New Zealand Herald

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 about babies.

"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 shows.

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 out.

"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 hysterics.

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 strong.

"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.


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