Interview with Ville Valo [HIM], 24.02.2008, Cologne, Chelsea Hotel .[ face 2 face ]

Suomi rocks, that should be clear. Five guys from Helsinki make not a slight contribution to that. Again and again they manage it to create dark-melodic Earwigs that stick in your head. The band demonstrates that you only need three letters to make the girls happy. HIM are back in our country! And they are not alone: They have the newest album “Venus Doom” in their luggage. It`s the 6th studio-album from the Nordic quintet – rough and melodic at the same time. And that shouldnīt be kept back from the audience in Cologne. Before the show we met singer Ville Valo for a little conversation in the Hotel Chelsea.


Lea: How are you doing and how has been the tour so far?
Ville: The tour`s been good. Iīm just a bit bored, cos we just had two days off. For some reason, we seem to have a lot of days off on this tour. And we`ve just been in Cologne zillion times, so there`re not a lot of things you can do. Walk around to see the Dome, that`s it.


Lea: Have you already been upstairs in the Dome?
Ville: (laughs) Actually I didnīt go to see the Dome this time around. I went to the other church close to Neumarkt. One of the old really good catholic churches. It was the first time I was in a cathedral type of church – alone. There was no single person inside. That was actually really cool. Well, they just have their doors open, but itīs not such a big tourist attraction. There was just one lady praying first and then she fucked off when she saw me. (laughter)


Lea: Beside those little sightseeing-trips you also like to buy and read a lot of books, is that true?
Ville: Yeah, I buy them, but never read them. (laughter) I have a lot of books back at home, maybe 1500, and I`ve read maybe 70% of them. So Iīve got a couple of books left that I havenīt touched yet, since I havenīt had the time. But then a lot of people, especially in America it`s great, a lot of people are giving me books. But actually the world of poetry is so vast that it`s impossible to know every author. But thank you dear people for giving me books! (grins) I have something by Goethe: “Die Sorrows Of The Young Werther” or whatever its name is.


Lea: Die Leiden des jungen Werther.
Ville: Ja, I got that book, but I still haven`t had the time to read it. I travel with like four books and just finished “Last exit to Brooklyn” by Hubert Selby Junior yesterday. Itīs the same guy who wrote “The requiem for a dream”, if you know the film with Jared Leto and the Junkies. But anyway, Selby Junior is a fascinating writer.


Lea: And if you would write a book by yourself, which genre would it belong to?
Ville: It probably would be just one page. (laughs) I write a lot for the band and each line in a song in a way is a novel to me. It`s kind of literally minimalism to write lyrics for a song. Migé, our bass-player, he should write a book. He`s very talented when it comes to especially Finnish language. He`s great with languages. He just writes things in a very unordinary way. They are really funny, but pointing at the same time.


Lea: I`ve seen on the setlist – at least for Mannheim – that youīre not playing any songs from “Deep Shadows & Brilliant Highlights” on this tour. Are you already sick of those songs?
Ville: Oh, most of them. No, itīs like for example we have a lot of songs with piano on. We have “Sleepwalking past hope”, we have “Vampire heart”, we have “The sacrament” and “Join me in death”. There is a little bit piano in “Funeral of hearts” as well. We try to avoid the set being entirely composed of these songs with piano, so that’s the reason for example why “Heartache every moment” is not played on this tour. And “Pretending” is a boring song. There`re a couple of good songs on the album “Deep Shadows & Brilliant Highlights”, but they never work live pretty well. I love “Salt in our wounds”, but we`re not playing it. Maybe some other day.


Lea: What`s the craziest rumour you have ever heard about HIM or yourself?
Ville: There are not a lot of crazy ones, just the basics that we all have plenty of kids around the world, which is not true. And when I started wearing the cap, there was this rumour that I had cancer, that I was like going through chemotherapy and that was the reason why I was wearing the hat. And the actual reason to wear the hat is that you donīt have to wash your hair so often and it works like earplugs, because my ears are a bit sensitive cos of all these years of touring. But actually there hasnīt been any very nasty rumour about us. And otherwise we have a macabre, dark sense of humour, so we can laugh nearly about everything.


Lea: Youīve been a lot in America lately and gained a lot of success everywhere. Are you satisfied with your life at the moment or are there any aspects youīre missing?
Ville: Yeah, I miss “a piece of ass”. That`d be a good answer to this question. I`ve been single for about a year now, so a relationship would be good. But I`m not complaining. There are a lot of things missing in everybody`s life and you can always complaining about a lot of things, but you know, thing`s are okay. Iīm in a very successful band and I have everything to get by. My survival pack is working very well.


Lea: Have you ever let dreams influence your life or even some of your lyrics?
Ville: In bits and pieces, yeah. I`ve written diary when I was younger. I don’t know how you dream for example, but I dream a lot of really realistic things that could have happened. And if you wake up in the morning, at least I have been in the situation where I wasn`t completely sure, if I had dreamt the thing or lived the thing, because I went through a lot of really normal things like going to a shop to buy milk or going to see the doctor. And when weīre for example working for an album, I usually dream about being in the studio.


Lea: There have been a lot of side-projects in your career so far. You recorded songs together with bands and artists like Apocalyptica, the Bloodhound Gang and Manna. But is there any highlight you would mention?
Ville: A personal highlight maybe was that I got vocals on “The byronic man” by Cradle Of Filth, because I`m a big fan of Cradle Of Filth. I met Dani a couple of times. I like the guys a lot in the band and I love their music. But then again a lot of other things were really good, like the “Summer wine”-thing that worked out really well. And it was one of the things I had the least saying. I was asked, if I wanna sing this song and I had to think about it for a second and I said “yes”, because the studio has been in Hamburg where I have friends. So I thought Iīm gonna get a free vacation, which I actually got. So I had a free fly over to Hamburg and had four days of absolute party, just a bit singing and then being in front of camera for a second or two.

Lea: How would you continue the sentence “Music is…”?
Ville: (thinks about it for a while) Music is a beautiful monster.
Lea: Have you ever been at that point thinking about to quit everything with the music?
Ville: Yeah, every day, sure. Everybody usually things about quitting their jobs more or less every day.

Lea: And for which reasons would you like to take distance from the music business?
Ville: Business is always fine as long as there is business, as long as you`re doing business and youīre good in it. So as long as the money is pouring in, you`re fine. The more money the better. That`s the White Manīs idea of heaven, I guess, just have the bank account full all the time and you donīt have to do anything. But in music business you get really frustrated when it comes to creativity, I mean, when songs are not working out as well as you had planned it, when you`re not getting satisfying lyrics out of yourself. Then it can be that you`re not playing good gigs. You can`t be perfect all the time, of courses. You just gonna have patience. The older I get, the most sober I get, the more boring it becomes to tour for example, just because there are not a lot of things to do. What do you do here in Cologne? Nothing! I`ve seen the city zillion of times, as I have already mentioned. I`m not interested in museums, not interested in sports or Claudius Thermen or religion. And since I donīt drink anymore, that doesnīt leave me a lot of opportunities. (grins)


Lea: But you didnīt give up smoking! (pointing at the cigarette in Villeīs hand)
Ville: Mm, you know smoking is good for your digestive system. You have to have some vices. Well, masturbating makes you blind, smoking gives you cancer. That`s the old classic truth. More or less everything is addictive. Life itself is very addictive, relationships are addictive, music is very addictive…and smoking, too.


Lea: But your health-condition wasnīt the best lately…
Ville: I went to rehab, but that was about nearly one year ago. I havenīt touched a drink or drugs or anything for over nine months now, which is very good.


Lea: Indeed. If you had something on your mind, who of the band members would be the best listener?
Ville: They`re all pretty good in listening. Linde, the guitar-player, is the quietest guy, so itīs usually the hardest to have a proper conversation with him since he doesnīt speak much. Gas is a great listener and Migé, too. But with Migé it`s usually we start to talk about philosophical things. He always gets like not serious, but really in-depth. I donīt know why, although weīve known each other for such a long time now. And Burton is fine as well. We get along very well.


Lea: And how much does your home mean to you, Helsinki, the place where you live?
Ville: I know a lot of people in there. Helsinki is the place where I have lived most of my life. Iīve got my parents there and my brother, my friends live there, everybody from the band, our manager as well… Furthermore we have our rehearsal place there. Let`s say, it`s a concentrated area. I have a lot of people there that are important to me. It doesnīt really matter where I am. I spent more time away from home than actually there.


Lea: As you said your family is living in Helsinki as well. Who`s genes have you inherited, more your Mom`s or your Dadīs?
Ville: I think itīs nearly 50:50. I got my Momīs eyes and her impatience and my Dadīs sense of humour and bone-structure. (grins)


Lea: Is your brother Jesse similar to you?
Ville: Oh, no. He`s a Leo. I donīt believe in horoscopes that much, but my brother is very different from me. You know, he`s a musician. He plays bass with a couple of bands and he writes songs and stuff. He`s working on it. He`s a great guy and we get along with each others very well. And now since he started working with music more, it`s obviously we have a lot of things to discuss about. We`re seeing each others more and more and not getting fucked up, since I havenīt been to a bar getting drunk in ages, so itīs been more creative and constructive when we meet.


Lea: Are you a person that keeps hold of traditions like celebrating Easter and Christmas?
Ville: It depends on the tradition. We try to celebrate…oh my God, my Mom`s birthday is in two days. I nearly forgot about it. (grins) You know, we celebrate the basics. Not Easter, Christmas yeah, but itīs not religious. It`s just meeting with the family and talking about things, that have been happening in the past year. So it`s very simple, very normal in that sense.


Lea: When youīre coming back home from this tour, what is the first thing you will do?
Ville: I just go back home to sleep. That`s what I will do. I`m gonna do some re-arranging of furniture and get my TV to working. One of my friends is doing a little bit renovation back at my place. He`s doing little tiny things there. It`s a good project to get your mind off from music and the travelling, just concentrate on the home, in the place youīre actually living in.


Lea: Tomorrow is a free day for you. What are your plans?
Ville: Weīll already be in Hamburg. I have a couple of friends in Hamburg. There is a Finnish guy called Kapanen, who has, like a shop. He sells a lot Finnish band merchandise like Nightwish-shirts and stuff like that and he`s been in Hamburg for a long time and I`m gonna say “Hi” to him. Heīs a friend of Paradise Lost. Then there is Leo, the guy who plays bass for Cathedral. His band Chrome Hoof they are playing in Hamburg tomorrow, so I will check out, if I can go to that gig. And we`re playing two nights at the Docks in Hamburg, so we probably gonna go out with Paradise Lost. Iīm hoping for that, so Hamburg is gonna be fine. But the most important thing is to stay healthy on tour more or less, sleep as much as possible and try not to get the flu back, since it fucks up the voice and everything. And it`s not nice to play gigs when youīre having high fever...


Lea: I can imagine. How often have you seen your own bed lately then?
Ville: I donīt sleep in a bed when Iīm back home. I created this little tiny weird room. It does have a mattress, but itīs not like a proper bed. Itīs hard to explain. It`s like a recreation of a tourbus-bunk. It makes me feel really homely. You get used to like for example not seeing the sun in a bunk. So I have a room thatīs painted in black. Itīs really tiny like a guest-room and you don’t have any windows in there. But you just sleep pretty well there. (laughs)


Lea: Alright. I thank you very much for the interview. Enjoy the next days in Hamburg!
Ville: Kiitos, kiitos.


The team of darkmoments thanks for the cooperation with the Zillo music-magazine [ ], as well as Silke from ToughEnoughPromotion and tourmanager Tom, last but not least thanks to Ville Valo who exercised a lot of patience and brought along good humour.

Interview from .Lea Sommerhäuser .[ face to face ]
Pictures & Zillo Cover: .Sandro Griesbach