Transforming them from Finnish pariahs to one of the most popular rock bands on the planet, ‘Love Metal’ was the record that would define HIM. Eleven years on and ahead of their Sonisphere appearance next weekend, we give you the inside story.
'Love Metal' was inducted into the Rock Sound Hall Of Fame in issue 174.
RELEASED: April 14, 2003
PRODUCERS: Hiili Hiilesmaa & Tim Palmer
PERSONNEL: Ville Valo (vocals), Mikko Lindström (guitar), Janne Puurtinen (keyboards), Miko Paananen (bass), Mika Karppinen (drums).
ARTWORK: Ville Valo
While their first three albums had brought them success in Europe and their native land respectively, early 2003 found HIM next to unknown in much of the English-speaking world. However, Ville Valo and the rest of HIM were set to change all of that...
Ville Valo (vocals): “‘Love Metal’ was the first album of ours that anyone cared about in the UK. Before that, people hated us – we were spat upon! After it came out, people started to get into what we were doing.”
Miko ‘Migé’ Paananen (bass): “We came out of a real period of confusion, and that album brought everything together.”
Ville Valo: “The previous record [‘Deep Shadows And Brilliant Highlights’] was a terrible experience for us, as we ended up recording for about 11 months while on tour. Record companies were pushing us constantly because things were starting to go well, and we thought we were so extremely good that we could fart an album out. It didn’t quite work that way (laughs)! Our keyboard player quit in the middle of it and we had to search for a new one... It was a really stressful time. When we started working after that, we had to reassess everything about ourselves, where we were going and what we wanted to be. It pushed us to go back to our roots. We started to think of Black Sabbath again.”
Mikko ‘Linde’ Lindström (guitar): “I vaguely remember that I felt really confident – perhaps even a bit over-confident – with my playing and everything at that time, for some weird reason. Maybe because my daughter was about to be born and I felt like a man, for once.”
Migé Paananen: “That album came out of us jamming, banging our heads and sweating everything out in the rehearsal room. We got all the biggest riffs we could together and threw them at it.”
Stronger and with more creative focus than ever before, HIM got down to work with producers Hiili Hiilesmaa and Tim Palmer. With Jackass star Bam Margera trumpeting them in the US, everything seemed set for a triumph...
Ville Valo: “We always feel like the new album is the definitive album, and ‘Love Metal’ was no different – but that time it kind of came true! We felt strong, like a gang of brothers. There was a lot of positive energy in the air – or at least as much as you can get with such a morose bunch as us!”
Hiili Hiilesmaa (producer): “That was a very special session, and [at the same time] America was starting to open week by week. Bam Margera was causing a huge noise about the band. The material was very powerful and we had a clear vision of how to work it out.”
Migé Paananen: “It was pretty magical, the way it came together. There was a really weird feel to the session, which really helped us capture the right atmosphere. Hiili brought in all these animal masks – my most vivid memory of the time is this mental image of Hiili, wearing nothing but a chicken mask. It’s haunted me ever since!”
Ville Valo: “I remember writing most of the lyrics when I had a really high fever, so it took me years to understand what I was actually singing about! I don’t remember much of it at all. There’s a very, very fine line with it verging on comedy...”
Migé Paananen: “We were debating for a while whether to put the heartagram logo on the cover. I loved it from the first time I saw it – I was the first person in the world to get it tattooed. The tattooist was like, ‘What the hell is this, a heart and a coathanger?’ That didn’t help our decision!”
Ville Valo: “I genuinely believe the heartagram is the best work I’ve ever done.
After the album came out and Bam Margera kind of adopted it, the symbol spread so quickly, to the point where it transcended our band altogether. We’ve even been asked why we’ve stolen Bam’s logo before! We found the identity of the band on that record, so in that sense it was important to have the heartagram on the cover. It was like a coat of arms, as well as our way of tipping a hat to Venom’s ‘Black Metal’.”
Linde Lindström: “I love the Heartagram! What makes it clever is the fact that it’s so simple, like another version of Yin and Yang. You don’t even have to be a HIM fan to appreciate it.”
Ville Valo: “I remember the energy more than anything else. We just kept going forward and forward; it felt like we were unstoppable. It was like being in Las Vegas and having a good night on roulette – everything came together. Luck is such a big factor in music, and that was a lucky time for us.”
With the album finished, HIM were finally ready to take their unique sound and aesthetic to a global level. They would never forget the insanity that followed – and neither would their livers...
Ville Valo: “Bam brought us out to LA to film a video for ‘Buried Alive By Love’, with Juliette Lewis. We were like a random hobo posse, wandering the streets of Los Angeles and hanging out at the Groucho Club every day. It was bizarre. We were constantly laughing at how surreal everything was, travelling from one rock ‘n’ roll Mecca to another.”
Migé Paananen: After ‘Love Metal’ came out we started to get a lot more attention from the big record companies: everyone was trying to get a piece of us. We’d go for breakfast at the mansions of these legendary music moguls, and you’d go for a piss looking at a photo of them hanging out with John Lennon!”
Ville Valo: ‘Love Metal’ also opened up the UK for us, and it’s important to be recognised there. If they like you in the UK, no one can say your band is shit. Spending time [in the UK] was an education, and an education that was definitely bad for the liver!”
Migé Paananen: “We flew all over the world playing shows and filming videos, getting fucked up with Bam. We did the video for ‘The Sacrament’ in this old mansion in Prague, where the Nazis used to hold all these inhuman orgies – and [the video shoot for] ‘The Funeral Of Hearts’ was even more intense. We went to the Arctic sea in the middle of all these icy mountains, and Ville was rowing a boat at five o’clock in the morning, when it was minus 35 degrees. The director kept shouting, ‘Row further, row further!’”
Ville Valo: “It was the first time we had a real focus and direction for a record, because beforehand we didn’t have a clue what we were doing. It was us saying, ‘This is what we are, this is the core essence of HIM.’ We really captured it.”
Linde Lindström: “They’re absolutely beautiful songs with pretty reckless, over-confident guitar playing, too. It’s easily in our top four albums in my opinion.”
Hiili Hiilesmaa: “I think it sounds timeless, like most of their albums. We had some very special moments when we did those tracks.”
Migé Paananen: “The stars aligned with ‘Love Metal.’”
Ville Valo: “It was the soundtrack to a very fast paced and colourful time in our lives. We went from taking baby steps to making a giant leap, and I still love playing some of the songs. It’s a very special album.”