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Interview conducted February 1 2018
Interview published March 11 2018

Troy in his prime: "In fact, what we should do is take Auri on a ghetto blaster to the cemetery and see what happens."

With Nightwish on hold for a while,
Tuomas Holopainen and Troy Donockley have together with Tuomas's wife Johanna Kurkela launched the outfit Auri on a more serious note and put together quite a different piece of music that will hit the stores on March 23rd.

Tobbe: First of all: The band name, tell me all about it.

Tuomas: It's called Auri, pronounced Auri, and it has three different lovely meanings to it. First of all: Auri is Johanna's second name. Strike one! Secondly: The pair of us are big fans of books from the author Patrick Rothfuss. He's done The Kingkiller Chronicle, two books called The Name Of The Wind and The Wise Man's Fear, and they have this lovely female character called Auri, who lives in the underthing and is kind of a mystery and nobody knows how she ended up there. And we just love his books and we love this character. Strike two!

And then, Auri comes form the Latin word aura, meaning… (Troy:) …emanation, or atmosphere. A golden atmosphere generated from an inanimate or an animate object. (Tuomas:) And then, when you think about those three things combined with the music that we do and want to do and our life philosophies, it's just the perfect match.

Tobbe: Is it possible to describe a new album, for you guys personally, without getting too much caught up in its atmosphere?

Troy: No, not really. I mean, we are driven by the atmosphere that Auri is. It's part of us. The need to express that particular indescribable atmosphere that we hope we've inbuilt the music with. …with a bit of luck. [Laughs]

Tobbe: In what way may this new music also qualify to meet the Nightwish fans? Because it's a whole lot different to what you do in Nightwish.

Tuomas: I do agree, but the essence from which both bands are born off is the same. So I think there are more similarities than you might actually think. And like we've been talking about a lot lately, metal fans, the hard rock people, are the most open-minded there are on the planet. I mean, the variety of musical genres that they are into is so vast. This misconception of a normal heavy metal guy who only listens to Manowar is so far-fetched. Those people don't really exist.

(Troy:) I was just talking to a girl from the Italian Nightwish fan club and I asked her and she said that there's two favorites in her life that she really loves, apart from Nightwish obviously; Nightwish is her favorite band, and it was Dimmu Borgir, but she adores Ed Sheeran. So there we are. So now, she's a Nightwish fan and she loves Ed Sheeran.

Now, surely a Nightwish fan might find something in Auri. There's two of the components of Nightwish in Auri, so there's gonna be similar kind of approaches, in certain ways. I met a Cradle Of Filth fan who loved Brian Eno, you know. Metal fans are the most open-minded. There's no doubt. You would never get a trad jazzer loving Cannibal Corpse. You just wouldn't. But a Cannibal Corpse fan might listen to Miles Davis. So, we don't see any problem with any of that. It didn't even occur to us, did it, when we were making the album? (Johanna:) 'Cause we're the same way. Like: we love different sorts of music ourselves.

Tobbe: Even if you said it has similarities with Nightwish, Auri's music is still very placid and calm and Nightwish is well known for being epic and bombastic, so that's why I think it's kind of two opposites.

Troy: There are parts of Auri that could be perceived to be bombastic, but again, it's all down to the way you feel about music. I don't see any problems at all for anyone to make contact with Auri. You'd have to be pretty…dead, you know. I mean, totally dead, not pretty dead. In fact, what we should do is take Auri on a ghetto blaster to the cemetery and see what happens. [Burst of laughter.] (Johanna:) Just to make sure.

Tobbe: So, how come it took so long for you guys to finish this album? I mean, you started with it many years ago.

Tuomas: For practical reasons. Nightwish had a year off and Johanna had a year off and suddenly we realized that "Hold on. We have nothing in 2017. How about finally realizing this long-lasting dream called Auri?" and then things happened.

Tobbe: To what extent have you guys composed this album together as a group?

Tuomas: Everybody, as a group. (Troy:) Yeah, we did. We had a fantastic way of working on Auri, which, again, is the principle behind Auri as well, which is to express this inexpressible thing that we were driven to do. Tuomas and Johanna were in Finland, I was in North Yorkshire, and we were just throwing music at each other and picking the pieces up and messing around with them and coming up with marvelous new roots for the music to sap up. Because of the way we are and because of our "ancient" relationship we knew that there was no nonsense gonna happen.

Tobbe: Johanna. You have a different career as well and what may the biggest challenge to you when you're doing Auri instead of doing the stuff you normally do?

Johanna: The challenge? I mean, there was no challenge. Like: whenever you make music with other people there's always compromises, or so it has been for me 'cause I've been dependent on other people well throughout my whole career. I've worked with songwriters and different producers, but it's really rare to find people that perceive music the same way, let alone perceive life the same way. The special thing for me about Auri is that there were no comprises and we were, like, working from the same source throughout the whole process and never having any conflicts or disagreements and, you know, being afraid that what you do isn't good enough or is not suitable.

This is like really a journey home for me, and now looking back, I look at all the things I've done so far as, you know, stepping-stones leading towards this. I'm extremely happy and relieved to have found such a channel and this sort of entity and way of describing my inner emotions, 'cause, I mean, with Auri I recorded my own vocals, which really felt like writing a diary. Nobody else was in the room and it really got deeper into the songs than ever before. You know, compared to when there was a producer telling you "Do this! Try a bit of that!".

Tobbe: You were telling me that you were sending stuff between each other, from Yorkshire to Finland, but is it hard to say no to something that you know that the other guy really, really likes?

Troy: It would be, if we were three different people. Fortunately for us, we aren't three different people and, again, this comes down to the fundamental reason for Auri and it's that all of us made a kind of pact that we would try at some point in the future, this is 2009-2010, to work together on the music that we would sit and talk about for hours. The need to express our approach to life itself; life on earth. So, with that as our principle, we couldn't have a state of disagreement on anything, because we know exactly what each other likes.

The only frustration in the whole making of the album was not being able to see their faces when I sent them a piece. That's the only frustration. I couldn't see their reaction. Because the music really did produce itself, like Tuomas says "There's no leader. There's no producer." and the music produces itself and we stood by and watched it as it grew and grew. And when we mixed it, the thing's, like, creeping up the speakers and developing itself. It was just really, really rare and unique.

Tobbe: Lyrics-wise, what have you been trying to capture on this record?

Troy: All of those inner feelings; the feelings that we live with. (Tuomas:) The songs really wrote themselves. When we decided last March that "Let's start with the songwriting process!", then all of us kind of started doing them and at some point it just stopped, at exactly 11 songs, with those certain themes, with 7 out of 11 songs having lyrics and 4 just non-lyric singing. It just felt "Yeah, there it is. These songs, these themes, perfect!". I can't really explain what happened. Why 11 and why not 9? But it just stopped there. The songs told us that "This is enough!", yeah.

(Troy:) I know. It did stop there. Isn't that amazing? I forgot about that. But we went on some, I don't know, strange trips, some strange cosmic safari and we went out there with it and we came out the other way dazzled and exhilarated by it all. There's so many moments on it, because now we can all listen to it objectively, we're not in it anymore, which is a wonderful state to be in, and I wouldn't change a note of anything, at all. But listening to it now I hear my dear friends expressing something. I feel like I'm the cognizant here and I'm partly to secrets; magical secrets. Well, all three of us are.

And it'll be wonderful if people catch a little glimpse of them and go "I understand exactly what they're talking about there.". That would be marvelous. Like there's a word, the Latin word navigatio, and that kind of is very, very Auri, and the way Johanna sings it, it's just 'you will just melt, and disappear for a while.' and then you'll come back after about three minutes.

Tobbe: Tell me why do artists need different outlets for their music?

Troy: Because it's a constant search. It's a search and we're always propelling our sorry frames forward, you know, to try to touch that infinite, that beauty all the time. It's always there, it's everywhere, it's around us and music is the ultimate tool, isn't it? Arts and music. And I'd say music even more so, because it's such a mystery. You know, it's not actually physical. It's really mysterious.

Tobbe: A Nightwish compilation called Decades is out in March too and what can the fans expect out of that thing?

Tuomas: It's like the essential collection of what Nightwish has done so far. I don't like to use the words 'Greatest hits', because what the hell is a hit? And then the 'best of', who determines what's best and what's not? So it's the essential ones. It includes songs from all the 8 studio albums that we have done and if you are a person who's never heard the band and wants to know what it's all about, this should be the perfect tool for that. (Troy:) And it also features 5 songs that haven't even been written…

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