By Campus Philly
Campus Philly: I’m sure you’ve been asked this a million times, but for our readers who might not know, can you give a little background on the name of the band and how it came about?
Ville Vallo: No ones been asking that in the past gazillion years, so it’s great. We first called our band Black Earth because Black Sabbath was first known as Earth. We’re huge fans, and they gave us courage to pursue being a band and the hope that maybe a bunch of weird looking guys from the middle of nowhere could make it because Sabbath were a bunch of weird looking guys from the middle of nowhere. [With the name change], we wanted something similarly horrific for the band. I don’t know where exactly it came from, but someone came up with the name His Infernal Majesty, and at 15-years-old it sounded ridiculously cool.
CP: Why did you decide to go by the abbreviation?
VV: In the 90s when all the churches started to burn in Scandinavia, people started to think we had something to do with it, so we instituted H.I.M. Then afterwards we found out that a gay porn magazine from the 70s was called Him, so now we have the death aspect and the gay aspect going for us.
CP: Your heartagram symbol is everywhere now, from tattoos to shoes. What’s its origin and what does it mean?
VV: The day I turned 20, which was about 13 years ago, I was just doodling. I loved the four symbols Led Zeppelin had and White Zombie with Rob [Zombie] had a lot of visual aspects of rock and roll. So I just threw it down on November 22. It’s one of the more fun things for the band and I’m really super proud of it. My dad was an artist and I was brought up appreciating art. I was hoping some of that would rub off on me and I’d get to incorporate it into the band and I’m glad that it has.
CP: You guys are a pretty internationally known band and I know you hail from Helsinki. Do you think you have a greater following in the U.S. or elsewhere, like Europe?
VV: I think it keeps on changing with the albums. It’s kinda cool in the sense that something might work in the U.S. and then no one gives a [expletive] in Europe, and vice versa. And it’s also broken down through certain countries in Europe. Our first album years ago was appreciated in Scandanavia and the next in Germany and the next in Spain and the next in the U.K. and the next in the States. We’ve never had one album that is appreciated all over the world, which is a good thing because A) it keeps you grounded and B) makes you more like a growing success. It keeps us from being a global success which pisses me off, haha.
CP: Do you see a great difference in your fans from place to place?
VV: People all over the world have different ways of experiencing music. In Mexico City, people are so loud and in other places, like in Spain, they’re louder than the band. In Pomona outside L.A., you’ve got punks and skaters and mosh pits. It seems to differ from state to state and city to city, not necessarily country to country, and it all depends on what the band plays and where.
CP: Last month, you released your seventh album, Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice, Chapters 1–13. The title is so intricate. What’s the story behind it?
VV: It’s one of those things like the heartagram, it just popped out of my head. I love the word ‘works,’ as in the collected works of an artist, like T.S. Eliot or whoever. I kept on seeing it and I kept on thinking of factories and communes, so I wanted the word ‘works.’ And then with ‘scream,’ you think of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” It’s cathartic, or it could be like an existentialist rebirth. All those things are important when it comes to the combo of the two words. I also thought about Aleister Crowley who wrote kind of a mythology of rock and roll in Magick in Theory and Practice. For me, love and relationships are the magic. They are the unexplainable; at least I can’t explain them in theory or mathematical terms. So I replaced ‘magick’ with ‘love’ because I can’t see any logical explanation for it.
CP: To me, you guys are one of the most consistent bands I’ve heard in terms of sound, but how would you say H.I.M. has grown and evolved since earlier albums, like Love Songs or Razorblade Romance?
VV: We’ve all worked so closely together for many of years. It’s very intricate, the way we work on the sound; we talk about little details. Then again, we are who we are, so we can’t change the essential sound. It’s what I’m really proud of because that means our band has an identity. We’ve worked with lots of producers, but it still sounds like us. It’s a fairly unique and very honest mix of our influences. How we present our music is everything.
CP: H.I.M., both live and recorded, has such a huge, encompassing sound, but I’ve heard you do a couple of songs acoustic for TV or radio shows and you sound so comfortable stripped down. Which style do you prefer?
VV: It’s tough to say. I like them both. Being in the band is great. It’s five guys who’ve grown up together. Then again, the birth of a song always comes to me back home or in a hotel with an acoustic guitar. You have a moment of creation where that little baby is born; you show the baby around to the guys and if they like what they see you, can jam around with it. For personal reasons, the acoustic stuff is more important because it’s at the core. Then again, it’s only scratching the surface; there are different inspirations and aspirations from everyone.
CP: You’re kicking off the U.S. portion of your current tour here in Philadelphia. I always feel like tours choose to either start or end in Philly. Is there any particular reason why you decided to start here?
VV: I’ve always loved Philly because I like rough towns. Our first gig ever in the States was at the Trocadero in 2001. We met Bam [Margera], who was living in West Chester at the time, in Europe and he wanted to help us out, so he started doing whatever he could. We’ve played the TLA and the Electric Factory after that. It’s all been very Bam influenced. We did a couple of videos and shot them in West Chester or close by. Philly’s the first place we’ve hung out in the States, it was kind of our intro to the American way of living. It’s a special area that we got to experience through a couple of people and very special memories.
CP: When you come to Philly, what is your favorite place to go or thing to do?
VV: We never have any time really. It’s always the same on tour—you fly in, hop in a bus, play a gig and go on to the next city. It’s a lot of traveling. I’m not complaining, but it means that there are a lot of cities and places that we haven’t seen. We get to see backstage and the friends we find there. But we used to hang out at Tattooed Mom. I love the dive bars; Philly has the best ones!
CP: I understand the show was moved from the TLA to the Electric Factory.
VV: [Because of touring schedules] There’s no way of us playing a second show and the Electric Factory is bigger. And I’m kinda pissed off ‘cause the TLA is way more intimate and the location is great. But in the end, I’m just glad that we’re gonna be playing.
CP: How did We Are The Fallen, Dommin and Drive A come to be on the tour?
VV: We we’re thinking of acts that would be different and Dommin are one of the first bands to rip of Type O Negative, which is great! I love the fact that they’ve carried out the influence. And then we saw them play a couple of times at festivals in Europe, so we just asked if they’d like to join us. All of the bands have similarities when it comes to the melancholy aspect, but they all have their own identities. It’s very important to like the bands were touring with. Most of the times the dressing rooms are close to the stage, so if you hear a band you don’t like 30 times, it’ll drive you insane.
CP: What are some of your favorite songs to play live?
VV: “Heartkiller,” “Katherine Wheel” even though it’s tough to sing ‘cause it’s constant singing for four minutes. It really depends on the night and where the song is in the set…and the country. The album Love Metal did well in the U.K., so “Buried Alive By Love” always works really, really well there. We’re playing Germany tonight, so “Join Me in Death” will work really well ‘cause it was huge here 10 years ago. We haven’t done any new covers [because] it got a bit boring after awhile. But we still play “Wicked Game” ‘cause that Chris Isaak song was hugely important in finding the sound of the band. Through it we found the balance between the wistful melancholy and the hard rocking.
CP: What can Philly fans expect from the show on Mar. 26?
VV: We are what we are. We don’t have any plastic, massive dragons or pyro or any of that crap. There are so many acts that do it so well that we don’t compare with them. We still like to keep it simple, very Doors-ish. We’re a band that plays with a couple of lights and the sound system working as well and loud as possible.