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The story behind HIM’s Heartagram

HIM frontman Ville Valo recalls how an idle doodle became one of the most recognisable logos in rock

I’ve always loved all sorts of imagery. The band were talking about symbols like the hollow heart, the septagram, the hexagram – all the grams – and about how big a deal images are once they get into your head, the weight and importance they have. I’ve always believed in the power of symbols, and the more simple the symbol, the better.

But the day I turned 20, I remember I was in my tiny rented flat and I was waiting for my friends to come over with beer so we could celebrate my turning into a man. I was drawing stuff for no particular reason, just doodling. I was just trying to figure out something cool.

We used a heart with 666 inside it as a logo on the first album and it just felt a bit boring; it didn’t feel nice or cool. So I’d been drawing and drawing and drawing, but at that time that combination of something kind with something Satantic looking wasn’t everywhere: you didn’t get those Satanic looking teddy bears, if you know what I mean.

So basically, I was drawing for hours, waiting for the beer to arrive, and then I just got it. I had this sort of hexagram and then, suddenly, I had this very cool image on the page before me. I wasn’t thinking of it consciously, but it was this combination of heart and pentagram, the soft and the hard, the male and the female, the yin and the yang – which, for me, is important.

Everything I’m interested in, it’s about balance. And the heart represents the Elvis Presley (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear kind of thing, and the pentagram represents hard rock, Motley Crue and all that stuff. So both of those things are represented, but on a more philosophical level, then you have the entertainment aspect, the horror films and all that stuff.

I drew it down and then the guys turned up, and I showed it around and said it was called the Heartagram. And one of them said, ‘Call it the loveagram’ and I said, ‘no way!’. And then I hid that little piece of paper away. And I know I have it somewhere, but I haven’t seen it for 15 years –I’ve never thrown it away, but I still can’t seem to find it.

I drew it down and then the guys turned up, and I showed it around and said it was called the Heartagram. And one of them said, ‘Call it the loveagram’ and I said, ‘no way!’. And then I hid that little piece of paper away. And I know I have it somewhere, but I haven’t seen it for 15 years –I’ve never thrown it away, but I still can’t seem to find it.

That’s how it started. Then I got one of my friends to work on it with his computer and it grew from there. Ever since then, we’ve tried to change it, make it more gritty, and on Love Metal (2003), we added the circle around it, because that was my tribute to Venom’s Welcome To Hell album.

There are a lot of people who have Heartagram tattoos now. Kat Von D has one, Steve-O has a dickagram, which is like a Heartagram but ends with a dick. It’s started to have a life of its own: there are a lot of people who have them who don’t actually know what it was, don’t relate it to the band, and in that sense, I consider that to be my greatest achievement. So it’ll be nice to have it on my tombstone. And it’ll be nice to see where it’s going to go next.

Ville was speaking to Philip Wilding.

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