"I'm glad to be a Pagan" - interview for Nighttimes.com
J. Gordon, 11:28:23 PM
ďItís nice to be in a position where there are people who want to talk to you,Ē says the seemingly modest and definitely friendly Ville Valo, lead singer of the Finnish band, HIM.
Which is a pretty funny comment, given the fact that HIM is internationally popular and Valo would have a line of fans from here to next Tuesday waiting to talk to him if he only opened his door.
Talking to fans is one thingóbut talking to reporters is a necessary evil for rock stars, and Ville is famous for his tall tales to unsuspecting journalists. Can we believe what he tells nighttimes.com? You make the call:
NT: You tell me youíve been making music since you were seven and playing with the HIM band since you were fourteen. What would you be doing if you werenít making music?Ē
VV: I didnít have a choice but to make music. My Dad owns a sex shop in Helsinki, sells dildos and toysÖ My Momís a secretary for the city. They always said, ĎSon, whatever you do, donít do what we do.í They were very supportive when I started playing music and helped me out when I first left home, helped me out on my first instrumentsÖ theyíve been really supportive at the beginning of my career when I didnít get paid for what I do.Iím really happy that I donít have a day job. I can sing songs and strum an acoustic guitar and make a few people dance and laugh and smile. If I wasnít making music, Iíd probably be assisting my Dad in the sex shop.
NT: HIM has had a great deal of success across the globe, but in your ten-year history, Iím sure the band and you have seen some hard times and made some mistakes. Any regrets? VV: Life is just a series of mistakes you learn from. You get to try out things and be stupid occasionally. You learn not to put your fingers in the electrical socket in the walls. There are so many [mistakes Iíve made], but theyíre so personal. People even with the best of intentions, tend to be bastards to each other. [A harder edge comes to his voice] They tend to do so many things itís fuckiní ridiculous, but [my lifeís] getting better day by day.
NT: Well, most recently in HIMís life is the new album, Venus Doom. Itís quite a bit harder than your previous albums. Will you talk about your inspiration for it?
VV: Iíve been wanting to write Venus Doom for about 18 years. Itís my only album to really exorcise my negativity; to put myself on paper and use music as a mirror. Just to cope with the mundane everyday world and all the negative aspects. Writing gloom and doom and hard fuckiní stuff is what makes me happy and what keeps me sane.
NT: HIM fans clearly hold your lyrics up as the highest form of rock poetry around. Whatís your muse for your words?
VV: I read bits and pieces. But good conversations in a bar can be poetry. I keep my eyes and ears open. There are a lot of things to write about. Itís always hard to put your emotions and feelings into words; itís a challenge. But Iím thankful to be challenged when it comes to that. Iíve been reading [the poet] Galway Kinnell. Iím more into reading novels, though. All kinds of stuff: fuckiní true crime shit, literary criticism, everything. But like I said, the best poetry comes from conversation at a pub. There are a lot of poems floating about. You just have to be sensitive enough to suck the information in.
NT: HIM has had a number of Top 40 hits now. How do you feel about your gradual emergence into the mainstream?
VV: Iím kinda happy about the fact that weíre dancing on the razorís edge, between the commercial side of the music industry and the more indie-alternative kind of thing. Itís not something I consciously spend my free time thinking about. I pick up an acoustic guitarÖ what I canít put down in words, I put down in melodies. And when the melodies are there, it can take months to write a sentence. Not because Iím drunk or drugged up or whatever, but because it can be tough. When I succeed, I feel relieved. I can take the thing I just invented to the rest of the guys in the band, and at the end, we perform that song onstage and people actually like it. Itís amazing, because it comes from such a haunted place. From such a small place. Itís a miraculous journey: the song, from me, sitting on the floor in my underwear; just woken up with a cup of coffee and a cigarette in my mouth, strumming an acoustic guitar. Seeing that little tiny idea travel at light speed to when itís actually played on the radio and weíre shooting a video for it. Itís miraculous! I definitely donít want to destroy any of the magic behind that.
NT: The bandís logo, ĎHeartagram,í was at one point better known than HIMís music. How do you feel about that?
VV: I consider it to be a cool thing. I like the idea of the symbol being bigger than the band. The symbol includes our lives, our friendís lives, even our friendís bands. Itís meant to be shared. Iím really happy when people get it tattooed. Itís beautiful. Itís probably the best thing Iíve ever done creativelyÖ I drew it down about ten years ago and itís been around the world with incredible success. I drew it the day I turned 20. It took me about five minutes, but subconsciously, I was probably working on it 15 years. Bands I liked, like Sabbath, were using the pentagram and I loved that. But Iím also a sucker for Elvis Presley and the ĎLet me be your teddy bearí kind of stuff. I wanted to combine [both of these ideas] into one symbol. I have a few friends that are witches or should I say, Ďpracticing magiciansí so when I drew it down, I ran it by them to make sure I didnít do anything wrong, kabbalistically speaking! I didnít want to piss anybody off with something ridiculous, mocking a tradition. But the Heartagram is two well-known symbols coming together. In popular culture, the heart represents the saccharine, syrupy values and the pentagram is the evil, hellish, Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden stuff. Spirituality and carnality can co-exist. Flesh and spirit are one in the same. For me, itís not about religious beliefs or anything like that. I grew up in a family where I was able to decide for myself if I want to pay my taxes to the church or not. I donít. Iím glad to be a Pagan. [laughs]
NT: Youíre starting an American tour for Venus Doom in October, and youíve got a world tour in the spring that will include Latin America, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Is the heavier mood of Venus Doom, especially with the pronounced lack of keyboards, going to change the live show?
VV: Yeah, our keyboard playerís gonna be a full-blown alcoholic for lack of anything to do! [laughs] We tend to rearrange some of the older songs to make them a little more interesting. Itís always more in-your-face anyway, in a live situation. I like the elements of danger; of being in a situation where you can make mistakes beautiful mistakes. Itís like reading poetry. Check out the different performances of Bukowski [reading the same poem]. Heís always improvising and changing bits and pieces. Itís weird, and itís marvelous. Thatís one of the reasons we keep doing it. We donít know where it leads us, we just go with the flow.
NT: Do you see HIM becoming one of these bands with multi-decade lifespans, like U2 or something?
VV: I donít want to know whatís going to happen. Tomorrow, I could get run over by a car. One day at a time and one song at a time. Iím living in the now. Obviously, I get a lot out of writing, singing, making music and feeling good with the band. Iím content. But things can change. You never know, I could wake up one day and not feel like doing it anymore. Itís like a relationship: you should enjoy things while they last. Hopefully, theyíll last the rest of your life, but there are no guarantees.