Having already firmly established a huge following throughout Europe with the release of four full length albums (1997’s ‘Greatest Lovesongs Vol.666’, 1999’s ‘Razorblade Romance’, 2001’s ‘Deep Shadows And Brilliant Highlights’ and 2003’s ‘Love Metal’), a greatest hits set (2004’s ‘And Love Said No - The Greatest Hits 1997 – 2004’) and a countless number of singles along the way, Finnish melodic gothic rock act HIM (Who are vocalist/songwriter/founder Ville Hermanni Valo, guitarist Mikko Viljami ‘Linde’ Lindstrom, bassist Mikko ‘Migè Amour’ Paananen, keyboardist Jani ‘Burton Emerson’ Purttinen and drummer Mikka ‘Gas Lipstick’ Karppinen) have finally set their sites further, and at the tail end of September 2005, offered themselves up to a wider international audience for the first time with their internationally released fifth album ‘Dark Light’.
While on tour with The Rasmus and Negative, I caught up with a freshly woken up and very tired (And admittedly verbally challenged) Ville Valo in Milan (Spain), who was more than happy to talk about the band’s recently completed North American tour, their upcoming tour of Australia, speculation surrounding reports of a new album due sometime before the end of 2006 and the success of ‘Dark Light’ outside of their core European fan base.
“‘Dark Light’ has been doing really well. We’re very happy with the album. It’s shipped nearly four hundred thousand copies in the U.S. alone, which is great for us because it’s our first official release over there. England has also done well too, so it’s been really good. It’s selling more than ‘Love Metal’, but then that’s not hard considering that with that album we never did any real promotion or tour behind it in the U.S., and it was only available as an import only. And for a band such as ourselves, we have to tour so that people know that we exist and know that we are around. We have the tendency to kick peoples asses in a good way when we’re having a good show, which has helped us build up such a big fan base. I think we finally managed to do that with ‘Dark Light’ in the U.S. We really haven’t had the chance to sit down and relax and enjoy the fruit of our labour because we’ve been touring all the time, but it’s not something that worries us. We’re just happy to tour.”
Although knowing full well that ‘Dark Light’ was going to be HIM’s first official release internationally, Valo insists that the album wasn’t shaped or influenced to cater to a certain market.
“(After a lot of thought) I think we all felt like kids in a candy store. Of course it gave us high hopes knowing we were getting the album officially released outside of Europe, and giving us the opportunity to find better promoters in countries such as Australia, Canada and South America. Basically it gave us half of the world to explore. I think that was as far as those influences came into the equation, because musically, ‘Dark Light’ is still very much a HIM album as anything else we’ve done in the past, only a little different.”Wasting little time since the release of ‘Dark Light’, HIM has constantly been on the road to support its release, and most notably in the U.S.
“We started touring in North America at the start of October last year, and continued right through to the end of November. So we did forty gigs over that period, without so much as a day off in that time. The tour was everything we hoped it would be. It was really good. Most of the gigs were sold out, and the new songs seems to strike a chord in a very positive way, so we we’re pretty happy with the tour. It wasn’t out first time touring North America, but it was by far the most extensive tour we had ever done there. When we toured in the past, it was nothing more than a string of dates that stretched out to a total of fifteen shows at a time. Normally we did the west coast, and then the east coast. This time around, we played some of the places in the middle as well. It was all pretty exciting, especially being in Texas for the first time. We managed to visit The Alamo, and that was really cool.”
While the historic significance about The Alamo (Or otherwise known as Mission San Antonio De Valero) is an important part of American history, Valo’s reasons behind seeing the monument first hand wasn’t for cultural reasons exclusively.
“Oh it wasn’t because of the Texan Revolution! We just wanted to see where Ozzy Osbourne pissed, and then got arrested for soon afterwards. It’s a Mecca for us! (Laughs) If anyone in the band was interested in its history, that would have to be Purttinen (Burton). He’s always waking up early in the morning so that he can have a walk around the cities we’re in. The only thing I care for is bookshops and bars. I’m very simple. Give me a good book, and eight pints and I’ll be happy.”
A little known fact in regards to HIM tours is that the band has always played as a headlining act, and never a support.
“You’re right, we always headline. We never play a support slot. That’s an unspoken rule that we have had within the band since day one. The reason for that is that a lot of bands that tend to start out as a support act tend to stay a support act throughout their whole career. If you’re not careful, it’s so easy to become a constant support and sustain that title without moving up. There’s a lot of bands that just stay as a support, and that’s something that we’ve never wanted. We would rather play in front of twenty people, and still headline than play a supporting role to another band. We never consciously decided to do this from the start, but we’ve always felt that it’s something that we have to do. It’s purely based around word of mouth and having fans spread the word for us. We recently had Finch and Skindred supporting us here in the U.S., and they went down pretty well. But I would have to say that so far, the best package we’ve had to date was the Monster Magnet and Melissa Auf Der Maur back in November 2004. Auf Der Maur was really cool, and I am a huge fucking fan of Monster Magnet. They’re one of the great inspirations for HIM. 1995’s ‘Dopes To Infinity’ is one of my favourite rock albums of all time. So it felt really weird to actually headline over one of my favourite bands. So, in a case like that, I always like to call them co-headliners. It’s not simply because they’ve been around longer than us, but also because you have to be really nice to the other bands because you never know what is going to happen tomorrow. It could very well be the case that we have to support them one day! (Laughs)”