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Ville Valo - Interview with Metal Hammer Spain (translation into English)

The first time I saw Ville Valo speak in an interview, his presence in front of the cameras caught my attention and, above all, his thoughtful and slow way of expressing himself; in fact, I'd swear that until then I had never seen or heard a Finnish musician speak. During the following years, I continued paying attention to his interviews and it didn't take me long to discover that, more than a "cute guy" being there to attract teenagers, the frontman exuded culture, sympathy, a sense of humor and an intelligent pragmatism interesting enough to take him seriously and be curious about what a chat with him would be like.


TEXT: VICENTE ALBADALEJO - PHOTOGRAPHY: OFFICIAL

Translation into English: Heartagram Spain






The Ville Valo that I find on the other end of the phone today is, in addition to all of the aforementioned, smiling, energetic, polite and above all, very close and natural. From minute 0:00 he is grateful, enthusiastic and includes me in his dialogue as someone who knows exactly what he is talking about. Perhaps with the president of the fan club on duty or with the journalist who has simply done his homework, he will be more sarcastic and oblivious, but when he detects that the person on the other end knows his work and shares a series of tastes and experience, it opens like a book and is capable of offering you a very easy and inspired interview like the one you are about to read. It's November 28, it's my 40th birthday, and for some reason I'm sure the interview will take place at 6:00 p.m. At 1:30 p.m. I get word from the Metal Hammer management that Ville will soon access the Zoom conference room, which means that I'm going to have to improvise an interview, but for some reason, I feel calm and I trust him. that everything can go well. As soon as I hear Ville's voice on the other end of the line, my expectations are confirmed.


METAL HAMMER: Hi Ville! How are you?


VILLE VALO: Hello! How are you? I'm fine, thank you very much for doing this interview!


MH: No no, thanks to you! Sorry if I've been a bit late connecting, I had some problems...


VV: Oh, no problem, I had some problems too and I thought I was late.


MH: Anyway, Monday morning stuff...


VV: Hahahaha yeah. It's always Monday morning for someone somewhere in the world...


MH: First of all I would like to tell you that it is a great honor for me to be able to do this interview. I discovered HIM when I was 20 years old and it was one of my favorite bands for a long time, and today I'm 40 and I'm here talking to you...


VV: Oh! That's great! (Ville starts singing) "Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you..."


(Although you can imagine him doing it with a deep and romantic voice, he does it in a festive way and in a parody tone that makes us both burst out laughing)


MH: Where are you? In Finland?


VV: Yes, I am at home, in Helsinki.


MH: Brilliant; hey, I think first of all it might be interesting if you could tell us a bit about these last few years for all those people who wonder what you've been up to and where you've been...


VV: Well, in 2013 HIM released an album called "Tears on Tape", and then there were some line-up changes and we started to lose the spark; maybe we didn't necessarily lose the spark, but we did feel like maybe we had given everything we could give as a band. And that took us a while until we decided to split up and do a farewell tour. That happened in 2017. So you see, it took us a while to realize that the band really didn't work anymore. Well, we didn't go to group therapy like Metallica, but maybe we should have... the fact is that we tried, but it seemed that, as in many relationships, we had grown apart: the people, their priorities were different. And people wanted to do different kinds of things with their lives. So we feel like the natural way for everything to end is to end. It ended in a friendly way, with good vibes and a nice tour that left a good taste in everyone's mouths. Or so I hope. And that was what happened.


After that, I did an album and a tour with the Finnish band (Agents). We did something like retro-vintage-pop music in Finnish, and I think it was an important way of rinsing my palate, if you will. I just did a complete 180 degree turn and all of a sudden I started playing these kinds of old pop songs for very different types of audiences. I think it was a good challenge for me; It would have seemed strange to me to start working right after HIM disbanded on my own music in English, because you could say that, more or less, HIM's songs were my songs.


I think I really needed to take a break to reevaluate what makes me work and what's important in music that still matters to me, or how I want to contribute to music. So it also got me up for a while. And then after I was done up with THE AGENTS I started working on my props in the fall of 2019. That was when the first song I started trying out at home was "Run Away from the Sun". In the beginning it sounded like shit, and then it just started soundiing better and better and better until I felt like it was really good. I wanted to work with Tim Palmer, an English guy who has produced quite a few albums and mixed quite a few others. Tim really loved the music and I asked him if he thought it was ready for mixing, if the quality was good enough. He told me: let's try it and see how we feel while the mixing and when it is finished. And that opened the floodgates, that we were both sure and we both agreed that the music had quality enough. You know.


When you work alone it's very hard to see the trees in the forest. It's hard to know when something is finished or when something is good enough because, of course, I love what I'm doing, I'm working every day on music so it has to be important to me. But sometimes that doesn't necessarily go int the same way for the public. So that was also why I decided to put the first Gothic EP on volume one and just when well, I didn't know that the restrictions would start the same week, at least here. But we published it on streaming platforms like a month before we knew about the pandemic, which obviously wasn't going to be good. And it ended up being published just when everything was closed here in Finland. And with the EP or the three songs, I just wanted to test the ground to see how the public responded, and also the record companies would eat, if there were still record companies with the idea of releasing my music one day And everything that happened during the pandemic it made everything super slow because the record companies aren't really signing anyone, no one really knew if there was any future. Yes, in music industry at that time there were quite a few dark clouds.So I just thought that the only thing that made sense to me it was putting on theflashing lights of the racehorse and concentrating on the music. And that's what I did in 2020 and for the next year and a half. Then I recorded the entire record and we finished it on February 2022 after which it was mastered and we started working on the cover and we wanted to deliver it on time, because vinyl pressing factories sometimes have delivery times of eight months. So we want and I want the album to be released on vinyl at the same time as streaming platforms and CD's. So it was important to have all ready for the Big Bang, so to speak.







MH: Perfect. I think that it has been very well explained; I certainly don't know how this is going to sound to you,cos I don´t want to call you old, but the truth is that I started listening to you when I was 18 years old, and at that time you were 20, and now we both are around 40 and Ville Valo is, for many people, in carte modo, a legend... What is it like to be Ville Valo, the singer of HIM, making music after two and a half decades?


VV: Well, just recently I was talking with my mother about that, and she told me that she still feels exactly the same as when she was 14 years old. The only difference is that on the outside we are like melting candles. But our way of thinking is the same, of course, although we learn things along the way and grow wiser, we still make mistakes and we still have that kind of youthful energy behind us. At least I hope it stays that way, both me and my mom and people in general. But yeah, it's a pretty weird ride. You can't take for granted that your music will enjoy longevity, you know because in the mid 90's in Finland, there were metal bands in Finland, let's say AMORPHIS, that packed small clubs all over the world. And almost everyone told us that "you are completely crazy singing in English and playing hard rock. It doesn't make any sense, and you're not going to have any future in it." And to be able to tour first and be accepted in Finland, then Europe, then the UK, and finally the US and anywhere in the world, was like building a big, big puzzle, piece by piece. And it was amazing to be a part of that. We met a lot of great artists, but also very influential and interesting and legendary people in the recording industry. And we signed with Sire Records in the United States, who signed Michael Goldstone, who was the guy who signed RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE and PEARL JAM


MH: That's a major achievement...


VV: And the other guy who signed us was Seymour Stein, the same guy who signed Madonna and Depeche Mode. Imagine the stories we clamored over dinner...


MH: hahahahaha yeah...


VV: You know, it was such a great trip to be on. And once again, you know, I have to be grateful for the fact that I was able to continue for so long. And so I'm very excited about next year's tour. And that what you mention about the legendary status of HIM, it's something that I really can't understand I don't like it, although I'm starting to... you know, lately I've been trying to deal with it, although for me it's an equation that I can't quite solve. However, I think I might understand it a little more when I get together with the public and when I play the songs live. That's when it all becomes real. I also tell you that after the pandemic, you know, I was working alone in my studio at home, and I think a lot of people, including myself, became a little bit agoraphobic because you hadn't really had contact with anyone. We hadn't really gone out into the outside world. But now it's strange after all those moments, like a few weeks ago, that I first flew out of Finland and, you know, I went to airports and suddenly there are a lot of fans and I felt like this. Like some kind of Frankenstein monster. I feel like someone resurrected me and I came back to earth.


MH: I understand...


VV: Yes, what you said about when we were 20 years old and we listened to that music is very interesting and great; That's the power of music, isn't it? And especially rock and roll, which stays with us many years later. You know, the stuff you've heard at that age or before, that's what's always there. It is part of your musical heritage and it is part of the soundtrack of your life.


MH: Well, we're still young...


VV: No, we are not young anymore and never will be again. We are both legends... Hahahaha






MH: Well, okay...hahaha. But you know? When I was 20 years old I listened to IRON MAIDEN, GUNS N ROSES, MEGADETH, BLACK SABBATH, and then I discovered HIM, which was a new group, I was listening to you at the same time as those bands that had already been releasing records for decades. That's why I said "legendary", because another 20 years have passed and you're still there along with many of those bands, and I wanted to know how it feels when you look back, and if you're aware of this...


VV: Well, I'm still a music fan. That's why I was telling you about the discussion with my mom about how a person's perceptions and internal dialogue don't change much. I feel pretty much like the boy back then. But, of course, now I have some perspective, you know, as they say, over the river, you know? I have seen many ups and downs. And I think that's important in life in general. So I grew up, I appreciate music more now because when you're younger, things happen faster. We just try to hold on, and now we're getting a little older, and maybe I don't need all the cigarettes and beer to survive. I can have a grasp a little more zen, a little cooler and calmer. At least that's how I feel. But then again, you know: if I remember those days that you speak of and I thought about the current bands back then, then, when we were putting the band together and recording our first album, there were Moonspell: there were TIAMAT...


MH: Yeah.


VV: Very cool and PARADISE LOST have just released "One Second", which was a turning point, and they were also TYPE 0 NEGATIVE. DANZIG and ROB ZOMBIE.

And before that, WHITE ZOMBIE's "Astro-Creep" which was a blast, when it came out sounded so fresh. And I think that was the birth of what later became RAMMSTEIN, which was like putting all things industrial together with rock music orhard, hard and heavy music.

But yeah, I was a fan like everyone else at the time, trying to follow everything that was going on. And we were trying to make our own mix or cocktail of all the influences we had, the older stuff, BLACK SABBATH and all that, but added to our fascination with TYPE, PARADISE LOSY and MY DYING BRIDE, and other UK bands and Metal bands of the moment.

And well, nowadays I don't listen to so much music anymore. I listen something, but not so much anymore, I don't know if the same thing happens to you...


MH: The thing is, I was going to ask you something related to that: are your current musical influences the same as always?


VV: Well, you know, maybe when I was younger I was more influenced by styles like Black Metal. Black Metal is fantastic, but I think nowadays I like the uniqueness of artists more. I like the fact that people have their own distinctive voice and gender doesn't matter as much. I love Anna Colby, for example, she is british, she's a great live performer. She sings amazingly and has overwhelming power. She's great

And then I like this kind of Australian pop band from the UK called The Wild Beasts, I find their music very weird, it has some similarities to, say, Depeche Mode but maybe somewhere between Radiohead from the "OK Computer" er with Depeche Mode and I tend to fall in love with those mixes. It's like with film directors, do you know Nicolas Winding Refn?


MH: The one from "Drive"?


VV: Yes, I find him fascinating. Or David Lynch, they are people who have their own style and are so unique that they can really grab me as a listener or a viewer. They manage to capture my attention to the point that I can completely forget about the outside world for a minute. And in the case of this band that I'm telling you about, it really has nothing to do with the genre of music that we like so much now. On the next tour, I chose Kaelan Mikla, an Icelandic band, to be the opening act. I think they can be great because they are able to heat the room for the whole night. They have this new kind of more electronic wave feeling in what they do but it's very unique and both, they and we, share that feeling of melancholy and a kind of danceable darkness that hopefully doesn't get depressing. You know, it's dark, but you can still have fun inside that darkness. You know, black light-disco. But yeah, I think that's maybe something I enjoy these days. And then, of course, I keep putting on the classics. Lately I've fallen in love with SISTERS OF MERCY again and I can't stop listening to them.

And a friend of the band gave me the vinyl of NIRVANA's "Nevermind". I had never listened it. And I remember when I was kid, when the album came out, it was so popular that I said "Hmm, I'm not going to like it because everyone likes it..."

You know, I was like that when I was younger, so it's nice to go back to some of the classics now, after 20 or 30 years. The truth is that I try to keep listening to music, but it's not like I used to, I don't know what people are listening to nowadays. My beats sound almost all the time like things I heard when I was younger.


MH: Speaking of influences: I know you've always been passionate about horror movies and writers like Edgar Allan Poe or H.P. Lovecraft and who have had a strong influence on your music. I wanted to know if you still read these writers and are they still around when you write new songs...


VV: Well, I try not to always read the same things. I grew up reading Poe and Guy de Maupassant and H.P Lovecraft and such. I don't know why, but those were the things I loved when I was younger. And then, for a long, long time, I read so many biographies, usually of musicians or autobiographies, I always found them very educational, which makes a certain sense, don't you think? And right now I was looking in Google to be able to read her name correctly Do you know Mariana Enríquez, from Argentina?


MH: No, I don't know her...


VV: Well, you should take a look at her. She has two short story compilations, the first is called "El peligro dde fumar en la cama" ("The danger of smoking in bed") and the second is "Cosas que perdimos en el fuego" ("Things we lost in the fire"). And she has just published another one, her first novel, that I haven´t started yet. called "Nuestra parte de la noche" ("Our part of the night") I don't know if I said it correctly in Spanish...


MH: Could you repeat her name? I'm going to look for something from her...


VV: Yes, the writer's name is Mariana Enríquez and she's from Buenos Aires. And it is that she has one. how would I say, she writes about the ghettos and the hard life in Buenos Aires, but with a touch of horror. So it's like a mixture of social commentary, relationships, things like, you know, love, drama and romantic things. But she has a sense of HP Lovecraft and a sense of old-school horror, too. It is a very cool combination. I think she is very, very special. She is someone who really makes me feel something. It's like the music I'm trying to make to come up with a new mix of all the things that are familiar to us. Yeah, I think she's doing that with her work in such a cool way that I can smell HP Lovecraft at times, but she doesn't go so far as to be a pastiche or a copy of someone. She has her own voice and her own way of telling her stories. So she's pretty special. I would highly recommend it to you, check it out.


MH: Yes, I have written down her name and I promise I will read something about her.


VV: You sure like her.







MH: Let's see what you think of this question: as with other artists, for HIM fans it was never just HIM, but also you, Ville Valo; we have read your interviews, internalized your music, etc... so, how much do you think we know about the "real you"?


VV: Well, to be honest with you, I think you know me pretty well because you can hear the music, and I've never tried to pretend to be someone else or ever played a part when it comes to the music, you know, it's not like Alice Cooper. and Vincent Fournier, or Brian Warner and Marilyn Manson, or whoever. I don't have that distinction. I think because music is very heartfelt, very emotional and sentimental, you may not know the details of my life, but you know a lot about how I feel. And I think that's the power of music too, that you can get really close without showing everything. It's like old school; old school eroticism without having to get to pornography. On a first date there is some of it left. And mysticism and mystery. So, in that sense, I think the listeners know me pretty well. But of course, I like to keep some distance. And I always liked artists like Peter Steele and Andrew Eldridge, who you didn't know much about. They never, never liked opening up their wardrobe and they also have their own heroe. Sure that this was all before social media which I'm not really a fan of because even though I love the way they can connect it to the people, as an artist, I think I don't want to be seen talking every day, every minute, and I don't want to tell people what I just had for breakfast. It's not that I'm not interested in them at all, I love some things, but I think the absence warms the heart, as the saying goes. So it's important to leave and come back, rather than desperately trying to be there 24/7. That's at least how I see it.

But that question is very interesting. See, if you think of artists like KISS or Iron Maiden, or if you think of Type O Negative, the best artists from the best bands, they offer a whole new world, a whole world that you can enter, with its own set of rules...something like, you know, J.R.R. Tolkien and "Lord of the Rings." Not many pop artists do that. They don't create a whole world because it's so hard to do it in three and a half minutes. But rock artists can build those worlds. I started building this world with HIM in the m 90s and it's still the same world, I'm telling you humorously, but I know I could say that what I do now is my "Lord of the Rings" if HIM was "The Hobbit". You know it comes from the same place, but it's another chapter and it has a lot of similarities, but it's still its own thing. And that's how I've always felt it. That's very important, especially with metal music Because I remember drawing Eddie from MAIDEN in school and thank goodness that they created a mascot, because having to draw the whole band would have been a big problem, but they are the reason I started playing bass, just like seeing Gene Simmons spitting blood on stage.


MH: I understand. You mean the iconic part...


VV: Yes, it's just not only about playing music. is the full representation of the whole thing And you have to spend some time to make the difference between the image, the artwork, the merchandising and everything. And yes, I'm working on it, still trying to fine-tune the details of that little world, and trying to, yknow, removing the dust and spider webs accumulated over the years before reopening the doors to people...


MH: Talking about drawing: maybe I screw up, but I think I have read that the logo of the disc was created by you with a software for children...


VV: Oh hahaha, well not exactly: it was the font...


MH: Ah okay; well that...


VV: One of the fonts I used for the cover art was done by hand with this kids app... but it's such a long and weird story. All the fonts just looked like crap to me, so I needed my own, which in the end doesn't necessarily look much better, but it is at least mine. Yes I did it. I did it that way. I might be the type of person who often doesn't take the easy route and often takes the harder one just because I can, you know?


MH: Interesting...


VV: Because that's how you learn new things. But yes, the font of thelogo is made by me.


MH: Understood.


VV: And the same with the new version of Heartagram. so yes you can say that I am involved in all aspects very, very closely.


MH: And when it comes to music and themes, when you start composing, do you keep in mind how you want them to sound, do you try to focus on one sound or style deliberately, or do they just come naturally?


VV: Well, I think after HIM I started thinking with the wrong side of my brain, thinking that, "oh, now that it's a clean board, I could do whatever I want, what should I do?" I would say that I started thinking about music intellectually, which is never a good idea. So I ended up messing around with it and I thought the best way to do it is to write a song, pick up the guitar and see what comes out, and not restrict the kind of development of the song in any way. And so "Run Away From The Sun" was born. and I think listening to it is tangible. When you compose a song and finish it, you have to feel that it is complete or if, on the contrary, you need help. The fact is that no, there is nothing premeditated in these topics, that kind of thinking doesn't make any sense to me. And even more considering all the history behind my back, I think it's nice that I don't have to think that way when writing .


MH: So you just pick up your guitar and let the music flow...


VV: Yes I think it all started with a voice and an acoustic guitar, but I like many things. One of my favorite songs on the album is "Heartful of Ghosts", which is a bit weirder, more meandering and moody, and that's something quite new to me, as I wrote the song as it went along, and the production, recording and the writing went hand in hand. It's not that it was already structured and then I interpreted it, but actually the production put the song together and it changed in the process. And I realized that this was something very new for me and very interesting, because when all these elements go hand in hand, I think there's a better chance that the result will be original. That's how "The Foreverlost" also came about.







MH: That's one of the ones I liked the most...


VV: Really? That one is one of the most influenced by the 80s, with the previous choruses and such, it sounds a bit like Interpol, it has a bit of JOY DIVSION. but it's more danceable, faster... it's hard to explain, I guess that that is what happens when you work alone, you have the music in your head and there's no one you can argue with "hey, it would be great if we could have this and this guitar class, and this and this part...". When you work alone, the only partner you have during brainstorming is the music itself, so you react to what you're hearing and keep changing the things that you feel need adjusting, taking all the time needed to make it sound good.

I would say that it's all very organic, a new experience for me that produced a kind of feeling of not having lost faith in rock music and a high similar to the ones you get when you're younger, you know? I think it's always good when you learn new things about something you thought you already knew everything..


MH: What can you tell us about the musicians who have participated in the recording of this new album? What instruments do you use and which ones have you played?


VV: I play and record all the instruments on the album.


MH: Wow! I did not know that...


VV: Yes, my first instrument was the bass; I was "bajista" (he says it in Spanish). And then I also played the drums as a child. So for the album I played and recorded everything by myself in my home studio, then produced, engineered and wrote everything else and then mixed it with Tim Palmer.

And then it was mastered by a guy named Justin at Sterling Sound in Nashville. He's a guy we worked with many, many years before. And the mastering is something I was able to take care of, because he was already too busy with the rest of the aspects of the record. And those are the finishing touches to make sure everything runs smoothly and sounds great. Justin is fantastic at what he does, as is Tim. And well, Tim and I have a long history behind it, so he's credited as a co-producer because sometimes when I was a bit lost in the woods, he was able to guide me in the right direction. Sometimes when you're working alone, it's hard to know when to stop and when something is good enough. And since Tim is a great friend, I was lucky that he was there to help me finish the album.


MH: Well... I didn't know, and I think that's impressive! We are going to talk about the gigs: you will play shows in Europe and a couple are in Spain, and I imagine that the idea will be to play part of this new album; can you tell me about what are we going to see when you come to play here?


VV: What are you going to see? Mmmm... well, with luck you will see a giant and luminous heart behind the stage...


MH: Umm, okay...


VV: On the top of that, what you're going to listen will be...


MH: I was referring to the musicians who are going to accompany you, and I also imagine that you will play HIM songs...


VV: Yeah we know that the tracklist will be 50/50 so half will be HIM songs and half will be new songs and we'll be zigzagging between new and old, we have no intention of starting playing the new record and then put some HIM song at the end or anything like that. I think it will work very well that way, because the new songs have more similarities than differences from the old ones. For example, a song like "Echolocate Your Love" works great with "Rip Out the Wings of a Butterfly"; both come from the same site despite being written 20 years apart. And what you asked me about the musicians, I already have a band. They are not internationally well known yet, they are local musicians who have played with many important Finnish artists. There will be a drummer, a bassist and, surprisingly, two guitarists to make things on the new record sound good and to do more justice to HIM's songs. You know? I think some of those songs live will sound more like the versions on the albums than they did back in the day with HIM, because we will also bring certain effects and pre-recorded keyboard parts. We thought it would be impossible for only one keyboard player to do all the parts, and we decided that taking them in the background would be the option. And the same with the backing vocals; there are hundreds of them on the record And I also recorded new renditions of the old songs. So the keyboards and the chorus will come off the tape, which is also very interesting to me. I remember when I saw MOONSPELL on the "Irreligious" tour using backing tapes, it was the first time I'd heard them at a concert, and still people were wondering if it was live music or not, back in .92...


MH: I was about to ask you if HIM's songs were going to be interpreted differently, like you already did with some when you played them with THE ANGENTS...


VV: I dare to tell you that they sound good, closer to the ones you've heard on record than to the ones we played live, since with HIM we had to simplify them a bit to play them at concerts. Now they're going to sound fuller, I mean a lot of songs have clean guitars on top of heavy guitars, and now with two guitarists it's possible to do all that. I always liked bands with two guitarists, and even in HIM we had two guitars at the beginning, but it was something that changed along the way and I loved it,

I think two guitars bring a lot to the table harmonically speaking, and then they can also make the whole thing sound really powerful, with both of them going super-fuzzed playing a great riff at the same time. So... yeah, I'm happy about the fact that we have already had some rehearsals for the tour and we're almost ready to go. We're going to keep rehearsing through December and trying to work out the little details about the set and about the show itself, the lights and all that. But yeah, it will look and sound great.


MH: Brilliant! Well, I'll be there in February, I think I'll go to Madrid...


VV: Oh it's a great place. With HIM we play La Riviera a lot times.


MH: Yes, I had the opportunity to see you a couple of times, one of them at Festimad 2003, also in Madrid.


VV: We are working to play festivals and we cross our fingers that we can also play some festivals in Spain. That would be great, but things are not confirmed yet, so we'll see.


MH: Well, if that's the case, I'll go see you.


VV: Oh! Well thanks, that would be great.


MH: Well, we are already out of time, so I have to say goodbye...


VV: Yes, have a good birthday! It has been a pleasure! Merry christmas happy holidays and hope to see you in February!


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