LA Youth/Dsire Music journalist Nattalie Tehrani did an interview with Ville Valo on May 22nd 2008.
Hi! How are you?
How are you?
- I'm good, I'm good, just flying back home, had a couple weeks off until festival season starts in Europe and then after that, I don't know….get started on the next album.
I just wanted to thank you so much for taking the time out to do this, this is really a big honor for me, thank you.
- Oh come on! A pleasure.
So my name is Nattalie, I write for this newspaper called LA Youth, so we just set out to do band interviews with our favorite bands and that we respect a lot, so this is huge for me so…THANK YOU!
- Oh I'm blushing here.
So you guys just finished up your tour, Digital Versatile Doom just came out, so how do you go about to readjusting to daily life again?
- Um, there is really no readjusting. Um when we come back home, the only real difference is I have to buy my own toilet paper but that's it. I wake up, maybe check my email, play my acoustic guitar, maybe see a friend and eat, but that's about it. Very simple. It's not that different from being on tour. The only real difference is you have to do the laundry and buy the toilet paper. So kind of do the average stuff.
Right, like the daily chores.
- Indeed. Actually it does feel kind of psychedelic and surreal to do that, because it's been a long tour. So in a way it does feel like a vacation to be back home and feel the normal stuff.
I'm sure touring all the time can be exhausting at times so being home, and just being in your own bed I am sure can be relaxing and good to be back.
- Oh yeah, it's not bad, it's not bad. I got a bed, probably about, what is it like two or three years and maybe slept in it 15 times.
That's crazy! So I've read a lot of interviews, and it seems like you're so educated in all aspects of life from books, to paintings, to playing many instruments. And as a lyricist and a musician, have you trained yourself to soak up all this knowledge and store it for future references?
- Um I've just been really lucky to meet the right people at the pub. So when you're a musician you talk about stuff with other musicians. Like if you're a plumber, you hang out with plumbers and talk about different aspects of pluming. So it's not that different in that sense. So I've just been blessed with the opportunity of traveling the world with the band and meeting a lot of people. I'm not very educated, but I know bits and pieces that are fragmented, all the information that I do have. So you know, I would not be able to talk about the entire aspects of… anything.
Oh no, that's not true! You mentioned you read a lot of books and recently you said that you were reading 2012 and the Oxford Book of Death, which I picked up and it's really amazing. What're some books you're reading right now?
- Uh, what the fuck…back home I'm always reading, like, 7 books. I'm reading this pretty good book, Streaks at Midnight, its poems that are eerie and humorous. It's a book from the 60's, it like children's' poems, but really quirky, doomy, gloomy, weird ones. But I'm reading a lot of biographies on Aleister Crowley. I've read a couple of books about him and he's just a fascinating character, so I'm reading one of him, that's very sexual, that ones in my bedroom and the other is called, Do What Thou Wilt: A Life of Aleister Crowley, by Lawrence. And I'm reading Death, Desire and the Doll: The Life and Art of Hans Bellmer, that's very exciting. Then I'm reading, Kiss Me, Judas by Christopher Baer and I'm reading The Green King, by Paul Loup. So I'm reading a lot of stuff at the same time.
Do you draw most of you're inspirations from reading, or from music or cultures?
- Well, I guess it's everything. It's just like, eyes open. You can get good ideas from, uh…well basically, all the good ideas behind songs they do come from, real life, from people I've met or stories I've heard. But then, reading poetry or reading literature, it helps me out to be able to function better as a lyricist. It gives me different options and different ways of explaining yourself better. Trying to put emotions down on paper is very, very hard. Especially for me because I wasn't brought up in an English speaking family, so it's complicated but at the same time, it's rewarding. That's why I keep on doing it.
Kind of like expanding your language and vocabulary, yeah that's awesome!
- You know its fun. It's great to be able to do that as a profession and it's great the passion over the years is helpful in a way that I get the bread on my table and afford to buy my toilet paper with the money that I get from my passion. So that's fantastic and really rare. So, very few musicians are able to do that, so I'm very proud and I feel very humbled.
No, that's so cool, and I was going to ask you, it kind of off topic, recently there was a war in Mexico between metal fans and Emo fans. Did you hear about that? And I read that, and I think it completely defeats the whole purpose of music for me which is initially to bring everyone together. What do you think about that, because our generation seems to have lost the whole concept behind music.
- Well back in the day, I think there has always been, this kind of tribal behavior when it comes to music or whatever, some of them in fashion. You have lots, Goths in England and some Rockers in England back in the 60's, it hasn't changed that much. There have always been tribes, fighting against each other. It's the way of human nature I guess. Just labeling things, and fighting because of those labels, is just a waste of time I guess.
Exactly. And you guys are just so brilliant for coming up with your own genre so you don't have to be categorized and being put in this position.
- Well you know, the whole Emo thing for me sounds weird because it started off as being Emo hardcore, which meant emotional hardcore, which meant that it was hardcore in lyrics and hardcore music with the lyrics that talked about politics, for example. Political or not, it was about emotional things that happened in each and everybody's heart. So, what's wrong with being emotional? I do understand that, that goes against the macho traditional of rock and roll or heavy metal. But you know, fuck em'.
- Everybody is an occasional bastard. It doesn't matter. I listen to Reggae, I listen to Disco. I listen to Black Metal. I listen to whatever I like at that moment, you know, or whatever makes my day better.
Exactly, it's like if you listen to one type of music you have to dress like that certain type and it's just so frustrating to see kids not being able to expand and listen to whatever they feel like listening to.
- True. It is peer pressure. That's how it is in schools and I remember when I was back in school, you know we had some guys that only liked Iron Maiden and if you were in that gang you weren't able to listen to anything else.
Ha! You were stuck.
- And I had the problem of liking Michael Jackson's Thriller as much Live after Death by Iron Maiden so I kind of fell in between all the different gangs, but, uh, such is life. I'd rather you believe in your self rather than the bullies around. You shouldn't even be bullied into believing everything either. You should find your own way of believing in things and you'll go a long way.
Exactly that's wonderful advice.
So I know you guys started a band because you guys were influenced by Black Sabbath, Type O Negative, Iggy and the Stooges, and these are all bands that people consider to be a foundation of music and are very important to music. So what do you think of the current state of the music industry and do you listen to any current music?
- Well, I listen to a lot of current Reggae, I don't know why, I used to have dreadlocks back in the day. I was like a street musician playing the bongos, I was like 14. But, yeah I listen to a lot of Reggae, and uh, well if you're talking about current rock and roll, I've been listening to Disturbed. I still don't have their new album but, for some reason I never got them before and then all of a sudden, years after their first album was released, I heard the song in a bar or whatever, and it really struck a chord in me and I fell in love with a couple of the tracks and so, I'm a late bloomer when it comes to rock and roll. Nowadays, I never diss anything. I used to diss everything when I would hear a first album , I say "That sucks." Nowadays I know better, usually in a couple of years, I'll like some of them.
It'll grow on you.
- Yeah, I'm indecisive when it comes to music. So it takes me a while to get into them. Yeah, Disturbed, they've been pretty good. I've been listening to Hercules and the Love Affair, and the guy singing is from Antony and the Johnsons. Their like a New York based/Italian based kind of live band. Their a good live band, so I like them cause I like watching people now.
Yeah, I think it all depends on the mood you're in. Maybe a two weeks ago you would hate the band and then maybe if you're in the mood for it three weeks later, they're the best band ever.
- You know, exactly. It just you have to keep your ears and your eyes open. One week you might meet somebody that you appreciate and look up to and that somebody can give you great lessons and change life.
Exactly. So, I was going to ask you, in today's society, especially in American society, a lot of things are considered taboo. You seem to have an open mind to everything, but are there some subjects that you think are to touchy?
- Um I mean, what subject do you talk about now? Maybe to write songs about, but not to talk about. But I don't know, what kind of taboos are you talking about?
Like anything. Like if you watch South Park for instance, they touch on a lot of things that most American people would consider a little bit crossing the line or you know, just not correct…
- No, they do cross the line. I do watch the series but, I think it takes a certain amount of years to be able to laugh about something horrible that has happened. And I guess it if it had to do with the Hollicost or if it had to do with September 11th, there was an episode that had to do with the strength of human kind, where able to laugh at the most horrible things, just to be able to cope.
And yeah so that's ju…
- Yeah that's what I was trying to get at was…
I'm sorry I got you off…
- No, no, no your turn.
Yeah that's what I was trying to say, what is ok to laugh, should we talk about these things you know. Are these things ok for you?
- Uh well, um... It's like, say you crack a fucking Pedophile joke. That's kind of like, crossing the line for me. Its not a funny thing for someone who has gone through it. I haven't personally, I've been blessed by not having had any sexual abuse in my youth but um, but hearing some stories, I mean, it fucks you up so deeply, that uh, at the end of the day its good to laugh about it as well but, at the end of the day at the same time, you should have respect, and sympathy, and give all possible, at least verbal help, you can, if you meet somebody. Because those things are tough and they really do fuck you up, and usually fuck you up for life. And people have to struggle a lot of times. Same thing with wars. Same thing with Hurricane Katrina. Same thing with Semptember 11th. Those are all really big things that do leave marks. So you have to be careful with what you laugh at.
Exactly and at the end of the day you really do need to know what you need to take seriously and what isn't.
- A good example when it comes to humor is like Dave Chappelle for example. His stuff is absolutely crazy. The ingenious thing about some of his stuff is, if you're a white man, you can't say this stuff, but you'll laugh with him. But that's the beauty of the whole thing, there are such twists, like the Black/White Supremacists, one of the first jokes he had on his one of his first seasons. It was funny as hell, and when I saw it couple years back, I saw it in the tour bus. I couldn't BELIEVE the courage he had, you know, tackling all those things with such twists that you didn't know whether to cry or laugh. I didn't know whether to shit my pants as well.
I haven't seen that! I have to go check it out. Definitely.
- For sure.
I'm going to kind of change the subject again, and you said you wake up with melodies in your head, do you ever find it difficult to take what's playing your head and bring it to life and write it down?
- Um, not really, but make it in a way where you're actually nurturing them, as you would a flower or a plant, you know. And that's the hard part, because there are a lot of ideas floating about. Lot of ideas for me and a lot of ideas for all kinds of things, and I think that perseverance is one of the most important things when it comes to being a musician. You know, for example you have to try and be the best critique you can, with your own stuff and try to leave the bad things out and live with them and let the songs grow. Some songs take more time, like the song "Passion's Killing Floor," of our latest album Venus Doom, and that song took me about 10 years to finish. Some songs take about 20 minutes to finish. That's the beauty of music, songs are so very different and some are so ethical, at least for me. There are mathematics involved with music, but its pure mathematics and that's magic.
So that's cool, so maybe a song that you had 4 years ago, it builds up so kind of work at it and add things to it?
- You know, you don't even add things. It's more of a subliminal processing. You write about a thing, and you're not even sure about it. It doesn't feel right. But after, something, whatever it mind of been, like a relationship has happened, or you met somebody or seen a new scenery somewhere or listened to a new CD. All of a sudden that experience can validate. It is funny. At least for me you have to see both ways. Or I don't have to experience something to have to write a song. It's funny when you write a song, and actually experience it later.
Wow, that's crazy!
- It is. It's hypothetical. In my songs at least, I'm not talking about necessarily about that specific event. I am talking about or singing about specific emotions. Sometimes you just feel like there is something missing. There just something missing. Or you feel like there is a hole in your heart. And for some reason, maybe a couple years later, you feel complete and you complete a song and that's the combination of various songs. As a musician or a song writer, you are a sponge. You soak in all the information and you squirt it out at one point.
Yeah, kind of store all the different facts, experiences and information in you're head and put it towards music. That's really cool.
- Kind of yeah, it's like computer language. You have to de-fragment the hard drive sometimes. You have a lot of fragmented ideas and you have to bring them together sooner or later. But then again, there are some times where they just never work. You like them, but they never work. That's fine too. Creating those songs, and they've given you the pleasure of creating them, and in its self, that's enough.
Do you have a certain quote or saying that you live by?
- Um, well you know, there is several, they keep on changing. Usually, their just quotes of somebody, and now I just had my first year of sobriety behind me…
Congratulations on that by the way! That's awesome!
- Yeah! And, um, I've been laughing about this British poet and painter once said, that "You never know it's enough, until is more than enough."
Damn, that's a really good one.
- It's a very basic kind of philosophy and everything, but its such a simplistic thing that it doesn't mean necessarily that you have to go over the top. But in certain things, you got to find your own personal bottom, to know what's too much for you. Its like anything you do, what's too much. Then you know the right amount. Whether your thinking, or reading, or bathing, or kissing or whatever. It covers things in our life. So that's been my motto for the past year.
Yeah its kind of like finding your limit and knowing what too much is, and having a balance throughout life.
- Well, you know, in search of a balance. I guess balance, as a word for me, is the same thing that heaven means to Christians. You know, struggling to get there and try to become a better person, and get there imperishably. So I believe that in that sense, that's the balance. You're looking for that balance and hopefully get their by making the right decisions and also through mistakes, and life's mistakes. You learn a lot about the society you live in and yourself.
Exactly, and one of the hardest states to achieve is to be content and know what's to much, its just such a hard level of life to be at. To achieve that and be comfortable, I think that's a huge achievement right there.
- Well, you know, then again, balance may also be in the situation of "want." When you're happy in the situation that you long for something. So basically, you're lacking something in your life. Lets say, I'm single now. I've been longing for a relationship. Longing for love, for example. In a way, that can be my balance. That can be my heaven. I know there is something important for me to look for, and I know that there is a goal in my life, yet to be reached. I am fulfilled because there are things to be lived for, for me to look forward to and have everything here and now.
Yeah and having a reason to wake up for in the morning and having a goal in life, and having a drive for something, I think that's what life is about, you know?
- Sure. And it keeps on changing. You know, the problem with a lot of philosophies and a lot of religions and a lot of people, is that they think there is only one way, or one state of mind or one place you have to be spiritually or mentally, or physically to be able to reach that. I think its very natural for people to change their opinions on meeting different people and beings and its educational. Evolving in general.
I think people evolve year, so you can't be the same person and you're going to be changing you're thoughts and feelings towards everything, so I don't know, that's why, personally, religion has never worked for me either, because I change so much, so I take different philosophies and different aspects of religion and make it work for me, and I think that's what's important.
- Well, you know, all the gods are good and do good. But you know, there is a lot of suffering, a lot of benevolent political restraining happening in religion. You got to do this or you have to be like that, to get into heaven. Or you're not going to be able to do this or that. So, a lot of people are slaves to other peoples thoughts, and I don't believe in that. I believe that freedom is personal freedom. Then again we can talk about morals, and everybody does have different morals.
Yeah, and not being confined to one thing and stuck in this box or oppressed mentality.
- Yeah, and you know, to simplify the whole thought, it's the same thing that we were talking about with the music and that I said "Fuck, Disturbed, their shit heads, this sucks." And you know, I said this 3 years ago, 4 years ago, now I'm enjoying the spring come to Helsinki, and rockin', enjoying their stuff, and enjoying the whole vibe, feeling like I'm reborn again, and that's the soundtrack to it, and I'm really glad for it, to exist and if you don't like it, you don't have to buy it, you don't have to get it, you don't have to be force fed. Make your own decisions, and listen to what you want, and read what you want, the only thing I suggest is the old saying, "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer." The thoughts, the errors, the political views, whatever views they might be, if you don't appreciate it, it doesn't mean that you can't be educated when it comes to them. Knowing people, and knowing why they believe in things, and want things they want, I think that that's key. We're understanding the world a bit more.
Exactly, I mean like you said, learning about things that you don't like as much, and having knowledge of it and just learning about everything I think is very important. I completely agree.
- It is! It is. At the same time, just go with the flow, because you can't do everything. Cause there is such a limited amount of time that we have, so you know, you got to enjoy it as much as you can and just keep your ears and your eyes open for the educational part.
And, I know it is pretty early, but do you know what the next HIM album is going to sound like?
- Um, you know, I have no clue. I had the idea that since a lot of the stuff for Venus Doom is pretty, uh, you know a lot of different things going on musically, lets say complex, for a HIM album. I was thinking about doing, the opposite, like a Misfits type of an album. Punk, in your face, very short songs. Not a lot of guitar solos. Straight, in your face, and straight to the point. That's a punk album.
That would be sweet! That would be very cool.
You know, it'll be fun to, as a musician, to make drastic turns and do something new. Obviously, it would mean that it would still be melodic, and melancholy, and still have a lot of uh…
The HIM elements.
- What HIM's known for, yeah the HIM elements. We don't want to change that stuff, we're still happy about that, overall we're going step up the gear.
Oh man, I look forward to that! That's going to be awesome!
- Yeah me too!
And is there any message, or any thoughts that you would like to share with your fans?
- Um, well I think that we shared a lot. If you're going to transcribe all of that, that was one of the most philosophical conversations I've had an ages. So thank you for that.
Honestly, I learned so much, if I had gone to a week of school I wouldn't have learned as much. Thank you so much!
- Well you know, the funny thing about school is that, a lot of people think that what you learn in school happens in the classes. But I think the most important lesson learned in school is that you are introduced to a social circle, where you have to meet a lot of people that you like, and a lot of people you don't like, and to go along with it.
- So that's the importance of school, for me. You don't necessarily have to be excellent in math, but the most important thing is to get along with people and to understand that people come from different places and they all have different histories and they want different things in life. So it's kind of like social experiment, more or less.
I totally agree. Just being out there, and learning how to handle yourself, and being respectful towards each other, I think that's, like you said, the biggest lesson I've learned in school.
- And its still one of the things that people don't talk about. Which is weird, cause people are always talking about the grades talking about fucking prom, and who's the prom queen, and whatever. But uh, the beauty of the school is to be able to make friends, make the enemies and when you quite school and start working you meet a lot of people whom you have to work with, that you dislike. You don't get along on a personal level or philosophical level or whatever, but it is a very important thing to go to school because of that. And if you quite school or if you skip classes because you're not good at math, that's just a cop out. Everybody can learn the math. It's not too hard.
Yeah, and I've always wondered how people who are home schooled or don't go to school, how do they handle themselves when they're thrown out into the world? How do they handle themselves because you know, because you're oblivious…
- It's the same thing that in religious schools, that they don't teach the evolution theory. Darwinism.
I can't believe that!
- And that still happens in America. You don't have to believe in Darwin. But you can still read about it. So if you're really religious and you don't read about Darwin Theory at all, it still makes you stronger as a person when you've read about it, and know the arguments behind it. So that makes it easier for you to diss the whole theory when you start talking about your own personal beliefs.
Exactly, and I think it just goes back to learning about everything and just being a sponge, like you said, you shouldn't shun out whatever you don't want to learn about because you dislike it.
Manager (gives time limit notice): Hey Nat, I think we should wrap it up in a few minutes!
Oh ok, thanks so much Ville for taking the time out to do this.
- Cool, yeah, pleasure indeed. Pleasure indeed.
Wonderful talking to you, thank you!
- Thank you once again. Bye! Hopefully see you soon!