This interview with the bassist / vocalist Marco Hietala of the Finnish heavy metal band Tarot was done by e-mail in September 2003.

Hello, how are you doing?
Iīm doing fine, thanks. Iīve had a few days to recover from Nightwish gigs in USA, Canada and Mexico. Iīm just having some afternoon tea at home.

You have had your new album "Suffer Our Pleasures" out for a couple of months now, what has the response been like so far? What do you think of the album yourself?
The response to the album has mostly been great. Most of the reviews and fans seem to have taken the album really well. Iīm very pleased about the album myself too. I think itīs a definite step forward for the band.

Tired of answering these interviews by now?
Interviews are ok. Of course itīs not very exciting to answer the same questions over and over again, but itīcomes with the job and you gotta learn to accept it. In the best ones thereīs always some new things to point out as well.

You have changed record companies a few times during the years, what is different when it comes to working with Spinefarm compared to your former labels?
The main difference is that we did the former three albums to a very small company, so now the contacts for licencing and the recources of promotion have grown quite a lot. Spinefarm is also a label were people understand the metal business. Most of them are fans themselves so they relate to the stuff on a personal evel as well.

You and your brother formed Tarot back in 1984 if I am not wrong, what goals and intentions did you have for the band back then?
We aimed to become as big as we could. There has been some harsh lessons during the years of course. Nowadays were very down to earth, which doesnīt mean we donīt have ambitions. We still aim as high as we can get.

Did you record any demos?
Yep. Some four track garage stuff. Hopefully they're all lost for good. No, really they are a part of the bandīs history, but I wouldnīt want them to be published or anything.

You and your brother had formed several other bands earlier on, could you tell me a little about them? What musicians did you play with back then?
As brothers we basically had the same kind of concept of doing metal with all these bands from the days of our teens. To list these people as "musicians" would be an exaggeration and thatīs why they had to be replaced. Some of them became musicians afterwards though. You donīt have that much choice with the players when you come from a little countryside place of 2000 people.

What happened to the original guitarist Harri Veteli, when and why did he leave the band?
He was the first real addition to the band who was at the same level (or maybe beyond) as me and Zac. Must have been in 1982-1983 that he started to play with us. He was more into playing quite straight hard rock and that was probably the main reason for his departure in 1985. He also had a powertrio project coming up with his friends where he could write stuff of his own. These days heīs a teacher and I saw him just this summer when we had a gig at Tavastia club, Helsinki. Still a very nice guy.

What were your thoughts and reactions when you received your first label offer? What kind of a label was Flamingo Music?
We were ecstatic of course. I had been taking these demos to different companies for two years then and everybody said that we should "mature" a bit. These guys took to us immediately. The people responsible for signing bands there were all longterm musicians themselves so they knew about the business and had also an open mind for our stuff and itīs potential.

When did Mako H. join Tarot? When and why did he leave?
He joined the band at the end of 1985 just before recording of the first single " Wings of darkness". We had to kick him out because we found out that he had been dishonest to the rest of the band concerning our finance and talking a lot of bullshit, which could hurt our reputation.

When the second album had been released in 1988 there was a long break until the next album (1993), what did you do during those five years?
Me and Janne got very heavily into studio technics and we also recorded a lot of commercial stuff for local radio stations, TV, etc. We did demo some Tarot stuff as well but Flamingo records wanted us to go more commercial (Europe, Bon Jovi kind of stuff) and other finnish companies werenīt interested in signing us. It was the time when trash metal really got big in Finland and every company wanted to have a band in that vein. At 1992 we finally decided to make "To Live Forever" ourselves and sell the master.

Rumor has it that you were one of the frontrunners to replace Bruce Dickinson in Iron Maiden as he left in '93, is it true?
Iīve heard the rumours myself and I canīt tell for sure. I sent a copy of "To Live Forever" to them but never got an official answer. Iīve talked to some journalists who said that they had done some Maiden interviews where my name popped up as 7:th, 4:th and 3:rd. They also talked about a guy in scandinavia who sounded a hybrid between Bruce and Ronnie James Dio. Quite a lot of people have said that I sound like that so I guess there might be some truth to the whole thing. I really donīt know myself and life has moved on.

You have managed to maintain the same line-up now for over ten years, something highly unusual, what is the key to keeping together a band?
Weīve had personal trouble between members also, but weīve been able to look beyond that and recognize that after all weīre really good friends. We have the certain kind of inside humour and craziness that everybody still enjoys and that is the basis for a good chemistry.

Do you think it is important for a band to maintain a stable line-up in order to become successful?
At least when the band is starting out, it is good to have the same guys building the energy and the groove for the whole group. Later on when the styles and such have been established it may be easier to replace a member or two. If you have the chemistry, then I think that itīs better to keep the guys who built it. Lot of people want better and better musicians in their bands but if you donīt take care of the personal side, you may lose the originality that was there in the first place. There are no definite recipes for this kind of thing. Some people can work with some people. Some donīt.

If you could change one thing in the music business, what would that be?
Big company monopolies/forcefeed. If youīre good as a band or an artist is just a minor asset these days and not even necessary.

Do you ever regret that you formed Tarot?
No, why would I?

Any final words for the readers of Tartarean Desire?
Keep you hat on!

Links of interest:

Spinefarm Records