MeNaiset, March 8, 2006

On the way to be me

In this series familiar people tell about themselves from a new point of view.

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 anymore.

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 hours.

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 institute]
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 celebrations.

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 interesting.
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.

Audio diarrhea
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 TV-series Survivors.

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 audio diarrhea.

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 porn shop.”

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.  

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