HIM do not take themselves as seriously as one might imagine. Known for their somber, keyboard-laden songs and melodramatic lyrics about love and death, that last thing I expected from this Finnish rock act was bathroom humor instead of thoughtful, mature responses to my questions. Aside from the off-color jokes, the mood felt a bit tense on HIMís tour bus at Jones Beach in Wantagh, NY, where I conducted my brief interview. The group was a couple of hours away from their main stage performance on the Projekt Revolution tour, featuring Linkin Park, My Chemical Romance, Taking Back Sunday and other artists, and their bus had just pulled into the venue.
I spoke with brooding frontman Ville Valo and bassist Mige Amour about the tour, new album and the displeasures of life on the road as the rest of the band members and other personnel streamed in and out of the bus. Their comrade, MTV reality show star Bam Margera, was also there hanging out. Valo seemed on edge the entire time. The deep crooner exhibited frustration with the past few daysí events, his tobacco pipe and life in general.
HIM formed in the early í90s, winning over European audiences before making their mark in the States in recent years. Valoís good looks and rock star image also helped propel the band to cult status, especially among fans of the ďgothĒ genre, making girls swoon with his romantic, poetic, yet cryptic lyrics inspired by dysfunctional relationships and lovelorn agony. HIMís first album for Sire Records, Dark Light, was released in 2005 and earned them the distinction of becoming the first band from Finland to go gold in the U.S. In addition, their entire back catalog, previously only available on import, was re- issued. Their sixth studio album, Venus Doom, takes them in a heavier direction. Longer, dirge-y, more guitar-driven songs replace the sultry pop and radio-friendliness of past singles like ďRip Out The Wings Of A ButterflyĒ and ďKilling Loneliness.Ē Even the keyboards that have become a staple of their sound are diminished on Venus Doom, which like many records by hard rock artists past and present, is reminiscent of í70s metal pioneers Black Sabbath.
Despite the lack of enthusiasm I sensed on the bus that sunny afternoon, the Projekt Revolution tour has allowed HIM to bring their self-named ďlove metalĒ to a bigger and brand new audience, spreading their gloom and doom to rock fans all over the U.S. Perhaps HIMís headlining tour, which kicks off Oct. 18 at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ, will go more smoothly for them.
Howís the tour going so far?
Valo: A bit colorful. Well, just hopped onto the bus yesterday, Linde peed his pants, I switched from cigarettes to pipe tobacco, uh, Burton bought like, a poker game set, so we started playing poker for money, and what else? I havenít showered in like two and a half days. Thereís a lot of like, change in the air.
Amour: The best way to describe it is EEEEPPPPPPP. (Ville and Mige say simultaneously.) Thatís capital and then lower case capital.
Do you hang out with any of the other bands and if so, any good stories?
Valo: No we havenít. Itís like everybody seems to do their own promo and they travel, you know. We havenít even checked out My Chemical or Linkin Park playing yet, ícause the drives are pretty long, so like today, itís nine hours to get to Cleveland, so weíre just leaving straight after the gig. Weíre going to be there tomorrow and we have the day off, so itís easier for all of us. Weíd rather have a day off than check out media and stuff backstage. We get enough of that during our own tours, soÖ
2006 wasnít a good year for you. How is 2007 treating you so far?
Valo: Itís all bad.
Bam Margera: Everything is, except for asparagus.
Valo: Thatís not P.C.
Amour: That makes your pee stink. So I canít say that itís really a totally, absolutely good thing.
Valo: Yeah itís getting worse by the day. As you can see.
Valo: Well, I just told you what happened. Whatís been going on these past 48 hours. A bowel movement instead, his prostate movement is too liberal.
Valo: Do we have any poppy on the bus? (He taps tobacco pipe against the table to get ashes out.) Spectacular. (said sarcastically) I just wanna go back home.
If you could just do records and not have to tour, would you choose to do that?
Valo: Well touring is great when you donít have to... Itís weird because we spend a lot of time doing nothing. So, hopefully itís gonna be worth it, you know. Hopefully itís a good reminder for the people that we still do exist, and hopefully weíre entertaining them. I think itís fuckiní boring. Not the playing, the playing part is great. Thatís fun, but everything else is fuckiní shit.
I know you guys have said before that youíre influenced by Black Sabbath, and I noticed that on this album you went for more of a Sabbath-y sound than in the past, with longer, more jam type songs. Why did you decide to go in that direction this time around?
Amour: (Says matter of factly) It felt right.
Valo: Weíre getting older so itís harder to get an erection going.
Amour: Takes longer time, but in the end itís even more rewarding when it actually happens.
Valo: (Holds back laughter) You believe in that yourself...
Amour: Thatís what my therapist told me. I still didnít get an erection so this is all theoretical.
(Valo and Amour start cracking up, apparently guitarist Linde behind me just threw up in a bag.)
Valo: He just vomited.
Amour: Heís having a really, really bad day.
What is your favorite song from the new record?
Valo: I like the whole thing, but itís too new. It takes about a year and a half to be able to tour the songs and do the next album and then take a listen again and see the value. Thatís how it is with me at least.
What led to the decision to include ĎPassionís Killing Floorí on the Transformers soundtrack? The song is too romantic for robots I think.
Amour: Robots have feelings too.
Valo: At least in Blade Runner. Weíre big fans of robots in Blade Runner and science fiction anyway. Who fuckiní cares? They asked us for a song and we said yes, and so, thereís no downside to anything like that. If the soundtrack sells a lot of copies that means that many more people will know who we are. Some of them might like the song and might check out the album.
Amour: Once an entity becomes aware, it yields emotions as well. Just because itís a robot you know, peopleóthey think they are just machines. They think they shouldnít have emotions. You know, there could be robots who are aware... I guess we can live with it.
Valo: Yeah I can live with a lot of things, like you guys. So Iím fine with that. And Iím fine with nearly everything.
Do you feel pressure for this album to outsell Dark Light, since itís your second album being released in the States (not counting the imports that were re-issued)?
Valo: Well hopefully it does better, thatís all we can hope for. Of course we donít want it to do worse. So if it gives us the opportunity of making more music, taking some time off and maybe building a little kind of studio back in my home, you know, itís all like a, you know, live and prosper kind of thing. Prosperity and monetary things, you know. If it should happen to sell a zillion copies, you know of course it helps me not have to fuckiní think about (shaking pipe again, more violently, hitting it against the table, to get ashes out. Itís going to break any minute) when I wanna buy a new acoustic guitar. It gives us freedom.
All your songs are very personal, and the new record is one of your most personal yet. Which of the new songs was the most therapeutic for you to write for this record?
Valo: Well, ĎSleepwalking Past Hopeí for the whole band was just so creative. I wrote the basic ideas in Lapland so that was something new for me. The whole approach for getting the thing done was tainted with goo-ness.
I read that you were very influenced by Edgar Allan Poeís stories and poetry.
Valo: Well, I havenít read all of his stuff, you know?
Are those really his eyes tattooed on your back?
Valo: Yeah, sure. It looks like Iím paranoid enough to want to have a pair of eyes on my back, just in case, especially working with our record label here, you gotta be a bit paranoid. No no, heís a fascinating character. He wrote a lot of stuff so I havenít read all of it.
What do you want to say to the fans about the new record and your upcoming tour? Any last words?
(A long silence.)
Valo: Well, I think itís time for a new pipe. How about that?
Amour: Thatís a good one.
Valo: Nothingís done yet. Weíre not done with this tour; weíre not done with today. Iím not done. How about that?
HIM will be performing on Oct. 18 at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ and at Philadelphiaís Electric Factory on Nov. 31. For more info visit heartagram.com.
Valerie Angela Ciliento