Reviewed by Brian Kelman
A Critique of Mape Ollila’s Once Upon A Nightwish: Part 1
I was blissfully unaware of the Nightwish with Tarja Era when its drama took place between 1996 and 2005. I don’t have the emotional baggage that comes with following and loving the band’s career and then living through the traumatic dismissal of Tarja after the Hartwall Concert in 2005. I like to think that that would afford me a measure of objectivity. Perhaps. Perhaps not. You can be the judge of that. Making this task difficult is that I have one main written secondary source of information for this era and it is far from objective.
The main source for propagating the myth of the Nightwish with Tarja era is the book by Mape Ollila, Once Upon a Nightwish: The Official Biography, 1996-2006, Bazillion Points, Brooklyn, New York, 2008. Whenever I see ‘Official’ in a title the proverbial Red Flag goes up: so who decides what is ‘official’? It was the culmination of an idea that was hatched in the fall of 2002. Mape Ollila had the task of writing a biography while the story continued to unfold day by day. As a result, the book has a dual personality—there are sections where the narrative is a chronology of events, more anecdotal in nature, fairly balanced and non-judgmental: clearly material collected and written from 2002 to 2004. In comparison, other sections speak to the biased and judgmental interpretive framework and underlying thesis of the book that took shape from 2005 to its completion for publication (and release on May 11, 2006). It is here we find out who determined what was ‘official’.
Despite their protests to the contrary, Mape Ollila wrote with the authorization of Tuomas Holopainen (with the other band members providing entertaining anecdotes and general support to the leader). Although the book is loaded with interesting facts and anecdotes that will be of interest to all fans of the band, it is essentially supporting and justifying Tuomas’ decision to dismiss Tarja on October 21, 2005. This fact became very clear at the beginning. The very structure of the book and organization immediately threw up another ‘Red Flag’. I read Once Upon a Nightwish with the intent to see if Ollila was able to prove his thesis that Tarja and Marcelo (for his interference in band affairs and for causing Tarja to stray from the Nightwish philosophy) forced their hand in making the decision to dismiss her. He does not prove it at all. In fact, the more he tries to convince me he is presenting the unbiased truth about the principle characters and important events, the less convincing he becomes.
Once Upon a Nightwish is like a Shakespearean Tragedy. No, Ollila doesn’t come close to The Bard in writing ability, but the play of events is not unique throughout history of humanity in general and musicians and bands in particular (The Beatles, for example). It is also not unique that some external force is scapegoated as being responsible for the end result. It is also not unique that the real culprit was internal and the band was doomed from within at the very beginning (Brian Jones ousted from the Rolling Stones, for example).
A Critique of Mape Ollila’s Once Upon A Nightwish continued: Part 2
Setting Up The Characters
The Victim: Tuomas Holopainen
“Tuomas’ mother says he was not good at standing up for himself as a kid, as he was taught not to answer malice with malevolence. If another kid took away his toy at the sandbox, Tuomas would just look perplexed.” (pg. 22).
“….Tuomas never seems to lose his temper and tell people to just shove it–when facing unpleasant or annoying things, he quiets down and withdraws into himself. He does not like to talk about his bad feelings, rather, he discharges them along with other strong emotions into music.” (pg. 23).
Tuomas Holpaninen is presented sympathetically as naive and innocent into his mid to late teens. He is a self-professed escapist. He has low self-esteem and self-deprecating character despite having a remarkable gift of writing and composing really beautiful music. In fact, his only means of real communication is through his music.
The Diva: Tarja Turunen
Tarja makes her first appearance in the Introduction, where she is the subject of Tuomas’ letter. Tarja is set up as the ‘Drama Queen’ and ‘Diva’ from the beginning of her next appearance in the book in the last paragraph of page 39.
“Humming along with a group didn’t satisfy Tarja, however—she wanted to be the center of attention. ‘Whenever we had guests, I would take the women to see the wardrobe. I would change my clothing three times a day, maybe dress in mom’s old curtains and pile up all kinds of rags on myself. I was the only girl in the family, a true princess. At the age of three I already understood the power of drama!
I always wanted to sing….I wanted to be seen and heard….I was very temperamental. I would be angry if my friends got an opportunity to sing somewhere and I wasn’t asked. Even when I was in a children’s club at the age of four or five, I always had to get the leading role or a singing part–if I didn’t, I would get annoyed and angry. If things didn’t go my way, I would stomp my foot on the ground!’” (pg. 40)
If the reader didn’t quite understand this biased preparation, it is reinforced by Tuomas’ reinforcing this assessment of her being born a drama queen. (pg. 40)
A critique of Mape Ollila’s Once Upon A Nightwish continued: Part 3
Refuting The Set Up
Before I continue, I need to say that I had someone else read the book. His objectivity is assured since he likes Country Music and does not like Rock or, especially, Metal. But he reads biographies that offer a glimpse into lives totally ‘different from my own’. So he jumped at the opportunity to read it. He has no emotional attachment to Nightwish or Tarja. He does acknowledge her ability to sing. But that is about all. What were his conclusions? Tuomas’ is passionate, calculating and not as naïve as he tries to come across as. “Who is supposed to be the ‘Diva’ here?” he asked.
Let’s assume that these are accurate assessments of Tarja and Tuomas when they were children. Ollila certainly wants the reader to keep these characterizations in mind as they read through the book; to look at subsequent events through these lenses he himself has carefully constructed. It is hard not to. Since Tuomas’ letter is presented at the beginning, Ollila has the entire book to hammer into the head of the reader the victimization of poor naive Tuomas. Tarja’s letter is saved until the end where it won’t prejudice what Ollila has tried so hard the entire book to hammer into the reader: the initial character assessment of Tarja the Diva and Drama Queen. It is the same basic gambit Tuomas used when he released the letter: get one’s story out first and make sure it and its contents are the starting point of any conversation. He took the initiative and forced Tarja to react on the defensive.
However, are these characterizations valid by the time they became young adults in their twenties? How can we answer definitively this question independent of Ollila’s interpretive framework? Fortunately, we have two primary sources, one each, that we can evaluate for insights into each of their characters when Tarja is 28 and Tuomas is 29 years old. By putting the letters side by side and evaluating them relative to each other, a different pattern emerges. My analysis concludes that the respective images that Ollila (and Tuomas) carefully constructed and maintained throughout the book are nothing more than illusions and ironic. The irony is: by adulthood there has been a reversal of their respective roles. It is the attempt to hide this basic reversal explains the careful, but unsuccessful, attempt to indoctrinate the reader at the beginning.
Tuomas’ letter is important for two reasons: 1) it establishes a behaviour pattern that can be used to assess character; and 2) it was part of a cynical strategy. Despite having 9 months to plan a reasonable means of dismissal, the chosen option, on one hand, comes across as petulant, immature and petty. As I read it, I picture in my mind that a foot is stomped on the ground. “….We cannot go on with you and Marcelo any longer [Stomp!] ….Your attitude and behavior don`t go with Nightwish anymore [Stomp!] …..People who don`t talk with each other for a year do not belong in the same band [Stomp!] ….I can`t simply write any more songs for you to sing.” [Stomp!]
On the other hand, petulance, immaturity and pettiness does not mean a lack of intelligence nor logical calculation. On the contrary, the letter’s underlying, cynical purpose was a strategy designed to create controversy and therefore a lot of free publicity. Success was achieved. It was a rather cynical treatment of the fans who went to shows from February through October unaware that their favourite vocalist’s days were numbered. Hypocritically, it was Tuomas who accused Tarja of dissing the fans when he himself was doing so for months. Tarja, at least, was up front about her plans to leave after the following album and tour. The publicity generated within Finland (even the President was asked about the situation) and within the niche trade magazines abroad meant Nightwish was a hot topic among some who had never heard of them before or if they had, gave them passing consideration. With the subsequent public search for a new singer, with the controversial details of the dismissal of the last one at least recapped to bring the uninitiated up to speed, it comes as no surprise that when DPP came out, it broke their previous sales record. Mission accomplished. Imaginaerum? No controversy etc. and sales are not what they had hoped is an understatement. Where are all the new fans and those who rubber necked to look at the train wreck that ended the Tarja Era? Was the short term gain really worth it, especially since the myth has unraveled bit by bit with the passage of time and with the similar melodrama and silence surrounding the ‘mutual parting’ with Anette?
Tarja’s letter, on the other hand, is the image of the child looking bewildered when another child took their toy. “This is a moment of grief and pain and I find it very hard to speak….I didn’t know what to say and still at the moment that I am writing these lines, I don’t…..I don’t want to reply to this anger with an even greater anger. Private matters should never be taken to the public…Still everything that has happened is not enough to make them evil in my eyes….The wonderful music we created together won’t be touched by recent events.”
This is not the response of a ‘Diva’. Tarja had but 5 days to compose a response at a time when her emotions would be very close to the surface and a Diva would be expected to lash out in fury; a response that not only would be expected but hoped for in the opposite camp. Rather, Tarja’s response displays a high level of maturity. If Tarja acted like a ‘Diva’ in her youth, she had clearly matured into a responsible young woman by her late 20s. Tuomas’ gambit was not only parried but soundly defeated.
Part of the definition of ‘Diva’ and ‘Drama Queen’ is the blowing out of proportion of small problems. The problems plaguing Nightwish were not small, but misidentified. The problem is alluded to above but is completely missed and, in addition, the very nature of the letter points directly at it. I’ll elaborate on this issue in a later post. But, part of the definition of ‘Diva’ and ‘Drama Queen’ is the behaviour of petulance, immaturity and a desire to publicly humiliate one’s adversary. Mission accomplished on all counts. Tuomas had, by his late 20’s, assumed the Diva’s role. It is sad to see that Tuomas had not matured into a young man who could handle the situation in a professional manner.
A critique of Mape Ollila’s Once Upon A Nightwish continued: Part 4
DEFENDING THE INDEFENSIBLE:
Out of simple curiosity, over time, when the opportunity presented itself, I’ve conducted a rather simple experiment. I’ve asked about 25 people, representing a cross section of friends, acquaintances and even strangers, the following: “If you were the leader of a business or were a business owner and you needed to dismiss one of your employees, would you handle it in the following way? Hand them a sealed envelope with their letter of dismissal inside at the end of work on Friday and ask them to read it Saturday while publishing the contents of the letter on the company’s website on Monday? Conversely, how would feel if you were dismissed from your job in this manner?”
The answers I received were unanimous in their revulsion. Some were initially skeptical that someone would actually handle their business this way. So I gave a thumb nail sketch of the events and encouraged them to look it up themselves. I even provided key search words to get them started. The reactions of two women in particular are worth noting. Upon hearing a woman being humiliated in this fashion, she wanted to find some rope and hang Tuomas by his private parts right on the spot. Her friend diffused the situation with a pointed barb when she quipped, “Sounds to me like he doesn’t have any!”
The consensus was? The printable version was that this was the act of a gutless coward; a coward who couldn’t look someone in the eye to dismiss her; a coward who demands respect like a little child while unable to give any himself.
You can’t judge someone by their actions? Tarja (and Sami before her) were dismissed by proxy. ‘Leopards don’t change their spots’ and this is a distinct and repeatable pattern. Stay tuned, it will happen again…oh, yeah, forgot about Anette and her reckoning at Hartwall, but she was spared her dismissal by proxy by getting sick. The only question I have was whether Grand Master T would do it by letter again and go for that free publicity or enlist someone else to do his dirty work. Or did he have a new and more melodramatic means under his top hat. The Emperor has no clothes. (Sorry for putting that awful image in your mind)
Jukka’s justification of the means by which Tarja was dismissed is laughable. His explanation that it would have been impossible to get everyone to a meeting the next day because no one knew each other’s schedules etc. is so lame it makes “The dog ate my homework” look credible in comparison. Tarja’s dismissal had been planned since February 22nd 2005 (pg. 255). For something this important a meeting could have been arranged beforehand. That is if there weren’t ulterior motives behind the dismissal letter discussed above. There is one more ulterior motive behind the way it was done, too, but I’ll reveal that later.
Something had been arranged for the following day, however: a secret Nightwish Party (sans Tarja) to celebrate the end of the tour and presumably the kicking of their lead singer and her meddling manager/husband to the curb. Hence, the four remaining band members’ schedules were known and they would be in close proximity to each other before the festivities.
Hear about it starting at the 4:00 mark: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clCa_ipFhXk
Therefore, Jukka has been caught telling a lie. A bold faced lie. Can we take the rest of his statements regarding Tarja and the breakup of the band seriously?
Of course, when Nightwish poached Marco from Sinergy, the decision by Sinergy to explain the situation on their website was totally unnecessary according to Jukka. “The conflict with Sinergy was blown out of proportion. ‘The media made it out to be more than it really was’, says Jukka. ‘It was something that happened between bands, just a personal thing, and it was pointless to discuss it on Sinergy’s or our message board….’” (pg. 169)
Hypocrisy. Jukka is a dedicated ‘company man’ (and deserves a lot of credit for his handling of the band’s merchandising and the day to day financial affairs of the band on the road in the early days). As a ‘yes man’, he knows where his pay cheque comes from to support him and his family, and the truth can be malleable depending of whose ‘ox is getting gored’. But given the revelation of his willingness to lie, his statements must be taken with not ‘a grain of salt’ but with perhaps a whole shaker. Ollila’s complicity in covering up the lie is further proof of his role as propagandist.
A Critique of Mape Ollila’s Once Upon A Nightwish continued: Part 5
Ollila claims that it was the incident on the plane in Toronto on December 19, 2004 that led directly to the February 22 decision:
“According to Tuomas, the situation flew entirely out of hand in a matter of a few hours. ‘As we boarded the plane, Tarja said we should have a discussion in a week and a half. I was like ‘Okay, let’s do that’. But she just kept going on about how she thought King Foo and Ewo handled everything badly and how evil we all were. I just couldn’t listen to it anymore.
The next straw broke the camel’s back. ‘Tarja sat two rows behind me, and I went over to her and just spit out everything on my mind,’ Tuomas continues. ‘That’s when Tarja spoke those legendary words. I knew there was no going back after that moment: ‘Remember, Tuomas, I don’t need Nightwish for my own career anymore. You remember this, Tuomas: I can leave this band on a day’s notice–anytime at all. Remember that when you think about the future. I can make it on my own perfectly well.’ Tarja’s statement was a conversation ender.
Since Ollila didn’t consider it worthwhile to determine exactly what and how Tuomas unloaded on Tarja, even to provide a disclaimer that Tuomas couldn’t remember his exact words (which is highly doubtful given the highly charged emotional atmosphere before and after the exchange), it is more proof of the collusion between them. I wonder what comments Tuomas needed to hide?
Knowing both their comments puts it all into context. That context is critical in understanding the dynamics that were in play at that moment. Without it we are left hanging at best and at worst trusting Ollila’s interpretation. One can feel Tarja’s frustration of trying to talk to a brick wall. I will hypothesize that she said it to try to get some kind of reaction out of Tuomas so that he could be angered into having a meaningful dialogue. Perhaps. Anyway, it had the opposite effect. Tuomas’ reaction was unfortunately typical for him and underlines the problem of communication for Tuomas. Instead of dealing with the issue head on, he internalized it. That accelerated the tragic chain of events that led to the decision made on February 22nd 2005 to dismiss Tarja and Tuomas’ decision to handle that dismissal with a letter.
Tuomas never forgot those words, but one more time, he tried to build a bridge over the ever-widening gap between Tarja and the others. ‘I tried talking with her, asking, ‘Do you understand how it feels when one person–who’s not even a member of the band–makes all our decisions? After all, although the band’s a democracy, it’s still my band. I put it together, I write the songs and lyrics’. but Tarja was like, ‘Tuomas’–fuck, I’m so annoyed by her way of using my first name to put weight on her words–’Tuomas, try to understand that this is not your band but all of ours, including the technicians and managers.” (pg. 243) Tuomas seemed to have forgotten that the record label and others non band members also make decisions the band had to live by…..
Real bad timing for all of this in my opinion. The tour was long with the usual hassles and it saw the band criss-cross the Atlantic Ocean in 7 months (Europe to USA to Europe to South America to Central America to Canada to play three shows postponed from September and finally for three shows in Finland and Germany before the end of the year). The plane was delayed due to it being overweight which upset Tarja most and it gave the boys extra time to drink etc. So you can imagine that cooler heads would not prevail when Tuomas decided to dump all his thoughts on Tarja all at once. If she uttered what she did, it came back to haunt her.
This argument in Toronto initiated the final chapter in the tragic chain of events that led to the decision that was made on February 22nd 2005 to dismiss Tarja and also why we have the third and final cynical reason the letter was chosen as the means. “Here, read this tomorrow,” Tuomas apparently told her when he handed Tarja the letter. Tuomas had given Tarja one day’s notice; the exact amount of time that she threatened him 10 months earlier. Coincidence? Hardly. Cynical vindictiveness.
Personal Anecdote: In 2004, Nightwish played in Montreal on December 15th and 16th in Montreal. They played the Opera House in Toronto on the 18th. It would be an interesting coincidence if they made the journey between the cities by plane on the 17th because I was in Pearson International Airport on that day about to embark on a vacation to Australia. I may have shared the same airport with the band and never knew it. Of course, if they took a bus, well…..Never mind…..
Critique of Mape Ollila’s Once Upon A Nightwish continued: Part 6
Tuomas complained in his letter that Tarja’s refusal to return to America was another reason for her dismissal. Perhaps she just didn’t want to keep performing in dives. Like this one:
“Graceland is a dingy, spartan venue tucked away in a forgotten corner of Seattle that leaves you wondering “Why is Nightwish playing here?”….It’s the sort of place you would expect to see in a movie as a punk club, seats with torn upholstery, various stickers from all the different bands who had toured through littering every square inch of wall. There was the ever present stench of dried sweat and acrid smoke. It is the sort of place whose walls have many stories of drunken rock and roll debauchery, but not necessarily the sort of place you want to see a high class, high caliber band such as Nightwish.“
On Dec. 18th 2004, Nightwish played the Opera House in Toronto. It is not a place where I’d like to see Tarja. The Opera House is where she made her one and only appearance in Toronto as a soloist in May 2009. Below is a link for customer reviews. Most of the reviews are favourable because the reviewers didn’t expect much more than they got for a venue that hosts minor indie acts and metal bands. Also, too, the reviewers appear to be young and when I was younger—say around 25—I was more into a good time and could over look some flaws. To be transported back in time……
So what if the Opera House is in a sketchy part of town. The sleazy strip bar across the street would be a place for adventure and a few pints before the show starts. The Opera House is licensed with 3 bars inside, one serving each level. Since I was a binge alcoholic back then I was in heaven. The drinking age limit was/is 19 in Ontario, so minors had better have convincing fake ID ready. Concrete main floor with no seating? No problem for young feet. The acoustics aren’t great? They always got better the more I drank….etc.
Any way….you get the idea that in my youth the Opera House would have suited me fine. It reminds me of a place I spent many a night in Kitchener when my favourite bar bands would appear. Not now. I’ve quit all my bad habits and my expectations are a little higher. If Tarja ever comes back to Toronto or nearby on a tour, I hope and pray it is not to the Opera House.
A Critique of Mape Ollila’s Once Upon A Nightwish continued: Part 7
THE CULTURE OF SILENCE:
The Tarja Turunen Era was going to fail from the beginning. It was not a question of ‘If’ but of ‘When’.
The inability to communicate; to internalize problems and let them stew is described in the book as being a Carelian cultural trait that they all shared. This is, in my estimation, the main reason why events led to the conclusion they did. There are plenty of examples of this. The way the firing of Sami Vanska was handled is one.
Sami was fired because he didn’t agree with the direction the music was going. In fact, in his mind he was being asked to play what he considered sh!t. He became apathetic and started showing up late for rehearsals etc. He expected to be replaced. Tuomas made management break the news to him that he was fired. Tuomas and Sami had been friends for at least ten years and Tuomas didn’t have the guts to man up to his friend. It wasn’t being fired that hurt Sami the most. It was that someone he believed to be his friend couldn’t come to him and tell him. Face to face. Like a man. When you are the leader, learning to communicate with those around you is vital to keeping the organization together. Tuomas’ inability to do this has plagued the band from the start and continues on into the present day. He retreats into resentful silence and escapism. It has made solvable problems fester until they are out of control. Then his only solution is to lash out with a cynical vengeance.
The prime example of cynical vengeance is Tuomas’ letter covered above. In one fell swoop, at the expense of a sheet of paper, envelope, the time to write it and the ability to act a lie, Tuomas was able to dictate his intentions to Tarja, reach millions of current and future fans without having to really communicate–person to person.
A Critique of Mape Ollila’s Once Upon A Nightwish continued: Part 8
Patterns that have been firmly established in the past, and identified above, continue to wreak havoc in the present…or rather, the near past.
While on tour in the fall of 2012 Nightwish and Anette Olzon parted ways. Originally it was reported by the band that the split was mutual. As reported on blabbermouth.net on January 1, 2014 Anette states that she was ‘fired’ because she was pregnant. The band denied this in a contradictory statement:
“The split with Anette wasn’t because of pregnancy or illness,” they said. “We discovered her personality didn’t fit this work community, and was even detrimental to it… Anette herself offered an option of hiring a replacement vocalist if she couldn’t manage everything, which was already agreed on. Later she took back her decision, and the difficulties really started.”
The first statement belies the mutual parting story (and it took them 5 or 6 years to figure that out?!?!) and the second statement indirectly questions their sincerity over the reason. Once more Nightwish continues the patterns identified above during the Tarja era.
A Critique of Mape Ollila’s Once Upon A Nightwish continued: Part 9
In the same article above, Anette levels another more serious allegation at the band. It strikes at the heart of Tarja’s firing. Anette alleges that during her tenure with Nightwish there were certain financial improprieties committed by the band. She accuses them of “…not splitting all the revenue equally, forcing her to start her own company and take a financial loss in 2010.” The band’s response was as one would expect: they accused “….their former singer of making claims that were ‘full of twisted truths and defamation.’” A typical non-explanation explanation from those who are quite familiar with uttering ‘twisted truths’ So which part of Anette’s claims are truthful then? Hmmmm….the silence is deafening.
Is Anette’s allegation an isolated case or yet another pattern emerging? Let us examine the question.
In a 2009 interview, Tarja discussed her and Marcelo’s relationship at the start:
In 2001, “… Marcelo followed me to Finland though I told him not to. We hadn’t seen each other for a few weeks, but he could no longer take the separation. I didn’t believe it when Marcelo called me claiming he was standing 50 meters away from my door… I understood only in time that… I can trust this man. When Marcelo lived for one month at my house in Finland at the beginning of our relationship, I gave him a hard time. I tested my limits and I didn’t even agree to give him the little finger. When the guy lasted for 30 days in my 30 square meter one room apartment, I believed that he could keep up with me in long run.”
In this context, the most important part of this quote isn’t the romantic angle but rather that Tarja lived in a small one room apartment. Shoved to the fore front to be the face and voice of a successful band whose popularity and record sales were increasing every year lived in a tiny one room apartment?!?! As songwriter, Tuomas was entitled to that share, and he does deserve credit for sharing these monies with his band mates in the early years and some of Tarja’s money would be spent for supporting herself at school in Germany as a student studying abroad. But, one would have to believe that Tarja would be able to afford something a little or a lot bigger? Wouldn’t you? It begs the question: Was Tarja receiving her fair share of the proceeds of album sales? Perhaps. Perhaps not. In another interview she makes some interesting allegations. The interviews can be seen here and I’m trusting a translation below the video being accurate.
Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oR7Bsh-Y5lQ
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_HeXAATeNZY
The following translation is from Part 2:
“It’s really sad. And in a band like this, and as big as this, money is a thing that you can’t just pass by. I’ve always been a person who wants to know how the things are going. And if I see something wrong somewhere, I wanna do something about it, and even more if I see it twice. And in the third time I start to wonder. ****And when I wanted to know why this and that happens, I didn’t get any answers from the band, they just excepted it and now they’re answering me like this, and it comes as a shock.” [****Translator’s note: I have no idea what she is saying here, she has a strange way of expressing herself]
It would seem that Tarja noticed something unusual but was stonewalled when trying to get an explanation.
Is it any wonder then that Tarja needed financial advice and Marcelo, a business man, was someone who she grew to trust to handle that aspect of her career? Especially when she seems to have been kept in the dark over the finances of the band?
Of course, Marcelo and Tarja were accused of greed as one of the reasons for firing her. But something never quite added up with the explanation that Ollila gave. For example, Nightwish management had developed a strategy for dealing with Marcelo’s demanding more than what was originally offered. According to Toni Peiju, they would simply quote Marcelo a fifth less than was offered and he would predictably demand a fifth more. (pg. 251) Band management gloats about how they were beating Marcelo at his own game.
That begs the question: given this apparent successful strategy, were the financial demands of Marcelo and Tarja as big a problem as we are led to believe?
Another allegation leveled at Marcelo was his mishandling of Nightwish record sales or rather the lack of record sales in his native Argentina. Record sales for Argentina of Angels Fall First through to Century Child under NEMS Enterprises sold significantly less than in Brazil. The reason for not looking into this allegation was the belief that legally getting financial records from Argentinian companies was next to impossible compared to European or Finnish companies. Pg. 125-126.
I expect this difficulty of accessing financial records to be true. But there may be another explanation given the above concerns expressed by Tarja:
If Nightwish launched a legal action against NEMS Enterprises would a countersuit by NEMS Enterprises reveal financial improprieties on the part of Nightwish that they would rather be kept hidden?
Critique of Once Upon a Nightwish, Part 10
The villain in Ollila’s melodrama is Marcelo Cabuli. The blame for breaking up the band is placed squarely on his shoulders. For their 2000 tour of South America, the band met Tarja’s soon to be manager and later husband, for the first time as he accompanied the band as tour manager. At first the band liked and got along well with Marcelo. In Mexico, he reinforced this faith with an act of heroism and in doing so highlighted the essential cause of the eventual breakup.
At the Guadalajara concert, Marcelo ran on stage to rescue Tarja from being sexually assaulted and groped by a fan while the band played on either oblivious (unlikely on a small stage) or uncaring (pg. 123-124). Ollila plants the implication that Marcelo used this heroic act to infiltrate Tarja’s defenses and separate her from the band. The beginning of the end of the band was upon them.
A reader with half a brain would have observed that by this point in their careers the only thing keeping Tarja going was her love of singing and performing. Unintentionally, Ollila documented Tarja’s increasing isolation and loneliness while on tour; apathy and neglect was the rule governing the boy’s behaviour toward the person Tuomas thrust to the forefront to be the face and voice of the band. The aftermath of the Guadalajara assault provides sufficient proof of this.
After an understandable delay, the final three songs were performed with Tarja alternating between singing and crying. The humiliation was such that she couldn’t look any one in the eye. As the boys filed off stage after the finale, Sami asked Marcelo to ‘look after her’. Tarja was essentially discarded upon the mercies of a relative stranger to make sure she made it back to her hotel room safely! A stranger who they had known for a mere 10 days! This was nothing less than juvenile, callous and unconscionable. When it was time for men, or a ‘leader’ (Tuomas) to step up and take charge to do the right thing, all Tarja had in the band and crew were immature boys who could think of nothing better than to return to their bottles.
The boys and their crew consistently seemed to forget that Tarja was a woman. Believe it or not people, men and women are different and have different requirements per the individual. No, the band and crew virtually ignored her specific needs when touring before this. No wonder her health suffered from such emotional distress and the fact that, for example, she had to endure second-hand smoke in the confined tour bus and the inability of the band or crew to consistently basic essentials like water for the concert. No wonder she started to hate the process of touring. Well, perhaps the process of touring with children.
Guadalajara started the process that resulted in Tarja having a reliable man to take care of the little things on tour and in her career as well. As the book continues Ollila tries to paint Tarja in the role of ‘Diva’ (ie. the negative connotation of the word). Tarja and Marcelo started spending their free time together away from the band (and given that the band left her alone in her room can you blame her for this?), traveling separately to and from gigs (Ollila conveniently ignores to point out that it was to avoid that second hand smoke in the tour bus and no doubt to avoid putting up with the Nightwish ‘children’ when traveling in general) as well as in her other needs on tour. If she was demanding champagne and caviar each concert, then he’d have a point. No, Tarja only ‘demanded’ that she had water to drink and a simple diet that accounted for her digestive problems. And a separate dressing room would be nice, too.
Despite finally having her simple needs taken care of Tarja’s health would still suffer on future tours. Tuomas’ growing resentment, a kind of petulance associated with that of an immature child, that Tarja was no longer on her shelf to be pulled down at his convenience, poisoned the atmosphere.
Up next? The charge of unethical business behaviour on the part of Marcelo.
Critique of Once Upon a Nightwish, Part 11
This might take a bit so go grab a tea, coffee or something a little stronger….Back? Good. Let’s get started.
Unethical business practices, according to Ollila, drove the band to conclude in February of 2005 that to get rid of Marcelo they had to get rid of Tarja. Ollila concludes his portrait of the villain with the following general statement and applied it to a particular individual, Marcelo:
“Cavalier business tactics are not completely unusual among South American record labels. The continent is one of the strongholds of piracy, and suspicious releases are unfortunately quite common….South American corporate culture also differs from its European counterpart in many ways. According to Brazilian researchers, decades of economic recession and government corruption in Brazil and Argentina have implanted a deep distrust toward the system. When legislation has repeatedly been used only for the benefit of those in power, its obvious people do not have the same kind of respect for laws as in Europe. The Argentinean concept of viveza criolla—‘Creole resourcefulness’ or simply ‘native cunning’—points to an attitude characterized by avoidance of exertion, disregard for law, an affinity for individualism, distrust of others, reluctance toward teamwork, and acting in one’s own interest at the cost of everything else. So says a working paper by Spanish business professor Domenec Melé titled Corporate Ethical Policies in Large Corporations in Argentina, Brazil, and Spain.” (pg. 126)
Who is the author Domenec Melé? Click the link below for a brief biography:
Click the link below for the full article that Ollila references: The section on Argentina is worth quoting but I invite you to read it from the article in order to save space.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Marcelo has both a Spanish and Argentinian passport. That’s right. He’s a citizen of both countries. That kind of upsets Ollila’s point doesn’t it?
‘Cavalier business tactics are not unusual’ anywhere in the world, including Europe. After Spinefarm was bought by Universal, Century Child was to be distributed by Universal in France instead of their previous distributor XIII Bis Records. XIII Bis Records had an existing contract with Spinefarm and despite being told that they were not contractually allowed to release that album, they pressed copies from a promo copy of Century Child picked up in Finland by one of ‘the guys’ from XII Bis Records and released it prematurely. How stupid can you be by letting out promo discs to those who aren’t contracted to have them? Threats of law suits etc. got XIII Bis Records to pay double the usual fees for their transgression and after Universal ‘lost interest’ in releasing the album in France Spineform got XIII Bis Records to release it for them anyway. Spinefarm figured since previous Nightwish album sales were low in France anyway some distribution was better than none!!!!! No wonder Spinefarm claims that they have recouped only half of the advance and absolutely no royalties from XIII Bis Records for Century Child. With incompetents like that managing your business….who needs enemies? (pgs. 167-168)
Without having access to a person’s business records etc. it is impossible to gauge the ethical behaviour of an individual or company. What I hope to do here is shine a light upon the context within which Marcelo grew up in and was fundamentally shaped in ways that affected all Argentinians. In general, there is a symbiotic relationship between individuals and their society: individuals are shaped by the culture within which they grow up while at the same time they are not mere prisoners of that culture such that individuals can have a role in shaping their society, too.
The crux of the problem, identified by Dr. Melé and parroted by Ollila, is viveza criolla in a practical sense. In addition to the negative meanings given to the word above viveza criolla has been called “the principal cause of a moral, cultural, economic, social and political crisis”. I have little doubt of the veracity of the indictment today. But was this always the case? Where did this mode of behaviour come from? To learn this we must account for the appearance of the concept in its historical context. That means we’ll be delving into a little Argentine history.
Argentina has its roots in the Spanish colonization of the region during the 16th century. Argentina arose as the successor state of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, a Spanish overseas colony founded in 1776. The declaration and fight for independence (1810–1818) was followed by an extended civil war that lasted until 1861. The country thereafter enjoyed relative peace and stability, with massive waves of European immigration radically reshaping its cultural and demographic outlook. In fact, about 90% of all immigrants came from Italy and Spain combined in the formative years of Argentina from 1870-1910 (Spain 980,686 [31%] and Italy 1,889192 [59%]). The main reason at the beginning was wage gaps compared to their native countries. In other words, Argentina was a land of opportunity to work for higher wages. The result was the almost-unparalleled increase in prosperity that led Argentina to become the seventh wealthiest developed nation in the world by the early 20th century. Because of this, by 1900-1910, immigrants showed the usual tendency to follow earlier migrants to take advantage of the prosperity that they found and to have an easier time integrating by joining established communities. Here’s a link to the article, written from credible sources, I cited the above from:
Given that Argentina was originally Spanish and given that Dr. Melé in his report (and Ollila) considers the European Spanish to be more ethical than their South American counterparts, the concept of viveza criolla by extension would not have been part of the nation’s and, more importantly, the colony’s initial ethos.
Therefore, I contend that the principal cause of viveza criolla was A RESPONSE TO a moral, cultural, economic, social and/or political crisis at some point in the country’s history.
What crisis could have been so profound to create such a change? The Stock Market Crash of October 1929 and the Great Depression that followed is the crisis that precipitated Argentina’s moral, cultural, economic, social and political decline up to the present day. Make no mistake: Argentina is still a vast country in resources and wealth. But since the 1930s, the social distribution of that wealth has been severely limited through corruption, cronyism, and corporate nationalism. In order to get a share of that wealth the practice of viveza criolla was the means to that end. In other words, for most, viveza criolla was the means to survival.
Argentine political history is a sordid affair since The Crash of 1929. From 1930 to 1946 Argentina has witnessed military coups, fraudulent elections and other general chaos. In 1946 saw the election of Juan Domingo Perón to lead the country. Perónism became a dominant political force in Argentina for the next 30 years despite its founder leaving for a 16 year exile after his overthrow in 1955 by the Liberating Revolution, a military and civilian uprising. A tug of war between political factions for power ensued. Perónism routinely resorted to organized violence and dictatorial rule. Perón showed contempt for any opponents, and regularly characterized them as traitors and agents of foreign powers. Perón maintained the institutions of democratic rule, but subverted freedoms through such actions as nationalizing the broadcasting system, centralizing the unions under his control, and monopolizing the supply of newspaper print. At times, Perón also resorted to tactics such as illegally imprisoning opposition politicians and journalists. It would be difficult to separate Perónism from corporate nationalism, for Perón nationalized Argentina’s large corporations, blurring distinctions between corporations and government. When Perónists were ousted from power during this time their enemies resorted to similar repressive tactics, even going so far as to outlaw the party. Another military coup occurred in the mid-70s and they enacted further revenge upon the followers of Perónism for their deeds of the past. Depending on the source, from 9,000 to 30,000 people simply vanished. The Junta was only overthrown when they lost the Falklands War with the UK in 1983.
Argentina has scuffled along from one crisis to the other up to the present, including the economic crisis of 2001-2002. In 2001, Argentina was in the midst of a crisis: heavily indebted, with an economy in complete stagnation (an almost three-year-long recession), and the exchange rate was fixed at one U.S. dollar per Argentine peso by law, which made exports uncompetitive and effectively deprived the state of having an independent monetary policy. Many Argentinians, but most especially companies, fearing an economic crash and possibly devaluation, were transforming pesos to dollars and withdrawing them from the banks in large amounts, usually transferring them to foreign accounts (capital flight). This run on the banks would collapse the economy completely unless the government froze banks accounts (ie. account holders could not withdraw their money). That only created more unrest.
No wonder Dr. Melé was so critical of Argentine business ethics. The large corporations took their cue from a corrupt government perpetually in chaos and its tyrannical bureaucracy. Government should strive to provide a favourable landscape for business to thrive; not to become a mill stone around its neck. Dr. Melé analysis barely scratches the surface on the corrupt corporate/government/bureaucratic connection, neglects the historical processes in play throughout the 20th Century, fails to account for the arise of viveza criolla in the first place and fails to account for the demographic influence of non-Iberian immigrants. This renders Dr. Melé’s comparative analysis incomplete and oversimplified at best and virtually meaningless at worst. Blaming the Italian immigrants at the beginning for the rise of viveza criolla is also too simplistic. Ultimately, Argentina’s demographic and historical development apart from any Spanish influence (beyond retaining the language) rendered the ethical comparison to one of apples compared to oranges.
There are more examples of such crises but the important point to note is this is the society in almost constant flux and turmoil that Marcelo, his parents and his grandparents grew up in. A society that in 1900 equaled the USA in GDP per person ($4,000, in 1990 dollars) and has now has only risen to $11,000 in 2010 compared to $31,000 in the USA. This is a society that gave the practice of viveza criolla a viable means of survival. Argentines had to play by different rules to navigate the minefield that made up their society; a minefield laid by the corporate/government/bureaucratic overlords. Argentina is a rich nation and if you have the political connections you have access to this wealth. Without connections, you did what you had to do to survive in these shark infested waters. As such, you either ate or were eaten. This is a set up that favours the individual despite the rhetoric focusing on the collective ideal.
I’m sure for some it is a disappointing that I didn’t come up with anything definitive beyond providing context. I don’t have access to the proper records to do that. Ollila cited a study that I’ve shown to be incomplete and flawed. The bottom line is that you must understand the market within which you plan to do business. That is a given for any business. What I tried to show was that the historical development of Argentina gave rise to the practice of viveza criolla which in turn was reinforced and perpetuated in the face of the corruption that lies at the heart of the corporate/government/bureaucratic triumvirate. On the outside this solution taken out of context appears unethical. By the standards of Argentine society these are the accepted rules. Any outside business interest, like Nightwish, either needs to understand them and adapt or don’t do business there. It’s that simple.
None of this should have been unknown to the managers of bands in Europe in general. In fact, it should have been common knowledge by the late 90’s that the rules in South America were different. When Nightwish saw Brazilians at their first show there wearing Nightwish t-shirts (when no licensing agreement existed that made them legal at the time) it should have been a wake up call. More managing and less partying would have been helpful. Nightwish and their handlers did not do their due diligence and learn what it was they were getting into. They only have themselves to blame that their mismanagement resulted in one of their members retaining a manager of her own who could only play by the only rule book he ever knew and who just happened to eventually become her husband.
Critique of Once Upon a Nightwish, Part 12
The Final Cut
Every time I posted a new Part of this long critique of Once Upon A Nightwish I always had the next topic in mind. All I needed to do was organized my thoughts, do some research as I needed to do in regard to Part 11, and write it down in a coherent manner. Sometimes that process took longer than I intended but I had to do it right. For quite some time, before Parts 10 and 11 were posted in truth, I haven’t been able to see any further avenues to expound upon. If something else does come to mind, I’ll be sure to add it. In June of 2016 I scribbled out what follows and sat on it for a bit just in case I had one more moment of inspiration. Alas, my ideas are still tapped out. So now I reckon it is time to wrap up the topic with some final thoughts and conclusions.
Was Tuomas H within his rights as founder of Nightwish to fire Tarja? As just a member of two metal bands TH had no outlet for the songs and music that he himself wrote and composed. He started his solo project that turned into Nightwish to be such an outlet and started recruiting friends and acquaintances that included Tarja to help him achieve his dreams of writing and recording his own music. As we know she changed the focus from quiet mood music to the creation of a new sub-genre of metal. But it was still his band and so, and this may surprise some, he had every right to make lineup changes that includes firing Tarja. Now don’t mistake his ‘right’ to fire her with the real or imagined provocations that lead to that decision, the method by which it was done nor with whether it was the ‘right’ (ie. correct) decision.
What I’ve tried to show in my critique, and I believe I have done so successfully, is that I have taken issue with the process TH went through when he exercised his ‘right’ to fire her. Firing by letter and through the band’s official website was cowardly and unprofessional. Later, Mape Ollila’s Once Upon A Nightwish was a clumsy attempt to inflate Tarja and Marcelo’s role and minimized or ignored the bigger problem that was centered with TH and the poor performance of the band’s management team. Once Upon A Nightwish is, in the final analysis, nothing less than propaganda. To a discerning reader it is an extremely clumsy, if not, laughable attempt.
Did Tuomas H make the right or correct decision? I’ve found the two subsequent eras, defined by their lead singers, to be disappointing. Anette’s era represented Nightwish following the trend that started taking over the sub-genre at the time, as opposed to setting it for others to catch up during Tarja’s era, for a more commercialized sound in terms of vocals. Floor promised the potential of a return to the original roots but I found her (and other members, too) to be underutilized on the last album. I thought she and others had not contributed all they could have. Only TH fulfilled his potential but the keyboard centric album came at the expense of the others. So the answer is ‘No’.
However, Tarja apparently had decided that she wanted to do what TH had done ten years earlier: branch off into a solo career following the next album after ‘Once’ and its subsequent tour. TH was faced with having to find a new singer in any case but he would have had more time to do so. Tarja’s decision to strike off on her own, although prematurely it turned out, has, in time, proven to be a great success. Her blend of rock, metal and classical plus her pure classical projects has her in ascendance in terms of her ability and scope. Successful albums both as performer, writer (mostly in collaboration), producer; successful tours; prominent festival times (including headlining the MFVF); being sought out by other artists for collaborations (Within Temptation, Mike Oldfield, Scorpions, Doro, Schiller, Schandmaul plus with Raimo Sirkia and José Cura at the Savonlinna Opera Festival etc.); recruiting a loyal and talented core of musicians who love performing with her; garnering a loyal legion of fans worldwide and being granted complete creative freedom by her label is solid proof of her consistent and continual rise.
In conclusion, TH was within his ‘rights’ to make lineup changes; Once Upon a Nightwish as a piece of propaganda justifying that ‘right’ cannot be taken seriously; Nightwish has since been a disappointment to me despite having a strong committed legion of fans worldwide that continue to give them success; and Tarja was right in her instinct to desire a solo career to give outlet to her creative energies and at the moment she has yet to reach her full potential. Tarja Turunen has been at the center of musical innovation for 20 years and I don’t see that stopping any time soon.
It is now over ten years since the split and my critique and time have exposed the lies, misinformation and propaganda that make up Mape Ollila’s Once Upon A Nightwish. Can we now get over it already? Alas, probably not for many.
I thank you, dear reader, for making this topic the most viewed on Ethereal Metal Webzine; at least for now.