Ville interview for HIMFinland.net

Himfinland.net met up with Ville Valo in Helsinki on Monday 24th July 2006. Ville kindly spared us an hour and a half of his well-deserved summer vacation, and chatted to us about the band's tour plans, the upcoming album, what it's like on tour, and how over-enthusiastic fans sometimes make life rather difficult.

HF.net: So, how does it feel to be on vacation?

Ville: I haven't had time to be on vacation yet. We've just done a festival, and we were in Romania the weekend before last, after which I flew to a meeting in England, where I spent three days and met some of my friends and the press. I came back to Finland on Friday night and - what day is it? [Monday] and on Wednesday I'm going to Hamburg, for a holiday, though. Anyway, there've been all kinds of hassles, so I haven't had a chance to settle down properly. I also moved a while ago, so I need to take care of things like buying toilet paper, sheets and other basic stuff. And when you haven't done that for a while, it's damn hard (laughs).

HF.net: And you probably want to see family, too...

Ville: You're right. Actually, I haven't seen my mom yet, although I've talked with her on the phone rather a lot. And I'm going to Hamburg with my little brother, to celebrate his birthday.

HF.net: Many people want to know about this "Design the new heartagram" competition. What's it all about, and whose idea was it?

Ville: I don't really know where the idea came from. I believe some person had designed several different heartagrams and people were supposed to choose the best of them, and it would've been used for something. But I thought those heartagrams totally sucked, so I suggested that people rather send in what they want. And I don't know what the prize is.

HF.net: I think it's one of those 'Dark Light' gold record editions. At least that's what it said on the website.
Ville: Sure. I don't use the Internet that much. In America it's a very important medium, and there are competitions and other stuff all the time. I'm not familiar with them, because the band doesn't follow those things - and we're constantly on tour anyway. But the idea was that if someone comes up with something brilliant, it gives us ideas as well. It's creative work after all, and those ideas may be used on the cover of a single or something, and then the guy who created it gets a piece of the fame.

HF.net: You just played a show in Romania, and from what we hear there were people from Warner shooting a live DVD. Is this correct?

Ville: No. We were originally supposed to shoot the DVD there, but we didn't because the location costs and the technical standards weren't up to the standard that we wanted. And there wasn't enough time, either. Sibiu is a fantastic medieval town, but to shoot the DVD there would have required written permission from every house. It was really complicated. Warner is hoping to produce the DVD in a couple of months. I don't know the exact location and time, but sometime around August we're going to film a show and add some other material to that

By the way, there's this system in America these days.. DVDs are sold in normal CD packs, among normal music CDs, so that they come together with the CD. That means that people buy both the record and the DVD - it's just that the price is not that bad, only about $24.90. So they're actually buying both Dark Light and DVD and that means they both turn up on the charts. This is sort of political, and it differs from country to country. The record companies have also calculated that if you have an ordinary DVD case, it sells much less than if the DVD is in an ordinary CD case. People simply don't browse music DVDs. Anyway, Warner probably wants that DVD out by Christmas, so that it would increase our record sales. After all, we're after a gold record and it would be fabulous to be the first Finnish rock band to get one.
HF.net: So the DVD will be in stores by Christmas?

Ville: They're trying. No promises.

HF.net: And after that there will be less than a year before the next album comes out?

Ville: I've just come from a meeting, so I've got the latest news (laughs). The record company would like the record to be out next summer, but I don't think we can make it. We've been away from Finland for two years, now it would be lovely to just calm down and make some music in peace. We're aiming to get the album out next year, approximately two years after Dark Light. What's two years between albums? Nothing.

HF.net: ..and the DVD in between…

Ville: Indeed, and the single, too. When we first had the opportunity to tour countries like Japan, Australia and New Zealand, and of course America - and we still haven't even been to South America - our workload doubled. We'll go to America for our third tour, for this one record only. There are so many places in America that we haven't been to. And we have the honour of playing with bands like Papa Roach, Lost Prophets and Kill Hannah -and it's really cool that we're the headliners. Also, this is the first tour that has mainly festivals.

HF.net: Papa Roach is quite a big name in the US...

Ville: Yeah, and they're just releasing a new record. They're probably thinking that both bands have different audiences, and so we get them together, so we're not going to do the same old thing again. For the same reason, we don't want to do another regular club tour, because we've already done two of those. There's no point in playing in the same venues, because people will think it's boring ("Oh, it's them again here"). You have to have a new angle or idea.

HF.net: You mentioned South America. People on the boards want to know which countries you're going to visit.

Ville: There's been talk of Bolivia, Colombia, Argentina and Mexico. But I don't think we have time to do those countries, unfortunately.
I'm really sorry, but you have to remember that we haven't toured Finland, Sweden, Norway, France and a lot of other countries either, because there's no time. After all, we've been working constantly and over longs periods of time. When we were doing the last record, I was away from home for nine months. All the videos, press, promo tours - all that, plus making the record, mixing and mastering it. You've got to spend some time at home, too, otherwise your head will explode.

HF.net: You need to speak Finnish once in a while?

Ville: Yeah. And to see mom and dad and do normal things, not just live hotel life. And I hope that we're able to do a short Scandinavian tour next spring. I hope. It'd be good to do a few live gigs before we start to make the album, to get those muscles back into shape.

HF.net: Many younger fans in particular want to know about your future gigs in Finland. There's Tavastia and festivals, but will there be more than that? Many kids complain that it's hard to get to Provinssirock, and if you do, you don't see much. And Tavastia has an age limit.

Ville: Personally, I just don't like Nosturi [a venue in Helsinki] that much. Tavastia is a more classic place. But during our last tour in Finland there were only concerts with no age limit. That was only because…I think it was in Kuopio that kids had collected names in a petition to get us play in a venue without age limit. But those sorts of gigs are difficult - it's hard to find venues because it's always more profitable for the venues to get money from selling booze - that's how they make money. We also noticed that even if our gigs didn't have an age limit, not that many kids showed up after all. It's harder for them to travel, unless they happen to live in the city centre. They have school and other responsibilities in the middle of the week. And we'd have to play really early. It's a double-edged sword. On the other hand, not all the older fans want to go to the same shows as the kids. They don't like being among little girls and boys. They'd rather go to a club so that they can enjoy the show with a pint of beer. But it's something we've considered.
HF.net: So are you planning on doing any other gigs in Finland, apart from Tavastia?

Ville: As I said, we'll try to arrange something next spring. But Finland is a difficult country because here you can't really tour on other days than just Wednesday - Saturday. Elsewhere you can just as easily play a gig on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. So in Finland you can only do eight shows in two weeks. If you want to tour the whole country, you need a month. And all this time you come back home for a couple of days. Not that we have a month anyway. Normally, we do five gigs in a row and have a day off. But we're trying, we're trying. Having said that, for me personally the priority is to make a really good next record.

HF.net: The first proper Finnish fan pages were launched a couple of months ago. Why do you think there hasn't been a site like ours before, when Germany and Spain, for example, have had them for years?

Ville: Because the internet is also very international. In Germany and elsewhere, people mostly make them in English. In Spain, Greece and Russia, for example, not that many people speak English. But it's a pleasure and an honour that finally there are hardworking people who've made the effort to create a site in Finnish

HF.net: Yes, because many young fans in particular don't know enough English to be able to discuss things and understand everything.

HF.net: What songs do you wish you'd composed yourself?

Ville: Probably Elvis's 'Can't Help Falling In Love', and 'Sininen Uni', 'Pieni ja Hento Ote', and 'Valo Yss'. There're so many of them. They're an inspiration when you're making your own music, but I still don't want to jump into anyone's boots. It's great go have people who make wonderful music and who inspire you.

HF.net: What inspired you to write 'Venus (In Our Blood)', and what's it about?
Ville: In some old myth, the seven towers and the water in the ocean are Hell - that's in the chorus of the song. In a way, it's a song about a young person who shouldn't be taught and subjected to religion, but who should instead figure out things in their own mind. And it's not necessarily just about religion - it could be about world politics as well. And of course, there are secrets in that song that I won't reveal.

HF.net: Songs like 'Your Sweet 666' and 'Right Here In My Arms' are regulars in your setlist. Fans want to know if you're going to play more songs from your earlier records, especially the first one.

Ville: The reason that we don't play more old songs is that we used a different guitar tuning on our first record. Normally the tuning starts at E and ends at E, but we had H (B to our international readers. - Editor) which was lower, so that we could create the really heavy guitars. When you have that sort of a tuning, the normal arpeggio - where you pick clean sounds - it doesn't sound so good. We decided to use that old technique that Richie Blackmore, for example, uses. In that you play fifths up and down simultaneously, which makes the effect. Most of those songs, like 'Our Diabolical Rapture' and 'The Beginning Of The End' start from H, so that there's a fifth's difference - or a fourth's, depending on how you want to count it.

Also, people in the big world aren't that interested. GLS wasn't that important to people, and many of them don't recognise the songs. For many people, RR was the first record of ours they heard. Also, 'Wicked Game' and 'Your Sweet 666' were also included in the UK version of RR. We simply can't play everything. DSBH is another record whose songs we rarely play, because that record brings back bad memories. It was a terrible mess - too many producers and mixers, extended schedules, there was hell of a lot of fighting going on all the time, and everything was just fucked up.

HF.net: Are there any songs that you really don't like anymore?

Ville: No.
HF.net: Really? You still enjoy playing 'Your Sweet 666', even after ten years?

Ville: Well yeah, occasionally some songs piss you off. 'Wicked Game' is one that is sometimes boring. Although it's a wonderful song, it's really hard to get it emotionally charged. But you get that when you see that the audience likes it. And of course we're proud of every song we've ever written.

HF.net: Are there things you couldn't do without on tour?

Ville: For me physically, it's my asthma meds - but other than that, I can travel without much. I used to pack lots of stuff with me, but nowadays when there are iPods and all that, you don't have to carry your records with you. I used to carry a sort of laptop studio with me, so that I could write songs in hotel rooms. But normally I don't have time for that on tour. You arrive at the hotel at 5am, sleep until 2, wake up, watch a little telly, shower, read a book, start doing interviews, then it's time for the gig, and next day it's the same all over again. There's no time to unpack and start setting up all kinds of gear. But for Mige and Burton, a chess board is essential. And on tour our biggest joke is that we always demand the local chess master - and we always get that person. A lot of people think it's a joke, but Mige and Burton really love to play, and Burton even studies the game and knows all the tactics and everything, and he's really good at it.

HF.net: You arent interested in chess yourself?

Ville: I love chess, but I'm not that good at it. I don't want to read about tactics and I don't want to adopt a strategic way of thinking. I want to play according to how I feel.

HF.net: Do long tours and promotional responsibilities have any effect on your music?

Ville: No. From the start, we've always tried to do as little promotion as possible between gigs. Usually we do no promotion whatsoever, because we want to concentrate on the upcoming gig of the evening. We also think that promotion sucks big ass. If you spend an entire month talking about yourself, even a stronger person is bound to go insane.
HF.net: Are there differences between fans from different countries?

Ville: Yup, the way they're enjoying the music. The Greeks sing along damn loudly, and the Americans have the mosh-pits and crowd surfing that the Europeans don't have. But mostly it depends on the evening. If the concert is on Friday, the atmosphere is always better than on Monday. But not in a way that there would be better and worse fans - I don't have any prejudices like that.

HF.net: What sort of positive memories do you have of fans?

Ville: In America there was this really cool-looking 3-year-old girl who gave us dolls for presents. Her parents were tattooed, and the girl was really tiny and her hair was dyed purple, and that hair went all the way to her knees. But generally speaking, some of our fans have become our friends. On the other hand, when we're on tour, we don't hang around anywhere. If we go to a pub after the gig, we go somewhere where we don't know anybody. We want to relax, play chess and make idle chit-chat.

HF.net: What about idol-worship? Where are the boundaries, and where does stalking begin? For example, what do you think of fans who ask you for an autograph when you're having a day of?

Ville: Just after I moved into my new house, someone came and stole the front doorknob. I don't know what happened to it, maybe it just broke, and that person threw it into the bushes? But as it happened at 9am - I had been out until 4am and it was my first day off for like two years - I was extremely unimpressed. And then there was this girl who knocked on my door for four hours. She didn't speak any English, only Greek. I told her I was going to call the police, because this is my home. But she didn't really get it. So people like that... They're actually impeding my work and the making of the next album. A man's home is his castle, and you should be able to walk around without your trousers on if you like, without people peeping through the windows. Thank god these trespassing incidents don't happen that often - I'm extremely happy about that.
HF.net: But your new apartment is situated a little higher off the gorund, isn't it?

Ville: Yeah, but downstairs people have moved rocks and stuff so that they can peep in. Really, that sort of thing pisses me off a lot.

HF.net: Do you have time to read fan mail, and do you ever answer the letters and messages?

Ville: Back in the day, Seppo used to print out stuff from heartagram.com and we'd to read them. But we never have time to reply. Especially when there's no internet connection in the bus, and it costs 20 to use one at the hotel. Also, we don't want to use our spare time to answer fanmail, because the letters are often quite personal - love letters, that sort of thing.

Has being with a new record company had any effect on your writing? For example, have you had more freedom?

Ville: We've always had a lot of freedom. We've had the pleasure and honour to work with Asko Kallonen, who's an extremely cool guy. We have the freedom to play the guitar. Sometimes, someone from the record company might say 'That's a good song you have, but how about if you did this or that?' Then we might reconsider if we want to do it that way. It's almost like playing the song to friends of yours, and they say the song is okay, but it could be, perhaps, a little heavier at some point. But of course, it's also about our professional pride and skill, and there can't be too many people interfering in the process. I'd say we have a good relationship with our record company. The only problem is that they're in the US and we're here. Sometimes it's hard to communicate when you get work calls at midnight.

HF.net: But you also have a Finnish record company, Helsinki Music Company. How did that cooperation start?

Ville: HMC is Asko Kallonens company. We wanted to leave Finland out of this American deal altogether, because the boss at Warner Finland, Pekka Ruuska, once called us a satanic band. So we thought we'd have our revenge but ensuring that they lose every euro we make.

HF.net: Is it possible that you'd release something exclusively for the Finnish market, like a DVD or special edition singles?
Ville: We've thought about that, and that's one reason why we wanted to have a different record company in Finland. Then again, if we release something special here, people in other countries will start to import them, so that at the end of the day everybody will lose - especially the fans, because prices will go up. So in this respect it's good to have the "same standard quality" everywhere! (laughs)

HF.net: Next, a rather generic question: tell us a little about your next record!

Ville: It's something we haven't started yet.

There's been talk that it's going to have punk influences.

Ville: People shouldn't take everything so literally. The idea is that we're going to make a record that's a little more dynamic, because with the last record we went as neat and clean as we possibly could, and now we want to make something more crazy. The heavy songs will be heavier than before and the slow songs slower than ever. We want the sort of dynamics as Led Zeppelin had on their third album. It can have a really heavy guitar storm after an acoustic song. But like I said, we haven't started making the next record yet, and things can change before we get to it. It might happen, for example, that someone makes a record this year that everybody will go crazy about.

HF.net: A question about 'Synnin Viem'. Is there going to be a Part Two?

Ville: I don't think enough has happened since the first. We could of course have a new revised edition, but then again, why would we?

HF.net: There's a new book coming out in English, in November. Are you aware of that?

Ville: No. Seppo might know about it.

HF.net: Judging from the cover, it seems that the intention is to rip off the teenage fans.

Ville: Yup, there are plenty of things like that. It's the same as bootlegs and rumours and all that. They're also positive things, because it tells us the band is doing something right. People don't make bootlegs et cetera of shitty bands.

HF.net: What about the Tavastia gig on NYE? Are you going to do one, and is there going to be a 3-day festival too, like last year?
Ville: We're working on it at the moment, and it should all be finalised during August. We have some ideas on how to do it, and I'd like to have another Helldone. And that would take place at Tavastia, and last for 3-4 days. And, of course, we're going to play the traditional gig at Tavastia, isnt that obvious? It's a great tradition, and we're really happy that they're having us every year. It's become a nice event, all our friends, moms and dads are there. And nowadays it's quite big, too, and there are people all the way from the States. It's become a real gathering. That's exactly why we wanted to arrange a festival - if you're coming from abroad, why not stay for a little longer and meet people?

HF.net: When you're working on a record, you probably have more songs than those that end up being chosen for the album. How do you choose the songs, and who does this?

Ville: Many bands claim that they write a hundred songs, or like forty of them, and they then choose ten songs for the album - but I only write the good songs. I think it's better that you use your energy on something that everybody in the band likes. That you don't just write songs and start arranging them. You only work on the good ones. If there are ten songs on the album, we've written maybe thirteen songs altogether. Then there are some extras on digipacks. I don't like the idea of making a b-side, as in weaker songs - I think it's stupid.

HF.net: Which one of your music videos is your favourite? Which one was the most fun to make?

Ville: They've all been just fucking hilarious. Making the 'Buried Alive' by Love video was fun as all hell. It was the first one we made in the US, and Juliette Lewis was on it. It was somehow a cool experience. On the other hand, 'The Funeral of Hearts' with Steffe (Stefan Lindfors) was a very different kind of experience. We went up to Norway and did some shots in the Arctic Ocean. It was such a huge production that it was fun. You got to know of different people. They've all been nice. I liked Bill Ykich a hell of a lot. He made the British version of 'Gone with the Sin' and the new 'Wicked Game'. He's a really nice guy.

HF.net: What's the best part of making a video?

Ville: If they made an animated video where they wouldn't need us at all. Videos suck. It's lovely to plan them and think about them, and they're cool when they're done. But it's a bit like buying a pig in a poke - you never know what will happen.

HF.net: Does the band have to cover some of the costs?

Ville: It's usually like that. I don't know if it's some sort of secret, but usually the band pays for one half of the costs and the record company for the other. If you consider that a video usually costs more than the making of a whole album, there's an odd imbalance in this business.
Making a video is fucking hilarious at its best. I liked working with Meiert Avis. He directed 'Wings of a Butterfly'. It was nice because it was the first time we got to use CGI. It was great. I think they've all had their pros and cons. I think that making the very first 'Wicked Game' has been the funniest - the one that we shot in Arabia park (in Helsinki). Antto (Melasniemi) filmed it with an old video camera with tape in it since there were no digital cameras back then. I just walked with mom and dad's dog and drank some red wine. It cost something like 2000 marks then.

HF.net: Where do you get the ideas for your videos?

Ville: Some of them come from us and some from the directors. But it has to do with the "not seeing the forest for the trees" sort of thing. If we like a song and we have a really strong idea / image about it, it's fucking great that someone, like Steffe, might get totally different vibes from the song. I think it's sort of wonderful that you have this really nice guy who creates a totally different world for it.

HF.net: Do you prefer music videos with a story, or videos where the band simply plays?

Ville: Both. I think. Personally I like videos where we just play. And our situation has been like... we've kind of made our debut with different albums in different countries all the time, meaning that it's good to show people that we're a band. Not like I would be alone with an acoustic guitar or something. That's been essential. It's difficult to make good videos with the band only playing in them, but we do our best. Videos with stories usually have to be fucking good or you'll only watch it once. I think that videos with stories have been boring ever since Michael Jackson made 'Thriller', because it's so fucking good. The long version in the movies and everything. All those dancing zombies and everything, it's damn cool.

HF.net: Is it difficult to act when you're making a video?

Ville:It's not acting, it's performing. If someone says that you need to walk from here to there, it isn't all that difficult (laughs).
[Continued from Page 6...] It's always been really important for us that there is specifically no acting. Also, I don't want to be touching any ladies or anything like that. I hate these American rock bands who have models (in their videos), and then just hang out with them. I think it's revolting. It's not exactly genuine.

HF.net: Are you planning on making a solo album or an acoustic record?

Ville: I have a couple of songs that aren't really like HIM, but no plans. We want to make a HIM album next, and if there is a longer break at some point, it might be nice to do something else for a change. I've had some other projects as well but they're still secrets.

I think it would be cool to make an album with the spirit of Zeppelin's third. It was epoch-making in the sense that it had songs that rocked really hard but it also had completely acoustic songs as well. It would be nice to make a kind of combination of everything - all those different dynamics that we've done before would be combined into one record. That is, hard parts would be harder and soft parts even softer. More 60's and 70's type of thing. Not musically, but I mean that you'd have more licence. Like, Black Sabbath has the strangest song choices - you have two really hard and heavy songs and all of a sudden an acoustic instrumental song. Four minutes of acoustic guitar on a heavy album. Normally you'd put it at the end or some place else. I like that kind of schizophrenic way of thinking. So, that's what the acoustic part has to do with, but no way are we going to make a completely acoustic record.

HF.net: If you had an opportunity to collaborate with a female artist, who would you choose?

Ville: Christina Scabbia from Lacuna Coil. She's a fucking funny person and the whole band is fucking good. They have the same kind of style as us, a bit darker. They're a little heavier while our style has a bit more rock in it. But it could be cool. I have a low voice and she has a really, or well, pretty high voice but with the same kind of melancholy. They're super nice. It would be fun. Christina is lovely. They're nice people. They're easy to be around, they're honest, they don't boast or show off at all. It's just easy to talk with them about, like, darning your socks. Which is important. So, maybe her.

HF.net: Have you seen a lot of showing off then?

Ville: Yes. But I don't want to talk about those bands. It's pointless because it's publicity for them. Whether it's good or bad, it doesn't matter. Usually the younger bands think that they have to be so fucking arrogant. All the older guys like Ozzy and Iggy Pop and everyone know how the things work - if you start burning your bridges behind you, things will be fucked up. Like life in general. We've always tried to be as honest and straightforward as we can be and it's really nice to finally meet your own idols, who are way cool.

HF.net: You once said that you make your music for Bam Margera. What if Bam didn't like your new material?
Ville: Well, he hasn't liked all our songs. And it doesn't even matter. Bam's a fucking great friend and it was a joke, and probably in some British magazine. There have been lots of stories like that when people translate them incorrectly and print them in Iltasanomat (a Finnish tabloid). There's been something about us recording a whole album naked. It's like you make these jokes all the time, it's dry humour, black humour. It's nothing serious. It's not something you should take too seriously. It's like someone has asked me who I write my music for. Usually people would say for everyone or for myself - something boring, anyway. I've said "for my mom" too many times before and if I remember it right, Bam was with me then, so...

HF.net: If there was a movie about HIM, what would its name be, and who would you want to play the band members in it?

Ville: I've never thought about that. Of course its name would be 'Carpe Diem' if it was a biographical movie. Vincent Gallo could play me. I like him a hell of a lot, even though he doesn't look like me. John Malkovich could play Mige and... well, I don't know. They'll never make a movie like that, anyway.

HF.net: Well these are things you should think about...

Ville: Oh, come on!

HF.net: Many HIM fans think that there should be a HIM comic book. If such an awesome comic ever saw the light of day, which superpowers do you think you guys would all have? Would they actually be useful for fighting against mankind's iniquity, or would they just be flashy party-tricks?

Ville: I think I would have some sort of Orpheus type of power: I would sing and write so goddamned beautifully that the whole world would cry. Hades himself would fall in love with that. Mige's powers would probably have something to do with farting. Kaasu would cook such amazing food... He can actually cook, but now it would be something incredible. Linde could sleep his whole life through.


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