Light to the people
HIM that have sold 3,5 million records are on the doorstep (?) of the final
world conquest. How does it feel now?
It was a Monday night couple of weeks ago and Ville Valo was having a reception at the restaurant Sea Horse. Sea Horse is apparently Villeís fave restaurant. During some other night at the end of July he even got photographed by a guy with a camera phone at the Sea horse toilet. Peeing! The photographer claimed that the pics were only for his personal use.
Not that Ville Valo has been around lately that much. The HIM guys have been beyond the big sea on an album-making trip from February till July, and after that, at the beginning of August Valo did a weeklong trip to Germany and Holland to do interviews. While reading this article HIM are on their way to their first gigs in Japan, where they are (according to Valo) going to buy robot dogs to the tour buss.
Ville sat there at the table, sucking his famous cigarette and explained: ďWe had a small fight with the record company and producer in the States when people started to be slightly drunk and I started to get pissed off. I thought that the crystal ball would tell me what would happen. It told me I must say no and I said no. It told me I must most definitely have some time off in July. I told everyone that the crystal ball said that I must not work in July. But the record company dudes apparently donít believe in crystal balls. I have been working the whole month. Weíll see what the crystal ball says to that.Ē
There couldnít be seen any signs of tiredness or boredom in Ville Valo. Ville was in as good shape as he was when he came out of his mother. Only the tattooed left arm was itching a bit.
"We Finns appreciate modesty and we think itís great", - Ville Valo seems to be so easy-going and sincere and hangs around in ordinary pubs and buys food from the corner shop. One can get to play pool with him in Corona.
ďParanoid atmosphere is born when you start to think paradoxically (?). Nowadays even Michael Jackson could walk around in Kallio, but maybe not after all he has done.Ē/p>
What do you do when you are in Finland?
VV: I bathe. Bathe and read a book, try to maintain the relationship and go say hello to all relatives and friends.How do you bathe?
VV: In my opinion the bathing itself is so interesting that the way of bathing doesnít have to be changed. My record is about 7 hours in one bath. Maybe it has some kind of ďwomb of momĒ Ėfeeling in it. My mom used to bathe a lot, she still does. It is nice to read a book in the bath. It relaxes and makes your metabolism(?) work.
What kind of books do you read, I asked like I had just graduated from the journalist school.
VV: I used to read only biographies. I have this fetish, I read them not turned on but almost. Biographies of all artists. But then I realized, when the biography no. 52 was ahead, that they are all the same. Young, wild character that does something right and something wrong and at some point starts doing drugs and everything gets fucked up and then he makes it or dies. It started to get so repetitive that I decided to change to fiction.
What happened then?
VV: I read Yann Martelís book Life of Pi. Itís interesting how authors can write 400 pages of being a human and Bengal tiger in the same boat. Then I read William T. Vollmannís 13 stories & 13 epitaphs about The area of Red Lanterns(?) in San Francisco. Itís half-fiction about the world of whores and use of drugs. Itís really rough text. No other text has made me grimace so badly in a long time.
Ville Valo smoked, though not all the time, and he had a pint of beer but he didnít drink it at all but drunk water instead. He was totally sober and sharp.
How does your own life compare to those always similar lives of biographies?
VV: There are exceptions that verify the rule, for example Neil Young. He has always been such a creative character and he has had interesting events in his life, he has had two mentally handicapped children successively and he still keeps on making music with his own terms even heís already 60. Then there are those like Jim Morrison. Maybe Iím something in between. You balance on a rail in the way that you know that the mattresses of Kisahalli are below you.
The editor-in-chief wants to know how is the life of a rocker?
VV: Well ask more specific, Iíll try to answer.
I called to Tavastiaís Juhani Merimaa and he told he travelled with you for a couple of days in Italy. He told it was constant working. You woke up at 5 in the morning and you had a buss with a small flivver(?) for the stuff. You had interviews, sound-checks and gigs.
VV: When the iron (or steel or what ever ) is hot you must forge(?) it. This is a weird job in the way that you might make an album that the whole world hates but then suddenly the Spanish people love it. Then you have to go there. The area we work in gets wider and that happens in so different pace around the world that it is in some lovely way schizophrenic. Somewhere we are stars, somewhere underground and somewhere something in between.
Merimaa told me that you cant eat before a gig so you have to eat afterwards and because of that you have no time to do anything wilder even then.
VV: Iím so excited before the gigs that I donít eat red meet because it digests too slowly. Iíve noticed that if I eat some fish pasty like 4 hours before a gig, it comes out before the gig. The whole band eats after the gigs.
HIMís new album will be released 26.9 everywhere. Itís done for Warner/Sire and it is the first HIM album that will be released all over the world. It was recorded in an old mansion in L.A. Very interesting! I asked Ville Valo what kind of place it was, the mansion.
VV: We told the producer Tim Palmer that we want the kind of place where the whole band can room and kinda ďlive the albumĒ. He found an old mansion on a hill in Silverlake L.A. that was built in the 20ís for some crazy multimillionareís daughter who sang opera. The ballroom of the mansion was good for us acousticwise. We got to hear stories that the place is haunted and that Halloween II was filmed there. When I was singing the background vocals Playboy filming a movie there, so there were silicon tits practically on my face when I sung. And Nicole Kidman and Cindy Crawford and some others had photo sessions there at the same time. They had double booked the place and that slightly pissed us off. Of course itís a fun story, that there was a playboy shooting. Lets go see what there happens between the takes. But at the moment it was extremely distractive. You couldnít really concentrate on what was essential.
Did you live in that haunted house?
VV: The whole band lived in the mansion except for me. There were 8 dogs. When we walked in, the first dog bit me in the arm so that it started bleeding. I was like what the fuck! As an allergic person and asthmatic I lived in a hotel so that I was able to sing.
Did you have a nice room or cool suite in the hotel?
VV: In L.A. I always like Wyndham Bel Age. Itís in the best part of Sunset strip. All rooms there are suites but itís not that expensive, something like 170$ /night. There is lots of room, couple of TVs, and itís also good because itís couple of kilometres away from the classic rock place called Rainbow Bar & Grill. It is the ďTHEĒ place in L.A. Then there is Viper Room and all the other places of the industry right next to it.
Did you have time to check out how it was there?
VV: We first partied several weeks. Of course, because we were making an album and got from the dark to the sun after a long time, Kaasu, our drummer, and I we went to bars often. Itís like going to Tavastia. The local rockers are there. There is a very small territory that you can recognize from the smell. The smell of tight leather pants and lack of deodorant. Trolls hanging around and bragging.
The Friday before the interview I went to listen to the new album at the HMC office. I laid on the sofa of Asko ďIdolsĒ Kallonen because the best equipment was at his workroom. The secretary brought me a cup of coffee and three buns(?). Apparently rockers usually eat three buns at once. They were very good buns but I controlled myself and ate only two. The new album is also Ėin my opinion- very good. It wouldíve been nice to hear it again but there was no time. Before I left Asko Kallonen told me that after the recordings the HIM guys went from L.A. to New York to mix the album to Jimi Hendrixí old studio Electric Lady Land which is nowadays called Electric Lady. Kallonen was excited to show me how cool photos there are at the walls of the studio from his laptop. But does it really matter at all what kind of photos there are at some walls, I asked Valo at Sea Horse.
VV: I have good imagination, I can put any pics I want there on the walls. But I always consider our albums as colours, some album is for example red. The theme of this album is The Pope and itís purple. When we went to the studio everything there was purple and it was damn funny. All sofas and mixing tables were purple. I was all excited about that colour. Purple is apparently also the colour of schizophrenic. This album is in between The Pope and schizophrenia. Itís regal schizophrenia. Hendrix used to live there and they say his ghost is still there. As a true Finnish man I wonít believe before I see but from now on Iíll have to say I wonít believe before I smell. The studio was empty one night and I was the last one walking out when suddenly there came this scent of cannabis - from nowhere. That is when I decided that Hendrixí ghost wasnít any visual thing but it was the smell of cannabis. So I have met the ghost of Hendrix and Iím extremely proud of it. I have even inhaled it, so I am a part of Hendrix.
While writing this article I had to read the previous chapter again because it is so splendid. Finnish band people canít usually say anything about their music that would be good enough to be published. Valo on the other hand says that the album is in between The Pope and schizophrenia just like that, without pondering. Competent bullshit. To me it would be clever to compare Villeís lyrics and melodies to that trend of painting in the beginning of the last century that everyone knows, the one with romance and mystic, but damn it, I canít remember the trends name! Anyway, Valo always has that kind of vocabulary in stored, dark, crimson, roseÖ
How do you compare this album to the earlier stuff?
VV: Itís more megalomaniac. If the last album had the moustache of Tom Selleck, this one has the moustache of Dali. On the last album we tried to respect our idols and make this organic brown sound that was close to them and on this album we were going for intimate stadium sound.
So you are preparing for even greater success. Do you sometimes feel lonely on those recording and gig trips? Or do you have your girlfriend with you?
VV: My fiancťe comes with me sometimes, when she can/wants to. She has her own life. Itís the same situation with the other guys. You must cherish the family values. Itís lonely in a good way. Itís nice to be alone sometimes and read a book with no interruption and be four hours doing nothing for example. You can concentrate only on yourself. Itís like a vacation to the Ikaalinen spa that lasts for months and months.
Can a girl who wants to have a rocker to herself think that she can have the rocker only to herself or must she prepare to share him with others?
VV: Now we must remember that Jonna was a TV-star on Moon TV before we were anything. So I was after he. She was a TV-celeb. We HIM guys are a fresh breath of wind in the classic rock scene in the way that we have never went fucking around. We all have always had chicks waiting at home. Linde has a child, 3 from 5 are married, I am engaged, Kaasu is the last island of freedom, last one to rise on the barricades in the name of rockíníroll. The positive energy comes from the things being fine at home.
Iíve gotten the impression that you are a ďgirlfriend type.Ē
VV: If your heart smiles it is wonderful but it doesnít always go that way. Iíve been single at some point. In my opinion itís much more meaningful to play chess with the guys in the buss than to try to desperately get laid with some girl and have bad sex, about which you donít know whether you should cut your hand off to get away in the morning. There is something romantic about it, yes, but isnít it much more romantic to know the person you are with? It is wonderful that you can come home. There are many rockers who havenít had homes.
Does a rocker like you have any intimacy in this world of camera phones and internet? If you suddenly decided to fool around, would you go from the presumption that youíd get caught?
VV: No, no, when youíre caught up in the moment you donít think stuff like that. You must follow your lust, if that kind of feeling comes, but itís not fair for anyone. If you want a free relationship, then it must be clearly free. I rather trust in my right hand than hazy encounters. Even Elvis Presley was married.
Ville Valo took a smoke and continued: "And even an owl has a pussy and also a plumber gets laid as much as he wants. It doesnít have anything to do with rockíníroll. Rockers are just sort of jesters. Anyone can have anything. There are very uncharismatic rockers who smell like shit and then there are very charismatic plumbers who handle the pipes so well that no woman can resist them.Ē
Are you gonna play at Tavastia on New Years Eve?
VV: Of course! The year canít change without us being there on stage. The year would just go on for the people in Finland. We would live 2005 forever.
HIM has sold 3,5 million records so far. Bandís new deal with Warner/Sire that covers four albums is a unique occurrence(?) in Finnish rock history.
HIM is Warnerís priority at the beginning of the fall, the whole organization of the record-company is committed(?) to promote the band. An example: Warner flew 30 ďkey membersĒ of the organisation from all over the world to New York for a dinner meeting were five new songs from Dark light were heard. Exceptionally large marketing input has been reserved for the actual launch of the album: TV, radio, magazines, and videos of course. After HIM the next priority is Madonna.
The manager Seppo Vesterinen estimates that Warner expects Dark light to sell million albums only in the states. That big sells would bring HIM the craved TOP20 spot on the US album charts, even TOP10 would be possible depending on the sales periods. What also tells about the huge expectations is that Warner has an option for the 5th album if the 4th sells 2 millions.
Only the break through in the US market can make Ville a worldwide icon.
So far HIM has sold about 200000 records in the States Ė without marketing.
The grand invasion to America will be boosted with a tour in the beginning of October to places that hold 2000-5500 people.
Translated by Thulsa Doom