Him Again: There was a period in the mid-naughts when Finnish gothic rock band HIM broke, and it felt like people basically melted. Every human being who was attracted to men, and a few who previously didn’t know that they were, seemed to gush over impossibly charismatic frontman Ville Valo and the music that he and his band tagged “love metal.”

The band was about more than a handsome goth frontman though, that “love metal” was really a contemporary take on poetic goth, with some crunchy riffs. It was sweeter than bands such as Paradise Lost or Type O Negative that were floating around at the time, but heavier than old vamp faves like Bauhaus and the Mission. When Kat Von D and Jackass’ Bam Margera publicly professed their love for HIM, it all clicked.

Valo rode that wave with his bandmates for a while. 2013’s Tears on Tape was HIM’s eighth and final studio album, a full decade ago now. Valo has been keeping busy between that and Neon Noir, his new solo album (released under the moniker VV). But of course, the pandemic shat on his plans.

“All good things go round in 20-year cycles,” he says. “I calculated that if we were strong with my previous band in the early naughts, then now is exactly the right time to come back. It’s like flared trousers, bell-bottoms. They’re in and out of fashion, and I guess it’s the same thing with goth rock or whatever kind of racket it is that I make. HIM disbanded in 2017, and it took me a while to get my shit together and then also the pandemic was there to stop it all for a wee bit. I decided to use that time to record the first album under the VV moniker. I think it’s also important to step out from the limelight, because there’s overexposure on social media these days. I like the mystery. I always liked artists like that – that you don’t know so much about them. They go ahead, turn into a bat and fly away for a couple of years, and then re-emerge from a coffin near you.”

Due to the fact that Valo was the natural focal point and that he wrote all the songs, there was always a perception from the outside that HIM was a solo project. In fact, it was a group of like-minded school friends coming together. That’s why is doesn’t feel appropriate to Valo to release his new stuff under the HIM banner.

“At the end of the day, HIM had been around for such a long time that it’s not necessarily a pro,” he says. “There’s a lot of cons to being in a band that have ‘been there and done that.’ So I felt that it’s nicer to start semi-fresh. We’re still playing a ton of HIM tracks as well, so I do consider this to be a transitional point musically speaking. Somewhere in between HIM and whatever the future might hold.”

Ultimately, the VV music is gothic rock, with Valo’s voice, so there are similarities with HIM. But there are differences, too.

“It’s quite solitary working on the album by myself, because I ended up recording it by myself, too, and that was partly due to the pandemic and partly because of me being a self-obsessed Prince fanatic,” Valo says. “I played all the instruments, and I produced and recorded it as well. I put together a home studio. I think it’s a bit more ‘80s, and new wave. It’s a little less metal and a bit more alt-rock. That’s how I see the overall big shapes and tonal differences. That’s where my head is at, and where my head has always been, but I wasn’t necessarily able to put all that stuff out with HIM. So it’s quite a rollercoaster ride of an album as well. There are a lot of moody bits and bobs. Not experimental in a proggy sense, but it’s not your three-and-a-half minute pop-punk track, X 18.”

Valo, who is still based in Helsinki, Finland, said that the themes on the album are very much related to feelings that emerged during the pandemic. Feelings of inadequacy and imposter syndrome. That might seem crazy when considering the aforementioned outpouring of international love that Valo has experienced. But our minds can be tricky beasts.

“They’re feelings that I hadn’t felt in many years,” Valo said. “Do I belong here? Is this really what I want to do? What is the meaning of all this? Does it make sense or not? The overarching theme, if you want to really look for one, is a celebration of the fact that we’re all broken in our own weird, wonderful and endearing ways, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a celebration of being fucked up, I guess. It’s something that we used to maybe sweep underneath the carpet, back in the day. I think that the more mistakes you make, the more you learn, hopefully, if you don’t keep repeating the same mistakes. So in that sense, it’s a celebration of those mistakes. And through that, it is a wee bit nostalgic, melancholy and dark. That’s the Finn in me. You can’t take it out of the equation.”

Valo, as VV, will be at the Belasco on April 18 and April 19, and the man is excited to be back. He’s spent a lot of time here in the past.

“We mixed, recorded and produced several albums there,” he says. “I’ve spent a lot of time in Los Angeles. It’s such a vast area with so many different scenes and areas, with totally different vibes. We started from the Strip, so we played the Viper, the Whisky, the Roxy, and the House of Blues. Most of the time it’s been that or the Valley, because the Valley used to have quite a lot of studios. So I know Los Angeles from a musical perspective, and a touring perspective. But I still haven’t been to the Hollywood sign, or the Observatory, and I still don’t know Downtown at all.”

He’ll get to know Downtown a bit when he plays the Belasco. After this U.S. run, VV will be touring all over Europe and hopefully the world.

“There’s going to be a lot of gigging,” Valo says in conclusion. “It’s good after the break to show the people that I’m still alive and semi-kicking. The kicks might not be as high as they used to be, but I’m still going for it.”

Him Again: VV’s album Neon Noir is out now. He plays the Belasco on April 18 and April 19.

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