Breaking The Spell - Marco Hietala speaks out

Tarot hail from Finland, a band that have been around a lot longer than you would imagine. Tarot 1st started out back in 86 when the band changed their name from 'Purgatory' in order to find a suitable name that would suit their music direction. As you of you will already know bassist/ vocalist Marco is also the bassist in 'Night Wish', a band that has had plenty of success. Now it's time for Tarot to turn the cards and make it turn to be as successful as Night Wish. With the release of their debut album 'Spell Of Iron' back in 86, the band have done several albums along the way such as 'To Live Forever', 'Stigmata', 'Suffer Our Pleasures' and later on 'Gravity of Light' in 2010. Now the band return with a re-mastered and reworked version of the bands debut 'Spell of Iron' which pretty much got the ball rolling. I managed to have a chat with Marco as they were about to embark on a tour with 'Sonata Arctica'. Here is what Marco had to say about the re worked album of 'Spell of Iron' and the past success of the band.

Hello Marco, hope your having a nice day. So let's start by asking you how the 3 original members have kept the band alive over all these years, with Zachary Hietala (guitars), Pecu Cinnari (drums) and yourself. Has it been a difficult road for the band?

"Well my brother and myself have been playing instruments when I was 11 and Zachary was about 14 yrs old, and our drummer Pecu Cinnari has been with us since 84 & our keyboard player Janne Tolsa joined the band in 98 & Tommy Salmela our 2nd lead vocalist had been a friend of the band since the 80's as I was producing some of his older bands back in the day. He had also done some roadie work for us and backing vocals and since 1999 he had become the official singer of the band."

Did you all meet up as musicians in school or just on the local scene after you all left school?

"Well we weren't really school mate, we all just got together, & as Zach and myself are brothers it's been a little easier. We were living in a small place when Pecu joined the band he was playing in some small bands and he just called us and asked if we wanted a drummer. I knew at the time we had a shitty drummer so I was open for him to audition for the band and he just suited the band perfectly. Tommy was just a friend to us at the beginning but we also found out he could play the piano and sing so we asked him to audition when he was sober, so he did and it turned out great."

So who came up with the band's name 'Tarot'? Were there any other names in mind?

"Well the name came just after we finished our 1st record. The label at that time said that the name we had at that time 'Purgatory' was a little bit too hard especially for people in Finland. I cant of understand this and I think that name 'Tarot' came up whilst having some coffee and I guess it has some strange and mystical aspects which would suit our music."

Let's talk about the debut album 'Spell of Iron', was that album originally released on Blue Light Records?

"No not really at that time, when we did the 1st 2 albums we were signed to 'Flamingo' records and they were bankrupt for some time Blue Light had bought the master tapes from our previous label so they made the re-masters and published them. (Ed: Are the original Blue Light recordings worth any money? Just that I have 1 of them on CD) I'm not sure but we did get some royalties (laughing) but then again I really don't know if they are worth any money, maybe."

Out of all the previous albums that you have recorded with tarot, which is your favourite and why?

"That's a tough question, I think it must be for all bands that have to answer this question. Musically I tend to look at stuff we did with Nuclear Blast, but I think I would have to say that the last 3 albums are my favourites. I think the debut album 'Spell of Iron' have a status here in Finland as it is 1 of the 1st CDs to come out of Finland metal scene, a pioneer album for Finland, a classic album."

So why have you decided to re-release the 'Spell of Iron' album once again with the artwork totally reworked, and re-recorded the whole songs? Was there a demand for this album to be revamped?

"Well it is a quarter of a century anniversary since the album was released originally & we were thinking about putting the songs from that album into the live set anyway of this year. In the end it ended up been a thing were we decided to re-record the whole album and of course these things are kind of not a big seller to revamped an old album but we still wanted to do it because there are a few good reason. Firstly the old one has this status that we are proud of but we have a lot of new fans after the 'Suffer our Pleasures' and the other 2 CD's who don't even know anything about our previous albums or can't even relate to the sound of that date. So we decided to do the album again, and keep the essentials with the melodies, riffs, etc... and make it as much as a new album as we can with the new modern metal sound and try to change as much as we can without loosing the original theme."

Are you happy with the way the album has turned out? Also how long did it take to record the album?

"Yes I am happy with it, I was rather surprised really to how good it actually sounded. With the original album we never had the keyboards, so this time around having them actually worked really well. We had to concentrate on the rhythm section so we did demos with me there, with Janne and Pecu as I do play rhythm guitar so we did demos of the whole stuff and then re-arranged the whole stuff and the whole thing was so relaxed we had a lot of fun doing it. It was pretty easy when it came to recording the album again, and we almost ran out of time with the recording of the album and I had been studying sound engineering and Jannes has his own studio so we worked with pro-tools so we had recorded by ourselves and whist I had been finishing recording Tommy's vocals, Janne was doing the mixing of the album and mastered the album too. It was done pretty quickly and we had nobody doing backing vocals and the only thing we didn't do was the layout of the cover."

So Marco who did the artwork for the new CD?

"Well I gave the ideas to 'Toxic Angel' who did the layout for the cover, who is more of a digital artist and I am happy with the way it has turned out. In the 1st one you had a slightly rotten hand with a tarot card in his hand and now you have the more rotten hand with a credit card in his hand and it is 25yrs since the last one. So we had to have the bonny hand with a black American express card if you have something like a million dollars in your account."

Is it difficult have Tommy and yourself as the 2 main singers? Does it work well in and out of the studio?

"It works out really well actually both live and in the studio. It is a perfect asset to use so that each singer has some room to breath in between some hard parts and then we also have time to split into some really harmonies together which has been working out fine so far and we have been friends for a long time which helps out even more. We both have slightly different voices which is a good thing so that people can identify both of our voices."

If you were an outsider listening to your music, who would you compare you vocals too as well as Tommy's vocals?

"Well I think Tommy sounds like a higher version of Zack Wylde (laughing) and I think I sound like maybe Dio or Tony Martin as I really like their vocals."

What about your music? For me you remind me a lot of Deep Purple or maybe Rainbow with an edge, do you agree?

"Yes I do music wise, I think we tend to go that way with our music and that is one of the reasons why I started to be a singer, I was 11yrs old when I heard 'Long Live Rock & Roll' by Rainbow or 'Kill The King' on the radio and it blow me away!! So my brother and myself kept asking our dad for the Rainbow album till he eventually bought us the album. So we learnt all the lyrics and when I was 13 I was singer in my 1st school band so there is an connection even though I didn't think about it at that time."

So what came 1st for you Marco, the bass or vocals?

"Well I think it would have to be the vocals, just because the fact that I had learnt the lyrics to the Rainbow songs 1st. I started playing bass around about the age of 11-12 yrs old as my dad had a couple of acoustic guitars and he played himself. So my brother and I started to learn to play them too so when I was at school I learnt to play the bass as we didn't have a bass player in the band at school so that is how it started. I do play rhythm guitar too but I'm not cut out for the guitar solos."

For those people who don't know you or your music, how would you best describe the music? It's far away from Night Wish as you could get right?

"Well with the Tarot music we try to keep up with the sound and we try to have that hard hitting sound at the same time we do keep the roots alive with them been from the 70's with bands that knew how to make the sounds rock, big sounds etc... and that is what we try to do. We try to keep the music alive, without using too much pro-tools. Everything we do seems to come up as Heavy Metal music."

Are you happy with the way things are turning out with you and Nuclear Blast?

"Yes so far things are going great!! They have promoted the album quite well and they have got us a lot more sales then we have ever had before and its different from the old times and we are not in their # 1 rooster, and I am pleased with the work they have done for the band."

Do you find it frustrating been in Tarot when you know that Night Wish are a bigger band doing better than Tarot are?

"No not really, I'm not the kind of guy who gets bitter or anything but I do think it is time for this band to start and get better with things from now on. With Night Wish the success came before I even joined the band when the biggest hype happened. I was there since 'Century Child' when things were getting bigger but they had already made a pretty big name for themselves before I was in the band. I am proud to be in that band too because they are an ambitious group that have a lot of imagination."

Would you like to tour with both bands at the same time?

"We did the 'Dark Winters Night' festival together in Switzerland and Germany and we did an early show with Tarot and the headliner with Night Wish but I don't mind I think it is pretty nice and I can also fuck myself up by saying I'm going to blow that Night Wish bass player off stage (laughing). I don't know if I would do a tour together I think it might be a little too much for me."

Are you planning on doing a promo video for the revamped 'Spell of Iron' CD? If so which song?

"I am not sure yet this is something we need to talk about later on."

I heard you are playing Bloodstock this year here in the UK with Tarot, how excited are you about it?

"Yes I am looking forward to playing over there with Tarot, it will be our 1st time so I am hoping we get a good crowd response. We have played Bloodstock twice now, once was when it was indoors and the last time at the open air festival."

Well Marco, thanx for taking your time out and for doing the interview, looking forward to see in and meeting you at Bloodstock this year. Do you have anything to say to your fans reading this?

"Yes thanx  for you're support, please check out the new version of 'Spell or Iron', I think it sounds great. We look forward to finally playing Bloodstock!!"

Thanx to Nuclear Blast & Marco for the interview.