HIM: TALES OF THE TOURS
HIM’s new remixes and rarities album ‘Uneasy Listening Vol. 1’ has recently been unleashed by Columbia Records. To celebrate, ROCK SOUND has been catching up with frontman Ville Valo and bassist Mige for an exclusive chat about life on the road…
"Touring," explains HIM frontman Ville Valo, "is the sweetest hemorrhoid on earth. It’s the loveliest pain in the arse."
Since HIM’s inception in 95, it’s taken up a greater share of vocalist Valo, bassist Mige, guitarist Linde, drummer Gas and keyboardist Burton’s lives than writing and recording, nuptials and births, and heartache and melancholia combined. As a chart-topping act in Germany, Austria and Finland, the band have worked hard for acclaim. But for all their road miles, Valo says touring doesn’t make them money, and any cash from merchandise is channelled straight back into the band. Rather than lavish themselves at home, HIM use it to create more elegant stage set-ups, get better PAs, and allow the band to stay in nicer hotels. But back in 97 after the release of their debut ‘Greatest Lovesongs, Vol. 666’, their touring experience was somewhat different."In Finland you can’t usually play on Monday and Tuesday nights so we gigged for the rest of the week plus weekends and then returned home," recalls Valo. "We did that for about a year. At first we started in the middle of winter, driving in vans with broken heaters, everyone huddled together. We played shitty gear, roadie’d for ourselves, and got drunk every night – well, more than we do nowadays – but it was a blast." The next year HIM did their first proper tour outside of Finland. But when asked about the 11-date stint around Germany, Mige draws a blank."I was so stoned I don’t remember any of it," he says in all seriousness. "I’m talented in the way I can play very stoned, but I can’t do that anymore." Two years later the band returned to Germany. By this time they’d had a Number 1 single with ‘Join Me In Death’ (99). Naturally, the quintet celebrated. "It was the first time when everything was handed to us," says Valo. "That we had the possibility of decent backstage riders and of course we overdid it."
"Like any young man would," chips in Mige. "Nowadays we still do it every night," says Valo, "just a bit more moderately. We celebrate our minds."
Equipped with the facility to order most drinks within reason, Mige had an unusual request for the band’s rider: Bibles. "I used to collect them so I’d have a lot of papers," he says. "I have all the Bibles at home just in case I start smoking weed again."
Prior to his first glimmer of success Valo admits to worrying about every aspect of the night’s performance,
from the perfect setlist through to ensuring everyone arrived at the gig precisely on time. But with almost a
decade’s touring experience the frontman realises that technical mishaps occur and that no night is perfect.
As HIM’s lyricist it seems unimaginable that Valo forgets lyrics live, but the frontman considers such memory lapses as "kind of sexy". Still, there’s one thing he has no control over: pre-stage nerves.
"You have got to have butterflies," he says. "It’s a positive thing; about being excited, being nervous. A lot of times I throw up. I should really eat earlier in the day so I can digest food but I just can’t. At times I’m so hungry I stuff myself two hours before the gig and that’s when the puking happens."
For a while, HIM even had a personal chef. In the early days friend Antto Melasniemi played keyboards but later left HIM to cook. Famed for his culinary skills, he’s cooked around the globe.
"Antto used to travel with us in the States," says Valo. "He was more like a psychedelic chef as he used to get more drunk and stoned than we did. It ended up in a situation where he had all the cooking equipment needed to make a decent dinner, but got so drunk that we had to tell him to go grab a pizza for us. But it was fun."
BUTT OF THE JOKE
A committed smoker, Valo takes advantage of continent crossings to buy duty-free fags. Chooffing his way through up to 100 per day,
entering the US provides the chance to buy up to 400 smokes. But a few years ago he got slugged by Finnish customs for returning with too many cartons.
And at the very mention of Finnish customs Mige becomes enraged. He recalls an incident when he was 18.
"I was driving around Europe and had been to all the borders and no one had stopped me," he says. "I came to the Finnish border and there was this c**t, and they thought I was packing weed so they made me stand next to the car naked while they examined my fucking arse-crack. They kept me standing there for quite a while. I am traumatised by that."
Pivotal to HIM’s success is manager Seppo Vesterinen. Back in 95 at a Helsinki gig, the ex-Hanoi Rocks manager and one-time poet detected their spark and has handled their affairs ever since. Vesterinen (who also manages The Rasmus) seldom accompanies the band on tour, but when he does he takes on a more fatherly role, keeping a close eye on things away from the limelight. A constant in their lives, Mige is quick to praise Vesterinen’s wisdom.
"Seppo taught me a great way to masturbate on the bus," he says. "Because we have three bunks on top of each other, the best way is to take a sock and masturbate in it, then throw it away."
Oddly enough, along with shoes, cigarettes, money and men’s underwear, fans have also thrown socks on stage. "Subconsciously they must have known what we needed," surmises Mige. Along with a love of performing, HIM say they have been lucky to tour with great bands. Among their favourites have been Monster Magnet, Skindred and Cathedral. Valo says it’s actually "as much about the fellows as the music". But one band he’d love to tour with is Type O Negative. "I have met Peter Steele once or twice," says Valo. "The first time I was like a little boy, shivering and shaking. I was as drunk as fuck, shook his hand and ran away. The next time he was inebriated as he’d been drinking red wine. In a similar vein to Cradle Of Filth you never know when they are serious and when they’re not. They are able to look in the mirror and laugh at themselves but not at their work. I think that’s very important, whatever what you do."