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Marco Hietala (Tarot)

Interview with Marco Hietala from Tarot
by Grigoris Chronis at 11 April 2007, 1:00 PM

Marco is strict. Marco is somehow typical. Marco is right. Marco is still a Metal fan. Marco has the sense of humor not realy possible to be 'printed' in words. Marco carries on the TAROT legacy with Crows Fly Black. Marco is down-to-earth despite the huge NIGHTWISH success. Marco is still himself: Marco Hietala. All the best to you, too.

Marco, Crows Fly Black marks TAROT’s seventh studio release. Under what conditions was the album written? When did the C.F.B. project began (songwriting, sessions etc)?

The conditions were a bit hectic. We should have recorded C.F.B. already last winter, but we found ourselves short of a few songs. We started writing songs already in 2005, but I was a bit slow with the lyrics and everything. It’s possible that I was a bit tired after the previous year I had with NIGHTWISH. By the summer 2006 we started to have all the material together, but I also had to start rehearsing new material with NIGHTWISH. So I was rehearsing and recording demos with two bands, starting to record an album with TAROT straight after demos, and also doing live shows with TAROT on summer festivals. We had booked those at the time when we thought we would have an album out already.

Was it easy enough to write songs for the new album? Do any tunes date back to the Suffer Our Pleasures (2003) release?

Like I said, the writing was a bit slow, but when we found the right parts and structures for the songs, then the finishing touches, harmonies and nuances came quite easily. Some of the music in very raw versions have been around since S.O.P., and, for instance in Grey there’s music that was written already in 1996.

You - the first single - did score the highest position in the Finnish charts, right? Did you expect this? (I kinda waited for this, to tell you the truth, due to the NIGHTWISH fame).

Well, everyone of us was a bit surprised, but pleased of course. We had felt that there was a good interest about the band, but really didn’t expect this much.

TAROT seem to (somehow) compromise with today’s music style. Not in terms of writing songs, but mainly concerning the production/keyboards’sound. Do you feel it would be too retro too have the 80s Scandinavian Metal sound?

Whaddya mean? EUROPE? (Ed: of course not!) That would probably be too much for us, no offense. We’ve just kept an open mind with the times, and we just like to see what kind of contrasts we can create by mixing for instance modern Metal guitar work with 70’s Hammond organ.

Tommi Tuple Salmela has been involved with the band for the last ten years. Now, he is credited as a full time second vocalist for TAROT. Why did you decide to have an additional vocalist in the first place?

I guess we could have installed him as a fulltime member already at the times of S.O.P., or even earlier. It was just a matter of realizing that we have an asset here, and we should utilize it to the full. And like you said, he’s been around with us for a long time already, so the personal chemistry is already there.

Would you feel embarrassed if someone told you that Tommi sings better than you and should handle all lead vocal parts from now on? (laughs!)

I think some people already said that. We’re in a band. It’s a team.

Crows Fly Black is ’dark’ enough. Does this atmosphere presents Marco Hietala’s mood the last years? NIGHTWISH’s music is dark enough, too.

I had a hard year in 2005 with NIGHTWISH, as everyone probably knows by now. That might have affected my songwriting, but not in a conscious way. In TAROT we also write songs quite democratically with Zac and Janne, so C.F.B. reflects their musical preferences too. This is what we came up with, and when we realized that this album would be really heavy and dark, we thought: We like heavy stuff, let’s go for it.

Really, do you expect people searching for the TAROT back-catalogue due to the Bluelight Records re-releases of all six previous TAROT albums? Not to mention that all re-releases have tons of bonus ’goodies’ for even the ones who already have the band’s previous albums!

I don’t have expectations about those albums. I think it was already worthwhile to have them remastered as a documented history of the band, and because they did well here in Finland already. Of course I’m pleased that the hardcore fans in other countries now have a chance to order them from for instance in our Netshop.

You left Spinefarm after the S.O.P. album, right? You have now inked deal with King Foo Entertainment, right? Is this deal only for Finland? Is Nuclear Blast responsible for the rest of Europe? Really, what about the rest of the globe?

King Foo is responsible for Finland. They’ve lisenced C.F.B. to Nuclear Blast so that they can release it in rest of the Europe. We’re still looking over things in some places like Japan and North America.

A question out of curiosity: the name origins from the tarot cards, I guess. Are you - in general - interested in this kinda stuff (astrology etc)? Do you feel someone is fool enough to occupy himself with this ’science’?

We took the name in the end of 80’s when we got our first record deal. We just thought it would suit a Heavy Metal band. To my opinion, everyone has a right to believe in what ever one wants. Of course political, religious and today the commercial extremes are responsible for the most of the human suffering. In many cases they’re the same.

Not many metalheads know that TAROT have been going around for twenty years now! Do you feel embarrassment’anger if someone (a NIGHTWISH fan, especially) asks you who’s TAROT and if Crows Fly Black is your first or second album?

No. I’ve been around this business long enough to keep my feet on the ground, and take good things as they come and forget about the bad.

The universal success of NIGHTWISH surely is a helping hand for TAROT (mainly in terms of promotion) but - in any way - did you ever think the band would be still releasing albums twenty years after 1986’s Spell Of Iron?

Maybe I’ve doubted it on the way, but due to whatever strange happenings here we are, and that’s great!.

Living in the Internet era, how do you behave towards downloading, mp3s, P2P programs etc? Do you remember the ’home taping (or something like this!) kills the music’ slogan in the 80s? We carried on buying albums back then even if tape trading was ’cult’ now things seem a little bit more serious with all this technology stuff. Your opinion?

Downloading without permission sucks! I spent my last 50 marks on METALLICA’s Master Of Puppets in 1986, and drank tea for lunch and dinner for a few days. I may be better off these days, but what about the people in the CD factories, promotion offices, record stores etc.? It’s their salary you’re stealing also when you download stuff.

Have you shot any video for a track off the new album? If so, your impression?

We shot a video out of Ashes To The Stars. It’s made in the spirit of 60’s or 70’s Sci-Fi movie. I liked it a lot. You can see it on our website.

Do you believe video clips are still a good promo tool for a (in general) Metal band?

That depends on the price and the quality of the video, and the channels you have in bringing it for the people to see. I think Nemo did a great job for NIGHTWISH.

Forums and guestbooks are - in our days - a great means of communicating with your fans. How interested are you - regarding your available time, also - in reading TAROT’s fans comments? Do all these opinions influence your direction in each album? ’Till which extend an artist should pay attention what the fans and the Press have to say?

We should pay attention to what the people and the fans say, but we shouldn’t take things too personally. If I stand behind what I’ve written or done, then it really doesn’t matter if someone else says that it’s commercial or crap or whatever. Someone still may occasionally hold a mirror to you and your doings. It’s up to how honest we are in the first place. Of course forums and media are infested with people who know everything better. I wonder why they don’t lead a band into intergalactic success.

Not so much did the rest of the world ever heard from 80s Metal Finnish bands! I have some RIFF RAFF (Finnish, right?), PEER GUNT (hail!) and HANOI ROCS (not that Metal but a great band anyway!) vinyl albums in my collection but - in general - Finland seemed to have the smaller contribution of all for Scandinavian countries in the 80s. Why did this happen, in your opinion? Is it because - as we saw later on in the 90s - Finland is keener on extreme (Death/Black/Goth) Metal?

It’s because we’re smaller and also a bit more backwoods than for instance Sweden. They’ve had the ’know-how’of music business about 10-20 years in advance. Aside from that, we do have a more slavic streak in our nature. Darker sense of humour for one thing..

Do you keep being interested in ’modern’ Metal(so called)? You know, American bands like TRIVIUM, SHADOWS FALL and the whole post-PANTERA style or - on the other side - current ’aggressive’ European Metal sounds (e.g. SOILWORK)? Or, you consider yourself to be a ’classic’ Metal fan?

I’m interested in all things ’Metal’. I’ve heard all of these bands as well. I don’t necessarily go out and buy an album from any band, but I think I recognize real strength when I hear a song, for instance, from TRIVIUM. PANTERA was great of course, but my roots are in the 70’s and NWOBHM in 80’s.

I recall a comment you made in the TAROT website, mentioning you were glad to see JUDAS PRIEST live in Greece with ROB HALFORD back in action (2004). Are you in fond of reunions - in general - even if it is obvious that it’s all in the name of $$$?

Depends on the material these reunions actually produce. The reunion gig of BLACK SABBATH at the end of 90’s in Helsinki was a happening where everybody had a smile on their faces. The band too. If you can make 6000 people feel that good, it can’t be wrong.

Marco, thanks a lot for this interview!

Thanx to you as well, take care and all the best!


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