Metal Hammer
/october 2005/

Dark Messiah or False Prophet?

When I wasn't drinking, I used to drink 20 cups of coffee a day. You didn't know that I used to not drink? Well, when I was about 13-years-old, I got drunk for the first time at a friend's party. I drank wine and stole whatever I could from my dad's cabinet. Everyone has that one drink they can no longer drink, and mine's gin- it just makes me want to puke cos I got so drunk on it that one time. My dad used to drink the occasional whiskey, and my parents have told me that once when I was a very young Ė maybe 2 or 3-years-old- I was in the bath and my parents were hanging out chatting. I looked up and asked what he was drinking, and he said ďThis isnít for kidsĒ. So obviously I said I wanted to taste it. Thinking that it would put me off forever, they let me have a sip. Apparently I drained the glass in one go and absolutely liked it. That was the start of my downfall.
So Iím sitting here with a beer, and I honestly canít wait for this holiday to end so I can start working again- it keeps me in better shape. Itís good to concentrate on something constantly? So when I donít, I end up not doing anything at all. I wake up and watch a movie, maybe cook a little bit, drink a couple of cups of coffee, two cans of Redbull, smoke like a chimney and just hang out with friends. Iíve been away from Europe for such a long time Ė four months- doing the ďDark LightĒ record that it was weird when I came back here. For the first two days, I started drinking at eight oíclock in the morning because of the time difference (LA is 11 hours behind Finland Ė world time ed) which was really weird. But one of the good things about being in a rock band is that things like that donít really matter. Itís like when we tour. We usually play about 5 gigs on a row and then have a day off. So the night of the 5th show is always the party night, which is effectively our Friday. But then we have a lack of Sunday Ďcos we start playing gigs again. And our Sunday could be on a Wednesday so it totally fucks us up. When we have a day off our bodies get all jittery at about stage time- itís not only in regular jobs that your body gets used to a routine Ė so to distract ourselves we tend to drink a few beers. The downtown jitters are a large part of why lots of people get drawn into doing drugs whilst theyíre on the road, just to fill time.
And, of course, on holiday I smoke a lot too. I think itís pretty weird that Iíve become so well known for smoking. I donít know why that is when lots of other people also smoke Ė but then I guess a lot of people donít smoke on stage. But now itís just something Iím used to doing when Iím up there. Not as something to learn on, or as a gimmick, but to better my performance.
Iíve had a few concerned parents complain about my smoking, but they can fuck off. I grew up watching Humphrey Bogart films and stuff like that, and cigarettes were always very important in those films for their symbolic valueÖer, whatever that may have been. They made people look cool, and those people were usually the bad guys too. Smoking also smells good.., and kissing is better when you smoke. Donít believe what they say, itís all bullshit. I donít worry that itís doing me damage, Ďcos loads of other things are too. My lungs are still ok though and my pecker still works fine so I donít have any problems. My doctor says that smoking isnít good for my voice, but I consider it quite the contrary because it roughens it up. Iíve not got a bland voice, but itís too sweet. Basically what Iím doing is the equivalent of people switching string on their guitar to give themselves a heavier sound. My instrument are my vocal chords, so if I want to rough them up to sing a ballad, Iíll smoke a cigarette or sink a little Jack Danielís to make the baritone a bit deeper. So, Iím using my instrument, and itís all analogue which is pretty good. Look at Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits or mark Lanegan, they couldnít have sounded like that without smoking 60 Marllboros a day. Itís very important, but you have to know when to stop if itís going to become damaging, what with my asthma and everything. But the asthma and smoking is where I get that intake of breath noise while Iím singing. So thatís part of my sound too. Those things didnít consciously become part of my sound, but Iíve always noticed it and Iíve always loved grumpy male voices. Iíve got a pretty low voice so itís not good if itís too plain or boy choiry.
On the new album thereís a song called ďdrunk on ShadowsĒ and I sound like a drunken sailor on it and thatís the whole idea. Especially nowadays with all the studio gadgets, Ďcos itís easy to kill the performance which is something we try to avoid.

With the new album we didnít care how the songs would come across live, because that restricts the writing and recording process Ė you can always work out later how to do it live. Thatís what I like about Sabbath, in that they were unsophisticated live but on a record they sounded huge. Youíve also got two more senses when watching bands Ė the smell and the visual aspect of the show. Itís a fine line though. I like that weíre not using backing tracks for anything live, Ďcos even though it sounds really good, itís also super-restrictive. I like it when shit happens on stage, thatís rockíníroll. Itís supposed to be chaotic, and unexpected things are meant to happen. Thatís how Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and the Doors were. Youíve got to fuck up, youíve got to find your limits Ė whatís too little and whatís too much. You have to go over the top every now and again and not thinking about it consciously.
Writing stuff down to say in-between songs, thatís blasphemy. Bands that do that are pissing all over rockíníroll. Bands using backing tapes, saying the same jokes, having stylists and make-up artists backstage Ė I just donít get it. Rockíníroll is supposed to be dirty, coincidental, weird and different. Hopefully thatís how we play.
Shit gigs are as important as good gigs, but I was fucking embarrassed after NY gig when I got too drunk and all the tabloids there ran headlines like ďVille Valo Fucked Up NY ShowĒ in big fucking letters. But then I just had to laugh about it.
The pressure was huge at that show, especially after being away from home for so long. But you have to learn your limits and you only do that by making mistakes. Unfortunately, thatís the only gig of ours that people have been talking about.
The New York Times carried a horrible review, that said we were the shittest band ever, and how dare we to fly across the Atlantic to just drink our heads of. But the other people loved it. Dave Windorf from Monster Magnet told me that it was the most rockíníroll show heíd seen in ages, so thereís always opposites. I donít want us to become this one trick pony though, when I get drunk and fuck up every night. But every now and again the Baudelaire living in me gets a little crazy.
I didnít plan to go out there drunk and fuck up, I just fell over. I was in such a drunken stupor that I was getting into it. I went down on my back and sang from there. Itís a Jim Morrison trick but I enjoyed it, and the band were just laughing at me as they played. I know now that I canít party Ďtill 6 am the night before the show, and then start the day with hair of the dog and think, that I can make it. Especially now our sets are longer, and weíre playing new countries where we have to prove ourselves every night. But itís good to fuck up, so that next time Iím getting close to it I can see it coming and pull back.
Iím going to ask Mige about it. Mige, how did you feel about my NY performance?
ďOh that gig. Iíve experienced that sort of thing before from playing under the influence myself, and I guess it kind of took my breath away a bit. But I didnít see why everyone made such a big deal out of it. Of course you were really over the top, but itís a part of the natural development of a rock band to have these incident. It would be pretty boring and predictable if we were a tea-drinking band. But that incident got great headlines, so I think it was a milestone for us.Ē
If youíd have fucked up like I did?
ďIíd have been fired!Ē Nah it would have been cool. I would just have been like, ďWhat the fuckís going on?!Ē Actually you did it in Italy.
ďWhen somebody passed a joint? I didnít realise what kind of joint it was, so I lit it up and it was so strong that I took a few drags and it all went dark. For the last couple of songs I had no idea.Ē And then we went backstage and passed out straight away.
ďI didnít get fired then though, so I guess if Iíd have done it in NY it wouldíve been fine too. If people want to go and see something perfect then they can watch a ballet. Iím sure no oneís drunk there. Rockís about being unpredictable as I said Ė not that Iím encouraging you to do it again.Ē
ďThe best gig I sawĒ, adds Gas, who appears to have finally woken up, ďwas that [Finnish] punk band Plastic Tears when the singer fired the drummer and guitar player on stage. That was funny!Ē
You did get fired once on stage actually Mige. ďCos I took over on bass.Ē
ďOh yeah you did alright too. Thatís a secret that youíve managed to keep our of the press all this time though, that youíre good on bass.Ē
I think I only did it the once though in the 90ís, somewhere in Finland. I only lasted two and a half minutes.

Thereís been a lot of stuff in English speaking press about HIM being ďmyĒ band and the others just being paid musicians, but we are a band of brothers on a single musical course. When we write songs, I go in with a riff and a melody in my head and we work from there. We discuss what we should do, and by the time everyoneís smiling, we know weíre getting there.
How do you feel about the fact Iím writing most of the stuff? I ask Gas and Mige. I know you Gas are a really strong songwriter, but this has always been the way with us.
ďIím not sure if I could write a HIM songĒ, says Gas. ďAnd Iíve always liked your work from day one [ok, I paid him to say that]. I was a fan of the first album so I donít think I should go there and try to mix shit up.Ē
So you donít write for the sake of it. Just to be a part of our band?
ďYeahĒ, he says.
Do you feel you shouldnít collaborate? I ask Mige.
ďI feel like I do collaborateĒ, he says. "But the problem with you and me is that youíre really quick and Iím really slow. So you have many ideas, but it takes me a long time to absorb ideas. So for the last 15 years Iíve been pretty busy with the ideas that you have had anywayĒ.
Maybe Iíll get a little slowerÖ
ďYeah maybe, when death comes. But I donít consider it a problem and I donít think you do eitherĒ.
Have there been times Iíve made decisions that the band didnít like? What about it guys? Apart from you Gas- you didnít like Deep ShadowsÖ
ďThe only thing I didnít like on that album was the productionĒ, says Gas. ďCos I thought it was too poppy. I think it couldíve been mixed in a different way.Ē
That situation wasnít good though Ďcos you came into the band after weíd worked on those songs for a long time. And to hear you talk shit about our songs wasnít nice. We had a big fight about it and then sorted it out.
ďYeah we didĒ.
I guess itís obvious weíre cool about it though cos we are all here sitting in the same bar.
Iím not here to write songs to please you though, but to please me first, I say to Gas and Mige. And hopefully youíll like them and we can find a way to play them that we can all put our hearts and souls into. Itís like I make a skeleton, and then we all put the organs and muscles and see what weíve created. Especially on ďDark LightĒ, the arrangements had such an impact on the riffs and the ideas.
ďIím more interested in taking ideas further than coming up with them thoughĒ, says Mige. ďIím not comfortable telling people what to do reallyĒ.
So weíre all looking forward and I think ďDark LightĒ is a fantastic album and we had a great time doing it. But records are never done, because you re-do them every night on stage. Things and moods change. I want to get back on the road, not tomorrow, but Iím happy itís going to happen soon and thatís great for me mentally Ďcos weíve not been on the road for a long time. Right now, the stars are aligned with the mood of the band. Weíre in the best position ever. To have 5 people thinking as 1 is something rare, you canít buy it with monet, or achieve it with girlfriends, rest or whatever. Well, maybe itís 4 people thinking as one. Gas is somewhere else entirely.
We are in a head space where we are smiling to each other on stage. Weíre having a great time. I think that that kind of positive energy though playing gloomy songs is cool, Ďcos itís something very few people do. And the longer weíre together, the better it gets. Now, itís a lot more about the songwriting and the stream of collective consciousness, and less about the technical aspect of playing, which I find really liberating. So Iím looking forward to the next tour. Hopefully nothing bad is going to happen and everyone will still have their heads together because the vibe is really great right now. Saying that, if it all goes to shit tomorrow, our album doesnít sell and we end up playing to 200 people a night again, Iíd be cool with that. ĎCos I like playing the barfly as much as playing Hammersmith Apollo. It would be a disappointment, but youíve got to be able to go down, to appreciate the shit, to come back up. The shit is more important than the good.
This is even truer now because this new album is very important for us as far as America goes. But if it doesnít happen it doesnít. That said, I have an itch somewhere inside my brain that makes me very confident that this album will do something big for us. Weíll just have to wait and seeÖ

THE PUBLICíS PERCEPTION VS. THE TRUTH : 5 things the public think about Ville Valo, that arenít quite trueÖ

Valo is a millionaire.
ďIíve not yet become a millionaire although I would be if we still had Finnish Marks, Ďcos you get 6 of those for every Euro. Ever since my first publishing money Iíve put it all back into my music. My luxury is to buy a new guitar that inspires me to write more music, and then maybe those new songs will get me another guitar, or into a place where I feel comfortable to write new stuff. New surroundings make me much more creative.

Valo is a control freak.
"I guess people looking in on my world might view me as a control freak, but Iím only a controlling person when it comes to music, and then only every now and again. Iíve also learnt to let go of control occasionally, because itís important to be able to let go but still be able to see whatís going on in front of your eyes. To decipher the chaos".

Valo being in love will ruin HIMís songs.
"Will being in love with my sweetheart affect my lyrical approach as my old lyrics were based on heartbreak? No. Itís also now very heartbreaking going on tour, and I canít stop myself from falling in love just to make my band like it was. It would also be ridiculous of me to claim that I was single just to get the aura of a rockíníroll hedonist. I am still a sexual deviant, just in a proper relationship".

Valo will move to LA if HIM become big.
"The reason I love Finland is that no one really cares, even if we get to the size of Red Hot Chili Peppers. Iíll get asked to sign an autograph every now and again, or have odd chats with people, but thatís really nice. But I guess weíll see what happens, if we have a record that sells something huge like 150 million albums then of course it will change things, but Helsinki always keeps my head together, and I canít imagine myself living anywhere else right now".

Valo will never play Download again.
!I was quite happy playing at Download, even though people threw stuff at us. And I thought I dodged well. We practice for that, by having our girlfriend throw plates at us. But rowdy crowds throwing stuff is at least one way of them showing their appreciation, Ďcos at least they noticed us. Itís always good if people donít like us, and I think we handled the situation well. We didnít run off with out tails between our legs back to mama after the gig, or cut our set short".

Apparently, we all got it wrong. The number of the beast was never 666. Gulp!
ďA fragment from the oldest surviving copy of the New Testament, dating to the 3rd century, has been discovered to give the more mundane 616 as the mark of the AntichristĒ, explains Valo. ďNow I find this very interesting. Weíve already changed ďYour Sweet 666Ē every time we do it live. We want to be biblically right, so itís got to be 616 from now on. Itíll be interesting to see what Ė or indeed if- itís going to affect other bands too, especially black metal bands. Hereís a few things to illustrate my point, but thereís many others.Ē

ď6,1,6, the number of the beeeeeeeeaaast!Ē

"If he was still alive, heíd have to identify with the Great Beast 616".

ďIf youíre 5,5,5/ Then Iím 6,1,6.Ē

ďFraternally Your 616Ē

ďReceive the mark from Styx/ The symbol is 616Ē

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