probably will! [Laughs]
[Laughs] Well, I guess you probably can't say more about that...
[Laughs] I'd love to, but it's nice to keep a surprise!
We are living in 2018, so [the old songs] will sound different
On a similar subject, will the arrangements remain faithful to those of the original tracks on live performances, or will you approach them differently?
A-ha! That's an interesting question that I've been expecting and never got! And it's a good one, because when we made the "Decades" album and decided not to re-record anything, it was because you don't want to touch history. But we are living in 2018 and we're going to play these songs live in the formation that we have today, with me as a singer, with Troy and his 900 different instruments, so in that sense it will already sound different.
So we have been playing around with things and we have some surprises in mind. Of course we didn't change the songs themselves, but we have been playing with their sound, just because it's us, in the here and now. So it will sound differently, and I'm really curious to hear what people think of that, because it won't be the same as on the album, that'd be impossible.
In the last years Nightwish upped their game concert-wise. Do you believe that the expansion on that front can continue? Or more likely, can you disclose anything about that?
When we can, yes! [Laughs]
[Laughs] So, this summer you'll play some of the biggest festivals in Europe and headline some of them. Is it any different from doing your own thing?
It really is! When you have your own show, everybody buys a ticket just to see you. In a festival, people pay a ticket to see you and all the other bands. Even when you headline, they don't just come for you. Festival crowds are interesting to play for, with different dynamics; there are always people that don't know you so well, or have a wrong image of you. It's like a way to get new people to join the Nightwish family. [Laughs] With your own crowd you can do more special things, because you know people are there for you.
In the essence, though, we always do the same thing, because we are Nightwish and that is what we bring everywhere!
It's really interesting to see things kind of change throughout time just by your own perspective
To be honest, while listening to the compilation I caught myself thinking that I hadn't listened to some of the old tracks for a long time, it was like I was re-discovering them. Do you ever feel anything like that when you look back to music that you made?
That's nice. I do, I really do. Especially for me, as it's been twenty years, I can't really say that I've played After Forever's "Prison Of Desire" any recent day. [Laughs] Or any year! [Laughs] Maybe it's different with some of the later works, but sometimes someone mentions one specific song and I'm like "goddamn, how do they know that one" and I have to go like "yes, of course, I co-wrote that song and yay, it's been a long time". [Laughs]
So it's like you say, you re-invent things, because you have a different ear to listen to them. And then come the memories and everything; but it's really interesting to see things kind of change throughout time just by your own perspective, while the nostalgia stays the same.
In our last conversation, we talked a bit about the way people consume music these days, the whole low quality streaming versus vinyl. Do you believe that things are changing for the better in that matter?
If my Skype is correct, it's been pretty recent since our last talk, and I don't really feel things are changing that rapidly, but I like to believe that everything comes in waves. I might have said that in our previous interview, but to me a song or an album by an artist played on your smartphone on an mp3 format, that’s the equivalent of fast-food consumption. It's not very good, but it's accessible. It's something you'll pretty much forget about right away. There will be people very interested about that, and I guess young people, especially if there's nobody to show them a better restaurant so to speak and stay in the same metaphor.
If that were to change, and I think it is happening, it's because you'll eventually get tired or you get interested in other things, you start thinking if there can be anything else; and there is, there's a whole world of fine dining. You can sit with a hi-fi set or a good pair of earphones and listen to a whole album. I think that now there are bigger possibilities for everything, fast-food or fine dining and everything in-between. But the increased sales of vinyl do show that music lovers are there and will continue to consume the fine-dining music. [Laughs]
It's great that you're so optimistic about that, because pretty much all the other people I've talked to were a lot less positive. Most of them believe that the vinyl is indeed back, but it won't really be as big as it was...
I agree! I'm not saying that things are going to back to how it was, but it's the in waves thing I said; at first you want to have the fast, accessible everything for nothing, but then you're going to miss something and look for something better. In that sense, I think we have the possibility to make it much better than it is today. If we sit around and complain about it, it’s never going to happen; we need to show the next generation how to reach music.
If it's only with your pal at school with a cellphone and an mp3, it wouldn’t change very easily, but if there's somebody that says "hey, check out this album" or "why don't you come with me to this concert" and you get this whole different experience on what music actually is, then there's definitely hope. As long as that is happening, people want to buy music, buy albums and have physical copies and they're interested in a nice booklet and the physical part of that.
It's a bit of both, but I agree that things are not going to be the way they were, if only because there is way more bands and artists than ever before. Also, the recording process and the way that music is spreading, is so different that it can't be the same as before. We just have to re-invent ourselves in this and educate people in how to experience music.
Women have a mouth on them and I'm glad that this mouth is finally open
I'm sure you've seen some of the stuff that's been going on in the film industry. There have also been a couple of incidents involving people of the music scene. From your experience, are things better in the rock and metal community?
I would say so, yes. Of course I can't speak for everybody, but in my personal experience I've never been and I'd never be the #metoo girl. I find it very difficult to make a statement about it, because I can't really judge how manipulative men can be in different settings. But I do believe that women have a mouth on them and I'm glad that this mouth is finally open. I just wonder why on earth it never happened before; I really can't understand that part.
I don’t believe that rock and metal scenes are like that, but I don’t want to be naïve, because shit happens everywhere, there are rotten apples in every basket.
On a lighter tone, last year you went on stage with the Ayreon Universe and from what I've seen it was a really special time. How was it to be a part in such a project?
It was great, indeed, special! If it was only on a personal level, because it was the first time on stage for me after I became a mom and it was the first time I was combining these two worlds together. And then, join music that is highly complex with a lot of other artists, it was really something. Everybody had to be at the top of their game, but they were because everybody likes Arjen (Lucassen) and his music, so it was like a family gathering of strangers.
We had to find our chemistry together through the music, and for me it wasn't just strangers, because the show was on the Netherlands and the whole band is Dutch, most of the crew was Dutch and I knew almost everybody, so it was super nice! [Laughs] It really was a special thing, and I'm really looking forward to the DVD that should come out pretty soon... I already forgot the date. [Laughs]
[Laughs] Yes, I've seen a couple of tracks uploaded, so it probably won't be long! And a while ago you revealed that you have a classic rock album in the works. Can you share more about it?
Yes! Actually we announced the project today, finally! It's called Northward, and it's written by myself and Jørn Viggo Lofstad from Pagan's Mind. It's kind of funny, cause it was written in 2008, a long time ago; it was the year of the After Forever sabbatical, that I felt like writing some different kind of music and step into a different scene for a bit, cause I'd been doing a lot of the same and throughout my studies and as I am I like different styles of music.
[The Northward stuff] was too good to just lie around
I found a great partner in crime with Jørn Viggo who is an amazing rock guitar player, so we wrote the album, finished it and wanted to start recording, but then After Forever stopped and everything became different. I had to postpone the project and then there was simply no time for many years, until we had this Nightwish sabbatical coming up.
So, in 2016 I contacted Jørn Viggo and asked if he would still be up for finishing it. We listened through the songs and we wanted to see if they were still up to our standards, after nine years of just laying around; and they were, they sounded good and we felt this energy immediately, so we decided to go for it, record it. Then we hooked up with Nuclear Blast, and they'll release it this October, ten years after!
Is it a one-off side project? Are there any plans to go on stage?
No, it's just an album, there's no way we can go on stage with it. But I also don't want to, it's good the way it is, and it was nice to be able and finish something that was too good to just lie around. Plus it was a good way to stay musically active in that year off Nightwish. So no live stuff, it's just not possible, but it's great that there's going to be the album, which I think is really good and really different from what you're used to hear from both him and me.
2020 is a careful indication of when something new is to be expected by Nightwish
Vocally you have tried an extreme range of styles and Nightwish have never been afraid to experiment with different sounds; have you thought of something new that you'd like to try with them in the future? Or is it wherever the tracks go?
It'd be wherever the tracks go. But I think I've tried almost everything I know! [Laughs] From growling to screaming, to singing light and poppy, to operatic or heavy; it's already been challenging me and with all the new-old stuff I got to really play some more!
It's probably early, given the upcoming tour and the release of "Decades", but have you talked with the guys about new music or ideas?
Actually I haven't, as it's really Tuomas' (Holopainen) thing, he writes pretty much everything. But he surprised us all by saying that he already wrote six songs and he's been really creatively active; so we haven't heard anything but he's back in creative shape and that should mean that in the next year we will make an album and 2020 is a careful indication of when something new is to be expected.
Before we hang up, at the end of every month on our site we like to gather up a small playlist of albums that we listened to. Can you recall five records that you've listened to recently?
Oh God! I'm a full-time mom and I've been working on so much new music that I have not been listening to anything. I've been studying constantly for the last months, first it was Ayreon, then it was Raskasta Joulua, the project in Finland, I've recorded several albums, like the Northward stuff and Tarja's song, and then of course there was this huge Nightwish setlist. So when it comes to my playlist, it's pretty much this! [Laughs]
[Laughs] That's great! So, that was all, thank you so much for your time, wish you all the best for the tour and I hope to see you sometime soon!
Cool, and thank you for this nice talk! I know that Greece is always left out, I keep saying that and, it's not an empty promise, I really hope that we'll get there one day. Until we do, we hope Greece can travel to us and we thank you for the support throughout all this time!