Raise the Blind: An Interview with Floor Jansen

Having followed the career of Nightwish since the release of their 2002 album Century Child, I’m aware of the challenges involved in fronting such a project. Both Tarja Turunen and Anette Olzon, the band’s previous singers, have encountered both love and hate from the rabid bands of this Finnish ensemble. There are so many people that connect with the band in such a deep emotional level that they feel that changes affect them personally, and so if they are not satisfied they are sure to make it known… in no uncertain terms.

And yet, Floor Jansen‘s entrance into the band has gone without so much as a hitch, and it’s easy to see why. With a long career in heavy metal, from her days in After Forever to her solo work in ReVamp, she has proven again and again that she is an extremely talented performer. Nightwish fans know this, and their love has demonstrated it. True, there are a couple of rotten apples here and there, but the large majority of the fans know that this is really what they had been waiting for.

I met with Floor during the Amsterdam listening session for their upcoming album Endless Forms Most Beautiful. A truly bizarre experience where you’re sitting in front of the artists, listening to their album, silently making judgments on the work they’ve put their sweat and tears into. For a musician, that must be awkward as hell.

Floor, however, managed to remain as graceful as ever.

It’s nothing but excitement!

 Emppu Vuorinen, Troy Donockley, Floor Jansen, Tuomas Holopainen, Kai Hahto, Marco Hietala. (Photo by Ville Akseli Juurikkala)
Emppu Vuorinen, Troy Donockley, Floor Jansen, Tuomas Holopainen, Kai Hahto, Marco Hietala. (Photo: Ville Akseli Juurikkala)

Metal Blast: Both Tarja and Anette have mentioned how although it’s a great experience to be in Nightwish, it can also be a bit “scary” because of the fanaticism that exists regarding the band. Was there some reticence at the beginning, when you just joined, because of the size of this thing?
Floor: Mmmmmmm…. Well, to my surprise, I was actually received in an extremely positive way. A lot of people had a very positive reaction, and so the overall feeling was great. Also, because of the short notice when I joined, I fortunately didn’t have time to start worrying about how people might take it.
The first few nights we performed for an extremely open-minded audience that understood the situation (nobody tried to leave or get a refund!) and had a fantastic interaction with them. They embraced me there. I’m sure that there are people who would like to see somebody else take the microphone, and I know that there are hate pages about me and all that stuff…

MB: Really?!
F: Yeah, I guess it became somewhat normal fact that you can just publicly hate people.

MB: There were people who made pages against you for joining the band?
F: That or me being on the planet in general, which seems to be a bit of an issue for some, no matter what I do. We have a Dutch saying, “Hoge bomen vangen veel wind”, “high trees catch more wind”, and so the more well-known you get the more of this kind of stuff that you’ll get.
There are trolls everywhere, but I rather emphasize the positive things.

MB: Well, the level of idiocy that you need to take the time to make a page about how much you hate someone says a lot about your mental health.
F: Exactly! I feel sad for those people! You can focus on those few unfortunate souls that spend all that time in trolling other people… but I prefer to focus on the majority of the positive reactions, the fantastically warm welcome I got at the beginning, and the high anticipation there’s now for this new album.

Floor Interview 2
Photo: Ville Akseli Juurikkala

MB: Speaking of which, what can you tell me about this new album? How do you see it in regards to Imaginaerum? 
F: The first thing that pops to mind when you listen to it, or even just the first track, is that it’s 100% Nightwish. It’s very recognizable, it has all the ingredients that you might expect from us, and there’s a more band-oriented sound. We’ve rehearsed with the band for quite a while before we recorded, and actually went straight from those rehearsals into the recording studio, so that whole band-vibe was also put into the recordings.
Of course, my voice is different; I sound different than the previous ladies. Tuomas really challenged me to use a lot of different styles and sounds within my voice, even more into this softer, lower and ethereal singing, something I haven’t done all that much in previous recordings. This was really cool, it was a personal wish of mine to explore this, especially after all the more aggressive-focused things that I’ve been doing with ReVamp
There is also an epic part to this album, a 24-minute song that sticks out and which really brings something new to the table that even Nightwish has never brought.

MB: You mention this band-oriented sound, which I guess is also the consequence of this “summer-camp experience” you had in the recording studio. Can you tell me about that?
F: Indeed, it was actually a boy-scouts camp in the middle of nowhere, near Tuomas‘ hometown in Kitee. Usually there are boys running around, making campfires and jumping into the lake. Now it was us doing it! [laughs] We all had our little cabin where we could sleep and have some privacy if we wanted to, which also allowed us to have our spouses, children, friends or whatever just coming around. In one of the main houses we built a rehearsal studio, and upstairs from that the recording studio.
In the beginning of July we started rehearsing, and even though first they wanted to start with the instrumental base, I visited just out of curiosity. It was just so cool that I just stayed, which gave us even more time to go into details in regards to the vocals, something relatively new for Nightwish to do during the rehearsals.
The majority of the recording was done there, but some choirs and the orchestras were done in London.

MB: Speaking of orchestras; since your voice does lend itself to a more operatic style, is this something that will also be featured in this album?
F: Yes, but not so much. We’ve been playing around with a lot of vocals types and dynamics, and it’s always the songs that do the talking. We mostly ended up using different sounds, but there are a few moments where the voice is more at the front, but there are also some backings with that kind of [operatic] stuff.

MB: I think a lot of people were happy about you joining Nightwish because it gives you the opportunity of, at least, perform some of the classic songs in a way that is more true to form. Do you find it difficult to perform the songs that people just associate with your predecessors?
F: That’s the entire back-catalogue, that’s how I started out! Without being disrespectful to the previous ladies, I never tried to sound like them, because that would make no sense. I am a different person…

MB: I think you made that clear in Wacken!
F: Thank you! I have to look at the material through my own eyes, and fortunately I’ve been around long enough to know what my sound is like. Because of the versatility that I’ve managed to learn, there was a nice opportunity in the new album to play with the existing material. The songs did the talking, not the previous singers, because I am not a karaoke singer. I approached it from my own musicality and sound, together with what the songs asked for; there were sometimes things that were different from the original, and it’s a back-and-forth process, because it has to sound natural.

Floor Interview 3
Photo: Ville Akseli Juurikkala

MB: Since we’ve talked about the expectations that come with this new album… The Élan single was leaked before its official release, and the band showed their disappointment on Facebook, etc. Do you see the issue of leaks as something that’s pretty much inevitable nowadays?
F: No, absolutely not. That would be like saying that this is just “things that happen” in the modern world. I don’t think it’s normal or that it should be accepted at any level. It’s a criminal activity and it destroys a very well thought-out campaign, the anticipation that a lot of fans are having, and then it just comes too early, in a bad quality, and with nothing but negative energy around it. There is nothing good about that, and it’s not something that should be normal, or that should be considered normal at all.

MB: So I take it you were pissed off? [laughs]
F: I was furious! I was really, really furious, and even more so when people started asking me why I was so angry since it’s something that usually happens, and that I should be happy that it “only” happened a week before the planned release of the single, and that it wasn’t the entire album. Happy? Really? I can’t see it that way at all. [laughs]

MB: You actually read what people comment?
F: Yeah, we do. And then we usually have to stop, because it’s terrible.

MB: If you watch any video on Youtube, it doesn’t matter what it is… well, considering the kind of comment that people leave on the internet, don’t you think that it’s a bit masochistic to just go into it?
F: No, because there are also a lot of positive reactions. It’s not just about our egos, or about our campaign getting destroyed, it’s also about the fans that had been waiting for the release, and who didn’t want any negative energy around it, and yet that was the first thing that came out. For a true fan it isn’t nice, the whole magic of it is taken away. That magic is something that we highly value with Nightwish. We don’t make all of those expensive trailers, and build up the expectations about the release, just so that some idiot can put it out online before we get to do it. That whole thing could just result in us saying that we’re not even going to bother with it; why should we bother making a super, high-quality, expensive album, if nobody is going to pay for it anyway, and will just download it for free as an MP3 that has no depth whatsoever because of the small file size.
We really want to keep bringing high-quality, well thought-out stuff to the table, when we choose to release it, and anybody that tries to get in our way is a criminal.  This is why we’re not sending out the album, and we have listening sessions like this. It’s an unfortunate situation, because then you can listen to it only once; but we don’t want to send it to anybody because the inevitable then happens.

MB: Speaking of these listening sessions, how do you feel about people who’ll inevitably write a review after this single listen?
F: I don’t understand people doing that. We have seen it happen in the past, and we don’t really understand that. If you really want to review it, then you need a bit more time.

MB: Considering the upcoming release, the upcoming tour, etc., has it been a very stressful time for you? I ask this because of your past problems with burnouts. Has this added stress affected you in any way?
F: Yes, of course, we are working our asses off! But it’s fun! [laughs] Things always get exciting around the time of the release; the great thing for me this time is that I’m doing the things I’m good at. Back when I got my burnout I was doing a lot of work because nobody else was doing it, and there was a lot of energy taken from me just because I was trying to do a lot of things that I am not good at. I might just be working harder now than I ever did before, but I am focusing on the things I’m good at, which gives me way more energy back in order to keep on doing it at such a high tempo. It’s perfect, and in this big “machine” (and I say that in a positive way) I feel in the right place, and it’s nothing but excitement, like “It’s finally coming!

MB: Because of your commitments to Nightwish, do you feel that your work will ReVamp will be diminished?
F: It’s inevitable, and from the day I joined Nightwish it has affected ReVamp. I found it very difficult to do both things at the same time. 
When I joined Nightwish we were in the middle of the writing process, we had just planned to go to the studio, and we had to postpone the release. In between tours I was recording an album, promoting an album, and then when I started to tour with Nightwish I was also touring with ReVamp, which was just a lot. This is not something that I wish to do, if only because of my own sanity and health, and because I feel that both bands need 100% of your devotion and time, and doing both at the same time just isn’t possible for me.
So now it’s full-on Nightwish time, and there’s no time for ReVamp. Once we’re done with this tour we’ll have to sit together and see where everybody is in their lives, and see if there’s a chance to continue. It would be great, but I can’t tell the future.

MB: So now ReVamp is on hiatus?
F: It is; it has to be.

MB: That’s all I have for you today; thank you so much for your time. I’m looking forward to a great album and amazing tour.
F: Thank you!

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Considered by his mother as the brightest and prettiest boy, J's interest in metal started in his early teens, listening to bands like Iron Maiden and Metallica (coupled with an embarrassing period in which Marilyn Manson "totally represents me, man") eventually moving into the realm of power, black, and death metal. He holds a PhD in law, trains martial arts, practices law, and enjoys coming up with excuses as to why he has to miss work after going to a concert. He also dabbles as a concert photographer, you can see his sub-par work on his instagram.
  • Ozymandias

    I feel sad about a 34-year-old who insults teenagers through the media. Jansen must be really ashamed of the shit she does…

    Well, if you happily agree some tosser teenagers love you just because they like your job, you should accept some others hate you for the same reason, but some musicians seem to actually believe they are gods worthy of devotion. A mental health issue, I guess.

    A couple of good advices for having a serious public:
    – Make serious music.
    – Don’t use your boobs and ass as an attraction.

    You’re very welcome.

    • Ángel

      Haters are despisable everywhere, even if they are teenagers. A piece of adivce for you: don’t use your ass as brain.

      • Ozymandias

        So, you ignore my arguments and answer with an insult. Well done. Actually, as I said before, “haters” are just like fans, both hate or love someone just because they like or dislike his/her job. If you accept one thing, you should accept the other.

        Another piece of advice for you in return: learn how to argue maturely instead of foaming at the mouth.

        • Ángel

          I don’t agree. On this context, for a mature human being the opposite of “love” isn’t “hate”, but “ignore”. There are many bands or singers that I don’t like but it doesn’t cross my mind the idea of insulting them. I have never done it. I simply ignore them and focus on the people I like. Full stop. How can you justify hating somebody just because you don’t like his/her job? Why must somebody bear being insulted day after day on the web? Between love and hate there’s a large territory in which respect is the king. People who ignore that territory are the only ones whom I can’t accept. No, they are not the same as fans. Being a fan is positive, being a hater is negative and, I insist, despisable.

          • Ozymandias

            “How can you justify hating somebody just because you don’t like his/her job?”. Just the same way you justify loving somebody just because you like his/her job. And yes, the opposite of “love” is “hate” on any contexts. Ignoring musicians you don’t like makes sense, and also admiring musicians you like. But loving and hating are different sides of the same phenomenon: projecting in the person your feelings about the music. So I find very hypocritical that someone complains about being insulted by “haters” while accepting declarations of love as a normal thing. By the way, if a stranger told me he/she loves me because of my work, I would get scared as hell.

          • Ángel

            Technically speaking, “hate” is the opposite of “love”, but what people (if they are sane) feel for a singer or an actress is not real love, but admiration rather than anything else. Yes, there may be other feelings attached, but it’s basically admiration, and the opposite of admiration is lack of admiration, not hate I can’t understand why people can hate so easily somebody they don’t know. No wonder bullying is something so common these days.