tarja turunen tarja
Interview by: Mary Evans
Date: August 2010
Via: Dante Bonutto / Spinefarm UK
Photos by: Paul Harries / Spinefarm
Hi Tarja... When we last interviewed you back in 2008 you were in the midst of touring and promoting your previous album My Winter Storm. Since then you’ve toured again and are set to release your second album, What Lies Beneath… can you describe a typical day for you at the moment?
Being on tour, or not being on a tour! Writing songs or producing an album! (laughs)
The typical Tarja at home: I love to wake up quite early and go jogging or swimming if I have a chance but every day there is some kind of exercise I have to do. I love to make a nice, beautiful breakfast for me and my husband and just to play around with the music that I am always preparing for the next shows, whether it is shows or concerts, classical concerts. It has to do something with the vocalising rehearsing and doing that. It is the life of being a singer, so it always has everything do to with that. It’s just normal, I try to enjoy my days when I am at home and cleaning! (laughs) I love to be at home, as a matter of fact it’s a pleasure to be at home.
When you say at home do you mean Finland or Argentina?
Argentina at this moment yeah.
At the moment, of course, you are promoting your new album, so what’s a typical day for you now then?
Yeah it’s very hectic! Going from a country to a country and another country to promote and do interviews, whether it is also doing phoners at home and in between the shows I am still having some concerts in Europe and summer festivals. But it’s been nice. The album is going to be released very soon so it’s very exciting.
When you released your first album, My Winter Storm, I guess there were quite a lot of people asking you about the situation with Nightwish and why you left that band. Have those questions kind of dried up now and are people talking more about your own direction and your own music?
Yeah! But in a way I do not feel bothered… it’s a fact that I was the singer in Nightwish for such a long time and people are still having memories and the music is still existing and it is never going to disappear. It is a fact that I will always be asked about Nightwish and it’s not a problem for me at all but of course my focus is on my solo career now and I compose my music on my own and it is wonderful. It is great to be on your own in the way I have this beautiful freedom to really work on my art today, it is a gift!
As the album isn’t due for release until this month in the UK could you tell our readers a little of what they should expect from What Lies Beneath?
I think it will come as a surprise for people that the album has way more impact and is more direct, talking about the song writing itself and also the production of it. I think that you can really hear a rocking album this time, which means a lot to me because it is a very personal album to me. I really hope that people also hear me through the album since it is really my baby this time.
You began writing your own material for this album… what sort of a difference has that made to you as an artist?
Oh it is still an unknown world for me in a way that it is a huge step into a world that every day I learn something new about it! I mean every music is written already, once or twice, it’s hard to create something new but I try to keep myself very open for challenges and I am really brave into jumping into challenges and I love twists and tweaks here and there. This album really shows that I’ve been quite brave indeed and it’s only a good thing because I feel very confident as a woman today and as an artist.
As well as writing you are playing piano on the album as well aren’t you?
Yes!! It was the first time and I’m really happy about it. I was really nervous though starting but then again I wrote a song called Archives of Lost Dreams for example and I decided just during the recording I just stopped everything and said ‘This song needs some kind of a piano solo in between’ and I got inspired by the idea and I just wrote a part instinctively in between the song and it is there and it really suits the song. I’m really happy with it.
You also played a key role in the recording and producing of the album. Was that an enjoyable thing for you to do?
I can say ‘Yes it was enjoyable’ because on the first day of the recordings and the drummer came into the studio I was nervous and I thought ‘Am I going to handle this?’ and ‘Is this going to be fine?’ but after that first day it really showed me that there are no reasons for me to be nervous. I have really gained the trust of the people I have been working with for such a long time already and there is just a trust between us, and a love between us which is also a very, very important fact. So to be a producer it’s a very huge word for me, I wouldn’t call myself like that, but it has been a pleasure to make this album.
Do you think the skill of being a good producer is to have a vision of exactly what you want?
Definitely it is and to be a producer… it would be really hard for me to find somebody, kind of an outsider, and try to make him understand what I would like to have in my music without him really knowing really who I am. So that is the reason I chose to be the producer for my own record this time because I felt that it was really needed that people could hear my passion and what kind of music lover I am today… that’s important.
You’ve been performing some of your new material at shows, what has the reaction of the audience been like to the new material?
It’s been fantastic to play the new songs. Of course I’ve been performing them on the festivals with a huge crowd in front of us and it’s always a difficult task for people when you hear the new songs and how they sound live on a festival. Its never even easy for a band but it’s been great promotion and its been a good thing to see how people have received the songs. They have enjoyed them, really enjoyed them and so I hear the songs on youtube and theperformances are there already the next day after the show. It is insane how it functions today but it’s really like that. It has been fun and I feel that people are expecting to hear this album.
Falling Awake, Crimson Deep, In for a Kill, Still Alive and those are the ones I’ve been playing, also Still of the Night. Just a few of them.
Still of the Night isn’t on the album itself, it is a bonus track on the special edition…
Yeah, it isn't going to be on the album, it is a bonus track.
It is probably one of the most testosterone-fuelled track ever recorded… so for a woman to attempt that it’s quite unusual.
(laughing) But I chose to sing Poison on my first record! Still of the Night is a big song and I mainly chose that song because first I have been a fan of Whitesnake since I was a really young girl and second of all, it always made me think that they should have done it bigger, more bombastic with an orchestra and a choir, so it is at least my attempt with this track with a huge orchestra and choir! It sounds great though!
You describe on your site that Falling Awake is a very personal song but you ‘felt it was time to write something positive, since you truly felt good and confident today’. When do you think things changed for you in that respect to make you feel like this at the moment?
Well, of course, to see my solo career has taken over, it has really been great to be a performer today and be able to make shows in countries I’ve never been in before and see that there is this huge following and fanbase for me. Of course it makes you feel comfortable as an artist. I think it also comes with the age, confidence as a woman, and I’ve crossed the 30s and you start to feel different. I don’t know, it is just this cycle of life in a way that you start understanding yourself better and it is only a good thing that certain things are becoming more important. Music is of course the way of my life, I wouldn’t even think of any kind of life rather than this, even though at times it is hard to be all the time on the road, but I do enjoy it.
You’re also fortunate in the sense that you have very, very loyal fans, people who live and breathe the music and are interested in what you do, interested in you as a person actually…
Yeah it is really incredible, these people are really, really beautiful people. I’ve talked many times with my band and the musicians that have been touring with me a long time and they have said that ‘Your fans are really incredible’ and that they are very different than they have seen in their own careers before. Yeah, I mean they are really loyal people.
Watching you in the Falling Awake video you look like you’re all having a great time… you seem to have a great group of people working alongside you… what it is like working with them?
It has been great to work with ‘my guys’! Can I call them that!? It’s been really great I mean there is such passion for music. I have felt that they have put a lot of effort into these songs and my music and they are doing that every day. I am really, really grateful for that, and so to say what else can I ask, it is really like that. Whether we are touring or in the studio we really enjoy to be together and that is important. We are like a true friendship plus that we are working together, it is great!
Like a family?
Yeah, like a big, big bunch of family! I am the only girl again! (laughs) Not the mother figure though! (laughs again) No!!!
One can't help but be amazed by the beautiful scenery and imagery in your new video, I Feel Immortal. What made you choose Iceland as a location?
I’ve always wanted to go to Iceland, I’ve always dreamed of going there and now some way or another I had an idea of a story line for I Feel Immortal, I was talking with the director about it and I said we should find a location with first mountains, waterfalls and the beach and water, as an ocean, something immortal. I was thinking first to go to Argentina where everything is there, it is a huge country with beautiful landscapes but the journey there first of all would have taken too long and the travelling around the country is also long distances so he suggested to go to Iceland.
It was an incredibly beautiful, beautiful place! I really recommend for everybody to go to visit. It is such a great place. The video turned out to be great.
It is hard to believe that the location of the video hasn’t been superimposed afterwards and that they are real locations…
Black sanded beach, the rocks you see were these volcanic. The whole island is very volcanic. The sand where I was walking was really heated. It was hot, it was really nice. I heard that some of the houses don’t even have heating because their floor is basically boiling!! (laughs) It is so hot, like in Finland we need to have floor heating everywhere to heat up our houses. But there, it is beautiful with the ocean and the mountains, and the waterfall, oh my god! Great place!
You haven't played live in Iceland before have you?
Never, I would love to.
Earlier this year the Scorpions released their final album and you made an appearance on The Good Die Young. What was it like for you to be asked to guest on what is ultimately the band’s final album?
First the management were in touch with each other and then Klaus Meine called me. It was really incredible to talk to him. He is such a nice man and he seemed to be very, very keen on having me on their album and they sent me finally two songs that I could choose from the one I preferred. I chose The Good Die Young, it was such an honour. I mean I recorded my parts in distance and there were producers on board and they said to me what to do and so on, but after the recording I heard that this song was going to be on their last studio album which was a bit of a shock for me to hear afterwards! I am really damn proud of it and I’m proud of the band… I mean 40 years of a career is incredible!
It’s hard to think of the world of rock without The Scorpions…
Yes, but they have seen it all. They’ve had huge success, incredible!
Speaking of ‘greats’ you’ve also collaborated with Doro Pesch. What was that like for you?
Doro is one of the sweetest ladies I’ve ever met and she definitely really deserves everything good in life. She has a wonderful personality and she is so easy to be with and so nice to work with. I just met her just a few days again in Wacken Open Air in Germany and it was a pleasure once again. I am really thrilled to work with her and I’ve even performed with her on a couple of occasions, these songs of ours, and it has been fun.
The two tracks, one is The Seer for your EP, but what was the track you did for Doro’s album?
Walking with Angels was for her album, nice ballad, very 80s but very her style. A beautiful, beautiful story and song.
Recently you performed in Hungary at the Miskolc International Opera Festival. How did that compare to regular shows / festivals?
Well having a huge symphonic orchestra and choir behind, plus the band, is a very rare opportunity to have a show like this. Of course it required a lot of preparation and rehearsals so we spent many days in production for this show. It was fun, but I mean you have one hundred people on the stage it is always a mess. Your timings have to be right so you have to know what to expect, what not to expect. It would be a pleasure to have an orchestra and choir at our shows, also to hire locally an orchestra because it is impossible to bring along an orchestra with you. I would love to have a chance to keep on doing this in the future too.
Did you perform your normal set?
In this opera festival, it is a great thing that really are so open-minded and they have done this kind of rock show inside an opera festival for a few years. I was asked to make a show the first time they did this but it was not possible at that time. There are not too many opera festivals doing rock shows! (laughs) I got a chance to perform in Finland as well, in one opera festival which was completely different concert. Miskolc was a set list based on more orchestra stuff. I played some older Nightwish songs with orchestra arrangements and My Winter Storm songs and also a few of the new ones.
You’ll also start your own tour later on in the year. What can people expect from those shows?
I think we will have a blast once again! We are all really looking forward to being on the road after being in the studio and in production of the album. I think that it will be really good this time. We are starting in the beginning of October in Eastern Europe. We will keep on touring until the end of this year in Europe and then have a little break in the beginning of next year and go again from March. It is going to be great, I mean seriously, if you hear the album you know what you can expect what is going to be there on the shows.
The theme is going to be completely black and white for the shows. I am not going to be requesting that my guys are going to wear white clothes but it is all the rest of that! The visuality in some way is getting more and more important in my shows.
Speaking of visual you’re playing with Alice Cooper aren’t you in Europe?
Yes in November I’m going on tour with him. Oh my god it’s such a pleasure! I’m really looking forward to seeing his show, it’s so full of drama and theatre. It should be a lot of fun.
You’ll be coming back to London again in October for a one off show. Can UK fans expect a UK tour at any point in the near future?
We are really working on that every day. We are planning to come next year with a proper tour, that would be a dream come true for me, I’ve been waiting for that moment for a long time. So yes, I really hope that I can really say at this moment ‘Yes we are coming!’.
Well, that about wraps it up for now… all that’s left to do is wish you all the best with the forthcoming release of the album and with the tour and hopefully we can catch up with you at some point along the way!