After a decade-plus of doom, love and all things 666, Finnish heartagram rockers HIM have put all of their cards on the table with their latest full-length, Screamworks: Love In Theory & Practice, which dropped this week. Documenting the dissolution of a relationship, the album is a look at love through the distinct viewpoint of frontman VILLE VALO. So who better to tell us what went into it?
INTERVIEW: Nattalie Tehrani
How does it feel to have Screamworks finally released?
- Right now, I feel like shitting my pants every five minutes because I'm nervous about what people are going to think about the album. I just feel like the stars were aligned on this one, and it's a good portrayal of where the band are at the moment. I can say I'm very happy with how the album turned out.
This album is very different from Venus Doom. With each album, do you feel as though you change as a person like an actor changes with every role?
- I think it's just natural. You know, when you tour and write an album and you start working on the next, it's very natural. Usually you're headed for something different. Organically, something just happens. You grow up and things change and the world changes and you're just trying to filter it and make it into an album.
Did any books, works of art or films influence this album?
- I've read a ton of stuff, but then again, I've never read an author and been inspired in a way for me to write a song. Even though I did some wild things in my youth, I still have a fairly good memory. I have a good hard drive, even though there might be some defragmentation, but I pull stuff from there when writing. I think the sweetest thing is when it happens naturally; you have something going on within you that you can't explain in words, so that's when you pick up a guitar and try to explain yourself emotionally. That's the sweet part about making music. That's why we keep making music.
You just have to pour your guts into it.
- There's really no alternative way--especially nowadays. It could have been different in the '80s, but you don't go into music because you want to get rich. I mean, with all of the downloading going on, [being a musician isn't] the easiest way to become rich. I guess that downloading has brought out the ethical side of rock 'n' roll. It's taking a lot of the weeds out of the business. So it's not all bad.
Do you ever self-edit and save something for yourself?
- Songs are like puzzles to me; there are a lot of different sentiments and a lot of different rhymes and multiple stories and you won't necessarily hear it. It might sound like a simple tale about a broken heart. Usually I have a lot more stuff going on in there, and if I would say things in a very direct fashion, I think it would become mundane and boring. I like that there is something over-the-top [about our music]. There needs to be fire and brimstone. It needs to be very Biblical, [but] not in a religious way.
The music definitely creates a lot of depth.
- For me it does. There's so much going on in my head when I'm writing a song. I can't put all the information down in a four-minute rock song. I need to edit stuff down, and try to figure out the key words. It's complicated, but it's the first time someone has asked me about it, so I got to give you props for that.
This album has such a beautifully melancholic outlook on love. Do you personally view love as a dark aspect of life that can bring joy and pain at the same time?
- When things are really happy and simple in life, that's love. Or when you're sitting at home with your guitar. Melancholic? Maybe. Hopefully not depressing. "Wistful" would be a good word to describe it. I could be a bit pessimistic about it at times. Maybe I've just had bad luck with it in the past. Who knows? Maybe we will get it there some time. But that's life. I like to keep it a mystery.
The cover art for this album is beautiful; is there a story behind the figure named "Saint Scream"?
- Thank you! A lot of people don't get it at all. Some people really like it. It has a lot of meaning for me. I wanted the album to be fresh. I wanted it to have an '80s new wave, English vibe to it: A Siouxsie And The Banshees poster rock vibe mixed up with optical illusions and an Andy Warholian vibe. Musically, I like it if there is a combination of rock and art. Nowadays, people don't remember that 99 percent of people are looking at the cover of a CD on their iPods while they're listening to the album. I wanted to have a lot of information in that small space. I wanted the album to be two-dimensional, to fuck with your head. That's why I like the optical illusion of it. Then there's the philosophical outlook on it. You get a lot of mixed emotions and can't look away from it.
You've said that while writing this album, you were a hermit. Does being alone ever get to you?
- It's tough to say because I've just been a good boy. I hang out with a couple of good friends because we don't get to see each other that often and we have a blast. I'd rather save my energy for that--especially because we tour so much and we're in a different city every day for months and months. We get to see a lot of the world. So it's nice when I have the opportunity to just sit back and enjoy the day and watch a movie, play the guitar and have coffee.
You've said that the concept of balance in life to you is the same as the concept of heaven to Christians. Do you feel as though you've come closer to maintaining balance?
- I think it's now more about the search for finding the perfect imbalance. I find it fascinating that there is drama and there is mystery and that there are unexpected things happening. I don't like my life being controlled and the same old, same old. It's just repetitive and boring. I don't like that. Through what I do, I have the opportunity to meet a lot of different people around the world and see great theaters and different clubs and venues. The tiny, little imperfections make the perfections. To be in search of equilibrium or a happy medium, it's not in the center. There has to be a little fight in there, a little struggle so you know what's right and what's wrong. [Otherwise] you just end up being a zombie and go forward thinking you're right about everything. But one shouldn't search for hardship on purpose. I think the world is such a messed-up place that you don't really have to go searching for little hardships here and there. But that's why there's so much to write about, and the magic is still there. I like to keep it like that, not so scientific.
What do you see for yourself in the future?
- You never know: I might wake up one day and want to go back to school. I'm already working on new music. There will definitely be a next HIM album, but it's one little step at a time. I spent two years working on this album with the guys, and it just came out [this week]. You have to be patient. Good things come to those who wait. It's just one of those things. Here in Finland, we say, "The more you eat, the hungrier you get."