To hell and back with HIM
When Ville Valo isn't writing songs about burying remains, the
mathematics of evil or ripping wings off butterflies, he's talking
"It's very nice after working for nine hours to go to a coffee shop and
just have a cup of coffee and talk about kids," says the singer of
flamboyant Finnish metal band, HIM.
Valo is yet to spawn any mini-metallers of his own - he already has
"the one in the mirror" - but the mere thought of soiled nappies and
milky spittle brings him nicely down to earth. These past two weeks, he
says, have been "[expletive] insane": daily flights throughout Europe
and the United States, fulfilling insatiable demand for their live
After years as a Scandinavian goth-rock institution, they're now
sharing magazine covers alongside Ozzy Osbourne and Slash thanks to
their two most accessible albums, Love Metal and Dark Light, the latter
produced in the US. On Tuesday, Valo and his bandmates Mige Amour
(bass), Lily Lazer (guitar), Gas Lipstick (drums), and Emerson Burton
(keyboards) will play their first New Zealand gig.
"I feel happy that people have the best possibility to hear the album,"
he says of their breakthrough. Then the intense, metal-star Valo comes
"You've got to be happy when you're sitting on your rocking chair and
talking to your grandchildren about all the travels that granddaddy has
made. That's my goal. You can't [expletive] around, you can't be nasty
to people, you can't please everybody. You've gotta do what you wanna
do to make yourself happy and your family happy because if you're going
to be a whore you're going to be weeping yourself to sleep."
This is also true of their music. HIM (His Infernal Majesty) come from
the land of brutal death metal but if you had to choose between giving
mum Opeth or HIM for Christmas, you'd go with the Finns.
Their most recent album Dark Light is a bit like Tea Party but more
dramatic. Words like mercy, tomb, sacred, Eden, devil, soul, vampire
and heart are strung along on majestic guitar riffs, epic melodies and
keyboards sweeping enough for Bonnie Tyler.
But the true power of the band lies in Valo's voice, a deep, quavering, doomsday presence.
"Well, y'know, we're trying to be like Bon Jovi on a bad hair day," Valo laughs.
"I grew up in the 80s listening to Kiss and Bon Jovi and I've always
loved that stuff. Duran Duran, even Elvis, Roy Orbison, Cat Stevens,
lots of really folky stuff. I've always loved big melodies and I think
that's something that's missing from rock music nowadays. I like music
that squeezes your balls."
The band have been criticised for the theatrics but fans will argue that's missing the point.
HIM's music is intense but doesn't take itself too seriously, much like
Valo himself. He calls himself a "suffering poet, man" then breaks into
Even the band's "heartagram" motif, a kind of bastardised star of David
at which HIM's fans are invited to worship, is pretty harmless.
"Finland's a very non-religious country and I haven't been baptised
myself," says Valo. "I was brought up watching horror movies and
listening to Black Sabbath - that's where I got the idea to do those
things. I looked at Catholicism, where the images and symbols are very
"It's something I did just for the hell of it."
He sings of the "face of God" but his own relationship with the man upstairs is vague.
"Let's just say that I've given him a call but he's never answered."
Valo doesn't give a toss about what the critics say, either.
"Constructive criticism is always fine, I'm happy for that. But I think
they're just jealous, you know? Journalists with their small peckers
just want to be on stage and they can't."
And for those without said appendage? "I'll fly you over to Estonia," he cackles. "You can get one done in a day and a half."
Maybe he's not such a great babysitter after all.