On New Year's Eve 2017, Ville Valo laid HIM to rest. The band he had fronted for 22 years and that had transformed him into a goth icon, it was hard to imagine what he'd do next. As it turns out, not a fat lot.
Aside from a brief collaboration with Finnish band Agents and a surprise EP in 2019 under the monikier "VV", releases and shows from the Finnish singer were few and far between. But now Ville is back, announcing not only the release of his debut VV album - titled Neon Noir and set for release in early 2023 - but also tour dates with his all-new solo band.
Hammer caught up with the singer to find out what the hell took so long...
The first VV EP dropped in March 2020 but then we heard nothing until Loveletting came out in April. Why the delay?
“We released a three-track EP as a digital release to test whether I was able to record everything by myself and make it sound good. Once I was past that, it was also a) whether the audience was still there and interested, but also b) to see if record labels were interested. That’s why there was such a gap, but it means I’ve recorded a 12-song album and got a record label in the meantime.”
Did you ever worry that people wouldn’t care?
“I honestly think you can’t take anything for granted. Nobody knows if every project will be successful and a lot of that can come down to timing – people change and the world changes with them.”
Your final Metal Hammer interview with Him was during a hurricane. The first VV EP came out as the pandemic hit. Is the universe being a bit dramatic just for you?
“I’m the drama king. I like a lot of drama in my music too, I’ve always been a melodramatic bastard. I’m not proud of it, but I get on because it’s like a medical condition. Music is the only cure for it!”
The first time you performed solo it was as Rambo Rimbaud. What was that all about?
“Ha ha! It was a pseudonym that I used for a weekend. I was actually thinking of using that for the project, but I thought it might be too highbrow and I might get sued by Stallone! I did like two songs in Helsinki under that name – playing Solitude by Black Sabbath with a shit-ton of reverb and all sorts of weird stuff. It was a leap of faith; you’ve got to do things that will keep you on your toes.”
Where is the weirdest place you’ve seen a Heartagram pop up?
“I keep seeing them in weird places, even today. The weirdest is always when I see somebody’s had it tattooed. I was 19 or whatever when I drew the initial symbol and it’s travelled so far and gone to so many different places I’m flabbergasted with the whole 00s thing with Jackass and Kat Von D.”
When HIM were coming up, how did you fit in with the rest of the Finnish metal scene?
“Most of us were mates – we’d sit around in bars drinking beer and chatting shit. I never thought there was like a caravan of Finnish music going out to people, though, as we were all so different – there’s no comparing Stratovarius to Impaled Nazarene, or either band to Amorphis. We’re all black sheep.”
What’s the weirdest interaction you’ve had with a celebrity?
“I was once hanging out with Andy McCoy of Hanoi Rocks and Bam Magera, getting fucked up while watching paparazzi following David Hasselhoff around. For whatever reason we ended up trashing Andy’s hotel room. It was rock’n’roll learning from the old guard, but when it comes to trashing a hotel room you have to follow your heart – and have a manager who is wealthy!”
You’re a modern rock sex symbol. What’s the scariest proposition you’ve had?
“They’re all a bit scary and weird. Back in the day, there were all these weird semi-esoteric wannabe witches who’d cut bits of my hair out and whatever, which is crazy.”
Which band can bring sexy back to metal in 2022?
“Witch Fever. They’re not fake – they come across as very real individuals, with different ways of presenting themselves and playing their instruments. They’re not a carbon copy of what old-school metal was, but I’m glad they still make bands like that. They have a similar bravado to Queens Of The Stone Age – elegant recklessness.”
You’re launching your solo tour next January. Will you be nervous?
“I feel great about it. The last time I played rock’n’roll in English was at the same venue [Tavastia in Helsinki] on New Year’s Eve 2017, going into 2018. It’s been a while, but I’ve done this most my life and it’s like riding a bicycle, innit?”
Neon Noir is expected early 2023 via Spinefarm/Universal