“So… Do you want to talk about something then?” Ville asks. Later when I playback the tape I blush when I hear myself say: “Well, I could just sit here and stare at you…”
HIM’s singer Ville Valo was in Amsterdam last week to talk about the band’s new album. Dark Light will be released in the Netherlands on September 23rd 2005, the day after their sold out show in Paradiso. Due to a series of coincidences, I was offered the opportunity to interview him. A chance I grabbed with both hands. I asked my best friend to come along so I had someone to take over if I lost the plot. I was the most nervous I had ever been in my life. My first ever interview with a band and it would be with mr. Valo! When the record company girl took us to the hotel room where we’d do the interview, we had to wait down the hall until Ville had finished doing a phone interview. The door was slightly open and we could hear his voice. That made it very real, and very scary! Ville was lovely though. He told us to sit down and when I commented that it was cold in there, he closed the windows. It was a very cold and rainy summer day. Then my mind went blank and I couldn’t speak.
Killing Loneliness vs. Wings of a Butterfly
‘Actually we’re here to talk about the new album,’ Annika rescues me while I recompose myself. I stumble when I feel his eyes resting on my red hot cheeks. I must look awful, but he keeps a straight face. ‘Ok, cool! Have you heard it?’ Ville says. ‘No? Well, it’s finished and we’re very happy with it. It’s kind of a combination between Love Metal and Razorblade Romance. I would play it to you, but I didn’t bring it.’
I: Ah, it’s pink!
V: No, it’s gonna be blue! Dark and blue, Razorblade was bright and pink. I meant music wise. It’s got a similar kind of vibe to the single, Rip Out the Wings of a Butterfly. It’s very direct. We’ll probably call it Wings Of.. on the radio. We thought we’d shortened it up, because it’s such a long title. Like Join Me in Death which we’ve shortened to Join Me.
I: I heard that Killing Loneliness would be the first single. Why did it change to Butterfly?
V: It changed because Killing Loneliness sounds very similar to one of the singles from Love Metal; The Sacrament. They’re both ballads and we felt that an up-tempo rock track would be better as a first single. It’s more representative of the new album. It was difficult picking the singles this time, because it’s the first time that an album will be released in a lot of countries simultaneously, so it has to fit the different markets.
I: How do you select the tracks that are going to be singles?
V: Well that’s usually with the label and friends. We’ve been working with the material for a long time already and there’s always a couple of songs that pop up that appear to be more suitable for radio. They’re a bit shorter and more straight to the point, without too much weirdo shit happening.
Nervousness, Gone With the Sin, Daniel Lioneye and Halloween
I heard HIM play two other tracks of the new album when I was at the Rock Am Ring festival in Germany in June 2005; Killing Loneliness and Vampire Heart. The last one was great, but something happened during the other track and Ville seemed to be very pissed off about that. I was wondering what went wrong.
V: I was pissed off, yeah! Unfortunately our bass broke down and it screwed up the song. I cut it off before the end, it didn’t sound right.
I: Those festivals in Germany (Rock Im Park on June 4th, Rock Am Ring on the 5th) were the first gigs you played after spending a few months in America recording the album, weren’t they?
V: Yeah, we were very nervous. Well, we’re always nervous, but you know not playing and than all of a sudden playing at a big festival… Of course it’s weird, especially when we’re playing new stuff. We hadn’t really rehearsed it, so that made it more nerve wrecking. We just flew in and after that we had to fly back to New York, so we had a tremendous jetlag.
I: How do you pick the songs you play on a tour or a festival?
V: We’re kind of… Not lazy, but we have a couple of favourites, though they’re not singles, but most of the time we play stuff that are singles, because especially at festivals that’s the stuff most people know. It’s simple. When we’re playing club gigs we don’t want to play too long, we do like an hour and fifteen or an hour and twenty minutes. What we try to do now, or what we’ve been doing is not playing a lot of our ballads and more being rock directed. It’s nice. There’s still people complaining that we’re not doing the ballads, like Gone with the Sin, but you know you can’t do it all. It’s just the mood of the band.
I: Gone with the Sin is a classic.
V: It’s a really really nice track, but it is pretty hard to get it going. It’s a simple production, but it’s hard to get it to sound right. We’re still lacking like two more guitar players.
I: Well, you can play…
V: Nah, not well enough.
I: What instruments do you play?
V: A bit of bass, a bit of guitar, a bit of drum.
I: Yeah, we saw you drumming on stage with Daniel Lioneye [side project, fronted by HIM’s guitarist Linde]. Do you get questions about that project now that Bam [Margera, from MTV’s Jackass] is using The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll as an opening track for his show?
V: Well, it’s Linde’s song, so… We’re getting a little money out of it and we got asked by CKY, the band of Bam’s brother, to go on tour with them, but we’re not gonna do it. It’s Linde’s project, but he never wants to talk about it. It was basically something we did when getting drunk and enjoying the moment, having a good time really. Doing something different than HIM for a bit, but you know it was enough that we played like two gigs. Three actually.
I: You’ve said that you might make a tradition out of playing on Halloween.
V: Yeah, that would be a nice thing. We’re actually on tour in the US with Halloween this year. It’s not a big thing in Scandinavia, they don’t celebrate it. Not like they do in the US. It’s gonna be good!
I: I flew to London last year for the Halloween show 
V: Yeah? Good stuff! How was it?
I: I loved all the people wearing costumes and you guys with the makeup and fake wounds! And the change in the setlist was good too, opening with Soul On Fire instead of Buried Alive By Love, made a nice change.
V: Yeah, we threw it around a bit for the occasion.
With HIM making our favourite kind of music –lots of guitars, singer with a sexy voice, great lyrics- we were wondering which bands Ville listens to himself at the moment. He needed a few seconds to think about that. “There’s a German band called Bohren und der Club of Gore. It’s doom jazz. It’s very weird. They’ve got a bass and an electric piano, it’s like a jazzconcept. It’s instrumental and sounds a bit like film noir kind of stuff, but slowed down and no vocals. It’s very like.. very doomy and gloomy, you know. That’s a very good band, there’s an album called Black Earth. If you put it on and like do whatever, like doing the dishes or reading or whatever it makes you feel totally like being stoned. It kind of just slows you down.”
I: I always find it hard to listen to instrumental music, like Apocalyptica. They’re great live, but I wouldn’t buy an album.
V: Yes, they’re very good live, very entertaining. I don’t like instrumental music that much, but I listen to dub and reggae. It’s based on rhythm and I like hypnotic music. It’s like an addiction. I don’t listen to trance or jungle, it’s way too fast for me. I could only listen to it if I’d do speed, but I don’t like speed. Or E.
I: So you don’t listen to it.
Ville and the internet
When the conversation fell silent for a few seconds, I looked up at Annika who had said very little so far. Was she lost for words, or just thinking I was doing a good job and had nothing to add? Before I could ask her, Ville started to speak again.
V: Bands should really stop downloading music and buy the albums instead. It might sound like a good idea because it’s cheap and easy, but they’re killing their own industry. The record companies won’t sign new bands if they don’t sell albums, there’s no money for that. They’d rather stick with the bands that sell than invest in new ones.
I: Do you ever go online and check out the messageboards?
V: Not a lot, not a lot. I don’t have a connection back at my home. I’m using the internet mainly to stay in touch with the American people who are working on the album. Of course I do surf a bit when that happens, but I never go looking for sites about the band.
A: Do you have any idea how much fuss your change of hair created on the forums and messageboards?V: No…
I: Everyone was going: “oh no, not the hair!!”
V: -Laughs- Wow… cause it‘s all about the hair..! That’s cool. Tell them I looked like Gerard Way.
Future plansSadly, after a little over twenty minutes our time was up and we had to ask the last
question. It seemed like we had just started talking to him, on the other hand it felt like
we had been there for hours.
I: What have you got planned for the near future?
V: We’re going to Japan next week to do promotion for the album and play at a festival. Then we come back and do a short tour in Europe. The single will be out in the middle of September [16th in the Netherlands] and then the album two weeks later. And then do loads of stuff and we’re gonna be away from home for three and a half months because we’re touring in the US.
Even though it was a very non-journalist thing to do, we decided to buy Ville something because we admire him. He has given us so much by making music, we wanted to return the favour, but not overdo it. ‘What’s this? A book? Should I unwrap it?
…. Ooh! That’s lovely! I was actually pissed off the other day because all of mine are full. I really needed one of these! Thank you so much!’ We bought him a notebook.
I: We’ll be at the gig in Amsterdam, so we’ll give you a wave. Thank you so much for the interview.
V: No no, thank you!
Note: this interview was originally published on my website The Bullet Reviews, which was online from November 2004 – October 2011.