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Marco Hietala, Nightwish interview – Download 2016

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I spoke to Nightwish bassist, Marco Hietala briefly at Download festival not long before the band played the main stage.

So, Nightwish are playing the main stage today at Download, just before the headliners, Iron Maiden – a good spot on the bill.

It seems like it yes, we just have to pull off a good show and I think all will be well. 

Well if you do as good a show as you did at Wembley then I think Iron Maiden might struggle to follow you.

Let’s not go that far.

It’s been a big year or so for Nightwish.  This time last year you had the first Nightwish cruise in Finland. How did you enjoy it?

The cruise was fun.  You take a ship then you get a bar/restaurant environment which can hold around 1000 people, something like that, so it turns into more like a club show.  Theres also all kinds of stuff happening on the ship that has something to do with the band. The shows were really good because I really like the club environment anyway.  It’s what everyone else says – it’s more intimate and you get a really good connection and feedback from the audience which makes you put a little bit more into the show so you get a really nice thing going back and forth. 

I really enjoyed the second show on the cruise which was your acoustic set with Troy.  It was an interesting choice of covers, starting off with Pink Floyd.

Well me and Troy have a history of liking certain Prog bands.

In December you sold out Wembley arena, which is double the size of Brixton academy where you’ve played before.

That’s true. Now that was an achievement for the band and I guess personal achievement for everybody as well. The UK with the language difference has been a hard market for us to get into traditionally, so to be the first Finnish band to headline Wembley and also to sell out wembley, yeah it was a big thing to achieve.

It was also the first time you’ve brought the full stage show over to the UK which made it even more impressive.

There’s a lot of thought put into that show, and all the screen material and whatever pyros and everything, so all the better that we were finally able to bring that over.

You’ve obviously got to be careful to stand in the right places when pyro goes off to avoid an accident.

Yes, it’s warm enough up there when things go off.  We are pretty much aware of where these things are going to happen, which ones and how much, and they’re printed down on the setlist that you have somewhere around on the stage, so if you stay sharp enough it’ll be good.

You’ve also started doing your own Nightwish festivals too. Was it something you just thought would be fun to do with bands you like?

Yeah that what’s happened last year when we did the two in Finland, and this year one more, as a tour end kind of thing.  We’ve still got a few shows to do in different places though.  I don’t know, it’s something that management and the band started to talk about, and having a few of the bands that we know people from and know them to be good. It was a no-brainer really when we got down to it.

The band is going to be taking a break next year.  Are you going to be getting some rest, or doing something with Tarot?

I’m going to get some rest first, but there are plans of course for different things.  With Tarot it’s hard because we’ve got one guy who is really sick at the moment and we’re not really sure how this will go.  For a band where most of the guys have been together for 30 years almost, well we’re not going to be changing lineup till we’re certain of things, and probably not even after that.

I think with some people, the perception of Nightwish is that Tuomas goes off and comes back having written a new album and the rest of you then just record it, but I’m sure there’s more to it than that.  How much involvement do you actually have?

Actually quite a lot. Obviously Tuomas writes most of the songs and lyrics but there are four or five songs on the latest album where I got music written, a couple where I got some lines of lyrics written, and then when we get together to rehearse and arrange, everybody has their say.  Every democracy has their president and Tuomas, he’s not a dictator or tyrant – everybody has their say.  When you write songs with keyboards you cannot really tell if something is uncomfortable for a bass player to play, so sometimes things will have to be changed that way, but there’s also the fact that we have really free sharing of ideas in the rehearsal room so anybody can come up with something and we’ll try it out and see if it works, and that how it goes.

I was impressed you managed to do “The greatest show on earth” live – when I heard the album that was a song I didn’t expect to hear live as I thought it was too complex.

Well it took a few rehearsals..

Of course you now have Floor in the band, and she’s got a much more metal presence.

Yes she’s got a very strong presence, I’m not sure if it’s metal or what it is but it’s strong, and she’s got the voice with an almost inhuman strength.  There’s a lot of admiration in the band for her.

If your voice goes when you’re on tour, she can even do the growls for you.

Well there’s that too.  Actually some of the growls on the album, I was doing the melody and she was doing the growls.

It must be difficult with Nightwish albums – every time you release one it’s the best you can do at that time, which then leaves you with a real challenge to do something better for the next one.

Yes, but I don’t think we’re going to let that affect things.  So far the albums have been successful because of the open minded no recipe thinking, and that’s what we’re going to be doing in the future, so there’s no strings or any kind of constraints on us for the writing of the music.  Basically all the albums have been done at the times they were done, so that will affect the music or lyrics. You do the best you can with the things you have at the time.

Saying about open-mindedness, with Imaginaerum I think that really showed as you did something that was totally different to anything you or anyone else had done before, it was unexpected and the result was a really differnt and brilliant album.

You’ve got to have the element of surprise because if you don’t have that then the whole thing will go stale.  At least that’s my opinion.  It’s always good to find things we haven’t done before and go for it.

Richard Dawkins appearing on the latest album and on stage at Wembley – that was a surprise.

That was a little bit surreal – the stage appearance, but it happened.  Also the whole album thing and the themes it’s got with evolution and biology. Getting him along was a big thing.

Thank you very much for your time.

Ant May
I spend half my life at gigs or festivals and the other half writing the reviews and editing photos, and somehow find time for a full time job too. Who needs sleep - I've got coffee.