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FORBES Exclusive Interview: Ville Valo

ÕŗšŚśšŗ: Steve Baltin , CONTRIBUTOR ďThe spark wasnít there. We started working on new material. To my ears it didnít sound excellent, it sounded too same old, same old,Ē H.I.M. frontman Ville Valo says simply as to why the Finnish rock group is calling it quits after a quarter century together. We are at the iconic Sunset Marquis the morning after the band played the first of two sold-out nights at the Wiltern. The tour, dubbed in typical H.I.M. whimsy, ďBang & Whimper,Ē is way more bang than whimper. From the moment the lights went down and the opening ďBuried Alive In LoveĒ kicked in the crowd was in a frenzy. When I tell Valo about the woman at the bar who over enjoyed herself and threw up all over the floor he smiles. ďI didnít know people like that still exist,Ē he says laughing. But then as he rightly puts it, ďItís like some sort of time travel machine thing.Ē For 25 years the ďLove MetalĒ legends, as they have been called for their very unique melding of the Cure-like romantic lyrics and superb pop/metal hooks and riffs, have built a huge cult following, many of whom have sworn by H.I.M. since the beginning. So as fans say goodbye, the emotion and energy at these final U.S. shows is taking even the band by surprise. The U.S. leg of the tour ends tomorrow night, November 17, in New York. One can only imagine the fury of the crowd when the final notes of ďWhen Love And Embrace,Ē which has been the closer throughout this tour, fill Hammerstein Ballroom. In this exclusive, the only North American interview Valo conducted for the farewell tour, he talks about the future, why it was time to say goodbye and how he is looking forward to ďskating on thin iceĒ as an artist. Steve Baltin: The show last night at the Wiltern was insane. As soon as the lights went down people just lost it. Ville Valo: Yeah, I donít know what happened, itís like some sort of time machine thing. Itís gonna happen again tonight. And itís quite rare for a rock band to get that, I call it the building of worlds. Bands like Zeppelin, Type O Negative, Sisters Of Mercy, AC/DC, youíre sucked into their world, it has its own rules, its own geography and thatís quite exciting. So even on the tiniest microscopic level, if weíre somewhere around there itís great. A lot of new bands donít have that sort of thing. Baltin: So youíve spent almost 25 years building this village. Does it become daunting or sad to think of leaving that world behind? Or do you just feel ready? Valo: I think all of the above to be honest with you. At the end of the day you have to trust your gut. Thatís a tough thing to do when itís five people whoíve known each other since they were kids and whoíve built the world or whatever you want to call it for the past quarter of a century. Even though your gut says now itís time to jump off the train itís not the easiest thing to actually accomplish. So it took about two years to really figure it out and make sure weíre actually on the same page and this needs to be done. Touring is still nice, touring is fun, we get along really well, but that was one of the other things I thought: itís nice to do the series of last hurrahs on tour. Baltin: Does the audience response inspire you to maybe reconsider? Valo: That motivates me to write even better songs with my next project, whatever it might be. Thatís how I think. Some of the songs traveled really well, weíre playing songs from late Ď90s and all the people, including new people, singing along to those lyrics I wrote when I was like 20 or 19, which is exciting. So I canít see why not it canít continue, differently probably, but thatís the exciting part. I do enjoy skating on thin ice. I think there has to be that element of not necessarily danger, but surprise and being on your toes. If things become too easy or comfortable you have to do something about it. And I think we are. Baltin: I agree with you, but there is very much a mentality in rock and roll now to play it safe in the world theyíve built. Valo: I know, but then at the end of the day that particular world isnít going anywhere. We appreciate what weíve done, weíre really happy that itís traveled so well and itís still resonating, which is quite weird. Obviously itís weird for us on all possible levels. Itíd be easier if there would be animosity. And originally we werenít supposed to be doing the tour, but I thought we need to leave the whole thing on what I call ďthe lowest note.Ē We have to leave the rumble behind us. Baltin: So jump ahead to January 1, 2018. That will be the night after the last H.I.M. show. Now that youíve started the tour can you anticipate what that day will feel like? Valo: No idea, weíve still got 43 gigs to go before the tour ends. So weíll see how worn out weíll be before that. The last few gigs thatíll happen in Finland thereís gonna be a lot of family around and old friends from way back when and our parents and stuff. So itís gonna be special because of that too and itís gonna be, in that sense, more ritualistic as opposed to a gig. So Iím sure itíll be weird, Iím sure itíll be fantastic and so forth. But yes, itíll be weird and odd and my technique of coping with the emptiness and the sense of abandonment will be to pick up a guitar cause thatís what I always do when I feel uncomfortable. So Iím just gonna be writing more songs. I have already written songs that some of them were supposed to be for the guys, but since next chapter for H.I.M. didnít take off Iím gonna do something with them. Baltin: Do you envision a solo album or you donít know what itíll be? Valo: To be honest with you, I donít know. The funny thing is that I worked on some songs and at the end of the day, even new songs, they sound quite a bit like H.I.M. So itís not on a purpose that I become this solo entrepreneur playing folkie whatever stuff and make it really sparse and get rid of everything or make it super poppy or whatever. Iím not interested in that. Iím interested in rock and roll, but the emperor needs new clothes. Baltin: So you wonít be putting out a dance album? Valo: F**k no. I donít know how to do it anyway. I enjoy electronic music, I always have, but I like noisy guitars and I like the melancholy and when I start listing the things I like about music it sounds a lot like H.I.M. Baltin: It will be interesting to see how this evolves because you have your style and voice. Valo: It will be interesting, then itís obviously tough. Iím not 20 anymore so all of a sudden to do something completely new is a challenge in itself and to see if people are interested at all for the whole thing. But Iíd rather still take the risk and see the rest of the guys in the band do their own thing and takes risks as opposed to just becoming this semi-broken jukebox, like a tribute band of themselves, which I feel if we couldíve sold, if you could add a few zeroes at the end then it would make sense, like in the Rolling Stones way. But I thought we never made the perfect H.I.M. album, we never got that far. Baltin: Since you still have that challenge and no animosityÖ Valo: We still have those 43 gigs, so there will be animosity at the end (laughs). Once again, never say never. I honestly do like the guys so I wouldnít mind doing something together. But now is not the time, so I donít know what the future holds, no idea. I think some of the guys are going to be working on music-related stuff. but the individuals in the band are pretty different from each other. So itís really tough to say if weíre physically in the same city within the next few years. But weíll see. Thereís a reason for this to end now and we donít know how weíre reacting to it. This is like the petri dish in action, this is the chemical process or the test or whatever you want to call it happening right here and weíll know by the end of the year how itís gonna swing, more or less. And then probably itíll take some time to recuperate as well. Baltin: Are there songs that are taking on particular meaning as you sing them for what might be the last time with the guys? Valo: This is the first tour, since I know we donít have a recording future with H.I.M. I can see all the material weíre playing each and every night as the main body of work because there wonít be anymore. For the first time songs like ďJoin Me In Death,Ē I do hear the lyrics in a different way, I do sing the songs maybe a bit differently. I appreciate it not necessarily as an outsider, but I can see the forest through the trees a bit better. Itís different. At the end of the day thatís the function of this tour as well, is that weíre able to be the fans as well. Fans not necessarily of ourselves, but of the whole movement of whatís happened during those last 26 or so years. Itís the opportunity of a bunch of random blokes coming from a random country in the middle of nowhere more or less, being able to travel around the world and still be somehow relevant to quite a few people. So thatís quite amazing. Itís a celebration of that, of what weíve done and what people have done for this to happen, and the music is the soundtrack to that. https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevebaltin/2017/11/16/exclusive-interview-h-i-m-frontman-ville-valo-on-saying-goodbye-after-25-years-together/#70edc1312fbb

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