Floor Jansen to Soundi Magazine.
Head up High, your best reference about Floor 😉
There has been no lack of drama in Floor Jansen’s recent years, the singer who got an urgent call for Nightwish’s vocalist. Now, the turbulent phase is luckily behind her and the Dutch singer has found peace on the outskirts of Joensuu and in Nightwish’s line-up. Jansen won’t be seen much in North Karelia in the future, NW’s tight schedule will make sure of that.
It is 12 o’clock and Floor Jansen walks to the lobby of a hotel in Helsinki. “Good morning, how are you?”, she greets with fluent Finnish. According to Jansen’s wish, we have made an appointment exactly at noon, which aptly indicates her rigid work morale to say the least. Singer’s last night was spent on blue-white wings on the trip from the US to Finland.
Today Jansen knows the limits of her strength, but still a few years ago the situation was pretty different. She burned herself out under heavy workload and recovery took time – in fact, the recovery process was not completed when Nightwish contacted her.
Jansen’s road into the limelight as the front-figure of the most popular Finnish band of all time has been challenging, eventfull and intriguing. At times, her belief in music has been put to the test, but always the right path has found. Jansen’s first well-known line-up, having released five studio albums, After Forever disbanded about five years ago, but Jansen did not remain idle: her own ReVamp band engaged her full-time, even too full-time. Then, on a bright autumn day, a Finnish band contacted her …
Soundi: When you were a child and a teenager, your family moved many times. What kind of memories do you have of those early years?
Floor: The foremost memories are related to the frequent change of the places of living. Getting to know new people has never been the easiest thing for me, so moving felt unpleasant: just when I got new friends, we packed up our stuff and pulled up stakes. When I was young, I was on my own a lot, although my little sister and parents were always close. Moving had good sides too. I learned already as a child to adapt to new places and I realized that a home can be anywhere. When you feel comfortable and safe, you are at home anywhere in the world.
Soundi: There is a photo on your website from 1983, where you pose with headphones. Music seemed to be a part of your life already at early stage.
Floor: My parents were not musicians, but especially my father liked really much music. Santana, Sting, the Beatles and many others became familiar. I also remember vividly long breakfasts on Sunday mornings and classical music in the backround. My environment was absolutely positive towards music and my father also taught me some basics of guitar playing later.
Soundi: What instruments can you play?
Floor: I played flute for many years, so it is my strongest instrument. In some way sensible sounds I manage to produce with guitar, bass and piano.
Soundi: And singing – How and when did you get interested in it?
Floor: With a school musical based on Andrey Lloyd Webber’s production. When I went to high school, they were searching willing people to implement a music project and I decided to participate in a singing test. I was selected for the two-year project and I learned quite a few new things during that period. At the same time I joined a school band and I also got to a real studio for the first time.
Soundi: Was the premiere of the musical your first performance in front of a big audience?
Floor: Yes, it was. I enjoyed enormously being on stage and I realized I found my thing. We had been practising hard for a long time, but still many other performers were vomitting due to anxiety before stepping on the stage. I wasn’t nervous at all – on the contrary, my body was full of adrenaline and I wanted to show everyone what I could do. In this respect, I haven’t changed at all, because I have always enjoyed performing. It was a really great time, since I had real, good friends, and then we moved! Mobile phones and the Internet were still making their way at the time, so communication with my musician friends was virtually impossible. In those days, I started to listen to more alternative music and I found artists such as The Doors, Janis Joplin, Nirvana and Pearl Jam. I felt that all students at my new school listen to some sort of house music and wear horrid clothes. I had Doc Martens’, combat trousers, a band shirt and I dyed my hair with different shades. I looked insanely different from the others.
Soundi: Did your friends have records? Before the Internet era, finding new music might have been challenging.
Floor: Fortunately, there was a good record shop nearby and I spent often hours there listening to various bands. One day I met a person who liked considerably heavier bands. Carcass and Slayer felt a bit too rough then, but for instance Machine Head, Pantera, Moonspell and Paradise Lost hit hard. Then, I heard The Gathering’s Mandylion and I fell in love with the album from the bottom of my heart. Anneke van Giersbergen’s brisk vocals and heavy guitars made a mind-boggling entity. If I had to choose the most impressive long-play to me, Mandylion would be it by far.
Soundi: You have also told you were bullied at school.
Floor: It was mental bullying – physical bullying or even violence are more boys’ issue. Bullying was very tough at times and it took seven years in all. So sad memories still remain that I haven’t called for class reunions much. Of course, I tried to discuss the matter with my teacher but s/he was unfortunately a spineless instance. It was unpleasant to go to school in the morning: when I shut the home door behind me, I was on my own.
Soundi: It was 1997, when you joined the line-up of After Forever as sixteen years old. How did it happen?
Floor: I heard an intriguing rumour that a metal band from my neighbourhood seeks a backing female vocalist. In those days, After Forever played death metal, but the male vocalist separated from the band only after a few weeks and at the same time the band made some checks for their music style. Then, I became the lead singer. AF’s beginning was hard. I had an apprenticeship at a horse stall in another district. School and work week ended on Saturday afternoon, and then being totally exhausted I went to the band practice sessions. The band leaders, Sander Gommans and Mark Jansen, were extremely serious with the band, and I felt myself a bit outsider as I couldn’t give everything for the band. In 1999, my plans changed: I got an admission to newly founded The Rock Academy in Tilburg and AF got a record deal. Suddenly, music became the center point in my life and I decided to make it my profession.
Soundi: How do you feel today when listening to AF’s first album ‘Prison of Desire’ released in 2000?
Floor: I was an inexperienced singer and everyone in the band were inexperienced, so it is useless to listen to it with too critical ears or comparing it with the present state. The album was the image of those days and as such a very important part of my musical history. We should keep in mind that female singers in metal bands were quite rare at the time, and I am very proud of my pioneering status. I took my first singing lessons no earlier than after the recordings of ‘Prison of Desire’. My teacher asked: “What do you want to learn exactly?”. Well, I said: “I want to learn to sing”. I wasn’t really able to describe it more specifically. Until after gaining singing skills, I understood, what I should learn next.
Soundi: What would you like to learn next?
Floor: At least there is a lot to train and to digest at both extreme ends. For example, I am able to sing in an operatic way, but an expert certainly notices that I am not a real opera singer. It would be also very interesting to have deeper insight into the secrets of the death metal singing style.
Soundi: From outsider’s point of view, it seems that AF’s career ended a bit suddenly in 2009.
Floor: We had got a deal with Nuclear Blast and the band was taking off. Enough was eventually enough, and Sander Gommans who worked hard for the band had burnout. We weighted different alternatives: would we continue after a break or does the band have a future without Sander? About a year later, we realized that a collective flame was not blazing anymore. AF didn’t feel the same 100 percent matter of the heart as before. The decision to discontinue was painful, but on the other hand, it would have been wrong both towards the fans and towards us to continue forcibly.
Soundi: When AF was on hiatus, you founded a new project ‘Sinh’ with Norwegian guitarist Jørn Viggo Lofstad (Pagan’s Mind), though Sinh never released anything.
Floor: I was feeling down at the time, because after ten years from the first record deal I was at the empty table again. I started working at a bookstore, because I needed money. After a while I decided to create a new band even though I knew it would put me to trouble, since raising a newcomer at least to a tolerable level needs enormous resources. I founded ReVamp in autumn 2009 and I started working also as a band manager. I was able to do it for some time, but in 2011 my strenght finally ran out and I had burnout. I liked to do everything related to ReVamp, but I didn’t realize working too much, way too long. Finally, I had to admit to myself that figuratively I had been run over by a train. I noticed I was totally exhausted and I wanted to do nothing but lying at home. For example going to a grocery store was a big effort. I slept, slept, slept more, walked the dog, ate a bit, went to the bed again. Goddam, I was in the thirties, and I felt myself like a hundred years old.
Soundi: How did your recovery start? How did you start to feel better?
Floor: I didn’t want to take medicine. What do you do when feeling tired? You rest. I tried to rest and was hoping the next day will be better than this. Little later I went to the therapist, since I wanted answers to the questions: ‘how did I end up to this situation?’ and ‘what can I do to avoid this in the future?’ Slowly, I started to feel better and I began to think a possible future with music. Could I work as a full-time singing teacher and carry on a band career as a hobby? I was thinking and thinking… And then, I got a call, which I couldn’t really expect.
Soundi: You told before you enjoy performing and you don’t feel nervous even in a hard situation. NW put you to quite a test instantly.
Floor: NW’s offer felt completely unbelievable: ‘Hi, would you like be our touring vocalist?’ When? Now!’ It sounded wild, but for sure, I wasn’t even considering saying no. Firstly, the timing was excelent, since as I said, I was seeking a new direction for my life. The most challenging was that I had to set off practically immediately for Seattle and learn structures, lyrics and vocal melodies of the NW songs in a plane on the way to the US. Fortunately I was familiar with some old NW songs, because I used to train myself among others with Oceanborn and Century Child albums. Instead, I was more unfamiliar with Imaginaerum, so I downloaded it in the first place – by the way, this about ten euro purchase from iTunes might have been the best investment in my life!
Soundi: How did you feel just before the first performance with Nightwish?
Floor: What’s this gonna be? I don’t even know, what I am doing! When the intro started pealing, I noticed to my horror, I didn’t remember even that how the first song begins. Luckily it came back to mind on time… So the concert proceeded a song after song and at some instant it ended – I have pretty weak memory in this. It should be kept in mind that I was still recovering from burnout, when NW contacted me. The first couple of NW gigs were extreme tests of resilience then… When I withstood the enormous pressure without breaking down, I recognized my healing was in good shape. It was a fantastic feeling.
Soundi: You got glad tidings about the permanent post in NW after the Sauna Open Air festival gig in summer 2013.
Floor: We gathered in the hotel lobby bar and the other band members asked me and Troy, if we were interested in joining the group permanently. Surely I had a presentiment that NW might ask such a question, but I didn’t want to take any pressure from it. I would have become sad if had thought between the gigs that ‘oh no, I try to enjoy now as much as possible, since soon this will end’. I also understood that NW must weight the matter precisely, since the band cannot change the vocalist constantly.
Soundi: Now, you have left behind dozens of big gigs as well as the live packet Showtime, Storytime. Also, the recordings of the eight studio album have finished.
Floor: I don’t even try to be objective: NW’s next album is the greatest I have ever done in music. Wait, actually it is the best album ever! I am sure the album raises NW to a new step again, as it is something… well, bigger and more special. I dreamt before the making of the album that with respect the to vocal lines, Tuomas would challenge me to the extremes and I would be allowed to use my voice as versatilely as possible. Well, I couldn’t have received more in return to my wishes. Tuomas introduces the vocal lines he has thought by means of keyboard demos, so there is always room for vocalist’s interpretation and ideas. We spent last summer in Röskö, Kitee recording and arranging the songs and we examined different approaches. The whole band was often there and everyone could give an immediate response about the functioning of the ideas.
Soundi: Evolutionary scientist Richard Dawkins is one of the guests on the album. This piece of news raised quite a storm of comments.
Floor: The fiercest opinions – such as ‘I will burn my NW discs’ – came undeniably as a surprise. In the Internet, it’s easy to shout harsh statements without thinking closely, but isn’t it worth stopping for a moment before pressing the enter key. It should be clear to everyone that NW doesn’t want to preach for one or another opinion. If we want something, it is to arouse thoughts – think and weight things and then form your opinion.
Soundi: You know well that people draw drastic conclusions quickly.
Floor: It is strange indeed that someone bothers to create a hate page in the Internet, because I don’t have time to chat or take photos just with him or her after a concert, for example. Some people don’t seem to understand in any way that sometimes there is no time for it.
Soundi: You moved to Joensuu last summer. How did this decision arise?
Floor: I started learning Finnish in spring 2013. During the same year, I visited to Finland several times for both working and vacationing. For example, autumn nature, colours of the trees etc. impressed me greatly then, and they still do. I also like winter and snow, although a snowy road brings challenges to someone who is used to drive a car in the Netherlands. Then, this year’s spring came and I had to move in any case. I was thinking if I search for a new house in the Netherlands or pack my stuff and set off for Finland. Since all my visits to Finland had been very nice, the decision was finally easy. I also want to learn to speak Finnish fluently. I am not Finnish but I am becoming Finnish quickly. And it is great.
Soundi: Which Finnish things have come as a surprise?
Floor: At least Prisma and such big supermarkets! In the Netherlands, there are no shops where you can buy everything possible. I don’t know if it is a real surprise but many Finns like to cook at home. For example, in the US, people are always eating out – and they call McDonald’s a restaurant. You can live in Finland without liking to sauna, but it is a little difficult. Fortunately I love saunaing and during the NW summer camp I saunaed a lot. A hot lakeside sauna, a twilight summer night, warm water… There is something in it.
Soundi: What ReVamp’s future looks like?
Floor: There are no plans with ReVamp. Naturally, NW gets all my attention and I don’t want be engaged to anything else. I would be also unfair towards the other members of ReVamp if we established intentions that won’t come true. If there is something I have learned in recent years, it is that the most important thing is that I won’t crave too much anymore. I don’t really know if I want straight to a new rat race again – I mean, to start making a new ReVamp album and plan a tour – after NW’s next world tour. I love ReVamp but to continue with the band, we must find a suitable time. Despite, we have to remember in the midst of all this awesomeness, there is more in life than the recording sessions and tours.
English by nightwishforum.com
www.floorjansen.com | www.nightwish.com | www.revampmusic.com
www.headuphigh.com.br, Your best reference about Floor.
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