Heart of Steel: Interviews

Interview with Alexi "Wildchild" Laiho

Interview by Lord of the Wasteland

Alexi Laiho is a busy guy. In 5 years, he has released 4 studio albums and 1 live album with Children of Bodom and 3 albums with his other band, Sinergy. He's only 24 years old but is a big fan of 80s metal and an incredible guitar player. I chatted with Alexi via phone from Finland and we discussed the new album, HATE CREW DEATHROLL, as it's North American release date approaches. I should add that this interview is not for the faint of heart. This guy needs his mouth washed out with soap!!


You did an interview with Metal-Rules.com back in January of this year, but with the North American release of HATE CREW DEATHROLL coming on September 23rd, we hoped to get some fresh insights into things.

Alright. Sounds good, man.



Can you explain the title of the album for us?

Well, "hate crew" is another way to say "Children of Bodom". It's always been our thing. The Children of Bodom hate crew has always been the "gang" side of the whole band. "Deathroll" you can interpret that the way you want to. Whenever there's a war, there's always a deathroll-people have died and stuff. It could also be the people that we want to kill or a list of people that we already have killed. Everybody can make their own ideas about it.



How long did it take to write and record the album?

We started writing the songs around February and we started recording in August and recording took 6 weeks. Mixing took 10 days.

Pretty quick!

Pretty quick, yeah.



Are there any "leftover" tracks that might show up as a b-side or any imports?

Yeah. Before the album was even recorded, we recorded this track called "You're Better Off Dead". It came out as a single just in Finland. We did a Ramones cover for it and that was on there, as well as on the Japanese release. We also did a Slayer cover.

"Silent Scream"?

Right. We were asked to be on a Slayer tribute album but for some reason, it never came out so we figured, what the hell, we'll use it as a bonus track.



Is "Silent Scream" going to be on the North American release?

I'm not sure, but I would think so. I would think there would be something anyway.



HATE CREW DEATHROLL was released in Europe 6 months ago. Do you think that's going to affect North American sales at all, since people could get it as an import or have the songs available for download on the Internet?

I certainly hope not. I'm sure some people bought the imports but I'm more worried about the Internet thing. The way I see it is that anybody knew who Children of Bodom were before already have the album. We'll just have to wait and see I thought it really fuckin' sucked that there was such a gap between when it was released in Europe and in the States.



I bought mine as an import back in March, so I've had it for 6 months already! It was available here in Canada as an import for a domestic price. I think I paid $16.99 for it?!

(Laughs) Fuck! See!



I read you weren't very happy with the video for "Needled 24/7". Has your opinion changed at all or are you still pissed about the whole thing?

No. (Laughs) It gets worse all the time actually! (Laughs)

(Laughs) Really? From the last interview you did with us, I didn't think it could get much worse!

I don't even want to see it anymore! I'm just so pissed at the director, dude. He wasn't listening to anything we told him. We had a meeting with him, telling him what we'd want to have and we don't want to have any fuckin' artistic bullshit goin' on. We just want straight fuckin' heavy metal shit, you know? Just a bunch of headbangin' in a cool environment! But this dude came up this stupid ass fuckin' circus idea and were like, "Dude…no fuckin' way!", but he was like, "Just hold on, hold on…". He made this sketch of the whole thing so there was pictures and stuff and I'm looking at it and I'm seeing all these clowns and jugglers and ballerinas and shit and I'm like, "Dude…what the fuck?!?! Come on, this isn't heavy metal!". Anyway, we told him that we'd film in the tent, because there was this big ass circus tent pretty close to where we live and I thought that if we filmed in there it might look cool and it actually did. The parts where we're playing looks cool, but then I asked him, "You're not going to put any fucking jugglers in there are you?" and he was like "No, no, no…". When we were done the video, I had to go on a European tour with my other band, Sinergy, and when I came back, the video was finished. I was asking the other guys how it was and they were like, "oh…aahhh…um, dude, you're not gonna be happy about it" (laughs). Then I checked it out and it…it was just (pauses) horrible! The fuckin' dude didn't listen to anything we told him, so that's why-especially here in Finland anyway-I've been talking shit about him in all the interviews. He could have just listened to what the band said for a second and that's it. We put a lotta money on that video…it was like $17,000 dollars or something, so it was really professionally filmed but that pisses me off even more that we put so much money in it.

Was it the label that hired the director?

Yeah. We're actually making a new one right now that we'll start filming in about 2 weeks for "Sixpounder".


Will there be any more videos after "Sixpounder" or will you just see how it goes?

I don't think so. I think "Sixpounder" will be it.


Photo Credit: Century Media Records & Toni Härkönen


What's your favorite song from the new album?

It's changing all the time. In the beginning it was "Needled 24/7" but that song is everywhere so I got kind of sick of it. After that it was "Sixpounder" and then after that it was the last song, "Hate Crew Deathroll". Now I think it's "Sixpounder" again.



Besides the new tracks for the Japanese "best of" compilation, BESTBREEDER, have you recorded any more songs since the album came out?

That was just a cover song. It was Billy Idol's "Rebel Yell". That was a lot of fun to record that song. It actually turned out pretty good. I haven't actually written any new stuff. I just want to concentrate 100% on the touring and I'm not thinking about the future or the new songs or anything. They're building up in my head though, so when we're done with the whole tour, I just have to sit down and pick up a guitar and get it out. I actually have been writing some lyrics, which is really weird because I've never EVER in my life written lyrics before the music. As a matter of fact, most of the lyrics are written in the studio!



I heard that before…that you improvise your lyrics to some degree.

Well, it's not improvised but in the past there are songs that are complete fucking bullshit…just nothing. The vocals are just an instrument in there and that's it. I think I did half of the lyrics before the studio the last time and the rest in the studio. The reason I did that is because I was so fucking pissed off and depressed the whole month of July. That was when Alexander told me he was gonna bail and I just got so pissed, so for that one month I didn't give a fuck about anything and just partied. I was just sitting around my apartment drinking and the people around me changed. So I was just partying all the time and I wrote some lyrics. That was actually a good thing because I've never done that before.



I have to ask…why did Alexander Kuoppala leave the band?

Well, I try to be careful about what I say about him because there is no bad blood between us. He told me that he just got sick of touring and the whole band/rock 'n roll lifestyle living in hotels and tour buses and stuff. For me it was really weird because he was always the one who was SO into it! He was a die hard rock 'n roller and suddenly he made a quick 180 turn in his whole life. This whole situation involves a new girlfriend…


Yeah, so you can pretty much figure out the rest.



Right! So how hard was it to convince Roope to join the band?

He's just a session guy. He's kind of helping us out for the rest of the year.



Will he be on the next album or is it too soon to say?

No, he's just a session guy and that's it. He was actually the one who came to me and offered to help us out on the tour. He's such a great fucking guitar player and a really cool stage persona as well, so it was kind of a godsend for us that he said he'd help us out. We were starting to be a bit scared because we thought we were going to have to start canceling all the shows because Alexander couldn't even do the rest of the year! He just said, "I can't do this shit anymore", so we were trying to figure out what we were gonna do. We didn't want to cancel anything so it was cool that we can finish the tour properly. Then when it's all done, we can sit down and figure out who's going to do it.


Photo Credit: Century Media Records & Toni Härkönen


So you're going on the road with Dimmu Borgir, Nevermore, and Hypocrisy right away. Do you know what the order will be yet that the bands will hit the stage?

Yeah. It's Hypocrisy, us, Nevermore and Dimmu, which is weird because I think it should be us, then Hypocrisy, Nevermore and Dimmu.

Why is that?

Because they have toured the States before and I think they're bigger than us over here.

Do you think?

I would think so, yeah!

I guess they've been around longer but I'll tell you, I have ALL of your CDs and no Hypocrisy CDs, so what does that tell you? Maybe I'm just ass backwards…

(Laughs) I honestly don't know how much we've been selling there but somebody told me that Hypocrisy is doing pretty good in the States.



Have you come up with a setlist yet for the tour?

Dude, that's the hardest part of the whole tour, you know? We've been headlining for pretty much the whole year or at least at festivals we've been playing for one hour or 70 minutes, so usually we have a 90 minute setlist and now most of the places we play will be half an hour or forty minutes, so it's impossible to come up with a good setlist! We still want to play the old songs that people want to hear but we're still there to promote the new album so most of the setlist should be new stuff. It's just really hard when you think half an hour? What is that…five songs or something? It doesn't really give you very many options. It's still cool for us because even though it's our very first time touring in the States, it still feels like a vacation. Like I told you we've been headlining. We did Europe which was 5 weeks which can be pretty hard because you're the one who's responsible for pulling all the people in there! You have to go all the way every single night, which we would do anyway, but you're kind of obligated to do that and now we just play half an hour, get off the stage and get fuckin' drunk. That's it! I think it's gonna be a lot of fun.



You just played a gig in Russia! How did that go?

It was fun. It was just one gig in Moscow and that was it.



Was that the first time you'd played there?

We'd played in St. Petersburg a couple times before but this was our first time in Moscow, though. Russia is like…well Russia is Russia! I mean it can be pretty fucked up you know. Everything looks so decayed and it's really depressing looking. I would never go there on my own, that's for sure, but to play there is fucking AWESOME, seriously. They do anything for you. The crowd is just crazy because they don't get to see bands that often there, so when a European or American band goes there, the fans just go nuts. And the promoters…whatever you want, they'll get you. Not to mention the girls! My God!! They're pretty fuckin' friendly if you know what I mean…(laughter)



How was the tour of Japan with Soilwork last week?

It's pretty much the same as what I said about Russia. It's always a lot of fun to go to Japan because you know that everything is gonna work out. Everything is so well organized and they treat you really good. It's always special for the Japanese people, too, to get a band playing there. It's different to go to Germany because it's not that special. We don't come from that far away or anything, but for the Japanese it's special because we come from so far away. It's a whole different culture. I like the country a whole lot. I think Japan is one of the last countries in the world where people actually have manners and are polite. Whenever I come home from Japan, I'm always like, "Goddamn it, Finnish people are fuckin' assholes!", which they are (laughs).

(Laughs) Really??

Oh yeah! Japan is just crazy, though. Sometimes you have to go, "Just chill out, man" because they're being sorry for everything all the time. They don't even have to do anything and they're still being sorry! Like if you're at a restaurant and you drop a cup or something on the floor, they're like (in Japanese accent) "I'm sorry, I'm sorry…", you know? It's just crazy.



You were scheduled to tour with Halford in Japan in the spring. Did that happen before the band split up?

We did, actually. It was in February. I think we did six gigs opening for Halford, which was a good thing. We got to play in bigger venues and it was just when HATE CREW came out there, so it was the perfect way to promote it. It all worked out pretty good because we doubled the album sales. I think most of the people there came to see Halford anyway, but I think we made a lot of new fans there.



What do you think of him rejoining Judas Priest?

I think it's cool. I'm wondering if they're gonna do a new album or how that's gonna be, but I'm sure it's gonna be cool. I think the Halford stuff was really good.



They're actually supposed to be doing a new album and tour in 2004. Rumor has it they may be touring with Iron Maiden, too.




You've done a few cover songs. What were some of your musical influences growing up?

I kind of grew up with glam rock and stuff like that. My big sister was totally into Poison and Skid Row and Motley Crue, so I kind of just grew up with that. Then I got into harder stuff like Anthrax, Metallica and stuff like that and then there was Obituary, Entombed and all the death metal bands. Then after that I got into the whole black metal thing and now I'm back where I started listening to Motley Crue. The thing is, I'm so open-minded when it comes to music that it doesn't fuckin' matter what it is. It doesn't even have to be metal as long as it just sounds good. I'm into all the metal stuff and a lot of stuff that's not metal too.



You've done songs by The Scorpions, Iron Maiden, Ozzy, W.A.S.P., Slayer, Sepultura…is there any more cover songs or bands you'd like to cover?

Yeah! I think recording a cover song is so much fun because you already have a good song that you don't have to anything to it. You can just record it and you're pretty much free to fuck around with the song as much as you want, which is definitely a lot of fun. When we record a cover song that we get to pick ourselves and not for a tribute album, we like to pick something that is totally unpredictable and people wouldn't expect us to do.

Like Billy Idol (laughs)!

Yeah, or The Ramones. I'm sure that we'll record more covers in the future and it will definitely be something that will make people say, "What the fuck?!" (laughs) That's the best part, though.



You covered a Stone song. I've never heard of them before.

Stone is a kick-ass speed metal band from Finland. They were massive here at the end of the 80s. They actually toured in the States with Testament in like, '88, I think? Anyway, the problem was the record label they were on back then didn't know how to distribute music outside Finland. If you ever get a chance to hear it, you have to check it out, man. It's fuckin' cool. I'm still totally into it. Our new guitar player, Roope, used to play in Stone.



How long have you been playing guitar for?

I started when I was 11, so 13 years now.


Have you been singing since you were a kid, too?

Well, singing was never my thing. Of course I have been singing because I was in music schools and stuff like that but I started playing violin when I was 7. After that, I just got more and more into the whole rock 'n roll thing, so I ended up playing the violin like it was an electric guitar and posing in front of the mirror...

So you played "air violin"?

(Laughs) Then my Dad bought me my first guitar and I was like, "fuck the violin". I just wanted to rock.



Who were your guitar influences?

Well I was always into guitars…the sound. It didn't matter who it was. Back then, I was totally into Slash. I still think he's really good. Randy Rhoads. Jake E. Lee, Zakk Wylde. Steve Vai was actually the reason I really wanted to start playing. When I heard his PASSION AND WARFAE album. That was the thing.



How about your vocal influences?

Phil Anselmo. The singer from Kreator was a big influence for me. Even though it's got nothing to do with the way I sing, I like Billy Idol's way of singing, too.



You mentioned that you attended some music schools as a kid. Was that just for guitar or did you do some vocal studies there also?

Just guitar. I've never taken singing lessons or anything.



When you first started the band, you were called "Inearthed". Why did you change the name to Children of Bodom?

That's a long story but I'll try to make it short. We did 2 demo tapes with that name and when we were sending out the tapes to every single record company in the world, pretty much, we never got anything. Finally we ended up getting this total fucking rip-off, fuck you deal from this label in Belgium. I don't even remember what it was called but we just figured it was the only thing we were gonna get so we went for it. It was such a crappy deal. First of all, we were supposed to pay for everything. I mean EVERYTHING! They wouldn't pay for nothing. On top of that, we would have to buy our own albums from them. I think we had to buy 1,000 copies or something and then sell them ourselves. After that we'd get something like 10% of the royalties. It was such a fuck you deal. But we didn't figure we were going to get anything else, so fuck it! We went into the studio but we didn't have any money so we only had 8 days to record the first album and that was it. Somehow it ended up in the hands of this one guy from Spinefarm who thought it was really cool and he wanted to sign the band but the problem was we had already signed with this Belgian record label. Obviously we wanted to sign with Spinefarm and we wanted to get rid of this motherfucker anyway, so we just said that we should tell the guy that we split up and change our name but use the same album. That's exactly what we did. I know it was shitty thing to do but not as shitty as the fucking contract was so fuck that guy!



I'm not going to ask you to explain the band's name because I know it and it's been in every interview I've ever seen with you (laughs)!

(Laughs) Thank you!

What I do want to know is how you actually came together as band? Were you school friends?

Yeah pretty much. I've known the drummer for the longest time. I think we were in sixth grade or something when he moved to Helsinki from another town and we were in the school together. We started jamming when we were 12 years old or something and he was totally into playing drums. When we went into junior high, the bass player was in there and he was one year younger than we were, so that's how he got hooked up with us. Alexander wasn't in any school or anything but somebody knew him from…that's kind of a funny story actually! Jaske, our drummer, used to play the French horn in this stupid big band or something and Alexander was playing the trumpet in the same band and that's how they met. We knew that he played guitar, so when another guy quit the band, we said what the fuck and asked him. I dropped out of school in 9th grade but our drummer graduated from high school and he knew Janne our keyboard player so that's how that happened.



Who chose the reaper to be the band's mascot?

We were looking for a cover for the first album so we went into this place where they had all these art books with tons of pictures in them that you could buy the rights for, so we were flipping through the books and we saw the first album cover, you know the red one, and we were all like this is so fucking cool! This is definitely it, so we used that. It wasn't made for us. It was just a picture and that's it. Then was it was time to figure out a picture for the next album cover, we figured that we'd just stay with the reaper because it was so cool to have something non-musical that would always be related to the band and there he is!



Well it sounds like we've run out of time but thanks for speaking to Metal Rules again, Alexi. It was great speaking to you this morning. Good luck with the new album!

Thanks man. It was great talking to you, too.