Ville Valo of HIM talks "Strange World", "XX - Two Decades of Love Metal", and "Tears on Tape"
Fri, 26 Oct 2012 11:08:48
"For the past couple years, I've just been working on new music," smiles HIM singer Ville Valo. "We've got to get back to America though."
That's a big reason to rejoice. HIM remain one of the most infectious and inimitable rock bands of the 21st century. Valo and Co. have consistently made darkness beautiful over the course of every album, penning love songs for demons of all kinds. You can hear a bevy of them on the group's new retrospective, XX: Two Decades of Love Metal, out November 6th. The record's been prefaced by the elegantly heavy "Strange World", and it encompasses some of band's biggest hits. In other words, it's essential for the HIM faithful and the uninitiated.
However, there's another reason to rejoice. HIM's next offering Tears on Tape is also looming on the horizon for release next year.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, HIM mainman Ville Valo looks back on Two Decades of Love Metal, talks Tears on Tape, and so much more.
With XX – Two Decades of Love Metal and Tears on Tape, do you feel like you're in a particularly creative place?
Tears on Tape is going to be really organic, straight-in-your-face, super melancholy bullshit [Laughs]. It's going to be something nobody's heard before. I'm really happy about it. It sounds great. Remember the soundtrack for Twin Peaks that Angelo Badalamenti did? It's got that similar forlorn, melancholy quality but mixed up with Motörhead. That's where we're at! We're really happy. It's got that dreamlike quality. It's like Roy Orbison meeting Metallica.
Is "Strange World" a gateway into that or does it stand on its own?
Originally, our old record label approached us to get a compilation going about ten months ago. We had our own ideas though. We started working on choosing the songs and finding different versions of them. We said, "Let's do something special for this". We'd actually played "Strange World" before. You know those haunting songs? They're the ones that keep on haunting you and you can't forget them. "Strange World" is one of those, and I always loved the song. I pushed it to the guys. I said, "Let's see what happens with this". They put their own stamp on it, musically speaking. It turned out great. It was really simple and easy. That's the sign of a good band. Things just happen. There's a flow.
Where were you coming from lyrically?
With the lyrics, I've heard many interpretations of the song being political. I'm not politically involved, let's put it that way. I felt the emotion and the melody of the song. After that, I felt like it was a newborn child or a naïve person looking at the world and seeing how fucking crazy it is. It never changes. It doesn't matter whether it's the '90s or the 1890s. There's always crazy stuff going on. It never stops. The fact that as a voyeur you can look at it and be aware crazy shit is happening is a positive sign.
Life thrives on the balance of light and dark.
Indeed. We make the point bad things happen so good things happen. We're getting into a situation where the farther the bad goes, the farther the good goes. We have to be careful!
What's it like to reach the point where you can make a compilation of hits? Is it almost like compiling a photo album?
It makes us feel really fucking old [Laughs]. At the end of the day, we're proud of what we've done, and there's an opportunity to do something like this. I belong to the Black Sabbath school that albums are albums. You have your bad tracks. You have your good tracks. You have your sentimental tracks. You have your heavy metal tracks. You have to have that yin and yang going on. With a compilation, it's really tough. It's a reminder that we do exist. I think that was the most important thing with the compilation, per se. Nine out of ten bands don't get this far. I'm not talking about success. I'm talking about the fact bands actually stay together. It's a long time to be in a band and still appreciate everybody you're playing the music with. It's crazy. It's something where if you pick up your tarot card, it won't fucking work [Laughs].
What do you think of now, when you think of Razorblade Romance?
Desperation with diapers [Laughs]. I was a young fella when we did that. I was 20-years-old. I love that album. My favorite is Love Metal. You go with the flow and then have your middle finger ready. It's very important to stand your ground and say, "This is what you do. This is who I am. I don't need to explain more than that". For musicians, albums can be like pages of a sonic diary. They're very important. I don't write in a diary. I don't write letters. I write everything I feel in the songs. That's very important to me personally.
You've always been honest too. You don't hold anything back.
Well, you can't. As a writer, you know that. You want to look as deep into the abyss as possible and see whether or not it looks back at you to use Nietzschean terms. There's no way around it. That's the only possibility. It's tough to talk about these things. There's no alternative. I strum my acoustic guitar and pour my thoughts and soul out. You buy the rest of the fellas enough beer so they're willing to play the rest [Laughs]. Then, we get that whole thing going. It's as simple as that. At the same time, it's as complicated as that.
Where did Tears on Tape come from?
The point behind that is I grew up with music so music has been my safe haven in good and bad situations. Those tears that the artists put on tape are the ones that carry us on. The "Tape" in the title is symbolic. It's about the fact you actually put your heart out. When you pour your heart into whatever you're doing, it's valid. Nobody can take that away. It's so tough to start writing. When you get the flow, it revitalizes you and gives you the opportunity to feel you do have the reason to exist.
What was the last good horror movie you saw?
Have you seen this Spanish film called Hierro? It's pretty good. It's more psychological. You should check that one out. I did enjoy it.
What's your favorite HIM song?