Interview: HIM's Ville Valo Talks XX: Two Decades of Love Metal
By Dan Epstein
HIM's new best-of collection, XX: Two Decades of Love Metal, won our Album of the Week poll yesterday, so we thought that, while interviewing frontman Ville Valo about his band's upcoming new studio full-length, Tears on Tape, we should also ask him some questions about the compilation. Check out our chat below, and look for an in-studio piece with HIM in the next issue of Revolver, on newsstands December 11.
REVOLVER Why record a cover of Ké's “Strange World” for XX: Two Decades of Love Metal?
VILLE VALO Kevin Grivois, or Ké, his story is very interesting if you read his personal history. The song was played a lot back when we signed for the first time back in ’96. We played it a lot in Europe and it’s just one of those songs were you know just how to hum it or if push comes to shove, you’ll be able to sing it at karaoke. So that song has always been floating around. It was like, let’s do an extra track because we didn’t want to waste any of our original stuff--save that for the next album. The greatest thing was to be able to hear from the original performer, Ké, and he said he really enjoyed our version. I was blushing back at home when I got his email. It’s the best compliment you can get.
I don’t know how many of your fans were hip enough to that song in the first place.
Well, that’s the whole point. Maybe one day someone will pick a rap song and make a crazy version out of it--turn it into country-western, you never know. I’ve always liked different interpretations and, as a performer, it makes you closer to the song and gives you power, like an inner strength. I still think the lyrics of that song fit the moment and the band really well.
How involved were you in putting together the XX: Two Decades of Love Metal?
At the end of the day, you have a CD, which is still a valid format. Obviously, if you’re doing a compilation, you want to do tracks that represent the band the best or are ones that people heard so the album itself would serve as a reminder of the existence of the band and hopefully bring a couple of new people along as well. So since our previous label said they were going to release a compilation, we said, "OK, if you want, but let’s make it a good one. So create some new artwork for it and get some different versions of songs that some people may not have heard. Some radio tracks were only released in Europe, some only in America." So with that, we were able to have as many tracks on the album as possible. It’s just like an introduction to the world and realm we conquer.
So looking back at the 20 years of the band, what does that make you think?
It brings on the inevitable--it won’t beat the next 20 years. With Gas [Lipstick, drummer] not feeling really well [suffering a repetitive-strain injury] and the band being at crossroads, I think through all that chaos and confusion, getting something like this out is very revitalizing for everyone in the band. It’s like looking back and realizing we’ve done at least, like, two good songs. [Laughs] It was a kick in the butt to getting the new album done so I think next year’s going to be really important for us definitely.
In the sense of putting a record out and touring…
Yeah, like, we haven’t toured in two and a half years--getting the whole show going on. See if there’s anyone willing to listen to what we do. It’s exciting in a good way, like, the butterflies in my stomach are the size of fucking giant bats! So that’s a good sign. It means we really care about what we’re doing.
Well, have you ever not had that feeling?
Well, the bats come in various sizes. If you do the album-tour-album-tour cycle, you rarely have the time to look back and realize where you’re at. Because of the misfortune of our drummer, it was kind of necessary--not necessary to look back, but forward. With that, I think we gained extra energy and willpower to create something that would not piss us off but have to release.
You had a lot of downtime while he was healing. What did you do with yourself? Did you hang out in the castle?
Play the guitar a bit more. More or less my existence is tied to music and melody. It’s what I do. You can take a break but you’re still writing. The point is to keep on going. But I did vacuum the place so that took a while. Chores among the music. At the end of the day, sometimes you can get the best inspiration out of washing floors, whether a good floor or the right amount of blood on it. That’s life. So when the band was in a tough form, I realized that’s what I need to do, that’s what I want to do, and that’s what makes me happy.
It sounds like the outcome was positive despite all the trials and tribulations.
I sincerely believe in the need for tribulation, but not in the Buddhism sense of pain and suffer. You need to go through that.
So I found a comment left on a news post that was probably meant as an insult, but I thought you’d find it rather a compliment. They said they always found HIM to be “Danzig’s gay cousin.”
Oh lord. I guess let’s call that a dynamic duo? Even somebody thinking of us at the same time while mentioning Danzig--whether negative or positive sense--it is a positive thing for us.
I love the idea of Danzig with more flamboyance and I thought you’d appreciate that as well.
Well, he had the lungs and I had the eyeliner. Even the worst of insults in good company is better than a mediocre compliment.