TARJA TURUNEN Says She Has ‘A New Relationship’ With Former NIGHTWISH Bandmate MARKO HIETALA: ‘Life Has Changed Us’

In a new interview with Thiago Rahal Mauro of Brazil’s Metal Musikast, Tarja Turunen spoke about what it was like to team up with her former NIGHTWISH bandmate Marko “Marco” Hietala to perform a cover of “The Phantom Of The Opera” during their special open-air concert in July 2023 at Z7 Summer Nights in Pratteln, Switzerland. Tarja and Marko both played individual sets at the event, with their rendition of the main theme from Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s musical coming during Turunen‘s portion of the show.

“I got a call from a promoter to take part in one festival in Switzerland last year in a European summertime in July,” Tarja said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET). And then I got to know, when I had accepted to be the artist of the evening, then I saw that they had also invited Marko and Marko‘s band to perform in the same festival. So I thought, ‘Hmm.’ And I was actually sending a message that I wished to reach Marko, because I didn’t have his contact any longer, to ask him to perform with me ‘The Phantom Of The Opera’ in my show. And he responded ‘yes.’ So, after 18 years [laughs], we were about to sing the song together. And it was super exciting. It was really beautiful. The people got very emotional about this.

“We had met already before — we had been singing on a few occasions in Finland a few years before — so we kind of cleaned the table on that occasion already,” she explained. “So we were in good terms, so to say, but now singing ‘The Phantom Of The Opera’ together after all these years was amazing. So we did it twice, actually — we did it in Switzerland and then in Finland. And now we are going to do it — that and a lot more [laughs] — there in Brazil [during our upcoming joint tour].”

Tarja also elaborated on her friendship with Marko, saying: “It’s a new relationship with him, because he’s not the same person anymore than he was in the band. He has changed a lot, and many years have passed by. I’ve changed myself. Life has changed us. So it is a new relationship, let’s say. And it had made me very happy to get to know him better after all these years.”

Last November, Tarja admitted to Chaoszine that she was “nervous” before performing “The Phantom Of The Opera” with Marko at Z7 Summer Nights. “I believe that he was nervous as well to meet up with me, but we were both very excited to go back to the stage and to sing the song,” she said. “We sang ‘Phantom Of The Opera’ in Switzerland for the first time. Then we went over to Finland to perform it again, did a show together there — he with his band and me with my own. Wow. It was pure emotion. I think it was really beautiful, but it made me kind of… I was, like, ‘I’m in peace,’ sort of. The feeling was great. I think it was even more for Marko, because I saw him standing there after my concert, when I finished my set, and he came like almost in tears, saying that this was important. We reconnected, and it’s great. Now I’m really looking forward to have this tour [with Marko] in South America in March [2024], and I’m sure you will see something else happening also. Yeah, you’ll hear.”

Turunen was fired from NIGHTWISH at the end of the band’s 2005 tour by being presented with an open letter which was published on the NIGHTWISH web site at the same time. In the letter, the other members of NIGHTWISH wrote: “To you, unfortunately, business, money, and things that have nothing to do with emotions have become much more important.”

NIGHTWISH keyboardist and main songwriter Tuomas Holopainen later called the decision to part ways with Turunen “the most difficult thing I ever had to do.” For her part, Tarja said the way she was kicked out of the group proved that her former bandmates were not her friends. “Maybe one day I’ll forgive, but I will never forget,” she said.

In 2019, Turunen dismissed Internet chatter about her possible return to NIGHTWISH after her December 2017 onstage reunion with the band’s then-bassist/vocalist Hietala during a “Raskasta Joulua” concert in Hämeenlinna, Finland.

“I know a lot of fans would love to see something happen, but it’s a very long distance away,” she told Kerrang! magazine. “Personally, I don’t see anything happening with me and them, to be perfectly honest. Marko came a little later into the band; he wasn’t there since the beginning. He was always a guy I was close to. Me and Tuomas Holopainen, however, haven’t seen each other in a long time… but we have been in touch. It’s not bad. The past is what it is; we can’t change that. We can only change the future.”

NIGHTWISH‘s authorized biography, “Once Upon a Nightwish: The Official Biography 1996-2006”, was published in Finnish in 2006 and in English three years later.

Turunen‘s husband, Marcelo Cabuli, and his business partners later sued the parties behind the book for defamation. Named in the lawsuit were the publishing house Like Kustannus Oy and the author of the book, Marko “Mape” Ollila. Cabuli and his Brazilian business partners argued that the book includes false accusations and insinuations that have caused them suffering and financial problems.

The book blamed Cabuli for the events leading up to Turunen‘s dramatic expulsion from the band in late 2005.

In 2011, the Helsinki District Court dismissed Cabuli‘s lawsuit, ruling that the book — which criticized Cabuli on only a few of its 380 pages — did not detrimentally affect his work or reputation in South America. In addition, the court determined that Ollila did not maliciously portray Cabuli in a negative light.

Nearly two years ago, Tarja was asked in an interview with Top Link Music manager and concert promoter Paulo Baron and music critic Regis Tadeu if she would consider doing a tour with NIGHTWISH if all of her former bandmates apologized to her about how their split happened and invited her to share the stage with them again. She responded: “It is very, very hypothetical that all what you said will happen, first of all — it’s very, very hypothetical.

“I’m living in a world, like we are all living in a world, that things happen without us noticing,” she continued. “I mean, I can’t really close any doors in that sense; I’m not that kind of person any longer. I learned so many things in this life already. I take them as they are.

“So I don’t know. It would be very hypothetically possible,” she added. “It would be unlikely to happen.”

Hietala announced his departure from NIGHTWISH in January 2021, explaining in a statement that he hadn’t “been able to feel validated by this life for a quite a few years now.” He has since been replaced by session bassist Jukka Koskinen (WINTERSUN),who made his live debut with NIGHTWISH in May 2021 at the band’s two interactive experiences.

In an August 2022 interview with Finland’s Chaoszine, Hietala revealed that he went through a dark period in his life, which included depression, insomnia, anxiety and an eventual attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis. Speaking about how he eventually came to the realization that exiting NIGHTWISH was the right thing to do, Marko said: “It was a long process. Of course, the COVID year that was there, where I had a lot of time for soul searching, it obviously gave me the last incentive that I need something else, that if I just continue with this I’m just gonna get sicker and sicker. But, of course, it’s a process.

“I’ve been chronic depressive since 2010 [or] 2011, so I’ve been on a permanent medication ever since,” he revealed. “Sometimes you get used to the meds [and] you will need more. We did raise [the dosage] during the years also, but it just didn’t work. And now that I started to do… I had psychotherapy for over four years now, and then I also talked to psychiatrists and some doctors and did that also in Spain. Then my psychiatrist here in Finland said that I should do these ADHD neuropsychological tests, which I then did in Spain. And, okay, I got it.”

Hietala reiterated that he “had been thinking about” leaving NIGHTWISH “for a while” before making the final decision. “Because I had a lot of weight. And I tend to… With the attention disorder, it tells me that when there are lots of trouble, then the disorder makes it into a real chaos,” he explained. “There’s a shitload of stuff coming and going and no peace anywhere. And for a year or two, I was already waking up every night at three o’clock to bad dreams and anxiety. So I’d say that the whole process probably started already with my former divorce [in 2016]. That was a very sad time when you think about your kids and your broken homes and all that. And then, when I started to get clear from that, then there were, well, all kinds of things. I don’t really wanna go any deeper to what kind of things I’d gone through, but I’d gone through enough.”

Acknowledging that making NIGHTWISH‘s latest studio album, 2020’s “Human. :II: Nature.”, was a “difficult” experience for him, Marko denied that his mental state at the time resulted in a diminished role for him on the final LP. “I think the original idea was to have that… we’ll do a couple of [solo vocal appearances], or one solo for me and Troy [Donockley], and the rest Floor [Jansen], and then the harmonies; that was the idea originally for that,” he said. “So I don’t know if it affected. I think it was sort of as planned. But at that time I already had serious trouble with concentrating and serious trouble with a constant black cloud over my head.”

In July 2022, Hietala told Finland’s Iltalehti that he had not kept in touch with NIGHTWISH since his departure or followed the activities of his former band.

In May 2021, Holopainen said that Hietala‘s decision to leave NIGHTWISH “came as a bit of a surprise.” He told Finland’s Kaaos TV: “Marko informed us in December [of 2020 that he was leaving the band]. And even though he has been very open about his state and problems during the past years, it still came as a bit of a surprise for us. So it was a really tough pill to swallow. And for a few days, I was actually quite confident that there’s no coming back, that this is it. I remember talking to Emppu [Vuorinen], the guitar player, and we were, like, ‘You think this is it?’ ‘Yeah, I think this is it.’ I mean, enough is enough. So much has happened in the past. Something that broke the camel’s back, as they say. Then, after some time had passed — a few days — we started to think that it’s been such a ride of 25 years, with so many ups also, that this is not the way to end it.”

Tuomas elaborated on NIGHTWISH‘s reasons for carrying on, saying: “I think we still have something to give, and that’s the main point. The music is still there. We felt that there’s still so much music that needs to come out from this band that, ‘Okay, let’s give it one more shot.’ And then finding the new bass player was really easy.”

He added: “It’s not like we do this just because we need to do it and there’s nothing else to do. On a personal level, I feel that there’s still so many stories and melodies that I want to share with the world with one lineup or another, so that’s why you want to continue and keep on going.

“I’ve said this a million times, that a lineup change is the ultimate energy vampire, and that’s how it really felt and still feels.”

In June 2021, Jansen spoke about Hietala‘s exit from the band in an episode of her “Storytime” YouTube video series. She said: “That was a very sudden surprise that, of course, was not fun at all. But we understand — I understand — it was a necessary thing for him to do. And from there, we had to think of how to continue without him, and that also, in preparations towards the virtual show, that was a huge challenge.”

In December 2020, Hietala was crowned the winner of the fall 2020 season of “Masked Singer Suomi” — the Finnish edition of the popular masked singing contest. He was disguised as Tohtori — the Doctor.

In the summer of 2021, Holopainen said that NIGHTWISH would split up if the band’s current singer Floor Jansen ever chose to leave. Holopainen, who formed NIGHTWISH in 1996 with guitarist Emppu Vuorinen and Turunen, made the comment while discussing the departure of Hietala.

Pressed by U.K.’s Metal Hammer magazine about his 2019 statement that NIGHTWISH would disband if another member opted to depart, Tuomas said: “That’s how I felt back in 2019, and that’s also how I felt when Marko left. I take my words back when it comes to that. But if it would be Floor leaving, that’s it, it’s the end of NIGHTWISH. Absolutely, 100%.”


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