"Let us go down in a blaze of glory"
A grey Monday in Hamburg is the right setting for HIM and their new release Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice.
Ville Valo came to see us personally when the first sonic impressions of the seventh studio album by the finish heartbreakers were given to the press. A perfect time to talk with the charismatic lead singer about his newest creation, his plans for this year’s Christmas and his New Year’s resolutions for 2010.
Rockoon: Hello Ville – lovely to see you. Are you excited about presenting the new album to the press?
Ville: Let’s put it this way: I am nervous. But not because of the new album, cause this time I’m totally satisfied with it. You just put loads of time in it. Therefore it is really lovely that it is finally done. I feel absolutely agitated and enthusiastic about the album, now that the baby has finally been born.
Rockoon: How where the reactions to it so far?
Ville: Really good. But the reactions of the journalists aren’t as important as those of our fans who will hopefully like it. It is always a game and you never know the outcome.
Rockoon: In fact, I do think that especially your female fans will love it as it isn’t as doomy and bulky as Venus Doom.
Ville: Of course it isn’t as doomy as Venus Doom, but that just happens automatically. Back then we have listened t a lot of My Dying Bride, Cathedral, Anathema or Paradise Lost as well. And those bands have influenced us on Venus Doom a lot. But when we went on tour with those songs, we realized that it’s totally different to play overlong songs live. So we wanted to write shorter songs again, songs that come to the point quicker and are more melodic.
Rockoon: Which song is going to be the first single?
Ville: I think it will be Heartkiller. Basically I usually don’t care which song is going to be the first single as I believe in the album as a whole. But it is also important that a song combines all the aspects of the album in itself and is radio friendly at the same time. I personally look at Heartkiller as a good accommodation to give the fans a first taste of the whole new album. It has, like all the songs on the album, alternative guitars and a huge melodic chorus. We could have taken a whole lot of other songs as the new single as well, it is the same for the other songs. So there is no mystic stuff behind our choice.
Rockoon: What kind of attitude do you (the band) have when your recording a new album?
Ville: We usually have the motivation that it will be our last album. Screamworks was simply supposed to be a rock album with 80s synthies and direct choruses to sing along. It was supposed to be more than doomy and sad. We didn’t want a Venus Doom II. When I started to write the songs, the guitars were going into the direction of rock?n`roll and metal on their own. We probably got inspired by Rage against the Machine and the Stone Temple Pilots in that matter, but also by classic metal bands like Megadeath and Type O Negative.
Rockoon: I personally was surprised that some songs sound happier. What happened during the last year?
Ville (laughs): That is funny. I think it depends on how you are feeling in life at the moment. Maybe you are happy at that moment in life and therefore experience the songs as happy. Cause basically it is about the understanding that life is fucked – and to celebrate this. That it is absolutely okay to make mistakes and that you don’t have to hide them but to stick by them, to learn from your mistakes and to just go on… simply “fuck off”. That’s probably the punk attitude of the album. Honestly I have to tell you that there were emotionally much harder albums for me. Those have been dark, really dark. A friend told me that Screamworks sounds like a different kind of darkness. (laughs)
Rockoon: The happy side of darkness.
Ville: Not necessarily happy. It is more as if you were wandering over the waters of the ocean of melancholy, but not really diving in. Lyrically it is sad, but you just can’t stop jiggling your butt and having a good time. Therefore I wouldn’t call it a “happy” album.
Rockoon: How about hopeful?
Ville: Exactly. Screamworks is a hopeful album. Being happy I don?t care about – I don?t give a shit. Hope is what is more important for me, that there will come something positive out of all this shit. We all know, bad stuff will happen, so let’s just celebrate this knowledge and condition. Let us go down in a blaze of glory. To sum it up: It sounds the way I feel in my head right now. But I am totally happy that I am so creative at the moment and that some experiences lie behind me.
Rockoon: Do you have a favourite song on the album so far?
Ville: Difficult. So far I love the album as a whole. Out of a lot of different reasons I like Disarm me. I wrote that song back in 2002 and finally it worked out. It has taken forever until we got a grip on it. I also totally like Dying Song as the guitars and the drumbeat remind me of Interpol. In turn the chorus has again a really rocking The Cult vibe. Maybe I even like this song the most.
Rockoon: The name of the album sounds really long and complicated at first. What does it stand for?
Ville: I just love it if there is anything in art that contains the title “Selected Works of…”. And I also really like the expression “works” a lot. I am a huge fan of Andy Warhol’s Factory when lots of different artist have worked under the same banner. And we did have this “factory-feeling” while we were rehearsing as well. Scream just matches this word perfectly as I scream a lot on the album. Those are screams of torments, screams of joy and also primal screams. I wanted to go to the limit, get everything out of me, that’s why I scream so much. (laughs)
Rockoon: And what about theoretical and practical love?
Ville: I think it is really poetic as it is indeed paradoxical. From my point of view love is nothing theoretical and at the same time there’s nothing practical in love. Love is never practical. Machines are, humans and love are not. That’s exactly what it is. It is the “Yin & Yang” –concept behind it. Of course we know, from fairytales, that there are things that can make love develop. But I don’t believe in such things. In my opinion 80% of the people compromise when it comes to love. They take what lies next to them to satisfy themselves and society.
Rockoon: Meaning they take the easiest path.
Ville: It is easy for the moment, but basically not. In the end it is even the hardest path. A marriage without love is unbelievably hard, isn’t it. But I personally think that one day the door will open and someone will step into the room and everything around me will change. That might sound like a child talking. But I like the power of this believe. Such a thing, besides love, can only do drugs and alcohol.
Rockoon: Only a few weeks till Christmas. How are you going to celebrate it?
Ville: Christmas is the time of the year when we, as a band, take some real free time. That is the only tradition we have as a band. Christmas, for me, is not about presents, it is simply about having the time to enjoy traditional meals and watching telly with my younger brother and my parents. As my mother and I are vegetarians it will probably be salad again. (laughs) It is really the only time of the year in which we can all relax. Although it is just a day and we are not doing anything special it is always wonderful.
Rockoon: Do you have any New Year’s resolutions for 2010?
Ville: I want to go on a holiday in January. We were doing quite a lot this year and do need a break before the new album will be released. I don’t have any other resolutions as I usually tend to break them. (laughs) Quitting smoking doesn’t make any sense. Either you smoke or you do not smoke.
Rockoon: Do you already have plans for your upcoming tour in Germany?
Ville: We hope to be able to play a special gig around the release date. We try to make it happen in whole Europe. Then we will be touring Australia, the UK and North America. The first real chance for the German fans will be around the festival season I guess. But nothing has definitely been planned yet. As we are not the biggest band in the world, we have to wait until the biggest bands have made their decisions (laughs)
Roockon: Are you looking forward to the upcoming tour? It is well known that you are not one of the biggest fans of such trips.
Ville: The concerts themselves do make a lot of fun. But life in a tour bus can sometimes be hell. And you do eat a lot of junk that mostly contains pizza and coke. When you’re doing this over months it is not a really nice experience. But as long as the fans are really enjoying the shows, it is a wonderful experience and it does outweigh the negative aspects of a tour.
Rockoon: 2010 you will be celebrating the 15th anniversary of HIM. Is there anything special planned?
Ville: That is hard to tell when a band has really formed. We are all school mates who have been doing music together since the early 90s. In fact there is something to celebrate every year. 1996 we got our first record deal for example. Or look at Join me – we could celebrate the 10th anniversary of the single release now.
Rockoon: It has been 10 years already…
Ville: Crazy, isn’t it? It is such a long time, but it feels like yesterday. We could celebrate all the time, cause we are still in the business.
Rockoon: Where do you get your motivation after all the time?
Ville: It is great to be able to write songs and to have the opportunity to record and release them, to put your words into music. I didn’t know what to do else instead of making music.
Rockoon: What would you do today if you weren’t a musician?
Ville: Hard to tell, I’d probably studied something, but in fact I have never had the ambition to do anything else but music. I always wanted to be a musician.
Rockoon: Thanks for your time, Ville. Do you have some words for your German fans?
Ville: That is usually the hardest question. (laughs) How about that… Be patient and make sure there is some paper before you go to the toilet.
translation to english by wato_food from valo_daily