HIM: The Romance With Rock

Wellington's Should Promote Rock Festivals...

Sitting in your lounge chair chugging your Java and contemplating blowing the literal popsicle stand of Europe to venture out to Australia has crossed the minds of a lot of Europeans this season; yet there is one Finnish rock phenomenon that has now got solid concrete plans. Finnish rockers HIM are once again embarking on the journey to entertain the Australian crowds as Soundwave 2014. Metal As Fuck caught up with the one and only Ville Valo to chat about Tears on Tape, Wellingtons and mesmerizing several generations... 

“Its morning here, just sucking on a coffee and getting ready for Soundwave; trying to put a set together which is always a pain in the butt because, I think our set is 60 minutes, so we’re going to have to kill our darlings in that time. It’s a good festival; we had the pleasure and opportunity of visiting Soundwave in 2010”.

With the new album coming out you guys have been well aboard the publicity train over the last few months promoting Tears on Tape – how does it feel to finally have the album released to the fans, knowing that it did take a while to get out there? “It DID take a while to get it ready; we had some trouble with our drummer; he had some ailments in his hands and had to take a wee break from HIM, about 8 months, Tendonitis; repetitive strain disorder, whatever you call it. It was pretty stressful for the band although on the other hand it gave us the opportunity to work on the songs a bit longer and once we got into the rehearsal space we all felt very rejuvenated and energized. It’s the reason we haven’t been touring as much and now that the album is out we started playing some festivals in Europe, then a tour with Volbeat in America, then a headline tour again in Europe. It’s because people really are enjoying the new music, we’re not just a golden oldie band”. [Laughs]

Tears on Tape is by far the best album of your catalogue; the album to me holds a lot of nostalgia to your earlier works, what were you wanting to capture in this album? “When you’re working along you don’t think about it too consciously, but we were again dancing on the razors edge between the hard hitting Sabbath themes and on the other side we wanted a more sentimental singer-songwriter type of thing, so we had that in mind obviously and then we knew with the producer and our sound engineer we worked with – we had an idea, generally the ideas keep changing plus we didn’t want to kill the creative process by over thinking. We were trying to get the ideas as far as we could and then let the music do the talking. With albums it’s as much of a surprise for the band as it is the audience. We never know exactly what we’re going to get with our ideas but these ideas get horribly abused along the way”.

It has been 20 years for the band, which in itself is a massive accomplishment and it’s safe to assume that your fans are now a mixture of old and new – have you noticed at all the dynamic of the HIM fan has changed along the way? “It’s very surprising, what told us a lot about our music in general was the fact that when we toured in Europe last we had a lot of young people at the shows which was really surprising because you know, we have been around quite a lot as you said, but with a lot of people who were 14 and 15 years old and mentioned that they were like born when Razorblade Romance (or another one of our albums) were released. It was the greatest thing ever – that our music can translate to all sorts of generations, from people between 10 and 70 years old were in the crowds (at least in Europe). It’s amazing for a band, because obviously when we are writing and recording music we can’t influence how the music is going to resonate with anybody. It’s been very interesting, we were a bit dumbstruck and awestruck, so we’ll have to see what happens in Australia, to see what works and what doesn’t. There has to be some failure, I mean dancing on roses all the time would be terrible”.

Tears on Tape was self funded, so that put the band in the unique position to owning basically all rights, how has this worked out? “The main idea with that is that we ended the relationship with our previous label and we thought that we didn’t necessarily need it, we work pretty independently in the studio whether we’re signed or not and we don’t like the whole ‘too many chefs’ when it comes to recording an album. So we did what we do and made the best album we can, played it to some people in the industry because I think it’s more fair for everybody; we can do exactly what we want and then we can play to people who actually get to hear what we have been doing and decide if they are or not the right people to release it, rather than talking bullshit over some fancy dinners. It worked really well for us, I think. That’s the whole industry; it’s been going through massive changes since the 90’s so it’s a tough spot to be for all bands/musicians. For us it was a way to concentrate on the essentials as opposed to dipping into different roles and being the businessman along with the musician, it gave us the opportunity to work around the songs rather than do a million things at the same time that usually happens when you are signed to a label”.

A previous comment that you have made “There isn’t much mystique in music at the moment” do you feel that Tears on Tape has revitalized this mystique? “Hmmmm to be honest, I don’t know. Working on music shouldn’t be too much of an intellectual process, just do what you do, wear your heart on your sleeve, be honest with yourself, brutally honest. Don’t restrict yourself when working on music, it is not necessary to restrict yourself with genres and mess up the creative process. So Tears on Tape was again written on acoustic guitar and I thought it took the singer-songwriter vibe to another level; Infuse that with the hard hitting guitars, and you're flicking the two extremes further apart. Making the guitars heavier than they have been in many, many years and making the heart of it as melancholy as possible. Overanalyzing the creative process does you no good at all when working with Rock n'Roll; Rock n'Rollers are supposed to be stupid, beer drinking bastards anyway, so there you have it”.

As well as your music your personal style has influenced and inspired millions, so how do you feel when the term sex symbol is used to describe you on stage? “Well…. I can’t blame people for their bad taste. It’s one of those things where it’s easier to talk about someone else. None of us wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and say to themselves ‘wow, I look so good’. Generally speaking it’s something that is out of our control and whatever there might be the elite people who check out the good looks the bad looks, but they are all tools we all possess in order to recognize what we do”.   

That horrible dustbowl that was at least 50 degrees and climbing, everything I ate and drank was dirt “Yes Indeed, mmmm dirt”…. You know what I’m talking about Ville “Ohh yeah, I was there… Again it has to be a struggle right?”. This is true. “If you’re at a festival and there is no mud; it’s not a festival”. This is true – you have to get out the Wellingtons and have a good stomp “Exactly otherwise the Wellington company will go downhill very fast, in fact, I think the Wellingtons company should be the one’s promoting rock festivals!”. HIM are in fact travelling back to Australia for the next edition of Soundwave; hence our trip down memory lane (we have a new venue by the way) what are your anticipations for the festival, knowing; basically what you’re in for? “Get our heads together after a few weeks off from touring, so we’re well prepared, rehearsed, not have to worry about the set list etc. So hopefully that will give us a chance to have some fun and be the fan boys that we are and check out some of the bands like Mastodon, Rob Zombie – the lineup is great. We are currently waiting on confirmations of the schedule so we can plan some things to do on our days off because we rarely have the opportunity of coming to your lovely country, it was fantastic last time around; it’s a rare treat especially when Europe this time of year is cold, dark and miserable!!”.

How extensively are you touring the latest album this year? “We did quite a lot of touring last year; we did about 80 gigs starting from May. After Soundwave; North America, then South America – a first for us, then a wee break back home, then over to China, after that the festivals start. Hoping to relax around August this year. Being busy is a relative term, it's very important to recharge your batteries”.