At UCSB, heavy metal is like abstinence – it just doesn’t happen. Self-proclaimed “love metal” stars HIM stopped by the Hub last Sunday, bringing their prolific dose of Finnish ass-kicking. Artsweek talked to bassist Mige Amour about a cornucopia of things, including meditation, necrophilia and why U2 sucks so much.
Matt: I wanted to ask you what is the worst question that you’ve ever been asked by a journalist so then I don’t have to ask it?
Mige: Well, we have this one song called “Join Me In Death,” which is about, sort of a dying of emotion and this romantic song, and then there was this really hillbilly German journalist who asked ‘Why are you singing about necrophilia?’ And that was like… You know you can’t say anything to that. You can just, you know, nod. So just don’t ask if you’re a necrophilist or not. That’s really stupid in my opinion.
What do you guys do in situations like that? Do you play fun with the journalist?
Normally. That was pretty shocking, you know? We were pretty young at that time. But it was a laugh. But sometimes there are really dumb people that just don’t think about it and then they just ask. Or maybe he [thought] it was [a good question]. Maybe it was his perception of that song. It’s not a big deal. They make fool out of themselves, [so] it doesn’t really matter for us.
So what’s your favorite heavy metal album of all time?
I’d say it’s Black Sabbath’s Paranoid. All Black Sabbath until ’78.
That’s a really great album. Any favorite song from it?
Well, the whole album is good, but I fell in love with “War Pigs,” the opening track. That’s really the first Sabbath song [where] I realized that, that’s the fucking ultimate band, and I still think so, after fucking 15 years.
You seen them live recently?
Yeah, I saw them, actually, twice. We were fortunate enough to see them on the side of the stage [at] the Download Fest in the UK too; so that was fucking great. I was speechless. I’m a big fan of that band.
“War Pigs” is actually a really socially conscious song. Do you guys ever try in a straightforward way to bring socially conscious messages to your songs?
I personally think that music is not actually a way to alter anybody’s opinion. It’s more like, give them a relief from their opinions, if you know what I mean. It’s more like escaping the reality. More like that, instead of, like trying to tell people to do that and think this way.
It serves a therapeutic value.
Yeah, it’s a lot more subtle than that. More emotional than… actual matter of opinion lyrics for me personally.
You guys just released a new album, right?
What’s the name of it?
It’s called Dark Light.
Dark Light, OK. Did you use any different production techniques? Or does it differ from your other albums in any way?
Well, every album is hopefully different from the previous one. But, well, we just tried to make it more like a cinematic thing – more than just a regular rock album. We wanted to give it a couple of more layers on top of the just basic hard rock album, you know? So, that’s what we tried, and Tim Palmer, who produced it, he’s pretty good at that. So he’s been working with U2, [and] we always liked him. I’m not a big fan of U2 actually, but the way they produce their music is really good. I mean, they really create a unique sound, which is always good. That’s what we’re aiming at. We want it to be cinematic, epic in its own little way… yeah, something like that.
What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you guys on tour?
Well there are lots of embarrassing things, but afterwards it’s always good story.
How about the best thing that ever happened to you guys on tour?
Well, it’s hard. You can’t really say because the whole experience is actually the best and worst at the same time. When you come to realize that this is – you know I’m 30 years old and the rest of the guys are in their 30s – you come to realize that, “OK, I will never be a rocket engineer. I’m a rock musician and I’m not going back to school and I’m doing this.” To realize that, that you’ve chosen this path for your life, it’s kind of exhilarating and terrible at the same time. So I say that the whole thing is one big experience and it’s horrible and good at the same time. Like probably, I’d say, every profession.
I was reading your website the other day and it said actually that you were into meditation. Is there any specific type of meditation that you’re into?
Meditation is very dangerous, actually. You know we live a pretty hectic life here in, how do you say that? West, European, American… and I think that there’s a big need for people to learn how to calm down. But then it’s always like – let’s say that you don’t know how to explore your own mind. If you learn to contact your subconscious, you can easily hit into something that you shouldn’t be hitting. Some kind of a fear, or some kind of a subliminal thing. And people should be really careful with that, you know, because there are a lot of these fucking gurus and people with very tempting [ideas]. Because after you’re 30 you feel like you’re dreaming this whole thing [and] I think it more or less happens to everybody, and everybody wants a cure for that. [People] want to see everything vividly and experience life to its fullest, and there are lots of people who want to take advantage of that. But I think it should be done, like basically, just relaxing. I wouldn’t even call it meditation, what I try to do from time to time.
Why did you guys choose to cover “Wicked Game” by Chris Isaak?
Um, that was so long ago. We didn’t have our own songs. Just basically, we liked the film that it’s on. I think it’s “Wild at Heart,” from Davis Lynch. [That] soundtrack really carries on the film and we just thought that we were going to make… It’s a bit hard to absorb that sound of Chris Isaak’s. For example, for myself to listen to that song, the original version, is slightly difficult because it’s so mellow, but the song is really good. So we thought that we were going to give it a punch and maybe it helps some people to realize what that song is about.
I always felt that there was a sort of like underlying darkness behind it as well.
Yeah, totally. It’s sort of well hidden underneath and we wanted to make it a bit more obvious to see the heartbreak in that song.
I guess I’m going to ask one of those stereotypical questions now; how did you guys come up with the heartagram logo?
Well every good band has a logo. Well logo or some kind of a symbol. Say Iron Maiden, they’ve got their [mascot] and Zeps, they have their four symbols, and Sabbs have their cross and all that shit. So we just wanted to come up with something that would represent a bit what we are musically and what we are personally. So there’s a heart, which is a symbol, like universal symbol for positive emotions, and then there is a pentagram, which is kind of a hard rockin’ occult thing, you know? And then you combine them and then you get this symbol for yourself. That’s pretty kooky, you know? I liked it for the first time I saw it. You know, we had it in a drawer for a long time. We didn’t use it on the first album, and I [had] always wanted to…
Is there any band that you’ve always wanted to tour with?
Well actually we were invited to tour with Ozzy Osbourne.
Yeah, but then he got into this accident with, I don’t know what, a four-wheeler.
Oh yeah, back a year or two ago.
He broke his ribs and shit and it was cancelled, and that’s the thing you wanted to do obviously, and of course Ozzfest; hopefully Black Sabbath will be headlining it.
You guys haven’t played Ozzfest?
No. We’ve been invited, but it just didn’t suit our schedule and we didn’t get the best possible slot, obviously. We were thinking that maybe this year, we’d get a proper [album] release and get some people to like our band, we will get a really nice slot there and then do it properly, because it’s a long tour. And then we have our thing in Europe, where we come from, and where we have to do a certain amount of touring. And then on top of that to spend two months, two and a half months, in the States, it’s kind of… [There’s stuff] you have to consider before you agree.
Do you change your live performances at all in the States versus [when you’re in] Europe?
No, not really. We usually tend to pick up the songs that work live because there are a certain amount in every album that you come to realize when you play them that ‘OK, that song works better than this one.’ So we usually try to pick up the songs that are the best, to make the drama of the live set as good as possible.
I’m stoked about the show, man. I’m a fan. And I guess to end it, I’ll ask you, is Finland known for any specific type of food dish?
Food dish? Food is really crappy in Finland.
Yeah, well, I have to say… Well if you have to specify something, I’d say, because we have reindeer, which the normal countries don’t have, so we eat them, and then there is this reindeer meat dish called poronlihak