“There won’t be any Nightwish shows within the next two or three years” – Exclusive interview with Kai Hahto from Nightwish / Wintersun

Author Arto Mäenpää - 23.1.2024

Kai Hahto – a virtuoso drummer and the man behind the drum kit for Nightwish brings a completely new concept to the Apollo stage in Helsinki on Saturday, February 3, 2024. As the show’s name suggests, the performance is centered around Hahto and his drumming – solo. This unique presentation includes songs from various catalogs, including Nightwish, Wintersun, Swallow the Sun, and Auri, not forgetting surprises – all from Kaitsu’s masterful drummer’s perspective.

The Apollo show marks the first performance of this special project – more performances around the world will be announced later. Hahto is excited about the upcoming project:

“Alone is a tribute to my drumming journey. Since the ’90s, touring and recording with different bands like Cartilage, Wings, Misantropia, Rotten Sound, Vomiturition, Enochian Crescent, Aggressor, Max on the Rox, Swallow the Sun, Wintersun, Trees of Eternity, Auri, and of course, the last 9 years with Nightwish, now it’s time to pause for a moment and reflect on everything that has been done in the past 30 years. Thousands of gigs and about 40 studio albums later, it’s time to celebrate this journey, music, and my own 50th birthday.”

Chaoszine visited Kai Hahto’s rehearsal place in Vaasa, Finland on January 18th and discussed about the upcoming solo show as well as a bit about the future releases coming from Nightwish and Wintersun later this year. The original interview was conducted in Finnish but here you can find a rough translation of it:

We’re here in Vaasa, my hometown and also Kai Hahto’s hometown, and today we’re at Kai Hahto’s rehearsal space. How are you doing?

Kai Hahto: Thanks, all good. The year changed, and I turned fifty, and now things continue as usual.

So, what kind of thoughts did the number fifty trigger? Congratulations in person as well.

Kai Hahto: Honestly, none at all, it’s just a number. But of course, had a bit of a celebration, some people came by on New Year’s Eve, but nothing out of the ordinary.

You have had a long career in the music scene, with about forty albums or something similar. So, if you had to name three highlights so far from your music career, what comes to mind first?

Kai Hahto: That’s really difficult because recently I’ve made quite versatile albums, and each one has something beloved. Of course, one that probably stands out is Rotten Sound‘s “Murderworks”. It set a bar for me, challenging if I could bring something new out of my playing. Then, of course, Wintersun‘s first album, the “Self-Titled” one. It’s significant, and, of course, Nightwish’s “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” which was the first one I joined. There are, of course, others like two excellent albums I did with Swallow the Sun, and Wintersun‘s “Time”, but those came to mind first.

Do you feel that these are albums that have taken you as a musician a step forward?

Kai Hahto: Yes, very much. Quite a bit, actually. It made me play something that I might not have done before. I had to stretch.

So, the year starts in an interesting way for you because you have a solo gig at Apollo in Helsinki on February 3rd?

Kai Hahto: Yeah, a silly idea came to mind about how to celebrate this fifty-year thing in the musical context. It’s challenging to get those line-ups together, like having Swallow The Sun or Nightwish and Wintersun on the same stage. So, this idea came up that no one has ever done a solo gig, going there alone and playing with backing tracks. It’s a really silly idea, and, of course, I even thought about it later with mixed feelings, wondering what will come out of it. But we’ve put together a package over the last few months, gathered backing tracks from here and there, and created some kind of setlist.

So, you don’t regret it yet?

Kai Hahto: Oh, I’ve regretted it many times, but now it’s like the cat is out of the bag, so it just has to be done.

You’ve released about thirty albums in your career. How difficult was it to start thinking about an hour-long setlist for this kind of thing?”

Kai Hahto: Of course, it’s really difficult to somehow handle albums like, for example, Rotten Sound‘s stuff because there isn’t essentially anything available from it. So, indeed, those two albums that were made in Sweden with Mieszko from Nasum, so “Murderworks” and “Exit”, well, there isn’t anything from them because he died during the tsunami, so apparently… the whole studio doesn’t even exist, so, in a way, the tapes are gone, and they have disappeared, so there aren’t proper album versions. And it’s stupid to try to knock something coherent on top of the album version when it doesn’t make any sense in that kind of music where it’s like, racing at full speed. So, in a live setting, the music should be like that, in my opinion, like live music, so that we are like a real band there. It was like, in the case of certain bands, it was kind of like impossible to get any of those tapes, but from a quite wide range, I still managed to gather various recordings.

So, what could be played, and of course, there have been many bands, so would you like to cover the discography in a bit bigger way, so to speak?

Well, a band is always a band, there are many musicians with many different opinions on the setlist. Now you’re alone on the stage, so will we hear some songs that other band members haven’t wanted to play in the past?

Kai Hahto: Well, yeah, there is some material included that, well, hasn’t been played live before. So there are a few songs that have been recorded for albums, but that’s why I chose them there so that people wouldn’t necessarily expect them. Then maybe I thought it’s pointless to go play “Elan” from Nightwish there because it has been played about four hundred times live. Not exactly four hundred, well, maybe around three hundred times at least, plus soundchecks and rehearsals, and it will probably go easily to four hundred, but, you know, Iron Maiden plays “Iron Maiden” every night, and that might be a bit heavy in the rehearsal room, but when they play it to the audience, there’s always a new crowd, so it always works then. But I maybe avoided those clear options a bit.

Do you plan on playing more solo shows in the future as well, or will this be a one-off?

Kai Hahto: I have been thinking about it, but let’s play this upcoming show first and then see if there is demand for me to play more. We will most likely be filming the show to check it out ourselves afterward to see how it went. If it went well, I could play a couple more during this year. It would be nice, as the next Nightwish album comes out later this year, to play maybe a couple of new songs from that album live as well because at the moment, it looks like there won’t be any new Nightwish shows in the next two or three years.

So you could play some of that stuff live for fans.

Kai Hahto: Yes, that would be cool to play that stuff live. There is pretty interesting stuff on that album.

There is another very interesting album also coming this year, which is Wintersun’s long-delayed “Time II.” When did you hear the first time the news that the album is finally done?

Kai Hahto: A few weeks ago, maybe Jari sent us a message in our band chat and revealed that the album is now done. I didn’t believe it at first and had to check the calendar that it isn’t even April Fool’s day because it’s been like 16 years since I recorded my parts for it.

I still remember when I visited your rehearsal space to have a pre-listen for “Time I,” and you said that I have “Time II” also on my computer but I will play it for you a little later as it comes 6 months after “Time I.” laughs Have you done anything to that album after that, or have your drum parts remained the same?

Kai Hahto: No, the drum parts are the same as what we recorded in 2006. I recorded the drums for “Time I” and “Time II” in four days because originally it was just supposed to be titled “Time” and not split into two sections. Later, the record label wanted to split it into two albums because it was a bit too long. The first part came out in 2012, so it’s been already over 10 years since the release of that album already.

So “Time II” will be released either late summer or early fall of 2024 like you wrote in social media?

Kai Hahto: The album is 100% done. We will next sit down with Nuclear Blast to discuss the release schedule and other stuff, but the album itself is complete finally.

Then there is also another album coming from you, which is, of course, the upcoming album from Nightwish. What is the state of the album at the moment?

Kai Hahto: We started making the album in July, and the drum recordings were done in August. In October, we went to the legendary Abbey Road studios to record the orchestral and choir parts for the album. At the moment, Tuomas (Holopainen) is at Finnvox studio finalizing the mixing for the album with Mikko Karmila and Tero “TeeCee” Kinnunen, and there is still a little left to mix. We recently heard the first versions of the songs, but there will be a little more changes to them before they are completely done.

Is there some kind of tentative timeline when the album will be out? Does it come before or after the Wintersun album?

Kai Hahto: I think it will be released sometime at the end of the year. The plan is to have the album ready by the end of February, and then record labels normally need at least 6 months to press the vinyls, etc. I would expect it to come out in late Fall. We are currently preparing the videos for the album, and there will be three official videos and then lyric videos for most of the other songs.

Before we wrap things up, I want to ask a bit about the future. How does the summer look for you?

Kai Hahto: Summer looks fairly easy, but then on the other hand, we have been playing shows so many summers in a row that it is good to have some time off. We have also talked about doing albums with a few other bands, but let’s see if they happen or not. And there is some special stuff also happening, like I will be playing with a Metallica tribute band in Vaasa in May.

So something special which you wouldn’t have time to do if Nightwish was actively touring?

Kai Hahto: It’s good that I can activate all these different kinds of projects now.

So there won’t be any Wintersun shows happening anytime soon either?

Kai Hahto: At least I haven’t received any touring news from Jari yet. There is apparently another Wintersun album, which is nearly complete, and Jari plans on finishing it also before starting to play shows again. Looks like there will be some more albums coming than just “Time II” soon.

That sounds great!

Kai Hahto: Yeah, I heard he has another album almost complete. He wants to finish it before we hit the road again.

After finishing the Alone solo show, I will start teaching again, so if you want to come here to the studio space to get some lessons, contact me via Facebook or email. The space we are doing the interview in was finished a few weeks ago, and here you can live also while practicing drumming with me.

Thanks a lot once again for your time and all the best for the upcoming solo show as well as for the future.

Kai Hahto: Thanks for the interview.

You can check out the entire video interview (In Finnish) here: