INTERVIEW: Floor Jansen - Nightwish
Having been five years since the release of ‘Endless Forms Most Beautiful’, a new studio album had been highly anticipated. In a bold move to release a double album, with one dedicated to symphonic orchestral only, it is an album that has an eloquence of simplicity whilst being soaked in grandeur, it is its own creation brought to life by the delicate precision of a well oiled machine that is ‘Nightwish.’
We caught up with Floor Jansen from Finland’s most successful band to speak about the new album, the dancing skeletons of ‘Tribal’ and cats attempting to destroy the lettuce patches of Sweden.
Elle Jay: Hi Floor, how are you doing? How are things in Sweden?
Floor: I am good, it is calm here, very calm. We are home which is good, the reason why, not nice but it’s nice to be home.
Elle Jay: Yeah, I’ll try to stay away from the obvious which is affecting us all so much at the moment, it is nice to see how it’s bringing families back together.
Floor: Yes, in a way it did, that would be a positive outcome.
Elle Jay: Let’s talk about the album ‘Human. :II: Nature’, congratulations it’s a phenomenal album, I can’t get enough of it. It’s doing so well on the charts, it’s top ten in the Netherlands currently?
Floor: Thank you, I think one in Netherlands and in Germany too
Elle Jay: That is amazing, can you take me through the recording process for the album, was it similar to ‘Endless Forms Most Beautiful?’
Floor: It was exactly the same for the process throughout
Elle Jay: I understand that Tuomas composes all of the material for Nightwish, which you have said in the past you enjoy, was there any changes to that process for this album?
Floor: No, this is the ninth studio album for Nightwish and the way they are written has never changed.
Elle Jay: Do you think that would change moving forward to a tenth album?
Floor: Why would you change something that is good? If I had something that was a little wow, that would add anything better or remotely as good as Tuomas does and it fits Nightwish, then I would be free to come up with it and put forward as Marco has done in the past. During our rehearsals our creative input means that the songs go from a demo level to sounding like Nightwish because we all add our specific sound to the songs and that is a contribution that you cannot replace by anyone else either, its unique for what we are and who we are now.
*we break whilst Floor gets her cat out of the lettuce patch*
Floor: I am sat outside as the weather is so good, we have been inside for a while due to the Swedish weather but now it is good, we are out, I have just fed the horses so if I sneeze it’s because I’m allergic to the feed.
Elle Jay: I have to say, I didn’t think your vocals could improve from where they were before but you have taken them to another level, you draw the listener into the music and make it come alive. Did you have to complete any extra vocal training or conditioning for this album due to the increased intensity within the melody?
Floor: Thank you so much. No, I didn’t need extra training, but It was definitely challenging so I did have to practice quite a bit.
Elle Jay: How do you work through the melody lines with Tuomas, do you receive a piano melody and lyrics and go from there?
Floor: Yes, it’s impossible to see exactly where in the melody he thinks that I should sing, so I need to go through with him and then I practice to get a feeling for what I can do with it and then I rehearse with the band and we discuss which sounds and energy works. So yes, that’s the process, but I have to decipher the piano melody into vocals.
Elle Jay: Let’s talk about the album artwork, I have noticed on your social media that you have the Human. :II: Nature. Cover art tattooed onto your leg, you have said this is Sumerian and Assyrian cuneiform, was the artwork decided as a whole band concept?
Floor: This actually came from the guy (Ravnheart, ToxicAngel) who has designed the last Nightwish records, Tuomas came with the lyrics and a description of what it is about and then they came up with a visualization of it together. You can visualize Human Nature in hundreds of thousands of ways but nothing really seemed to fit and then it was his (Ravnheart, ToxicAngel) idea to look into the oldest written word of man and came back with the first ideas. A friend of Troy (Donockley) checked for authenticity because he has a very specific knowledge about this kind of stuff that not everyone has, you can Google things up until a certain extent but you don’t want to say that it is Sumerian and that it means this and then when you have released the album a historian comes along and says well you’ve googled wrong, it actually means this so, we have double checked with a historian and it just really fits well.
When I saw it, I was immediately in love with it, which is why even before we gave it 100% for the artwork, I already had it on me. Sometimes you feel an image or words fit to a certain time of your life, I have a tattoo of ‘Endless Forms Most Beautiful’ too visualized in my own way, this was also there with ‘Human. :II: Nature.’ Little did I know there would be such a weird period to come after. I’m still proud of the album
Elle Jay: I’ve tried to absorb as much of the album as possible, I have watched all of the lyrical videos that you released alongside of the album. How much were you involved in the video concepts?
Floor: I personally was not involved in the process, I got sent them after they were finished. I guess on this level you can’t be involved with everything as I was before. Of course, we were very involved with the making of the Noise video.
Elle Jay: The Nightwish fans love the dancing skeletons in ‘Tribal’, many within the forums wanting the audience at upcoming shows to do ‘the skeleton dance’ during the song.
Floor: Haha, oh really? Is that an idea? I love it. That would be perfect I would love to see that, maybe I could practice too!
Elle Jay: With the song ‘Pan’ I felt the lyrics hit me with regards to the current situation, in that the world has slowed and reset itself, mountains are being seen for the first time again in certain areas and people are finding lost skills due to a slower world. Have you noticed any new relevance to lyrics withing the album over the last month?
Floor: I mean of course it was never done awarely but there are a lot of themes, like the last suite, the classical 35 minutes, it’s a wordless love letter to nature. I think that nature is showing its ways to say, guys you’re over populating a biotope, which in this case is the entire planet, usually nature knows how to take care of that, it does that by viruses and disease, it can’t come as a surprise to the human kind that something like this is happening, of course it has also happened before.
What I find amazing is how little prepared the bigger governments of this world were, ‘OMG a virus, now what?’ What do you mean, now what? Did you not give it a thought before?
I think this is maybe a wakeup call from the real world saying somethings not right and something needs to change and now we are being forced into change and the reaction of nature is ‘oh thank you, look the water is clearing up, the skies are clearing up. I can imagine that a lot of people find that pleasant ’oh I can see the Himalayas for the first time in 30 years’, ‘hey, I live in LA and I can breathe’, hey, I live in Venice and I can see jellyfish.’
I would like to keep that and I hope that stimulates the individual desire of people worldwide to change fundamentally and that’s beautifully said, I hope that big governments and big corporations and people individually sense that the way we were doing things has to change, we already kind of knew that and some people have been screaming about it like Greta Thunberg but I think this is proof now, it’s true and something needs to happen and I’ll be very happy about that since I was very engaged about the wellbeing of this planet since I was very young.
I remember as a child I was a member of the world wide fund and you would get these magazines every month or quarter, yes we need to save the tiger from going extinct, we need to save the elephants from getting shot in Africa we need to save the amphibians because their livelihood is at stake because were poisoning the planet, we need to save the bees because we are using pesticide that they can’t deal with, and now I’m almost 40 and nothing has changed were still trying to save the tigers, they’re still shooting the elephants and so on and so forth and it’s a little bit frustrating to see that. So, from all the misery that this virus has caused I hope some good will come out of it for a real change
Elle Jay: I was wondering with the song ‘Noise’ being about the interaction of humans and technology, how do you approach as a Parent that fine line between wanting your child to have every opportunity in life but also not want technology to effect imagination and skills that are non-computer based?
Floor: ‘Noise’ is really about the behaviour around technology, it (technology) is designed to entertain us, inform us, make our lives easier but that doesn’t mean we need to make our lives dependent on it and lose ourselves in it and see it as reality, verses that actual world. As I said before I am attracted to nature, I prefer walking in the woods more than sitting on Facebook for thirty minutes but that is me, I’ve never been very interested in it, I like to stay in touch with people and since I emigrated it’s nice to be able to do that through Facebook. I’m on it more as an artist than I am as a person, so for me It’s always been pretty easy to stay away from the temptations plus I’m not into gaming, haha, I would read a book instead but that doesn’t make me any better. It shouldn’t take over your life, it shouldn’t dictate your days, it should be an addition to your life but not take over.
Elle Jay: Speaking about you as a solo artist, you have just finished your sold-out solo tour?
Floor: Ah no, we didn’t get to finish, I had nine smaller ones and because they sold out so much I booked one big one which I haven’t been able to do yet, plus I had a very large festival in June and I still had two unannounced festivals in the pipeline for September which are now looking unlikely to happen.
Elle Jay: I do apologise I was about to congratulate you on finishing.
Floor: Oh, thank you, well everything was sold out, it’s just the last show hasn’t happened yet but it’s sad because everything was going so extremely well, such an unexpected success too but I’m at home now, maybe I can write a bit now and use the time for that instead.
Elle Jay: How do you find touring and performing solo compared to when you are with Nightwish?
Floor: Well Nightwish does go Worldwide and my tour so far has only limited itself to the Netherlands. The Netherlands is so small you can actually drive yourself to the show, do it and drive back home, even though I don’t live in the Netherlands anymore I stay over at my Parents where I also have my daughter with me, so she has some quality time with her Dutch grandparents since we live in Sweden. Of course, with Nightwish I sing, I am also involved and I’m engaged but I don’t need to take care of much else, with your own shows you are more engaged you have to take care of much more. Nightwish has been a well-oiled machine for many years and these shows were brand new so you don’t get to that stage anywhere close, those are the big differences apart from the music.
Elle Jay: Do you still get nervous?
Floor: I got nervous before the first show because you don’t know what’s going to happen yet, I was with a great band and crew but you’re still completely dependent on their skills, are they going to perform or not, am I going to pull it all off or am I just going to sit here thinking about lyrics and what to say or is it just going to flow? Well the proof of the pudding is in the ink so after that I wasn’t nervous anymore.
Elle Jay: I personally feel Nightwish hasn’t peaked yet, you keep levelling up with every album and I think you still have the most phenomenal album yet to come, can I ask what you think is next for yourself and Nightwish, besides the obvious of Coronavirus going away and everyone touring again?
Floor: If you had asked me in January, I probably would have come with an approximate answer but at this point I have no clue because everything is put on hold. I had kind of an idea like this year were going to tour, next year we are going to tour then will come the Nightwish break as we always take a breather when new material is written and then I might write something myself, that was something I ambitioned but at this point everything is turned around. Most important for me and us is that we go on tour, we pick up the pieces as good as possible and sail both through the bad as for everybody’s side projects because we don’t really know what’s left of the scene. What I can do for now is write for my own stuff, I would love to explore music for myself where I can tour within the Netherlands, maybe outside the Netherlands, I mean I do have an international career whether I’m more popular in the Netherlands or not, and from there we will take it.
I agree and I hope that Nightwish hasn’t peaked, we got the most phenomenal compliment from ‘Steve Harris’ of ‘Iron Maiden’ saying ‘if there is any band that can pick up where we left, its Nightwish.’
The ambition for now is to stay healthy and keep making good music and hopefully play it live for the world when life gets back to its new normal.
Elle Jay: With my last question, I usually go along the lines of ‘what song do you wish you had written’ but there’s one question that has come to mind as you’ve spoken about getting back out there to play live again and that is ‘Do you have a message to your fans in this strange time that feel stuck, like they’re in limbo waiting around?
Floor: Yes, stop waiting, start living, life is not as it is, it provides the chance to do the things that you usually can’t do and I think a lot of people already do that. Look around you at what is there, you can nag about the things you can’t do but look at what you can do. Go to those places in your nearby places, take that walk that you usually don’t do, look at that movie a second time that was so nice but you never really took the time to look at again. It is limbo but it also creates the time to pick up new things or to look at the things that are right in front of you and I think there is a lot of positivity in there, I say this because I am trying to do the same.
I should have been in china now, we should have started our world tour of my second studio album, I am seeing big shows, my personal shows cancelled and I don’t know when I can do them again, I could be really really sad but I’m actually not because I am at home. I am having more time with my family than I usually have, I’m going to grow potatoes and carrots and salads if my cat didn’t just ruin that haha, and I can actually see it grow until the end of the season because I will be home for it. I am riding my horses way more than they can usually get out so they are properly entertained and were picking up all sorts of projects around the house because we can and that gives a lot of positive energy. So whatever possibility you have within your own situation, I would really invite you to do that, so stop waiting.
Elle Jay: Well thank you for your time and for talking to The Rockpit, we can’t wait to have Nightwish back in Australia and here’s to hoping we get your solo tour out here too.
Floor: [laughs] thank you, for myself it’s not very likely, it would be lovely though it’s just such a long way, but let’s never say never. Thank you so much and take care in Australia.
Interview conducted for The Rockpit, Australia 28 April 2020