By Carl Begai
When it was announced in July 2013 that Nightwish would be filming their Wacken Open Air show for a future DVD release, it was a no-brainer hint that stand-in vocalist Floor Jansen had been elevated beyond temporary status. No band, not even a moneymaker like Nightwish, is going to blow their wad on a massive production like Showtime, Storytime featuring a singer with her days numbered. Keyboardist / mastermind Tuomas Holopainen confirmed as much in a separate interview (found here), admitting the decision to keep Jansen around was made during the summer even though Nightwish waited until October to make the news official. An exercise in patience and sitting on her proverbial hands for Jansen, to be sure.
“It was a challenge keeping it quiet, that’s for sure,” she agrees. “That’s the sort of thing where you just want to scream it to everybody, but even on the day itself I couldn’t really share the news with anyone. Only a few people knew. I’m happy the DVD is out now so I don’t have to worry about hiding the news anymore.”
“The DVD is a great way for people to sort of get used to my sound and hear how Nightwish has been part of my life for the last year,” Jansen adds. “It’s also a nice introduction for the new studio album. The documentary is a fantastic look behind-the-scenes because there’s so much mystery around Nightwish, so it gives a little peek at the guys. These days everyone can anonymously throw shit at people online, and I think the DVD shows a certain humanity and a different face of the band.”
For anyone living under a rock, Jansen got the job fronting Nightwish in the wake of the mid-tour booting of previous Nightwish singer, Anette Olzon, in October 2012. Jansen’s entrance was a troubleshooting effort that paid off as she gradually made the songs and the stage – and ultimately the band – her own. Quite the accomplishment considering she’d been sidelined since 2011 recovering from a burnout that put her post-After Forever band ReVamp on ice. And there’s nothing quite like recovering from being a mess by joining one of the most popular metal bands on the planet at the last minute.
“(Laughs) Definitely, but the peaks of the mountains seem even higher when you’ve been down really, really low. There was a period of a year-and-a-half where I wasn’t able to do anything. Getting asked to join Nightwish for the tour put everything back in balance and forced me to really consider what I want to do. At the same time it was really difficult because I was burnt out. When I slowly got my energy back and was able to think straight, I started to feel a lust for music. My normal levels of ambition started to come back, and just as I was making plans for ReVamp I got the call from Nightwish. That was a year ago and it’s been a non-stop run since. Hard work and doing a lot has never been a problem for me; it’s just the way of doing things that can be a challenge.”
This chat took place during ReVamp’s European tour supporting Kamelot, and Jansen made it clear she’s fully invested in Nightwish, but equally committed to ReVamp. She has a clear idea of how she wants things to progress and is set to keep things balanced accordingly.
“There’s the emotional side to it, there’s the planning thing, and there’s the ‘How much energy am I going to have?’ question in all of it. One burnout is plenty, so the question was how I was going to do both Nightwish and ReVamp. I don’t want to drop ReVamp because we wrote a great new album. The guys waited long enough for me when I was sick, the fans have been waiting a long time, so Wild Card really had to come out. Our first tour was interrupted by my burnout, so it would be really good for this new album if we have a real tour, like with Kamelot right now. As far as scheduling, the next year is very do-able so I have time to give Wild Card the push that it deserves. After that, I have no idea. It would be a shame if it wasn’t possible to devote the time to ReVamp, but I’m not the only one in this band so everyone needs to be okay with being forced into another band’s schedule. That’s what it comes down to. Everyone in ReVamp has the ambition so we’ll see what the future brings, but if we all want it I’m sure we can make it work.”
Supporting Jansen’s efforts on Wild Card are former After Forever members Joost van der Broek (producer) and Mark Jansen (vocals / Epica), Marcela Bovio (backing vocals / Stream Of Passion), Daniel de Jongh (backing vocals / Textures) and Devin Townsend (vocals), all on board as guest musicians. Townsend’s appearance comes as a big surprise given that he’s gone on record stating he generally doesn’t like doing guest spots on other people’s albums.
“That’s actually how he replied,” says Jansen. “He really wanted to know what the music was going to be like and he asked about co-writing on the song. I told him, ‘Please do!’ I wanted him for the vocals rather than co-writing because we had a song structure planned out, so I sent him the song with my ideas and he had no time (laughs). A couple months later I told him that I’d finished the song, and I sent it to him saying that if he liked it and wanted to record something for it, it would be awesome. He really liked it and gave the song that typical Devin Townsend twist that makes it sound distinctly him. The song kind of fits him, actually. I had him above #1 on my wish list when I was writing it (laughs). He did a lot of cool vocal things on the song and we were all like ‘Wow, Devin Townsend really likes one of our songs…’ (laughs). He didn’t change anything in the chorus because it’s a harmony where we meet at one point, but he played around with the verses and added some extra vocals – a scream here and there – so it’s really cool.”
Jansen’s time with Nightwish has, as expected, given ReVamp an extra boost as far as initial curiosity goes. Just how many Nightwish fans buy into ReVamp’s rather unique brand of dirty prog metal – in other words, it’s pretty damn hard to categorize – remains to be seen, but reactions at the Kamelot shows indicate that folks are getting into the music.
“It’s been better than I expected,” Jansen says of the reaction to ReVamp, album-wise and live. “Most people feel that Wild Card is big chunk of music to chew on, and they’re right. You can’t swallow it all at once. It wasn’t our intention to write something complicated, but we did want to write something that brought a little more to the table, especially in the world of female fronted metal. It was all about going for the heavy stuff and not worrying about if the songs were commercial enough, because commercial doesn’t matter these days anyway.”
“Kamelot is melodic metal, and even though ReVamp has a rougher edge I don’t think we’re very far from each other. It’s amazing, actually, because it’s difficult to listen to the music on CD and it’s kind of the same when it get thrown at you live, but I’ve noticed that people are getting into it. They’re a bit unsure at first, but we’ve had the last four nights in a row where people were just screaming their support. The appreciation has been amazing, which is really heartwarming considering we’re only the support band.”
It’s also an interesting dynamic in that Kamelot was supporting Nightwish in North America when Jansen came on board. The European tour was a case of role reversal within the family, so to speak.
“To be honest with you, the tour with Nightwish and Kamelot were so intense for me that I barely had any contact with anyone outside of Nightwish,” Jansen reveals. “I did three weeks of their five or six week tour. I really stayed on my island, so when this tour started I told the Kamelot guys that I usually mingle, I’m a people person, and that I always know everyone’s name on tour. It’s not that I didn’t have contact with anyone because I didn’t like them; my head was just so full. I needed to get to know my new band and the songs. Now I finally get to know the guys from Kamelot and it’s been great. I hope there will be another tour with them in the future.”
According to Tuomas Holpainen, work will begin in earnest on a new Nightwish album in July 2014. Jansen is looking forward to hitting the studio with the band, but it could potentially be a difficult process. It’s one thing to essentially be covering Nightwish songs for the stage, quite another to take instruction when you’re used to doing things your own way, as Jansen has with ReVamp and After Forever.
“Yeah, but I worked with Arjen Lucassen,” she laughs, referring to her Dutch countryman and his Ayreon and Star One projects. “He was singing the parts and giving me a certain amount of freedom to give my interpretation. Sometimes he was very specific about what he wanted, other times we’d experiment or he’d ask my opinion on stuff. I can imagine that working with Tuomas will be something like that. What’s most important is that it’s a good song.”
“And it never felt like I was covering Nightwish songs when I came in, because I had the freedom to make them my own. I don’t sing them like Tarja or Anette, I just sing them my way. I check with the band and ask them for their feedback, and I can imagine that being in the studio will be the same thing. That’s enough for me as long as the songs are good. I don’t feel that I need to write songs to satisfy my ego so that it’s more mine. With a songwriter like Tuomas who has such a vision, it’s going to be an amazing experience to work with them. And it’s also nice to sometimes to give up a certain amount of control. My burnout taught me about not wanting to be in control of everything. I’m learning the ‘letting go’ thing (laughs).”