Former Nightwish singer Tarja Turunen will probably always will be an icon in the realm of gothic metal. After releasing the new album ‘What Lies Beneath’ early September this year and going on tour an interview was of course inevitable. We talked with here about touring, her new album and all the masquerades that must have preceded there. What lingers under Tarja’s surface, and her new album? The diva reveals.


Lords of MetalHi Tarja! How are you doing?
Thank you for asking, I am really fine. Resting and working for the future shows back at home, in Buenos Aires.

Congratulations on another great album. ‘What Lies Beneath’ is really something different compared to ‘My Winter Storm’. After ‘My Winter Storm’ it took three years before ‘What Lies Beneath’ came out. What happened in those three years?
I was constantly touring during those three years of time. I got to see many places I’ve never been even before and to meet lovely people around the world. I started working on my second album already two years ago, so the writing process was going on when I had a time off from touring. I was writing whether at home alone or with some other writers at their preferred places. So all in all, those three years were filled with travelling.

What would you say is the major difference between ‘My Winter Storm’, compared to ‘What Lies Beneath’?
WLB is more direct and clear production wise. It’s also very personal album to me, since I’ve been in the creative process very much personally involved. It’s also a bit more energetic, rocking than the previous one and I believe I made my direction very clear with this album. People can understand where I am heading with it.

You didn’t want to give the fans a date when the album would come out, until you had finished the album. The fans had no idea how long it would take. Did that put any pressure on the writing process?
If I would have put a date for the release, it might have brought me a pressure along with it, but as I didn’t, I had all my time to finish it and make sure that the album turned out to be as I wanted it to be.

Since you started your solo career, you have been writing more and more alone. When do you decide whether you need or want help or not? And how do you decide whose help you need?
In the beginning of my solo career, I was not really sure if I was capable of writing good songs, neither was my record company! J So, I decided to get help from people that have been writing song professionally already many years and that could understand my needs as an artist. To write songs with somebody, it’s a matter of trust and understanding between songwriters. There cannot be any other issues in between interfering the intimate writing session. I have learned enormously from these sessions that I’ve had with talented people that I’ve written with. I would have never chosen differently. Anyway, all of them have encouraged me to write on my own, which I am doing more and more. Sometimes with more luck, sometimes with less. Anyway, who is the judge in the end if the song is good enough? Yourself. Sometimes you can have success and some other times, the song turns out to be just an average song. I love to write with people that I feel comfortable with.

If I’m not mistaken, you went all the way to Iceland, to shoot your video ‘I Feel Immortal’... Could you tell us a little bit more about this video, and the process?
I have always dreamed of visiting Iceland. The dream came true when the director Jörn Heidmann suggested me to travel there to shoot the first video for my new album. I was thrilled, since I wanted to capture something immortal for my video and what is still immortal in our world, is the nature. In Iceland we found stunning landscapes, the ocean, mountains and waterfalls. I just loved being there for four days. The story of the video is very emotional and touching. It tells about the cycle of life.

The cover-art shows a lot of masquerades and scar tissue on the side of your face. It suits the album title ‘What Lies Beneath’. It reminds me of a mask. Do you believe everyone wears a mask? Or has a deep secret? What’s the story behind the title, as well as the cover art?
It’s never easy to know what lies beneath in us, human beings. What is the real me and why we act like we act sometimes? Why it is so hard for us to tell the truth at times? Many times it is better to take a second look at things, so you might see things in a different light or from a different perspective. Maybe you never notice some things if you just had a quick look, maybe you even missed something important. Taking time for things and understanding you better, is worth doing.

You mentioned to have written already twenty songs, but not all of them have appeared on the album. What happens with the remaining tracks?
I have saved them for the future. Maybe for the next album I just rework or finish some of them. There were many songs that were not fitting for the album concept I had this time, but they are good songs for some other future projects.

Your new album also contains a cover, why have you chosen ‘Still Of The Night’ from Whitesnake?
I have never been a hardcore Whitesnake fan, but I have their albums and I know their music very well, since my older brother was a fan and listened Whitesnake almost daily at home when I was a kid. I already suggested this song for Nightwish to cover many years ago, but the answer was: “No.” So I have had the song in my mind for a long time. Though I wanted to refresh the original version with bombastic symphonic orchestra and choir, so I contacted my talented friend, Tim Davies from Los Angeles and asked him to do massive arrangements. It’s really heavy now and I love it.

On ‘My Winter Storm’ you covered ‘Poison’ from Alice Cooper, funny enough you are his special guest on his new tour. That’s quite a coincidence. How did this happen?
I cannot even count the surprises and lucky coincidences I have had during the last five years in my career, but this is definitely one of the biggest ones! Their management contacted my management some time ago and asked if I was interested. I was so happy to hear the Mr. Cooper wanted me to take part on his tour. I won’t be singing the “Poison” though! Hahaha.

Lords of Metal

You also do a lot of side projects. What’s in your agenda next months, except for touring?
I am already starting to write song for the next album! Yeah, sounds crazy, but it is the truth. At least my life is not getting boring with all the things that I am preparing for the future. I have many ideas for side projects as well and as a matter of fact I have started working for one of them. I can’t tell you much about it yet, but I have wanted to make an album like this for a long time already. It is consisting very different kind of music, but based on pure emotions. Other than music, I am planning to have a vacation in the beginning of next year since I haven’t had one at least for a year now; I am going to explore what lies beneath the surface of the ocean very soon.

So, let’s talk about touring! You mentioned you have a new base player on tour. Could you give us a quick introduction?
His name is Kevin Chown. He was playing with my drummer Mr. Mike Terrana around fifteen years ago in States with the band called Artension. That’s how I got to know Kevin. I met him earlier this year in Los Angeles and realized that he is very calm man with a great talent. It’s been a pure pleasure to have him with me on tour. I have been SO lucky finding good people around me. I hope this luck will never change.

When visiting your show at the ‘013’ in Tilburg, Holland, I noticed at the beginning of the show you have a curtain hanging by the ceiling. What’s the idea behind the falling curtain?
I love developing new ideas for the stage set up; it’s really like designing something beautiful. For me the visual effects are equally important than the music itself. My music is based on emotions and my dream would be one day to create a kind of musical set up on the stage with visual effects. Like my music goes through different changes of emotions, the stage set up could change as well together with music.

During a show, you change clothes approximately three times. You also wear the white suit you wear in the video ‘I Feel Immortal’, were your clothes specially made for you? How do you pick your stage clothes and shoes?
I have always loved changing my clothes during my shows. Even before my solo career I did that and people following my career can already expect me doing it. Like I said before, like my music has emotional changes, I have to try to change the visuals as well. Performing clothes are an important part of my show and in general it takes me a long time to design them for my future tours and concerts. Good friend of mine from Finland is sewer and we have been working closely already more than ten years designing and preparing my clothes. Sometimes I find nice performing clothes also from the collections of Argentinean local designers, like Maria Vasquez or Trosman. They have really different, unique styles. I love clothes that have something to say, they tell me something and the message must be strong enough. Nowadays my clothes are more or less based on two pure colours; black and white. The reason for this is my new album and the concept behind the album.

I must say, I was the happiest girl on the planet, the second I realized ‘End Of All Hope’ started to play. Your shows are really something special, given by the fact you give the best of you solo, and the best of you when you were still with Nightwish. You also played ‘Phantom Of The Opera’, ‘Passion And The Opera’, and ‘Nemo’, to name a few. When, and how do you decide which older song to sing?
When I am planning my new tours and set lists for the tours, I am going through all the possibilities which songs to take in and which ones to leave out. This means months before the tours are about to begin. I am lucky to have enough material on my own already, but it´s also fun to take some older songs with. For example for the next tours my band has needed to learn more than 30 songs all together, so that when I decide to change a song or two, they already have them prepared. It´s real fun and like this it never gets boring.

Lots of bands and musicians record a live DVD or CD, would you ever consider making one of those?
I have been discussing several times about the DVD release with my record company, but I still don’t have any concrete plans for it. It would be just amazing to have a proper DVD release in the future, but I want to prepare it carefully and with lots of love.

Your brothers Toni and Timo also collaborated on this album. Toni also joined you on tour. How important is family bonding for you, and do you consider yourself a good sister, daughter, friend or wife?
My family is all that I have. I miss my family constantly, since I don’t live in Finland anymore. Skype helps though! I consider being a good sister and daughter, even though I would love to have more possibilities to share time with my family, but I don’t think it makes me worse person if I am not present. The love and care between sisters and from father to daughter won’t change. When we are together, its real quality time right there. Me being a good wife, I think you should ask that from my dear husband. He might give you a correct answer hahaha.

However you are a well-known and very respected musician, you must have dreams… What are your dreams for the future?
I am a dreamer, so I am living my dreams at the moment. It’s a privilege to be a musician today and have a career like I have. My voice keeps me working very hard for the future and I believe there is always something to dream about. I would love to have a family on my own one day and to see what lies around the next corner for me, because you’ll never know if you don’t try to check it out.

Thank you for having this interview with me! The famous last words, are yours…
Thank you for having me! Lots of kisses and greetings to my lovely Dutch fans. I hope to see you very soon again. Love, Tarja