Neon Noir

Neon Noir

With his first proper solo album since the dissolution of his former band, ex-HIM leader Ville Valo is testing his personal vision under the moniker VV. On Neon Noir, the Finnish vocalist and songwriter explores new facets of gothic rock by turning up his ’80s influences in tandem with moody David Lynch-isms and ’60s folk rock in an effort to, as he puts it, find the sweet spot between Depeche Mode and Black Sabbath. “After playing with HIM for a quarter century, it felt very daunting to call it a day,” he tells Apple Music. “It was such a huge part of my life. I really didn’t have any expectations about what would happen afterwards because I didn’t know if the inspiration would be there, or if I would just feel like I’d lost a limb. So, it took me a while to get inspired again.” After HIM split up in 2017 as one of the most commercially successful Finnish bands of all time, it took Valo over two years to pick up a guitar again. “I ended up producing and engineering and writing and doing everything by myself,” he explains. “I was stupid enough to think that that’s what a solo album’s supposed to be like. Some of it has to do with COVID because there was no chance to put a band together. But I’ve also always had a strange fascination with artists like Prince, who do everything by themselves. Because if you work completely in a solitary fashion, the vision is very undiluted. It doesn’t necessarily mean the result is better, but I think it’s more unique and special because you can hear who the artist really is.” Below, he details each track on Neon Noir. “Echolocate Your Love” “It was written during the darkest times of the pandemic. I’ve always been fascinated by bats and how they navigate using echolocation. I started thinking that maybe people should use the same at times—close your eyes and you can actually see and understand things better in the dark. And also, the classic line of ‘love is blind.’ In this case, you could interpret the darkness as being the pandemic. Let it wash you over because you’re going to be stronger afterwards.” “Run Away From the Sun” “That’s the first song I wrote for the album and the first song I wrote after HIM disbanded. So, it was a big deal for my self-confidence to be able to show myself that I can still pull it off and actually get a song that makes me tickle in just the right spots at the right time. I think the song is very ’80s—the whole album is pretty ’80s—but it’s quite anthemic. I was in a very bad place mentally and spiritually when I wrote it, and I couldn’t see a way out. So, I asked the one I love to join me in the darkness as opposed to trying to drag me out. It’s a love song.” “Neon Noir” “When I wrote this, I was still trying to find the right spot for me, which is somewhere in between Depeche Mode and Black Sabbath. The song has a very classic-rock feel to it with the guitars, but then the midsection has this shoegaze-y Cocteau Twins/Jesus and Mary Chain feel to it. I think I found a way to combine all that stuff within a single song and send as many mixed messages as I could for the listener. For me, the song represents the dance of life—all the good and bad that we go through in order to develop and grow as individuals.” “Loveletting” “It’s weird that this was the first single because it’s quite a departure. It does have similarities to my previous band, and you can recognize who’s singing, but it has a lot of folky influence to it. The verses of the song are very ’60s. I love Cat Stevens and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and all of that melancholy folk music of the time, and I was trying to bring some of that into the music, which is very new to me. It has a lot of ’80s dance-goth feel to it, too. That is very un-HIM.” “The Foreverlost” “That’s the second single, if I’m not mistaken, and it’s definitely the most gothic-rock song on the album. I was able to bring a lot of the musical perversions into the song that I wasn’t able to fulfill with HIM. The guys in HIM were more hard rockers, God bless them, but this time I didn’t have them holding me back. So, it’s very Sisters of Mercy, and it’s quite tongue in cheek as well because there’s a lyric about the ‘nyctophile’s Shangri-la,’ and that’s obviously Helsinki because it’s dark all the time here.” “Baby Lacrimarium” “‘Lacrimarium’ is a weird Latin word that I heard about from a friend. It’s what’s called a tear vessel, where back in the day people would weep and save their tears in a tiny jar. I just thought the idea was quite extraordinary. Lyrically speaking, I love combining good old ’50s or ’60s American, ‘(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear’ pop music with semi-poetic goth themes. Musically speaking, it’s the poppiest track on the album. It’s got a lot of jangly, clean guitars with the super-chorus [effect], like The Cure.” “Salute the Sanguine” “This is a fast rock track with a bit of The Cult in the guitars. The chorus is, ‘Go salute the sanguine, red in tooth and claw. It has to feel.’ It’s about the animalistic, instinctual aspect that is so important in life. To me, it’s not about ones and zeroes or social media. It’s about letting yourself go and letting the animal out—howling at the moon a bit. It’s probably the most HIM-like track on the album. It’s like a freight train, and it’s probably going to work great live.” “In Trenodia” “I was trying to think of a melancholy utopia. ‘Threnody’ means a sad song, usually a solitary song sung by one person, so I turned the idea of that into a world-building exercise. Trenodia is the land of the sad song, a place where I would feel at ease and at home. It’s a beautiful place where the sun is always setting, and the birds sing the most melancholy tunes. It has a bit of Siamese Dream-era Smashing Pumpkins guitars coming together with a sort of Type O Negative gothic pop. It’s one of the odder bits ’n’ bobs on the album.” “Heartful of Ghosts” “That’s my favorite of the album because it’s something very different. It has this weird lava lamp sort of feeling. It’s very ’60s and—rest in peace—Angelo Badalamenti, talking about Twin Peaks and all that stuff. I think the theme from Twin Peaks was such a big influence on all the musicians my age. You want to be able to create something that’s beautiful but ominous at the same time. ‘Heartful of Ghosts’ has this brooding sense of something terrible about to happen, and super-weird lyrics about tarot cards and a planchette, the thing you use with a Ouija board.” “Saturnine Saturnalia” “That’s the most Black Sabbath thing on the album. I’m a huge Black Sabbath geek. I grew up with that stuff, and they were one of the main idols for HIM. We were such fanatic fans when it came to Sabbath, and I think we still are. So, you have to have a couple of really big, monstrous, fuzzy guitar riffs on a rock album. I also grew up with Type O Negative and that sort of stuff in the early ’90s that incorporated a sense of the romantic and melancholy pop with the very Sabbath-y riffs, so that’s what I was aiming for here.” “Zener Solitaire” “Zener cards are the telepathy cards—the ones with the crosses, the circles, the waves. One person holds them to themselves, and the other person is trying to guess them. I thought the saddest thing in the world would be to play solitaire with Zener cards because that’s something you can’t really do by yourself. This is an instrumental track, kind of a Phil Spector production meeting up with Goblin, who did the music for the original Suspiria. It’s meant as an intro for the next song, ‘Vertigo Eyes.’” “Vertigo Eyes” “I didn’t purposefully set out to do an eight-plus-minute song, but that’s what happened. I was thinking of the dream sequences from David Lynch’s Lost Highway, those subliminal messages he keeps giving the viewers with the editing. There’re so many weird things. You know that semi-surreal feeling when you have a really high fever? You’re not sure what’s true and what’s not true. You’re not well, and you’re in this in-between state. That’s what I wanted to create with this song. Musically, it’s like psychedelic U2 coming together with Sisters of Mercy and then Welcome to Sky Valley-era Kyuss at the end.”

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