Children of Bodom
Hate Crew Deathroll (Century Media)
An interview with vocalist/guitarist Alexi “Wildchild” Laiho
by Scott Hefflon
photos by Pia
Your deal with Spinefarm was a three record deal, and this is your fourth with them, right?
Yeah, there were a lot of changes, but we renewed with them. Spinefarm is now co-owned by Universal, so we’re half on an independent, half on a major. In Europe and Japan, we’re on Universal, in the States, we’re on Century Media. It’s good, but it’s confusing because we’re on different labels in different countries and we have no idea if they’re promoting it well. Most countries are doing well for us, but we used to do better in Germany when we were on Nuclear Blast (who’s based outta Germany), cuz it seems the German Universal office just doesn’t give a fuck… But Nuclear Blast helped us build a solid fan base there, so as long as the fans know the record is out, they’ll go buy it. But, to be fair, Universal has almost doubled our sales in Japan.
The Japanese have always respected great guitar metal. In the States, we’re still choking on shitty nü metal bands who can’t write dynamic songs or play for shit.
I know, dude, it really pisses me off… When I read guitar magazines, the ones I used to love when I was growing up like Guitar Player and Guitar World, they used to cover the greats like Paul Gilbert or Zakk Wylde, and now they have some fucker from Papa Roach on the cover, clowns who don’t even know how to tune a guitar…
Nü metal is all “groove,” as in they like Pantera and play only the parts they can play, meaning the slow breakdown… But your new record, Hate Crew Deathroll, has a ton of groove, you just throw in amazing fills and other crazy shit…
It takes a long time to really grow into your style. We’ve been playing together – most of us, anyway – for six years now, and over that time, you develop a musical chemistry… There are people out there who play better than we do, but they don’t function as well as a band.
Actually, speaking of Pantera, you lifted some of their lyrics on the last song, the title track…
It wasn’t intentional. Some of the same words are used, but it was accidental. Some of the same key words are used because they’re metal words, but I didn’t hear about it until later. You know, you write things down that mean something to you, that you think are cool, and then you find out someone’s already said something a lot like it… What the fuck, you know?
You didn’t come over to the States to tour after your last record, huh?
We were planning on it, but we never got the right offer, because it’s a huge ordeal to get European bands to tour the States. It takes a lot of money, so you have to get a good opening spot with a band with some good backing, a band that’ll pull in the people. So we waited for the right tour, which is the one we’re on now. We bring our own amps and guitars, but all three opening bands on this tour are using the same drum kit. Dimmu Borgir gets their own shit. We’re the second band on the bill. Hypocrisy opens, then us, then Nevermore.
Kinda strange that Hypocrisy is playing before you, huh?
Yeah, I thought we were going to go on first, cuz they’ve been around longer. But they’re getting fuckin’ awesome crowd reaction, so they’re happy.
Children of Bodom is considered a “young band blowing up big,” which is kinda funny seeing as this is your fourth record, I’ve reviewed them all, and this is the second time I’ve interviewed you…
We were really young when we started. When the first record came out, I had just turned 18 and the bassist was still 17. It’s funny, because I’m 24 now, we’ve been doing this for six years, but people heard we started when we were 18, so I’ll be 18 forever… People still come up to me and say, “Dude, you’re like 18 or something, huh?” And I’m like, “Well, I used to be, but I’m not anymore.”
How much longer are you going to be “Wildchild”?
(laughs) I’ll drop it when the time comes, that’s for sure.
What’ve you been listening to that’s resulted in the more mid-paced, (non-dumbass) groove of some of your songs?-That’s really hard to answer… I still listen to the same shit as when I was a kid, from glam rock – Poison, Guns N’ Roses, Mötley Crüe – to punk, to heavier stuff like Anthrax and Metallica, and then death metal and black metal… I’m still into everything that I always have been. I don’t stop listening to bands because they’re not considered cool or something. I’m drawn to certain music…
You’re one of my favorite metal singers. You can scream and roar like any other decent metal singer, but you can also keep the throaty power and actually sing, kinda like Devin Townsend from Strapping Young Lad.
Wow, thanks. He’s a real singer. He’s awesome…
You did a bad-ass cover of Maiden’s “Aces High”…
Really? (laughs) We do a lot of covers, we love them. We like to release them as the b-sides of singles. We’ve done W.A.S.P.’s “Hellion,” and Ramones’ “Somebody Put Something in My Drink,” and our former Japanese label wanted to put out a best-of compilation, and they asked us to record a new cover for a bonus track, so we did Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell.”
That’s only out in Japan?
Yeah, and it’s kind of stupid, really, because it’s only songs from the first three records, and we didn’t get to pick the songs or choose the order or anything. So if someone has never heard us before and gets this “best of,” they’re going to pop it in and hear “Rebel Yell,” because they put that song first. And the next song is this shitty-ass black metal song called “In the Shadows” from the first record that doesn’t sound like us at all anymore.
Has there been any talk of a best-of in Europe and the States?
No, and I don’t think there should be until we’re around for 10 years. Or at least close to it.
A rarities collection by you guys’d rule! You have so many covers, so compiling all that stuff’d be fun and save us, your loyal fans, the trouble of getting those shitty tributes just for your song.
That could be cool. There’s a lot of stuff that most people have never heard, too. We talked about it one time, but nothing’s come of it yet.
How’d your last record do? Not to be a dick, but it didn’t quite gel for me… I loved the first, cuz it was so different from anything I’d heard before, and the second really came together and took it further, was more song-based than “wow, listen to those solos!,” but the third just didn’t really connect for me…
I felt the same way, to be totally honest… Which is why I was kind of surprised when the third one did twice as well as the second one. It sold 130 thousand or so, and while there are definitely songs on there that I like, there’s something about it as a whole that just didn’t work.
So we’re back to a red album again, huh?
Yeah, after red, green, and blue, we didn’t know where to go next – silver, gold, black. Everything we tried just kind of sucked, so we got fed up with the whole subject and we did whatever, and it turned out red looked the best.
You do realize that’s three-color process, like color images on a website: RGB.
Can you talk about why your former guitarist, Alexander Kuoppala, left the band this summer?
The official story is that he got fed up with touring and all that, but the truth is that it involved another person, a female, who he met at the beginning of the year. You can pretty much figure the details out, ya know? It happens…. A guy hooks up with a chick, and before you know it, he doesn’t want to play with the band anymore, he just wants to hang out with her…
Happens in life, happens in bands…
It sucks, dude, cuz he was my best friend. He did a 180-degree turn with his whole life: He quit drinking and smoking, quit everything else, stopped playing in the band, stopped hanging out with his old friends, everything. I don’t even know what he’s doing anymore because we don’t keep in touch. And that’s weird because we hung out every single day for seven years or so. He’d been in the band since ’95, years before the first record ever came out.
Can you at least say “well, at least he’s happy” or some shit?
I really don’t know. There’s no bad blood and I hope he’s happy, but I just don’t know… It really sucks…
He recorded this record with you, then left?
He was into the whole thing when we wrapped up a European tour in April or May, and then the whole thing happened really quickly, like a snap of the fingers. In less than a month, we noticed he wasn’t being himself anymore, and then he left. We were so pissed off that for the whole month of July, we didn’t do anything, just partied. Children of Bodom was supposed to always be the five of us… And when he bailed, it was really bad news. But we didn’t want losing one guy make us throw the whole thing away, the thing we’ve been working so hard for all these years, so we knew we had to carry on.
So you did entertain thoughts of ending the band?
It came up, definitely…
Is the guy you have to replace him permanent?
Not at the moment, but he’s been filling in for the Japanese tour, a few festivals, and now the U.S. tour. He’s a great guy, he plays in Sinergy, my other band. He’s a great guitarist and he gets along with everyone.
Always meant to ask you how you pronounce “Bodom.”
People pronounce it differently everywhere, so I don’t care. I pronounce it “bow-dem.”
That’s what the lake is called, right?
I think the lake is actually pronounced “boo-dem.” But no one ever says it that way.
I live in Boston, and we have the basketball team, the “sell-tix,” and that’s always annoyed me because it mispronounces a whole freakin’ people, a religion, everything… It’s based on the Celts (“kelts”), the Druids, and “kel-tic” Paganism. So the band is “kel-tic Frost,” not “sell-tic Frost.” It’s the frost of an ancient Pagan religion, not some fuckin’ basketball team.
I’ve heard it both ways…
So a lot of people are wrong….
OK. (laughs) The rest of the band are laughing at us, cuz this is so like that scene in Wayne’s World where Alice Cooper describes how Milwaukee got its name from the Algonquin Indians, “Man-na-wah-kie,” meaning “the good land.”