VV's Ville Valo Embraces His '80s Musical Influences on New Solo Effort

Finnish singer-songwriter's new band performs on April 5 at House of Blues

click to enlarge Ville Valo. - Courtesy of Freeman Promotions
Courtesy of Freeman Promotions
Ville Valo.
After his very successful rock band H.I.M. split up in 2017, VV singer-songwriter Ville Valo says it took him a minute to get a bearing on what to do next.

“I did a project in Finland, and we played Finnish pop songs from the ‘60s and ‘70s,” he says via Zoom from a tour stop in Spain. VV performs on Wednesday, April 5, at House of Blues. “It was a complete 180 from what I had done before. That was great in terms of cleansing the palate. At that time, I had to reorganize and defragment my brain.”

Then, three years ago, he put together some demos to build a band in what he refers to as “a traditional rock ’n’ roll sense.” But when the pandemic hit, he wound up recording, engineering and producing resulting album, Neon Noir, on his own.

“It was my Prince trip, and I had my little Paisley Park going on in Helsinki.” says Valo of the album. “It’s a very singular vision. It’s like a racehorse with blinkers on, and it sounds a bit different from the stuff I have done before. But I did write most of the H.I.M. songs. [Neon Noir] leans somewhere between Depeche Mode and Black Sabbath. It’s still very melancholy and melodic and can be poppy at times. It retains that Sabbath/Queens of the Stone Age heaviness.”

Valo says the album celebrates the fact that “we are all a little bit broken,” as he puts it, and he says the album’s approach stems partly from the music he listened to while growing up.

“Not unlike Depeche Mode’s [1986 album] Black Celebration, it’s not celebrating bad or evil stuff,” he says. “It’s celebrating he fact that we are human. Poop does hit the fan on occasion, and there is no reason to be ashamed of it. We don’t have to sweep it underneath the carpet. We can be happy about it and dance about it. It’s that idea of radiating darkness. The 1980s is all about big choruses and big hooks. That is how I hear music. I like music to be anthemic and big and hymnal and pompous, and that, to me, is fun. I do love Bob Dylan and songs that tells stories lyrically, but my blood doesn’t work that way. I need the big choruses.”

Valo says he used an out-of-tune piano on the careening synth-pop album “Salute the Sanguine,” one of the first songs he wrote as he began work on the album. With its sonic density, it stands out was one of the LP's best tracks.

“I like sounds where you can’t tell if it’s synths," says Valo. "['Salute the Sanguine'] may be the most H.I.M.-like song on the album. It has a bit of Billy Idol in it. It’s romantic, like my music in general. And yet, my tongue is still firmly in cheek. I know I am not a new romantic but an old romantic.”

Neon Noir certainly proves Valo’s ability to go it on his own, something that he didn’t take for granted while making the album.

“I think I had a lot to prove, not only to the listeners but to myself,” he says, adding that he'll have new band members backing him when he plays in Cleveland next month. “I didn’t know if I could pull it off, especially going the Prince route and doing everything by myself. But I was up for a challenge. I had to create an album out of nothing. It was many a sleepless night, man. I’m sort of an old dog in the business, but it would be a terrible mistake to do things just the way I have done them before — to just rehearse and go into the studio. There was no noise from the band. It was just me. I wasn’t brainstorming with anybody but just working on the music 24-7. I could focus on the details that I couldn’t focus on in the past. I skipped a few lunches in the process; let's put it that way.”

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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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