Translation by sineresi @ livejournal
HIM’s latest album Venus Doom didn’t sell nearly as much as Dark Light, which earned a gold record in the US. With the new album Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice, Ville Valo puts on a poppier gear. Will the change of style help the sales figures shoot up again?
Question: Musically Screamworks is the most cheerful HIM ever, but the lyrics are once again filled with despair. How did that happen?
Ville: I don’t think this is a cheerful album. It’s more of an 80’s, Nik Kershaw’s Riddle inspired album, melancholic melodies in a wrong format. There Is a Light That Never Goes Out by The Smiths is also a good reference point because it has lyrics that contradict strongly with the music. It’s about the right balance between the yin and the yang. I guess you could say that Screamworks is like Kiss with a broken heart.
Q: After all the doom of the last album, is HIM now trying to conquer the teen fans of 30 Seconds to Mars?
V: 30 Seconds to Mars? That wasn’t a very nice thing to say. On Screamworks, we simply wanted to do short songs and say a lot in little time. Venus Doom had for example a song called Sleepwalking Past Hope which was over ten minutes long. When we were playing it on tour, it made us want to experiment with other ideas.
Q: Were there other reasons for this change?
V: Matt Squire influenced it too because he’s grown up with bands like Van Halen, Duran Duran, and Poison. On the other hand, like us, he appreciates also Faith No More and Bad Brains. We let these influences come out more boldly this time.
Q: Are you playing it safe with the poppier style, so that Screamworks would sell more than Venus Doom?
V: We haven’t done a single record expecting it to sell a fucking lot. And I don’t know anything about radio hits today, for me the best album of the last few years is Antics by Interpol. Of course we want to be the biggest band in the world, but we want to do it using our own strengths. The demo versions of the fast rock songs of Screamworks have all been more pathetic than the album versions. All our music comes from the same gloominess.
Q: You have said that you have the habit of breaking up the band every other day. How do the other guys of HIM handle it when you get angry?
V: You have to remember that I’m not the only guy in the band that sometimes has a bad day. Shall we say that I get my period more often than the other guys. Music is important, and sometimes I lose my temper with it. I’m pretty demanding at rehearsals, and if something doesn’t work right away, I lose my temper—and this applies for my own parts as well.
Unfortunately, I belong to the group of people that can’t say ‘thank you’. I have tried to change this characteristic of mine though. And being pissed off doesn’t always have to do with the band but with the fact that things aren’t going well at home. This “breaking up the band” is of course symbolic. I can’t break up the band because it has other members as well. On the other hand, the band could hardly keep on going in the same way if I was to fuck off. Especially since I have the rights to the name HIM.
Q: You are a rare Finnish singer in the sense that you pronounce English like a native. Do people make jokes about Finns’ bad English abroad?
V: I think it’s the Finns who make a big deal out of it. It’s kind of like drinking, Finns don’t drink more than let’s say Italians. The Finnish accent just makes the music more exotic. People don’t think I’m American, and I wouldn’t even want to get rid of my accent. When I was still drinking, my accent always changed with the amount I had drunk. With every pint I moved 50 kilometers north from London. In the end, I was speaking Scottish fluently.
Q: You are possibly the most famous rocker in Finland. Does it annoy you that according to the tax records Lauri Ylönen from The Rasmus is the Finnish rock musician making most money?
V: I guess it sucks when I don’t have as much money as someone who has a lot of money. But I’ve never been broke either. But yes, I does annoy me. Lauri annoys me so much! (Laughs.)
You have to remember, though, that Lauri Ylönen is a pop singer and not a rocker. The Rasmus is a pop band with two or three huge pop hits, and we are a rock band with seven moderately successful rock albums.
Then there’s the classic question of why isn’t anybody checking what companies musicians have and how much money those are making. This is just a hint because the tax records you mentioned could look very different then. Does somebody really think that all my income is unearned income? No, it’s not. I have my own maneuvers that are completely legal—I’ve made sure of that many times. [I have to say that if I remember those tax records correctly, all his income was wages not unearned income, but that doesn’t change the point he’s making.]
Q: When does being a rock star show its most unpleasant side? Is it when a dream gig at Wembley turns into a booing fest?
V: There have been all kinds of things, I don’t even look back that far. I have to say though that the gig at Wembley wasn’t bad in any way. It was a risk that you always have to take opening for a band like Iron Maiden or Metallica. There were 80 000 people at that gig, and the thousand closest to the stage were booing. You can count how many new fans we had a chance to reach.
But maybe the worst thing is that people call me a rock star, but I only make a fourth of the money Lauri Ylönen makes.
Thanks to sineresi for the translation. Be sure to check out her journal for many other translations of HIM articles and interviews.