Art: Ville Valo

Can you remember the first time you were really moved by a piece of art?

I clearly remember We Sold Our Souls For Rock’n’Roll, the Black Sabbath compilation, because there was this dead chick on the cover. I’ve always liked music and art that can create that sense of feeling a bit unsettled.

You’ve called the HIM ‘heartagram’ design your ‘Nike swoosh’. Did you ‘just do it’, or was it a carefully planned design?

I just did it in five seconds, but then finishing it up took longer. I think I was subliminally working to that moment of getting the heartagram out just through being a huge fan of rock’n’roll, and loving the symbols that Led Zeppelin used, and the graphics of so many different artists. I was, and still am, a huge fan of Black Sabbath, Rob Zombie and White Zombie. I love the visual aspects that make it a bit more otherworldly, especially for a person whose mother tongue is not English – to have a symbol that really translates across cultures is fantastic. And the heartagram combines the B-movie horror aesthetic with something profound, and also something profane, and everything in between.

Who would you say excites you artistically today?

Electric Wizard made me believe in rock’n’roll again when I heard Witchcult Today. Jake and Dinos Chapman, they’re great. I saw Fucking Hell in London a few years back and that changed my point of view about art again. It can be fun and at the same time unnerving.

There’s a lot of woe in HIM’S music. Is the most beautiful art born out of tragedy?

Yeah. When people are über-happy in their lives, that’s not normally a moment to be creative. When you don’t know how you’re feeling, that’s when you go to pick up a guitar or create a piece of art and try to explain these emotions. So I think it’s necessary, not always for art to be born out of tragedy, but out of uncertainty.

What’s the best thing you’ve read lately?

There was a good book I read recently called The Heretics: Adventures With The Enemies Of Science by Will Storr. That kind of book is purpose-built for touring. He’s admitting there’s stuff he’s unsure of, and he’s trying to be as objective as possible.

You’ve got tattoos of authors such as Charles Bukowski and Edgar Allan Poe, among others. How did you get into them?

I think through rock’n’roll. At the end of the day I’d say that 95 per cent of rock’n’roll is getting into, say, Aleister Crowley because of Led Zeppelin. It’s part of the whole mythology of rock’n’roll; it’s a multi‑tentacled beast. It’s not just the music, it’s the visuals, it’s where a thing comes from. And, of course, my other hobby besides music has been drinking, so that’s where the Bukowski comes in…

_You used to work in your dad’s sex shop. Did this have an effect on your artistic outlook? _

Though I did know about all sorts of gadgetry, I’ve always been more interested in why people want to do these things. A human being is a piece of art – it’s such a complex creature, an endless source of inspiration. Nobody picks up a coconut-sized dildo thing and shoves it up… wherever, just because. There has to be an inner need.

Polly Glass
Deputy Editor, Classic Rock

Polly is deputy editor at Classic Rock magazine, where she writes and commissions regular pieces and longer reads (including new band coverage), and has interviewed rock's biggest and newest names. She also contributes to Louder, Prog and Metal Hammer and talks about songs on the 20 Minute Club podcast. Elsewhere she's had work published in The Musician, delicious. magazine and others, and written biographies for various album campaigns. In a previous life as a women's magazine junior she interviewed Tracey Emin and Lily James – and wangled Rival Sons into the arts pages. In her spare time she writes fiction and cooks.