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Interview mit Ville Valo [Him], 10.09.2008, phoner
Seit Zillo im Jahr 1989 das Licht der Welt erblickte, hat sich viel in der Musikszene getan. Bands kamen und gingen. Ich vermag es mit Sicherheit nicht, über die kompletten letzten 20 Jahre Szenegeschehen zu philosophieren. Da überlasse ich doch lieber Ville Valo das Wort, der mit Him in den vergangenen Jahren nicht unerheblich in der Szene mitgemischt hat. Ob sich Ville aber auch noch genau an das Jahr 1989 erinnern kann? Let`s go back to the year 1989 when Zillo was founded. You must have been in the age of 12 or 13, I guess. What do you especially remember about the year 1989?
Ville: I was obviously still in school and that was probably also the time when I had been playing bass guitar for a couple of years already. I think, my first public gigs in a bar where I got some money out were only a year and a half away. Which other interests did you have when you were in that age?
Ville: I think, that music was the only interest I had when I was 13. I was pretty okay at school, but school took a lot of time and then on top of that all the rehearsals with all the bands. I had many, many bands at the same time. I was playing with them and probably skateboarding was my only hobby beside the music. Who were the heroes of your childhood?
Ville: I´ve got probably 10.000 heroes. Everybody is a hero that has written a song or directed a movie or wrote a book that has touched me. I don`t have one or two massive heroes in that sense. When I was 13 I was probably getting into the 80ies and listened to Kiss and stuff like that. I also listened to crap. But I really don´t know about the heroes. It`s hard to say, because between let`s say 12 and 14 there`s a lot of changes within everybody. I got drunk for the first time maybe when I was 13 and a half years old and life changed as it was becoming a bit more social. You changed from a kid into a teenager.
Can you still remember your first real touch with the music scene?
Ville: I was listening to Michael Jackson and stuff like that in the early 80ies. Then I got to listen to a lot of traditional Finnish music, because my Dad listened to that. But then again my Mom listened to Rolling Stones and I guess in school all my friends were into the hair-metal-scene. There was Mötley Crüe and Iron Maiden and Kiss. But if you talk about `89 there´s a weird change since not long after that Nirvana`s “Never Mind” happened and the whole world of music kind of changed. The alternative scene became big and within these two or three years I got into Reggae and started growing dreadlocks. Is there any year of the last 20 ones you really like to forget?
Ville: I think, most of the mistakes are done to be learned from or done to be a laughing matter. If everything would have been pretty okay all the time, I guess, that would have been very boring. I´ve got a fairly good memory, but I just need somebody helping me out to dig the corpses.
Which bands do you think have contributed a lot to the development of the music scene within the last 20 years?
Ville: One of the most important things happened with Depeche Mode. “Violator” came out like in `90 or `91, I guess, you know, Depeche Mode, “Violator” and “Black Celebration”. I´m not sure about the years, but anyway I think, that Depeche Mode was one of the most important acts in the sense of having mainstream success, but still having lots of darkness involved. I got into Depeche Mode later on. I was too young to understand the music or to like it when I was 11 or 12. When I was in school, I guess, the biggest thing probably was Nirvana. And then obviously, when we talk about the late 80ies, there was Guns´n`Roses. When “Appetite For Destruction” came out that was massive everywhere. I´m a sucker of sweet and melodic songs. “Sweet Child O`Mine” was my favourite one, always. It`s a great song and the band is great as well. It was kind of the renaissance of the dirty rock`n`roll, because a lot of stuff and music became really pushed and polished and overproduced in the middle 80ies. But then again there were Faith No More and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It was a good time. There was a lot of good stuff happening. I got really absorbed in the whole world, because there were a lot of new sounds to listen to and experience and learn from. There wasn’t one main band for me. But there were Nirvana, Screaming Trees, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains and all that stuff. I was never a big fan, but there was a lot of stuff going on. Would you say that there was a positive development in the darker music scene?
Ville: I guess, that it´s always a positive development. There`s always things going on. It just takes a while for people to understand what`s going on. I´m pretty sure that this moment is a great moment for great music. I tend to listen to all kinds of music more or less. I don´t mind crappy chart-pop-music. It`s Mc Donalds for the ears. You have to understand the fact that it wasn`t done with a bleeding heart and it´s not there to raise any questions. It´s there to be eaten and that’s it! So many different things were going on. The alternative scene became so big. For a person living in Helsinki it was possible to listen to and get into all the bands and stuff I didn´t know about before. I was watching a lot of skate-movies and they have great soundtracks. That was the way I got into a lot of hardcore, punk and weirder stuff. So in that sense personally it was a really positive experience. How would you comment on the sentence that Him have some kind of pole position in the scene?
Ville: There has always been someone before you. There was Walteri touring in Germany, although they were like an underground act. Then there was obviously Hanoi Rocks. There were a couple of bands in the 70ies. We were maybe one of the first bands getting international recognition on a higher level. You know, I don´t mind. We`re still a band and recording albums, but in a way we also started and released our first stuff when Apocalyptica did their first stuff. The Rasmus came pretty soon along and so did Nightwish. They released their first single when we released our first album, I think. A lot of good music and bands were coming out at the same time. We just had a big hit, “Join Me In Death”, back in 1999 and that gave us a lot visibility. For Nightwish it took a bit longer and then the same with The Rasmus. But there is no reason to really compare.
But it´s obvious that especially the Finnish bands get into the act of the darker music scene. How would the music scene look like if a country like Finland wouldn`t exist?
Ville: Well, the music would lack a lot of crazy alternative ideas for how popular music could sound. Finnish people tend to have this kind of very hard working mentality. You know, we work hard and we play hard, too. I guess, we`re pretty kooky and we`re pretty weird. There was a band called 22-Pistepirko, for example, and they are a good example for how Finnish music is – a combination of American-English pop culture and then the European stuff on the top. We filter on the influences in a very weird Scandinavian darker way. I don`t know why. I`m just very happy that there is a possibility for Finnish bands doing what they do. We do have the respect of the government and we do have the people who listen to what we do, so we can tour around and see the world
Can you get five typical Finnish clichès together?
Ville: What are the clichés? You know, everybody goes to sauna all the time. Santa Claus comes from here. Everybody drinks a lot. Everybody is really quiet and introverted. That´s four. And we do eat reindeer. But so do other countries as well. And we do drink as much as the Russians do. So we`re loosing all the clichès…and I don´t go to sauna, cos I don´t like being in sauna.
Ville: No, not really. If it would be a very old school wooden sauna, it`s actually really good, but usually the modern ones are pretty dry. I like smoke sauna or just a really good wooden one. It`s really important how you build it. The fun thing is that nearly every house does have a sauna here.
Do you have one as well?
Ville: If I have? Yeah, I have one, but I haven´t really used it. It`s good, but it`s not good enough. What is typical for Germans in your opinion?
Ville: Germans are pretty close to Finnish people in a way that you do like your beer and you do like your red meat. So the eating and the drinking culture is not so far out. Germany is such a big country and I met so many Germans and they all seem to be very individual. For me it`s hard to say that all Germans have a weird sense of humour which they actually do have. More or less. What could be the clichès? The moustache and the beer and the Bratwurst.
What are the best CDs that have ever been published in the last 20 years?
Ville: For me and for the band it`s probably “Bloody Kisses” by Type`O`Negative. They were really influential for us. Then a Swedish band I was really into is called Weeping Willows. They play 50ies, 60ies type of really dark pop and sentimental stuff, and they were really influential. But then again in the 90ies I was listening to a lot of 80ies stuff. I´m a late bloomer. I tend to listen to not necessarily the stuff that comes out at the moment. I usually get that and understand it a bit later. I´m really slow. There are more like songs I could do a compilation CD of, not necessarily of albums or bands. There was Chains Addiction important for me and “Angel Dust” by Faith No More, “Green Mind” by Dinosaur Jr. and Soundgarden. That was in like the early 90ies. Later on there`s been great stuff like Goldfrapp and obviously “Mezzanine” by Massive Attack. That was probably one of the best albums anyway. So there is a lot of different kind of stuff and it`s hard to say as 20 years is a long time. Then again I remember “Suomi Finland Perkele” by Impaled Nazarene. That was a great album. “Dusk And Her Embrace” by Cradle Of Filth was a highly influential CD and so was “Enthrone Darkness Triumphant” by Dimmu Borgir. Then again I like all the Anathema-albums, all the Paradise Lost-albums, all the My Dying Bride-albums. You know, there`s so many influential things that happened. The late 80ies and early 90ies were a great time for the alternative scene suddenly becoming a bit more present in the mainstream. There was the possibility for people to listen to these actually unknown weird bands and that was great. So the underground wasn´t underground anymore, or not too much of an underground. We had the opportunity of knowing what`s going on, especially since the late 90ies with the Internet. Now you have the opportunity checking out zillion of bands within an hour if you want to with myspace or iTunes or whatever. There is a lot of stuff. It`s a bit too much for me. I´ve always been more a fan of a certain song. I fall in love with a song that fits into the moment and I don`t care if it`s from the 50ies, 60ies, 70ies, 80ies, 90ies or 2000 or something. That`s how my iPod looks like.
What has been your personal biggest disappointment in the music business within the last 20 years?
Ville: It`s not easy being in the music business. I thought it would be like dancing on roses, getting a lot of money and looking beautiful. That was my romantic vision of being a rock`n`roller. But obviously in reality it`s a lot of work, it`s a lot of travelling and it´s hard to maintain a relationship when you`re away most of the year. I´m not complaining at all, but I guess the biggest disappointment is yet to happen. And that is the disappointment of failing and loosing the ground and loosing the things you have.
Do you think it could happen?
Ville: Obviously there`s a downfall happening sooner or later, so I´m preparing myself for the worst and I´m enjoying the days right now. The apocalypse is on its way, but maybe it`s happening in 2012, I don`t know.
I remember the sentence “Your pretty face is going to hell” which was written on the back of one of your jackets. Are you still standing behind this sentence?
Ville: We`re all going to hell – the pretty faces and the ugly faces. That`s from Iggy Pop & The Stooges` “Raw Power” and the song is called “Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell”. Around 2001 I was so into it. It became like an obsession for me and then again also for our guitar player Linde. We were just sucking the information, reading all the books and buying all the albums. You know, pretty faces usually do go to hell. But we`re all going to hell. It´s just such a beautiful line that you can interpret in such different ways depending on the mood. I still do have the jacket somewhere, but I haven´t been wearing it in ages. How would you continue the sentence “Music is…”?
Ville: Music is the cross I carry with pleasure and it`s great, entertaining and exercising to carry a heavy cross. And the cross is looking incredibly good. It`s the mainstay of my life and music is my wings as well in a sense. They work on their own accord, so I cannot decide when I can fly and when not. You can`t really take the music out of me and you can`t take me out of the music.
How much did you personally influence your family with the way you have chosen to go?
Ville: My Mom and Dad they were just pretty mellow, but they supported me from the very beginning. They were helping me out money wise to get me my first amp and my first instruments and they paid my first rent when I moved out of my parents´ apartment. They were really supportive and really proud most of the times. They do have a wicked sense of humour and they understand that people do stupid things occasionally as well. So when the tabloids were writing about me doing whatever stupid crap, you know, they were laughing about it. Me and my bro we`re very close to each other. My bro is 25, so he`s a man. We talk about music. He programs and does electronic music and he plays bass in a couple of bands. He`s an inspired musician. He`s playing music his whole life, but he was also doing sports. He was doing Thai boxing for a longer time and that took a lot of energy. So he started to work properly on music a bit later than I did. But he`s doing really well, you know, he is a good bass player and I think, he`s trying to find his way. Now let´s talk about the Besties of Him. What do you think is the best Him-single?
Ville: There are so many of them. I can`t remember what we released as a Him-single. Let´s just say Chris Isaac`s “Wicked Game”. That was one of the first singles we ever released in Finland and Germany. And that was the first time we got accepted with our band in radios and clubs. So in that sense it was very important for the whole band. It´s necessarily not the best single as being the best song. It was just an important opening of a door. What`s the best Him-album?
Ville: Why don`t we say “Venus Doom”, the last studio album? It´s still the closest one to me and I guess that sums up – as “Love Metal” did as well – it sums up all the different aspects of our band. I just think, that we kind of went to our own little extremes with that album a bit more than we have done in the past. So that`s probably the album I´m the most proud of and it took the most work and it took a lot of energy. Also it was obviously a big change in my life since I quit drinking and all that stuff. On a personal level it was a very interesting and important journey. But then again “Razorblade Romance” is a great album and the first one is also a really good one. I like them all. I´m not necessarily a Him-fan, but I´m very proud of all the stuff we`ve done. What´s the best Him-album-title?
Ville: They are all pretty good. “Greatest Lovesongs Vol. 666” is a funny one. “Razorblade Romance” is a statement of intense. “Deep Shadows & Brilliant Highlights” is more of a singer/songwriter poetic thing. “Love Metal” is a statement of intense again. “Dark Light” came from a book that influenced me a lot. Then “Venus Doom” is very direct and I love the word “venus” and I love the “doom”. Let`s take a tough one. Ahh, the compilation “And Love Said No”. I really do like that title.
And what`s the best album cover?
Ville: Well, everything I´m not on. It´s funny that I ended up being on the CDs. It wasn´t really premeditated. It just happened. We had a great picture and we didn`t think about it, so we took that. But actually I don`t like myself in pictures. So I like the covers “Dark Light” and “Venus Doom”. They are all pretty different. I think, the best cover is yet to come. Now I´d like you to comment on some totally mixed different words. Let`s start with Turboyouth. What do you combine with Turbojugend?
Ville: It reminds me a lot of Hamburg since the Turbojugend was very well organised over there, near the Reeperbahn and in St. Pauli. I have a lot of friends over there and I met those people ages ago. I was so proud that we were able to be part of the Alpha Motherfucker`s compilation CD with Queens Of Stone Age and lots of crazy bands and hopefully we did something to resurrect Turbonegro. I think, that is something very unique in rock`n`roll as the band is very unique in rock`n`roll. So I´m very proud of having a Levi´s Denim-jacket signed “Turbojugend St. Pauli”. I`m not from the Turbojugend Helsinki. I´m from St. Pauli. And for me it`s symbolically very important since I´ve spent a lot of time in Hamburg, cos I have a lot of friends there and the greatest parties happened there. It`s always been great being over there. So for me the Turbojugend is a combination of the actual band Turbonegro and the people I met in Hamburg that share the similar passion. So it`s a great thing.
Ville: Paradise Lost´s “Gothic” is a great album. You wait to consider Joy Division as a gothic-band. I`ve never liked Joy Division that much, but for me they are very cold and bleak in their sound. But then again if you talk about The Mission for example that Wayne formed after leaving The Sisters Of Mercy, they are a pop-band basically. I`ve never understood what gothic stands for, cos gothic is architecture and should be something being massive, you know, sound wise. And a lot of goth-bands still sound massive. A massive sound of music would be like Nightwish. They are very pompous in their sound and that`s not my cup of tea. I read a lot about American gothic if you talk about some books or let´s say Johnny Cash. He was very gothic in his man in black type of vibe. But he was just a man on the guitar. And then again, I think, the word gothic – when we´re not talking about music – is also a fashion. Japanese goths look very different from the goths of L.A and as the ones in London and then as the ones in Germany. So gothic is a fashion in lots of places as well. People like so many different types of music and listening to EBM and stuff like that. That is Techno basically and has nothing to do with bands like Bauhaus. So gothic is a many tentaculated octopus. Pope Benedikt?
Ville: Is Benedikt the latest one? He`s a German one. He is the devil, a German devil. (laughs loudly)
Ville: That brings me to my Mom. Now that we`ve been older, my little brother and me are going back to our parents` place and talking about life in general. We didn’t have Korvapuusti the last time we were there, but we had pancakes and we just sat down and were talking and had a great time. But Korvapuusti brings me to my family.
Ville: I don`t have any opinion on plastic surgery. That brings me to boobs that don´t feel as they´re real.
Ville: A great album by The Mission, but by a wrong producer. (laughs) It was not done by Tim Palmer. But children? Hopefully in future, yes.
Which persons would you really like to thank for the last 20 years?
Ville: My Mom, my Dad and my little brother. What are your birthday wishes for Zillo?
Ville: When you attend the age of 20, remember to have a pair of earplugs in your back pocket and you´ll be fine for the next 20 years. And congratulations! 20 years is a long time.
Interview & Foto 2: Lea S.
Foto 1: taken & (c) by Sandro Griesbach / darkmoments.de
Website Band: www.heartagram.com