The mastermind of C.O.B. Alexi Laiho
Interview and pictures by Luxi Lahtinen
Children of Bodom´s previous album, ARE YOU DEAD YET?, came out in 2005 – and since then the band has nearly hectically been touring around the globe, not only to promote the album, but also making the fans pleased by the band´s wild live performances that indeed have offered many unforgettable moments for all of those who have come to see the band. Children of Bodom´s participation to the "Unholy Alliance" tour both in North America and in Europe, was one of the highlights for the band itself, and undoubtedly brought lots of new fans to them, too.
After all this touring, comes a time when one needs to sit down and start to concentrate on writing new stuff for a band so that the fans could come to see their favorite bands to gigs during next tours, when their favorite bands hit on the road once again. This is what the C.O.B.H.C. -camp have been doing since the fall of 2007 – putting their new songs together, simply rehearsing their asses off and recording new songs for the band´s 6th full-lenght album, titled BLOODDRUNK (what a cool title, buy the way!).
BLOODDRUNK will be released worldwide during April 2008, both in Finland and Japan on 9th of April – first in the whole world. Alexi Laiho, tells politely more about the band´s new album, the making of the songs and overall about everything what will be ahead of the band regarding their touring plans for BLOODDRUNK and so forth. Read on…
DRUNK BY BLOOD = BLOODDRUNK
Your new album, titled BLOODDRUNK, will be released during April this year worldwide. What kind of process was the making of this album for you – starting from the song writing process up to the recording process, compared to things when you worked on your previous album, ARE YOU DEAD YET?
Basically it was very similar to all that when we were making songs for ARE YOU DEAD YET? There´s no that drastic changes when it comes to the song writing of our newest album, BLOODDRUNK. To say it simplest way, I wrote a bunch of songs and brought them to our rehearsals where the other fellows threw different ideas into them. As for the recording session itself, it was probably one of the easiest recording sessions we have ever done for any of our previous albums. We recorded the album at Petrax Studios which is basically located in the middle of nowhere, so that gave us a very favourable settings to record the album there.
When you entered the studio, I suppose you already had the whole package ready so that you didn´t have to throw any extra rehearsal sessions in the studio any more, but only concentrate on recording the songs and that´s it, correct?
Yes, correct. We had the whole package ready before we went to the studio to record the album. In my opinion songs should be ready before you enter a recording studio. There´s just no point to start doing new songs in a studio once you have the actual recording studio booked for you.
The more I have listened to BLOODDRUNK, the more I have been able to spot out some single details out of your songs. Let´s take for example the opening track "Hellhounds on My Trail". There´s this short synth part in the end of the song, which reminds me of Alfred Hitchcock´s "Psycho" movie (1960). I suppose it´s no coincidence that it´s there, isn´t it?
He-he… no, it´s there on purpose. It has become some sort of inside joke for us over the years. In fact, we have also used the same idea in some of our older songs – and felt that this tradition needs to be kept on going.
What about the opening riffs in "Hellhounds on My Trail"? In my opinion it´s kinda ´slayer-ish´ and kicks off the whole album open, to say, in a pretty damn effective way after all…
Well, when we did that song, we didn´t think any further how it should sound when it´s done. We all thought it would be a good way to start the whole album with that song, kinda wanting to hit listeners straight in the face, y´know. So that song ended up being the first track on BLOODDRUNK.
What about choosing the final running order of the songs for this album. Was it easy to put the songs to the right order for BLOODDRUNK?
Yes, in fact we found the right running order relatively easily, I think. It´s in itself, very important to get these pieces together in the right way so that the whole album would work out the best possible way content-wise. This of course needs some effort to get the songs for an ideal order for an album, but I think it was easy for us to find that final format of the songs for BLOODDRUNK.
Then you have a song called "Lobodomy" on BLOODRUNK, which in my opinion has, probably the most epic (thanks to those synth parts in it) and heaviest parts in it compared to the rest of the tunes on the album…
Yes, I have to agree with you. It´s a very heavy song on this album – even kinda ´prog-ish´, too. I like it very much myself, too.
… and lyrically, I suppose you are splitting some skulls in the song in the typical yet very familiar C.O.B.H.C. -way, heh!
Ha-ha… probably so. Lyrically it has some sort of elements from the B-class horror movies, added with some elements of violence naturally, too. It´s done very much in a tongue-in-cheek vein just as many of our songs are lyric-wise. In fact, one of our friends, Kimberly Goss, wrote the lyrics for that song simply because I had my hands full of everything while we were working with the songs for this album. Besides that, Kimberly has done some lyrics for us before ("Silent Night, Bodom Night" for HATEBREEDER and "Bastards of Bodom" for ARE YOU DEAD YET?), so it was kind of easy to ask from her whether she would offer her helping hand for us again which she did.
Do you ever write any lyrics for your songs in advance, or it is always the music that comes first – and then the lyrics?
We always do the music first, and then try to find fitting lyrics around them. That´s always been that way for us, and I guess it will be that way in the future as well simply because it´s much easier to build up a song around lyrics than other way around.
THE CHEESY FACTOR ON ALBUM COVERS
What could you tell about the cover of the album? To me it looks like your fellow little Reaper has got quite a few new kills behind him, and he has gotten drunk by blood. The more blood – the more drunk, heh…
I like the album cover myself a lot because in my opinion it´s not that gory or bloody the way like f.ex. Cannibal Corpse present their album covers. Therefore the cheesy factor in it is quite minimal and I think the whole concept seems to work out even better than I even originally thought. The album cover really looks like the reaper would have cut off a half of your face away by his main tool. The artwork definitely fits for this album cover in a great way.
You also recorded 4 cover songs while being in the studio. One of them was this legendary cowboy song called "Ghostriders in the Sky" by Stan Jones. How did you end up choosing these cover songs anyway?
I know that "Ghosdtriders…" has already been covered many times by many different artists and/or bands. It´s based on the theme song for the "Ghostbusters 2." movie that was done by Bobby Brown" for it. Then we did "Looking Out My Backdoor" by Creedance Clearwater Revival and one Kenny Rogers song that are both inspired by the movie "The Big Lebowski". We already used that C.C.R. song for the B-side of our BLOODDRUNK single.
Knowing the fact, you´ve been doing dozens of songs during your whole career, I was just thinking how self-critical, or perfectionist one can become when you may find yourself from this somewhat odd and even awkward situation when nothing just seems to please you enough. I mean, have you ever noticed yourself to jam some riffs or rhythms over and over again – day after day while at the very same time, you may think something is missing from it and you just cannot get it right the way you wanted it to be?
I know what you mean. Yes, I have been in that kind of situation several times in my life, but I also gotta say, luckily it hasn´t turned out any worse for me. Probably over the years, I have started to think of this song writing process with a more reasonable way – and not trying to be too much of a perfectionist all the time. Let´s say, I may do a riff – or riffs that doesn´t/don´t sound good to me at all at first, and then may even throw them away for quite some time. Then I may take them back and try the same riff(-)s again some other day, and like all of a sudden, I may like them and think I should leave the riff(-s) as they are. Then there´s some stuff – some riffs, leads or whatever – I have done that I´m almost satisfied with, and when I just take the time and re-work with this stuff and modify it a bit before I´m certain that I´m happy how it sounds like in the end. Naturally it makes sense to filter some stuff before it ends up on a record, y´know. You simply needs to be certain that the whole package works – and not just one single song that you are 100% happy with.
What kind of message would you like to send to these so-called ´diehard´ C.O.B. -fans that basically have stuck with your past and insist you to do, let´s say, "Hatebreeder: Hate´s still Breeding – Part 2.", and kind of wouldn’tt allow the band to change from those days?
He-he, I guess I know what you mean by this question. Well, if SOMETHING WILD or HATEBREEDER is/are the only truth(-s) for them, then let it be. But the fact is, we won´t go back in time and re-do something all over again what we did in the past. I think it´s sometimes even healthy to open your mind a bit towards something new and just make some exploration around you. But like I already said, there´s no return back for us…
VIDEO SHOOTINGS IN BERLIN
You also made a video shooting trip to Berlin, Germany last December, where you shot videos for two of your songs from this new album of yours: For "Hellhounds on My Trail" and "Blooddrunk". The latter mentioned video is already available via Myspacetv.com – and it actually looked pretty cool. There´s some people in that video who all look like dead people or ghosts – and they are wandering around and doing different things in the script. Would you want to reveal something more shortly about them, who has done the scripts for both of them and so forth?
The team of The Katapult Production is responsible for these two video shootings and scripts of them, the director Sandra Marschner leading her team while we were working with them. We also used her experiece last time when we did "In Your Face" video for our last album, ARE YOU DEAD YET? What happens in "Blooddrunk" video, it actually doesn´t have much to do with the actual song itself. When we went there, the whole place was literally like a ghost town because it has been in ruins for many years and looked kind of spooky and all that. I think the video for "Blooddrunk" turned out pretty sweet eventually though. As for Hellhounds of My Trail", basically the main role in it is stolen by different types of shadows. There´s this huge white screen behind it in which you can see some sort of a shadow play or something like that. It´s actually kinda hard to explain what´s in it, but I really like that video myself, too.
GUITAR CLINICS AT THE 4TH ANNUAL FINNISH METAL EXPO 2008
A couple of weeks ago there was arranged this Finnish Metal Expo 2008 where both you and Roope (Latvala, that other C.o.B. guitarist fame) took a part of this guitar clinic thing on the 2nd day of the happening. How did you feel to show your guitar techniques to all those curious parties who had dragged their asses to that event to see you – and to learn a thing or two from you guys?
I think it was a cool thing to do after all. The whole event is kinda relaxing, a sort of ´hang around´ happening, so hopefully everyone who came to see us, enjoyed it as much as we did. I remember when I was a kid, there wasn´t anything like that at all where you would go to, and learn some techniques and tricks from your own favorite guitar heroes. You just leant everything by jamming other bands songs, trying to ape them the best you could. I belive this type of thing serves its purpose for many guitarists at least.
Did some of the curious attendants come to you after the event was over, just to ask some more tips for their guitar practises?
Yes, some did which is also nice because that´s why we are there, too: To show them some different techniques what we can do ourselves so that everyone who wants to know more about them, can freely ask anything from us related guitar playing – even our Japanese fans that somehow seem to be very interested in these clinics, but are too afraid or shy to ask anything from us, ha-ha!
INSTRUCTIONAL DVD BY ALEXI
There´s also coming up this comprehensive instructional DVD about you where you introduce some guitar techniques. It will be released through Rock House around March/April. Would you like to tell something about that one? Is it out already?
Actually I don´t know whether it´s out already or not. It´s up to them when they want to put that thing out really. As for the DVD, I really didn´t have much of my fingers in that actual script; it was basically pre-written for me beforehand, so I basically did what they asked me to do, playing my guitar, trying out some fundamental techniques for it trying to get things done. The whole thing was shot in Connecticut, New York. The last evening of the video shooting I also managed to get some malicious virus that put my stomach upside down, and I had like +39C fever. I was sweating like a pig and felt really sick all that day when trying to perform with my guitar in front of the cameras. It was a really terrible experience because the video shootings were supposed to get finished at that day, so I had no other chance but try to concentrate on doing my part as well as I could be capable of. Hopefully my terrible condition didn´t come through that DVD though as I looked like shit at the last day of the video shooting for sure, ha-ha!
BACK ON THE ROAD AGAIN
Let´s move on talking briefly about gigging. Next you have coming up this Spinefarm Records´ own showcase type of thing at the legendary Astoria Club in London, with Moonsorrow and Kiuas warming up that event for you. I suppose you have played there a few times before. How´s it as a place to play gigs anyway?
Yes, we have played there some gigs before. It´s a pretty cool place all in all as the club has been divided into two different parts: It has a smaller type of club, and then this bigger type of club where bands tend to play. Astoria reminds me of some sort of punk place how it looks like from inside – and yes, it´s also kind of a legendary place as we all know that by now.
What do you overall think of this sort of showcase idea that Spinefarm Records brings 3 of their bands to Astoria, kind of stepping up as a label and showing what they have on offer on their roster?
It´s understandable and I fully support this idea. You see, we have been more than 10 years on them; they were the label that actually ´found´ us and have been doing a great job for us since the day one. I feel like we do owe them and want to give something back to them, too. We have always had a very good relationship with Spinefarm Records for all these years, and participating in this event is just one way from us to show our respect toward the label, and for all their efforts what they have done for us for all these years.
You are about to head back to the road again now when this "Gigantour" will take place in North America. There´s gonna be a pretty hot line-up on this tour: Megadeth, In Flames, A Job For A Comboy, High On Fire and you are all in it – and all the bands on this tour could be said are pretty ´hot names´ in the States these days. Was it an easy decision to accept your slot on the "Gigantour"?
Yes, it actually was. We were supposed to do this tour 2 years earlier already, but due to our other touring plans at that time, it didn´t happen for us back then. It was Dave Mustaine who wanted us to join the tour, and I´m glad we succeeded in taking the offer this time. The tour and its line-up seems to be pretty cool in my opinion, so I must say that I really look forward to this tour.
Is this your first time when you start touring from the States when you have a new album out and all promotion should be done for it also by doing gigs?
Hmm… wait a second, now I have to think carefully. I think we started touring from the States when we did… Hold on, I take it back. In fact, it´s even quite possible that it´s our first time to go straight ahead to the States and start touring from there for our new album, I suppose. If I remember correctly, last time we started touring from Australia for our previous album, ARE YOU DEAD YET?.
After "Gigantour", you´ll play a bunch of these summer festival shows, doing festivals like Sauna Open Air in Finland, Wacken in Germany, Hellfest in France and a couple of other festivals as well. Obviously many festival organizers would have wanted to book you guys to play at their festivals this summer, but I guess you own calendar regarding gigging overall, is pretty much booked full for different happenings already, isn´t it?
Yes, it actually is pretty full already. We will also do this tour during this summer where we go to Australia, New Zealand and Japan. That leaves us hardly much choices left to go to all summer festivals we would like to play, so we will do the ones we can. In Finland, both Sauna Open Air and Rockperry are already confirmed festivals for us – plus, we´ll do some festival shows around at some other European festivals this summer, too.
The fact is that you´ve been touring mostly outside of Finland for the last few years, so do you have any further plans to do a more extensive tour in your home country, Finland?
Well, of course our home country and our fans here in Finland mean a lot for us, and we are trying to figure out at the moment when we could possibly do a more extensive tour around Finland. A lack of time to arrange a proper tour in Finland is still the key factor for us as far as touring goes. But we´ll see about that later…
NEW ALBUM FROM SINERGY – WHEN?
There´s been some talk about a new album from Sinergy quite some time already… What are the facts and what are rumours, can you give us some sort of update regarding this issue?
The fact is the new Sinergy album is ´almost´ ready and we are still under going discussions through about it and planning when we could possible finish it and put it out eventually. Unfortunately as things seem to be standing right now regarding it, we just haven´t had any time to get it finished completely. It´s as simple as that. It´s of course an unfortunate situation, but my main C.O.B. has kept me very busy for a long time. And now when this touring starts for us again, let´s just say ironically, the truth is out there somewhere, ha-ha! But seriously again, C.O.B. will keep us busy ´til the end of 2009, so I hardly think we can give the finishing touches to that new Sinergy album before that. But yet again, It´s better that I won´t make any promises about anything in order to avoid all unnecessary speculations…
Then one last question – the most serious one, before I let you go: Who´s Mr. Bean of the band to whom all kinds of things seem to happen both on- and off duties?
Ha-ha… I have to say it´s me. You don´t need to go that far into the past to get some evidence for this…
Bowling may be dangerous for our health (Alexi tripped at a bowling alley and his shoulder was hurt in Feb 2007, keeping him away from guitar playing for 6 weeks – Luxi adds), ha-ha! Thank you for your time Alexi and best of luck for touring.
Thank you very much. Have a beer!