Ville Valo hugs me.
-How great to see you! You are fresh from the shower.
I have to confess that actually Iím sweating. I have just carried loads of beer and other alcoholic drinks to the place where Iím going to interview the band. Itís important that we donít run out of drinks when we are diving into the world of HIM.
An hour later the whole band have taken off their clothes. I feel like a prophet. We are wondering, if we should move to Katmandu. Linde tells that he have been there.
An hour from this, we are wondering if HIM is a cult, where certain astronomical elements meet. The laws of the cult is different from other rules, the world of dreams become reality.
The next day, 11:30 am Linde opens the door and is the last member of the band leaving. The interview is over.
HIM is already twenty years old. That is impressive for any band, but the band members assure me, that you donít even notice the time passing by. When you do something with great intensity, time flies and you donít even notice, says Ville Valo. We have had a million things and a lot of changes, both good and bad. I have speculated over this with a few friends, if it is like this for everyone or just for rock musicians. The rhytm of life is different.
Does this mean, that we have an artistís celebration? Mige asks. No, says Ville. Artistís celebration is a happy celebration of all the accomplishments of the artist career, continues Burton.
-Well, we have been gay so many times, also with Juho (the journalist), Ville Valo says.
Okay, maybe now is the time to correct the rumours. When I was writing the book ďGone with the sinĒ about HIM ten years ago, Ville and I were making an television interview for ATV. We told them that during making of the book, we had lived together for six months, lying in the bed naked watching television. This wasnít true, obviously, but afterwards the rumours about our sexual orientation started to circulate in the net. The power of the television is huge!-So, do you still have a love nest in Key West? Asks Mige. Certainly not!
So, in the end you can see that there havenít been much peace during the time with HIM, says Ville. As strange as it seems, the most peaceful and yet stressfull time have been the time, when Gas couldnít play because of his hand. For a few months he couldnít even carry a jar of milk, but for eight months he couldnít play drumsÖIím certain it was psychosomatic! Ville says.
Itís possible, says Gas. The recovery took time, and I was worried about if I can play at all.
But otherwise life havenít been too peaceful, Ville continues. As a creative person, there can be times when things are very difficult for you, you are trying to find yourself.
I have to admit, that I am very nervous about the future. Itís not only because we havenít played for a while, but the whole thing about making a new album.. But itís not a negative thing, it is good to have a little pressure. Now all these things come in the same time, the collection album, four gigs around New Year in Tavastia, the new studio album and the health problem of Gas.
The upcoming collection Two Decades Of Love Metal have twenty HIM songs, through the whole career of the band. There is one new song, Strange World originally from K?. Ė We didnít have much choice about the songs, says Ville. I see the album as an introduction to new people. You should put the best song in the album, and often they are the ones played in the radio. Of course there is some songs, we couldnít fit in the album. This album is for new fans, and people with bad memory!
HIM entered the studio in the beginning of september for the new album Tears on Tape. Ville tells, that the music is basically ready. Now we are going through the songs, making small adjustments and trying to make as good HIM-album as possible. We have a tight schedule, we want the album to be out in february-march. We donít even have a record company at the moment, so that is also one thing we try to work out. That is mostly the worry of our manager Seppo Vesterinen. These days it is no longer so important to have a big record company. It is more important that the people working in the company actually care about the band. That was our problem with Warner. The people working with us were constantly changing, and we were all the time feeling like ďwhat the fuck is going on now?Ē We couldnít concentrate to the most important thing, making the music.
- But now it is Seppo who decides! We are just pawns in his game, Mige says.
This must be familiar problem for many bands, I point out.
On the other hand, it is pointless to complain about the music industry, says Ville. Music is music, and that is the most important thing. We like Maiden, Sabbath and many other bands..Bisnes is for other people. We should think about the music, not the taxes.
It is interesting that music doesnít sell like it used to. Bands have to go on tour all the time. There is excess of gigs, and the bands are themselves suffering from it. But you can still do the thing you like the most, music. You just have to decide whatís the most important thing and make time for it.
And I get it, when a young guy has the possibility to download music for free, he will do it. Ville says. -I wouldnít ! Says Mige.- But thatís because you are old school.
The last gig HIM played together was Sonisphere- festival two years ago. After that the band members didnít see eachother regularly. But last summer they were again spending lots of time together, rehearsing the new songs. They are also eager to start touring again. In the same time, they want to become even better at what they do. The band has neer been satisfied just doing the same thing over and over again. We want to do something Tolkienlike, go from the Hobbit to the Two Towers, says Ville. From difficulties to the victory!
It is sometimes suprising, how things work out themselves. When we were again playing together this summer, we found new features in our music. I canít analyze it, itís like our music, you canít describe it, you just have to listen to it, tells Burton.
Thatís true- we are like Type O Negative, just worse, Ville continues.
When you ask the band members if there have been any controversy inside the band, they smirk. Itís obvious that you canít always love eachother, but they have never considered splitting up. When you have had the band for twenty years, you canít throw it out like water, says Ville. Now, when Gas had trouble with his arm, and we couldnít play at all, we grew closer than ever with Linde and Burton. We are old friends, and when you have so much action as we have had, you just go forward, and personal relationships are sometimes left aside. But really, is this Oprah Show, should I confess something?
During these two years, did you ever consider moving on to a solo career?
-I have always thought about it, but no, Iím not interested in that. Every time I play guitar alone home, it sounds like our band. And it always sounds better with the band. Itís not about ego. The most important thing is, that the music is good. Even if I do the melodies, this is teamwork. This really is a band.
And you are the frontman.
-Could I be the invisible singer? Letís put a picture of an invisible man in the cover of the Soundi magazine!
-Or my talking ass, Mige proposes.
But you could imagine, that Ville grew tired of being under scrutiny of the tabloids five years ago?
-You mean my drinking and then quitting drinking? You make your bed, you sleep in it. I screwed up. In the end, that kind of publicity doesnít matter. I think it is nice that people are interested in us, and they have some kind of respect for us, but no one needs to know everything about your life.
Or to know if itís Miges willie in the poster of Hungarian Bravo- magazine.
-Hell yeah! And other thing is, that we are not U2. We are just a pump from Helsinki. We are just a rockband who got incredibly lucky with a few songs. Wonderful! Thatís it, and we still have eachother when things get rough.
HIM is recording the new album Tears On Tape in Finland, with Hiili Hiilesmaa. He has worked with the band since the beginning. Mixing will be done by another old friend Tim Palmer, who will do the final work in London.
-When you go to the studio abroad, there is only certain dates and times you are able to use the studio, says Ville. This way we have more freedom, but this is also more demanding for the band. You have to take hold of yourself. Same goes with the lyrics, they really have to be ready.
Do the lyrics still continue in the same dark romantic mood as before? Are you still in the same state of mind?
-Hell yeah! Itís important, that both the lyrics and the music express the same thing. Like Black Sabbath, Smashing Pumpkins and Roy Orbison. Melancholy meets ass fuck! Add to that the midnight worm from Ikaalinen (a Finnish small city)! If you donít mention this in the interview, you are going to be killed! And I quess the devil is always around the corner, when itís about our music.
Have any of you actually seen the Satan?
-I have, Burton replies surprisingly. Once playing pool, a guy came up to me and asked if he can have my soul in case he wins the game. I was faced with many decisions, it was a very important moment!
It is also a very important moment when HIM is again, after many years, having a New Years gig in Finland. This time itís going to be four nights in Tavastia. Helldone-gigs have been such a tradition, that the fans were truly horrified when the band didnít go on stage.
- It was strange for us too, Ville admits. It had become an automatic thing, and in the other hand sometimes you can say no, even if people want something from you. Iím going to be very nervous about these gigs. If you donít get nervous, then itís time to stop. But we want to do these things again. And when things happen naturally, they are close to magic!
-And if we donít want to play on those gigs, we can always hire black actors to play us, Mige points out. A Kenyan HIM would be so cool! In the next music video there could be black bodybuilders playing us, with leopard skin hats!
( Itís a Finnish inside joke about a recent Finnish movie, where a Kenyan actor was playing our sixth president..)
The band members dedication to HIM is clear. No one has any other projects on the side. Even Lindes side project Daniel Lioneye is on hold for now. There is no need for it. They all reside in Finland, so they can concentrate on the band full time. Although Linde travels to England regularly. He have been together with Toni-Marie Iommi, Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommis daughter, for a long time. The couple is always welcome to Tony Iommis house, as is Ozzy Osbourne.
One day I heard someone playing music in Tonys home studio and went there to see what was going on, Linde tells. Ė There he was rehearsing some Sabbath songs with Ozzy.
Ville Valo & 10 commandments
1.Which books, movies or records have inspired and interested you recently?
-About books I have to mention Aarni Koutas book ďLusiferin kannelĒ. Heís the one who translated Nietzches Antichrist in Finnish. He wrote esoteric, magical poetry and he is very interesting.
-Burton found the book from some antique store. Itís a source of inspiration, and such a interesting texts. ( and then two long quotes from poems that I canít translate!)
-About movies, the I have to say Drive (2011) is super, one of my favourites in many years. Itís filmed in fantastic way, wonderful colors and always dig that kind of Charles Bronson-type of attitude that you can find in many Clint Eastwood-films. There is something about it!
-I have terrible taste, hah. And hey, one of the books is also Kill Your Friends (2008) by John Niven. Itís about the British music business in the 90?s. It sounds really boring, but Iím not going to tell more about it. Itís a bit like Guy Richies movies. You go from left to right and right to left, and every direction, and the kind of things happen, that leaves the reader to wonder what the hell is happening. Itís one of the best books I have read in ten years. And on the top of that, itís a book you read in a second. Incredibly fun book.
-Then I have all Baudelaires on my table, like The Flowers of Evil, and then I have Bukowski and the same time Apathy For The Devil by NME- journalist Nick Kent. And of course short stories by Amy Hempel. She writes about big things in short sentences.
-Then I have a huge pile of movies I have to see again, if they could bring some new ideas. Itís because we are in the process of making the album.
2.You have several portraits tattoed in your skin. Who can you find there and who are still missing?
-On the back I have the eyes of Edgar Allan Poe, on the hand Timo K.Mukka , Baudelaire and Bukowski. And of course Maya Deren. She was a surrealist movie director from the 40?s. I heard she just walked out from the theatre in the middle of the movie if she didnít like it, and she had clothes full of clocks/watches. Deren was also a choreographer, film theoretician, writer and photographer who studied voodoo in Haiti.
-Of course I have all kinds of ideas, but for me tattoos are related to certain periods. They are influenced by where you are at the moment and who you are with, and whatís on your mind in the given time. Itís not the idea to collect faces of all the writers on my skin. First of all, there is not enough skin, and second, those decisions are so much about the moment.
- Itís like, if you would drink half a bottle of Koskenkorva, you too would take a tattoo of Timo K. Mukka! Itís also strange, that Timo K. Mukka was tattooed by American (Kat Von D). Itís a bit contradictory, just like with Baudelaire, who is French. Interesting combination in itself!
-Of course I hope that a part of those people have transferred to me in the tattoos. You can see it in two ways. Iím righ-handed, so every time I write I see the pictures and they set the standard for me. Or they remind me of the values. They remind me, that you should write something good instead just writing shit. The third thing is of course when I jerk of. Do I want to see those pictures then?
3.Are the new HIM songs very different from the old? Can you find some definite difference?
-It doesnít matter how far we try to go with the band, it always sounds the same. People always say that itís the same old shit. Or the same good stuff. But for me the concept of the album is the Bermuda triangle. There is Smashing Pumpkins, Black Sabbath and Roy Orbison. Those are the three I want to meet in the music. Or Elvis Presleys Love Me Tender meet Black Sabbath Nib. That contrast could be taken even further, if possible. So basically we are doing the same thing as before, just better.
4.What do you do in your spare time? Do you have spare time in general?
-I donít have a lot of spare time. In my yard, I have snails. They are really bad for the plants. I have been this little gardener. So when itís possible, I collect snails and boil them, and then I throw them in the carbage. Itís my hobby! But music is just like writing, itís always on your mind. No matter what you do, itís always there. Itís a curse and a blessing.
- I havenít been to gigs in a long time. Somehow I lost interest in it. Before I went to see all kinds of things like every other day. All I have done this year is to practise my acoustic guitar and trying to get as good as Kari Tapio. His soul rest in peace!
5.HIM has been making music for twenty years. Is there anything you regret? Is there anything you get pissed off about?
-No! Like you may know, you have to screw up to become stronger and wiser. Without the mistakes, you become nothing. You have to make a certain amount of mistakes to find yourself in a better place. Life would be terrible if it was just heavenly. Specially for us satanists!
6.You have travelled a lot around the world. Is there any cities, you especially like?
- Itís rare that you actually have time to experience any city. But for example Seattle is one of my favourites, and also I really like Denver. Also Oulu and Melbourne.
- There is places, where you accidentally meet really nice people, who tell you nice stories. They lead to interesting conversations and through them you get closer to the city or even the feel of the whole country.
- You spend two nights in some city and you have time to go to a pub. There you meet someone, who tells you an interesting story. Thatís how you get an unforgettable memory of the city.
-Like in Denver, where I found this tiki bar in a small hotel. I was sitting there and having a few drinks before the gig, and the bartender told me about a magazine they had, called Modern Drunkard. I was admiring it like ďwowĒ and he wrote for me ď Now youíve finally approved to be part of international drunkardĒ on the cover of the magazine. Those kind of things stick with you, and I have the magazine still in my bedroom, next to my books. Those are the important little things.
-Another great tiki bar in on Sunset Boulevard, number four thousand and something. Itís this small shack and only one building, and thatís why you can smoke inside, because itís isolated from the other buildings. The owner of the bar died some time ago, and his son runs the bar now. Every day at seven, all the customers have a shot for the memory of the dad.
- Those are the places, you remember forever. Itís so wonderful that you got to experience that. Itís not so much about the place or the city, itís about the certain case.
7.When you write songs, does it sometimes take half an hour to complete them, or does it sometimes take two years for one song? Do you have a clear pattern in writing the songs?
-In our last album there were a song called Disarm Me (With Your Loneliness) and it took like seven years to finish it. And in the other hand, The Funeral Of Hearts from Love Metal-album was created in an instant. We had already completed the album, and then I just started to strum my guitar. Suddenly I got this feeling, that hell, we have to put it all togerther immediately, it happened so fast.
-Thatís how you keep the interest in music in general, that sometimes you create the songs really fast, great songs at least in my own opinion. Sometimes you can create the song in one hour, but in other hand I believe that all life lived and those tiki bars in itself are making the songs all the time. And itís also true, that in a sense, you are making the same song over and over again, like writers are writing the same book. Itís just that they have different angles. Thatís how I see it anyhow, even if itís difficult to explain.
8.Which of the HIM band members evoke the most sexual thrill in you, and which object you would like to stick in his ass?
-I have to say Gas, because he has the most Sodom and Gomorrah. And he is the most obscene. If I would have to say, then it would be the most obscene guy. And definitely that way, that I donít give, I take. Linde would be too easy. Same goes to Burton, too easy. Mige in other hand is too close, it would feel like incest.- And of course I would stick my own dick in his ass! If you take, then you really take. If you start something, you have to see it through!
9. If you would do a duet with a woman, who would you do it with?
-I did the song Summer Wine with Natalie Avelon at one time. And it was a great succes, which was surprising. We did other things with HIM at the same time, and the song accidentally became a huge hit, especially in Southern Europe.- But if I could choose, I would propably do a duet with Annie Lennox. That would be so great, fantastic.
-And now when I start thinking, even more pleasing option would be Debbie Harry, but it must be because I had a teenage crush in her, and it would be great to meet her. I have heard that she is a wonderful person. But thatís a classic, the bigger the star, the nicer the person. Young scamps are always the most full of themselves. Debbie Harry would also fit into our world, our ideology and the feeling of our band.
10.You have never been a materialist, but is there anything special you would want?
- I had this surprising and great luck. In one museum in Finland, I found these unborn elk calves. I managed to make a deal and now Iím waiting to have them delivered to my home. Itís this incredible story. An elk was involved in a car crash and died. She had two almost fullgrown calves in her tummy.
- One of the best taxidermists in Finland mounted them. Itís very unusual and thought-provoking story. Itís done very beautifully, they look like they are sleeping side by side. You get this strange feeling from them, kind of sad, but in the same time you feel the miracle of life. You are wondering, what could have happened to them, how would they have lived, where would they have gone. It evokes your imagination. I was thinking of taking them with me in the studio, when I sing. It gives you this feeling.
-Otherwise Iím not missing anything, except a huge hit album!
Mige&Gas Fears and passions
-This kind of manifests..Or letís put it this way, HIM is a strange way to live your life. But the awards are big and the lashes are deep, says Mige.-Twenty years ago it was impossible to imagine how it would actually be. Itís a bit like eating a moldy christmas ham, really great butÖ- Of course you sometimes think, what would have happened if you didnít join the band. But Iím sure everyone has times, when they feel like it would be nice to do something else. But I have no regrets! Pentecostals think that regretting is something for people who love truffels more than the ham.
- You should never think about what could have happened. Everyone has options in their life, but thinking about the past is like looking back and longing for the times gone. But this doesnít make you unsuitable for society. Maybe this makes you crazy, but there is place in society for crazy too.
-For me, playing music have always been a way of life, Gas points out. It used to be a hobby, now itís full time. We make music all year around, and no longer have dayjobs like we used to. Gas is the weirdest dude in the band, says Mige. He is the one whoís got gills, whereas the rest of us just have bumps behind our ears. On the surface, Gas seems like an ordinary guy, but inside there is this mythology I have never seen before. And this is a compliment!
-On the other hand, these days I live a balaced life, I donít party anymore, Gas defends himself.- I just donít drink much anymore, I just donít feel like it. I donít know why. Itís propably a phase, Propably it starts again when we go on tour. When I was recovering, there were not time for partying.
- You could see the loyalty in the band when I was sick and couldnít play. At the beginning, I had this feeling that Dam this bad luck. But all the time I had this belief, that I will get better. You have to be positive!
-What bothered me the most was that everone had to wait for me. It was mentally challenging for myself, and I was blaiming myself even if that was unnneccessary. Thatís how my mind works, I was so pissed of that hell, everyone is waiting for me. But Iím truly happy and grateful that they actually waited for me. Not too many bands in the world would have.
- If you have this strong mythology behind you, you canít just rip of one fifths. It doesnít work, and it shouldnít work, says Mige. Think about if one of the apostles of Jesus fell ill, and then you would just throw him out. Go away, you leper!
-We two have passions for eachother, Mige says. Itís like this carnal song, between me and Gas. Itís like winter solstice and dark mass, you become one with your witch. Sometimes Iím his witch and sometimes he is my witch. That mating rite is something that really make you sing. And if we talk about musical passions, HIM have made it possible for me to satisfy all my musical pervesions! When I was in highschool, I dreamed how great it would be to play in this and that place, and now we really have been in almost all those places, says Gas.
-As a young boy you would dream about places like Hammersmiths Odeon and dream of one day playing there. So you have really had a change to realize many dreams, and the next thing to do is a fucking good album.
-For me, music of HIM have always been my type of thing, Mige says.
-I donít know if itís because Iím easily influenced or just naturally growing the right way. I have grown up with this band, I have never felt like playing this or that, because I joined a group that was heading the same way as I.
-When you have listened to classic heavy metal bands, you of course think how nice it would be to do those traditional drum solos, Gas says.
-But for that purpose I have all kinds of other projects. Even if I havenít had time to play in them in recent years, you can do them when you have the time. In those projects you can do those things that doesnít fit into our music. You have to do what the song needs. In younger days, you wanted to show off, but now I have realized that itís the songs that really counts.
-Itís comforting that I suck with the bass, so I have never had the need to show off. Except ass and dick, says Mige.
-But for me HIM is the classic heavymetal band of course, even if I donít know if it meets the standards of a classic in any way other than in my rotten mind. Anyway, itís enough that it feels classic to youself.
- I havenít even played in any other bands besides HIM and one round in Lindes Daniel Lioneye-project. Iím not very talented musician. So there isnít that much demand, and as long as you feel fulfilled, you become lazy. But maybe some day there will come something you canít say no to. -For Linde, playing is some kind of ?ber-drive that have reached such extents, that he has to play all the time.
Being a fan
Iím eternal fan of ice-hockey, says Gas.
-Itís been like that when I was young and still is. It doesnít change. I go to the games, and Iím passionate Tappara-fan (ice hockey team), even if I shouldnít say it. I even have their logo tattooed in my arm. Now when you have to prioritize, I can only see a few Tappara games a year.
-My hobby is anxiety-management, thatís what Iím fan of and my type of exercise., Mige says. -Really weird hobby, everyone is afraid of something.
-Iím not afraid of anything else besides sky falling down, says Gas.
-Damn, Akvavitix or what the hell was it, Mige bursts out.
-Iím afraid of you sometimes, but right now Iím afraid of the interviewer, death and God. And, all kinds of stuff. But people are afraid of ridiculous things, some are afraid of growing old, some are afraid of Islam. Maybe there is a need for a guru. When I overcome my own sexual and religious fears, I can start a course.
-Itís possible that this fearful, hysteric antipathy is rooted in the fact that my own Kalevala-mythology is mixed with satanism. Itís a true christian fear of God, and it takes this form in my anxiety-management.
-These are difficult things. Resistance is often coming from fear. When you are really against something, maybe there is something more behind it.
Translation from Finnish by Alli Velli