HIM were for a flying visit to Germany to present their new album Tears On Tape. Before their concert in Gloria Theather in Cologne, frontman Ville Valo took a bit of his time for answer some questions for Rockinwords.
Tell us something about Tears on Tape. In which ways is it different from the other albums?
Ville: I’m not sure if it’s different. We’re still the same band, the same ideas. We love melancholic music, we love melodic music and then we love the guitar riffs. So, again the same things come together. I think maybe the difference is that it’s one of the albums that sound a bit rough around the edges, you know, it’s a little more *plays drums in the air* It’s not that slick produced. In the past we had this hard rock number and then an easier number and after that a rock number and now we were able to put all this in each of every song, like heavy guitars and it’s happening all through yet retaining the sentimental aspect. Maybe that’s different but I think we’re too close to the whole operation. You know, we’ve been in the band for a long time and there are things which we don’t even realize. Which is kinda cool. But that is nice about being on tour, to play new songs, see how people react. We had a great time in Berlin.
Yeah, I read a few reviews and the people we’re very amazed.
Ville: Ah, that’s nice! Cool! That sounds really good. It was very interesting to put together the setlist. We’re an odd band. We have a lot of singles, we have a lot of radio songs but we don’t wanna just play “hits”. Otherwise it would be 20 three-and-a-half-minutes songs. So we play some odd songs, stuff from the early days like It’s all Tears and Your Sweet 666 and then a couple of long numbers from Venus Doom. So it’s kinda like a roller-coaster ride *makes some waving moves* You know, we do Join Me in Death and then we do Passion’s Killing Floor. I think, it’s a nice combination but we’ll see. It’s one of those things that we can’t expect what people like. People will decide it. So, it remains to be seen.
Did you ever think about changing the setlist to songs which you didn’t play in a long time?
Ville: Well, we do that. That’s the reason why we do; fuck what are we doing; *thinks* Well, I think we’re playing four new numbers. We’ll play the same setlist like in Berlin but it worked out very well, with the length as well. We’re doing Sleepwalking Past Hope which we haven’t done in a while, Passion’s Killing Floor which we haven’t played since the Venus Doom tour. And there’s something else which I can’t remember. We turned some things around and tried other things. Yeah, and we have rehearsed more songs. But I also think that a good rock gig shouldn’t last more than maybe one hour and 15 or 20 minutes plus an encore. Even if you love a band, but you’re in a club and it’s hot and you can’t go to the toilet and you can’t get a drink and then, if the band plays two hours and our music is very loud, it becomes boring after a while, even if you might love the music. So, you rather have a set which is a bit too short than too long. Same with movies, you know.
After so many years of writing – where do you still get your inspirations from?
Ville: Oh, same places, I guess. There are always new stories. You’re always waking up with a feeling in a way you never felt before and you don’t know why. That’;s when I pick up the guitar because I can’t explain the feeling with words. That’s why I start to write the music. And I guess there have to be writer’s blocks. You can’t write for months and months. You just have to wait until there’s something new and that happens automatically. I’m writing music more or less since I was 13, so it’s like a second nature for me. And it’s not work. It’s not like you get up in the morning, have a cup of coffee and then there’s some dingdingding *imitates an alarm clock* which tells you to pick up the guitar. It goes with the emotion, the sentimental aspect.
But do you ever feel burnt out?
Ville: Sure. When I was younger I was more frustrated by that but then I noticed that you just have to recharge your batteries. It’s the same thing like you can’t party every day. It’s the same like when you do it for a couple of days or months or even years. Because then it feels better. Same with music. You just have to wait for it to happen. You try to force yourself for something to happen. You try to force anything creative and then you just come up with shit.
The fans had to wait quite long for the new album
Ville: Yeah, but we also had troubles with our drummer
Yeah, I wanted to ask if he’s totally okay now
Ville: He’s fine but he had this kind of tennis elbow. So whenever he hit a drum, he felt like someone’s pushing a knife into his arm. It was a difficult situation because the nerves were injured and it wasn’t something where you can take a pill and everything’s fine. So it took a long time. And with stuff like that, you never know if it gets better. It was really stressful for the band because no one knew what’s gonna happen. At the end of the day it took about eight months. But we decided that it felt wrong to start thinking about somebody else playing the drums. It didn’t feel right. You know, we’ve been together for such a long time as a band and as friends and we felt like; you know, there’s a right way of feeling and a wrong way of feeling and I’m happy that it didn’t take longer than eight months and the good thing about these eight months was that it gave me more time to work on the songs and on the ideas I already had. I think because of that, the album is stronger. We laughed about it and made some jokes that next time, we have to take a baseball bat and hit his hand to give me more time to work on songs *laughs*
Ville: Or maybe Burton’s fingers *grins*
Did you miss being on tour?
Ville: It’s like a double-edged sword. Touring can be really tiring, it can be really ecstatic. It can be everything in between. There are so many variables. And it’s so much travelling. There are hotel rooms with air condition and you get the flu and people miss their homes because they have family back home. So, it’s great and at the same time, it’s a bit odd. It’s not a negative thing. It’s quite contrary. When you’re at home, you wanna be on tour and when you’re on tour for a while, you wanna be at home. But usually the gigs do make it up.
Are you still nervous before you go on stage?
Ville: Sure, yeah. It’s excitement but not in a negative way. It depends, it’s sometimes more or less. It’s like a chemical reaction. You know, the adrenaline goes through your body. You have your hands shaking a little. The metabolism goes wild and you take a piss every few minutes. It’s like when you’re in school and read poetry in front of the class. When you’re getting it done, it’s okay and you’re happy but at the same time, it’s nerve wrecking.
Do you have any plans for a German or European tour with the album?
Ville: Yeah. The reason why we do these shows was… The album was planned to come out one week earlier but we needed to push it back for several reasons. So, we played in Berlin, now we play in Cologne tonight. Then we head to London and then we have a few gigs in the States. And everything is based around this to show “Here we are again! Hello! We are still doing this.” And the album is coming out so late in the springtime that we didn’t plan and book a proper tour. So, we do some festivals here in Europe and after that we start to tour both – in the United States and Europe. We don’t know where we gonna start first. But yeah, we definitely come back before Christmas and play more gigs.
Is there a song on Tears on Tape which was very difficult to record?
Ville: I think that recording should never be too easy. It should be rewarding, it should be fun but then… It should be like dancing on a razor’s edge. It should be stressful because that makes you want to put everything from you onto… tape – so to speak. Was there one that was very tough… *thinks* No… You know, when we record something that doesn’t really work, we leave it for a while and work with the rest of the stuff and then we come back. You know, you have cool guitar sounds on that song *points at one direction* and then you come back to the other song with not-so-cool guitar sounds *points to the other direction* It’s one of those things that you have one song and you record it and then you record the other song and you feel that the next song is better. You know that the third song is the best. The first song is not as good as the third one, but better than the second and then you have all these puzzles starting to come together. It’s never like you do one song a day or a week. It’s a process that takes a lot of time. It’s the same with mixing. You can fuck a song up, that’s really really easy. But it’s very contraire. A song that doesn’t feel right you can sprinkle that fairy dust on it with effects and stuff like that and make it interesting. It’s a long process. But that’s a reason to work with Hiili, our Finnish producer, and Tim Palmer and those two guys work really well together. Hiili is the crazy, mad, creative scientist kind of guy, so gonna experiment and try some stuff in the studio and then Tim has a good sense of what to include and what’s the important stuff, so it’s a good combination.
I think they also worked together on Love Metal…
Ville: Yes, it was the first time, both worked together. Hiili produced Love Metal and Tim mixed it but before it, Hiili produced and mixed our first album. Tim mixed and produced Dark Light and then Hiili and Tim co-produced, we all together produced, an album called Venus Doom. So, we’ve been involved with these guys many many times but when we thought of what the sound should be like and stuff like that, we realized that we should work with the best people again. They understand the fact that we like to do some kind of poppy things and really hard and rough things. Other people have the problem of categorizing our band, if it’s a pop band or a metal band or a rock band… I think that there’s an element from all these genres with what we do.
Do you read reviews after a new album comes out?
Ville: Yeah, I do. You know, I like constructive criticism. It’s great when people love the album and it’s okay when people hate the album but I think the best thing is when there are good constructive things to say. That’s where you learn but then again, there are people who still do it to earn for a living. They have to write reviews about albums they don’t like. I think that the best reviews, so to speak, are gigs. There you can say what translates the people, what songs they like and what songs live on, what songs are gonna die. You know, some songs work pretty on an album and they’re an important part of the album but they never work live. And then, there’re contrary songs which are so-so on an album and they may become a live song, like It’s all Tears, for example.
Do you also try to be in contact with the fans, maybe by talking directly to them about the album or…?
Ville: How would I be able to do that?
Well, maybe after the gigs…?
Ville: No, not too much. We’re very private. After a gig, it’s still odd. We’re not putting on a show. We’re just five musicians who do what they love. So, you know, after a good gig you’re probably are so exhausted. You don’t wanna talk about music. You wanna do things like read a book or just go to bed. On occasion we did have a chance to talk but then on occasions it’s very complicated because people have expectations and some might be a bit quirky. It’s not something that we contentiously look for. But it’s nice to meet people on tour, sure, say hi to people. On occasion you start a conversation. But there are people who hold the band on a pedestal… It’s complicated.
And what do you think where would you be today without this band?
Ville: Probably in some other band in Helsinki, trying to make it. Or maybe I would be in a bigger band. You’ll never know. It’s one of those things. I don’t believe in plan b. Do the best you can and if you don’t make it up, do something else. And HIM takes all my time, you know. I’m involved with artwork and the videos, a lot of stuff that hasn’t necessarily have to do with the music. And since I write the songs it takes me a lot of time with that. I’m involved with the production and all that. It’s interesting and that’s why I love music as well. There are so many things what it’s all about. It’s so interesting how you present the music, how you produce it. There are various levels.
But do you have still any special goals you would like to achieve?
Ville: I don’t know. There are so many variables again. We’re very proud of the new album. It was very stressful but it was stressful in a positive way. We believe in the album but it’s not in my hands if the album will be successful. There are so many variables. It’s like playing roulette, Russian roulette. And, you know, luck. It has so much to do with it. So, you know *knocks on the table* Maybe the album gives us the opportunity to play in places we’ve never been to or play bigger gigs. We like what we do. If we wouldn’t find it interesting we just have to find a way to make it interesting. So, I don’t know yet.
Is there a question you don’t wanna hear ever again?
Ville: No, not really. The toughest one is “Do you have anything to add?” *everybody laughs because it’s similar to our “Famous Last Words”* You know, what I mean? You have a conversation about a lot of topics and then it’s like “Uhm… what?” and then you say things like “Oh, I didn’t shave this morning.” *laughs*
I think, it’s kinda difficult to hear the same questions all over again.
Ville: No, I think that people think that the questions are always the same but they’re not! Because when different people ask the same questions you always get different replies. And good interviews are not this question and answer thing, it’s more like a little conversation. So the personalities do the fact how it’s gonna happen. It can be a little more serious, it can be a little more comedic or whatever. So, don’t sell yourself short! Everyone’s still learning. So do I. We’re not robots. Sometimes you fuck up and that’s fine. Try to do the same thing again.
I have one question left. Let me know if it’s too personal…
Ville: No no, go for it.
I saw an interview after the gig at Tavastia. I think it was on MTV3…
Ville: Ah yes, it was before the gig.
They asked you about your drinking habbits…
Ville: Yeah. I was pretty drunk on the first gig. We did four gigs in a row in Helsinki. We did one in Turku before, a big city in Finland as well. The first gig went really, really well but Tavastia is a funny fucking place to play where you have your families there, your moms and dads and girlfriends and a lot of people travel there from all over the world and there’s a special stress about it. I slept about two hours and I felt like a zombie and we haven’t toured in such a long time. And then it doesn’t help and you do like two six-packs of beer before the gig to calm the nerves down. But I guess, that’s just Rock’n’Roll. You fuck up on occasion.
Yeah, I just wanted to ask because you were in rehab and…
Ville: Yeah, that was back in 2006. You know, back in the days, yeah I was going out too much and I couldn’t handle it. I’m not good at taking holidays. So, I was just working, working, working and when you’re working all the time and you have been drinking all the time, you always have to chase the hair of a dog because you always have a hangover. So, you end up in a situation where you’re actually not drunk, you’re just having a 24-hangover all the time which is not nice. And then you’re left with wanting the bad guys to go away. You know, just put my cell phone off to be away from that. I was not drinking for about four years and now I drink on occasion but I’m like this Scandinavian dude. When I drink, I drink to get fucked up. So, we don’t do like two glasses. So it’s just a different thing. And now when you’re on tour you can’t really get fucked up because there’re so many things to do and you’re ruining your voice and you look like shit and you feel like shit all the time. You’re just a mess. So, I’m trying to be as easy as possible. *smiles*
So, I think our time is over. Thank you for taking the time and have a great gig tonight!