Lovers Lane
Copernicus Center

H.I.M. interview

| March 1, 2010

Life In Theory And Practive

“This particular record is a funny one for me, because when I started working on the first songs, I kind of had lost hope in relationships altogether. I’m a bad boyfriend, let’s put it that way. But then, I kind of fell head over heels for somebody during the process, and I was documenting that process over the period of time working on the album. So for me, it’s really current and, because of that reason, it does have a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. But then again, it’s always the oncoming train, isn’t it?”

Appearing: Saturday, April 9th at House Of Blues in Chicago.

So explains Ville Valo of Finnish love-metal act H.I.M., in regards to his new and (comparably) optimistic outlook. It’s an almost-hopeful sentiment present on his band’s seventh album, Screamworks: Love In Theory And Practice (Sire). It’s also surprisingly (and again, comparably) positive coming from a band with song titles like “Dead Lovers’ Lane,” “The Funeral Of Hearts,” “Join Me In Death,” and “Love In Cold Blood” and albums like Razorblade Romance and Greatest Love Songs Vol. 666 in its catalog. But then, as Valo explains, Screamworks aims for more than just the group’s previous doom-and-gloom ambitions.

“For me, my goal was to make an album that would be somewhere between Depeche Mode and Guns N’ Roses, or Kraftwerk and The Cult, but having this pompous, baritone-voice fellow trying to be all Meatloaf, in between,” the frontman explains. “It was just kind of like a weird sonic sandwich, but I think that we brought . . . the European melancholy and the poetic sensibility into the more direct, straightforward, Foo Fighters-type of rock. That was the picture I had in my mind, and I think we succeeded extremely well in that. For me, it’s something really new, because I wanted the melancholy vibe still to have levity, and still to have this kind of punky, straight-in-your-face directness, which a lot of our stuff hasn’t — it’s been veiled and shrouded in mystery or whatever, vibe-wise — and I wanted this to be a bit more honest, and that could be interpreted as being a bit more poppy, as well.”

“Poppy” is a surprisingly accurate description for Screamworks. Only one song eclipses four minutes (by a full second) and, sonically, the material is forthright and immediate, with Valo describing the record as “a rock ‘n’ roll version of the danceable tragedy.”

It’s a description that easily applies to the electronic-tinged and morose “The Foreboding Sense Of Impending Happiness,” while the harder-edged “Like St. Valentine” would fit right in at modern-rock radio. Yet songs like the more pop-laced “Scared To Death” and power ballad “In The Arms Of Rain,” while instantly recognizable as H.I.M. fare, demonstrate an urgency and impact present in much of Screamworks and new to the group’s sound at large. No doubt the album’s newfound dynamic can be traced back to the band recording the album in Los Angeles, with production from Matt Squire (Panic At The Disco, Taking Back Sunday) and mixing by Neal Avron (Fall Out Boy, Weezer). And according to a interview from December, Screamworks is the first album Valo has written entirely sober, a fact that plays into the album’s heightened directness, as well. Yet the reason for the singer’s sudden sobriety was (unsurprisingly) far from a happy one.

“I’ve always written all the songs sober or having a hangover, but I wasn’t able to function or be creative if I was messed up, so basically, I was just getting out of my head at the end of each creative session, and I just kept getting worse and worse,” Valo admits. “My decision to stop being the rather weak party animal that I was, was the fact that I think that each individual, at one point, would get really bored of shitting and puking blood everyday. So that was kind of like the essential point: The doctors telling me that I’m going to have a heart failure if I don’t stop. I looked like a puffy, zombified version of the old me and, to be honest with you, I didn’t feel good. I think that the Bukowski mission I was on was well accomplished, but if I would’ve taken that further it would have destroyed the career or the passion, the number-one thing, which is music in my life.”

In addition to being a very real and dangerous threat, the frontman’s risk of heart failure is hugely ironic, given the heavy and repeated use of broken and battered hearts in H.I.M.’s lyrics and imagery. In fact, the group’s most recognizable aspect is its “heartagram” logo, a design that combines a pentagram and a heart. The irony was not lost on the singer.

“I think that musicians very, very rarely sing about the heart as a muscle,” he concedes when the comparison is brought up. “But yeah, it is [ironic]. And the first single from this album being ‘Heartkiller?’ So, you can find copious amounts of black humor in everything we do. And it’s good to remember, as opposed to taking yourself way too seriously.”

A surprising sentiment from such a somber and sordid soul. Yet with the retreat from excessive drinking and the time spent among sunny, palm tree-laden landscape of L.A., is it any wonder Valo sees a light at the end of the tunnel, be it train or otherwise?

“On a philosophical level, I think that the journey is way more important than actually getting there. I think that happiness is actually trying to get to happiness,” he states. “I don’t think that a psychological/mental/emotional equilibrium is heaven. That’s hell. Sitting on top of a cloud playing a harp for eternity, [is] definitely not my idea of paradise. That feels really repetitious and like a bad dream, so I think that happiness in itself for me is the fact that, I’m trying to go forward with the band, musically, I’m trying to become a better person, doing what I do, as everybody’s doing.

“You’re making your mistakes along the way, just to be able to make new ones the next day. It’s not necessarily a not-painful way of going about, but, then again, it’s very colorful and memorable, at least for me. So, I’d rather see in that light, than try to,” he pauses, declaring, “Oof — that just sounds terrible, to be happy all the time. You have to have the lows to appreciate the happiness, and vice-versa. You have to look down at the abyss, and nearly hop down into the abyss, to be able to appreciate the little things in life that make it all worthwhile.”

He continues, “I think successful comedians are the ones who commit the most suicides, and then the goth bands that sing about all dark stuff, they’re the ones that are the happiest, and enjoy the sunshine the most. I think we’re somewhere in between. So, I’m learning how to tie up a noose, but at the same time, enjoying my ice cream.”

— Jaime de’Medici

For the full interview, grab the March issue free throughout Chicagoland.

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  1. Lisa Valo says:

    The Official WB HIM Illinois Street Team is excited about the upcoming concert in Chicago !! The House Of Blues is a great venue and we expect a huge turn out of both old and new fans. HIM’s 7th album, “SCREAMWORKS – Love In Theory In Practice” is in stores now !!! Feel free to join our Official Street Team (HIM’S PARATIISI I&II)on Myspace, Facebook and YouTube, or follow us on Twitter) or for all the latest news, interviews, photos, videos and confirmed concert dates. Find me (Lisa Valo) at the House Of Blues on April 9th and win a free HIM poster.