Metal Hammer, July 2003
At home with ... HIM
Frontman with Finnish goths, HIM, Ville Valo's abode leaves a lot to be Desired in the tidiness stakes. And then there's the sex shop he owns… Hammer sent round the extermination squad. Feather Duster : Martin Carlsson. Dyson: Michael Johansson.
'Untidiness prohibited' reads a sign in the narrow alley way that leads to
the courtyard where Ville Valo's apartment building is located. It's a remnant
from the 1920's, when the workers quarters in this neighbourhood were built.
These days, the population in this area in central Helsinki, the capital of
Finland, is made up of mostly affluent citizens who do their best to keep theses
surroundings tidy. Someone has clearly forgotten to inform HIM's singer of this
quaint local ordinance. His pad is the true definition of a dump. Over the past
decade we've visited many homes of rock musician and as far as filth Goes Ville
Valo's is undoubtedly on par with Lemmy's Hollywood den. Granted, the Fridge
does not reveal a decomposed steak, which is best before date expired a year
Ago ( as was the case with Lemmy". Still we're in a state of shock.
"I invited you to my apartment during sort of a second of lunacy, which I go through every now and then. I felt the need to invite you over to reveal all secrets of my sanctuary", explains Ville as he welcomes a reporter to his home for the first time.
Ah. So how do you people react when they come here?
"They usually have reactions like vomiting or bursting into tears of laughter. I don't let that many people in, this is my own place. This is okay with me, it's me Anyway so who cares? There's no need for me to be a clean personality. I don't wash my hair, my body or anything. It's more organic that way. I like to keep all my stuff around, so wherever I look there's always a piece of history. For me it's like living diary. When I see a guitar I remember when I bought it, what tunes I've been writing with it, for whom and because of what and what happened through those songs."
In all fairness, the one-bedroom apartment itself ain't shabby. With some tender love and caring, the 700 English Pound a month flat could easily be transformed into a cosy abode. It's just that its habitant likes to wallow in his own dirt.
When Hammer photographer Michael Johansson opens the door to the toilet, Ville sends a strong message of warning:
"You can take a shit, but I wouldn't recommend it. You never know what might come up there!"
To put it mildly, it wouldn't make much difference if you were to throw up or take a dump at any given location in the flat. It really is that gross. The thousand of girls who view the front man as a sex symbol will surely be taken aback by the fact that their idol is a slob of great proportions.
"Don't you think this is sexy?" he ask slightly disappointed and goes on the offensive. "It's the fucking sexiest apartment there in on this fucking planet! That's very gay in a non positive way, keeping your place in such an orderly fashion. It's bad. The place where you live has to be organic, there has to be things that attract your eyes. I'm a visual person, not great visually but I enjoy seeing colours around. I don't have to take so many mushrooms any more, it's easier that way."
The 26 year old left to live on his own nine year ago and reckons this is his thus far most tidy place. He's called this home since the autumn of '00.
"I was living with a girl a couple of blokes away from here. One particular night I was drinking loads of beer and eating good food somewhere with the rest of the band. All of a sudden I got a call and it was her screaming mad that someone just broke into the apartment. It was on the ground level and someone broke through the window of our bedroom while she was sleeping. Thank God it was dark and nothing happened. Some smack addict or whatever broke in and stole a cool camera from the 70's, which my daddy gave to me years back as present, as well a s some cash. The guy was never caught. I ran back to the apartment and was almost as mad as she was. She got freaked out so bad that I thought it best to find a place that's not so easy to crawl into. This was the one.
Located on the first floor, opposite what until very recently was a hospital, this place Signals that the people across the courtyard better keep their nosiness to themselves. You wonder just what the neighbours believe is going on here. For all they know, Ville Valo could be involved in some strange cult, sacrificing chickens and drinking their blood. When his girlfriend left him last summer, the singer took the drastic step of blocking out the sunlight with heavy duty garbage bags.
"Since my girlfriend took all the curtains when she left. I thought I'd just have black plastic garbage bags cover the windows so that nobody can see me and I can't see them, "explains Ville. "I'm pretty happy with my loneliness. People have just been laughing about the whole thing. I'm just a silly person when it comes to that. I'm very bad at organising. Our band's bass player two months ago told me how to pay your bills at the bank. I don't know how to clean up, hang up curtains or pay my bills. When you're on tour a lot or writing songs, that doesn't necessarily come first into your mind. I'm learning how to be civilised gentleman, but it's gonna take a while."
The process of becoming a civilised gentleman started earlier today when Ville took the bold step of doing what he refers to as cleaning, so that the Hammer crew would feel welcome. In reality, that meant picking up items of clothes spread all over the apartment and putting them in a big pile on the bedroom floor.
"For me personally it's bad to put all your clothes into wardrobes, it's easier for me to find everything if I'm spreading it all on the floor" he reasons. "When I was 13 or 14 year old I had a neurosis and I even had to wake up during the night to fix the angle of fucking pen on a table. Everything had to be right there geometrically. Then I thought it's best to quit and just be a messy slob."
That the Finn's succeeded with this mission is a great understatement. The living room got its latest taste of a vacuum cleaner last summer, but none of the rooms have been properly cleaned since he moved in. One corner of the bedroom's used for storage, simply because Ville doesn't have the energy to bring the stuff up to the attic. Exactly what's piled up there, he has no idea.
"The problem is that I'm the artist type who rather plays acoustic guitar and has a wank than holds a vacuum cleaner in his hands, "quips Ville. "One of the reasons why I wanted to go public with this apartment was so people would see the agony which I live in and understand the pain I go through living in a such horrible environment. I need companionship. Hopefully my girlfriend will come back and clean this place up. I've always been bad with cleaning. I'm like my daddy. Even though he has money he loves to go through garbage bins just to look for things that people have thrown away. Having all this shit around I'm close to my daddy all the time. So I'm a family man?! I can't throw anything away and I've even grown food of every beer cap and empty cigarette box on the floor. It's a terrible job to spend a whole day throwing all those lovely little things away. The little bugs crawling on the floor, they're my friends. Thou shall not kill".
You're bound to kill many of them just by walking around this place.
"It's not intentional and I try to avoid it. I always use a flashlight when I get up to take a piss at night."
Having lived here for almost three years, Ville has yet to use the kitchen for cooking! Maybe after an examinator has sanitised it, on MIGHT be able to use it as one, but currently this "bizarre avant-garde installation, the hall of insanity", as creatures, mould and God knows what.
Luckily he doesn't have to pass the kitchen on his way to the loo. If a minister saw it, he'd probably grab his cross and perform an exorcism in order to rid this Hell's Kitchen of its evil spirits.
Your nosy Hammer newshound makes his way to the living room. Determined to investigate every angle, I secretly peek into a closet. No clothes in sight, but a huge collection of videos. Many of them so grotesque you'd be hard-pressed to find even in the sleaziest of sex shops in Soho. Ville pulls out a couple of them and pops the bizarrely title The Rites Of Uranus into the VCR. The sexual depravity portrayed in this 70s cult flick is beyond Description and would undoubtedly be deemed illegal in most countries. Scandinavia is very sexually liberated as and you can watch hardcore gang banging on TV every night at midnight, though perhaps not a dubious nature like The Rites Of Uranus or the next tape Ville brings out, The Haunted Pussy.
"I've never seen tapes with so cool cover artwork and cool titles," he says. "I think The Haunted wanted to call themselves The Haunted Pussy, but then they wanted to have some wider appeal and took the "Pussy" away! It's a great source of inspiration, in many short of ways".
When Ville was 14 years old , his father gave up his job as a cab driver and bought a sex shop in Helsinki. Ville's still the proud owner.
"I used to work there part time for a short while when I was younger, "reveals Ville. "I thought it was a bit weird, but in the end it's paid off in some many ways. It was a great way to educate myself sexually, because it's been free and basically very 60s. The good thing is we didn't have to rent any porn on tour, he gave us all the stuff for free. When we were on tour, all of a sudden when our keyboard player left the band, all our porn archives went missing. He claims he didn't take it, but it was hundreds of magazines and videos. Most of them were about shit, we didn't go for the animal stuff. We have good morals! Just shit, no piss. Piss is sick isn't it?"
Porn is blamed for everything from giving teenagers a distorted view of sex to provoking men to rape women. What's your take on that?
"You can always come up with explanations if you want to blame people. It's like blaming Judas Priest, Ozzy or Marilyn Manson for all the killings which have been happening. I'm gonna rise up to the barricades for porn, I'm the greatest supporter. But basically everyone in a band is so I'm just quoting Lit!"
Every room is filled with rock'n' roll memorabilia. Album covers, posters and dolls - Black Sabbath, Kiss, Turbonegro but, first and foremost Elvis Presley.
"Elvis is sort of like a Jesus figure to a certain extent," believes Ville. "A guy had it all and fucked it all up. I've always been a huge fan of biographies, I collect them in card boxes in my 'attic'. I love stories about artist. They're all very similar towards the end. As they said when they advertised his latest #1 hits album : 'Before anybody did anything, Elvis did everything.' Basically he did, so I'm not under great deal of pressure, because everthing's already been done by Elvis or Andy McCoy". ( Erm, guitarist with 80 hair band Hanoi Rocks).
Removing a ton of debris, I'm finally able to recline in an old leather chair. Only to find a used thermometer on the armrest! Ville insist that he's only had it in his mouth, but not entirely convinced I stand up and check out the rest of the living room. There are vintage guitars in all shapes and forms: from '46, '57, '62,'62 and the 70s. All in all, the musician's forked out more than 15,000 English Pound amassing this impressive collection. Anywhere you look you'll also find dolls - on his latest trop to Los Angeles, Ville spent 2,000 English Pounds on Tim Burton dolls. But none of them are so precious as Tyllerö, a teddy bear given to him at the tender age of one. "It's full of piss 'cos I used to wet myself when I was young!" he cracks up.
Over the antique sofa rest a scary looking mannequin. It was purchased as a guardian angel to his girlfriend, but she hated it and when she moved Ville decided to keep it for company.
"Anton LaVey, founder of The Church of Satan had his own little doll house with loads of animated mannequins. I started with one and it's already lost its arms. I'll probably lose the head soon as well. I haven't been looking after her much lately, which is a bad thing. That's probably why she cut her arms off, to show me she's not happy with the situation. I call her different names, depending on the night." In his teens, Ville was a promising artist and attended art school. The urge to do music was stronger and he quit.
As a collector of self-portraits, I polity ask the Finn if he'd draw one for me. An hour later, Ville Valo's immortalised on canvas.
"What do I see in that self -portrait?" he ask rhetorically.
"A wannabe rock icon trying to do what every artist does when they've reached their certain peak of artistry. They normally try to do what Marilyn Manson did, for example. I just don't sell them, I give them for free to friends if they want them. Most of them don't, which is why I don't paint so much".
Weeks later he hands over the self portrait to me. It's been ripped to pieces and taped together. What the heck happened?
"After you left, my girlfriend or whatever I should call her, came over and saw it, "explains Ville. "She was very upset that I'd done a self-portrait for a journalist when I never do any drawings for her. I was totally drunk and to please her I kicked it into pieces".
And now, Ville's work of art is taking pride of place hanging obe rmy mantelpiece - a portrait of a true filth pig!