Interview with HIM by Avelina de Moray and Von Lehmann
We arrived at Villeís hotel at 1.45 pm and waited for Natasha ( Warner Musicís publicity organizer ) to take us up to the interview room. Whilst we waited in the lobby, Ville Valo wandered past us, pausing only for a second to say hello before disappearing into the lift A short time later Natasha came down and took us up to meet Ville and Mige. As I set up my dicta phone, Ville got up to refill his coffee, It was then that a young assistant helpfully obliged to fill Villeís cup and accidentally spilt hot coffee over Villeís hand.
For a second there was nothing but stunned silence in the room, which was then broken by Ville ď Itís OK, donít worry about itĒ. The young girl began apologizing profusely and Ville had to calm her down. This accident would mark the start of my thirty minute chat with Ville and Mige from Finnish ĎLove Metalí band HIM.
HIM interview, Sydney 25/3/2008
Von: In regards to song writing and arranging, is there a particular method that you use?
Ville: It kind of keeps on changing, it seems that each and every albumís a bit different. You know, for most of the basic ideas, I just play around with my acoustic guitar back home and when Iím happy with what I hear, I record stuff, like you know, on the dictating machine, you know, just a couple of ideas , and then I play the ideas to the rest of the guys at the rehearsal place and then we kind of like........plug the electric instruments in and put on the distortion and it sounds like HIM, instantly. So itís fairly simple, and at the same time fairly ah.................
Ville: Complex, you know itís just, weíve been doing this for such a long time, we try to obviously find something that................
Von: So do you do everything as a unit?
Ville: After the basics are done, yeah........... Iím more or less like a benevolent dictator. You know........Song writing for me........ Is sort of like an emotional process, itís has always been. Itís very important to me. And since I write the lyrics and sing the lyrics, itís very important for me to try and maintain the essence, you know, the mood of the song........and then they (Ville points to Mige) fuck it up! ............We know each other very well, and the way we play our instruments and all that, so.
Von: Are you careful not to step on toes.
Ville: No you donít have to be careful.
Mige: Not anymore.
Ville: Not any more. You know........every songís a challenge in a way......... some songs might take fifteen minutes and their done, some songs might take seven years till their done, so........you canít necessarily hear it. You know itís funny.
Von: Yeah well, when someone gets the CD and theyíre listening to it for the first time, they donít realize that thereís years and years of work that has gone into it.
Ville: And something complex can be something that we did in a very short period of time.
Von: Youíve got a much more progressive sound on the new album, was it very conscious to go in that direction?
Mige: No, it wasnít like, conscious. I donít think things like that are never really like, conscious. Itís not like, before you start working you decide, thatís ok, we know weíre gonna have full on guitar solos.
Ville: Itís kind of cool to have an overall frame. You have a certain idea in your head, you donít necessarily have the songs, but ah, you know, for example with ĎDark Lightí, we wanted to keep most of the songs fairly, you know, compact and fairly simplistic and straight, song writing wise, so as not to do something very different. On the new album, we just let the riff go and see where it takes you. And that ended up being, you know, ĎSleepwalking Past Hopeí.
Ville: To me it reminds me of ĎHappy chill Vibeí, some proggy stuff of theirs, then again a lot of ĎSamsoní and a bit of ĎHawkwindí and bits and pieces of all the people we adore and musicians we adore. Usually, an album is a refection upon the one before, more or less, so, you know, in that sense, the next albums probably gonna be like ..............philosophies of love, pure pop in major chords and all the songs are gonna last like two minutes and ten seconds, (laughs all around) I honestly donít think we would go more proggy and do even longer songs, or........
Ville: In my head now is that itís gonna be a ĎMisfitsí kind of vibe, you know, in a way thatís, less chords............ more in your face and ......say what you wanna say, as in, you know, with as little words as possible, which is a challenge in itself, minimalism is always a challenge. And still in our case, that doesnít mean that itís gonna sound like ĎThe Misfitsí or that itís gonna be recorded on a four track in four days. Probably, you know, itís gonna be a bigger production than that, but still, you know, thatís a vision I had in my head, a bit more ĎMonster Magnetí, you know, a bit more Ďgaragyí , ĎType-Oí, in yaí face vibe, cause thatís something we havenít really done, we did small pieces of it on ĎLove Metalí, or maybe a bit more into the faster, kind of, punky direction, that would be something really nice. Weíre getting so old; we need something, to sort of like, get us going.
Von: And coffeeís not enough!
Ville: Definitely not enough.
Mige: No, no, no. Not even close
Avelina: Do you take sugar in your coffee?
Ville: No, no, just as it comes.
Avelina: I need seven sugarís or I canít drink it.
Ville: Whoa! seven, oh god no. No.
Mige: Did you ever try, I donít know if itís an Australian thing, they put like sugar cubes on a saucer and then you drink coffee through it.
Avelina: That sounds like Absinthe.
Mige: Finnish Grannies do it. If youíre into sugar, you should try that method. Thatís the ultimate sugar coffee.
Von: The general sort of mood that you always have running throughout your songs, this mood of, you know, the Ďmelancholiaí type of atmosphere thatís there. Do you find it difficult to stay it that place?
Mige: I find it easy.
Ville: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I find it very hard to get out of it. We come from a fairly desolate, you know, cold country which musically denudes the Slavic melancholy, whatever you call it, thereís a lot of Russian influences, a lot of the traditional pop music, folk music, Finnish music is very melancholy. Itís very passionate and kind of like............wasteful and full on, not in a negative or depressive sense, but...........this is the kind of stuff I grew up with, I canít stand happy music. Sad massive doomy, gloomy music makes me feel good. Makes my day. Makes me want to eat ice cream. (laughs all around).
Von: Ok, now thereís a couple of things on the net I want to clarify, something about a ĎJames Bondí movie and you writing the theme song?
Ville: Oh that was just a rumor, you know, about me being involved in writing the ĎQuantum of Solaceí which would be a great song title but, ah, unfortunately itís just a rumor........ I was at a party in London, and those guys that have been doing the theme songs for the Bond movies were there, but I didnít get the chance to meet them so it was just a rumor that Iíd been talkiní with them.
Quantum of Solace............. It would have been a great thing for the band or for me personally. We grew up watching Bond movies and theyíre changing their direction as well, you know, so, it would have been great, you know, maybe next time around, I guess Amy Winehouse was sober enough to do it this time Ďround.
Von: Is she doing it?
Ville: Thatís the last thing I heard, but she relapsed so itís hard to say. Iím a big fan of Amy, Iíve heard everything from her, Itís kind of like stalker-ish, I know all the pubs where she goes to in London.
Von: In regards to covers that you guys have done over the years.......... ĎSolitary Maní, ĎWicked Gameí. How do you decide, like, is there any sort of particular reason for choosing one cover over the other four hundred million covers that are out there?
Ville: We had couple of our songs, a couple of ideas that didnít sound that good, that werenít fully formed, and Iíd just seen ĎWild at Heartí by David Lynch..........and Chris Isaakís ĎWicked Gameí was the theme song for the movie, I guess it was my idea just to try it out, to make a hard rocky version of it, then people started loviní it and when we started playing our first gigs, we didnít have enough of our own material so weíd played a few covers, we played Madonnaís ĎLive to tellí we played sets of eighties stuff, Berlinís ĎTake My Breath Awayí, you know, really cheesy ballads. Madonnaís ĎLive To Tellí translates really well into ĎDoomí, a ĎMy Dying Brideí sort of thing.
Von: Do you ever change the words at all?
Mige: Of course not. Weíre not into that, Gender bending never helped anybody.
Von: Ok, the whole Edgar Allen Poe influence.
Ville: What about that?
Von: Which part of the Edgar Allen Poeís image are you personally influenced by?
Ville: The whole lot. (smiles sardonically)
Von: More his art or more his personal life?
Ville: I think itís a combination of the whole thing, you know, he was a very peculiar fellow and we donít know a lot about him. Thereís not a lot of historical facts about him. Thereís still speculation as to whether he was a drunkard or a drug abuser or not, and at the end of the day, a lot of people forget that he was the inventor of the modern detective novel.
A lot of people just know ĎRavení and ĎTomb of Ligeiaí and films with Vincent Price, but he wrote a lot of different kinds of stuff, heís an interesting character, I havenít read everything that heís done. The same with, lets say ĎDalií or ĎAlister Crowleyí, you know, heís a cool bloke but you canít really tell whatís true and whatís not, when heís talkiní about, you know summoning up ĎCharoní........
Von: Iím sure Crowley believed it at the time.
Ville: Well, you know, at the end of the day thereís no humor perceived, Crowleyís perceived as being a very serious man and at the end of the day, I find a lot of humor..........
Von: Heís very funny, you just gotta look in the right place.
Ville: Yeah, and especially with Poe I guess, well you know, people tent to find most of his stuff very melancholy and we donít have any T.V. interviews with him and we donít have any recorded interviews with him, so we donít actually know how he perceived himself , so our imagination has just put those people into those, kind of, dark places, I think that there must be another side to them and I think that does come through in the work.
Von: And in the end, the eye sees what it wants to see.
Ville: Yeah! It makes it easier, judging the book by its cover. .......So I do think that thereís a lot of hilarious aspects to most characters.
Von: Yeah. In Crowleyís work especially, I donít know if you familiar with Ďthe Book of Liesí and stuff like that......
Ville: Yeah. Bitís and pieces.
Von: You canít understand it, itís crazy!
Ville: Well you know some of his stuff is so hard to read as well, you know, itís written in such a bizarre like vitalist way.
Von: And itís all word games.
Ville: A lot of it, yes. And some of itís really childish as well. Iím not about to question his intelligence at all, but you know, he was a weird character, I was just reading ĎDo What Thou Wiltí by Lawrence Sutin , itís pretty good, and what he did in his life span was just amazing, heís one of those renaissance men, just doing everything, like Da Vinci.
Von: He had this amazing intelligence as well.
Ville: Hm hm (nods as he finishes his coffee).
Von: Have you read any of the Israell Regardie books?
Ville: Iíve just heard the name. I havenít read his stuff.
Von: He was one of Crowleyís disciples and spent most of his life with him.
Ville: Thereís so much of that stuff, itís impossible to read it all, it would be a lifetime operation to really get into it, but maybe I will, sooner or later, bit by bit, but Iíve got a lot of different books and, unfortunately, still donít have the time to read all of them. You know, I need to balance, well at least I need to personally balance stuff, I need to read something totally different, lighter or darker or more poetic or whatever, you know.
Von: Do you get board quickly with one subject in particular?
Ville: No, well I guess that you loose the focus and you need a new angle and all of a sudden you come back to it and itís like visiting old friends in a different city, you know, itís just getting a new angle towards it.
Von: It sort of works musically too, to do a song, not complete it and move along and then come back and revisit it.
Ville: Thatís why song writing takes so long. For example, what the fuckís the song, ĎPassionís Killing Floorí, the chorus of the song I wrote back in 1980, the riff of the song I wrote back in 2002, and then we finished it in 2006, so it takes a long time to be able to do that, to come back to an idea you really like but itís not fully realized, you know, the puzzleís missing a couple of pieces or whatever.
Von: And you have to know when to step away before you destroy it, as well.
Ville: Yeah, Itís not a tough decision, itís just that when it feels right, it feels right.
Von: (Talking to Mige) Do you use any bass effect pedals?
Mige: I do, you just canít hear them, thatís all.
Ville: Weíre laughing about the fact that you never can hear his bass properly.
Mige: Yeah. And then the front house is using the ĎAmp Farmí. So itís any combination of things I guess.
Ville: Itís a pain in the ass man, everything sounds beautiful, you like, perfect your amps sound since you started playing music......... and then this front house guy comes along, you never know how it actually sounds, not even when youíre there, and you never know about the lights either, you never see the whole band perform......so itís kind of awkward at times actually, when it comes to sound. We donít know how we are live or how we sound on stage.
Von: They never record the shows or video tape it?
Ville: Itís not the same thing. It depends on the recording guy you know, and then you canít shoot that stuff on a video cam, you know the lights donít work the same way. And weíre not likely to........... after a gig, go into out tour bus and start watching ourselves, you know, and cross our legs because weíre getting some weird tingles downstairs, you know, (laughs)......we are egocentric, but not that egocentric.
Von: Would you find it difficult to watch you own shows?
Ville: Well, yeah, Thereís a DVD coming out in a month or something called ĎDigital Versatile Doomí and, ah, I havenít watched it, I canít watch myself on T.V. itís terrible.
Von: And itís actually live?
Ville: Yeah. Itís from L.A. and.........
Von: Because a lot of live stuff is not live. I was shocked to find out that my favorite ĎLed Zeppeliní album wasnít live and my favorite ĎKissí album wasnít live.
Ville: Yeah, the same with the Thin Lizzy one.
Von: Yeah, ĎLive and Dangerousí wasnít live.
Ville: A couple of vocals I actually re-sung in my kitchen, since the bleed from the drums came through, and thatís the only thing. So like, all the basic instruments are there, you know, we played two separate nights in L.A and itís a combination of both things, so, yeah, itís like ninety nine percent live I guess ........
Iíll buy you dinner if you can figure out the parts I sang in my kitchen.........It was so funny. I flew back from tour, and it was like, we canít use these vocals thereís too much snare or whatever, hi-hat there, and Iím setting up my Pro-Tools in my kitchen while Iím eating burgers, so itís very unlike the mood of actually performing ,you know, in front of those cameras in that beautiful vaudevillian theater in Los Angeles, I was in the middle of eating my veggy burgers and smokiní my lungs out, kindaí. ( laughs )
Von: Iíll look forward to that.
Avelina: (Talking to Mige) I love what youíve done with your hair.
Mige: Oh you like it?
Avelina: Itís fantastic.
Ville: I totally agree.
Mige: I done it myself you know, so Iíll take this compliment, maybe I should have been a barber.
Avelina: For sure........you should have been a fuckení hair dresser.
Ville: In Sweden Itís hot.
Mige: The funny barber from Helsinki (laughs)
ņppreciation for the interview to Avelina de Moray.