Generally, when a band releases a box set, it means one of two things. Either they've broken up years ago and are looking for a cash grab, or they are about to go on an extended break. In the case of Finnish rock band HIM, who are about to release Lashes to Ashes, Lust to Dust: A Vinyl Retrospective '96-'03 next week, they are going to take some time off from touring. We caught up with singer Ville Vallo, who spoke about the past, present, and future of the band that invented "Love Metal."
Up on the Sun: Do you feel that short winter days have influenced your writing over the years?
Ville Valo: I think that everything does. A couple of times around this year, we've been rehearsing new material around the spring or in the summer, and then you really start getting into the songs when the leaves start to falling from the trees and it gets colder. I'm sure the albums turn out way darker than when your recording them in a place like Los Angeles, where it's always sunny. It's tough to get to that super melancholia Scandinavian mood with all the excitement around. We've done eight albums so far with the band and recorded and mixed all over the world, and it's quite interesting because obviously the surroundings affect and meeting people and seeing new places, everything affects and everything is inspirational, it's just a matter of what you do with that inspiration.
Now that you've made eight albums and people are used to that melancholia vibe in your music, where do you channel that vibe from?
It's good to keep the band on their toes whatever it might take, it's good not to feel too comfortable when working on new songs or recording new songs. There has to be a sort of element of danger, and there has to be some fear as well. When it becomes too easy and "same ole, same ole," you'll definitely do something wrong, and that's when the adrenaline won't be flowing and you won't be pumped enough. Rock music needs to be heavy love and tragic, and there has to be despair, and you have to get into the extremes of different emotions. You can help those [emotions] by obviously picking great people to work with. Interesting producers, characters, and studios to be able to be able to make sure it will be a challenge, which recording an albums always should be.
When you decided to release this box set did you go back and revisit each one of the releases and go through them with a fine tooth comb?
It's kind of odd in some ways, because when I listened to a lot of the old stuff when putting this together, I was listening from more of a technical point of view trying to make sure they were the best they could be. So it wasn't so much of an emotional journey when it comes to the actual albums. What was super fun and exciting and was a trip down memory lane was looking for all the B-sides and rarities, because I think I got together eight songs for each album that have never been released in Europe or in the States. I found hundreds of unmarked CDs from different studios, and I had to listen to for all that stuff and figure out what year it was.
How did listening to the B-sides and rarities make you feel?
They made me feel ashamed at times. I felt a bit like blushing at times. It was a lot of mixed emotions in a positive way, because it's fun to hear stuff from some years ago. The oldest stuff is nearly 20 years old, so it was like, who the hell are these guys playing this kind of music. I'd do it again in like 10 or 20 years.
Out of all the albums you had to revisit which one was your proudest moment?
Love Metal, for some reason that's the won that resonates with the guys in the band, and they felt something magical when recording the album. It took a lot of work, and we and didn't know where to go after the previous album and we had to re-think the band and find ourselves again. We did that after listening to a lot of Black Sabbath and Type 0 Negative, and just being fans of music as opposed to reinventing the wheel.
This tour supporting the box set is very short, what are your plans after the tour is over?
This is gonna be the last tour for a wee bit so we don't have to think about the future and we can just live in the moment. We can just scream our lungs out and not think about tomorrow and that's one of the best things about rock n' roll. It will be nice after this tour to sit down for a week or so and start working on new stuff. This isn't a farewell per say but a bye-bye for now.
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