Wild Child
CoC chats with Alexi Laiho of Children of Bodom
by: Aaron McKay
More than a month ago, I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with one of the two founding members of Finland's Children of Bodom, Alexi Laiho. An accomplished, dedicated, and appreciative Alexi answered question after question as I riddled him, one after another, in an attempt to surface the undercurrent of greatness-tinged mysticism that pervades Children of Bodom and their music. The band has a unique symphonic metal torrent, present alongside a neo-classical acuity [see CoC #32]. It is now my understanding that the forthcoming effort by the group is presently being recorded and has been promised a release date toward the end of February in Finland with Europe soon to follow. Please allow yourself the opportunity to experience Children of Bodom's splendor, if you have yet to do so, but preface it with Alexi's following thoughts to whet your appetite.

CoC: Children of Bodom have hit #1 in Finnish sales. What a terrific accomplishment for the band.

Alexi Laiho: Yes, that's true. It's pretty cool. Especially in Finland, we are becoming pretty popular. When we did the album, and after we finished, I was convinced that no one was going to buy this shitty album and no one was going to like it, because I thought it was too black metal for heavy metal fans and maybe too heavy metal for black metal fans. So we didn't expect something like this would happen. So, in Finland it is selling pretty well. We released the single ["Children of Bodom"] a couple of months ago and it went to number one in the single charts for two months.

CoC: In a perfect world, would you have -picked- "Children of Bodom" to be the song that the band is known for?

AL: I don't know. I think the best... Well, to be honest, I am pretty sick of the whole album. If I had to choose, it would be the first song, "Deadnight Warrior".

CoC: That's a great song.

AL: Thank you. It's always a compliment to hear stuff like that.

CoC: I wanted to ask about the intricacies of the band's music. It is very heavy and extremely melodic. How do you work these two styles together so well?

AL: I think that it is the musical influences. Maybe three or four years ago, I was a die-hard black metal and death metal fan. At that time, I liked only totally aggressive death and black metal material, but nowadays I am more into older heavy metal, like Manowar, Judas Priest and stuff like that. I don't listen to much black metal anymore, but it is kinda my roots, so that is why our music is still aggressive, but influenced with classical music, too. I listen to a lot of classical.

CoC: I think that I read once that the name of the band and the song, Children of Bodom, isn't necessarily about the history of the murders at Lake Bodom (in Finland), but more like fantasy combined with the history.

AL: Exactly.

CoC: Would you say that CoB's music is in a fantasy vein?

AL: No! Definitely not. Only one or two songs actually [are like that]. When it comes to lyrics, and, I think, when it comes to the music itself, I try to describe my own emotions at times. Feelings like, sometimes, hatred and depression -- stuff like that. There are many inspirations for me as far as the lyrics and the music are concerned as well. Sometimes I like to do this fantasy kinda thing, which is, obviously, like [Lake] Bodom and the Children of Bodom. I think it would be pretty boring if i would just scream my head off...

CoC: I think that the vocal style came across very well.

AL: Yeah, if we would say that we were a black metal band, then I guess people would [ask] why the hell we sing like that. I think that it's cool to do different kinds of vocals depending on what part of the song is going on. Like if it is some melodic death metal [part of the song], then I just do it.

CoC: I think that the way CoB laced the lyrics in made the songs powerful and loaded with emotion. Is that how the band intended the album to come across?

AL: Yeah, that's true. If I had all the lyrics for like [the song, "Children of] Bodom", or some fantasy thing, I don't think that it would sound so aggressive, like what you were saying about what [one] thinks or what is going on in [one's] head. [That] makes the vocals sound more powerful and aggressive, I think...

CoC: ... And "real". It makes the vocals sound "real".


CoC: You and Jaska [Raatikainen -- drums] are original members of the band. Would you mind giving the Chronicles of Chaos readers a bit of the band's history?

AL: We started the band in 1993. In 1995, kicked out the second guitar player because he was more into drinking than rehearsing. Then the guy playing now, Henkka [Blacksmith -- guitar], turned out to be a pretty cool guy; pretty good guitarist. Then I just asked him if he wanted to joint the band. The other guy is a keyboard player [Janne Wirman]. We started without one. We took a keyboard player in '95, which is actually the same guy that used to play guitar, which is pretty fucked up <laughs>. He played for a couple of years, from 1995 to 1997. He was good and rehearsed with us a lot. In 1997, [the band] became frustrated. We were rehearsing like hell, but didn't get a record deal or anything like that. Then he would mess around and not come to rehearsals -- I don't know what the fuck he was doing...

CoC: Was the group becoming discouraged that it was not being noticed by any big labels?

AL: Yeah. I totally understand that. I was quitting the band twenty times all the time. I don't know, something just kept me going. I didn't ever believe that anything would ever happen.

CoC: Now it has.

AL: I'm happy that it has.

CoC: Did you find it challenging to split your time between Children of Bodom and Thy Serpent?

AL: Yeah! It was actually -too- challenging. So I don't play in Thy Serpent anymore. I was supposed to be a steady member in the band, but it just didn't work. I just didn't have time to play in two bands which I like. Thy Serpent is a three-piece, I think, right now, and they are going to play some gigs, I don't know where, but I think I am going to play the gig [with them] too. I'm not going to play on the album or anything like that. It was actually total hell, for me, to play in two bands.

CoC: I can see that. You just decided to dedicate most of your time to Children of Bodom, huh?

AL: Yeah. Now I play in a Swedish band called Synergy. There is Jesper [Stromblad] from In Flames, Sharlee D'Angelo from Mercyful Fate, and Kimberly Gross from Dimmu Borgir / Therion / Ancient.

CoC: Quite a line-up!

AL: It's pretty cool. I was in Gothenburg one month ago and we rehearsed; got the whole album ready. It will be released next March or something like that. I think [Synergy] are going to be pretty cool. Definitely not black or death metal; it is like pure heavy metal. I'm just doing the album. I'm not going to be a steady member or anything like that.

CoC: I noticed that you got picked up by Spinefarm, was it three years ago?

AL: Just a year ago, actually. We signed with Spinefarm and have a license deal with Nuclear Blast. Even before we released this album, we played a gig supporting Dimmu Borgir in Finland; there was one guy from Nuclear Blast, just watching the gig. He saw our gig first and said to [our] label manager that [Nuclear Blast] wanted to sign us on a licensing deal or something like that. It's working pretty well. I think it's pretty good for us to be at this point. Spinefarm is a small label, but it's big enough to do the promotion in Finland and Scandinavia. It's kind of like they are a small label and we are kind of a big band for them. They treat us pretty well and take care of us. If we were just [on] Nuclear Blast, then I think that we would be just another Nuclear Blast band. They have a lot of bands. They are really good [with] promotion when it comes to Dimmu Borgir, HammerFall or bands like that, but there are too many bands that Nuclear Blast doesn't do anything for. But they have done pretty good promotion for us.

CoC: I think that they've done a good job with promotion for you also, especially since I owe them a great deal of credit for this interview. It certainly appears that they are pretty well behind Children of Bodom.

AL: Yeah.

CoC: Do you have any sense of how it is going with promotion over here in the States?

AL: I don't know. I don't have a clue. It is impossible to think of what is happening [in the U.S.]. It feels just like another world to me. At this point, I am interested in how it will be, in Europe, like in Germany. The response from Germany has been really cool. I think [the album] will sell well enough. I don't know about the States. It seems like these Florida bands are popular there, like Death or something.

CoC: Death has -always- been big over here. I think that the States, in a lot of respects, tend to follow what the European trend is, especially for the type of genre that you guys are in. With any luck, we will follow suit and we will get to see you guys over here.

AL: I hope so.

CoC: I hope so, too. Spinefarm put CoB on a sampler with Cryhavoc and Wizzard. Do you have any feel on how that sampler is doing, for Children of Bodom in particular?

AL: That is the single, "Children of Bodom". The single is doing well, being at #1 on the single chart in Finland, so it is doing well.

CoC: Do you have any opinion of the other bands that you are on the sampler with?

AL: Yes. Cryhavoc -- I like it. When they had their old singer -- I like it. I think it is cool. The other band, Wizzard, to be honest, I don't really like that <laughs>. Yeah, I think Cryhavoc is cool.

CoC: Any tour plans, particularly in the United States?

AL: Actually, we are going to do an European tour with Dismember, Gorgoroth, and a Swedish band called Raise Hell, that got signed to Nuclear Blast. We are going to play Germany, Austria, etc..

CoC: Is the tour a couple of weeks long?

AL: It should be three weeks.

CoC: That tour should help get Children of Bodom's name out there.

AL: I hope so.

CoC: If you could pick any band that you could hit the road with, do you have any idea who that would be?

AL: That's a hard one. I think that it would be pretty cool to tour with Hypocrisy again. We toured with them before. Maybe some big band, Manowar. That would be cool. Is black metal popular [in the U.S.] right now?

CoC: I think so. Black metal is finding its own niche here, like Absu, from Texas, are as big as black metal gets in the States. I think that a helluva package tour could be put together to go through the States. Does Children of Bodom draw a lot of influence from Manowar?

AL: Yeah! I'm a die-hard Manowar fan and I guess that almost everybody in our band is... We have influences from them.

CoC: Is there anything you would like to say to the readers of Chronicles of Chaos?

AL: All I have to say right now is just check out our album. I think that it is really weird to think that it could do well in the States, but I hope it will.

(article submitted 16/1/1999)

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