CHILDREN OF BODOM - Rehearsal place, Helsinki - 31.10.2003
Children Of Bodom, those finnish warriors of fine, melodic death metal on their fourth studio album, were reached from their sleazy rehearsal place on a late Friday afternoon for an interview, while other bands already started their rehearsals. COB shares their little room with other bands as well and it really showed that this place has it's own life to it. There were cd's everywhere, even broken ones on the floor, ceiling and couch, lots of beer bottles and cigarrette butts and band posters everywhere. What a lovely place. Amorphis, Lowe Motor Corporation and Norther are some of the bands that also rehearse here.
Aleksi Laiho (guitar, vocals), Jaska Raatikainen (drums) and Roope Latvala (guitar) sat down on the couch for an hour, quite patiently I must admit, as we went through their thoughts about their upcoming tour in USA and their latest album "Hate Crew Deathroll", released earlier this year. Their US tour is now finished though, last stop being Canada, Montreal on December 15th, and as their guestbook tells the tale on their homepages, the tour has been a success.
Satu - The band started as Inearthed, but the name was changed by an outsider due to a new recording contract. Is the band alone responsible from the final name ?
Alexi - Yeah. Actually the main reason why we changed the name was, that we had to get rid of our old record deal which we had before Spinefarm and which was a total rip-off deal. So we kind of broke up and changed the name.
Jaska - I think it was Ewo Rytkönen from Spinefarm who came up with this idea, that we'd use the Bodom-name.
Alexi - We went through a lot of names and then we took the local phone book and there it was, lake Bodom on the map pages. And we thought it sounds good and there's also the real (unsolved) murder-history behind it. Then we took a few beers and wrote a paper full of names with Bodom in it. And Children Of Bodom seemed like the best one of them.
Satu - What other names were there on that list ?
Alexi - I really can't remember. Ewo's friend came up with some ideas, but they didn't work for us.
Jaska - Sova (Barathrum) came up with some ideas and I think it was him who made the band logo for our first printing.
Alexi - That first finnish printing must be the most rare stuff from us, with the strange logo.
Satu - What if lake Bodom never excisted, would you be called Children Of Keitele then or something ?!
Alexi - Hah, yeah...maybe Children Of Oittaa...but maybe we'd come up with some other place. After all, lots of murders have happened.
Satu - Where did you come up with the idea of mixing melodies and growling vocals, since the original line-up didn't have keys and you were pretty much the first ones to use keys in this kind of music, along with Dark Tranquillity etc ?
Alexi - This is the kind of stuff you hardly think about. They've just come from us naturally. I think it comes from the music you've been listening to. And we listen to all kinds of metal, not just black metal or eighties metal. You can listen to Poison and Darkthrone at the same time. I think the open-minded lifestyle comes through from our music. But you never really sit down and start thinking "we should sound like this". Whatever you come up with, you mostly use that. Of course there were bands in other genres before us using keys, bands like Stratovarius, Sentenced, Yngwie Malmsteen..
Satu - What were the bands that inspired you to start playing music ?
Alexi - Mostly bands from the eighties to norwegian black metal..hah. Bands like WASP, Ozzy Osbourne, Obituary, Entombed, Stone, Stratovarius and the first albums from Sentenced. Lots of finnish bands.
Satu - Now that the year 2003 is almost gone I have to ask you what feelings did this past year give you and with what feelings are you confronting the new year with ?
Alexi - With good feelings. We're leaving to our US tour now, which is our first tour over there, so it's great. We're just a support band there though, so it's not much. But it's ok by me, since we've done five european tours and I've done eight myself and seen Japan many times already, so it's cool to go someplace new. And it's kind of relief when you think about it like we're only going to play about 30-45 minutes each night. It can be really tough as a headliner, playing an hour and a half. This tour is quite long though and we've been touring a lot this year, so there's so guarantee we'll ever come back from there, but we'll try our best. Amorphis is one of the finnish bands that went there as a headliner and Sentenced toured with In Flames and Babylon Whores and others went there too.
Satu - What about the new years promise that you always have to break, have you thought about it yet ?
Alexi - No promises over here.
Jaska - We promise that we won't promise anything.
Alexi - Yeah, there's one. I think I've never promised anything. Or if I did, I'm sure I didn't keep that promise. That's just a lot of crap.
A NEW GUITARIST
Satu - Since Kuoppala left the band this summer, followed by Roope Latvala as a temporary replacement, how do you see the band continuing ?
Jaska - We decided that Roope will play all the tours so far that we've already agreed from, continuing even till next year.
Alexi - We were pretty much fucked up without a guitarist and were just pleased to finish these tours with someone. We haven't really thought about it further yet. All of us were really surprised to hear Alexander leaving the band. We had lots of gigs coming up, but no band. We were really stressed out, but we can be pleased to play the gigs now with a professional guitarist.
Roope - Yeah, it was a hard decision for me, to continue at my old job or go on the road...(smiling)
Jaska - And since we've got gigs booked till next summer, this decision gives us more time to think about our situation.
Alexi - But we've toured together already a lot, so we come along fine with each other.
Satu - And it was a total surprise for you when Alexander left ?
Alexi - Kind of. We were in Japan in the beginning of this year and then had a tour in Finland and all that time he behaved like the guy we know, this Vodka-drinking, messy guy he's always been, like the rest of us. But on our european tour he started taking space from us.
Jaska - Homesickness or something. But we sensed everything wasn't ok with him. Like how long is he going to be able to do this and such.
Alexi - But mostly we were just thinking it's just some phase he's going through. That he would never leave the band, 'cos he's always been into this band 100 percent.
Jaska - And it's hard to even think about someone leaving a band at a situation in which we're in right now, we're doing great now. You don't have to stress yourself anymore with the usual things like how you can support yourself, pay the bills etc.
Alexi - And we've worked so hard and so many years to come to this situation, where you're able to live with your music. That you can now concentrate on making music and the others take care of the business side. And this is when Alexander decides to leave. It was a surprise, yeah. Really sad, though.
Satu - When Alexander left, what were the feelings you and the fans had ?
Alexi - Quite bad. We were all disappointed. But you can't make someone do something he doesn't want to. Like he said, it would be wrong for us and himself to continue playing just for money or for something he didn't want to do. That would've only damaged the band. And it really showed in the end that he didn't want to put much effort to it. So I guess it was best for him to quit.
Satu - What kind of e-mails have you gotten about it, angry ones ?
Alexi - No, but sympathetic and melancholic ones.
Jaska - Even that Roope is a good friend of ours and plays in this band 100 percent, you still feel like something is missing , 'cos you've played so long together with Alexander.
Roope - Of course it leaves a certain hole there.
Alexi - And Alexander was a character, he was this huge viking taking the stage with anger and fans liked him.
Satu - Any certain things you miss from the old line-up ?
Jaska - It might sound funny, but this certain family unity. We spent a lot of time together and got to know each other so well. This thing has taught you to be on your toes.
Alexi - But you've gotten used to the situation and you're not going through it in your head anymore that he's not here. But sometimes you get a strange feeling that something's different.
Satu - But I've got no complaints about Roope either, being an old Stone-fan and him being a great guitarist. I saw about 200 gigs from Stone back in the eighties and the beginning of nineties.
Roope - Two hundred ?!
Satu - Yep, that's how far I've counted. But anyhow, what can Roope offer COB in the future composingwise etc ?
Roope - The songs are pretty much written by Alexi, so I just try to play them how they are. I'm not going to try to take over the band, Alexi is the main guy in this band. But of course I've got my own touch to the music too and I like playing as a second guitarist too, it's ok. I've done that a lot.
Satu - Any news from Alexander, is he going to continue with music ?
Alexi - No one really knows what he's up to. Earlier he said he wants to quit music, but then again he said he wants to save his guitars, so he can play just for fun.
Roope - It's wise to save the guitars, I've seen a lot of people getting rid of their stuff, like Pekka from Stone decided to quit and suddenly he's back in the music business again. It's a sure thing after a while you really start missing playing.
Alexi - Alexander once said that he never wants to be a professional musician, as to get a living from it. But I don't know what's so bad at it, doing what comes naturally from you and getting paid from it.
Jaska - But we never had any schisms between us.
Alexi - He's been my best friend for a really long time.
HATE CREW DEATHROLL
Satu - How much time did you use for writing the new songs ?
Alexi - I was writing the songs in my head all the time. Like when I toured with Sinergy, before we started writing new songs, I had lots of ideas already. Some people started panicing that we don't have any new songs ready and we've booked a studio already. So that got into me, these people going can I write a whole album in one night ?! It doesn't work that way. It takes some time to work with them. It's pretty automatic, like if you've got a riff or a main theme for a song and you jam it with the band, you then start thinking how it should continue from there. I think it took about four months to write the songs. But it was pretty intensive, we spent about ten hours a day in this rehearsal place. None of us saw the outdoors in the summer of 2002.
Jaska - But it's good to know when you've got a studio scheduled, 'cos you can adjust to the situation when you're going there. If you wrote the songs whenever you wanted and didn't have plans for the studio...it's much better booking it in advance. When we worked with "Follow The Reaper" in the studio, we noticed that it's going to turn out as a 29 minute album, so we had to make another song for it in the studio.
Alexi - It was the last song on the album, "Kissing The Shadows", which turned out to be a great song by mistake. It's got this russian thing in it..hah.
Satu - How do you come up with the songs and in which situations ?
Alexi - You can come up with the riffs and the melodies just about anytime or anywhere. They can come out of nowhere when you're washing dishes or whatever. Or while you're playing guitar you notice you've been playing this same melody over and over again. The first part of a song often comes up by mistake. It's easy to continue from there after you've got that. That's when writing a song really starts from.
Roope - You've got these riffs and it starts growing from there.
Satu - Do you have any equipments at home you can record them with if you get an idea ?
Alexi - They get stuck in your head, so I can remember them. But I've got a four-track recorder at home. I'm mostly just playing with it, though.
Satu - Did you at any point while writing the songs have a feeling you just can't get anything out of yourself, or did it all go smoothly ?
Alexi - It was easy writing "Hate Crew", everything went as was planned.
Jaska - It was easy and there was a very relaxed atmosphere. Though it was hell while we recorded it.
Alexi - Was it ? I thought that went great, too. The schedules sucked though. Like when I was supposed to go and do my vocals, I got sick. But otherwise it was more relaxed than before.
Satu - Did you have any other trouble along the way ?
Alexi - Not this time. Usually you've got something, like an equipment isn´t working or one of the guys. Shit happens. But the more you record albums, the more confident you get in the studio. It might be a bit frightening at the first time there, you can hear everything so clearly, every tiny mistake. But the more you do it, the more relaxed it gets.
Satu - Bands usually have to record like one solo many times before hitting it right. How is it with you guys, do you get it right just like that ?
Alexi - You usually have to play them a few times, depending what you're playing. Solos are different of course, and I want to play them a few times and pick out the best one of them for the album. And I think most of the bands that record in Astia-studios do a lot of work there.
Jaska - Anssi Kippo is really strict with the takes, no one gets out of there easily.
Alexi - Yeah, he's got this principle that even when you're good, you have to do it again. But it's good too, you can trust him doing a good job.
Satu - How does the band spend the time in the studio otherwise, you've got some games in there you've invented yourself ?
Alexi - We've got fifteen cases of beer...hah. But when we were in Sweden we were really bored because of the schedules. We had to go there at nine a.m., so the night before you couldn't drink much. Then our video or tv broke down, so we had to come up with something to do, so we invented an own game. We had this cardboard thing on the floor, I can't remember what you had to do in there...
Jaska - We had this sling-game.
Alexi - Oh yeah, we taped a spoon to this soft ball and coffee mugs and other things. The spoon was a catapult that you used to hit the mugs etc and every time you hit them you got points. Then we had this formula-game. You went to a box and opened this thing and there was for instance a command to drink a shot of vodka or something. Then we played crocket a lot.
Jaska - You get so frustrated in there.
Alexi - We were living in this house for a while in the woods and started haunting Janne there, me and Alexander, climbing the ladders and knocking in the windows. Of course Janne knew who it was. When we walked back to the studio there was this crocket bat in the front door with ketchup in it as blood. He got his revenge. That's how boring it got in there sometimes.
Satu - How do the other guys influence the recording process, you still being the main songwriter ?
Alexi - Well, they play there...but of course all of them bring their own thing to the music. I tell them how the songs go, but they can show their opinion of a riff or something. I'm not saying that Jaska has to play like this, note for note. He's come up with all the fills in there and other things.
Jaska - When Alexi plays the songs for us and someone has an idea about it, Alexi then molds it to how he sees it.
Satu - What's the deal with the short length of the album, under 40 minutes ?
Alexi - It's always the same thing, same question and the same answer. I think it's a good length for an album, it's intensive music, so if it was something like 60-70 minutes, no one would have the interest in listening to it through. And we 'd much rather leave the listener with a good feeling to the album, where you want to listen to it again, than to have them thinking when is this shit going to end. Of course we could record a longer album and include the average songs in there as well, but the entire album wouldn't sound that good anymore. We want to include the best songs there, that sound the greatest at that point.
Jaska - We want to keep it tight and short. And you can use the best riffs from the average songs later on elsewhere.
Satu - Your songs stay in the normal length. Have you ever thought of making SOD (Stormtroopers Of Death)-like album, the average song length being 30 seconds, when your music is already so intense and angry ?
Alexi - Not at this point, but you never know. Sure, we could do it.
Jaska - Never even thought about it !
Satu - And you've now got an old SOD-fan in your row, Roope, if I remember correctly. He would nail it down easy.
Roope - It's too much work playing those vinyls. But you'd get like 30 songs there this way.
Satu - Now to my favourite part, a closer look at the songs. Please tell me the stories behind each song.
Alexi - Well, I can tell you that they're all about how annoyed you are. Except "Angels Don't Kill" is a bit different, though ends up in the same category. The lyrical theme isn't very wide, you're just angry all the time. "Bodom Beach Terror" and our earlier songs like "Lake Bodom" and "Children Of Bodom" etc are songs not taken too seriously. They're B-class horrorstories, something you write about of the history in lake Bodom. But the rest of the songs are just about the angry feeling.
Satu - You've got a Slayer-cover "Silent Scream" on your "Needled 24/7"-vinyl single. How well do you sell a vinyl with a cover song ?
Alexi - I don't know how well the vinyls usually sell, but they never sell much. I've never even owned a record player myself, but they're cool.
Jaska - They're not too practical though. I think that seven-inch was probably printed into hundred copies.
GOING TO USA, PLAYING LIVE
Satu - Your tour in the US is getting close. What are the feelings you're going there with ?
Alexi - With good feelings. It's a new place for us, we've never toured there so that's why. But I know it's not going to be as great as in Europe or Japan so far, but that doesn't bother us. We're a bunch of punksters and we'll do the best we can. But we're looking forward to seing what it's going to be like.
Satu - Is there anything to fear about ?
Jaska - Nah, but your status changes of course from earlier being a headliner and now a support band. So the other bands kick your ass and the manager too.
Alexi - But it's more frightening to change from a support band to a headliner. It's your responsibility to sell out the places. Now we can just go out and get drunk. And no one suffers from that.
Jaska - Yeah, we'll just play our 30 minutes and if no one's interested, it's doesn't matter.
Alexi - We've got no expectations and no goals there. We'll just go there and check it out.
Satu - Do you have any idea about the fans there, what are American Bodom-fans like ?
Alexi - I really can't say.
Jaska - When we played in Texas we did get some touch to them. And we've gotten some e-mails from there.
Alexi - I think if you dig the music, be it a german fan or whatever, you act the same anywhere and it's ok if you want to talk to the band.
Satu - You're supporting Dimmu Borgir, Nevermore and Hypocrisy, who also kick ass. Which band do you think will work best for the audience ?
Alexi - It must be Dimmu, 'cos they're the biggest band here. And Hypocrisy works everywhere, they're a live band and take their crowd anywhere. But Dimmu should work best for them, 'cos they're the biggest.
Satu - Do you have any surprises up your sleeves for your fans over there ?
Alexi - We'll be ourselves and bring our sincere rage on stage. There's nothing fancy, just us giving our best. I think there's only a few bands over there who have that rock attitude on stage. And most of the bands there are like Limp Bizkit or something and there's no rock attitude there. But who knows, we might pull through or not. We'll find it out soon.
Satu - US has pretty strict rules everywhere. Can the "kids of Bodom" behave themselves in the US standards ?
Alexi - No...we can't behave anywhere ! The last time I was in the States I ended up in some ghetto in New Jersey with some black guy, but it was just amusing, nothing to it. He was this rap guy, who I bumped into at 4 a.m. If I had gone there alone I would've probably gotten shot, but 'cos I was with him it was ok. And when you're so drunk you really don't give a shit about anything. But I prefer seeing the real thing than just the covered, pretty side of life.
Satu - You've got a bunch of cover songs. Which ones have you played live ?
Alexi - We've played The Ramones, Wasp's "Hellion", Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It", but we never recorded that. And Billy Idol's "Rebel Yell". But we don't have enough time to play them in the US, because of our short time.
Satu - And you do that lip-thing with "Rebel Yell" too, which Idol does ?
Alexi - Yeah, you gotta do that, hah.
Satu - What about a live dvd someday ?
Alexi - We're planning to do one, nothing coming out yet. It's a long project.
Jaska - We've got our own camera that we're using in the backstage and behind the sets, so we're working on it.
Alexi - And who ever grabs the camera, shoots.
Satu - You had Lordi's Enary playing keys for you for a while a long time ago, which gave me a great idea. What about a nightmarish and murdering gig from monsters, murderers and Grim Reapers, mixing elements from both bands ?
Jaska - Enary played on our first tour.
Alexi - Janne couldn't make it, 'cos he was tied up to school work at the time. But Enary played only a few shows, it was a small tour in '98 in Europe and Finland. But hey, I never even thought about such thing. But you never know.
Satu - But it would be a great concept. (COB almost played with Lordi in Tuska-festival this year, only one band between their shows that day. But of course COB would need some sets to match up with Lordi's galore of corpses and other gory stuff). What do you think you could bring on stage then ?
Alexi - Well, Lordi's got everything on stage. They're ok, though I only know two songs from them and whatever I heard live this summer, but really can't remember. But they're more of a theatrical act than anything else.
Jaska - And we're about simple rock attitude. But I saw their first show in Helsinki and it looked really cool, though it's not anything I'd normally listen to. It's harmless music.
END DISCUSSION I was quite done here, so Alexi left the room to relieve his bladder and Jaska was starting to get ready for rehearsals. I still squeezed in a few questions, so take a minute to read the rest.
Satu - How do you feel about the bands that have started to copy you ? For instance Imperanon has a lot of COB, and they even thanked some of COB guys on their promo cd.
Jaska - I don't care if someone wants to copy us. But of course if it really shows through, it feels kinda weird. But we have our influences too. But sure it's kinda flattering if someone copies you. But a band like Imperanon that you mentioned, me and Alexander were in the final trials of Ääni & wimma where they played and it was fun to watch, they were really young and into it. They've now signed to Nuclear Blast.
Satu - I read that you and Janne have acted in finnish soap operas (Siamin Tytöt, Salatut Elämät). How did you end up there ?
Jaska - Well, I heard that Janne just happened to walk past the set while they were filming. And my career, it was only six episodes and a small thing. It was in '99 or something, they even showed it in Sweden. But that's the only thing acting wise I've had. But I've always dreamed about acting and when I got the chance, I took it. I knew the director before, I've done music to his earlier work. I just wanted to try. And of course I got to hear about it, but I don't care. It was fun and I got paid. But I haven't thought about it further than this.
Satu - We fool around with something between my friends. This is a fun question so here goes; your last words on your tombstone ?
Jaska - I came, I saw, I lost...I have no clue, hah !
Satu - There's a cemetary somewhere in the States, maybe Florida, with humorous stones and the most famous one says "I told them I was sick", which always makes me laugh. But you're not going anywhere yet, so what can we expect from COB next year ?
Jaska - We've got gigs till next summer and in the fall we're going to the studio. Those are the plans so far. And the dvd comes out when we've gone through all our recordings and found the best pieces from there. I think after we've done our gigs we start working with that. Who knows it might come out in the fall, but it keeps postponing all the time, so who knows.
Satu - What has lately been in your cd-player ?
Jaska - Mayhem's "Mystery", I don't know why. But death metal always works.
Asking about the side projects like Warmen and Virtuocity, I didn't get much reply. Janne Wirman, who's been working with the Warmen project and showed up to the place with the rest of the guys for a Friday evening rehearsals when we were almost done with the interview, seemed busy playing with the instruments and talking with the rest of the guys, and he mentioned he's been really busy otherwise too, so who knows. And Jaska has no idea about Virtuocity, he only met the guitarist Jarno Keskinen once when he started working on the first album in the studio. And when he was done recording, he hasn't met the guy ever since. But Virtuocity's got an album coming out in February 2004, "Northern Twilight Symphony", so watch out for that. The line-up has changed since the first release and I've got no idea if the guys have guests there, but the singer is still Peter James Goodman, so there you go with a short fact file.
The Bodom-guys then concentrated on their instruments and chatting, while a few beer cases were waiting on the floor for a job well done and a start for another weekend. We left them rehearsing in peace after taking a few pictures, walked through the noisy corridors and out into the cold night.
by Satu Reunanen