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Synnin viemää: Chapter Five (pp. 46-55)


Birth of the band, gigs at Teatro and a record deal

When HIM was starting out, Ville Valo was supposed to just play the bass, but soon he had to take on the role of the singer as well. When the band had been formed, it made its first own songs and did the first gigs, but the real stepping stone was Chris Isaak’s hit Wicked Game. And around this time Max from Apocalyptica found out that HIM has no mercy for those who sleep.

The first His Infernal Majesty – that’s what the band was called in the beginning – existed already in 1991, but that band fell apart because of the Finnish armed forces. Mige went to fulfill his manly needs by hanging an assault rifle in his hands and shitting in the woods.

Ville Valo says that the time in the army was good for Mige, and most likely Mige himself loved crawling in the woods too.

- They got him pretty well under control. Mige wasn’t lazy but pretty much a dump nevertheless. In the army, he learned a little discipline. But he was still insane when he got back, Ville says.

- My life at the time sucked so bad that even going to military service felt like fun, even though in a way it is a symbol for the worst kind of waste of time, Mige admits. – But you can waste your time in even worse ways than in the army, and I was doing just that back then. There wasn’t really any band. The people who had played in my old school bands had gone mad or left to hang out with lifestyle Indians. All my school bands ended up really bad. I probably would have been the next one to go down that road.

It had been a few years since the first His Infernal Majesty when Linde graduated high school. Now Ville and Linde were thinking about what they should do with their lives. Well, for one thing it would be fun to form a band and write some songs.

The two of them went to Lepakko to their friends’ rehearsal place to record a demo where Ville played the drums and sang while Linde played the bass and guitar parts. The songs on the demo were Serpent Ride, Borellus, and The Heartless.

Later, the demo version of Serpent Ride has spread far and wide on bootlegs and through the internet.

- In the beginning, the plan was to find our band a real drummer and singer, and I was supposed to start playing the bass, Ville says. – I had never sung in any band myself. I had practiced singing, and I wanted to do it, but I was very doubtful how it would work out. I didn’t really have confidence in myself, and at school I was always embarrassed of my voice. I had never sang in any choirs either, I just played the bass. But so it happened that little by little I just became the singer. It was a necessary evil because a band has to have a singer. So why not it be me, goddamnit.

Around this time, Mige finished his military service and wanted to come play the bass. That was fine with Ville and Linde. Now they just needed to find a drummer.

Ville and Mige had seen a band called Slumgudgeon from Lappeenranta play a gig at Tavastia, and their drummer was a guy called Pätkä. They had immediately noticed that the guy had class. Suho, the singer of Jimsonweed, knew well both Pätkä and Ville and his friends, and he gave Ville Pätkä’s phone number. Try this guy out.

- It felt like a really big step to give Pätkä a call because normally we had just played with our friends, Ville remembers. – But then we thought that our friends who knew how to play didn’t have the time. So I gathered up the courage to call Pätkä, and he rode his bike in his bike helmet all the way from Matkahuolto where he worked to the Roskapankki bar in Kallio to meet me. I played him our demo, and he decided he wanted to join. By then it was obvious that we had a band if I started singing. So the role of singer just kind of snuck up on me.

At that time, the band’s style wasn’t quite clear yet as far as the music or the appearance was concerned. Ville wore a fisherman sweater and gloves, and Mige had what Ville called an ape hair. Mige remembers that he actually had a fucking cool hairdo and he in a way started the whole goth thing in the band. Or actually he brought the whole goth scene to Finland because he’s a trendsetter like no other.

- I think I had a Prince Valiant hairdo back then, Linde remembers.

His Infernal Majesty, which now had four members, got a rehearsal place in Tapanila in the summer of 1995, and they rehearsed hard for about six months. The demo with Stigmata Diaboli, The Phantom Gate, and Wicked Game dates back to this period. The Chris Isaak song had often been playing in Ville’s head, and suddenly it felt like a good idea to make a rock version of it. Originally, Chris Isaak had recorded Wicked Game for his album Heart Shaped World released in 1989, but it became a hit only a year later when David Lynch used it in his movie Wild at Heart and Chris’s record company decided to release the song also as a single.

- We didn’t have a lot of our own songs when we played at that rehearsal place in Tapanila back then, Ville says. – We played maybe four or five times a week, as much as work and other things let us. Everyone still had a regular job in those days. Pätkä worked at Matkahuolto [private service and marketing company specialising in bus and coach services], Mige worked construction, and I think Linde was an assistant in a computer firm.

- So we wondered whether we should play a cover song to be able to play a full set. We wanted to find a song that people already knew that we could use as a kind of a calling card. It would give people a hint of what this band was about.

- Back then, I was a big fan of the David Lynch movies Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart, and so Wicked Game came to mind. I borrowed the Wild at Heart LP from the Pasila library and copied it onto a tape. Then Linde and I blocked it from the tape. It’s actually quite funny that we blocked it a little wrong. We couldn’t hear the guitar parts well enough because the sound quality of the tape wasn’t very good. We also heard the lyrics a little wrong, and later when we recorded the song for our first EP, it has a few funny errors in the lyrics. Back then, we didn’t have the internet to double-check things.

- Wicked Game was a pretty easy choice because it’s such a simple song and it fit my voice. It worked right away at rehearsals because the whole song only has three chords. The original version is very 50’s. Through that song, we found a lot of the final sound of HIM. That we didn’t necessarily have to play things that were really complicated like we had tried to do in the past. Straight-forward rock like that can be more fun, it takes you a little closer to AC/DC. But musicians often try to be a bit more refined and more skilled than they actually are.

- And of course it mattered that Wicked Game is a sad song. It’s like a Finnish, melancholic lament of love, almost an infernal love song. It gave me a lot of clues – that, hey, you can write texts like that too. Finding Wicked Game was an important step to getting where we are now.

His Infernal Majesty played their first real gig at the Teatro club on December 19, which also happened to be Mige’s birthday. Getting the gig was made easier by the fact that Mige worked at Teatro and his big brother Helmut was one of the owners of the club.

The main act of the night was Kauko Röyhkä who had recently released an album called Jumalan lahja [Gift of God] that flirted with Satanism. The poster advertising the gig had Röyhkä’s name in big letters on it and underneath it the text ‘His Infernal Majesty’ in smaller print. That made some of the audience think that Kauko Röyhkä had taken a new pseudonym that was this bold and impressive. That’s why before the gig the audience demanded His Infernal Majesty to take the stage.

When the real His Infernal Majesty got on stage, Kauko Röyhkä’s fans were confused and disappointed. What shit is this? Ville Valo and company didn’t cause any positive reactions because the fans of Röyhkä’s Finnish-language rock didn’t care for their kind of music at all. In addition to that, the wires that Mige had put together kept cracking and breaking. The technical aspects weren’t quite under control yet.

His Infernal Majesty’s next gig was also at Teatro. Now it was turn for a Suolirassi concert where bands played covers from different bands.

That night Apocalyptica played their first official gig, and of course they played Metallica covers. His Infernal Majesty, on the other hand, played Type O Negative, and they needed a keyboard player for that. Mige remembered his old school mate with whom he had played a few humppa gigs under the name Broadway Angels.

The friend’s name was Janne Puurtinen, and he later became known as Burton.

Teatro was sold out that night, and the atmosphere got wild. His Infernal Majesty were more than happy with their part, but they couldn’t even dream of real success at this point.

- We didn’t go around thinking that we were going to conquer the world, Ville says. – We just wanted to try our best. Linde and I figured that we didn’t want regular jobs. We would rather seriously try with the music at least one time.

- I think we got paid with beer for that Suolirassi gig, Ville continues. – Afterwards, we had a classic Suolirassi after party at that 24-square-meter flat of mine. There must have been twenty people there. Max from Apocalyptica passed out on my futon right away, and we had to roll him onto the floor so that people could sit on the bed. Next thing that happened was that Max wet himself and the piss spread on all the CDs. Yeah, and before that we had shoved, in the spirit of Suolirassi [suolirassi = ”ass pipe cleaner”], a smoking pipe cleaner into Max’s ass and drawn his face full of pictures of pussy. Pätkä got so mad about him pissing on the CDs that he picked Max up by the collar and threw him out the door into the hallway head first.

- I saw Max afterwards and asked him what was up. Max said he had wandered around the Forum shopping center with his face covered in drawings of pussy. He hadn’t noticed them, Burton says. – The smoking pipe cleaner he found in his ass only when he was at home taking a shower. It was in the bathroom mirror that he saw his face too.

- Mige still has that Bloody Kisses album by Type O Negative with the leaflet all wrinkled from Max’s piss, Ville notes.

- It could be worth something, Mige says enthusiastically. – Max is pretty much a legend now because he left Apocalyptica when they were on top! It’s worth its weight in gold, and it’s even decorated with a golden shower. But when all that happened, I was blinded with rage. I still was a fan of Type O Negative back then, and it was unbearable that someone pissed on it.

- It could be that the pissing was an unconscious revenge for the smoking pipe cleaner, Ville ponders.

- We took Max’s virginity with the smoking pipe cleaner. We did apologize for it very sincerely later on, though, and he hasn’t held a grudge, Mige assures us. – So that was the kind of night we had with Ass-pipe-cleaner Max. I think he has to move pretty far up north to lose that nickname.

Now HIM got a few gigs of its own too. The band wanted to play their own songs, but because they didn’t have enough of them really, in addition to Wicked Game, the half-an-hour set was made longer by adding to it songs like Temple of Love by Sisters of Mercy, Live to Tell by Madonna, I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight by Cutting Crew, Take My Breath Away by Berlin, and Enjoy the Silence by Depeche Mode,

And of course the band kept spreading their demo that featured Stigmata Diaboli, The Phantom Gate, and Wicked Game. Out of foreign record labels, Roadrunner and Nuclear Blast responded that they weren’t interested. Out of Finnish labels, Spinefarm and Stupido Twins were more interested, and Spinefarm even asked for additional material. But then both labels came to the conclusion that the music was too commercial for them.

Through Suho from Jimsonweed, Ville had met Kari Hynninen who back then had a record label called Zen Garden. Ville gave the demo to Kari who in turn gave it to Asko Kallonen from BMG. Maybe he could find some use for the music of His Infernal Majesty.

- HIM’s tape was in a pile of demos that I was listening to at home, Asko Kallonen says. – I still remember it well because I very rarely listen to demos at home. From that pile popped up a tape with a black-and-white photo of a rough-looking group and a photocopy with the text “call me if you’re interested”.

- The first song of the demo was one of their own songs, and I thought that they weren’t quite there yet with the song-making, but at least they have an interesting sound and a good singer. That was the first thing that came to mind. Wicked Game was the second song. I thought what the fuck, that’s a brilliant version. The other songs weren’t very good, but Wicked Game was so tough that I played it at a meeting at work the very next day. I told the others to guess what country the band was from. People thought it could be from Sweden. I said no, they’re from Helsinki.

Asko says that he called Ville soon after the meeting and asked him to drop by.

- When Asko called me, I first thought it was a prank call, Ville says. – When I went to meet Asko at the record company, I put on all my fanciest clothes and was about to piss my pants. Asko asked how I felt about doing an EP. He must have thought that Wicked Game was a good song, let’s squeeze as much money out of it as we can. It was one of the happiest days of my life.

- This guy with long hair came to the meeting, Asko Kallonen says. – Ville was actually pretty much like he is now. My first feeling was that he was very suspicious, of course. But at the same time, I thought that he had a clear vision. I didn’t get a feeling that this guy is going to be a star or anything like that, but he was pretty sure of himself. I mean sure of himself in a good way.

- I was about to suggest that let’s make a deal and a record, and Ville was like yeah. In the end, we decided to first publish an EP. Ville seemed to be fine with that. And it was fine with me too. Actually, the situation was that I had been working for BMG for three years, and that whole time I had dreamt about starting a rock label for them as well. But I also understood that starting an indie rock label is not necessarily the first thing you should do in a big record company. First you had to make some money with big pop successes. We had already been successful with a couple things, like Aikakone and Samuli Edelmann, and with them we kind of found a good flow.

Asko Kallonen was just in the process of hunting down new rock bands for the upcoming record label, when he got hold of HIM’s tape. Another band he had signed around that time was Wilma. And it felt like a better option to start from an EP rather than an album with HIM because the band didn’t have enough songs and because the record company didn’t know yet whether Finland was ready for this kind of music. In the spring of 1996, there wasn’t much demand for Finnish rock that was sung in English.

- I didn’t even know for sure whether HIM was any good because at that time I hadn’t even seen them live, Asko says. – That’s why it was better to take things slowly and see what would happen.

At the same time, there was a band contest at Teatro where the winner was promised a gig opening for Bon Jovi at the Olympic Stadium and a record deal with Warner. The guys from His Infernal Majesty wondered whether it was worth participating in. The then super journalist from Radio City, Jone Nikula, told Ville that it wasn’t even worth thinking about things like that: Asko Kallonen was the only person fit to handle Ville’s band’s affairs.

So they skipped the contest. It was won by Lemonators.

When His Infernal Majesty had signed a record deal with BMG, Juha Torvinen, who signed bands for Poko Records, called Ville. But it was already too late.

His Infernal Majesty was ready to go to the studio to make their first record.

Now it was time to change the name to HIM.

From the book HIM - Synnin viemää by J.K. Juntunen (WSOY, 2002). Translated and posted here with permission of the author. Do not post this translation on any other site.


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 20th, 2009 06:35 pm (UTC)
demanded Him Infernal Majesty to take the stage

His Infernal Majesty, I suppose it is. ;)

Mige went to fulfill his manly needs by hanging an assault rifle in his hands and shitting in the woods.

The author has an extremely funny writing-style, lol.

Thanks for this. :)
Oct. 20th, 2009 06:49 pm (UTC)
Naturally, it's fixed now. (I also invented a new HIM song called Serpent Gate, but luckily I caught that in time. ;))

He really does. I hope I manage to do it some justice.
Oct. 20th, 2009 06:36 pm (UTC)
"Mige went to fulfill his manly needs by hanging an assault rifle in his hands and shitting in the woods." LMAO

Thank you for the translation, it's nice to discover something more about their history in every chapter. By the way, poor Max :)))
Oct. 20th, 2009 06:52 pm (UTC)
Poor Max indeed! :) (Actually, I think they got a little lucky with that one. I'm sure there could have been consequences...)
Oct. 20th, 2009 07:08 pm (UTC)
Mige went to fulfill his manly needs by hanging an assault rifle in his hands and shitting in the woods.

(...) he in a way started the whole goth thing in the band. Or actually he brought the whole goth scene to Finland because he’s a trendsetter like no other.

Hahahaha, that sure sounds like him. ^^

His Infernal Majesty played their first real gig at the Teatro club on December 19, which also happened to be Mige’s birthday.

And mine! Aww. :)
Oct. 20th, 2009 10:37 pm (UTC)
Thanks again for this!
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 21st, 2009 10:55 am (UTC)
Thanks again for all your hard work. Love the read.
Oct. 21st, 2009 10:58 am (UTC)
I've started reading this chapter. Mige is really an interesting and funny person. I love his laid back attitude about certain things !
Thanks again for doing this and thanks to the author too allow you officially to do the translations :)
Oct. 21st, 2009 02:40 pm (UTC)
you can guess which sentence made me LOL :D
Thank you so much for doing this. I hope you enjoy translating this, because we really enjoy reading it! :)
Oct. 21st, 2009 04:20 pm (UTC)
Thanks a lot once again :) I really enjoyed reading it...;) And now I always see a picture of Linde with a Prince Valiant haircut *loooool* amazing!
Oct. 21st, 2009 07:17 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this chapter. Really enjoyed it. You are making me very happy :))
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )