As HIM was getting ready to embark on their massive US tour, days after the release of their latest album, Venus Doom, I was able to sit down and talk with the band's frontman, Ville Valo. I've done more than a few interviews in my life, but I've never felt so touched by the person I was talking to. Ville Valo's Intelligent and witty way with words, as well as his thought process, really leaves an impact. What follows is one of the most genuine and heartfelt interviews I have ever had the honor to conduct.
Pixie: Congratulations on debuting at #12 on the Billboard charts (with new album Venus Doom).
Ville: Thank you...
Pixie: Were you expecting that kind of success to happen?
Ville: Well... no. Obviously, we were hoping to get higher on the charts than with Dark Light, but you never expect anything to happen. That would be terrible, and a pain in the ass to expect too much. That's the best way, and the easiest way, to ruin a day, to expect anything to happen. We just go with the flow and hope for the best. But we're super psyched about it. That, and the ticket sales being really good for the upcoming tour. We can't wait to get over there.
Pixie: How are you dealing with all the new fans, with the new influx after the success of the single and Projeckt Revolution?
Ville: Well, we've been playing music since we were less than ten years old and my first gig that I got paid for was more than fifteen years ago. It was in a small pub and I got, maybe, twenty dollars. Since then, it's been a long way and a lot of hard work, so I am really happy that we have made it so far. I'm just happy about the whole thing. We spent a lot of time and energy on the whole thing. We fucking wept and laughed and bled all we could for Venus Doom, so I am really glad we're finally grabbing some attention for it.
Pixie: You deserve it. The album is amazing. What inspired the sound? Some of the songs are very hard-sounding...
Ville: Well you know, the album before it was really straightforward and I would even call it "polished," production-wise, at least. That was what we wanted to do at that time. After we'd been touring that album for a year, a year and a half, we got bored with that kind of stuff and wanted to try out something different and a bit more challenging. A more in your face kind of sound, with extended songs. We wanted a bit more music in there. It was a challenge for us, but we're happy we accomplished everything we wanted to with the new album. We were also listening to a lot of Black Sabbath. So they are the ones to blame, if somebody doesn't like the new album? It's all Black Sabbath's fault.
Pixie: They could thank them, as well... Either way.
Ville: Well, you know, I'm a big fan. They're one of the main reasons we started this whole band back in the day. We were listening to a lot of Sabbath, as well as Monster Magnet and Type O Negative and going back to the roots of bands that influenced us in the beginning. That's why it's a bit more of a doom and gloom album. It felt natural to do something... maybe the right word would be... dangerous? It's a bit more spooky and creepy. I like my music like I like my women.
Pixie: Wow... I'm speechless. So what about Project Revolution? It was such a diverse tour, and outdoors in the blazing heat... how did that go for you?
Ville: It was a lot of traveling to be playing just 40 minutes a day. We got along with the rest of the bands really well, though. We'd met a few of them before, like the guys from My Chem and Placebo, so that wasn't a problem at all. The only problem I had with the tour was the fact that we played in the sunshine. After that tour was done, we actually made a decision as a bad that we were never going to play in the sunshine again.
Pixie: You know, you looked unhappy!
Ville: It just doesn't fit with our music. It just takes away so much from the mystical, whatever you want to call it... the moodiness of the whole performance. In the sun, we're lacking what we can be in a dark club with the lights and the audience being really close. That's where I feel more at home. I'm not complaining... we had a great time and had the opportunity to play to a lot of people that didn't know who we were. All the gigs were good. But I'm anxiously awaiting our own shows.
Pixie: I think that's so funny because you guys, Placebo, and My Chemical Romance all looked so out of place in the sun. And you had on all this clothing... it looked painful.
Ville: It was fucking weird! We haven't played in the sun in years and occasionally, it might be good, but I'm not a big fan of tans and I don't like to be tanned up. And it was way too hot. Again, I'm not complaining... it was a great experience for the band and we had fun. But it was weird. A lot of our songs are pretty long and we only had 40 minutes, so we only had time to play maybe 9 songs per day, then travel 500 or 600 miles to the next city. We're used to playing five nights in a row, doing an hour and 20 minutes every night, in a dark, moody club. It was definitely different.
Pixie: So, do you have any expectations for your headlining tour?
Ville: As I was saying before, about expectations and all... Let's just say I'm hoping that everybody in the band is going to be well, nobody is going to be feverish and ill through the tour - which usually happens when everybody is traveling in the same bus with the germs flying about and all that. I don't know what to expect. I'm hoping to see some new faces and just play some good gigs. It's great to be touring a new album. The new songs are pretty good live. I never know what to expect. I'm going to be as surprised as the audience, I guess.
Pixie: That's good, though. So when you spend so much time in the US, what do you miss the most about home?
Ville: Probably my parents and a couple of my close friends. And obviously, my own bed and my acoustic guitars. I don't miss a lot. You get used to it. I travel a lot; I'm more often away from home than at my own place. My own house is more like a storage room, with all the shit I have been collecting over the past million years. I have hundreds of books and a couple of guitars... it's a fucking shithole, actually. I haven't had time to clean it up in at least a year. So there's at least six inches of dust everywhere. It's terrible! I can't wait to be back on tour and in clean hotel rooms where everything is sorted and I don't have to buy my own toilet paper - I just get it for free.
Pixie: So, then, what is your opinion of the US? Coming in and seeing this country... We're so... discussed worldwide. What is your impression of the country when you're here?
Ville: Well, you know, we haven't seen a lot of the US. Usually, when you're on tour, you drive into the city, play the gig, and hop onto the bus to do the same again, a couple of nights in a row. You don't really have the chance to see that much. So basically, the only places I know are L.A. and New York. Those cities are so big, too - I haven't had time to explore all the cities and restaurants yet, even. But that's also a good reason to come back. I like countries that are multi-cultural. It makes it fascinating because everybody has a different story to tell. The architecture is interesting, and it's very different from Europe. We've spent most of the past ten years touring all over Europe, so I like the change of climate, architecture, people, and everything. The whole cultural change is like a fresh breeze. It's great.
Pixie: You guys have really dedicated fans, too. Lots of Heartagram tattoos, things like that. But what's the craziest thing a fan has done to show their love of your band?
Ville: Well, you know, it depends how you define "crazy." As you said, a lot of people who like what we do tend to be very loyal and dedicated. I've had great chats and conversations with a lot of people, but we haven't really met a lot of nutcases. I guess nutcases follow different bands. We've been lucky, and safe from all of that. We've seen a lot of tattoos. I don't fucking know! There hasn't been anything so particularly weird that I would have been shocked. Then again, I have seen a lot of things in my life, and I am not easily shocked.
Pixie: Fair enough. You guys have a lot of merchandise - almost on the level of say, KISS... what's the one thing you still want to make that hasn't been made yet?
Ville: Well, there's way too much merchandise. It's ridiculous, the amounts of merch, but it's kind of hard to control it all. We've been talking about a series of dildos. You know, my daddy has a sex shop, so we've been talking about how the whole band comes in all different shapes and sizes, so that would be kind of funny - a HIM dildo set. It probably would be a flop and destroy our career over in the States, but at least it would be a good laugh.
Pixie: Then you'll have crazy fans asking you to sign your own cock, you realize?
Ville: Well, it would take some time, since we won't name them. It would be some guesswork as to which one is which. Except for Burton's. He's got the biggest cock in the band. You had the Plaster Caster back in the day, so this wouldn't be too different.
Pixie: Do you have anything that you would like to say to the fans?
Ville: Oh, my God. That's the toughest question in the world.
Pixie: Is it?
Ville: Well, I'd like to see people treating each other with respect. And never forgetting their parents. Reading as much as they can. Not being stuck logged on to the Internet 24/7. You can do that a bit, but go out! Enjoy the sunshine while you can. Because life, unfortunately, has to end at some point.
Pixie: Wow... Family is very important to you, isn't it?
Ville: I'm really glad to have great parents who are really proud of what I do. We respect each other and they're a fun couple. They've been together for a long time... 36 or 37 years married. And they're doing well. They're good examples. My daddy has a sex shop, for Christ's sake. They're funny and weird and great examples. And I have a great little brother, Jesse, who is a young aspiring musician. I'm proud of them all and it's important for me to be in touch with them as much as possible.
Pixie: You've mentioned your father's sex shop more than once - is it taboo in Finland, like it is here?
Ville: What do you mean?
Pixie: Well, over here, people can be a bit uptight about sex, in general, but when it comes to sex shops, there are a lot of restrictions. They can't be within certain proximity to schools, churches, different places...
Ville: Oh really? I didn't know that. I thought they were pretty liberal when it came to all of that. But my parents, they are pretty liberal, and not necessarily everybody in Finland is. For example, I wasn't baptized when I was born. My parents thought that if I wanted to believe, started believing, or wanted to be a part of a church, religion, or movement, I could make that choice for myself. So that's the kind of attitude towards life I really do respect. They gave me the opportunities to make a lot of decisions of my own and that doesn't happen too often, anywhere in the world.
Pixie: No, it doesn't. That's so progressive. As a funny story, your band got me in trouble with a former neighbor. I had a Heartagram on my door, and the woman broke it and moved out because she was afraid of it and claimed I was a Satanist.
Ville: Well, that's the same as going to Nepal and claiming they're Nazis because you see Swastikas everywhere. In Nepal, they're symbols of spirituality and all good things, and good luck. It's weird how one symbol can be interpreted in so many different ways by so many different people. I guess people should maybe read a bit more, or get a bit more educated.
Pixie: Not everybody wants to be, I don't think. You know the saying "ignorance is bliss"? I think a lot of people want to live that way.
Ville: Well, they probably say that to make excuses for saying someone is Satanic or bullshit like that.
Pixie: You're very well-read, aren't you? What have you been reading lately?
Ville: I am reading a stunning book called... I'm reading several books at the same time, actually, but the one I just started is called "I Have The Right To Destroy Myself" by Young-ha Kim. And another called "Rat Scabies and the Holy Grail," which is about the drummer from The Damned looking for the Holy Grail in France. It's a punk rock "DaVinci Code" type of thing. Very funny and entertaining. I've been traveling a lot, so it's hard to get deeply involved in something heavy when you're hanging around in airports. I tend to read all the more serious stuff back at home.
Pixie: Well thank you so much. I feel like we have a lot. I think you spread a very positive message, encouraging people to read, and love... it's really good.
Ville: Well, it's a start. Life is never easy. But it's good to know that as hard as it is, it is just as hard for everybody. There's always somebody feeling at least as horrible as you do.
Pixie: That's the beauty of music, isn't it? That's where people find the most solace. I think they say that it's music, and then animals that comfort people the most.
Ville: Could be...
Pixie: Generally, both won't turn your backs on you and love you no matter what. They're always there for you.
Ville: Music and animals, oh come on! I mean, you have to trust people as well. Otherwise you'll turn into a jaded bastard and that's a future nobody wants to see for themselves. People are people. Fucking hell. That's what Depeche Mode sang about back in the days, right? People are bastards, but they're lovely bastards.
Pixie: I like that.
Ville: Thank you.
HIM is currently on tour in the US, and will be here through the beginning of December. Their latest album, Venus Doom, is available in all respectable record stores, as well as major download sites.