HIM’s Ville Valo Looks at Life Through Dark Ray-Bans, Loves ’60s Girl Groups
HIM frontman Ville Valo of all people is complaining about the cold in his native Finland on the day in late March when we connect on the phone. The cold, dark, dreary, glass-half-full-and-laced-with-poison mentality is the goth rock band’s stock in trade, so it was certainly humorous to hear Valo, a darkly handsome figure and figurehead for the disaffected and lovelorn who have prefer the romanticization of heartbreak to romance itself, bemoan the dank weather!
That said, the singer was happy to pull back the curtain for Noisecreep about ‘Tears on Tape,’ the band’s new album (and first on Razor & Tie), out April 30, which it self-financed and recorded without a record label breathing down its neck.
It’s funny to hear you complain about no sunlight right now, even though you certainly embrace the dark side!
Because of the cold weather, you can’t stay outside, so you become this hermit between four walls, so that is frustrating at times. We like to tour with the band. But we like the horror movies, Black Sabbath and the darker edge, but the fascination is more like angle, but it’s not a negative angle. We just look at life through rather dark Ray-Bans.
You had a minor setback when your drummer Mika Karppinen suffered nerve damage…
We had to take eight months off. We would jam together. But it took a while. At the end of the day, there was a three-year break between albums. Our favorite bands, like Type O Negative? It took five or six years in between albums. Metallica? They take eight years between albums, so three years is nothing. For us, it is like two or two-and-a-half years. A lot of people who worked at Warner’s were fired or left the company. I dunno the politics too much, but we kind of didn’t want to work with that team and they didn’t want to work with us, so it was the best of both worlds. We got off the the label and decided to self-finance the whole album, without A&R or record company input.
Self-financing certainly affords you a total measure of freedom. Was there more self-applied pressure or was it business as usual?
It was more like passion as usual. I don’t have anything against A&R. When it is good, it is an extra set of ears. It doesn’t always happen. But this time around, we knew what we were after and what we wanted. It was a logical step. We were in safe hands with our producer and mixer and we got heavy guitars and fuzzy tones.
Can you put us inside a song on ‘Tears on Tape’?
The first single ‘All Lips Go Blue.’ After Mika got better, we entered the rehearsal space in late May, and tried to find a balance with the heavy guitars and full on melancholy of the music. That was the first track, and it opened up the floodgates, musically and lyrically.
I love the Ronettes, the ‘do-run-run-run’ pop stuff. I love the lyrics, having ‘blue, blue blue’ being repetitive. It’s a ’60s doo-wop thing. It’s cool to incorporate all ideas, and to not restrict yourself. We decided to steal a bit from Ronnie Spector and Sabbath and create a bastard child.
That song was important. We cracked open the beer bottle and knew we had a new album; we found our way. We sweated it out in a little rehearsal space, and here were are. Lyrically, it’s a Memento Mori type thing, and is very straightforward. Let us celebrate what we have now, as opposed to dwelling on the mysteries or what will happen afterword.
I love the song ‘Into the Night.’ It’s Roy Orbison meets David Lynch meets Iggy Pop on amphetamines. It has a punk edge that is not HIM, per se. It is super melodic and super ’60s, and that is very new to me and it is a sense of achievement to me. But it sounds like a HIM album. We didn’t want to get a boob job. It’s not something we want to lose. We have an identity as a band. We just wanted to spice it up a bit different.
So everything is back to normal for HIM?
Everything is back to normal, which is crazy. I am super happy. We are old school friends. It was tough, at times, mentally and physically, to see our dear friend suffer. We were not sure that he could play drums at all. That was a tragedy at the same…very Old Testament.
If he couldn’t return to playing, did you think about replacing him?
We waited such a long time… it wasn’t far from that. We had those discussions, but we are so glued together as friends and bandmates that we felt we needed to wait it out, before we decided that the show must go on.’
HIM Tour dates:
May 3 – Los Angeles, CA- House Of Blues
May 5 – San Francisco, CA- The Fillmore
May 8- Chicago, IL – House Of Blues
May 9 – Toronto Canada -Danforth Music Hall
May 10 – New York, NY – Irving Plaza
May 12 – Philadelphia, PA – Theatre Of Living Arts