CHILDREN OF BODOM - If You’re Ugly And You Know It…
March 7, 2011, 9 years ago
The tender lyrics above, penned by Children Of Bodom frontman Alexi Laiho, amount to a mission statement. They illustrate why interviewing him is a challenge, and makes it clear that any bitching and moaning from the media and soft-hearted fans about what the band does or doesn’t do falls on deaf ears. Laiho loves his music and is grateful to have people along for the ongoing rollercoaster ride, but folks that have issues with what Children Of Bodom create or are looking for scandalous commentary are invited to take a flying leap. It’s an attitude he’s carried with him since the band’s 1997 debut, Something Wild, and it’s firmly in place for new album, Relentless Reckless Forever. Laiho is anything but the slavering beast fans are used to seeing on stage, however. He remains soft spoken and tolerant after weeks of fielding the same questions about his dealings with alcohol and the band going back to their roots this time out, content in the knowledge he'll be getting back to real business soon enough.
No nursing of broken bones or assorted bodily harm? Something Laiho has gained a reputation for over the years…“No, nothing’s broken (laughs). This time around Roope (Latvala / guitars) broke his ankle, but he should be fine by the time we hit the road. It’s always something with this band (laughs).”
True enough, but the Children have a knack for working past obstacle thrown their way, self-inflicted or otherwise. Case in point with Laiho’s increasingly publicized bout with alcohol during the tour cycle for their previous album, Blooddrunk. He admits to having hit bottom while on the road, “needing three shots of Jameson’s before I left the bus to feel normal….” and eventually dealing with the situation in typical Wildchild fashion: by forcing himself kicking and screaming back into a state of moderation. In spite of this, Laiho says Blooddrunk was “definitely” a good run for the band.“I think Blooddrunk was the best selling Children Of Bodom album. The feedback for Are You Dead Yet? was pretty controversial, and the reactions to Blooddrunk were much better. The general sound of the album didn’t come as much of a shock as Are You Dead Yet? did. The new album is different from those two; it’s not as dark and as dirty.”
Which has led to plenty of discussion about Children Of Bodom going back to their roots, the band’s 2003 album Hate Crew Deathroll – widely regarded as one of their best efforts to date – being held up as the model for comparison.
Laiho and his bandmates insist that Reckless Relentless Forever isn’t an intentional back-to-the-roots effort, but one has to wonder if shoving keyboardist Janne Wirman back to the front of the bus was done to shut people up.
“(Laughs) Yeah, well, I suppose at the end of the day we wanted to put the keys back in there just to keep them happy. The thing is, funnily enough, people don’t realize we actually had more keyboards on Bloooddrunk that we ever did before. There just weren’t on the surface or as obvious as on Hate Crew Deathroll or Follow The Reaper. They were always there, but it was more like different sounds doubling the guitar riffs here and there. And of course there are the strings and melodies. It wasn’t intentional or thought out beforehand, but this time around I think the keyboards are a mixture between the old school COB and us coming up with a bunch of crazy new sounds and ideas we’d never used before.”
“This album just came out the way it did, we didn’t push it in one direction of another,” he adds. “As far as the sounds go, me and Janne spent a shitload of hours trying to find one sound (laughs). They’re all unique, and this is how things worked out this time.”
As did the length of the album; the latest record in a series of seven that falls well short of the 40 minute mark. Laiho remains unapologetic.“I didn’t mean to write only nine songs, but that just seems to be our thing.”
Which clearly works in the band’s favour given their popularity. Other than a hard core Dream Theater fan, who needs 50+ minutes of music in one sitting?“I totally agree, especially when it comes to the kind of music that we do. There’s so much information within those 37 minutes that if you had 10 more minutes of it, it would be too much.”
There are people that come down on Children Of Bodom for holding to this format of making short albums, even though the fans in question should know better at this stage of the game.“Yeah, but there’s always that guy (laughs). He’s always going to be there.”
Relentless Reckless Forever upholds another Bodom tradition, namely the band’s – or rather, Laiho’s – penchant for coming up with ridiculous song titles. Hate Crew Deathroll raised more than a few eyebrows with ‘Little Bloodred Riding Hood’ and ‘Bodom Beach Terror’. It must be fun having people digging for the meaning behind new tracks ‘Pussyfoot Miss Suicide’, ‘Northpole Throwdown’ and ‘Cry Of The Nihilist’.“You can only imagine those conversations,” laughs Laiho. “I’ve always got the same answers to the same questions. If they want to ask me about the length of the album, for example, I’m always going to pull the fucking Reign In Blood card.”
On a more serious note, Laiho says the creative process behind Relentless Reckless Forever remained more or less the same as on previous outings, in spite of the fact it sounds different from the last two albums. He plays musical director, but his bandmates are heavily involved in arranging the songs. Right down to letting Laiho know that some of his ideas actually do suck.“Everyone speaks out and everyone gets hurt, too (laughs). The guys come up with ideas when I’ve hit a dead end arrangement-wise. I’ll stay up all night trying to figure out what the hell to do with a song, I’ll bring it to the rehearsal space and they’ll come up with these ideas. I’m sitting there going ‘Why the fuck didn’t I think of that…’ (laughs). We’re used to doing things that way.”
“There are a shitload of riffs didn’t make it to the album,” he continues, responding to the question about leftover material from the writing sessions, “but we use a trash can as opposed to a shelf (laughs). If a riff doesn’t make it onto an album it’s obviously not good enough. We just forget about it and move on.”
Laiho does so with a clear conscience. After all, his pursuit is that of making music to please himself and his bandmates first, and everyone else last. Relentless Reckless Forever wasn’t made with a lot of second guessing or fears of repeating something Children Of Bodom has already done.“If you think about stuff like that too much it’s going to be impossible to write an album that original or fresh. It does get harder when you start from scratch. You have an empty table in front of you, you’ve got nothing, and that’s the scariest fucking moment ever. It’s like, how the fuck are we going to pull it off this time around? You have to really psych yourself out of thinking like that. Once you’re in that zone it gets easier. It’s important that you don’t try so hard to create something new or something extra special. You have to have the attitude that you want to write a kick ass fucking album, end of story.”