Ville Valo Tells Us About His Tattoos
Check out our Tatt’s Life piece with HIM frontman, Ville Valo.
How did the sleeve come about?
Ville Valo: “I think if you use different tattoo artists to do a sleeve it just ends up looking crap. My idea came after I met this dude and we were drinking a lot. He told me he was a tattooist, as well as guitar player – he actually played in HIM for a while. We got completely wasted and I told him to do this little heart, here on my right wrist, that was my first one. I got it to see how it felt.”
“We got drunk again a week later and we got the idea to do the sleeve, it just came to us. The ornaments were designed by the friend, and all of my tattoos are done by him but he’s moved to Amsterdam. When I get a couple of days off I’ll go and see him ’cos I want a few more things done.”
“What I wanted to do was one thing with the whole arm. Originally we planned to do both sleeves and the back but it took such a long time and we were doing our first tour around Europe.”
“I used to be a heavy drinker when I was a bit younger, as did the guy, so we’d drink a lot, listen to Mot?rhead full volume, do a couple of hours and then end up in the local pub. It took a fucking long time! It was all freehand ’cos around the whole thing you can’t draw it out, you just have to do it as it happens. There’s a couple of things which we drew and then we just started. I still have to finish it properly but we just haven’t had the time. Maybe one day.”
What else have you got?
Ville: “The heart on my right wrist, some stuff on my legs, a heartagram on my neck and a letter ‘s’ on my chest. I did it as a birthday present for my girlfriend Suzanna but when we fall out of love, as we do every now and then, I claim it’s for Satan or whatever starts with an ‘s’. I got the heart first and then this thing on my stomach above my tiny little pecker. Bam’s [Margera] got the same. Then after that I got the sleeve, then my neck, then legs.”
Where does the inspiration come from for your tattoos?
Ville: “Basically the sleeve and the heart are separate things, but the rest of the stuff has something to do with our album sleeves. On the back of ‘Love Metal’ there’s a thing with two snakes and another heartagram at the top of it and I’m thinking of doing that on my whole back but it takes a long time so I’m trying to sort out my schedule to get to Amsterdam. Then I want to do one more on my stomach saying ‘In Vino Veritas’ which is Latin for ‘In Wine, There’s The Truth’. It’s a great place to get one too because as I’m drinking it’ll get bigger! I’ll have this big big beer belly with ‘In Wine, There’s The Truth’ written on it. That’s my next plan. Bam’s got a really good new one too actually, on his side. It’s heartagrams again with ornaments going up all the way from his hip to nearly his armpit. It’s pretty cool. He copied the stomach one from me so it might be that I’m going to copy that one. We’ll swap tattoos until the end!”
How old were you when you got your first one?
Ville: “I must have been 18 or 19. I never wanted to just go to a tattoo parlour and pick something off the wall. I always wanted to get to know the guy so he knows who I am and I know who he is. Almost a family thing, I think it’s better like that, rather than giving the cash to someone you don’t know. You never know what you’re going to end up with and it’s going to be there a very long time – however good that laser technology is! Maybe if you have a car accident… it can be done.”
“My dad has a little tiny one on his arm and he always said, ‘don’t ever get pictures of cookies,’ as he calls them. In Finland especially the convicts and sailors used to have that stuff and back in the 60s it was really hard to get a job if you had a tattoo. I think it’s the same everywhere in the world now, it’s more respected. You used to not be able to get a loan from a bank if you had a tattoo. Imagine what the retirement home’s going to look like with all of us lot in there!”
What advice would you give to a tattoo virgin?
Ville: “Get to know the artist and then make sure you always use the same one – well, I guess it depends what you want. If you want a Japanese sleeve on one arm and then something completely different on the other, then that’s OK to use different ones. But if you want simple things in black then use the same guy ’cos everyone does it differently and you can always tell.”
“Your tattoos are supposed to be some connection to your personality. That’s a lot more important than going in and just picking one off a wall. I’ve never understood why people get butterflies tattooed on their bottoms or whatever. That’s really weird.”