Tarja Turunen: “It was such a shock that I had a stroke”

Tarja Turunen
(Image credit: Tim Tronckoe)

Soprano Tarja Turunen has spent more than two decades merging the worlds of metal and classical. She made her name as Nightwish’s vocalist and, following her very public dismissal in 2005, launched her solo career. Last year, she released her first book, Singing In My Blood, and introduced an electronic side-project, Outlanders. There’s very little Tarja can’t handle, but now she faces her biggest challenge yet: your questions.  

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Have you ever shattered a wine glass with your voice, deliberately or accidentally? 

Kelly Trueman, (Facebook)

“I did it with a lamp. I was in a music high school, and I was vocalising in the rehearsal room. There was a light that had a problem; when I’d hit certain frequencies it started [makes a high buzzing noise]. I started playing around with it, going up and down at a very loud volume, and it just popped. I was so happy I ran down the stairs and screamed to my friends, ‘Oh my God! I just broke a light with my voice! Come and see, it doesn’t work any longer!’” 

Who’s the most surprising person that you’ve found out is a fan? 

Debbie Bone (email)

“The writer Paulo Coelho. I’ve been a fan of his books since I discovered The Alchemist, his first book. I wrote to him because I was interested in using his text for Outlanders. His response came back like a boomerang, and he was like, ‘My Muse! Oh my God!’ We have been in touch ever since.”

You revealed in your book that you had a stroke in 2018. How scary was that incident, and did it have any lasting effects? 

Mary Guest (email)

“Luckily it didn’t have any lasting effects, but it had an effect on me. It took me more or less a year to come around. Seriously, I was afraid. Every morning I woke up and every night I went to sleep, I was thinking about it. That fear is horrible because it made me realise in that fraction [of a second], I could’ve lost everything. I sought help, talking with a mentor every week. It was such a shock that I had this stroke because I thought I’d been living a healthy life and taking care of myself.”

What’s been the most memorable or unique venue you’ve performed in? 

@mateuszwarzycha (Twitter)

“I was performing with a symphonic orchestra in Plovdiv [in Bulgaria], it was in an outdoor amphitheatre [The Roman theatre of Philippopolis], a very historical place. I receive gifts from my fans and there are a lot of talented people amongst them. One of them sent me a painting that was from that concert and they captured it; my face, my hair, that amphitheatre. I have it on my wall in my working room.”

If you could give someone one album that best demonstrates Tarja Turunen, what would it be?

Sam Petersson (Facebook)

“I’d go with my last album [2019’s In The Raw]. That tells you who I am at
the moment. Right after the stroke, I started writing the lyrics for the album and that is the reason I am choosing this album - it is absolutely raw. The whole process was very therapeutic, I thought I was not able to do it. When I sat down with my computer for the first time, it was just a blank screen in front of me. I had all the doubts in the world, but I managed.”

What’s your favourite flavour of Monster Munch? 

Dmartin2908 (Twitter)

“What the fuck is Monster Munch?”

Hammer: In all the time you’ve been touring the UK, no one’s bought you
a pack of Monster Munch? 

“I need to Google this. These things they have gluten, right? I’m allergic to gluten. My diet is quite boring but there are lots of products nowadays without gluten. I do not suffer at all.”

On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you want to sing at the Eurovision song contest finals?

Billy Mcgivern (email)

“If one is not at all, and 10 is absolutely, I would say less than one. I am not interested at all, and I’ve been asked several times [as a solo artist]. I once took part with Nightwish [in 2000] – it was not my wish, but we did it. We got into the finals in Finland, but the jury voted us out. The song was called Sleepwalker. It was really not something I was dreaming of doing, but it did well for the band. We got the votes from the Finnish audience, they loved us, so the band got good publicity out of it.”

What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you onstage?

Billy Gibson (Facebook)

“It happened in Nightwish. Really early, maybe 2000 or something. My pants were this PVC material, not breathable, really horrible. I was sweating like a pig in those pants. The zip completely caught open at the front and I kept on singing like, ‘What do I do, what do I do?’ until the song was finished. I ran backstage to find some gaffer tape – seriously, gaffer tape – to match my shiny PVC pants. It didn’t stick, and I went back to the stage and sang the rest of the concert with a towel in front. My panties were yellow. Like, really? On that day, I needed to put yellow underpants on?"

Tarja Turunen

(Image credit: Tim Tronckoe)

What’s the hardest song to sing live?

Fitch67 (email)

Crimson Deep, it has such a wide range, It’s very demanding. I really need to focus when I’m singing that song. It’s been a long time since I sang it – it was in the setlist many years ago. But I should take it on just to see where I’m standing vocally. I kind of enjoy the fact that not everyone can sing my songs!”

Kitee is the moonshine capital of Finland. What’s the most trashed you’ve ever got on moonshine?

Mr Stuff and Nonsense (Facebook)

“I have actually tried it – tasted it - only once in my life. It’s a really hard liquor, like a vodka that was illegal back in the day.”

Hammer: So you’ve never got trashed on moonshine?

“Urgh, no!”

What’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever read about yourself in the press?

Jan Opie (email)

“There are plenty! The one that most affected me was being named a ‘diva’.
I do not feel like I am a diva at all, and people that really know me are hopefully with me on this! Perhaps I was misunderstood.”

Hammer: When did you see yourself described that way? 

“When I got fired from Nightwish, from my old colleagues. I’ve been able to do a lot of TV work in Finland [Tarja is a judge on Finnish version of The Voice] and people have really seen who I am, there is no faking when cameras are all around you all the time.”

[Nightwish leader and songwriter] Tuomas Holpainen told Metal Hammer he was grateful to you for emailing him after his father died. Did you exchange Christmas cards this year?

Sally S, via email

“He did say thank you but no, we did not write any Christmas cards…”

Hammer: Do you two have a friendly relationship now? 

“I have been singing with [ex-Nightwish bassist] Marko Hietala for many years and he apologised to me in person. He’s the only one who has done that. We got to clean the table. But with Tuomas, it’s been emailing time to time, but not more than that.”

According to the internet, rubber boot throwing, swamp soccer and wife carrying are all actual sports in Finland. Have you tried any of them?

Dave Mardwell (Facebook)

“People go into these events and it’s cracking, but I have never been in one. Of course, I’ve done those things with my friends at parties. We’ve been carrying each other, the women carrying women and men carrying men… And I’m a football fan. I support San Lorenzo, an Argentinian football team… but not in a swamp.”

Will you still be doing this when you’re 70, or will you have retired by then?

Sami Nieminen (Facebook)

“Absolutely yes, if there is not a severe health issue. I love music and I’m a performer, those moments I share with my audiences are the moments I live for. Look at artists like Paul McCartney. They don’t need the economic support, but they still love going on tour and making music. It’s in them, making them breathe. I want to be there one day as well and say I lived a happy life, with music because music gave me life.” 

Singing In My Blood is out now, published by Rocket 88

Dannii Leivers

Danniii Leivers writes for Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog, The Guardian, NME, Alternative Press, Rock Sound, The Line Of Best Fit and more. She loves the 90s, and is happy where the sea is bluest.