Close Up #118
Itís human nature to be unhappy, but itís typically Finnish behaviour to complain about it. With the Nordic melancholy as a matter of course for the essential sound, the ironically titled Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice offers thirteen new angles of approach of the oldest problem in time.
Early in the morning in February 1st 2008 a fire devastated Deyrolle on Rue de Bac, the oldest and most beloved taxidermy shop of Paris. Ninety percent of the objects Ė from lions and gazelles to the smallest of birds and butterflies Ė in the 178 year old institution came to nothing. Left after the catastrophe, in a Pompeii-esque chaos of wet ashes and vaporized taxidermy chemicals, stood a few animals the way the owner Prince Louis Albert de Brogile had left them the night before.
For the benefit of the restoration of the shop, artists with or without a special relationship to the shop donated sculptures, paintings and photographs for an auction, which came to rise 356 000 dollars. One of those supporting purchases Ė a photo of a semi charred zebra whoís jaw has fallen in a grotesque, impossible gap Ė has ended up at Blackís Private Club in Soho in London.
Below this macabre triangle an open fire is burning. In front of the fire Ville Valo is reclining.
Blackís Private Club is a few stories of crowded company for people with too much spare time and way too much money. Saloons. Divans. 1890s. So much of ďthe old LondonĒ you canít believe it; soon someone says ďelementaryĒ and lights an opium pipe.
Ville Valo Ė a part of the exclusive decoration as well? Like the zebra the constantly overheated but strangely enough never burnt out singer is posing for a few well-judged photoflashes. But he is here out of his own free will and he can leave any time he wants to. The woman from the Japanese Burn Magazine asks the front man to let his hands rest in his knee, says ďperfectĒ and snaps another shot.
The singer has gotten his dark features from his Hungarian mother.
- Iím content with the fact that Iím good looking, he says when we get a little time aside. Iíve got my parentsí genes: my mumís eyes and my dadís smile. When I look in the mirror I see my parents, Iím not thinking that Iím looking at a hot dude. Iím half my dad and half my mum. It could be worseÖ
- Photos are very important, just like sleeves, videos Ė the whole lot. Itís hard to say what makes or breaks everything. Itís impossible to separate. KISSí image affected me incredibly powerfully as a kid. It worked really well with the music, it was a package: not make-up or music. The visuals and the music shouldnít compete, but go hand in hand.
In what extent do you experience your faceís aging as problematic?
- Itís been a bit like ďBenjamin ButtonĒ for me, because since I quit drinking I feel younger than Iíve felt in a long time. I sleep better, and Iím in a considerably better shape, which makes me feel more like a youth than I did ten years ago. Itís not necessarily a good thing Ė or a bad.
Down on the street a group of Englishmen are acting like the surrounding world knows them. Ville stretches his neck to get a better view and snorts contemptuously.
- Amateur alcoholicsÖ But I was the same a couple of years ago, so Iím not to speak.
- My mum expresses it in a good way. She says that she feels exactly like she did at 15 years old in her mind, heart and soul, and that only her body is aging. Itís a fragile shell, which weathers a little bit day by day, while the essentials doesnít change in the same way at all. And Iím still not that old, Iím 33, there still isnít anything thatís physically impossible for me to do because of my age. Ask me the same thing in two yearsÖ
HIMís seventh album is titled Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice. Ville explains that he thinks of the title as an absurdity.
- Itís pompous, itís fun. We like that pseudo poetic tone in everything we do. I like the title because itís unreasonable; I donít think you can divide something like love into a theoretic part and a practical part. Itís an absurd combination of words. What is love in theory?
- Nah. Philosophically speaking: what is love ďin theoryĒ? Love is something that surprises you. If thatís the theory, then whatís the practice? You see what I mean, I like that is it just an impossible idea, the whole thing with that type of division.
But think about love lyric or whatever. Think ďRomeo and JulietĒ Ė isnít that love in theory? ďThis is how a young, incredibly strong love could work in realityĒ.
- But my lyrics arenít theory, theyíre practice, because Iíve been through it myself. Think of the lyrics as autobiography, itís little glimpses of reality. Itís real to me. Theoretically would rather be to just long to feel something, or to long for anything Ė like a chicken sandwich. Talk about theoryÖ
- The title is trying to place something impossibly big in a impossibly narrow frame. Or maybe not impossible, but letís say Ė hard.
Ville explains that love is the driving force in his life.
- The love for music and love outside of music. You write about something you feel passionately about. Some people canít for the same reason let go of their political or religious convictions. Iím not baptized and Iím not politically involved. Love is easier to write about, because I feel that itís universal, at the same time as itís a highly personal experience. When it happens it happens and you donít have to think that much. Itís a chrysalis to butterfly thing. Iím talking about a phenomenon that everybody has experienced. Thatís why you donít have to theorize around it just because youíre writing about it.
Have you ever sought out the unachievable to stay in the bittersweet framework of HIMís songs?
- What do you mean that would be?
Someone you canít get, for example.
- Luckily enough I seem to mostly hit on people who are very willing!
- I donít believe in that, I believe you can get what or who you want. But itís a question of whether you can give enough to the other, whether youíre interesting and funny enough to satisfy the other personís demands, rather then what he or she can give to you.
At the moment Ville doesnít have time for romances. Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice literally takes up all waking hours.
- If I donít have the time to go a candlelit restaurant with a charming woman I have to deal with it. When thereís a passion you have to follow that passion, no matter what it is.
Edgar Allan Poe writes that the death of a beautiful woman is undoubtedly the most poetic theme in the world, most conveniently ďin the mouth of a grieving loverĒ. The western culture establishment has agreed ever since. Or rather for as long as there has been written sources at all: loveís meeting with death is our common, perfect, impossible ideal. Even metaphorically: the romantic failure as something exceptionally but unbearably beautiful, a senselessness we all have to go through.
No subject is as exhaustedly exposed within the arts: movies, books, songs Ė they are all bristling with heart and pain, the madness of the ecstatic love and the paralyzing darkness that lies in wait underneath the surface. Few of us manage to get close to it in reality before weíve learned that the pain of the unanswered love is a state as elevated as the joy of the relationship.
No teenager of school age west of Istanbul misses out on the story of Romeo and Juliet: it doesnít get really adorable until both of the slender-limbed youths are lying dead on the stage floor.
In many cultures Ė both far and near Ė this cult is unimaginable. In big parts of the metal genre the theme is for instance rather under taboo. Iím talking about a collective, sanctioned repression. Iíve got friends and acquaintances who have taken the most desperate means when the heart has cried. A member of a medium sized Swedish black metal band dug into his dadís collected Sting ballads after his first separation. Others have house kept with the substitutes that have been available amongst shelf after shelf of passionate expressions, but where not so much as a syllable has brought about comfort or an understanding thought.
HIMís own term ďLove MetalĒ Ė usually written within citation marks to indicate that it hasnít gotten any considerable property Ė is a contrary to all this. Here thereís room for the sweet, sweet, horrible, horrible. Considering the audiences average age the concept has often been associated with a kind of cult around the young, na?ve, devastating love. Ville Valoís lyrics become an incantation for confused teenagers to rattle when the light comes on and youíre standing alone in the same corner as when the night began, a word of truth about the never negotiable conditions of love. The suffering raining like candy.
The author himself doesnít agree that itís about glamorisation.
- The only suffering that exists in our music is my own, and I hardly pass as young any longer.
HIMís music is a philosophical expression to wake up every day and try to figure out why you are where you are and what everything means. It doesnít have to be negative. Itís rather existential. Weíve recorded so many songs and released so many records that I canít see the overall context any longer.
- A song like ďJoin Me (In Death) isnít worse then Blue ?yster Cultís Donít Fear the Reaper, which in turn is a beautiful Romeo and Juliet-variation: how far are you willing to go for love? Itís not about jumping out the window and killing yourself. Iím questioning.
Ville wrote his first complete song at 14 years of age after a failed romance.
- That break up was important because it was my first, but it had hardly even been a relationship, because I was so young. My songs are still naive, but hopefully in a clever way.
Do you ever return to that state of mind to be able to relate to the sincere pain in a young love?
- I donít have to do that, because thereís still enough of that little 14 year old left in me. And there are still enough surprises in life for me to wonder and want to sing and write songs. Thereís a first for a lot of things. But itís not like the whole world changed with that break up around 14. My life has changed with little baby steps, one by one.
- Iíve been a sorrowful romantic in all my life and for some reason been through a series of relationships that havenít worked out. When youíre not in the happiest state you do something to get it out of your system. Some people call up their friends and go to the pub to talk about it. Obviously many musicians write it off. I donít think that it works particularly differently for me compared to the guys in a band like Katatonia. You feel the way you feel and you find a way to get out of the darkness, with the acoustic guitar in you lap in your kitchen.
One of my colleagues has said that youíre ďa bit too handsome to be unhappyĒ.
- She obviously hasnít seen me without makeup. Thatíll be my oneliner back. There are many kinds of unhappiness and many kinds of beauty, a big part lies in the eyes of the beholder. There are a lot of people who would be unhappy if you based the degree of happiness on their looks.
Can you imagine a scenario where youíve become too old to sing your own songs with credibility?
- Yes, I actually think so Ė Iím already experiencing it with a couple of them. Itís not that I lack credibility, itís rather a question if certain songs are still valid for me, if they still have some emotional value. If they donít we usually cut them. Other songs are changeable and not as depended on my current state, but can be sung from different angles. That doesnít effect the emotional impact of them.
- Neither Poison Girl nor Kiss of Dawn have lost any artistic value throughout the years. However both of them are based on stories that arenít very nice and singing them over and over again can feel like rubbing salt in my wounds. Maybe Iím masochistic enough to keep doing itÖ and there are still people who want to hear them. Sometimes you do it for the crowd and sometimes for yourself and sometimes it coincides. Some songs have emotional aspects that are Ė painful may be too strong of a word, but uncomfortable. Kiss of Dawn was written when I was in a rather morbid state of mind and I had just lost a friend. To sing that song night after night and bring all that up could be too much.
How close have you yourself been to the Romeo and Juliet scenario, where youíve had to ask yourself how far youíre willing to go for love?
- When I went into rehab in 007. The doctor told me I was going to die unless I quit drinking, which was something I was doing because of the lousy relationship I was in at the time Ė which I crashed with my endless partying. When I had sobered up it was too late.
- The scenario I was talking about earlier is about sacrifices in general: how far youíre willing to go and if youíre ready to compromise, which is something I donít believe in. Itís about an emotional state where you life lies in somebody elseís hands.
Donít you think that compromises are necessary in relationships between adults?
- Hopefully not. If certain combinations of people can change the way you behave itís not about a compromise. Itís rather a feeling of freedom that presents itself when a relationship is really working: that you subdue your wild nature Ė in lack of a better expression Ė in relation to the other person. I donít believe in consciously compromising your own happiness or your own passions. Thatís idiotic, but unfortunately a lot of people seem to devote themselves to that regularly within marriage.
- When youíre working with music a lot of compromises present themselves all the time. ďI canít sing as high as King Diamond, so I canít put in an upper part right there.Ē But King Diamond probably canít sing as low as me soÖ And itís not a competition. Yet.
HIM is, like most band, built on compromises.
- The other members have their families and we canít rehearse whenever I want to, but only when it works for everyone. We decide on the date around two months before. Itís not like weíre 16 and donít have anything but the band on our minds. Iím the only one whoís still like that. The others have, what I would call, better things to do. They have a responsibility that I donít have.
Are you ever sorry that you havenít come to the wife and children stage?
- No, Iím rather sorry that they have.
- Iím happy for them, Iím happy if theyíre happy. But Iím all for music, so I donít give a shit about families. Thatís a part of life that hasnít touched me yet. When and if it happens I know that they will be very supportive and that it certainly will change everything, but I want toÖ how do I put this? Well, I donít want my schedule to be dictated by somebodyís diaper changing schedule. I think itís okay for me to ask them to hire a babysitter once in a while for us to be able to play together. We compromise all the time, but at least we donít bitch slap each other.
It would be easy to imagine that the situation in HIM looks kind of like the model for other fairly young adults on their way to the middle age: complacent smile, settled down parents on one side, melancholic singles with moderate issues with alcohol on the other. Success and failure by the measurements of the social order.
Forget that bullshit.
When I ask bassist Mikko ďMigeĒ Paananen about his marital status he quibbles words and states that the marriage ďis actually quite happyĒ.
- I met my wife while on tour in Austria over ten years ago. I think itís a great effort of hers to be able to put up with such a tiresome person that I am for so long. That takes both theory and practiceÖ
The bassist doesnít look at the title Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice with the same amused distance as his band mate.
- To me itís about experiencing love in a thoughtful way. If youíre of a reflecting nature you have a tendency to theorize around things you come across in life. To think about and reason around love it to theorize it, you imagine different scenarios: ďWhatís going to happen next?Ē You should be theoretical around your emotional life and reason with yourself, that can make your plans in love last long. So long as youíre not so emotionally messed up that you let everything happen around you without any possibility to effect it. To have a plan of action for your love life, thatís what ďlove in theory and practiceĒ means to me.
Ville likes to emphasise that he works with his lyrics from a comical angle, which is something that many of your fans doubtfully actually get.
- Sometimes joking is the last resort. When things get tough enough or complicated, laughing about it can be the only thing that helps. Humour becomes the final medicine, although it doesnít make the bad stuff go away. It becomes a survival thing Ė maybe the saddest of them all. I donít like ploy songs Ė thatís toilsome Ė but as a defence mechanism humour works.
Mige doesnít have any difficulties in relating to HIMís lyrics as a married parent.
- Emotional stress lies in the situation and it can present itself wherever, even in a relationship thatís going strong. You have feelings for your friends too, itís a universal subject. We all have something to say about it and if you can reflect about it and relate to somebody elseís lyrics Ė great. Iíve always been a fan of Villeís lyrics. Theyíre often remarkable and heís worked hard on them.
Do you share the blind faith in love thatís expressed in your lyrics?
- Yes, I guess so. Iíd like to believe that there are other, equally as important things in my life, but it seems to be the separately most complicated factor, which needs to be dealt with in a completely epical way. Love needs to be made into poetry to be seen as okay and bearable. The words themselves arenít enough, and thatís when you have to use poetry.
Mige explains that the suffering in itself isnít a priority to bring out, but rather the eternal lesson of the complexity of love and compassion that humanity constantly has a use of repeating.
- The majority of the population of the earth seems to still have a lot to discover on the subject. All the hundreds of years since Shakespeareís days and even longer, with plays and books and songs and newscasts and I donít know what, we still havenít learnt a lot, but continue to repeat the same old traumatic mistakes. Look at that guy who recently shot four people in a mall in Finland because of jealousy, for example. Sure, you can sing happy songs about the fantastic love, but at the same time it contributes to enormous problems for a lot of people. Itís an important subject to discuss with your fellow beings and make art about, because it hurts a lot of people and makes them do crazy things.
In what extent has rock music influenced you in these regards?
- Itís easy to take in songs of the memory that have helped me through hard times, but harder to claim that rock has influenced my view or apprehension on the whole. I donít consume music as a manual, I rather consult with reality. I guess the biggest use you could get from a song is that you relate to it and realise that youíre not alone in this world. Your mistakes, thoughts and emotions have an equivalence in somebody elseís life. Rock songs that manage to do that have somehow achieved the highest.
- Not Dark Yet by Bob Dylan is an excellent song for everyone whoís getting closer to their midlife crisis. Itís incredibly fierce and dark. People use those kind of words when talking about black metal Ė but Iím sorry Ė Bob brings it home. Sometimes his lyrics are so hopeless and merciless. At the same time theyíve got some sort of sweetness, a sense of refinement and keeping faith in humanity. Not Dark Yet is about the situation when somebody lets their emotions and problems spill all over you time after time and eventually youíve had enough. To me it was a big experience to listen to it being explained like that, a rockíníroll experience from good old Bob. Terrifying and delicious at the same time.
The bassist isnít concerned about HIMís music could be played as a soundtrack to authentic razorblade romances.
- Thatís never been the point of what we do. If somebody commits suicide because of listening to HIM they probably havenít taken on the effort of actually reading the lyrics. It seems like more good than evil has come from HIMís music for those who are really in a bad place emotionally, at least judging from the feedback we sometimes get. If somebody was to misinterpret us like that we can hardly be held responsible. Would Mr. Coca Cola have to take on the blame is a broken cola bottle had been used for the cause? Thatís not what cola bottles are for.
- In our lyrics death is almost exclusively metaphorical. Death is the end of everything, something you canít take back. The picture of death and love is the picture of something being over and unfixable. It has nothing to do with actual, physical death. Itís about the death of an emotion o a relationship or a crush youíve had for two years time. Death means something powerful to everybody, the mutual thing is the permanent, the complete ceasing.
You donít believe in an afterlife?
- Of course I do. But I donít think that we need to continue worrying about these things in the next life. It will be a final solution.
35 year old Mige explains that heís unhappy but doesnít make a big deal out of it.
- I donít look at it as a concern. Weíre not here to have fun. Iím content, I donít feel that Iíve been treated badly by somebody or that Iíve been denied opportunities that Iíve deserved. I find life hard to deal with and human relationshipsÖ itís almost impossible to do the right thing, at least it is for me, which makes me a rather unhappy person.
- Iím not depressed. Life is interesting and the people around me who I love treat me better than I think I deserve. But happy Ė no. Then Iíd be lying.
That sounds typically Finnish.
- I think itís human to be unhappy, but typically Finnish behaviour to complain. Weíre quick to whine about how bad our lives are and what a pathetic weather weíve got. Nothing to be proud ofÖ
As I get acquainted with Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice I get to talking with Eleanor Goodman from Bizarre magazine. Bizarreís interest lies in the odd and different, and has, for example, published an article about the fire at Deyrolle. Eleanor is here to talk to Ville about whether heíd like to poop on or be pooped on.
- Last time with HIM we asked what animal heíd rather have sex with if he had to. Ville answered ďsperm whaleĒ.
In his teens the singer used to help out in his fatherís sex shop. Aikuisten Lelukaupa Ė Finnish for ďadult toy storeĒ Ė in Kallio in Helsinki is to this day still there, and sells amongst other things handcuffs and leather whips with HIMís symbol the heartagram on them, under the motto ďof all sexual divergences chastity is the strangestĒ. In the video to Bleed Well Ville is wearing a t-shirt promoting the shop.
- Letís say that I knew more about dildos than most 17 year olds. That hardly affects the concerns of the heart, but rather those of the cock. It was, for instance, a big realisation that there are people who pay to see animals having sex with humans, or that there are men who want nothing more than to shove their whole foot into a womanís vagina and feel some sort of pleasure out of it. I had never realised that the sexuality of humans is such a wide and varied spectrum. It made me understand that everybody is a perverse in one way or another. Everyone has got something strange that makes them tick, and I think itís positive to realise that. As long as youíre not hurting anybody most things are actually okay.
Have you ever exposed that view on human sexuality as a musician?
- All the time. I donít explicitly sing about fistfucking, that would be a bit too unpoetic for my taste. But when you sing about everything thatís important and fascinating to you Ė whether itís about fistfucks or not Ė itís probably in the back of your head on some subconscious level. Iím a big fan of Clint Eastwood and surely thereís a little Dirty Harry in our music too.
- The whole concept porn has changed, especially with the internet. Modern porn is boring. Back in the day there were real directors, whose names Iíve forgotten of course, who did big productions or artistically oriented stuff that were good in a completely different way. More experimental when it come to the actual film medium Ė not when it comes to what the people in the films do with each other. But porn is there to help you wank off, thatís probably it.
How much do you remember from sex instruction in school?
- Not a lot. It was fairly simple in the 80s or the early 90s or whenever it was. You learnt where the ovaries are located in a woman, and possibly how to use a condom. It was brief and quickly over with. Never the less, everybody was all anxious about it: ďAre we going to talk pussy in class now?Ē But no, it was 45 minutes, extremely dry and that was it.
- Itís not particularly hard to find information on those things on your own. I think itís better for everyone to learn in their own pace.
Ville is HIMís frontman, in all possible meanings of the word. Just the name hints a sort of one man show. Often itís Ville alone who represents the band. Thereís nothing strange about that. Except for those who end up in the shadow of the front man, possibly.
- Actually, I only have myself to blame, because I lack the discipline it takes to go on a diet, Mige jokes for probably the thousandth time. All jokes aside, it may be the way you describe it, but weíre all old schoolmates and this isnít a competition about whoís covers the most magazines. I may be in Villeís shadow in that sense, but in other ways heís in my shadow. Maybe my subconscious will speak up sooner than I thinkÖ
- I donít know if Iíd recommend anyone else to start working with their old buddies. Because of the things weíve been through together weíve probably deepened and improved our bonds of friendship.
Do you drink?
- Not a lot. Iíve never been a big drinker. My grandfather became an alcoholic at 40 years of age Ė I hope I donít follow in his footsteps.
Has Villeís sobriety affected you?
- Not really. But itís obviously good for him. Alcohol is a good friend but a lousy boss.
Whatís the biggest difference within the band?
- You understand what heís saying.
- Nah, Ville has always done the job well. Heís been the reason to a couple of compromises throughout the years because of his issues with alcohol, but weíve all been that for one reason or another. I think Ville understands what life has to say to him clearer now a days. If youíre drunk every day life canít seem particularly meaningful eventually. I know that much about alcohol and drugs, even though I havenít been addicted to it like he used to be.
How much of the rock myth is still interesting to you, after spending such a long time in on of the biggest band of the 2000s?
- Iíve actually realised that most of it is myths and thatís why it doesnít interest me anymore. But there are still a few things I havenít done. I have for example never gone to India for business, like The Beatles did. Go there and use all the substances and go all the way with that stuff. But I suspect that Iíd be the Ringo of the band and not work with that lifestyle. It could be hard to convince the others, but they may have an India fetch buried within them.
Youíll have to use a copy of Abbey road as bait.
- The problem is that everyone in HIM hates The Beatles.
- They are/were interesting people, but I canít deal with the music, itís too jokey and thoughtless. And Yoko Ono is an abomination. My 60s starts with Black Sabbath, the really good 60s stuff happened towards the 70s. I like Motown and Iím a big fan of the bass in that kind of soul, but ask me to name a few songs and know maybe four. Itís more of a professional thing: Iím impressed with the handicrafts and the musicians.
Villeís today no longer fresh sobriety is what appears to be a inexhaustible subject of discussion. Foreheads are puckered and heads are leant from Jokkmokk to Johannesburg because of the fact that the most boring disease in world history has once again been fought and won against by one of the icons of pop culture.
Ville is the first one to make light of it.
- I donít give a damn about whether I drink or not, what I care about is whether I can do music. If it turns out that I canít do that when Iím drunk, then I have to stay away from alcohol. Itís really that easy.
Do peopleís Ė more correctly, journalistís - concerns about your drinking ever bore you?
- Nobody is really concerned, most of them seem to be waiting for me to start drinking again so that they can rejoice in my failure. Iíve never said that Iím never drinking again, I donít have those kind of plans. I donít have any plans for that matter. Iím going with the flow and at the moment I donít have any interest in drinking, which makes me feel excellent Ė and thatís it. Iíve managed to get this record done with the other guys and in that aspect Iím a fairly happy man at the moment.
- Iíve always communicated through music. In school I was kind of a loner, which I still am because I donít drink, and thatís probably why I started drinking so much in the first place. To be able to be social Ė thatís what people do. The only way I clean out my soul is by the guitar. I should start a black metal band and burn down churches, just to get it properly done once and for allÖ
What is there left to appreciate in the rockíníroll lifestyle when youíre no longer partying like an animal?
- First and foremost I appreciate the amount of sleep I get. I can appreciate waking up in the morning and not feeling terrible and being able to go out for a cup of coffee and visiting a museum. Looking at antique books in a strange little shop, which I never had the opportunity to do before, because I was completely useless till way into the afternoon. Itís the same life experienced from different angles. One is neither better nor worse than the other. But the concerts are better now, which is the biggest and most important difference.
Do you collect old books?
- Itís an expensive hobby and my perception is that books are meant to be read. In exceptional cases a nice Baudelaire edition from the 20s with illustrations may catch my interest, thatís nice to look at, but Iím not willing to pay money for it. Sure, I have enough money to make a living, but not enough to buy every antiquity.
- My biggest book discovery lately is Gavin Baddeleyís book about Cradle Of Filth, The Gospel Of Filth. It was extremely cheap since I got it for Christmas. Iíve just started reading it and it seems to a lesson on not only Cradle Of Filth but also on the entire black metal aesthetics, the connections to gothic literature and William Blake Ė the whole lot. A lot of it can be associated with HIM, although the resemblances arenít obvious until you look underneath the surface. Weíve also watched Dario Argento movies as teens.
Oh yes, Ville likes to return to his background in extreme music Ė and especially to black metal Ė while talking to journalists. However itís not every day that a match like this appears.
- One winter a church of ice was built in Helsinki, it was only going to be there for a month till the spring and the sun came. We ere talking about getting gasoline and burning it down, just because it would be such a dumb thing to do. What was the name of that church in Norway Ė Fantoft? Beautiful, incredibly beautiful. Donít mess with an architect is all Iím sayingÖ The stave churches are exciting because theyíve got so many pagan things in them, itís not real Christianity.
- Most of todayís black metal is shit and most of the people behind that music are shit. But Iíve had the pleasure of meeting Ihsahn from Emperor. Such a cool guy. It was unbelievable finding out we were the same age Ė born 1976 Ė which means that he was super young, around 16, when the incidents in Norway were at their worst. Nobody outside of Scandinavia got it. It was fun talking to Ihsahn about the old days, especially about the Finnish groups, with who there was a lot of fighting. ďAre they really true?Ē and a lot of other important questions. There were actually a few bands in Finland who were on the Norwegiansí side. Their music really sucked.
Ville explains that he rarely has got the time or is in the mood to look up new music.
- After a 12 or 16 hour working day with my own music I donít feel the urge to check out the latest releases of black metal bands. I actually donít miss it either. The only think I can handle while working is reggae. Iíve always been a fan of reggae, for a while I was growing dreads and playing in a reggae band. Thatís another part of my youth. Iíve always had a lot of things going on in my life.
- When I have time to spare Iíd rather listen to the old music I already own. I was the guy who bought everything in the good old days and I still have a lot of records that I havenít properly listened to. Itís not like I know all the lyrics to Cathedralís Forest Of Equilibrium by heart, for instance.
Have you heard a Swedish band called Shining?
- Yes, and I like them a lot, but I donít care much for Niklasí attitude. The music is super cold, super dark and I like the rhythm. But Iíve got difficulties for people who have got something against life, there are enough horrible things in the world as it is, it just seems wrong. He reminds me of Mika Luttinen in Impaled Nazarene, who doesnít care about anything or anyone. Which is cool as long as youíve got a humoristic distance to it, which Niklas unfortunately doesnít seem to have. The same with Skitliv, to me itís just scarily nihilistic. If young people have that view on lifeÖ
- You have to either do something about your situation or try to have a sense of humour about it. If youíre a poser you will be busted. It feels kind of GG Allin: ďeverything is worthless and I just want to dieĒ, but then they donít commit suicide. Iím not saying that Niklas is a poser, my impression is that heís an anxious young man who lack direction. And now I sound like a parentÖ
Heís a big fan of your music.
- He is? Cool.
I texted him while I was on my way to meet you just to get my head around the phenomenon HIM. He answered ďFantastic man, an unseeing devil worshiper whoís function in this world is to inspire young, outcast teenagers that suicide is glorious and good. Thank God for tools, if still unknowing, like our Ville Valo.Ē
- Iím not for suicide. Absolutely not. All that bullshit about killing oneself, thatís so emo. Everybody can do that. Itís not extreme. GG Allin shat on stage and beat up girls. That was extreme andÖ
Ville makes a face to emphasise that heís balancing between joking and being serious.
- ÖĒillegalĒ, or whatever youíre supposed to call it.
- The singer of the Finnish band Enochian Crescent used to cut himself in front of the audience. Thatís not extreme Ė thatís old school. Not particularly chocking anymore. To achieve that you have to do something more powerful. Everybody has cut their wrist, taken a knife and seen how it feels. When youíre like 12 and become blood brothers with your friends while camping in the woods.
- Suicide is a deadlock that I donít like or support in any way. We get a lot of emails from young people, who are going through a rough time in their lives, who say that the melancholy in our music helps them get through the day. Iím not claiming that our music is a cure, but this is a considerably better response than what you get from encouraging people to do horrible things. Iíd like to think that out music doesnít deny the dark side of life, but encourages people who are experiencing it at the moment. Life is tough and it has its downs, mistakes you need to make to learnÖ But tell Niklas I said ďhiĒ.
Of course itís ironic that artists like Marilyn Manson or HIM Ė with a basically positive approach on life and a positive message Ė in the 2000s continue to be targets for raging moralists, when every child whoís able to read and has got access to the internet has got oceans of rock music celebrating all imaginable loss and humiliation just one click away. Like Shining, for example. Obviously unhappiness in all its manifestations Ė even those who donít looks particularly good on stage Ė is the most legitimate subject that is possibly imaginable for art to be about. But at the same time that doesnít mean that the discussion is meaningless. Or that the one who advocates the aesthetics or the romantic pain could sometimes owe an explanation.
- The way I see it what we embrace is that nobody is perfect and that we all make mistakes. Itís not about glorifying the bad side of humans or anything like that. Itís rather a question of being honest with the fact that we all feel weakness and failure once in a while. In that way you can possibly spread the message to people that theyíre not alone in feeling like they do. Itís a uniting power in music.
- In my book Emperor and Satyricon are examples of positive music. They take all the black energy and get rid of it. Out, away. I like that, itís very cathartic. Radio pop that fills your head with plastic nothings that mean nothing is considerably more evil and mentally destructive. Music is sonic meditation, thatís how it works for me. Sad music doesnít make me sad. It makes me feel good. Scooter in the taxi on the way to the airport from the hotel room, if anything, makes me want to shoot people. I hate happy music, it gets me down. Dark music is something I can relate to and sing along to and wash away my troubles with.
Does healthy, happy love ever strike you as difficult to manage, that youíve somehow gotten used to a certain was of thinking about love, with the entire melancholic spectra of emotions?
- All love is always difficult to manage. But when things are going well in a relationship thereís rarely a need to write songs about it. When youíre content with life you spend your days enjoying that feeling, not writing sad songs.
You mentioned a comforting, uniting power in music. What band communicated that message when you were young and insecure?
- Depeche Mode. They were sentimental and direct and didnít try to hide those bad, human feelings Ė but at the same time they were never glorifying. A big part of the western culture celebrate the man as someone who isnít supposed to feel pain and rather sweep his feelings underneath the carpet. Art and music are probably the only forums where youíre free to show who you are and to admit to your weaknesses and failures in a way that can be accepted and appreciated.
Translation from german to English by leilalalah from Valo Daily