Interview with Zachary Hietala
Hi Zac, how are things going in the TAROT camp?
Somewhat quiet now. Marco is really busy with NIGHTWISH and we are doing gigs rarely. Janne and I have been done couple of new songs for TAROT and they sound great, very heavy and aggressive.
"Suffer Our Pleasures" has been out world wide now, how have been the reactions overall so far?
It has been sold hundreds here and thousands there; okay we really don't know yet what it has sold in foreign countries. Reactions have been good overall, if we can trust in reviews. Feedback from fans has been great.
What has struck me once again with "Suffer Our Pleasures" was that you have a great balance between ballads, mid paced songs and up-tempo stuff, together with Marco's passionate voice, which marks the songs as unmistakably TAROT. How important is it for you to have your own distinct style?
I think it is the most important thing. Are there really professional groups who want to be clones of somebody else?
Where do you see the biggest difference between "For The Glory Of Nothing" and "Suffer Our Pleasures"?
In my opinion “Suffer Our Pleasures” is straight continuum of “For The Glory Of Nothing”, heavy and melodic.
The cover for "Suffer Our Pleasures" is very interesting and also rather unusual for TAROT. What does it show and which information did the artist have to do it?
This computer guru is Janne Pitkanen, he is using pseudonym called ToxiCAngel and you can enjoy of his art by his web site www.toxicangel.com. I really admire his work. He has also done those wallpapers in our web site. This terrifying hand symbol was on our first and second album covers, so we thought this is kind of a new beginning for us, why don’t we put this hand on the cover again. Pervert pleasures can also be walking on ice, covered by flames, confronting something abnormal, tremendous hand growing from the shadows! What am I talking? Hey come on, who knows all this shit?
Does the title have any connection to the cover and/or the lyrics of the album?
We have so many difficulties in our history and we have always been feet in the mud but fists in the sky. Now everybody can suffer our pleasures.
For "Suffer Our Pleasures" you have signed with legendary Finnish label Spinefarm Records, after having been with Bluelight and Blastic Heaven. How did this come to be?
Actually Spinefarm guys have been asking us to sign with them for years and we waited for the right time for it. Leaving our former label and signing with Spinefarm was difficult, because we got good relationship with Bluelight/Blastic Heaven records, but we needed bigger label with larger contacts. We still have great relationship with them. They actually have publishing rights of our older records, so we have to work with them for re-releasing.
Prior to "Suffer Our Pleasures", did TAROT ever have a distribution outside of Finland and Japan?
Only in Scandinavia.
"Suffer Our Pleasures" is your sixth studio album since 1986, so not the fastest release rhythm, I would say ;)
Yeah…we have been too lazy, he! Many bands are going down because they are releasing new albums too often and they can't keep their level in highest standards anymore, but this is my opinion.
Apart from Marko you never had any line-up changes, which is something truly remarkable. What do you think makes the chemistry so good?
We have good time together beside the band too, we have the same hobbies and we like to party together.
Now TAROT has been around since 1985, so you have seen the scene grow and change a lot. If you compare the scene of back then and now, what is still the same and what is the most dramatic change in your opinion?
The most dramatic change is all about how we or another bands looked, everybody had big hair and lots of make up then. Musically bands who've been starting in the eighties haven't change as much as their looks. There are many, many more bands in the scene today, so competition is harder, all thought there are lots of crappy bands too.
The sound of TAROT has never really changed dramatically, but rather evolved. How would you describe the TAROT sound to the uninitiated in one sentence?
Traditional guitar/keyboard/bass and drum sound together.
Even though you play in a pretty much populated genre, you still manage to sound like, well, TAROT. Where do you see your influences?
We all prefer so called old school Metal bands like DEEP PURPLE, BLACK SABBATH, JUDAS PRIEST, etc. You can find our roots straight from there.
Marco's vocal style in TAROT and NIGHTWISH differs quite a bit. Which one is more to his natural voice?
Both I think. He can vary his voice where needed and in TAROT we need a rougher sound and with Tarja he has to sing more softly. Alright, in their last record he screamed like hell in one song, but that was an exception.
Marko joined NIGHTWISH as bassist and additional vocalist during the break of TAROT after "For The Glory Of Nothing", how did the rest of the band bridge this quite lengthy break?
This is a long story. I have been youth instructor and music teacher all my life, so I needed time to graduate my profession at last. Janne needed time to base his recording studio, which is doing fine today. I think Pecu was only one who suffered from this break. Actually three years ago, we were almost ready to start make new songs when Marco got this phone call from Tuomas and he joined in NIGHTWISH. We said go for it, we have no rush, we can wait when everything is ready for us and then Janne and I started to make new songs to our possible forth coming album.
Then two years ago Marco got his twin sons (Twins of darkness) and he had to put all his free time for them. Finally 2002, summer we did band meeting and decided to start putting songs together.
Here we are today.
How do you see Marco's involvement with NIGHTWISH?
What can I say, I'm very proud of him and I hope new fans will find us by Marco's NIGHTWISH connection.
Could you please give us a few words on how you had seen each album back then, when it actually came out and how you see them now?
About “The Spell Of Iron” 1986…um…the first album, it is one of the most important things in our lives I think. Second one 1987, very hard to do, because of bad vibes with our rhythm guitarist. We had to kick him out and we toured trio until Janne joined the band. Then our record company bankrupted, so talking about the hard times. Those times tested our faith in the music business and our skills by the hardest way.
We had five years long break to 1992 when we started to do “To Live Forever” album, which saw the daylight 1993. It was the new beginning to us. 1995 we did “Stigmata” and everything seemed to be fine, but somehow it didn't break as well as we expected and 1998 “For The Glory Of Nothing”, which is in our opinion one hell of a record, didn't do any better. This NWoBHM thing was not very popular in the nineties and we took a break again.
But here we are again and stronger than ever.
What had been the goals for TAROT back when you had started out, which ones have you achieved by now and how have they changed?
n the first place it was kind of "the world, here we come", but it didn't work out, so now we are feet on the ground guys. Actually we don't set any goals to us anymore, we just do the music we love and that's it.
What had been the decisive factor for you to choose Heavy Metal as your weapon of choice, so to say?
Natural selection, he!
If the music of TAROT was an emotion, which one would it be?
Could you please characterize the members of TAROT with a few words (including yourself)?
What the question…This may sound stupid, but if you compare us to TAROT elements, Janne is the earth, I'm the wind, Pecu is the fire and Marco is the water, he!
What is your favorite song of TAROT (and which your least favorite) and why?
I think it is “Do You Wanna Live Forever” from the album “To Live Forever”. That was the album where Janne played keys first time in the band and with that song everything locked up together so greatly.
Over the course of your long career, I am pretty sure that you have amassed quite a repertoire of interesting stories. What is the funniest, best and saddest anecdote you could share with us and our readers?
There's so many, this space is not enough for them all. Many of the stories are rate-X, so you can't tell them in PG-rated interviews, you know.
Okay, one funny story. In early days we did all pyros by ourselves and normally I got the foot switch trigger on stage. One gig -87 in the 1500 people Rock club I blow the cannon boom, which was actually meant for outdoor use, so we didn't hear anything for a while. All the speaker cords had been flown away from the cabinets for air pressure; amplifiers fuses burnt down and all the knobs of the monitor disk were gone.
Stage was full of tech-guys fixing things, it was total chaos.
In the same night later, I switched on some magnesium flashes and of course Marco and our rhythm guitarist stood above those tubes, so fire pillars burnt their asses, not very badly though.
This story proves one thing, SPINAL TAP is not dead and Rock' n Roll is endless joy!
Finland is known to be a country, where you can enjoy quite some chart success even as Rock/Metal act. How did TAROT fare in this particular department?
Every record has been in top 20, this latest one did it up to 5 and single “Undead Son” made 3.
Which album would you wish was yours?
If you mean super band albums, it would be RAINBOW “Long Live Rock' n Roll”
What would you do, if you weren't able to compose music?
I'm youth instructor, so maybe I continue my day work with kids.
What do you love to hate in the music industry?
Awaiting time between sound check and gig. So much adrenaline, nothing to do.
If time travel was possible, which historical period would you like to visit and why? What would you miss the most from our time?
Some were in the future; I'm big fan of Sci-fi.
What would I miss…Finnish vodka is eternal, so it remains…women, they will survive…
There's ice hockey in the future too…um…I give up.
Could you please give me a few words on the following: Finland, Heavy Metal, Timo Tolkki, IRON MAIDEN, CHILDREN OF BODOM, NIGHTWISH, HIM?
Finland: Long winter, short summer.
Heavy Metal: One and only BLACK SABBATH.
Timo Tolkki: Good friend, poor guy.
IRON MAIDEN: Mother and Father of NWoBHM.
CHILDREN OF BODOM: Aaarrggh!
NIGHTWISH: Movie Metal with classical edge.
HIM: Dear friend Gas, thank you for helping us out 1998.
To finish the interview, my traditional last question, what is your favorite question about TAROT that you have never been asked yet, but would finally like to answer?
What did you eat for breakfast?
Nothing, just cigarette and coffee, he!
Yours Zachary Hietala/TAROT