Special report by Maria Nayef
Marco Hietala has always brought a kick-ass factor to NIGHTWISH since he joined the band in 2002, showcasing his brilliant musicianship on songs like The Islander as well as his versatile vocals that go from executing screams to the most tender of lyrics. Who can forget his wonderfully sinister singing on Scaretale, and that poignant ‘dream of me’ from the iconic Ever Dream?
Hietala, who turns 48 in January, shows no signs of slowing down and he continues to rock-out with passion, and style. After a mammoth world tour on the back of Imaginaerum, he spent November and December taking part in Finland’s popular Heavy Christmas shows and there’s also new TAROT in the works. His charisma and sense of humour have made him a favourite amongst Nightwish fans, and BraveWords had the pleasure to speak with the talented composer about the band’s hit double Blu-ray, DVD and CD that was recently released, just in time for Christmas.
Showtime, Storytime is a must-watch for any Nightwish fan, consisting of a spectacular live show and a revealing documentary. It is their first live DVD with new vocalist, Dutch diva FLOOR JANSEN, and was filmed at this year’s Wacken Open Air Festival in Germany in front of an audience of 85,000. The DVD has so far proved a great success for the band, cracking top ten charts around Europe upon its release, including Germany, France and the UK.
BraveWords: I watched Showtime, Storytime today and have to say the live show is absolutely brilliant. The production is amazing and hearing Floor sing 'She Is My Sin' and 'Romanticide' is a treat, and 'Bless The Child' is a highlight. From the moment she approaches the microphone, she’s in total command.
Marco Hietala: “Yes, I think her versatility is pretty exceptional, like a lot of things about her: the voice itself, her presence, and her ability to have such strength and willpower – I just love the way she does everything.”
BraveWords: The great vibe of the band on stage is very exciting to watch. Do you feel that with new members Floor and Troy Donockley, this live performance epitomizes Nightwish as it was always meant to be?
MH: “Yeah…it’s the first time, ever, that I’ve had such strong feelings. When we did the last show in M'era Luna in Germany, when the tour was over, I just hung around backstage for a while taking it all in, and then I was like, ‘Oh hell I have to go to the bus!’ It’s a personal chemistry thing, where different parts, different people, click very well.”
BraveWords: The audience at Wacken is really something to behold and Nightwish fans are no doubt very attached to this band – but you’ve had some dramas, and now a third vocalist. What do you think it is about Nightwish that has seen fans stick by you so strongly?
MH: “At least for my part, we’re very much aware of personal chemistry and how it affects people, and I think this chemistry that we have right now is worth something – and you’ve got to keep it, and keep it up. And then of course, there is the other side of the band, which is the musical side where it’s pretty much no compromise. On all the albums we’ve done, that I’ve been on of course, we do things that firstly we enjoy ourselves. There’s integrity there – but first this music has to please us. And then, the really great thing, is that it has also pleased a lot of people – and these are the kinds of things that we are not willing to give up.”
BraveWords: End Of An Era is such an iconic DVD in symphonic metal, every die-hard Nightwish fan has it. How do you feel about Showtime, Storytime within regards to End Of An Era – not comparing the two of course – but just your personal thoughts about the two shows?
MH: “I think this has a more down-to-earth approach. I mean End Of An Era was planned. We had figured out what kind of props we were going to have on stage – it was planned well, well far ahead. This time around, we actually only had the documentary in the works and we were only going to release that, and then at the start of the summer the Nuclear Blast guys came over and said: ‘Hey guys it would really be wonderful if you could have one of the live shows shot also’ and we were: ‘Aaah, who’s going to have the energy to put this together now? There’s only two months of shows left to go’ and in the end we thought, ‘OK, let’s try it, it would be nice to have this line-up immortalised, with the back catalogue and everything’ and in the end, it paid off. The surroundings at the festival, the audience, the show, everything was great. We got a really huge light show set up, pyros and screens and everything, and also, as a guy who was responsible for the sound production I thought: ‘OK, we have End Of An Era, this time around let’s make it so: concentrate on bringing the band really up-front, the guitar, the bass, the drums, the vocals, everything that happens live – and I think we managed to do that. And in my opinion – of course it might be because it’s us here and now – I like this more than End Of An Era.”
BraveWords: I wanted to ask about 'The Poet And The Pendulum' and if there was a particular reason why that song wasn’t performed?
MH: “Oh man, yeah. It was because it was a festival show and you don’t want to do too many of the, you know, long, epic songs. And we had already received such a great reaction for Ghost Love Score, so we figured we would stay with that one. Poet and the Pendulum was talked about, but we decided ‘let’s not go that far yet’ – but I imagine when we get some new stuff done and go on tour again, it might be heard.”
Please Learn The Setlist In 48 Hours is the title of the 120-minute documentary, which along with the live show, completes the Showtime, Storytime DVD. It chronicles the band’s massive world tour that began in January 2012, taking in trips to Europe, the US, South America and Australia, Jansen's arrival and her very first show. It is the first 15 minutes of the documentary however, that is brimming with emotion and drama, honing in on the now infamous gig in Denver in September 2012 where the band performed with Elize Ryd (AMARANTHE) and Alissa White-Gluz (THE AGONIST). Despite over a year having passed since that night, the raw emotions of that time still resonate highly with Hietala.
BraveWords: The first part of the documentary is emotional to watch. Powerful stuff.
MH: “Yeah, it was. It was pretty much like being in the pits of Hell. I like the whole honesty about the documentary. You don’t see fake people – it’s really raw – everyone is really raw with their emotions and that makes it even more real. We’ve all seen these gilded-up documentaries about things; I’m into the real thing.”
BraveWords: How stressed-out everyone was backstage really took me aback.
MH: “When Troy and Tuomas went on the stage to ask the audience what they wanted us to do, I was there, lurking in the shadows, and that was one of those moments where I had my heart in my mouth.”
BraveWords: I didn’t fully realize the severity of the situation until I actually saw the footage on the documentary.
MH: “It was priceless! I would not want to go through it again. When we got that raise of hands from the audience, the relief – it flooded everyone. There were 16–1700 people there that night, and only 6 or 7 left, so you could understand it was a pretty big boost of confidence.”
BraveWords: You said in the documentary that during the time Anette (OLZON) left, you don’t know how you pulled through it, and I remember on the 2009 documentary ‘Made In Hong Kong’ Tuomas also questioned whether or not he was going to continue the band. You’ve had a few crises over the years, but you always manage to get through them.
MH: “Yeah, that’s true.”
BraveWords: How have you been able to do that: come back and re-group, and evidently, stronger than you were?
MH: “Again it comes back to this personal chemistry. Of course people may say there might be some truth that there’s a nucleus for Finnish country boys (laughs) and I think Floor and Troy have come closest to being there already. I sort of found myself in a role where I had to look out for the other guys as well, but it’s no problem because that’s the kind of guy that I am. I like things to be easy and people to be happy. You also have to talk about things that matter to you. If someone has a problem it’s always better to talk about it rather than to let it lie and hope that it goes away. That way we pull together.”
BraveWords: So the communication lines are really open right now in Nightwish?
MH: “Pretty much, yeah. And I see people who have tremendous willpower to actually overcome obstacles and difficulties – and make things work. And I understand the value of keeping your feet on the ground and taking care of your friends.”
BraveWords: Tell me something about Nightwish fans. What do they mean to you?
MH: “Oh man (pauses) – it means that with the band we have made something worthwhile. And for a lot of people, we made something that actually made some of the moments in their life easier. So when they want to relax or want to get out and have some fun and go to one of our shows, it matters to them – and to some people it really matters a lot. So, what we’ve actually done together is something important for a lot of people, and it can actually, in some ways, seem more important to them than what it is at times to you, so it’s a mixed bag of feelings: it’s flattering, it’s wondrous, it’s also kind of scary sometimes, but it’s still absolutely great.”
BraveWords: When I arrived at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney in January to attend your show, somebody was walking past and asked ‘Who’s playing tonight?’ and a guy replied: ‘It’s a gothic, symphonic, folk, power, opera metal band from Finland…’ and I’m sure he had a few more names in there too!
BraveWords: Do you think it’s getting a bit out of hand, all these different terms in front of the word ‘metal’ to describe one band?
MH: “Yeah, it is getting a bit out of hand. Of course there’s a need to categorize things, to give things definition that help you understand what it’s about and try to define it – sometimes with a billion different things.” (laughs)
BraveWords: So if you were out and somebody asked you ‘What do you do?’ and you said: ‘I’m in a band called Nightwish,’ and they said: ‘what kind of music do you play?’ what would be the shortest answer you would give?
MH: “Well I would say it’s a symphonic rock band, that’s what I like to think of it as. It can be really sensitive, and then it can be really hard-hitting with parts that will sorely kick your buttocks (laughs).”
BraveWords: Can you tell us anything about the new record yet or is that something that will be revealed after you head to the summer camp next year?
MH: “Well basically we’ve only got the raw structure of the timetable. We’ve got the place booked for next summer in order to get there and before that we’re going to be demoing our stuff at our own places in the wintertime. Then we’ll get together next summer and start to rehearse, arrange and record. And we’re going to be bringing in a hell of a lot of equipment to that place! I’m pleased about the whole idea and prospect of doing new stuff.”
BraveWords: What are your plans for Christmas and are there any traditions in the Hietala household during the holidays?
MH: “Well, when the true holiday season comes around like Christmas Eve and Christmas day, I’m going to shut off the phone, lock the doors and stay with my clan. There’s also the usual thing of bringing in the tree – and hanging some huge red balls on it (laughs).”
BraveWords: Any Tarot news?
MH: “Actually later today I was planning on going over to Janne’s, the keyboard player’s studio, to go over some new riffs that we have, and work on some songs, so maybe after New Years it’s possible that we will start recording a new Tarot album as well.”
BraveWords: You’ve just only recently finished a gigantic world tour, and 2014 is already shaping up to be one busy year for you!
MH: “I’m already missing it. I wish the next summer will come soon so we can start rehearsals and the new stuff!”
BraveWords: And with Floor at the microphone, the possibilities for Nightwish are positively endless.
MH: “That’s for sure.”
For all things Nightwish visit Nightwish.com