Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo caught up with Children of Bodom's lead guitarist & vocalist Alexi "Wildchild" Laiho while he was doing some publicity work in California for the bands new EP release Trashed, Lost & Strung Out. Laiho talks in-depth about the COB sound, upcoming tours, cover songs, and much more.
Read on for the complete interview.
SoT: The band has a new 4 song EP out called Trashed, Lost & Strung Out. The title track and "Knuckleduster"-are those brand new songs or leftovers from past albums that were never used?
Alexi: No, those are brand new songs. They were recorded last March, so I think I wrote them in January, or something like that.
SoT: Whose decision was it to do the Alice Cooper and Andrew W.K. songs?
Alexi: You know, when it comes to covers, it's always like, we just want to do something that's going to surprise the fans, and get some sort of reaction like "what the fuck?" you know. (laughs) Like we did The Ramones, Slayer, Scorpions before, and Billy Idol, so we just wanted to see what kind of reaction we could get. Children of Bodom playing Billy Idol, how the hell is that going to work? (laughs) Then, even if the fans aren't going to like it, they want and have to hear it.
SoT: Absolutely! I'm sure that they feel that way with the Andrew W.K. tune.
Alexi: With Andrew W.K., we were just sitting down fucking racking our brains trying to figure out what to cover for the EP, and we were going through all these old songs and classics, and almost picked a Dead Kennedy's song, but then we were like, what the fuck, it doesn't have to be an old song, why can't it be something recent? One of the guys is into Andrew W.K. so we just decided to do it. We knew that it would piss a lot of people off, the real die-hard half who will be like "what the fuck are you guys doing, how could you cover fucking Andrew W.K.", but the other half actually will think it's pretty cool. All I can say to the angry ones, is to chill out, it's not the end of the world!
SoT: Did you get anyone who said they liked the COB version better than the original?
Alexi: I've heard that a couple of times, but I'm not sure how sincere they were. We just did our own version of the song, but it's basically done the same way as Andrew W.K did it.
SoT: Well you had fun with it.
Alexi: Yeah. We had to do two covers, so we were wondering what the other one would be. Even as we were in the studio, we had no idea what the fuck the second was going to be. Then, when we were at the studio for like two days, I was sitting around chilling with one of the engineers, and he started playing some old Headbangers Ball tapes, and there was a video for Alice Cooper's "Bed of Nails", which was always my favorite track from the Trash album. So I said , yeah dude, we should definitely do that, and as it turns out that's my favorite of the covers that we have done.
SoT: So you guys have a new guitar player now?
Alexi: Yeah, we do, his name is Roope Latvala. He's awesome. It's weird but he's actually one of my favorite guitar players of all time. He's older than me, and used to be in this thrash metal band for a while called Stone, who were pretty big in Finland. I was a big fan of his and especially of his guitar playing. Eventually we hooked up, and when he heard that we needed a guitar player, he called me up right away and said he was up for it. He one of the best guitar players we could have found, and a real cool guy.
SoT: Is he going to be doing any of the lead work, or will it still be all you?
Alexi: I don't know yet. I'm not going to be like "don't step on my turf" or anything, so yeah, I'd like for him to play some leads on the next album, but we haven't figured it out yet. I think it would really cool if he played some leads. Mainly, with Children of Bodom, it's Jan (keyboards) and I who do the leads, but I think it would be cool for Roope to do some leads here and there as well.
SoT: You mentioned Jan just now, and both you and he are exceptional musicians. What are some of your early influences? You can hear a strong classical influence, as well as early Rainbow and Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force on some of the COB arrangements.
Alexi: Well, yeah, we both were influenced by Yngwie Malmsteen & Jens Johansson, with all the crazy dual leads and shit that they always did. I was definitely into Yngwie, I mean he started all that shit, but he's not really the thing for me anymore. I'm more into Randy Rhodes, Jake E Lee, Zakk Wylde, and especially Steve Vai. He's actually the reason I started to play guitar. Jan is really into these crazy fusion players like Chick Corea and stuff like that, as well as Johansson. He's fucking incredible!
SoT: COB's style has changed a little over the years. In the beginning, your music was a very technical form of black metal, slowly becoming more of a melodic band that played an almost prog-metal style, and on Hate Crew Deathroll the music seems a bit more straightforward and heavier. How do you see the evolution of the COB sound over the years?
Alexi: When I think about it, when we recorded the first album I had just turned 18 and our bass player was 17, so we were young. So obviously playing-wise and songwriting-wise we have improved a lot. Talking about the music, like you said, Hate Crew Deathroll is definitely more straightforward, less progressive than say Hatebreeder, but it was something that was never consciously decided, we never wanted to sound a certain way, it was just how we did the album at the moment. The objective of the band is just to get more extreme and keep the guitar/keyboard thing going. We may not be as progressive or do as much totally crazy shit as in the past. Like recently, I was listening to our first album Something Wild, and you know, there was a bunch of cool riffs and things on there, but like the way that they were put together, I don't know, I don't think I was thinking of the song at the time, I was more thinking of "hey this is a cool riff, let's put it here" or some shit. The songs are not as well woven as we do now.
SoT: Well you've matured as songwriters.
Alexi: Yeah, you could say that.
SoT: What are some of your favorite COB songs?
Alexi: Let me think. "Hate Me" is probably one of my favorite songs, and definitely one of my favorites to play live. There's another song on Follow the Reaper called "Kissing the Shadows" which is not my favorite songs to play live, but it's just one of my favorites to just listen to. I'd also say "Needled 24/7" from Hate Crew Deathroll, but I'm just so sick of that fucking song right now, cause I've just heard it too much! (laughs)
SoT: Well, you just got done playing that how many times on the tour, so I'm sure you are! (laughs)
Alexi: Yeah, exactly! "Bodom Beach Terror" is another favorite of mine, as is "Hate Crew Deathroll", which is a different song compared to some of the others, as it's more of a bang your head type of piece. I came up with that one pretty quickly, like in an hour, which usually never happens. It's simple, with a catchy chorus, and has one of my favorite guitar solos of all time. It really sounds like "hey, these guys are fucking pissed off!" (laughs)
SoT: So you think that there will be another COB studio album in 2005?
Alexi: Well actually, probably in the fall sometime. It will come out in Japan first, and I hope that there's not a gap of like six months or some shit before it gets released here in the US.
SoT: I'm sure that Century Media will be pressing to get this one out quickly.
Alexi: Oh yeah. That's when the shit really started to happen with us when we signed with them here in the States, like the tours, exposure in the magazine and stuff. They have definitely done a good job with us. We are planning to play shows in Asia first, then Australia, Europe, and hopefully back here.
SoT: Will this be a headlining tour?
Alexi: It will be a headlining tour in Japan and Europe, and depending how the album does in the States we will either headline or open up for somebody.
SoT: What's going on with Sinergy these days?
Alexi: We're still working on the new album, and we have about six tracks done. There's a chance that the album might be out before the COB album. It's been hard to get it done because of scheduling, as COB was always playing gigs. It's coming out in 2005 though, and it's going to be some bass-ass shit.
SoT: Here's a question you've probably heard a hundred times-where do you get your nickname "Wild Child" from?
Alexi: (laughs) I don't know how I came up with that, but I guess I got it from the WASP song "Wild Child", but I think it also came from how I was acting at the time…(laughs) The whole subject is pretty fucking gay actually (laughs), I don't know what I'm going to do with that nickname. I mean, who wants to have a nickname of "wild child" when I'm like 30 years old?
SoT: If you were going to describe the music of Children of Bodom to someone who has never heard your music, what would you so?
Alexi: It's real aggressive, and if you appreciate lots of instrumental stuff, than it's for you. Some people have told me that when they are feeling bad or down, they pop in a Children of Bodom CD and it helps them to feel better.
SoT: Best to luck to you with the new EP and the recording of the new album.
Alexi: Thanks bro, see you soon!
Photographs courtesy of the Children of Bodom website and their respective photographers