HIM: 'We Didn't Want Freindly Radio Sheen'
H.I.M - the initials standing for 'His Infernal Majesty' - first
formed in Finland back in 1995 and have successfully toiled at their
crafty, hook laden goth pop metal ever since. Fronted by the
charismatic Ville Valo, H.I.M went on to achieve success all over
Europe, and particularly over in the UK. Having for the past couple of
years seen their profile in the US rise considerably, with their latest
studio opus "Dark Light," the band are now assured of making further
inroads in their pursuit for Stateside mainstream success. Joe Matera
spoke to H.I.M bass player Mige Amour for an exclusive chat for
"It's important to have the means at your disposal to leave your home
and go somewhere else in order to gain a fresh creative space."
UG: For "Dark Light" the band traveled to the US, to the Paramour
Mansion in Los Angeles to record the album?
Mige: Yes, but it is not the first time we've recorded an album outside
of Finland. The first time was for 2000's Razorblade Romance. We did
that album in Wales at a place called Rockfield Studios (the same
studio Queen and Black Sabbath have recorded at in the past). So we
kind of actually got the idea of going to a different location for this
recording from that experience. Sometimes it's a really good idea and
it doesn't matter where you do it. What is more important is having the
means at your disposal to leave your home and go somewhere else in
order to gain a fresh creative space. And that pretty much means having
to get the band together in one location for, as it was for us in Los
Angeles, about a period of two months.
"Friendly radio sheen wasn't what we had in mind really when we were
starting out making Dark Light."
What did producer Tim Palmer bring to the overall recording process?
You can tell that his production touch has given the album a polished
sheen which obviously makes it very friendly for the American
commercial radio format.
Yeah it has, but the 'friendly radio sheen' wasn't what we had in mind
really when we were starting out making this record. As a producer, Tim
pretty much knew how to create that vibe we were looking for. But then
again isn't that the psychology of what every producer really does? And
because he's worked with some great bands in the past like U2 and Ozzy
Osbourne, he obviously had a lot of very good creative ideas which we
were able to absorb and which were really great for us.
You mentioned being holed up for two months in Los Angeles, did you
write all those songs in that period or were they written over a period
Though we had the basic structures and ideas for the songs already
mapped out before we went there, we left room for creativity in the
studio. In that sense we decided to do the proper writing process in
the studio because we had great faith in Tim and his ability to bring
something new to the songs. It is a pretty big risk you take doing it
this way, but this time around, we managed to pull it through. It also
keeps you on the edge when the song is not familiar to you or the band
and it being totally new to you as well. It also really gives a lot of
space to the producer to bring in his input. This time we really wanted
to do it like that rather than hassle around for like two years with a
song like we used to do. It was interesting and it kept us awake all
the time. Since the songs were mainly written in the studio, we
initially went in and did pre-production on the ideas we had, where we
would twist and turn those song ideas so we could figure out how to
make them into a complete entity.
"We've spent years and loads of money too trying to find the perfect
gear that suits us and our music."
Let's talk about gear, what are you and Linde [H.I.M guitarist]
Like everybody else we've spent years and loads of money too trying to
find the perfect gear that suits us and our music. Myself, I've ended
up playing a Fender Precision bass. When it comes to amps, though in
the past I've played everything from Ampegs to Mesa Boogies, I now use
an Ampeg SWT-II Pro primarily though lately I've started to use the
Mesa Boogies again also. As for Linde, he plays a '77 Gibson SG. He
used to have it tuned like a seven string (B E A D G but now tunes it
to the normal regular tuning. He also has many effects such as a
CryBaby Wah Wah and utilizes MIDI which helps make things a lot easier
for all of us. On stage, Linde uses two Laney amplifiers [and 4 x 12"
boxes] where one is set-up for a clear distorted tone while the other
is more of a fuzzy and ugly sound and he combines those two sounds
together. It's a good idea to use the two amplifiers in this way
because since we only have one guitar player, it gives the effect of
having another guitarist playing and doing the same stuff Linde is
H.I.M have a great musical cocktail of pop melodicism and ambience that
I can best describe as being a marriage between the heaviness of Black
Sabbath and the softness of Depeche Mode.
That is what we've always been aiming for since the mid 1990s, it's
kind of been a sort of slogan for us. And having catchy tunes and
melodies and catchy choruses, I think that is very important if you
want any tune to stay in your head.
"We've always classed ourselves as being a metal band because of the
atmosphere of the music more so than for the guitars."
The band's critics tend to play on the fact that because the pop
melodies of the band seem to attract a larger female fan base, it tends
to forfeit the band's right in calling itself in any way a hard rock or
metal band. Rather they tend to view H.I.M as merely a pop outfit that
is more on the same level as a boy band.
Well, usually the ladies do come to the shows but also with their male
friends. We don't have to be embarrassed if they do call us a pop band
or whatever. You know there are songs from Bob Dylan or Neil Young or
Bruce Springsteen that are much harder and heavier atmospherically than
say a song from Mercyful Fate or even Poison if you know what I mean.
We've always classed ourselves as being a metal band because of the
atmosphere of the music more so than for the guitars. I think at the
end of the day, you have to decide between having a heavy production or
having a heavy atmosphere. And it is very seldom that you manage to
bring both to the songs. So it's a decision you have to make.
There is a strong undercurrent of romanticism inherent in many of the
band's subject matter like for example, death is even treated as this
I think that though Romanticism has been around for a long time now, it
is actually a fairly new thing to do it in hardcore music. I don't
understand why people haven't been doing any earlier because music is
pretty much all about emotions. I don't find emotions, and I'm speaking
for myself now as I'm sure people have differing opinions on this, I
don't find emotions towards your parents or the government as
interesting as the emotions you have towards your loved ones or your
friends or whoever. Having this view evidently leads to this type of
romanticism in our music where the lyrics are describing a relationship
to someone that really evokes these types of feelings in you.