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Interviews Tarot

Interview with vocalist and bassist Marco Hietala and keyboardist and vocalist Tuple Salmela (with additional comments from keyboardist Janne Tolsa)

Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen

Date online: July 8, 2024

Live pictures by Luxi Lahtinen

Thanks to Minna Rahkola of Master Events and Jere Saajoranta of Ginger Vine Management for setting up the interview

Tarot (starting out under the Purgatory moniker in 1982) is a true Finnish heavy metal institution having made several well-received albums and playing many entertaining gigs over the years. They have also had some bumps on the road like so many bands do. The band's first two albums, The Spell of Iron (1986) and its follow-up Follow Me into Madness (1988) are considered iconic heavy metal albums that made Tarot an appreciated name among both rock and heavy metal crowds in Finland when they were released, cementing Tarot's name indelibly in the minds of fans.

The band's third album, To Live Forever, released in 1993, had some of the best songs Tarot had ever written, but unfortunately when it was released times were a bit different and heavy metal as a genre wasn't that popular. The album went essentially unnoticed, and the band played gigs only sporadically.

The band's fourth studio album, Stigmata, released in 1995, showed a more progressive metal side of Tarot, which became a somewhat new direction for the band that they continued on their fifth album, For the Glory of Nothing (released on a small Finnish label Bluelight Records in 1998). The band took their own musically uncompromising path on those two releases, making it possible for them to grab a gig here and there to keep the Tarot ship flying through the stormy galaxies of the universe.

Suffer Our Pleasures, the band's six full-length studio album, was released on the major label Spinefarm Records in 2003 and contained more easily accessible material, making it one a fan favorites among the band's musical catalog and they put on a successful tour in Finland in the album's wake.

The next two albums, Crows Fly Black (2006) and Gravity of Light (2010) were released on a small Finnish label called King Foo Records, a subsidiary of King Foo Entertainment that was primarily an entertainment marketing company. The band toured quite a bit for those albums, both in Finland and abroad, when they could because the guys also had other musical commitments, especially Marco who was busy on long tours with his now-ex-band Nightwish at that time.

In 2011, there was one more release on King Foo, which was titled The Spell of Iron MMXI, a complete re-recording of the band's debut album. This is where the band's recording era least for the time being.

Yours truly managed to sneak backstage at the Tuska Festival on June 29, 2024, to meet a couple of good-humored Tarot lads before the band's showtime on the main stage. We got to talk briefly about the present and future of the band and one question seemed to haunt my head constantly: will there ever be a new Tarot album? Is it on their future bucket list? Read the whole interview to get some clues to this "hanging-in-the-air" question...


Hey guys! How has the summer started for you guys? Been busy?

Tuple: Thanks for asking. We have not been that busy, actually. I had one gig with my solo band a while ago, and most of the time I've just been working with some young people, basically helping them get their lives sorted out.

Marco: As for me, I have been cleaning up a storage unit with some of my friends, plus carrying a lot of crappy stuff from there to a landfill. I think I could have thrown myself into the same place as well...


Not too long ago, you played at Nummirock Festival in Kauhava, Finland, on June 22. What kind of feelings did you get from that gig when thinking there might have been lots of new people in the crowd who got a chance to hear the band for the first time?

Marco: It's very likely that a whole new generation of people saw us for the first time playing live. In general, people seem happy to see us playing live again, which warms our hearts, of course. It's been pretty fun to play again with the band, even if it has also required time to rehearse and get back in shape again as we haven't played these songs for a good while. Of course, it's been great that with the status as one of the heavy metal pioneers in our country, the Tarot name has been kept alive and people are still interested in us even if we have had this long break from all kinds of activities. It's nice that there's still some demand for a nostalgic band like us, so let's see what all that will bring us in the future.

As far as the future of Tarot is concerned, we also have to decide if we'll have some new material coming up even, though I need to warn everyone there's no point in setting any deadlines or certain dates for a new Tarot album to see the light of day at some point.

Yes, I hear you. If there's ever going to be a new Tarot album, it would certainly make a bunch of fans happy...

Marco: I bet it would. However, we have to see how things progress for us after this summer when we have a bunch of festival shows booked. I know this sort of "comeback summer" won't last forever, so we need to figure out our next steps carefully after the summer's over. If there's any point to continue this "comeback," then it may mean we need to get our shit together for the next album. Janne (Tolsa, Tarot's keyboard player) has some raw tracks on his hard drive in his studio, so we need to go through them to see if there's any potential in those songs to process them further. I believe there's at least some good stuff in Janne's studio that just needs to be reworked a bit. It would be nice to get inspired by them so much that we can build up full songs, but we'll see...


Tuska Festival isn't new to you. You've played here four times in the past, so my question is what kind of expectations do you have regarding your slot here this year? Would it be enough to get the old grin back on your faces if you spot some old farts in the audience, sending the signal that people haven't forgotten the band?

Tuple: I personally don't care who is in the audience as long as I can see some happy faces among the crowd. It's rewarding enough when you see all of those smiles in the crowd; they put a grin on your own face, too.

As you mentioned already, we've been four times at Tuska before, and I was thinking in the previous interview that we did prior to yours that every time we have played at this festival, I was like, "Wait a sec. The sun has always been shining and it's been pretty darn warm when we have played at Tuska."

Painfully warm at times even...

Tuple: Yes, painfully warm would be a fitting description indeed, even if that has never bothered me in the slightest. But then, this one question always seems to occur in my mind: Is our famous meteorologist from TV, who is widely known in Finland for digging metal music, among the audience and watching our performance?


Pekka Pouta in the pit, shaking his fist high, not completely sober and just having a good time... That would be quite a scene... ;o)


Marco: Now that would be awesome, very inspiring, no doubt.

Have any of your performances from the past stuck in your minds better than some others, for one reason or the other?

Marco: Truthfully, my attitude regarding getting a festival slot is pretty much like I don't care much where we will play if we can put forth a satisfying performance that pleases us because those are ones are the ones that stick in my mind. We have had quite a few of them over the years, which makes it hard for me to say which event I memorized better. In fact, it's almost the opposite. You'll surely remember if you have fucked up something badly during your performance and fortunately, I don't think we have sucked live too often, not at this festival for sure.

Tuple: I must agree with Marco and what he just said. I think there's something in the Finns' way of thinking that if you fuck up something when playing live, then you remember those shows way better for one reason or another instead than the ones that went really well. I am just trying to say when you play near perfect set and everyone is having a good time, both the band and people in the crowd, somehow those shows don't stick in mind so indelibly. I cannot explain why that is so.

Marco: Yes, and with experience comes good performances and when you have reached that point, you oddly get used to those good performances, so it's way harder to remember the positive shows than the ones that had some issues, either technical or performance related. You always tend to remember all those shows a bit better that went radically south. With our long history, I could say we are used to those good performances, which we have done a lot and hence it's difficult to pick your very best performances ever.

When you've played across many decades, you tend to create some sort of built-in memory when playing, correct?

Marco: Yes, you could say that, but in our case, we feel that we are still a bit "green" so to speak, especially now that we have decided to make this comeback after a break of many years.

Tuple: I remember when we had our first rehearsals like a year ago or so, preparing ourselves for the two comeback shows we did last year. We were amazed by how easily we got our shit together. So, in that sense you are right to say we all have this built-in memory because it wasn't that hard to relearn the stuff for the set list.

Marco: One other thing was when we finally got up on stage as a group, we noticed how thrilled and full of energy each of us was. We had forgotten how much fun playing gigs was. We enjoyed it so much that eventually we decided that those two shows weren't our last ones; we want to make more shows because playing live with Tarot felt immensely good after such a long break. The fire was burning in all of us again, and it felt darn good.


And all this happened at Sawohouse Underground, called "Old Farts Rock" event, on July 25 and 26, last year...

Marco: Yes, that was a special kick-start venue for our comeback and those two shows, especially the second gig, made us all realize we just had to do more shows.

The Tuska promoter, Jouni Markkanen, also played with his old band Warmath on the second day, and he immediately started pushing us to continue playing live and in the very same breath he had this weird grin on his face, which could only mean that he also wanted to get us to play at Tuska in 2024, too.


When talking about classic Tarot songs, it's no secret that what "Breaking the Law" represents for Judas Priest, "Wings of Darkness" basically represents the same for Tarot as it is one of the band's best-known numbers ever. How does it feel to play that song at Tuska for the 10,000th time? Do you ever get bored playing it?

Marco: Again, I'd say great because we haven't worn it out completely despite playing it like a zillion times before.


Marco: It's been smoothed quite a bit over the years since we first started playing it in the mid-eighties...


After this festival, you have some others coming up in Finland, like Tuhdimmat Tahdit, John Smith, and Kuopiorock. Did you select these few festivals because they are optimal for a band like Tarot to play, because I believe there are more organizers who would have welcomed Tarot to their own festivals...

Marco: We told our booking agency that it made no sense for us to play at any festival that wanted to book us. We only wanted to do some well-selected festival shows this year that made sense to us. Going to a festival with all kind of different genres didn't feel right for us at all.

Then, of course, my big brother Zachary has his own issues in his private life, so we had to take them into account as well. That's also one of the reasons we just picked up a few festival shows this year.


How does it feel to return to the stage again, after all these years? It took quite some time to decide on the optimal time to make your return due to the passing of the band's original skinbasher, Pecu Cinnari, Marco's commitments with Nightwish at the time, etc.

Tuple: From my point of view, when we did those two gigs last year, it all came down to the band chemistry, really. If you are in a band, it's very important that each band member is connected to each other 100% and when Pecu passed away, who was such an important part of the whole band spirit, chemistry, whatsoever, it took time to find a suitable replacement for him. He was such a big part of the whole Tarot family, making us like a close tribe. We simply couldn't replace him with some highly technical and skilled drummer because it had to be this character who would sit in his place with this certain, close "family feel," you know? We required all these things from our next drummer, so we were also lucky that we found such a person after a long search.

Marco: Yes, what Tuple just said, this next drummer had to have the same mindset as the rest of the guys in the band; his talent and technical skills wouldn't have been enough. After Pecu was gone, it took several years for us to find someone with that same vibe and feeling so everyone felt good to be in Tarot again. It wasn't that easy to reach that point at all I must say.


You'll also go to Spain this year to play at the Leyendas del Rock Festival. Was this slot easy to accept, and have you got any other offers from other countries?

Tuple: I have no idea how we got booked to Leyendas because our gig booking agency (Grey Beard Concert & Management) was the one that booked us to play at that festival.

Marco: ... and Kari Penttinen from Masterevents (, too. It's been cooperation from both sides, actually.

Tuple: I don't know if there have been more offers coming to our agency. It's their duty to ask us if we would be interested in doing this or that festival.

That's all you've got thus far for foreign festivals?

Marco: This year is pretty much closed for festivals, so jumping on the later train wouldn't be possible for us.

Tuple: Plus, Marco has a lot of going on with Tarja (Turunen), gigging-wise...

Marco: Yes, I have a headlining tour coming up with two bands in September this year. I was already doing some acoustic warm-up shows with Tuomas Väinölä in that part of the world in March this year and naturally it included a couple of duets with Tarja Turunen as well. I have some gigs coming up with her in the future, too.

Then, of course, I also have my solo band and we have a follow-up album coming, so it basically means I may do even more shows in South America, possibly next summer with my solo thing once we have released this new record.

So, in other words, I really should sit down with my mates in Tarot and plan our future steps a bit more, just to clarify our position. One thing will be going through some unfinished material in Janne's studio and then figuring out what we are going to do with all that stuff. Also, he's constantly busy with his main band Turmion Kätilöt, which we should not forget completely.

Tuple: Then, we'll have the 20th anniversary tour in December with the Raskasta Joulua project and my own solo band is currently working on our fourth studio album, so that will obviously keep me occupied quite a bit as well. It's kind of hard to say anything about Tarot's next steps at this point regarding the year 2025. But we'll see...

We have crossed the gigging topic in this discussion a couple of times already, I was just wondering whether some sort of a club tour in Finland could also be possible for Tarot as far as next year's activities are concerned.

Marco: Hmm... I would say it would be a lot of fun, but as I already mentioned, it would all depend on the limited time that my brother, Zachary, may have at that time due to his private life.

Tuple: Yes, and because of that, we might play on weekends only if that type of a club tour was meant to happen. At this point I don't believe it could be done during weekdays.

Marco: It should also be a profitable club tour both for the band and the organizers.

OK, my time is up, because Tarot fans need to know, will there be a new Tarot album at some point?

Marco: You need to ask the dude next door because he's got everything on his hard drive.

Janne: Everything's still in the air, you never know what will happen...

Marco: Let me just say that we'll definitely go through all the material that we can find on Janne's hard drive, just to see if there's anything that we seriously could start work on in the future. This much I can promise. We do have some unfinished, raw demo stuff that we skipped back in the day for one reason or another. Some of those parts have been used in Nightwish, some in Turmion Kätilöt, and some has stayed untouched for several years.

But anyway, we'll see what we can come up with from all that raw demo material, so that's all I've got to say regarding your question.

Janne: We won't leave any stone unturned...

Marco: ... just what the true soul of the band said.

[*intense laughter*]

Even a journalist's time is limited, so I want to thank you all for your time and wish you a very nice gig tonight.

Marco & Tuple: Thank you.

Janne: And I am sorry if I interrupted the conversation and confused you a little bit with my cryptic off-hand comments. ;o)

Other information about Tarot on this site
Review: Suffer Our Pleasures
Review: Stigmata
Review: Follow Me Into Madness
Review: Spell Of Iron
Review: Crows Fly Black
Review: Crows Fly Black
Review: Gravity of Light
Review: The Spell of Iron MMXI

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