Interview trascribed by Heathen
Questions by Miriam “NocturnalConcerto”Tuomas Holopainen goes solo, no, don’t you worry, the Maestro is not disbanding Nightwish (at least for now) but he has taken a nice musical detour for fulfilling one of his dream: composing and releasing a soundtrack based on one of his favourite Disney characters, Roope-Setä , known internationally as Scrooge McDuck. Do you remember the moment, when you got the book – “The Life and times of Scrooge McDuck” – and read it the first time?
It would have been right after the release in 1995, 1996, but some of those stories were already been published in the finnish ‘Duck’ magazine beforehand so I read those, but for the first time, when I read all the chapters in chronological order, that would have been 1996, I think. But three years later it was in the fall of 1999 I had the original idea to paint the story with music one day. And actually the first person I have talked about this was Tony Kakko, from Sonata Arctica, because he is an equally big Don Rosa fan as I am. He said ” Yeah, that’s a really cool idea, if you ever do that please ask me to join it”. That has happened now.Why did especially this book leave such an impact on you?
I’ve grown up with Disney comics, since I was like 2 years old. The Disney films and the whole world has really always been an important part of my life, especially choral parts. Then Don Rosa came along at the beginning of the 90’s and he totally blew me away. Especially this particular book. And ever since then it has been my… probably my all time favorite fictional story. It is my desert island book!How did you finally develop the idea of releasing a concept album about that book?
Is really as simple as this. Whenever I read those stories I heard the music, different melodies and instruments really really strongly. Because the book itself is rather cinematic. So I just thought it was a cool idea to let all the music come out and see what happens, how would that sound like on a CD. And I also fancied the idea of maybe be the first one to ever write a soundtrack to a graphic novel. I don’t think it has been done before.Did you ever had a clear musical vision about it?
Well, naturally it develops a little bit while writing. I mean, the original idea for this album was to be purely instrumental and much more ambient than the result is. Then at some point during the songwriting I realized that maybe I should add some lyrics, some human voices, even few choruses, here and there like the more traditional song’s structure to make the whole album a bit more accessible and interesting.First of you planned it to mostly instrumental, then you added lyrics?
It would have been a year ago, we had a break from the Nightwish tour after Australia, before the summer festivals. I was at home for about four months or five, and that’s when I did most of the songwriting and the lyric writing.
How did you try to include those ancient, Scrooge related elements into the music?
Well it was a fascinating idea because when you read the book he (Scrooge) goes all around the world, twice. He has his adventures in the Scottish Highlands, in the Wild West, in Australia, and in Africa, so the potential to use different ethnic elements sounds was huge, and that’s something that I really love. So we have the didgeridoo in one of the songs, we have the Scottish instruments, celtic, we have the Ennio Morricone’s style wild west in track number 2, “Into the West”. So it was just a very fascinating roller coaster riding through the world and so much fun to do.For the orchestral sound you worked again with Mr. Pip Williams, who is on your side since the past three Nightwish records. How did he react on your idea?
He was quite enthusiastic from the beginning but he had not read the book, so the first I sent to him was the book and told him “Read it through, tell me what you think”. He read it and understood immediately what was going after. He was really excited from the beginning. We have talked over quite a marginal project, and to people who are not into this book, who don’t know Don Rosa, it may sound really far fetched or even naïve. But then again if you think about the concept of the Lord of the Rings, for instance, it’s equally childish. But people don’t think it that way. So leave your prejudices aside and give it shot.Another important man for the realization of this record was of course Mr. Don Rosa himself. Can you explain how the contact to him was made, developed – and how you convinced him to be a part of this whole big thing?
I believe it was back in 2010, he was promoting one of his books in Finland and I got the chance to meet him after a press conference in Helsinki for about five minutes. I told him about this idea of mine, he listened to me very politely and I gave him a Nightwish CD and was it. I don’t think he took it that seriously, I don’t blame him. But then two years later I e-mailed him, told him that this thing is actually going to happen,, I had the studio booked and some songs ready, I would have loved for him to draw the cover art. He said “Yes I can try but I haven’t done anything since 2006, so are you sure you want me to do this?”. I said “Absolutely yes, because this project is just screaming your name”. Then he came up with the most beautiful artwork for the cover. He gave me some of his original sketches for the CD layout and for the music video. Something that nobody has seen before. I was really privileged by that. Then he also flew to Finland to shoot the video of “Lifetime of Adventures” with us. So that was a fantastic moment for me.How would you describe this connection between Don Rosa and you?
We e-mailed each other every now and then and he is going to fly over in April for the album release party, in Helsinki, we are going to do a signing session. Some promotion just to celebrate the album release together. So yeah we are still in touch.One of the guest singers is Tony Kakko, a long-time friend of you. Which is his part of the story?
He doesn’t have an actual character, he is just a storyteller in one of the songs called “Cold heart of the Klondike”. The other three singers have characters: Alan Reid is Scrooge himself, Johanna Kurkela is singing the part of “Glittering Goldie” and Johanna Ivanainen doing the voice of Scrooge’s mother and his sister. But Tony is just an outsider storyteller.There are three more amazing singers on the album, Alan and two girls named Johanna, could you introduce them to us?
How I chose this particular musicians and singers for this album, was that I just broke in my closest friends and we did this album together. That was the philosophy behind it. I mean Pip Williams and Troy Donockley, both Johanna’s Mikko Ivanainen, the guitar in the band, they are all my best friends. It was just a lovely idea to bring them all together and doing this thing together. Something that I would definitely love to do again in the future.“A Lifetime of adventure” will be the single. What makes this song special in your opinion?
It is the only song on the whole album with an actual structure. There isn’t really any other song that could be a single release. I think there are three songs with a chorus in it, in the whole album. I mean, this song has a clear beginning and end, there’s the chorus. It was the only and the obvious choice for a single.