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Floor Jansen: "People don’t get to dictate what they want from me"

Floor Jansen has spent her life silencing dickheads. As Nightwish prepare to celebrate 20 bombastic years, we find out why their enigmatic frontwoman refuses to play by the rules

Floor Jansen can remember the first time she took on the knuckleheads and won. It was the early 00s, and her band, After Forever, were part of a tour whose bill featured a mix-and-match assortment of other, exclusively male, European metal outfits. The presence of a female singer on stage was apparently too much for some, frequently sending the less- enlightened members of the crowd into a testosterone-fuelled meltdown.

“I’d get shit from the audience all the time,” she says. “‘Oh look, there’s a woman up there.’ In the beginning, I thought it was just part of it. But it soon became, ‘Really?’ They’d either be screaming ‘Slayer!’ or ‘Boobs!’ ‘OK, we’re not Slayer and I have boobs – very perceptive of you, can we move on now?’”

Given that the woman their unwanted attentions were focused on was, in her own words, “headstrong and forceful and not afraid to call people out”, it was inevitable that things were going to come to a head at some point. Floor can’t remember the date, or even the venue when it happened, but she vividly recalls how the confrontation played out.

“This guy was just constantly shouting stupid stuff at me: ‘[Moronic Beavis And Butt-Head voice] UH, BOOBS!’ This guy would not shut up. Eventually, I just said: ‘Seeing as you have such a big mouth on you, why don’t you come and tell me all these things to my face after the show?’”

There was, she says, a mass intake of breath from the audience. A six- foot Dutch woman armed with a fearsome death stare and a reservoir of patience about to run dry had just publicly offered out a drunken troglodyte. There was only ever going to be one winner in this smackdown.

“Yeah, I picked a fight with that guy from the stage,” she says. “It worked like a charm. He didn’t say another word.” She arches a dismissive eyebrow. “If you want to be that stupid, by all means do it. But you don’t deserve my attention.”

Given the snootiness sometimes directed towards it, it’s ironic that symphonic metal has been at the forefront of the battle for gender equality for the last 20 years. There are few other genres where women are afforded such a prominent role, from Within Temptation’s Sharon den Adel and Epica’s Simone Simons to Floor herself. And while it’s still chiefly dominated by men – the driving force behind Floor’s current band, Nightwish, is undeniably keyboard player and composer Tuomas Holopainen – it’s far less exclusive than many other supposedly more progressive strands of music.

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