Ville Hermanni Valo (born 22 November 1976) is a Finnish singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, best known as the lead vocalist and main songwriter of the Finnish rock band HIM. Prior to HIM, Valo played bass and drums in various bands around Helsinki, as well as occasionally working at his father's sex shop as a teenager.
Valo formed HIM with bassist Mikko "Mige" Paananen in the early 1990s, and in 1997, the band released their debut album Greatest Lovesongs Vol. 666. HIM achieved international success in 2000, with their sophomore album Razorblade Romance, and the hit single "Join Me in Death". Razorblade Romance was followed by Deep Shadows and Brilliant Highlights and Love Metal in 2001 and 2003, respectively, and in 2005, HIM became the first Finnish band ever to receive a gold record in the United States, for the album Dark Light. In 2007, HIM released Venus Doom, the making of which was marred by personal difficulties faced by Valo, including a nervous breakdown and his worsened alcohol abuse. Valo was eventually admitted to the Promises Rehabilitation Clinic, and in 2010, HIM released Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice, the first album Valo worked on entirely sober. Following a hiatus, brought on by nerve damage sustained by drummer Gas Lipstick, HIM released Tears on Tape in 2013.
Aside from HIM, Valo has collaborated with various musicians during his career, including guest vocal appearances on albums by Apocalyptica, Cradle of Filth and Anathema, as well as playing bass with Jeff Walker und Die Fluffers, and drums with Daniel Lioneye. In 2016, Valo released his first solo single, entitled "Olet mun kaikuluotain", a Finnish translation of John Denver's "Annie's Song", which charted at number 1 in Finland.
Valo has a baritone voice type with a five octave range, and was found, by VVN Music, to possess the eight-highest vocal range of any known singer in popular music. He was ranked number 80 in Hit Parader's "Top 100 Metal Vocalists of All Time". Valo is also the creator of the heartagram, the trademarked symbol of HIM, which he first drew on his twentieth birthday.
Ville Hermanni Valo was born on 22 November 1976 in Helsinki, Finland, to Kari and Anita Valo. A few months after Ville's birth, the Valo-family moved from Vallila to Oulunkylä, where Ville later attended comprehensive school. Anita Valo worked at a shoe shop, and later as an employee of the city of Helsinki, while Kari Valo was a taxi driver. He later gave up this profession, and opened a sex shop in Helsinki, called Aikuisten lelukauppa, where Ville worked occasionally as a teenager.
Valo first became interested in music at the age of eight, when he bought the album Animalize by Kiss, and soon thereafter began playing bass. While in school, Valo joined his first band called B.L.O.O.D., and eventually met future HIM-bandmates Mikko "Mige" Paananen and Mikko "Linde" Lindström. While attending the Helsinki Pop & Jazz Conservatory Valo began playing bass and drums in several different bands, including the Eloveena Boys, Donits-Osmo Experience and Aurora, which also featured Linde on guitar. Around this time, he also met future HIM-drummer Mika "Gas Lipstick" Karppinen. Valo applied to the Sibelius High School of music and dance, but was rejected, and eventually dropped-out of high school altogether to concentrate on his music. Ville Valo was permitted not to perform Finland's national military service, on the account that he suffers from asthma.
HIM was formed in the early 1990s by Valo and bassist Mige, under the name His Infernal Majesty. The band however broke-up in 1993, but was reformed in 1995, with guitarist Linde Lindström. Later joined by keyboardist Antto Melasniemi and drummer Juhana "Pätkä" Rantala, the band, now called "HIM", released their debut album Greatest Lovesongs Vol. 666 in 1997. In 2000, now with drummer Gas Lipstick and keyboardist Juska Salminen, HIM released Razorblade Romance, which reached number 1 in Finland, Austria and Germany. Its first single, "Join Me in Death", also charted at number 1 in Finland and Germany, eventually going platinum in the former.
Following the addition of Janne "Burton" Puurtinen on keyboards, the band released Deep Shadows and Brilliant Highlights and Love Metal in 2001 and 2003, respectively. Both cracked the top ten in several countries, and became the band's first albums to chart in the United Kingdom and the United States. After relocating to the US, HIM released Dark Light in 2005, which became the group's most successful album to date, going gold in Germany, the UK, the US, and platinum in Finland.
In 2007, HIM released Venus Doom, which went gold in Finland and Germany, and gave the band their highest US-chart position at number 12. After 2010's Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice, the band went on hiatus after drummer Gas Lipstick was diagnosed with a repetitive stress injury and nerve damage in his hands. After eight months of uncertainty, the band regrouped and eventually released the album Tears on Tape in 2013. In 2015, Gas Lipstick announced his departure from HIM after 16 years, to pursue other musical projects. He was subsequently replaced by Jukka "Kosmo" Kröger.
Other musical work
Valo has collaborated with several different musicians during his career. He sang back-up vocals on the albums Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams, Wasting the Dawn, Blessed Be and Paris Kills by The 69 Eyes, in 1997, 1999, 2000 and 2002 respectively, and appeared in the music video for "Wasting the Dawn". Also in 1999, Valo sang three songs with Finnish schlager band the Agents, on their Laulava sydän -album. In 2000, Valo sang on the track "Valo yössä" on the Tuomari Nurmio -tribute album Tuomarin todistajat. In 2001, Valo (under the pseudonym "Bil Bao") played drums on HIM-guitarist Linde Lindström's The King of Rock 'n Roll -album, which was released under the moniker Daniel Lioneye. He also appeared on two tracks on Five Fifteen's album Death of a Clown. In 2004, Valo collaborated with Apocalyptica and Lauri Ylönen of The Rasmus on the song "Bittersweet", which was released on Apocalyptica's 2005 self-titled album. A music video, directed by Antti Jokinen, was also produced.
In 2005, Valo guested on the song "Something Diabolical" by the Bloodhound Gang, off their Hefty Fine -album. On December 15, 2005, he performed at the Roadrunner United -concert, at the Nokia Theater in New York City. In 2006, Valo performed bass and backing vocals on Welcome to Carcass Cuntry by Jeff Walker und Die Fluffers, as well as sang on Cradle of Filth's Thornography-album, on the track "The Byronic Man". Also in 2006, Valo performed the songs "Kun minä kotoani läksin" and "Täällä Pohjantähden alla" on the Finnish collaboration album Synkkien laulujen maa, the latter of which was a duet with Kari Tapio. In August 2006, Valo joined Anathema's Daniel Cavanagh on stage twice, for a performance of "Inner Silence". In 2007, Valo performed a duet of "Summer Wine", with Polish-German actress and singer Natalia Avelon, for the film Eight Miles High. A music video was also filmed for the collaboration. Also in 2007, Valo guested on Manna's album Sister, on the song "Just for Tonight".
In 2010, Valo sang back-up vocals on Anathema's "Angels Walk Among Us", off their We're Here Because We're Here -album, and remixed the tracks "Acoustic Funeral", "Like St. Valentine", and "Katherine Wheel", with his brother Jesse Valo, on the HIM-album SWRMXS, under the moniker "öö". Also in 2010, Valo mixed HIM-bassist Mige's album Cimmerica, which was released under the pseudonym MZ. In 2014, Ville Valo was featured on Lullacry's Legacy 1998-2014, on the track "Whisper in the Chaos '97". On December 29, 2014, Valo performed solo under the pseudonym "Rambo Rimbaud" at the Helldone-festival in Helsinki. On December 30, 2014, Valo rejoined Daniel Lioneye on drums for a performance at Helldone. In 2016, Ville Valo appeared on the song "Lusifer" from Teho Majamäki's album Travelogue, as well as performed on MGT's cover of "Knowing Me, Knowing You" by ABBA, for which a music video was also made, directed by Ville Juurikkala. On July 4, 2016, Ville Valo released his first solo single, a cover of "Olet mun kaikuluotain" by Freeman, a Finnish translation of "Annie's Song" by John Denver. The official music video was released on July 11. "Olet mun kaikuluotain" eventually reached number 1 in Finland. Also in 2016, Valo sang back-up on The Mission's "Met-amor-phosis" and Andy McCoy's "Xmas Song", which were released on September 2 and December 6 respectively. A music video for "Xmas Song" was also released.
Film and television appearances
Aside from several talk show and performance appearances, Valo has appeared in several films and TV series over his career. In 1998, he played the role of "Lippumies" in the Ilppo Pohjola directed short film Asphalto. Valo has often collaborated with Bam Margera, appearing in the films CKY 3, Haggard: The Movie, 411 Productions Presents: 61: The Bam Issue, Jackass Number Two, and Bam Margera Presents: Where the ♯$&% Is Santa?, as well as Margera's TV series Viva La Bam. In 2008, Valo voiced the character "Moto Moto" in the Finnish dub of Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa.
When asked about the possibility of becoming an actor, Valo responded by saying "I've had offers in the past. Nothing too big, nothing too interesting. But I'm not an actor. I've always felt that we need to sell about 80 million copies more for me to become an actor, a painter, an opera singer or a TV personality."
Valo currently resides in Helsinki, Finland, and in 2006 he bought a 19th-century house designed by Carl Ludvig Engel in Munkkiniemi, which was put back on sale in October 2015. Valo dated Finnish television host and model Jonna Nygrén in the early 2000s. The two got engaged in 2005, but broke-up a year later. The couple briefly got back together in 2006, but broke-up again in 2007. In 2009, Valo was briefly involved in a relationship with an undisclosed partner, which served as the main inspiration for HIM's 2010 album Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice. In March 2012, Valo was linked to Parisian Sandra Mittica. In April 2015, the couple were reported to have broken-up. In September 2016, Valo was linked to Finnish model Christel Karhu. Valo is also a vegetarian. In 2004, Kerrang!-magazine named him the biggest sex symbol at the time. Valo responded to these claims, stating "To be honest, I don't know what a sex symbol is. Compliments are nice, but I've always liked compliments on the music more."
During a 2005 US tour, Valo's drink was spiked in Minneapolis. He suffered minor injuries and was robbed of his jacket, asthma medicine, cigarettes, credit cards and cell phone. In February 2006, Valo was reportedly arrested at his home in Finland after allegedly threatening to kill his neighbor and resisting arrest. Valo later elaborated on the incident stating that "It was a guy just talking a lot of bull about me and my fiancée [...] And I got pissed off, I went to his door [...] I kicked the door, he opened the door and I told him that if he was ever gonna talk badly about me and my girl, he was gonna end up being dead, and I punched him in the face, and that's the whole thing." On December 6, 2006, Valo attended the Presidential Independence Day reception at Finland's presidential palace.
Valo has been a regular alcohol user much of his life. He got drunk for the first time at age 13, and on more than one occasion, Valo has also been reported to have performed intoxicated. In 2000, Valo reportedly tried committing suicide by jumping off a balcony, while under the influence, but was stopped by friends. Following his separation with Jonna Nygrén, Valo's alcohol abuse worsened, to the point that he was vomiting and defecating blood. According to Valo, he neither slept nor ate for weeks. Things came to a head, when Valo suffered a nervous breakdown during the recording of HIM's 2007 album Venus Doom. Valo was able to pull himself together, until he suffered a relapse during the album's mixing stage. He was eventually admitted to the Promises Rehabilitation Clinic in Malibu, by the band's manager Seppo Vesterinen.
Following Valo's time in rehab, HIM released the album Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice, which was the band's first album that Valo recorded entirely sober. This also meant that the band rehearsed the material more than ever before. Since then, Valo has relapsed, but stated that he tries to balance his drinking, stating "I'm an on-and-off guy. If I drink, I drink properly, for long stretches of time. And if I don't drink, I don't drink at all."
Valo has several tattoos. He has a total of four heartagram tattoos; one on the back of his neck, one on his lower stomach, one around his left nipple, and one as the topper on the scepter of the Cosmic Pope. His left arm is covered with a full sleeve-tattoo, while his right arm has portraits of Timo K. Mukka, Charles Baudelaire and Charles Bukowski. On his right wrist Valo has a heart, surrounded by lettering, and on his bicep a monogram of Venus Doom, as well as an hourglass and an eye with a skull inside the pupil. On his chest Valo has a portrait of Maya Deren, and on his stomach Klaus Kinski sucking his thumb, while lying on a naked woman.
On his back Valo has the eyes of Edgar Allan Poe, which were done by Kat Von D and her then-husband Oliver Peck. On his lower back Valo has a variation of a hexagram, as well as the Estonian letter for "night". Valo shares this tattoo with his brother. The letter also has a minus sign inside one of the umlauts, which was done as a tribute to late Type O Negative -singer Peter Steele. On his legs Valo has an Egyptian symbol for a flame, as well as a pope with an astronaut's head and a heartagram scepter.
Artistry and influences
Ville Valo is the main songwriter of HIM and his songs largely deal with themes of love. When talking about his songwriting, Valo explained, "I didn't know how to cope with the world. Then I found an instrument, and through that I realized, that I am able to cope with the world and its evils, a bit better, through writing songs." When approaching lyrics, Valo has stated that "I feel like there is no subject more important for a song than relationships. It's the only thing than touches me." Valo also takes inspiration from literature, explaining, "As a guy who writes songs, I get excited about an idea, or a book, or a sentence. I don't necessarily get excited about the whole of Tolkien, I just get excited about Uruk-hai. Just a little detail that just makes my mind work overdrive." Valo and the rest of HIM have referred to their music as "love metal", the idea of which was to combine more melodic and melancholic elements, with heavier and rockier influences. Valo has described the music of HIM as "sentimental, hard-hitting rock music".
On his twentieth birthday, Valo created the heartagram, which would eventually become the symbol of HIM. A combination of a heart and a pentagram, the heartagram is meant to represent the juxtaposition of "the soft and the hard, the male and the female, the yin and the yang". Musically, the heart is also meant to represent the softer side of the band, while the pentagram conveys the harder rock-edge. Since its creation, Valo has stated that the heartagram "is probably the best thing I've ever come-up with", and that it's "worth a lot more than money" and "bigger than our band".
According to Valo, many of his favorite bands and musical influences include Black Sabbath, The Sisters of Mercy, Type O Negative, King Diamond, Elvis Presley, Neil Young, Fields of the Nephilim, Depeche Mode, Iron Maiden, Kiss, and The Stooges. Some of Valo's non-musical influences include Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Timo K. Mukka, Charles Baudelaire and Charles Bukowski, as well as Austin Osman Spare, Maya Deren and Shigeo Fukuda.
- "Olet mun kaikuluotain" (2016)
- Greatest Lovesongs Vol. 666 (1997)
- Razorblade Romance (1999)
- Deep Shadows and Brilliant Highlights (2001)
- Love Metal (2003)
- Dark Light (2005)
- Venus Doom (2007)
- Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice (2010)
- Tears on Tape (2013)
Guest and other appearances
- Asphalto (1998) as "Lippumies"
- CKY 3 (2001) as himself
- Haggard: The Movie (2003) as himself
- Viva La Bam (2003-2005) as himself
- 411 Productions Presents: 61: The Bam Issue (2004) as himself
- Jackass Number Two (2006) as himself
- Bam Margera Presents: Where the ♯$&% Is Santa? (2008) as himself
- Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008) as "Moto Moto" (Finnish dub)