“I didn’t realise how much Him meant to people”: Ville Valo on the legacy of Him, finishing up with VV and the music that comes next

Ville Valo in 2023
(Image credit: Jeremy Saffer)

“If everything goes according to plan, I should feel like a shell of a man after this tour,” Ville Valo smiles. The Finnish goth metal star is in chipper spirits ahead of another band break-up.

After closing the curtain on the venerated Him in 2017, Ville picked up the pieces with the VV solo project, releasing its debut album Neon Noir last year. The act was intended to be a victory lap for the Him style of music: one last serving of gloomy yet irresistible love songs to wrap up that 30-year chapter of the frontman’s career. VV is currently on its last-ever tour, which will crescendo with its last-ever concert this Friday (May 10) at London’s legendary Royal Albert Hall. After that, once again, its lynchpin will be an iconic musician without a band to call home.

Speaking exclusively to Metal Hammer, Ville talks about what to expect from VV’s swan song, as well as what comes next and how this final tour has changed his perception of Him.

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You’ve said before that this European tour is intended to lay the VV project to rest. So, once you’ve played the Royal Albert Hall, what’s next?

“I think it would be unfair not to focus on this tour completely. I want to be like a racehorse with the blinkers on and concentrate on this. I definitely will be working in the realm of music, for sure, but how and why and where and when, no idea.”

Neon Noir came out last year. Since then, have you done any songwriting for a new record?

“I have indeed! That’s what I do when I feel that I don’t belong or when I’m feeling something I can’t put into words: I grab a guitar. The level of angst selects the fuzz pedal that goes between the guitar and the amp. Ha ha! I’ve tried to come up with some new ideas, but they’re not there yet. There needs to be an ‘Aha!’ moment. It’s not necessarily going to be hugely different for the person who maybe gets to listen to it one day, but those are big deals for me: trying to find a new perspective or a new angle to what I do.”

So what you’ve been writing has the same dark, romantic aura as Him and VV?

“You can’t take that out of me. I think that’s who I am. I love bands like Manowar and Rage Against The Machine: a lot of music that doesn’t talk about the matters of the heart from a dark and brooding perspective. But, I find myself at home more with Roy Orbison, with The Cure or Depeche Mode. It’s not about genre; it’s more about the heart and the essence of the song.”

The Royal Albert Hall is such a prestigious venue to play. Are you going to bring anything outside the norm to the show to make it extra special?

“A lot of bands, when they play the Albert Hall, try to hide it away. They have big backdrops and try to blank out the venue. At the end of the day, the beauty of the Albert Hall is the Albert Hall: the balusters, the ornaments, the massive organ, which even the most testosterone-filled rock ’n’ roll star couldn’t compete with! It’s such a gothic place in and of itself. The idea is to utilise the venue as much as we can: to light it up! Light up the organ and the balusters.”

We’ve seen so many massive metal bands reunite lately, some of whom have said they’d never get back together, like Slayer and Pantera. Given what you’ve been through with Him, what’s your take on that? Do you think it’s cynical?

“I don’t consider it cynical, because everybody’s got to have bread on the table! I was just wondering whether I’d go see Jane’s Addiction: they’re playing a club tour in Europe. They’re one of my favourite bands of all time, but they’re not the same band I fell in love with when I was 14 or 15. They don’t have to be, because people grow up and grow older and do different things. Trying to relive the days of your youth via concert, that doesn’t work for me. It could work more as a memento mori: ‘Oh shit, I’m gonna die too!’”

The other big thing at the minute is bands playing albums in full. Slipknot have mentioned playing their debut in full for the 25th anniversary, and Trivium and Bullet For My Valentine have their Ascendancy/The Poison tour coming up. Are there any albums, especially from the Him days, you’d be eager to perform like that?

“I don’t know if any of the albums are strong enough! An album listened to is a different experience to an album played live, as it should be. It feels different because you’re not sitting down concentrating. It might work for very aggressive bands, like Slipknot for example, but I’ve always considered the album and the live experience very different. Way, way back, Him were asked to do that, and Dio was doing that with The Last In Line and Holy Diver. Those albums are good enough to be played from the beginning to the end, but very few artists can say that, and that was the case with Him. Also they’d be super short concerts.”

Did you feel that way back then?

“No, I thought it was way too early for Him [to be playing albums in full]. I didn’t feel that Him were a legacy act yet.”

“I called the bass player of Him and said, ‘I’m sad you’re not on this tour with us.’”

If Him were to reunite tomorrow, do you think you would be a legacy act?

“To be honest with you, I think I’m already being treated like that. I’ve seen on this tour how much Him influenced some people and how big a deal it was to some people. It’s endearing, because I’m a fan and there are a lot of artists that mean that much to me. Meeting people like that, who had Him as their soundtrack, is amazing, and I’m actually sad. I called Mige, the bass player of Him, and I said, ‘I’m sad you’re not here with us. It would be so good for you to hear these stories that I keep hearing from people.’ The few years that have happened since Him disbanded have elevated us to this semi-mythological state.”

Has that feedback changed your perspective on getting Him back together?

“I didn’t realise how much the band meant to some people and that was nice to hear. It’s a bit surreal to play these songs I maybe wrote 30 years ago and people crying in the audience – happy crying, I hope!”

Finally, are there any young rock and metal bands really exciting you right now?

“There’s a young band that supported us in Australia called Dark Water. They have stuff on Spotify and Tidal, but only a few songs. It’s weird, like The Cure meeting with Stevie Nicks: very goth-influenced, ’80s-sounding music. They write really good songs and remind me of all the classics, but they still have something new.”

VV headline the Royal Albert Hall in London on Friday (May 10). Get tickets now.

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.