Interview Troy Donockley (Nightwish) by Sven Bröker
Interview Troy Donockley (Nightwish) 21-02 Brussels Belgium
We don’t do many interviews on this website, but when we do it is always something special. Sven Bröker went on a SharQ trip from Germany, passing The Netherlands to Belgium. Below you find an amazing interview done by special reporter Sven with Troy Donockley about the new Nightwish album. They sat down for a while and talked about all the details and fine lines you will hear on Human Nature, which will be released 10-04-2020.
SB: Sven Bröker (interviewer)
TD: Troy Donockley
So Troy, tell me: how‘s the new album?!
On February 21st I got the opportunity to listen to the upcoming Nightwish release “Human Nature” and talk to Troy Donockley (vocals, pipes) about all the things in Nightwish’s musical universe. After being told that the band members spent the last night at the hotel’s bar (with way too many whiskeys) I got asked to start off the interview with the questions, which in Troy’s opinion has been asked way to often: “So troy, tell me: how’s the new album?!”. After doing so and having a good laugh with everyone the real interview started…
SB: How have you been doing since the final show of the Decades World tour in Helsinki?
TD: It’s been music, music and more music, as usual! It never stops. But now that the Nightwish juggernaut came out of hibernation it’s non-stop as well. We’ve got basically the next two years full of Nightwish and then we’ll have a little break probably. It’s pretty intense, but it’s significantly less for this tour. We are doing a lot less. We are only doing five shows in the states for instance, rather than 35 or so. But it’s all very exciting.
SB: Talking about exciting: how do you feel about switching from “Endless Forms Most Beautiful”, to “Decades” and the older songs, where you originally did not have a part?
TD: Yeah that’s right, I’ve never thought about it, but it’s been wonderful to contribute to those old songs. You know to put new fresh ideas into the arrangements with different kinds of instrumentation. And of course, I was forced into singing “The Carpenter”. *laughing* It has been lovely to go deeper into those old songs and give them a new lick of paint. But a lot of those songs will never be performed again. But we might take of couple of them out on tour.
SB: Will your role on stage change on the upcoming tour, since you are the main vocalist on the upcoming single “Harvest”?
TD: We’ll definitely be doing “Harvest”(live) ! It has been a slow steady progression over those last 12 years that I’ve been involved with Nightwish. From my session player days of just playing Uilleann pipes and whistles to playing second guitar and bazoukis and vocals. You might have noticed that on this new album there’s quite a lot of vocals – it has kind of became a feature of this album, the layered three-part vocals. We are really excited by that. That came from the Decades tour, through rebuilding songs like “Come Cover Me” with three-part harmonies, we all got excited about the sound and thought this was something we should really use more of. And Tuomas especially, when he was writing the songs, really had that in mind all the time. Every song on the new album has got three-part harmonies on it. And it’s a really interesting new sound, but it’s still quintessentially Nightwish, but it’s a lovely new colour.
SB: Besides “Harvest”, what’s your favourite track on the upcoming album?
TD: Oh come on! I can’t give you a favourite track, it would upset all the other tracks. I’ve got lots and lots of favourites moments on the album, but as to a favourite track I can’t at this moment. I have actually been listening to the album and trying to listen to it outside of myself and I’m getting to the point now, where I can listen to it and I’m not in it. And nobody is in it, Floor, Tuomas, Marko, Emppu, Kai… I can just listen to it and enjoy the music.
And I think it’s just wonderful. In all objectivity for me it’s the best I’ve heard! And I like the contrast on the album, there’s a lot of space on the album, a lot of openness, because for the first disc, the first side, which you could call the human side, we didn’t use the full orchestra. We only used a small string section and a bit of choral, a bit of choir. We saved all of the full-sized symphony orchestra for the big “All The Works Of Nature Which Adorn The World”, the second disk.
SB: Are you already looking forward to touring and returning to the Wembley Arena for a third time?
TD: Yeah! It’s funny, because you see the tour on the horizon, I can see it coming any minute now we’re going to be flying off to do the first show. I always feel, I think everybody does, you feel a bit apprehensive about it and “Oh do I really want to go out again?”, but the moment you get out there, that’s it, it’s just bliss, it’s wonderful! Until the very end. And we’re lucky in the band, since we are all friends! We don’t fight, we don’t have separate dressing rooms. We genuinely have a good time together and we love playing the music. And we love the fans. And we love the reaction that we get from the fans. That’s another thing that we’ve discovered is that Nightwish fans tend to be very thoughtful people and they’re very open-minded to change, like welcoming Floor into the band! It’s going to be interesting to see how they respond to the new album. But I’ll expect they’ll respond to this the way they always do: with an open mind!
SB: After Floor’s and Marko’s solo tours, have you thought about doing music on your own again, like you did in the past, or maybe something with Auri? Or is Nightwish taking up all your time?
TD: We are going to do some Auri! We intended to tour with Auri, but we are going to make another Auri album next year! And then hopefully… we have this fantasy of doing castles and cathedrals, just doing those as venues. You got to be there! We like to keep ourselves interested, we like to keep ourselves active in all, ALL permutations of the Nightwish universe. We like to keep ticking things over! But can’t wait to perform Human Nature! We’ve got a fantastic preproduction, which is going to be quiet something, with some quiet revolutionary projection techniques.
SB: Personally, I’ve been a huge fan of the massive LED screens and the art works you put on them for your live shows.
TD: Oh, you are going to love this then! Because we’ve got some really extraordinary new technology, that we’re using then.
SB: Are there any songs on the new album, which are exciting for you to play live or which maybe make you a little nervous?
TD: There’s some really technically challenging music, that is physically difficult to play. But I like to do that, I don’t like to be comfortable. I especially like to push the perceived limitations of certain instruments. Like the Uillean pipes have limitations, there are some parts on the new album, which should not be able to be played on them. But we managed to get it done! *makes strange forms with his fingers*
It’s crazy stuff! It’s a funny thing, but I’m never nervous, ever! Some of the biggest shows we’ve done like Wacken and Rock In Rio – at Rock In Rio I think we had a live video feed to 8 million people and I had a big spot on my nose, a big zit, and then the camera just comes right in [on my face]. For some reason, I think because I’ve always been a musician, I’ve managed to somehow bypass nerves and I know a lot of musicians, who are sick before going on stage, who are really terrified, but luckily for me I don’t, I just really enjoy it. I can’t wait to get out there! But funny enough the more uncomfortable shows, I mean in the sense of “Oh I really don’t wanna f*ck this up” – pardon my French – is when there’s small shows. When you are in arenas there’s such a distance between you and the audience that you are kind of in a strange little world of your own. But when you are in a club and you can see the white of people’s eyes, it’s like “Oh damn. I must really get this together!”.
SB: After experiencing such special moments as selling out Wembley, what was it like having the Natural History Museum in London all for yourselves?
TD: That was truly memorable! It was an incredible night. The anticipation of doing what we did in there was enough for weeks to sustain us in a high of excitement! It’s funny because we all started to speak in hushed tones, we started to speak quietly, it was like being in a cathedral or a museum, it was like being in a sacred space, you know the way you have to respect the silence and we felt like that when we were in there. And it’s such an iconic building as well. You got to go to the Natural History Museum if you are attending our show at Wembley. We got some remarkable shots in there and you’ll see [them] in the booklet or especially the earbook, because it’s lovely and lush, a really desirable thing to own! We loved that photoshoot. Photoshoots can be really boring, but that one wasn’t!
SB: Going back from those huge halls to the smaller ones: you don’t record in an actual studio but the main band recordings happen at a summer camp, can you tell us a bit about that?
TD: The summer camp is up in the mid-northern part of Finland and we get together there and we do lots of campfire arranging, talking about things and then playing together until things start taking the correct shape for the songs. We have a fabulous time there! There’s a lake and there’s a communal centre with a big fire where we cook fabulous veggie-sausages and drink way too much… as usual!
SB: During the Decades tour you already got integrated into older songs, will that happen even more on the upcoming tour or will you still vanish off stage for some older songs?
TD: That can be a problem, because for me I like to be playing all the time, it’s boring to me to go off stage. But there’s some things, there’s just nothing I can do with them. Things like “Dark Chest Of Wonders” and “Ghost Love Score”, there’s nothing I can do. I could play back up guitar to Emppu, but those songs were written with one guitar, so I can’t embellish those songs. But with all the stuff from “Dark Passion Play” upwards I can input into that. But we’ll see… I was thinking what I might be able to do: just come on stage and dance around, while they are playing, or maybe stage dive and you could catch me!
SB: Or maybe do some strange noises?
TD: Strange noises are one of my specialties!
SB: And you could already perform your specialities in the new song “Tribal”!
TD: Oh yeah “Tribal”, there I am! *laughing*
SB: “Tribal” has been my favourites song next to “Endlessness”.
TD: I love “Endlessness”! It really showcases the three voices; the harmonies are beautiful on that one. It’s really something else! It’s a high point, but the album is full of highpoints, but I do love the sound of the chorus on “Endlessness”.
SB: You made a music video for the first single “Noise”, to be honest I almost didn’t recognize you without your crown.
TD: *laughing* Yeah, I mean I am the king! People started calling me “King Troy” now, that’s alright, I’m happy with it. It was fabulous fun to do! Because I didn’t choose the part. Stobe [Harju], the director, he chose all the roles, that everybody took, so we just went in there and did what we had to do. I’ve never found myself being exposed on YouTube sat on the toilet wearing a crown. So, it’s a first for me! Sat on a golden toilet for millions of people to watch. It’s quite bizarre, it’s a surreal thing, but the video has had an incredible response, I think more than any other Nightwish video already. I think it’s two weeks old and it has two million [views]. So it’s going to break our record! I think the song is really powerful, the imagery in the video is really powerful! We managed to achieve what we set out to do with that song, with the subject matter of the song. We are really happy about that.
SB: So, besides the imagery the song mentions “Black Mirror” a lot, are you a fan of the series? Did the series influence you a lot?
TD: Yeah, we are big fans, especially Tuomas and myself. “Black Mirror” is a part of the influence, but it goes much further, much deeper than any one influence. It’s something that everybody is aware of. Everyone is aware of the noise of the internet and of social media. And how dangerous it is to become addicted to it. A lot of people have responded by saying “Oh well you are obviously hypocrites because you’ve got mobile phones!”. The song or the video isn’t about mobile phones, it’s about humans, it’s about people and it’s about behaviour. It’s nothing to do with the tools, these are fabulous things, it’s the behaviour and the addiction, that’s the thing we were trying to get to and as I said: everybody is aware of it! Everyone knows it’s a bad idea. Too many people are like” Ah I need to get out more, I need to get off this…”, but it’s difficult to shake it off. It’s like being an alcoholic, it’s not easy.
SB: Another highlight for me was the song Shoemaker, with its beautiful spoken words in the middle.
TD: Shoemaker has got some serious highpoints for me as well. The end section of Shoemaker when Floor sings it with the male choir is just spine tingling. The song has a fabulous subject, you should definitely check it out on the internet, go and check out Eugene Shoemaker, it’s about him! Read up on him and all the song is about will be revealed.
SB: Something that I recognized during my first-time hearing Human Nature: The intro to the first song “Music” sounds quite familiar in comparison to the final notes of “The Greatest Show on Earth”?!
TD: You’re the first person who has made some kind of connection to “The Greatest Show on Earth”! We’ve pointed this out to interviewers in the last few days, if you run “The Greatest Show on Earth” and then you stick “Music” onto the end of it, it seamlessly blends into “Music”, thematically it does! So, when you hear “Endless Forms Most Beautiful have been and are being evolved” and you hear the whale sounds and the sea and then DING! you hear the beginning of Music. That’s where it begins, it grows out of Greatest Show on Earth!
SB: I’ll definitely try this out once the album releases on April 10th. Thank you very much for your time and see you on the tour!