Vital Vinyl: Ville Valo Discusses HIM’s Massive Retrospective Box Set
Just in time for Christmas, Finnish alt rockers HIM are giving fans a complete retrospective of their work from 1996-2003.
Dubbed 'Lashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust: A Vinyl Retrospective '96-'03,' the complete box set includes the rare 1996 debut EP, '666 Ways to Love: Prologue,' 'Greatest Love Songs Vol. 666,' 'Razorblade Romance,' 'Deep Shadows and Brilliant Highlights' and 'Loe Metal' -- all pressed on 180-gram wax, remastered, and packed with exclusive liner notes and special packaging. Needless to say, it's a must for any HIM fan.
The records will be available in multiple configurations (not just the massive box set), and you can see all available options at this location, via the End Records. The records hit the streets on Dec. 23.
As we gear up to get our hands on these beautiful reissues, we were fortunate enough to chat with HIM frontman and mastermind Ville Valo about the band's new retrospective and why vinyl is still important to him. Check out our exclusive interview below:
What does it mean to you to have a retrospective like this released to your fans?
It means that we’re super old. We’ve been around so long, that’s what it means. No new artist does a vinyl retrospective box set, although it would be a beautiful idea. Maybe that’s what I’ll do with my next band. [Laughs] The first four albums were never properly released in the states and there were never any vinyl editions. This time around, since this label [The End Records] is American, we were able to do a professional release -- and the vinyl is actually going to be good-sounding. It’s not just an emotional thing, like they used to be, you know, stuff to just put on walls. These records are actually great to listen to and I’m happy for that. I do like vinyl and I appreciate it. We’ve had a couple of really good vinyl versions of our albums, but nothing like this. To go back and listen to the B-sides and rare bits and live tracks, it’s been a lot of fun. It still makes me really giddy.
What was it like revisiting '666 Ways to Love: Prologue'?
[Laughs] It was endearing, I would say. It might make me cringe, but that’s not a negative thing. I’m not ashamed of anything. That’s how we felt and how we were as musicians back then. I find it honest and truthful, but at the same time, obviously super funny. The youthful innocence or lack of cynicism, that’s something you can’t get back. We kind of lost our virginity sonically through those first albums, you know, step-by-step. That first EP was the petting phase, kissing here and there. [Laughs] It’s interesting to see it all develop, musician-wise, sound-wise, idea-wise and cover art-wise. It’s interesting and entertaining. At least it makes me laugh, but not in a negative way. It was painful, but it was a kind pain. [Laughs]
When you set out in the mid-'90s, did you ever think you'd get to a point where you'd be releasing a retrospective box set?
No, definitely not. Where we come from, back in the ‘90s, everyone told us we didn’t stand a chance of doing anything. Nobody listened to anything we did. Finnish rock music sung in English? There wasn’t much. We didn’t have a chance, we were told, to do anything -- so each and every gig, every rehearsal and every demo was a great success to us.
Obviously, at that point, we wanted to be the first band on the moon. You reach for the skies, but more than that, you reach for the task at hand, to create the best song at that moment, to play the best you can, to shake your hips the best you can, to make people feel entertained. It’s baby steps, and in that sense, even now I can’t believe we’re doing a retrospective. I think that’ll take me about 10 years from now to look back and react to it. As a musician, so often you cannot see the forest for the trees. That’s why I like old rock and rollers, because they still think it’s cool to wear spandex and have long hair. We’re becoming that way, too. [Laughs]
Before we started chatting, you mentioned you love Spotify and its convenience -- but you're also a fan of vinyl. Even with the convenience of digital music, why do you dig vinyl?
Vinyl is symbolically and physically everlasting. Vinyl is a marriage and an MP3 is a quick f--k in the night. You don’t feel like you're at a candlelit dinner when you listen to a digital format. But with vinyl, you want to open a bottle of red wine and get in the mood. They both serve purposes, they’re both beautiful. For the people who really get into what you're doing, the artwork, the symbolism, the lifestyle, that’s what vinyl is all about. It’s fine dining and fast food -- they both serve a purpose.
In the states, vinyl has seen a huge resurgence in the last seven, eight years. Have you seen a similar growth in Finland?
As far as I’ve noticed, in the whole of Europe, the vinyl thing has been really big in the last 10 years. It’s normal for people to listen to vinyl here, though. All the people I know who are serious about music, they listen to vinyl. Everybody has vinyl, at least their favorite albums. It’s a natural part of life. At the end of the day, I’m so old, my first albums were bought on vinyl. For me, it’s always been there, it was the first format I heard in my entire life.
In support of the vinyl box set, you're in the states touring, and you wrap things up on Dec. 19 in Las Vegas. Do you notice a big difference between fans in America compared to other parts of the world?
They're very different I would say. Different cultures have different ways of appreciating music or celebrating bands, you know? In Latin America, people sing along super loud and jump around and it’s really hectic and energetic and, some might say, crazy. But then in Finland, there can be as many people at a gig, but they are pretty quiet and they more just watch and see what you’re doing, as opposed to going crazy. And then there’s everything in between all over the world. Dancing, singing, standing still. The cool part about our band is that it’s tough to put us in one category of music, so we attract all kinds of fans.
After the tour and the box set is released, what's next for HIM?
We have to finish out the year by doing our annual festival in Helsinki -- we’ll play at midnight when the year changes [Helldone 2014]. After that, I have no idea. I need to recharge my mental batteries and then I’m going to pick up my guitar and come up with some new ideas.
Pre-order 'Lashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust: A Vinyl Retrospective '96-'93' -- or pick up the records individually -- here.
'Lashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust: A Vinyl Retrospective '96-'03'