VV // Gloomy Love Songs By VILLE VALO

No one does gloomy love songs quite like Ville Valo

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Now embarking on a new musical chapter solo – without his former band HIM – Ville opens up to Hysteria about writing his record Neon Noir, which was released just over a year ago, his experiences touring Australia and his upcoming headline shows.

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Ville: It was quite a daunting task to force myself into making a full album because that felt weird because I didn’t have anything. It’s like music school in a way that it starts from silence; you don’t have music. There’s nothing, then all of a sudden in a month or two months all of a sudden there’s a production, there’s a song and there’s a meaning and there’s a story.  To do that twelve times in a row, it felt like it’s never going to end; but so did the pandemic.

Hysteria: Your tour schedule is more packed now than it was with HIM, how have you found being on the road solo and being so busy and getting back to it?

Ville: It’s been absolutely fantastic. I wasn’t a huge fan of touring back in the day, for whatever reason, I always found it a drag, it was very hard for me to focus on a gig, there were too many, you know, extracurricular activities that sort of tainted my focus. But these days, especially last year, it’s been fun. The musicians in the band are great. The crew – we have a great lighting, design and everything – and so it’s not necessarily a big happy family, but it’s a family nevertheless, like a musical interpretation of sopranos if they would come from Finland.

So this is functional in a very entertaining way. I was happy that we were able to book so many gigs, and there seems to be so many people interested in what we do. And what I’ve seen, since it’s not a given after being away for a while, and having the pandemic to sort of like, you know, just give us the black hole that it was, you know, for those few years and changing a lot of other aspects in life, I guess. But yeah, I’m happy to be back. And, you know, it feels like a blessing to be able to do this old school thing to be able to fly over. Because what was said that a world tour isn’t a world tour if you don’t play Australia.

A world tour isn’t a world tour if you don’t play Australia.
[ Ville Valo ]

Hysteria: The pandemic was a time where you really went into yourself, and you focused on writing this new music, and it sounds like there was a lot of self reflection. Can you tell us a bit about that and what led to the music that eventually became Neon Noir?

Ville: I started working on the ideas before the pandemic, but I think the first time I wrote and recorded and produced was run away from sun, and that was in the autumn time of 2019. And I didn’t know what to do, because I’ve been in that position all my life. So I wanted to take a little breather after HIM disbanded and, and to see whether I’d still have the fire and the, you know, the inspiration and whether the muse was still there.

I also realised that I could possibly be able to pull it off myself not to have a band, but actually play the instruments and do it back home, which then ended up being great prophetically speaking as we did enter the pandemic later on, and everything was shut down. So there wouldn’t have really been a possibility for me to record with the band because, you know, those kinds of masks don’t work with rock and roll.

Nobody had fun Throughout the pandemic, you know,, some did better than others. But I think a sensitive poke where everybody was super depressed and for me, music has always been the way I survived and the crutch at a bad time in life. And it helped me out again, it was music and the songs, but that turned out to be Neon Noir. That was the reason that I kept on waking up every morning and getting out of bed, so to speak, you know.  It gave me a reason and to actually be able to finish the album and get it out is kind of it on various levels, it’s quite an achievement for myself.

Hysteria: Were you worried you’d lost the spark?

Ville: Everyday before a strong brew, you know, strong cup of coffee. I think it’s important to second guess, and to not to be too certain or too cocky, and you can be egocentric and unsure at the same time. I think that’s what I’m doing. It’s always a constant battle because you want to get better at what you do and at the same time, you have to realise your limits, and especially the older you get, you kind of start to realise the framework.

Hysteria: It’s crazy, because so much of your identity would be wrapped up in being a musician and touring and recording and writing.

Ville: Yeah, but then again, I was surprised after, after HIM broke up, I was surprised that I didn’t really feel that much different. I feel some sense of relief more than anything else. And because I was kind of not scared, but it felt daunting to think of, if you have this sort of like phantom limb syndrome, you know, on the first day, after the last game has been played, all of a sudden, you feel that you’re half the money you used to be or whatever. But that didn’t happen. So I was happy about that.

We’re always walking past the business class and it was like Jane’s Addiction and Faith No More. And then everybody else was in the flying coach and a couple of worried looking pensioners, you know, because they probably never see, nobody’s ever had so many tattoos on a single plane before.
[ Ville Valo ]

But then music is one of those things you can really force and music also, I think – as all the creative arts or a lot of other things as well – there’s a lot of subliminal work involved which means that you don’t have to play the guitar every day to work on music, a lot of times, you know, you go through a heavy duty, intense period in life, and you need to give yourself subconscious and you need to give it time to process everything you’ve gone through. And a lot of times, when you don’t pick up the guitar for six months, and then you do, and all those things come rushing out. So that’s something I’ve learned, so I didn’t want to force it because that would have felt unfair for the muse, so to speak.

Valo’s favourite part of playing live as a solo artist is mixing in the tracks from his album with classic HIM numbers and how he can play around with the dynamics of a set to create an elevated experience for the audience.

Ville: With the band we play a tone of HIM stuff as well so there’s a lot of the older, live favourites so to speak. At first people didn’t know the new stuff so well but it’s be growing on them.  I think that one of the coolest tracks is – there’s a song called Heart Full Of Ghosts which is like halfway through the album – which is maybe musically speaking the biggest departure from HIM on Neon Noir.  It starts off really moody and turns into this quite chaotic, so like post rock, you know feedback-y and guitars or whatnot…and then the song afterwards that feels like such a relief, we’ve been playing Join Me In Death that starts with a pretty piano riff so it elevates the piano so much more because you’ve just had this very sort of ugly, noisy environment and I love it when the beauty and the Beast thing can happen.

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Hysteria: Any memories of past tours in Australia?

Ville: Soundwave, the last one. That was pretty good. There were a few friends that had flown over from the UK – promoter people and journalists as well – who I’ve met along the way and become really great friends. I remember there were a couple of guys I hadn’t seen in years and it was so odd. They’re both based in the UK, I’m based in Finland. It was so odd that for the first time we get together in Australia out of all places, and we hung out for the duration.

It felt more brotherly and sort of, like, it didn’t feel like you’re working and that was the cool thing about Soundwave but also the fact how they managed the transportation for the bands because a lot of bands were sharing the buses and and the flights. So we’re always walking past the business class and it was like Jane’s Addiction and Faith No More. And then everybody else was in the flying coach and a couple of worried looking pensioners, you know, because they probably never see, nobody’s ever had so many tattoos on a single plane before you know, or piercings or whatnot. I remember the warm, warm nights, there was a couple of nights off because of the ridiculous amount of travelling and the distances in your country. So hanging out with those friends I mentioned in weird bars…

HIM are known for pioneering a genre they called ‘Love Metal.’  With eight studio albums under his belt with HIM and now a solo full-length, one may wonder what – or who – keeps Valo inspired by love all these years.

Ville That’s the only thing I can do, it’s as simple as that…I sing love songs, I don’t think about it too much because that is what naturally comes out of me.  That is what I find important.

Catch Ville Valo at the following dates:

Wed, March 13 // Powerstation // Auckland
Fri, March 15 // Northcote Theatre // Melbourne
Sat, March 16 // The Metro // Sydney
Sun, March 17 // The Tivoli // Brisbane

Tickets available here.


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