Oficialmente el día de hoy salio a la venta la revista alemana «Orkus» de la edición de junio del 2012. Como ya se los habiamos adelantado por medio de Facebook, el articulo se trata de la historia de «Join Me in Death» -La canción mas representativa de la banda sin duda alguna- y el esperar una noticia era algo que no era seguro (En la descripción se podía a mal interpretar lo que se decia). Al parecer las scans fueron subidas desde antes pero no ha sobresalido ya que «no dice nada nuevo» y es en parte un poco de lo que se encuentra en la biografía no oficial de HIM (Créditos a plotbunnyhunter por la traducción).
„Something like that, you only write once in a lifetime.“
Behind the music of the worldwide hit
In November 1999, the Finnish Goth Rockers HIM win the hearts of an entire generation almost straightaway with their song Join Me In Death. Ville Valo and his comrades-in-musical instruments skyrocket up the charts of various European countries, sell countless records, suddenly get recognized of the street and speed from one interview to the next. But what was the prehistory to that? How was that song created? Why are there four different video clips? And what else is there behind the song whose three minutes and 39 seconds changed the life of its composer? A journey back to the roots of the phenomenon called HIM.
It is the year 1998. The band formed around the school day friends Ville Valo, Mikko Paananen (aka Migé Amour) and Mikko Lindström (aka Lily Lazer) can look back contently on the past few months. Finally, there was some moving in the camp of His Infernal Majesty’s (shortly: HIM). Already in 1991 and 1993 its early incarnations where active, then put back on ice and were finally reactivated in 1994 and in 1996, the first professionally produced EP 666 Ways To Love: Prologue was unleashed on mankind. Albeit only in Finland and in a run of 1000 copies, which makes the original a real collector’s item worth several hundred Euros. It’s running time doesn’t even reach 20 minutes, but with the first cover version of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game, the CD (whose cover shows an old photograph of Ville’s mother) already holds a small hit. It makes some Finnish and British radio stations pick up their ears and play the song, but that was it. HIM perform some single shows in Finland, but the effect fizzles out.
But fate means well for them. When HIM play their traditional New Year’s Eve gig in 1996 at Lepakko in Helsinki, one Silke Yli-Sirniö (aka Mutti) sits in the crowd. The German works for several record labels and moved to the North as a promoter. She will not only lay the foundation for HIM’s international career, but will also control their public relations in Europe and will turn out to be one of the band’s closest confidants. She didn’t get her nickname (T/N: “Mutti” means “momma”) by chance. “I still remember very well who I wasn’t up for that gig”, Silke says laughing. “My then husband Sami (A/N: now guitarist for Kreator, ) said that I should go and look at that new band, they’d be quite good. So I went to the club and Ville’s stage presence instantly hooked me. He looked like a young Jim Morrison and when we talked later, he turned out to be very shy but also very charming and witty. I asked him if they were already signed to a record company outside Finland, which he negated. So I promised him to see to that.” Which she did. A German record label shows interest in the insider’s tip, but they want to wait for the complete album to be released. So when on November 20 1997, Greatest Lovesongs Vol. 666 hits the shelves in Finland, goes gold and two of four singles (including a revised version of Wicked Game) reach the Top Ten, the Germans are convinced and they release the record slightly changed in January 1998.
It’s not the big breakthrough, but a good beginning. Supposedly, Greatest Lovesongs Vol.666 sold 120,000 copies in Germany alone, which made it reach #50 in the charts. In the end of August, HIM played their first concerts abroad…as a supporting act for The Sisters of Mercy. Sometime in this time, Valo begins writing songs for the debut’s successor, amongst others Join Me In Death. It was presented for the first time on stage in September 1998 at the world-renowned festival Ilosaarirock, even though with longer lyrics.
Yli-Sirniö remembers: “When I listened to the demo version of that song for the first time in late summer 1998, I instantly felt that it’s gonna be a hit. Something like that, you only write once in a lifetime, maybe you could compare it to Mötley Crüe’s Kickstart My Heart.” Which might be just lucky from Ville’s perspective, since he is not too fond of that number, which Silke confirms. But back then, Join Me In Death is just another of eleven songs that get released under the name of Razorblade Romance in Finland in the end of 1999. Germany, Austria and Switzerland follow in January 2000, Great Britain in May.
The first single release Join Me In Death is available as soon as November 2 and hits with seemingly no effort at all. But what looks like a walk in the park from the outside really was hard work behind the scenes. “Both the record label and the management believed in the song’s potential, but we had to work our asses off to get it played on rock radio. In Finland it was much easier, because here we’ve got stations that play Melodic Metal and Rock during the day. But in Germany, that’s a whole other story. It really was a hard nut to crack.” Which got cracked nevertheless. On February 4 2000, Join Me In Death is the Number 1 of the German Single Charts. And as if that wasn’t good enough, Razorblade Romance (which was produced by John Fryer) follows only three days later and stays in the Top 100 for 57 solid weeks. Which makes the Fins’ second album a bigger success than, for example, the new works of Eminem or Sting. Silke breaks the good news via telephone. “When I called, the band was sitting in a bar in Helsinki. They told me that they’d be so broke they couldn’t even afford a beer to celebrate.” So much for “rich rock stars”. But times would change. Not immediately, but soon enough.
Firstly, though, there were a lot of promotion dates in Germany to cope with. Silke looks back shaking her head. “It was unbelievable. The press jumped at the band and at Ville in particular, who really enjoyed all the commotion. Outwardly, the boys seemed to be very quiet and detached, sometimes maybe even arrogant. But if you were close, you could feel that their whole world was turned upside down. A double Number 1, Single as well as Record. That’s a damn hard thing to achieve for a band in Germany. Not even Nightwish did it. And for HIM a dream they worked on really long and hard came true. I remember when Ville told me how a German record label wanted to sign them. He walked straight to the rehearsal room to the others, grinning like a Cheshire cat and then they got totally annihilated to mark the occasion.” Who can blame them, after all especially Ville, Migé and Linde sacrificed a lot. They took shitty jobs, Ville even tried as a street musician to make ends meet. And now everything happened at the same time.
Another lucky providence accelerated the rise of the quintet. The crew of Swabian director Roland Emmerich, who was shooting The 13th Floor at the moment, picks the single for the soundtrack of the Hollywood film and opens a chance for the band in the US. The last part of the title – the “In Death” – however has to be cut off. The allusion was much to unambiguous for the Americans. Yli-Sirniö on that: “The radio stations thought the title was not appropriate because it would remind of killing frenzies and mass murderers. Over the pond, they are quite huffy with things like that, at least when it comes to song titles.” But also back home problems arise. After the suicide of a Finnish citizen, some people try to use the media to tie the lyrics of Join Me In Death to it. Ville has to justify himself more often and declares in miscellaneous interviews that the lyrics refer to a love story, much like a modern version of Romeo and Juliet. The song would be about undying love. He admits frankly that he loaned the basic idea form Blue Öyster Cult’s (Don’t Fear) The Reaper. But all the criticism is nothing more than a storm in a teacup. Admittedly, the conquest of America has to be postponed, which is also due to the fact that The 13th Floor more or less flops so the advertising effect of Join Me as closing theme knows bounds, but it’s a start. 2004, the song also reappears on the soundtrack of Resident Evil: Apocalypse.
Strikingly, there are a full four video clips for that single song. Promoter Silke explains: “You can believe me, the band really was irritated because of that. First they shot the original version which played in Finland and Germany.
When we wanted to release in Britain, the record company thought that the clip was no good, so they really wanted to shoot a version of their own. That’s that ice palace thingy that a lot of people don’t think to be done all to well.
Then there are two different versions with scenes of The 13th Floor in them, because there was a special 13th Floor Mix for the US. Quite a bedlam…and a very good example on how record companies pour the money down the drain.”
Twelve and a half years after the release of Join Me In Death, the song has lost none of its fascination for the HIM Fans. To the artist, however, things feel quite differently. As already mentioned, Ville was never overly fond of his creation and after years and years it their live program, the musicians were quite sick and tired of it. “At some point, everyone was tired of hearing that one. There was a short episode when they didn’t play it live anymore, which the fans of course didn’t understand at all. The band gave in quickly and since then, the song’s back in on the set list.” Apart from that it’s quite surprising that such a successful song isn’t covered more often. In fact, there is only one known interpretation, namely the one of German Medival-Monks Gregorian featuring Sarah Brightman (T/N other sources say Amelia Brightman, but anyhow, that version is so sick, you really have to watch it. Even though I gave you that advise, I’m not to be held accountable for eventual head injuries if you should feel the urge to hit your head to the closest hard surface. Which you will. For sure.)
Yli-Sirniö smirks. “There are some demo bands that covered that tried and covered that song, specially over here in Finland. But there are no bigger combos amongst them. Ville actually knows the version of the Gregorians and deems it to be quite funny.” That leaves us with the theoretical question which HIM might also have asked themselves already: Where would the band be today if it wasn’t for the success of Join Me In Death? Silke ponders for a moment. “That’s a hard one to answer, but I think HIM would be on the same level with bands like, say, Amorphis. They’d record albums regularly, they’d tour and they’d have a loyal fan base. But for sure, they wouldn’t be as popular as they are today.”
by Marc Halupczok