Ville Valo – ‘The Beauty Mark on Rock & Roll’s Face’ with Neon Noir

If you are anything like me, it’s been a dark (almost) 6 years for you since Finnish love-metal rockers HIM announced their time as a group was coming to an end. I had been listening to that band for 12 years before that point. The inner 15-year-old part of me that fell in love with frontman, Ville Valo (VV), was reignited when the Heartagram resurfaced on social media earlier this year. VV announced he is releasing his first solo record, Neon Noir, which is out now via Heartagram Records/Spinefarm Records.

Just before the holidays, I had the pleasure of chatting to VV all about this new journey and simultaneously fulfilled a lifelong dream of chatting with this musical legend.

WoS: Ville, before we get into it, I would love to hear from you how it feels for you to be releasing music again.

VV: Um, it feels quite weird. I sort of felt a bit, agoraphobic. It’s hard to get sort of, acclimated to humanity again. Let’s put it that way. It feels like I developed some allergies when it comes to the human species during covid, you know? Everybody was sucked into that black hole of more or less solitude. In my case, it was very much I locked myself in a studio room for what, two and a half years? Not really meeting anybody and I guess forcing myself to do that was great for the album and great for the music, but definitely not great for anything else. But then again, life is all about challenges and it’s important to keep ones self on their toes.

I think also the break between the disbandment of HIM and the new stuff, the heart grows fonder. It indeed does, you know? At least mine did. I needed a breather. I needed to figure out what I am going to do and if music is still a thing for me. Of course, it is, I was sure about that. But I can’t decide what music does. It will come to me or it won’t, I can’t force it. So I was happy that I was able to put those twelve ditties together and create the album so I am happy. Now, this is the first step, actually speaking to people about it and touring in like, a month and a half or so. I am working my butt off to make sure that we will play Australia as well, later on.

We, with HIM, had such a great experience in Australia and it’s such a cool thing for a musician from this little backwards country to be able to tour around the world and visit different cultures and meet different people. The sun shines differently in Australia, I’ve always had great times there so it’d be absolutely fabulous! I need to be able to sing the new music, and the old music as well, to as many people as possible. It’s sort of like an ‘old dog, new tricks’ thing. It would be idiotic of me to play a couple of shows and then go back to the agoraphobic ‘allergic to humans again’ sort of thing.

I love that you said ‘old dog, new tricks’. When HIM announce they were disbanding you all mentioned it was to explore new ventures. Do you feel, on Neon Noir, that you had the chance to broaden your creative horizons? Were there any new techniques or elements that you were able to introduce that you’re excited for people to hear?

VV: I think the biggest difference is the fact that this recording wasn’t made as a band so, due to covid, I ended up playing all the instruments myself and I ended up recording the whole album by myself. I did everything here, this is my home studio. The only thing that was outsourced was mixing and mastering. The album was mixed by Tim Palmer??? a fella who worked on several HIM albums before and it was good. I love his variety of music he has worked with. From Sepultura to U2 and so forth. He sort of like, stands to the yin and yang nature of what I do.

It was important to have a set of ears that could see the forest for the trees after those long sessions. Otherwise, it allowed me to go full-on pervert with my influences you know? I was able to utilise more of the 80’s alt-rock like The Banshees, The Chameleons, Sister Of Mercy, The Mission and all that stuff. Along with the more poppier like ‘AHA’ & Duran Duran, those synthy sorts of things. I grew up with that stuff and it feels like a part of who I am. Whereas maybe with HIM, it wasn’t something that the guys felt comfortable with, they were more maybe ‘rock guys’. There were some folkier aspects.

The first single ‘Loveletting’ has a bit of the ‘birds’ or ‘mommas and poppas’ in the sound. There are a lot of harmonies and it’s very flowy and ‘sixties’ in a way. I think the cool thing also is the fact that working with this album, I didn’t have to think about any other people. I wanted to think about the song and be sensitive enough to have the song lead the way. Let the song make the decisions on where it can take me and where it can take itself. That was a big deal. It’s an age-old saying ‘a lot of players play their instruments but they don’t necessarily play the song’.

By that, I am not criticising the HIM members at all. In creating the new band, I am not the best at playing any instrument, but since I know the songs and they’re my songs, I play my songs the way I want to. It is quite unique. It’s not for better or for worse, it’s just very me. The realm of rock & roll and music in general needs unique voices. When stuff is getting ‘same old, same old’ I hope to be the beauty mark on rock & roll’s face.

Catch the rest of our chat below.

Interview by Lili Jean Berry. @lilijeanberry

Neon Noir, the debut record from Ville Valo as a solo artist is out now via Heartagram Records/Spinefarm Records.

Stream it here

Ville Valo Neon Noir heartagram album review

VV – Neon Noir tracklisting

1. Echolocate Your Love
2. Run Away From The Sun
3. Neon Noir
4. Loveletting
5. The Foreverlost
6. Baby Lacrimarium
7. Salute The Sanguine
8. In Trenodia
9. Heartful Of Ghosts
10. Saturnine Saturnalia
11. Zener Solitaire
12. Vertigo Eyes

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