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Nightwish’s Floor Jansen: “The way that things are now aren’t the way things are for life”

Floor Jansen
(Image credit: Tina Korhonen)

It’s been eight years since Floor Jansen joined Nightwish, and in that time her already considerable star has only risen further. In 2020, she remains one of the most recognisable women in metal: a supreme talent and fascinating personality who has helped Nightwish into their most successful years ever. An unlikely career path for someone who originally just wanted to be a biologist and hang out with a ton of animals…

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I never stood still as a child

“My dad was an ambitious man, so if there was a business opportunity, a better job to get, he would move. Let’s not forget that in those days there were no cellphones; it’s not like you could stay in touch through that, so if you moved you basically would never see [your friends] again. I don’t know what it would be like to grow up in one place and make friends there that you keep for life. I’m married to a man who has had that. Today he had one of his best friends over that he knows from primary school – now we have kids, they have kids of the same age and that kind of stuff. I think that’s romantic to me. But maybe because I moved too much, it was easy for me to emigrate [away from the Netherlands later in life]. I still miss people, but it’s easy for me to adapt to places, and put a value on actual friends that last.”

The only constant is change

“Life is flexible. I wouldn’t want to teach my daughter that the way that things are at the moment are the way things are for life, because it’s not. Life will change constantly, and I think it’s very healthy that it does. Sometimes people need to get out of their comfort zones to keep their energy going, to not fall asleep on the spot. Safety is a very strong thing in our human nature, but from where I’m standing I think it’s a good thing to get out of that comfort zone.”

I wanted to be a biologist

“It was my love for nature. That’s not something that came when I joined Nightwish, I’ve had it since I was a kid. I feel very strongly connected to it, and to the wellbeing of everything around me that lives and breathes, including plants and trees and, of course, animals. I didn’t really understand what a biologist does; I just wanted to work with nature, be a part of it and understand it better.”

The Gathering changed music

“They were life-changing. They came on the radio with Strange Machines from their album Mandylion. They really kickstarted quite a bit [of a movement] in the Netherlands and around there after. [After Forever] happened to start around the same time as Within Temptation. Nightwish were before us but still beginning to reach internationally around the same time. But, for me, the thought that I could sing in a metal band had never occurred to me before The Gathering.”

Nightwish

(Image credit: Nuclear Blast)

It wasn’t hard to become a vegetarian

“It was very easy for me to give up eating meat – a longer thought about what’s happening to the animals that need to be mass-produced to feed this human race. It’s not fair to them. I am not against eating other animals, but I don’t like the way we keep them, or the things we have to artificially make in order for them to not have mass disease outbreaks.”

Although hunting is actually cool

“Since I moved to Sweden and I basically live in the woods, I’ve learned a lot about hunting, which is still a very difficult subject for a lot of people, and especially people who are not close to nature. The closer you get to nature, the more part of it you become, and in nature, other animals hunt. In Sweden, as an example, they hunt to preserve the species. It all has to be done with a quick death, no suffering, it’s very important that they don’t suffer. The people that do it have a great love and respect for nature and the animals. And I gladly have a part of that – it turns out I am quite a good shooter! Though I would never actually go into the woods and hunt…”

Having a beetle named after me was unexpected

“That was weird! Ha ha ha! It’s special! That’s another connection back to nature, but yeah, fantastic, a real honour. There is now a tiny little bug [Tmesisternus floorjansenae], just a centimetre long, that has part of my name, just because the biologist loves my music so much. That’s exactly how it went! Ha!”

My daughter probably has metal in her DNA

“But we love music in its diversity, so she’s grown up with all kinds of stuff. Old McDonald Had A Farm is still way more popular than metal for her. You’ve gotta start with the classics!”

And if she wants to be a musician, we’ll be there

“We’re dreading that day because we know the struggles [Floor’s husband is Sabaton drummer Hannes van Dahl]. But if she has a talent for it she just needs to go and do it and believe in herself. Stay behind yourself, even when things are getting hard. It’s nice that mum and dad have some experience in it, but she needs to have her own back if she wants to really make it.”

Being famous is weird

“We moved to a very remote area in Sweden a year and a half ago and we didn’t really tell anybody anything about us. We think it must have been the previous owners who told people of the area who we were, because we thought that we had anonymously snuck in! The truck that helped us move emptied and left, and then this tractor came up to the property. A guy came out and was like, ‘Hey, I’m one of your neighbours – we heard that the Nightwish singer and the drummer from Sabaton just moved in, so I just thought I’d come and say hi and introduce myself!’ So, it was obvious that everybody knows, but maybe that gave us a good start because they’re all very cool people and we get along just fine.”

I was on a Dutch show called Best Voices

“It’s a show about the best singers of the Netherlands, people that have already had a career. People are put together on an island, and we go and play each other’s music to each other. Every singer came with a list of favourite songs, and the others picked one of those that they’ll sing as much as possible in their own style – and we all had very different styles! There was an opera singer who I did Phantom Of The Opera with, there was a pop singer, a singer-songwriter, a partially Dutch and partially Latin American guy who does reggaeton, a rock guy who I actually did know… it was a super-wild mix of people, all coming with different styles of music. It was a challenge for me, but I thought it was a huge opportunity for me to join and give the Dutch people an insight into my world without scaring them away. And that really worked! The way that the Netherlands is perceiving me has changed, and doors have definitely been opened.”

Certain interview questions can annoy me

“What I’m sick and tired of in interviews is when I have to answer a question that has already been partially answered by the person doing the interview. A question that’s asked with, ‘You must be feeling…’ and then comes an assumption. ‘I can really imagine it was difficult to write this album…’ OK, so the question is…? Assuming emotions and assuming things... I’m sick and tired of [interviewers] steering [me] into the direction of the answer..”

I'm not sure why Nightwish connect with so many people

“There must be something in the atmosphere in the music that goes beyond complexity or the genre. There’s something that has been connecting people to the band, and still does. We’re still growing! I do think that the songwriting is really, really good, even when it’s complex. I think people are open-minded to it – just because the radio thinks they need to feed the audience three-minute songs, it doesn’t mean that everybody in the world can’t deal with more. Maybe people find it refreshing when it goes a little bit beyond that. People can naturally feel when it’s good music. But, everything still needs to work. The stars need to be aligned, and then there’s hard work and [us having] great love for what we do.”  

Published in Metal Hammer #336