Finnish hard rock band HIM (His Infernal Majesty) was near the end of a successful U.S. tour when fate derailed things a bit. Frontman Ville Valo was diagnosed with acute laryngitis and the band had to cancel two late November shows in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Bassist Mige Amour managed to look on the bright side.

“It’s a bummer but it could be worse,” Amour told Pollstar. “It’s a day off in L.A. I guess I shouldn’t be complaining.”

Fortunately, Valo was cleared to perform the band’s December 4th show at The Wiltern LG in L.A. before heading home to Finland.

HIM, formed around 1995, was largely unknown outside of Europe until it made its first trek to the States last year and its music – recorded years earlier – was rereleased in the U.S.

That’s when Sire Records prexy Michael Goldstone first saw the group in action. He was sold on the spot.

“This is a band that writes incredible melodies and really anthemic, big rock songs. They give me goose bumps. I would go see them every night of the week if I could,” Goldstone told Pollstar. “When you walk into their show and see the marriage between audience and band, it becomes blatantly obvious they have carved their own aesthetic and point of view.

“There hasn’t been any new music released in years. It’s become its own phenomenon.”

In fact, Valo, Amour, guitarist Linde Lazer, drummer Gas Lipstick and keyboardist Emerson Burton have performed in venues packed with fans sporting T-shirts and tattoos with the band’s “heartagram” logo. MTV’s “Jackass” star Bam Margera was one of the early converts with a HIM tattoo, which helped to spread the word.

Amour said the response from U.S. audiences has been overwhelming.

“We were really surprised that we play these nice, big clubs and there are actually people coming to see us. Personally, I think everybody in the band is surprised how good it’s going,” he said. “When we started in the U.K., it was a bit similar. We didn’t have a label there and it wasn’t easy.

“We’d play in really small pubs for 10 people for the first two tours, so this is like eating chocolate.”


However, being onstage in front of a U.S. audience is something the group wasn’t sure would ever happen. Trying to book gigs in their home town was tough enough.

“We come from a small country and we don’t sing in our mother tongue, so unless you have a record deal, it’s basically impossible to get gigs,” Amour explained. “In Helsinki, there’s [something] like two clubs you can play. So if you want to make a career out of music, you have to have an agent. Otherwise, it gets really frustrating.

“It’s a small place and to get out of here, you have to have connections. Mostly it’s luck, and the sooner you get the record deal the better.”

HIM’s cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game,” in addition to its original songs, caught the attention of label execs and landed the group a deal off its second demo.

Then fate sent manager Seppo Vesterinen the band’s way at just the right moment.

“[Vesterinen] used to manage Hanoi Rocks, [which] split up after the drummer died in a car accident. He basically retired and started doing some gardening. For some reason, he got into our band,” Amour said. “He was actually the only manager who had ever really worked abroad with other European people, so he got tired of retiring just when we needed a manager. One of those lucky calls again.”

Goldstone said after working with bands like Pearl Jam and Rage Against The Machine, he could see HIM fit a similar niche.

“They had never been to America until that tour in the spring, so nobody had really gotten a chance to see them unless they had gone over to see them in Europe,” he said. “Sometimes you walk into a room and you see a band and it’s instantaneous in terms of how compelling they are.

“Whether it was San Diego or New Jersey or Las Vegas or Philadelphia or Los Angeles, it was a one-song, one-listen moment.”

Goldstone said HIM will make up the canceled gigs in San Francisco and L.A. in late February or early March when the band returns to the States to record its next album. Tour plans after that are still under discussion.

“They’ve never opened for anyone, so you don’t want to stand on ceremony and find a package that would be complementary. By the same token, their shows have been events and we want to try and protect that,” Goldstone said.

“This is a band that is culture-changing. It’s important to make smart decisions that rely a lot on belief and patience rather than conventional wisdom.”