original source: imperiumi.net
author: Mape Ollila
-translation by Morrigan-
The new vocalist of Nightwish crosses her legs beneath herself and gets comfortable in the corner of a sofa in the sauna premises of the Petrax Studio.
The songstress, about to step in a hug pair of shoes, munches peanuts. Before the interview begins she asks if the interview is going to be published as sound file or can she continue eating while the interview proceeds.
I promise her the nut-munching won't be heard in this interview and because she is someone I meet for the first time, I couldn't even ask anything planned in advance, so I ask the girl who has been kept hidden from the media like a governmental secret to tell me everything about herself.
The positive and bubbly singer gets into the subject briskly with moderately good English...
"I'm Anette from Helsingborg, Sweden. I've been singing my whole life and was born into a family of musicians where everyone from my mother's side has worked as a musician. My childhood was full of instruments, playing and singing. My mother is also a singer so I've toured with my parents in the tourbus ever since my early childhood. I started singing with a band when I was 13.
I started singing for real when I started entering talent competitions, I think I was 12. Before that I had sung in my mother's band, but at that age I started seriously competing in talent shows.
When I was about 16 I started in my first cover band with some older guys who were in their mid-twenties. We had gigs almost very weekend in Southern Sweden and Denmark. We played all kinds of music from Roxette to CCR... "Cocaine" by Clapton, all kinds of weird stuff. That group stayed together for quite long.
Then my mother got married for the second time for ten years. Her new husband had a son named Niklas and I went to sing some backing vocals to the demo of his band. I was seventeen at that time.
That band was called Alyson Avenue. The boys of the band were so impressed with my voice that they asked me to join the band.
At first the band also had a male vocalist who was later kicked out of the band so I had the full control of the mic. I think it was the year -89. From that moment on Alyson Avenue kept rocking until things cooled down about two years ago."
Alyson Avenue has two albums, "Presence of Mind" (2000) and "Omega" (2004). Anette notes that there might have been a third as well, but the whole thing just didn't feel right to her any longer. On the MySpace page of the band can be heard two songs from the demo of the third album.
"When we started, Alyson's music was OK. Niklas made all the music just like Tuomas does in Nightwish.
We rehearsed together just like any band and later on we made the music together as well. It was fun. But now during the later years when we had a recording contract, everything became a project. None of the boys wanted to take to the road and play gigs, they were overcritical about everything;
the songs weren't good enough etc. In other words the boys of the band never really wanted to be fulltime musicians. There were situations like that and I didn't have patience for that anymore. We got back together a couple of times, but I didn't find my own kind of music from Alyson anymore."
When she was 21, Anette Olzon sung the main part in a rock opera in Helsingborg and it was a pretty big thing in the local news.
The 35-year-old vocalist has studied musical arts in the Gothenburg Ballet Academy and taken lessons in the Copenhagen Music Conservatory, Helsingör and Malmö. The widely experienced Anette has also sung in a big band, some gospel choirs and performed a lot in churches, in weddings as well as funerals.
You can guess she will not "freeze" even in front of huge audiences.
"In Gothenburg there is also a big ABBA band called Arrival in which I've been as a substitute. With them I got to perform for big audiences as well, for example for 7000 people in Oslo's Spectrum."
Anette, nicknamed Nettan in Swedish, played the role of Agnetha Fältskog in her ABBA days. To finish her quite lengthy CV, she has also sung backing vocals for an album of the metal band Cloudscape ("Crimson Skies", 2005, Metal Heaven) and a duet with the German vocalist Michael Bormann who is the ex-vocalist of Jaded Heart and sings currently in Bloodbound.
"Those were the most important ones I guess, to put it shortly," Anette chuckles.
According to Anette, she heard her current employer Nightwish's music for the first time only two months before their previous vocalist had to leave her post, and that was because Anette's niece is a big fan of the band.
"I listened to my niece's CD out of mere curiosity and I liked it very much. Two months later Tarja was fired.
At first I felt like I should send them a demo even though I can't sing operatically. But then I thought "Nah, I'll pass". The sound technician of Arrival ranted at me: "But you must send them that demo, you have to send it right now!". After he had persuaded me for a while, I finally asked Niklas and the guitar player of Cloudscape if they could help me to record "Everdream". We recorded that one song in one day and sent it forward.
I received e-mail from Tuomas almost instantly. He had liked my singing very much and asked me to send three songs more. I even sung "Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan" as a bonus! I thought the band would make the decision quickly so I recorded this second demo in a hurry. I think it was January when Tuomas already had all the songs I'd recorded."
In March the band announced they were looking for a vocalist.
"I thought: "Wow, maybe I should send in more songs, I didn't know about this." So I sent Tuomas a message and asked what was going on.
He replied and said he was sorry but I couldn't become their new vocalist even though I was the best one he'd heard so far. I wondered why, because of my age perhaps?
I was of course a bit upset about the decision but I couldn't give up.
Then last summer I received the live DVD of Alyson and I had a feeling I should ask Tuomas if he wanted to see it. He did, so I sent it to him but didn't hear anything back from him before September when Ewo called me: "Hi, I'm the manager of Nightwish. We'd like to ask you a couple of questions."
Of course they asked about touring because I have a family. A child. I said I wanted to go touring. I'm not a typical stay-at-home mother. Singing is my whole life."
Anette's husband has an expertise occupation that keeps him away from home for a couple of years in a row. When Anette got her job in Nightwish, her husband said that it was now Nettan's turn to follow her dream, they would be alright at home.
But let's allow her to continue...
"Then I came here, to E-Major studio in Kerava and we rehearsed and tried studio singing.
When I got back to Sweden I received an SMS where the guys said they wanted to meet me again within a month. I rehearsed some songs and went back to Finland for six days.
We took some promos and I also visited Tuomas's cottage in Kitee. His father asked me if I had alrady signed the papers about joining the band. Then we went back to the studio to rehearse."
Tuomas doesn't take just anyone to the Island. Anette probably should have guessed by then she was the new vocalist, but she denies having ever felt completely sure about the job. She however says that she and Tuomas connected instantly when they first met.
"The whole thing felt good from the very beginning and I really liked the other guys as well when I met them.
It is very important of course, I have to feel like I can live with these guys and get along with them. We are also from two different countries.
I instantly became very good friends with Emppu and we sent e-mails back and forth. With Ewo we bombarded each other with SMS's all the time but I still wasn't sure about my situation in the band because they kept saying in interviews that they had several possible choices.
In October Tuomas even e-mailed me about it. I was starting to become desperate, had they still not decided it? I was tired and frustrated of waiting, I had already waited for 1,5 years!"
Then in this year's January Emppu started to sound strange somehow, a couple of weeks before I learned the truth. His messages were like: "What a wonderful, wonderful day, is it not?" The guy was totally weird. Then Tuomas e-mailed me to tell me that were having a party and that they missed me.
Then Ewo asked me if I wanted to come with them to Germany to see a Tarot gig. I had a feeling they wouldn't take me along to Germany to se Tarot if they didn't... But I still wasn't sure so I stayed cautious. My friends and family fortunately took it calmly as well because nothing was certain."
On the 30th of January Tuomas e-mailed Anette to ask if it was alright for him to call her.
"I told him it was okay, but asked him to call later because I was pretty busy. Tuomas said he'd call the next day and the whole evening and following day it was like I had ants in my pants. Emppu kept asking if I was having a great day and I wondered what was wrong with him.
Tuomas finally called and we talked about the trip to Germany and whatnot. Normal chit-chat. Then he said there was something else he wanted to talk about.
I was like "Yeeeess?". He teased me that surely I already knew. I firmly denied knowing anything. He still kept beating around the bush.
He told me he'd been thinking with the guys that I was going to be very busy in the near future. He said it so strangely somehow that I still didn't get the point. When I finally realized what he meant I had to act calmly because Tuomas was so cool as well. I didn't even scream or anything.
Tuomas started to tell about what lay ahead right away. Then Ewo called and that time I got to scream and shout like a little girl.
But it still took me a couple of weeks to really understand how huge thing it was.
It was a huge shock, really. Of course I immediately called my husband and my brother who is a musician who has toured a lot.
He was so excited and kept asking if I really knew what I had gotten myself into. Of course we talked about more serious subjcts: think about this and what if that. Stay true to yourself and so on."
The sweet-natured and genial Anette denies she understood it even when they were in Germany, but now that the album has been recorded she is starting to feel good about it. She says she is old enough to understand what kind of circus she has gotten herself into even though she admits she was mildly shocked when she understood how huge band Nightwish was after all.
"In Sweden Nightiwsh isn't any kind of mega band. People know them of course, metal people especially, they have sold gold there after all.
But they don't play Nightwish in radio stations. We don't even have a radio station that plays metal in Sweden.
Now I know how huge band they really are, but I don't think I'll see the whole truth before I really get to start working. I'm really looking forward to it."
The final choice was followed by a game of hide and seek starting from the trip to Germany. They went to get some stage outifts and promo picture accessories for Anette from Helsinki and other places using different kinds of vehicles: "You take that taxi, we'll follow you with another car." The promo pictures were shot in Latvia so there was a minimum risk to encounter some Finnish metalhead. Some teenagers did walk by and it caused some worry. Had the secret leaked?
Now after the official announcement all the parties are surely relieved; the band no longer has to hide and th PR-officers of the record companies no longer have the overzealous press begging for information about the vocalist. The only ones still in growing agony are the fans who can't wait to hear the new album.
The most calm ones are probably the musty old "besserwisser" types who after hearing Eva on the radio say "That was it?" Don't bother, it wasn't, just like Nemo didn't tell anything about Once. The first single of a Nightwish album is always the easiest song of the album.
The next marking on the Nightwish calendar is the shootings of two promotional videos. They will be made with the assistance of the super director Antti Jokinen in Los Angeles. There will be three singles out from the new album.
Nightwish will spend the following 2,5 years on the road and they already sell tickets for nearly 200 concerts. The tour will start in October from the United States where they already have their first gig sold out. They have planned and hoped for as much as four US tours. Apparently the band and people surrounding it now believe they have "conquered" Europe and tthat it's time to focus the marketing beyond the big pond. There is a lot of work to be done, but Anette is not afraid.
"This is exactly what I've always wanted. My whole life I've been frustrated because I haven't been able to live the life of a musician. I haven't found the music of my own or got to perform. Of course I like working in a studio, but it's not where I'm at my best. I love to perform, so I have no complaints now!
My family has taken my joining to the band admirably. My mother is a professional musician and not the type of person to easily give positive feedback. Whenever I have played or sung something to her she has always nodded approvingly but also noted in the end that I should try to improve this or that. So I've never had a chance to think too highly of myself and always known that music is hard work. But now my mother is proud of me and I think she might soon be ready to say it too. I don't know if she has even known how good I am before she now hears in Nightwish how diversely I have to use my voice.
Recording the songs has been very much fun. The boys have encouraged me to scream at the top of my lungs. I asked them if they really want me to scream, me?
They also asked me to growl and I've done that as well on this album. I've sung in so many different styles. Sometimes I've been quite astounded, but this has been very rewarding."
Now that the hullabaloo and arguments of the recent years are all behind, Nightwish seems to be downright happy at the moment. The band couldn't be more pleased with the vocalist they chose. There is a new kind of relaxed atmosphere about everything they do, even though the new album must give them a lot of pressure. At some point there was a kind of signal about Anette having been the only one out of the two thousand applicants who could sing even the most difficult songs on the album.
Anette on the other hand believes she ended up in Nightwish by some kind of guidance.
"You know... I feel like karma had its role in this. This was meant to happen. It sounds strange for me to claim this, but when I sung Everdream for that first demo, I felt like I really knew my own voice for the first time, it had power and softness. I have always sung with a lot of emotion. Even my vocal teachers have told me I have "such sad vocals" and such emotional ways to express myself. I think that was what Tuomas was looking for, emotional singing.
The soundscapes Tuomas makes make some of the songs really difficult. They are all difficult but some of them are so hard that you need to be an experienced singer to be able to sing them. I don't think I'd been able to sing them when I was 20."
Anette says she reckoned the new Nightwish album was going to be grandiose, but she couldn't even imagine how colossal piece of work they were making.
The forthcoming album is nearly 80 minutes long, a notch more massive album than Once with help from a choir, a symphony orchestra of 66 musicians, 12-year old boy sopranos, an Irish piper octet, a soul soloist and a gospel choir. The album is once again orchestrated by Pip Williams. In Anette's opinion the new album is definetely not repeating the old.
"The new album is not some "Once 2", it's something completely new. We've tried all kinds of stuff on the album, for example in this one horror movie song that Emppu made. It's a guitar song where everything, the melody, the rhytm of the lyrics and everything has been composed with a guitar. It's a really difficult way to make songs, I've tried it myself. For me it's much easier to compose melodies with keyboards."
So Anette can also play. She has played oboe, is self-taught with piano and says she plays guitar badly because her fingers are too short.
"When I sung this horror movie song to the demo, it already sounded really different. Now when we got to the studio, the boys said: "Forget everything we've done so far, we have to do this in a completely different way." Only a couple of days ago everything was still in an experimental state about the song. It became something like "Tim Burton meets Grudge 2". At times I sing with that gritty voice of that Grudge spook. It has all kinds of really weird stuff but it was really fun doing it."
Even though the vocal parts have now been recorded, Anette hasn't had time to really get to know the band. She gets very well along with Tuomas and Emppu, but Marco hasn't been around at the studio enough at the same time as she and nor has the ever-busy Jukka, but judging by the encounters so far the contact to everyone is good and Anette doesn't believe there'll be any problems.
The closest working relationship she'll naturally have with Marco but as they're similar in age and musical experience and both also very down-to-earth people, it will most likely work very well.
Tuomas describes Anette as "ultimately normal person" and says it as a good thing. Anette says she believes she's "one of the guys" because she wasn't spoiled as a child and whn their musician mother was away during weekends the girl had to look after herself and her two younger siblings. Anette grew up in the countryside and likes the nature, she even used to have a horse.
She got used to living in a city only as an adult when she lived in Gothenburg for a year and currently she lives in Katrineholm.
Nettan has already had to notice that now she's a member of Nightwish, she can't live completely normal and ordinary life any longer. Recently a Finnish tabloid that shall not be named lapsed into trash journalism and intruded the singer's courtyard without an invitation. The tabloid got to publish pictures of Anette's cat and neighbors, hopefully it was enough to help sell some copies...
Comparing Anette to her predecessor is inevitable and she knows it. Even though Nightwish has had a certain image for years, the new vocalist is going to stay as herself because who else could she be? She adamantly refuses to "wear curtains", but a tiny mini skirt is not a natural option either.
"Of course I can't please everyone and I'm not even going to try. But I think the band will now gain some new fans who haven't liked them before. Some just didn't like the opera-style vocals. If the band had chosen a new operatic singer, it could have been their doom because Tarja is so extremely good at what she does. Her sound can't be copied and it wouldn't even make any sense to try. The change can be welcome as well."
"Driving in" the new singer causes some changes to the band's setlist as well. Nearly all the songs need new backing tracks sung to them during the summer.
They will also start playing songs they haven't played in ages, like Come Cover Me. The band is totally fed up with Over the Hills and Far Away so it won't be heard anymore. Nor will be the operatic Phantom of the Opera. The problem with Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan is the language barrier. But Anette does know a bit of Finnish.
As one could assume, the first words taught to her are swearwords. In addition to that, she can say "mansikka" ("strawberry") which was undoubtedly taught to her by Tero Kinnunen... and that probably makes it a swearword as well. The most important thing she can say in Finnish however is "Anteeksi, olen ruotsalainen." ("Excuse me, I'm Swedish" or "I'm sorry I'm Swedish").
The singer already understand some words when she follows the Finnish members' conversation and learns more every day. Anette assures that if the guys teach her how to pronounce Finnish, she believes she can also sing Kuolema some day in future. Anette compares it to singing in Italian for example.
"Every singer can sing in multiple languages. Because music is a language as well, everything can be learned!"
The time to learn has come to the followers of the band from Kitee as well. The new singer is a big step into the yet unknown future, but one thing is for certain: the journey of the band continues with steady strides and the time of operatic metal is over.