CHILDREN OF BODOM – Heading For Lobodomy And Begging Them For More
October 1, 2015, 5 years ago
Children Of Bodom's trademark Hate Crew tag is meant as a proclamation of bad-assed-ness, but the band has hit a point in their career where it can be twisted to represent just how much some people detest them. Case in point when they pre-released a handful of tracks from their new album, I Worship Chaos; for all the praise the songs received there were just as many voices cutting the Children off at the knees. The music business has never been for the thin-skinned, of course, but in the internet age any band or solo artist hoping to carve out a career has to be prepared to get knocked in the teeth the moment they release new material. For Children Of Bodom vocalist/guitarist Alexi Laiho and keyboardist Janne Wirman any lambasting they've received for I Worship Chaos thus far is simply a walk in the park they choose not to take.
Alexi: "I started ignoring that shit pretty much right away, when the whole internet thing kicked in. It doesn't pay off to read any of the fucking reactions."
BraveWords: Which extends to ignoring folks like Machine Head frontman Robb Flynn, who took online shots at you via Facebook (in October 2014) after you voiced your disappointment at Machine Head cancelling the North American headline tour you were due to support because they wanted to finish working on their new album (Bloodstone & Diamonds).
Alexi: "I know, what the fuck? Honestly, it made me laugh because it was so surreal. I've known Robb Flynn for a long time, we've toured with Machine Head before and we always got along, and all of a sudden he's out there talking shit about me? I just laughed and that's why I didn't say shit about it. The last thing I want to do is get into some stupid-ass internet war. If anything, that break in the schedule gave me more time to write. I stayed pretty active, I did a bunch of other shit like guitar clinics and playing bass on a friend's band because I didn't want to sit on my ass. I was also able to work on riffs that I've had in my head for quite a long time."
BraveWords: It's not at all surprising that I Worship Chaos has polarized your fanbase. Something would be wrong if the fans weren't choosing sides when you release new music.
Janne: "I Worship Chaos feels right on many levels. It was the right time to release an album like this and somehow it all clicked together. You can't plan on something like this; sometimes it just works and everything turns out great. We haven't written the same song or album over and over again, but it's getting to the point where we have to come up with new and fresh ideas, and somehow keep doing what we're doing. That's something we've always kept in mind, to not release the same thing over and over again. That won't work for us."
BraveWords: The song "My Bodom (I Am The Only One)" is one of the best examples of you guys doing something new with your sound this time out. Nobody is expecting the progressive elements or the tempo changes....
Janne: "That's one of my favourites, that's a great track. When we were writing the music for the album I remember thinking that 'My Bodom' is going to be a classic Children Of Bodom track. There are hidden prog-ish things in there that the regular thrash metal consumer might not pick up on, but we like all sorts of music, and being trained musicians sometimes we put things in the songs that aren't your basic metal ideas."
Alexi: "That's one of my favourites, too. It wasn't really thought out when I started writing. Same thing as always, really; it just came out naturally. It was definitely something different, especially when I was done with the vocal tracks. The vocals really gave the song the kick that it needed because the guitar riffs are very rhythm based."
BraveWords: We've spoken before about songwriting in Children Of Bodom, which comes down to Alexi bringing completed ideas to the band. It doesn't come across as being a huge thought process.
Alexi: "It has to be that way, at least for me, because if you think too much about whether the fans are going to like this or that it's just going to steet you in the totally wrong direction. You can't be everybody's friend. I write the stuff at home and then I show it to the guys at the rehearsal space, we jam on it, and then I go back home and write more. We put the puzzle together as a group."
BraveWords: Do you guys ever question Alexi's sanity when he brings in new song ideas? As in maybe something comes off as getting a bit too far away from where Children Of Bodom should be?
Janne: "There are moments when I'm like, 'Really man?!' (laughs). The song 'All For Nothing' on the new album, we knew it was going to be something really fucked up, but it's so late into our career that we can do it. That was the biggest What The Fuck Is Going On? moment making I Worship Chaos because it's so non-Bodom-ish. I think it's fun that we can do songs like that at this point. There are so many killer Bodom tracks on this album that we can have fun and write a song that's totally different and fit it in there."
BraveWords: A source at the label (Nuclear Blast) mentioned that the band has its own studio now (Danger Johnny Studios), where you recorded the new album.
Alexi: "It's kinda like the COB headquarters where everything is. We have a rehearsal space, studio and warehouse where we can keep our backline, our cars, there's a lounge area, so it's pretty awesome. Everything for I Worship Chaos was recorded there including the drums. It's awesome because it beats having to book studio time and spend a ton of money on recordings. It's a different vibe compared to recording at home, and that's why I actually moved in there a couple of weeks before we started recording. We were missing two songs and I figured I'd get more done if I'm there all the time. I usually get so much done when I'm in there."
BraveWords: Any leftover tracks from the recording sessions that might surface later?
Alexi: "It's usually the case that if the riff doesn't make it to the album it's fucking garbage (laughs)."
BraveWords: I Worship Chaos is quite easy to get into provided you go in with an open mind rather than hoping and praying for another Follow The Reaper or Hatebreeder.
Janne: "Yeah, it's somehow easy to listen to the album. There's something straightforward and catchy in there, so it's easy on the ear. When you go through it, it doesn't feel as complex as some other things we've done."
Alexi: "'Morrigan' is catchier in many ways than a lot of stuff we've done, and song structure-wise it's more simple."
Janne: "I think it's great how we saved 'Widdershins' as the last song on the album because I really like that track. There's something catchy yet dark about it, so it's cool having a totally weird and fucked up song ('All For Nothing') as #9 and then having a killer track as #10."
BraveWords: A lot of people consider your previous album, Halo Of Blood, to be something of a return to your old sound after albums like Relentless Reckless Forever and Blooddrunk. Do you think the direction of Halo Of Blood rubbed off on how I Worship Chaos turned out?
Alexi: "I'm sure it did. As I said, I wasn't thinking too much about the direction of the music when I was writing - I went out of my way to not think about that - but yeah, I'm sure it did."
BraveWords: You're also 2 for 2 with regards to album cover artwork that doesn't suck.
Alexi: "(Laughs) We finally got the yellow cover, which so many people have joked about."
BraveWords: And once again, you guys are being confronted with the complaint that the keyboards - an integral part of Children Of Bodom's trademark sound - have been reduced quite a bit on I Worship Chaos compared to your earlier albums.
Janne: "It's odd because in some of the interviews I've done for this new album people have asked me 'Where are the keyboards?' What? (laughs). For me there's plenty of keyboards in there. Some of them are hidden, as we sometimes do, but if we were to take them out people would wonder what the fuck happened. They're hidden in a way that they contribute to the overall atmosphere of some of the songs."
Alexi: "The funny thing is that there's always been a shit ton of keyboards on all the albums. They're being used a little differently lately, some of them are hidden, but these people that whine 'There are no keyboards on the new album'... fuck you, dude (laughs). There's fucking non-stop keyboards on the new album."
BraveWords: It's a topic that been flogged to death since you started doing press for I Worship Chaos, but we'd be remiss if we didn't address the sad business of Children Of Bodom parting ways with Roope Latvala.
Alexi: "We don't really like to talk about the details because they don't matter. Basically, we'd just grown apart a lot as people and we had different levels of work ethics. It seemed like everybody in the band was really wanting to roll stronger and harder, to put more effort into everything COB-related, and Roope wasn't really out there with us on that level. It was just better for everybody to part ways."
"Roope was still there when we were putting the songs together. We decided to part ways three days before we hit the studio. It just meant I had to be on double duty but I didn't care as long as we got the shit done. And if anything I think we sound tighter now, so at least something positive did come out of a negative thing."
Janne: "Things started happening late into writing the music for this album so, fortunately, it didn't affect the writing process. Everything was written for two guitar players, but that wasn't a big deal. The bigger change for us has been the live situation, but my brother Antti (Warmen guitarist) filled in which was great because we didn't have to panic and go with somebody we don't really know. We were on such a tight schedule to finish the album, and I think it was one week after mastering that we were touring Russia. So, we had to find somebody to play live and be working in the studio at the same time. We needed somebody who could play the songs and who we could communicate with, so it was great when we realized my brother could help us out."
"Antti has been studying and working for the last three years or something, and he finally got his degree just as this was happening. He had time off, he quit his other job, so the timing was perfect. After all the discussions about finding someone to fill in for the summer, I figured Antti was the least stressful to get on board."
Alexi: "He made it super easy for me showing him the riffs and stuff because he's a great guitar player and a quick study, and I had to do that while we were in the studio."
BraveWords: Was there any consideration given to having Antti join Children Of Bodom as a permanent member?
Janne: "He's landed his dream job after studying for years to get it, and as his big brother I want him to continue with his career. It'll be a good thing for him. We've decided that he's going to be with us until the end of the year, and Children Of Bodom is currently looking for a full time member. So yeah, Antti is here until the end of the year and that's it."
BraveWords: With regards to touring, how much new material is going to make it into the set? This deep into your career it's boring for the fans and the band to always hear the same songs every time Children Of Bodom hit the road.
Janne: "We definitely want to put more new material in the set. We all agree this is a really strong album so I'm hoping we're going to play at least four new tracks. Unfortunately, we've released so many albums that we have to leave some stuff out, but this time we feel we have to play a lot of the new stuff live."
Alexi: "Choosing the setlist doesn't get any easier. Obviously we have to play some of the old shit because that's what people want to hear. I don't know how many times we've played 'Hate Me!' - a bazillion times at least (laughs) - and you would think we'd be sick to death of the song. I suppose we are. However, when we see the crowd go totally fucking nuts for the song, that's the payoff."