Finnish goth-rockers HIM became superstars with the hugely successful Love Metal album and are now about to release its follow-up, Dark Light.
musicOMH took the opportunity to catch up with garrulous frontman Ville Valo while he was on a promotional trip to London.
Although he was a little drained after a hard morning’s guitar shopping, he had enough energy to chat about HIM’s new record over a drink in his hotel’s bar.musicOMH: You’ve got a new album coming out. Was it hard work making it after the success of Love Metal? Were you thinking: ‘What the hell do I do now?’
Ville: You know, when I was a bit younger I got worried about those things… But I think that giving things time to breathe helps a lot. For example, I’ve been writing a couple of [new] songs already!
musicOMH: How did you find recording the album in LA?
Ville: It was just something we did. We recorded one album in Wales; we’ve mixed stuff in LA before; we’ve mixed stuff in London; and we’ve done a lot of recording back at home in Helsinki. We wanted to spend our time in a residential spot so the whole band could live and breathe the album. That’s all I needed so that’s why we got the old mansion.
musicOMH: Of all the great rock music coming out of Finland these days, HIM’s seems to capture the Finnish spirit most – do you think that’s true?
Ville: Yeah! I grew up with Finnish folk music like Tapio Rautavaara. My parents loved that stuff, so it’s something I sucked in – mothers milk, so to speak. In the early ’90s I was wondering, ‘Where does all that Soundgarden grunge thing come from?’ Then, really late on, I understood the value of Black Sabbath. That got us the idea of forming a band.
I’ve always liked lovelorn songs as well as the hard-hitting AC/DC kind of thing, so we didn’t want to restrict ourselves musically or artistically. When we started playing as a band one of the first songs we ever played together was Wicked Game by Chris Isaak and I think that song has that Finnish quality. I still consider that ‘Finnish-ness’ very important – that Scandinavian melancholy. Finnish people, especially, are a bit more influenced by the Russian and Eastern European things, where all the traditional stuff is so sad – and you know that sad music tends to make Finnish people happy! They never want to listen to that happy-go-lucky stuff [laughs].
- Ville Valo on the low likelihood of HIM writing happy songs.
musicOMH: I’ve heard a rumour that one song in particular from the new album, Face Of God, might be giving listeners an important indication of where HIM’s music is going next. Tell us about it.
Ville: That’s one of the first songs I wrote on the album and one I did a demo of [for the band] that sounded more folky. Now we’ve recorded it and it sounds like… [He pauses to think]… It sounds like a Satanic Bee Gees! It’s like Achtung [Baby]-era U2 with the Queens Of The Stone Age meeting the Satanic Bee Gees. I wanted it to sound a bit more layered, a bit more textured, in that U2 kind of way. There’s more ear candy and it’s got that very intimate stadium sound, if you know what I mean.
musicOMH: The new single, (Rip Out The) Wings Of A Butterfly, is very catchy and upbeat, but what’s the title all about?
Ville: I have no idea what the f**k it’s all about! [Laughs.] No, I read about some ancient myth or legend – I can’t remember but it wasn’t a Finnish one – saying that immortal souls have the wings of a butterfly. So I was thinking, for me, it was more about “rip out the wings of a butterfly for your soul”. I was thinking: ‘Are you willing to destroy your past and burn some bridges down to be able to step up to the next level, in a relationship or even spiritually?’
- Ville Valo on one of HIM’s new tracks, Face Of God. And we thought there was no other kind of Bee Gees…
musicOMH:Do you ever write songs in Finnish?
Ville: I tried to, back in the day, but it’s very hard! Most Finnish lyricists are masters in their art. Most of the Finnish stuff is very based on lyrics… It’s a hard competition and I didn’t want to participate! English is easier, because it’s the global language of rock ‘n’ roll. There are so many s**tty lyrics that get released that I never feel ashamed as there’s always somebody doing it worse than me! All that stuff on Top Of The Pops for example.
musicOMH: I read that there’s a song with a full-blown choir on the new album. Could you tell us some more about that?
Ville: Oh dear! [He pauses, trying to remember, then laughs.] Oh yeah, I’m always exaggerating! The ‘choir’ was the band, the producer and the engineer singing drunkenly on a part of the chorus of a song called Night Side Of Eden. That was the choir – the drunken HIM!
- Ville Valo on the advantage of writing in English instead of Finnish.
musicOMH:Congratulations on your recent engagement by the way. I see you’ve got quite an interesting alternative to an engagement ring…
Ville: Yeah, it’s a tattoo [he holds up a tattoo of the letter J on his ring finger; his fiance's name is Jonna]. We’ve known each other for years and years, and we’ve lived together for the past two years – it felt right.
musicOMH:Have you set a date? Is it going to be a big rock ‘n’ roll wedding or a quiet affair?
Ville: We haven’t set a date [yet] ’cause we’re going to be on tour till at least the end of 2006 and there’s no time to have a proper honeymoon. I’ve got some kooky ideas about the wedding – we’ll see! In a way it’s going to be a marriage between heaven and hell, so no worries!
musicOMH:Do you think being a married man will change your music?
Ville: Well, every pint of beer changes your music, every day you live changes your music, so it’s hard to say. But it’s definitely not going to be some sissy, poppy, naff crap! It’s still going to be dark as f**k…