VILLE VALO - Our Sex God Fer Sure!
Few people do droll self-deprecation quite like Ville Valo. The majestic Ville is on prime form. He looks well-kept and refreshed, like a character from a Byron poem. Does it get any easier? No, it gets tougher.
I was a big fan of Steve Harris. Yeah, of course. Early on, there was an air of the occult around the band. Was that something you were seriously into or was it just a cool image?
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You see your friends turning to Christianity, or to the other side, or to whatever side. It was more about the fascination - going to find these rare books in libraries. We played this place in the middle of Finland. Half of the crowd were these goth-black metal people spitting on us. It was like that for a while.
Not exactly dangerous, but it was adventurous. But we were happy to be the weird kids in the corner. It was nice to be outsiders.
And in a way we still are. We play the music we want and stuff that comes out of our hearts. What did it feel like being in the middle of it? It felt like being on a roller-coaster. The first album we toured shit-tons in Finland - I think we did one gig in Sweden or whatever. Then we went to Germany for the first time. We played in front of maybe or people, it was going really good.
Then we met John Fryer, the producer - it was like the first time talking to an Englishman, being here in the big BMG building for a proper meeting. After that, all hell broke loose. And the album Razorblade Romance went to No. All of a sudden we were in limousines and on big talk shows. We were laughing about it. There was the American Him - an arty-farty project of some guy from Chicago.
I think it was thousands of dollars. And that was a very big deal to us. You have to laugh about it. Even Nirvana had the same problem. Way behind, obviously. No rock band wishes just to be famous in Germany.
Obviously, we had tasted a bit of success, wanted to expand our territory, like dogs pissing around. That enabled us to tour for the first time in the southern parts of Europe. So we saved up all our money and spent it all on a bus and a pub tour in England. We did maybe 15 gigs, and there were like 20 people at each gig.
It was exciting. To be in Birmingham for the first time - Sabbath, Priest, all that. It was the stomping ground of legends. It was such a long time ago. We did places like Bradford and Leeds.
We did a goth night at this club, and everybody hated us. We played 20 minutes and then got the fuck out. Ewan McGregor was in the hotel, I remember that.
I had no expectations. We want there on a one-off trip back in We played 30 minutes. Some people loved it, some people hated it. We went back about two weeks before the Twin Towers fell.
Did it send us crazy? I think we were a bit crazy before. But the success happened step by step and country by country. Your first three albums all featured you on the cover.
Did the fact that you seemed to be the face of the band cause any friction with the others? You should probably ask them.
With the first album, we just had an idea for an arty picture, and it worked. And because it worked out so well, we went with the flow for the third one. I like to talk about the music.
Love Metal was a huge step up for the band, certainly in the UK. What was it like being in the middle of it? For me, with Love Metal we found the identity of the band. We wanted to get that symbol across. Musically, it has all the elements.
Ville Valo Talks About Love, Relationships, Literature, Drinking and Drugs SPIN Earth Interview 2009
Tours were going really well, we were getting more attention in Britain, stuff was starting to happen in America. You must be proud of that achievement? Venus Doom was a very different album. It seemed like you were challenging yourselves with it. You always have to challenge yourself. We wanted to make a super-heavy, super-slow, fucked-up album. It was a kind of distorted cry for help, on all levels.
Mood-wise, I was in a fairly dark place at that point, partying a lot, having a hard relationship. They got fairly bloody. It was tough. And then it starts all over again.
Ville valo sex
When you do that for months and months, it wears you out really fast. Well, there was the first nervous breakdown I had. We were actually recording Venus Doom.
I woke up not knowing where I was, with a great northern owl on my windowsill, hooting at me. It must be different for different people. I tried to take it as easy as possible, to eat something just to make it through the day.
And then I was taking it a bit more easy when we flew over to LA to mix it, but once the mixing started going okay, I started hitting the bottle again. And then Seppo, our manager, he helped me find a place in Malibu where I could take some time off. That really helped. And after that, I was sober for about four years.
That sort of thing is very hard to talk about. What they did was a real Scandinavian thing, which was to give me space. And I respected that support. They were probably super worried, and trying to figure out whether the rehabilitation was going to do any good, or whether it was all going to start again and I was going to be all fucked up.
It became a matter of pride for me to stay sober, and do an album sober, which was Screamworks. It was just a different angle.
Golf is the classic rock star recovery sport. Did you consider taking it up, hanging out with Alice Cooper and so on? And it was fun, and then I had a pretty heavy year after that. If I drink, I drink properly, for long stretches of time.
The era he lived in, the turn of the 20th century, was an interesting time, and that has a lot to do with the actual art as well - how, when, where and why it was created. I love people who bring their own personality into those films. I have phases.
I always have. I get obsessed with one thing at a time. Maya Deren too - she was a surrealistic woman director, a crazy person, in a good way.
But I was interested in how they got there. Maybe I should have been an anthropologist. I dunno, I find anything interesting. Anyway, love and sex is at the core of everything.
It is something of a miracle that Love Metal was made at all. Exhausted from the tour undertaken in support of their third album, Deep Shadows And Brilliant Highlights, HIM had actually toyed with the idea of disbanding. By this stage the band had already sold two million records in northern Europe and had in this sense made their point. With his colleagues holidaying, Ville Valo decided to write the songs that would eventually comprise Love Metal. This he did while smoking cigarettes a day, a habit that continued for some years.
By now in his twenties, the singer and his band worked in a windowless rehearsal room in Kaapeli, a former mobile phone factory since reinvented as a bar and a place in which musicians could practise their art. HIM were evicted from their previous practice space for repeatedly urinating on walls, which duly began to rot.
Instead, relief was taken in plastic bottles as well as in bowls that were then left outside the door for the janitor to dispose of. As well as entering the German album charts at number one, Love Metal would eventually also find an audience in the United Kingdom. In the pages of Kerrang!