By Mark Gromen
"That's a great question," says CHILDREN OF BODOM founder/guitarist/singer Alexi Laiho, when asked the whereabouts of 'Cruel Summer', the BANANARAMA cover which features a guest appearance by ANNIHILATOR founder/guitarist Jeff Waters. "I have to find out. It hasn't been released yet. Originally he was supposed to play on one of the tracks on the actual album, but schedule-wise, it didn't happen. That (bonus track) was one of the last things we recorded." The Finns have made a career of offering odd/atypically non-metallic cover tunes. This time around, that also includes ROXETTE's 'Sleeping In My Car'. Although he's the acknowledged ringleader, Laiho denies he's the only one capable of making a suggestion. "It's all of us," he contends. "A lot of them HAVE been my ideas, but if someone comes up with an idea, if it's cool. we'll do it. Sometimes we have to pick something real quick. I don't remember who came up with the Roxette idea, but we thought it would be funny. If you have to pick a cover, it's better to drink like ten beers, then the ideas start coming!"
It's 1:30pm, the daily interval on the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival when the COB members invade the press area, to answer a handful of questions. Despite their status an international headliners, they're on the undercard here and it's surprising how few "industry outlets" are interested in speaking to them (enamored instead with those closer to the top of the bill) and the few who do, have only an introductory level of understanding about Bodom. As a result, the conversations are finished in mere minutes. Before heading backstage, keyboardist Janne Wirman walks over to briefly interrupt his bandmate and say hello to BW&BK, his interview already completed.
Laiho and I continue, talking about the differences between major European festivals (like Wacken, where last year they played to 60,000+, in the pouring rain) and the small stage at Mayhem Fest. It must take some mental adjustment. "This is a cool opportunity for us," he says, mouthing all the politically correct sentiments. "We can't think about how many more people we had at Wacken. It's different. The album (Halo Of Blood) just came out and we needed to tour over here, so this gave us the opportunity to play in front of a hell of a lot of people." Half-jokingly, he continues, "One of the disadvantages is you have to walk two miles to take a shower. We mix it up here and there. At Mayhem, we only get to play 30 some minutes, which is seven songs or so." Would be easy to get discouraged, but with less than two weeks remaining, Laiho is in good spirits.
Do the bands bond, in a sense of similar camaraderie, or does everyone more or less keep to themselves? "There are bands we know, like MASTODON and JOB FOR A COWBOY, even though they have a whole new line-up now. AMON AMARTH...bands we've toured with in the past, so we hang out. MASTODON and AMON AMARTH play the main stage which is so fucking far away, a lot of walking. Sometimes the bus pulls out early, but we hang out." The day before, the tour had a free date, somewhere in Kentucky. I ask whether the bands got together, or whether the Finns just kept to themselves. "I was just lying down in the hotel, watching TV," says Laiho matter-of-factly. "That's what I try to do on the days off. Try to get some rest and not drink." (lifts bottle of water)
The band's website (Cobhc.com) contains a partial track-by-track video explanation of Halo Of Blood, although the closing 'One Bottle And A Knee Deep', a personal favorite, was left out. "It's a real cool ending song and was actually the last song I came up with. It's pretty catchy. Lyrics-wise it's another Lake Bodom related. It's a horror story about a guy who goes out to Lake Bodom, gets fucked up and then shit starts to happen." With a little more than a half hour onstage in North America, only the title track is included in the set. However, this Fall, they'll be headlining an extensive European tour. How do they know which new tunes are battle-tested, those that will work in the live arena? "We did some European festivals, where we did 'Halo Of Blood' and 'Transference', so we know those two work. We'll probably pick one more, although I don't know which one yet. The only way to find out is just do it. The album just came out, so (over here) it's better to do the old ones, the one's people want to hear, especially when it's only 35 minutes. When he headline (in Europe), we'll do three new songs and a bunch of the old shit. We have eight studio albums now, so it's difficult to make a set list." I suggest 'The Days Are Numbered' as a possible future inclusion, to which Alexi said, "Thank you. That's one of my favorites."
Hopefully 2014 will bring Children Of Bodom back, for a full set, where we'll get to hear a larger cross-section of the new album live, as well as more old friends.