On the way to be me
In this series familiar people tell about themselves from a new point
The most successful rocker in Finland Ville Valo, 29, found music at
the age of 2 and at the same time gave up everything else. Now by the
madcap’s side walks also his fiancee, without whom many
things would seem insignificant.
“Being on tour is egocentric time. Life proceeds in the
microcosmos of the tourbus, and in interviews I get to talk only about
me for months. That’s sick. Then it’s good to come
back home every now and then.
I wouldn’t have a home without my fiancee Jonna. If she
didn’t exist, many things wouldn’t mean a thing.
Least of all where ever I happen to be.
Last year I travelled abroad for 9 months. Touring is hard for everyone
who has a lady or a child at home waiting. It takes the most from the
one who stays home. We are lucky for our spouses understand the works
of their old guys.
On tours we seldom see our ladies. When 12 sweaty men share the bus you
can’t have too much family life there. And there’s
only room for 14 people in the bus so we have agreed that all us old
men suffer as much and at the same time. That’s where the
marriages of many musicians fall down. But we still don’t
compromise. No tours will be shortened because one should be more at
home. That kind of things I’m not going to cry into my pint
of beer at the age of 50.
If there’s love, the relationship won’t fall into
the bad experiences of other people. Touring and relationship
doesn’t have to shun each other out. Being separated also
gives something to think about. It’s more meaningful to come
home when both have stories to tell. When we are together, the
togetherness is really intensive. When I’m with Jonna I feel
myself more whole. We have become mirrors to each other, of which we
can see how we’ve grown up together and as individuals.
Fillips and great feelings of guilt
My home has always been in Helsinki. I don’t even think of
moving away from here anymore. Stadi [= Helsinki; the Helsinki citizens
like to call it that way] is a wonderful place. You can take a breath
and rest here. There’s the sea, interesting architecture,
nice restaurants and a good, easy atmosphere. I grew up in Oulunkyla,
which is situated a 20-minute bus ride from the centre. So
I’m a child of a suburb who went to Stadi to skateboard and
hang around. The most important thing is whom you live with, not where.
Our family was even minimalistic: I was mom and dad’s first
child, little brother Jesse was born 7 years later. Now my parents have
that much time in the meter that the litter won’t grow
I’ll always remember the Christmas Eve of the year 1982. I
had already opened my presents when mom said that there still would be
one present that wasn’t in an ordinary package. I would have
a little brother. It felt like the best present ever. Jesse is a Lion,
I’m a Scorpio. He is one of konepuoli [Sorry! I simply have
no idea what konepuoli might mean here!!!] music men, I’m a
rocker. Jesse is really important to me, and I’m proud that I
may be his big brother.
We had a free-form discipline. We could go freely but we had fillips
from bad behaviour. We learned to open the door to ladies and that
school has to be attended. When I as kid learned the word whore and
called my mom a whore without understanding what it meant, dad made me
write it 1000 times. My conscience was ok too. When I had cribbed in an
English test, I felt so guilty that I took an apple to the teacher and
apologised for my behaviour.
Our friends were the same kinds of madcaps, and we really
didn’t differ much from other families. In school average
grades always stayed above eight. [In Finland the grades go from 4 to
10, 4 being failed and 10 the best J].
Our family wasn’t religious, and us brothers
weren’t baptised. My parents didn’t drink, and they
didn’t party in a wild way in any case. Black sense of humour
was what we had in common. At home we used to watch TV together. Mom
did the cooking. She’s still the only vegetarian who makes
insanely good sauteed reindeer without tasting it herself.
I didn’t inherit the art of cooking from her but the temper
instead. When I get mad, I do so at full tilt, but only for a short
time. We have the same kind of fire of emotion: if we start doing
something, it becomes the whole world for a while.
Work of instruction
Mom works for the Helsinki Construction Office. She’s worked
in an office for over 20 years. As a kid it felt that you could see dad
less at home. He drove a taxi at nights and slept at days. It feels
good that at adulthood we have had the time to catch up all those lost
Driving was hard work for a man with a family. At home there was
waiting a couple of kids and a nagging wife, for whom he had to bring
bread on the table and ham in the oven. Dad went to the porn business
when I was 13 years old. I heard about it a little later and in the
beginning I didn’t have the nerve to tell my friends. Later I
myself worked as a salesman in the shop too. Bandmates came to the shop
to drink coffee, and together we laughed at everything we found there.
Almost in every interview they remember to mention that I’m a
son of a porn salesman. I don’t think it’s a very
interesting business but it brings glow on the cheeks of many people in
a funny way.
I think of it only as a positive thing that my father has such a sense
of humour and an open mind that he could choose his job without taking
himself too seriously. The man is doing work of instruction.
Merkonomijazz [= it's pretty intellectual and dry/difficult to listen
to those who are not really into it… at least I think
so… merkonomi = graduate of a (Finnish) commercial
I have sometimes been asked what I’ve been forced to give up
for musical career. According to the story I was two years old when I
first understood something about music. They had played Elvis where we
were on a visit and I had started to beat up the bongo drums that were
standing on a shelf. I think that I gave up everything else that very
moment. Music makes me happy and is everything that I am. If
it’s taken away I’m nothing. Music has magnetism.
Some people like horses, I like music.
I’ve always wanted to play. At the age of three or four I
posed with my first toy guitar and later I kindled from the example of
my musician cousin Mika. I didn’t like performing so that I
could push myself forward, and I was not the kind to perform at family
In comprehensive school I attended a music class and dropped high
school because of band stuff. My first gigs I played in bars at the age
of 13. Mom and dad encouraged me going in for music and always hoped
that I would do something else than they did.
As a kid I played in Oulunkyla Pop-Jazz Conservatory and attended
summer camps where Klaus Jarvinen led Dixieland-bands. At first I
played bass guitar, then a little bit of drums, later a little bit
guitar and keyboards. Also in music styles I searched in the whole
field. All the teaching I got ended up in my inner blender, and out
filtered my own type of musical style. Even though rock is my thing I
thought that it was good to know also the enemy.
Ogeli [= Oulunkyla] didn’t make me a jazzman. Jazz seemed
have the “merkonomi” feel to it…
It was limited/narrow minded and felt too much like making lace. I like
dudes like Miles Davis a lot, but nowadays jazz seems to rather drive
people away than gather them around. New works are like being high, way
too much art. In rock I was also attracted by the way of life, I wanted
tours, sweat and drinking beer. Everything else felt too safe, I wanted
travelling for broadening my mind.
Also in school I was pretty wild and restless, and my parents were
worried at times. My teacher calmed them down by saying that all great
artists are wild as kids.
Depending on your head
Playing became professional when I got to my first gigs as a teenager.
The band practised a lot, we were thinking of logos and everything
where we could improve. The real professionalism started in the year
2000 when I started to live by making music.
With HIM we have made a long way by working hard as hell. We practised
as much as we could, and after having a record deal we practised even
more. It is a fallacy to imagine that the work gets easier after
success. It’s quite the opposite, and then also the
expectations grow. Success is a bit like a jigsaw puzzle: in the
beginning we were putting together a board of 100 pieces, now it has
swollen to a puzzle of 10000 pieces.
Lately things have gone awfully well and we have gained more than we
ever could imagine. Success can’t be calculated, predicted or
guaranteed. There is an enormous amount of factors that affect it and
in the end everything depends on your head. Competition is hard but
it’s just the unpredictability that makes the work
As a band we don’t want to make compromises. We still want to
be the first band on the Moon or at least the first Finnish band as
number 1 in the USA. We always do our best, and we do have a lot to do
in that. We are ambitious but also love having fun. We take seriously
our job, not ourselves.
With the success circumstances have improved a lot. We have a better
place to practise, money to buy better guitars and a certainty that we
won’t run out of cigarettes, coffee or beer.
The fan thing feels sometimes odd, sometimes fun. It is cool to talk
about music but I don’t feel I belong to anybody only because
she/he has bought our record. I have asked an autograph only from Iggy
Pop and been a fan of Hanoi Rocks. When I met Ozzy Osbourne or Slash
from Guns’n’Roses it was cool to notice that they
haven’t got their pee risen to their hats [= Finnish saying;
meaning they haven’t turned into a**holes]. The true
survivors are gentlemen. They too make music to live, not for fast cars
or beautiful women.
There’s enormously touring ahead again, and if everything
goes well, it will continue at least till the end of autumn. On the
road everyday life is its own kind. You don’t need to pay
bills, toilet paper is always placed and somebody else takes care of
the dishes. Others plan our schedules and life is simple.
At that time you have to concentrate on other things, like staying in
good shape. Travelling is tough, especially in America where the
distances between touring destinations are huge. Always somebody is
ill. Staying healthy both psychically and physically is like from the
As kids we used to have more energy. On our first German tour we did 11
gigs in 11 days, and every night we had a party. In the long run you
can’t keep doing it, especially if you do 40 gigs in a row.
Nowadays we don’t go abroad to drink but play.
This year we will play our first gigs in Australia and New Zealand. In
the fall we will hopefully start to practise the next album. A little
bit of material already exists. For me writing songs is like keeping a
diary, clearing up my own life situation. Inspirations come from
enormous emotions, for clearing of which somebody else would find a
therapist, I pick up the guitar.
I’m pretty sensitive, so I find inspirations easily.
Sometimes I get writer’s block but it’s easy to get
over it by doing something else. Like playing pool with my little
brother. When songs start coming out again, it’s like having
HIM has surpassed all of my teenage expectations. Nowadays I dream
about continuity, a momentary peace of mind and a well-balanced life.
And about being able at the age of 70 to sit in a rocking chair telling
stories to those who still want to hear.
If making music suddenly stopped, I might drop back to dad’s
Ville Valo has a great “sock philosophy” about
making music, according to which making a song is like trying to find
fine socks. “If you have beautiful, perfectly fitting socks
on, you feel better and your mind gets well. When you like a tune you
like, you want to wear that on too to make you warm.