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March 15, 2008 | Author: James O’Toole

him0362uy9Ville Valo is the charismatic front man and major songwriter of Finnish superstars HIM. On their latest album Venus

O’Toole: You have a big year planned.
Valo: It’s not too bad, the heaviest touring is actually behind us now. We started touring in July and went through to the beginning of December last year. I think we had maybe five days off. This year doesn’t look stressful at all compared to that.

O’Toole: You have some great festival gigs in June – Download in the UK, Hultsfred in Sweden, Rock Im Park and Rock Am Ring in Germany – a dream run!
Valo: It’s great to be back in Donnington. It’s one of the only festivals where in the VIP area there’s more mayhem than in the audience (laughs). All the journos are getting totally off their heads and there’s a pile of tents and sweaty longhaired bodies you know, it’s like after Waterloo.

O’Toole: Tell us about the song writing process for Venus Doom.
Valo: The way I write songs is they all start on acoustic guitar. If it works acoustically then it usually works with the band. Since I’ve known a few guys in the band more than twenty years things start happening automatically musically. We don’t have to think about things too much. I come up with the basic riffs, melodies, choruses, and nearly all the parts and then I present the ideas to the guys. If everyone is happy with them we just start jamming. In the jam sessions they change a lot. It’s always different, that’s one of the reasons I like doing music, it always keeps on surprising even the musicians themselves. Some of the stuff started with just me and the bass player and drummer jamming Black Sabbath rip-offs and drinking beer in the rehearsal space. Some of the songs are very loose and organic and some of them might take years to finish. I wrote the chorus to Passion’s Killing Floor back in ’98. The title track I wrote in two days. That’s kind of the magic of music for me. If it was like going into an office it would fight against the whole vibe of what we’re about. This time around the guitar is the centre. We’ve had lots of keyboards on some of our previous stuff but on this one we felt that we needed a bit of the magical Tony Iommi vibe.

O’Toole: That was one of the first things that struck me about the album. The guitar is more dominant. There are some great riffs.
Valo: I grew up listening to My Dying Bride, early Cathedral and Black Sabbath and I like heavy, slow, gloomy stuff. We hadn’t really done that before so it was something new for us. Last time we had a straightforward rock album with Dark Light and we didn’t want to go in a more poppy direction. I do enjoy Bon Jovi but not too much (laughs). You have to have some limits.

O’Toole: How do you cope with a long tour?
Valo: Obviously there’s various ways of killing boredom, going out or reading a book or whatever. The most important thing is the gig and to try and stay in shape. We haven’t had one single tour when everyone has been healthy, not catching the flu bug or whatever, so on days off people are just trying to sleep as much as possible and trying to take it easy.

O’Toole: I know you smoke a lot. How do you manage to make sure your voice does last a whole tour?
Valo: I smoke like a chimney, I always have. It’s one of the only vices I have left. I consider cigarettes being like my effects pedal. Guitar players have their Cry Babies and whatnot and I’ve got my fags. If I don’t smoke or I cut down my voice does sound clearer but I do like the huskiness. I’m a big fan of Mark Lanegan and vocalists that sound like they have been living through a lot of things. We have played maybe five or six hundred gigs and of those we had to cancel maybe five from me being ill. I went to a doctor and they had really sad faces when they saw the x rays of my lungs and there was nothing wrong. They told me I have the lungs of an athlete, I have humungous lungs so maybe that helps! Thank god one or maybe two parts of my body are kinda big in size, that compensates for my Napoleon complex (laughs).

O’Toole: What were your favourite memories of your last trip out here?
Valo: It was a surprise for all of us to fly to the other side of the world and have people singing along to our songs. It’s great, especially for a smoker cause you can have longer breaks in your songs because everybody else is singing them (laughs).

Venus Doom is out now through Warner Music.

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