CHILDREN OF BODOM – Shipping Up To Espoo
Espoo, Finland-based extreme metal outfit Children Of Bodom formed in 1993 under the moniker Inearthed, guitarist Alexi Laiho and drummer Jaska Raatikainen roughly 13-14 years old at the time. Alexi had played guitar for roughly two years while Jaska had just begun to play drums, and so the two began jamming. The pair attended the same class as well as the same school, initially performing cover interpretations.
“We tried searching for other guys who actually knew how to play,” Alexi supplements. “Then we started writing our own songs. We made our first demo tape in 1994, and then after that the bass player joined in 1995 we just kept recording a lot of demo tapes, and sending those out for record labels and stuff. We always got rejected up until 1997, which by that time we already had our current line-up except for the guitar player. It was basically just a lot of rehearsing. I remember we were basically rehearsing hours and hours every single day, all of us. We just had the passion and the drive to get out there. We just basically wanted to play shows, and wanted to make an album. We didn’t really give a fuck whether we were gonna sell a 100 copies or a 1,000 copies, but then all of a sudden the first album ended up selling like 40-50,000 within the first year. It was definitely pretty amazing.”
Finland’s mid-90s metal scene was mostly an underground affair. “The metal scene was mostly just underground black metal, death metal, just really an extreme metal kind of scene,” the guitarist concurs. “Especially at that time, the metal scene was kind of dead. In the early to mid-90s, metal was pretty much dead as far as the mainstream goes. Nobody really wanted to admit that they were into metal. It was all about grunge and all that alternative stuff and what not, so we were part of that underground scene for a long time. It was kind of like that up until the late 90s when things started to pick up, and we could actually see there were other bands out there kind of struggling as well. We got to tour with bands like Hypocrisy, Dismember, and In Flames, and I think that we were part of building extreme metal up again. It seems that extreme metal came back to the point where it was in the early, early 90s before it kind of died.”
Inearthed revised its moniker to Children Of Bodom during 1997. “We kind of had to do that, but we had a good reason too,” Alexi notes. “This was one of the labels we sent out our third demo to, and they were the only ones who picked us up. They gave us a complete rip-off deal though, which was the kind of deal where we would have to pay for everything, buy a 1,000 copies of our own album, sell them ourselves, and then get 10% of royalties out of that. To me it sounded like bullshit, and there was no promotion or what not either. We figured that that was all we were gonna get though, so we just did that. We then kind of saved up a little money, and went to the studio. After that, once Something Wild was recorded it ended up in the hands of a guy who used to work for Spinefarm. He called me up, and just told me ‘Look, you should definitely come to Spinefarm.’ That’s what we wanted to do, and we figured that it was a fair deal. We were gonna kill the band, and change our name. That’s what we did, and there was the album. That was it in a nutshell, to cut a long story short.”
Debut studio full-length Something Wild arrived in November 1997. “It’s aggressive and energetic, but also it’s juvenile,” the mainman critiques. “You can hear that we were young and we were just eager to get out there, but that’s the thing I kind of like about it too. Technically it might not be the best album ever but it’s definitely genuine, and you can hear that these guys are serious.”
Sophomore outing Hatebreeder came in April 1999. “It was an improvement as far as songwriting, and just personal skills,” Alexi enthuses. “Playing wise you can totally hear that within less than two years, everybody had improved so much. Also production wise, I don’t know if it was a good thing but Hatebreeder to me sounds too computerised. It’s a matter of taste, but definitely it was an improvement in every way.”
Third studio record Follow The Reaper marked Children Of Bodom’s first proper release of the 2000s, surfacing in October 2000 to be precise. “By the time we went to the studio for Follow The Reaper, so much stuff had already happened,” the vocalist remembers. “For Hatebreeder we had done a full European tour. Just basically so many shows we played; we went to Japan, blah blah. We basically became an established band in the metal scene at the time. Of course Follow The Reaper was just one of the albums where we actually had to think about what we were gonna do for the first time, and not rush into the studio and just fuck around. We were forced to take more time to write songs, because all that touring obviously took a lot of time. Also, it had a different sound. Follow The Reaper was recorded in Sweden, which was a new thing for us. We did it with Peter Tägtgren (Hypocrisy / Pain). From my point of view, I think Follow The Reaper was kind of like a culmination of the first two albums with a lot of new stuff added to it. It’s hard to explain, but it’s just from my point of view anyway.”
September 2003 heralded fourth platter Hate Crew Deathroll. “I think that was the album which really had the sound of Children Of Bodom for the first time,” Alexi exalts. “It sounds like we knew what we were doing, and song wise in general it’s really strong. Also, it seemed to be the album that broke us through. During that album, we also started concentrating on the American market as well which was a whole new world for us. The album actually gave us a chance to do something like that though, which obviously was a good thing. Hate Crew Deathroll is definitely one of my favourite Children Of Bodom albums.”
Hate Crew Deathroll was the last Children Of Bodom album to feature guitarist Alexander Kuoppala. “It was a weird case in every way,” the frontman muses. “He was there since 1995; he was so dedicated as a musician, and was a crazy metalhead. All of a sudden, he basically met some chick just overnight. He decided that he wanted to become a family man, quit the band, and just leave all his friends. I looked at him, and said ‘You’re not the first one to play rock ’n’ roll who has a kid, so what’s your fucking problem?’ He said ‘I just don’t wanna do this anymore,’ and then the guy just disappeared. It was strange, but I guess shit like that happens. It definitely sucked, but you can’t really stop and cry about it too much. You’ve just gotta move on, which we did. We found Roope (Latvala) to play guitar, and he’s a bit better guitar player anyway. At the end of the day, it was a good deal for us.”
Alexi had performed alongside Roope Latvala (Stone / ex-Waltari) in the power metal group Sinergy, both featuring on the Nuclear Blast-released albums To Hell And Back (August 2000) and Suicide By My Side (February 2002). “I had played with him for a couple of years already, like you said,” he acknowledges. “Everybody knew him already, so we knew that he would be cool and would get along with everybody. As a guitar player he’s fucking amazing, he really is. He happened to be there at the moment when Alexander told us that he was gonna bail. We didn’t really know what to do and we had all these shows coming up, important tours and what not. It just seemed that we didn’t really have time to train or find somebody new, but then Roope kind of offered to do the rest of the shows for the rest of the year. We were like ‘Yeah, okay. That’s cool.’ He just kind of stuck around and before we knew it, he’d been around forever. After a year of touring, you sure as hell really get to know somebody and whether they’re a person you can actually live with or not (laughs). He turned out to be a dude that everybody gets along with.”
September 2005’s Are You Dead Yet? was the first Children Of Bodom full-length to feature Roope’s guitar work. “Songwriting wise, it wasn’t really different from any of the previous ones,” the singer tenders. “Roope was really involved, and hard working. He was really involved in the arrangements as well, but at first I guess he was a little bit shy because it was only us four at that point. We were so tight since we had known each other since we were kids, so I guess he felt a little out of place at first. He didn’t seem to care about it though, because he did a great job. It didn’t feel any different; it just felt like we were just playing good music with good friends.”
Sixth studio record Blooddrunk saw the light of day in April 2008. “Again, there was a lot of touring for that album,” Alexi reiterates. “We were on the road for almost two years, and pretty much the songwriting and what not never changed really that much. Once we get off the road we take one month off, and then I start writing some stuff. The other guys then get involved. Basically I just come up with a riff or something like that, and then we go to the practice pad. We’ll then start jamming on it. That’s how the songs start, but by the time we started recording Blooddrunk the whole thing had grown a lot since Follow The Reaper or even the Hate Crew Deathroll album, and in a good way. Also, we just decided to do something different. For Blooddrunk Peter Tägtgren recorded my vocals and produced them. We wanted to try new stuff, and I think it turned out really good. It turned out really brutal; I would definitely say it’s the most brutal album we ever put out.”
March 2011 signalled the issue of seventh studio effort Relentless Reckless Forever. “It was kind of the same thing,” the axeman repeats. “Again, a lot of touring for Blooddrunk, more than we had ever done before. I think it even got to the point where I wouldn’t say it was too much, but it was definitely relentless. I would just put it that way (laughs). We didn’t have that many breaks, and we just got a little exhausted from all the touring. I think that’s probably the first time I’ve ever felt it. When I came back home from almost two years of touring, I was kind of burnt out. I couldn’t do shit for a month. I really couldn’t do anything – I needed a rest. Of course we were like ten years older and ten years more experienced too, so we knew we needed to take time off and we knew what to do with it too.
“It was a natural thing for us to take a little bit more time for songwriting, and not basically just kill ourselves with that and the recording process. I think that was a good thing because the songwriting was stronger than it was on Blooddrunk, that’s for sure. Blooddrunk is definitely more brutal and raw, and dirty and dark. Relentless is sharper, tighter, and more in-your-face. I don’t know… It’s kind of angrier, but then again it’s kind of hard for me to try to analyse our music. I’ll just leave that up to everybody else.”
May 2012 compilation album Holiday At Lake Bodom (15 Years Of Wasted Youth) marks 15 years since the issue of debut album Something Wild and collects select tracks from Children Of Bodom’s first seven studio records. “It was time to do something like that,” Alexi reckons. “I think 15 years for us was sort of a milestone, which also included seven studio albums. We figured that there were people who became fans of us when we released the first two albums – Something Wild and Hatebreeder – and then there are a lot of people who actually became Children of Bodom fans just recently. We all thought it was a good idea to put out an album that shows the whole career of Children Of Bodom from the beginning.”
One might describe Holiday At Lake Bodom as a ’best of’ affair, though Children Of Bodom’s co-founder wouldn’t. “I don’t want to call it that,” he stresses. “It basically just shows what we’ve done for the past 15 years. We’re a metal band, so to call it The Best Of or The Greatest Hits or whatever sounds wrong. That’s why we figured it was better to give it an original title.”
Holiday At Lake Bodom’s track selection was collectively decided by each of the outfit’s members. “It took awhile because there are so many songs, and it was hard to decide which ones we wanted to put on there,” Alexi laments. “We used the same method we use when we wanna come up with a live setlist, but through the years we’ve noticed which songs people like best when we play live. That’s how we came up with the track listing for the album. It’s one disc. There’s another disc which is a DVD, but that’s basically just us fucking around for 30 minutes and that’s it. The DVD doesn’t go all the way back to 1997.”
The compilation includes a music video filmed for Relentless Reckless Forever number ‘Shovel Knockout’, the video previously unreleased. “Nobody really wanted to put it out because it’s apparently too graphic, which I do not agree with,” the guitarist complains. “The music video for ‘Shovel Knockout’ is supposed to be a day in the life of Children Of Bodom on the road. It shows us coming off stage, getting fucked up, waking up the next day, and then going onstage again. There’s just drinking and partying going, so there’s nothing illegal going on. There’s no violence or anything, as far as I remember (laughs). There’s alcohol in it, but that’s legal, right? Originally we wanted to put that video on our website, because we knew that nobody wanted to play it anyway. It never ended up on there though, so finally we can release it. I think it’s funny as hell, and I think that people who appreciate Children Of Bodom will definitely appreciate that video too.”
Holiday At Lake Bodom sports two freshly recorded cover versions, one which happens to be a rendition of ‘I’m Shipping Up To Boston’. Originally by Celtic punk assortment Dropkick Murphys, Dropkick Murphys’ version is included on June 2005 album The Warrior’s Code. “We just kind of hit the wall with what we were gonna do a cover song of, because we had basically done everything from Slayer (‘Silent Scream’, from July 1988’s South Of Heaven) to Britney Spears (‘Oops!… I Did It Again’ from the May 2000 album of the same name),” Alexi confesses. “We wanted to keep the surprise element, but it was kind of hard by that point. The whole band are basically fans of Dropkick Murphys anyway, because the song has just been around. I think Janne or someone else said we should do that. I said ‘‘I’m Shipping Up To Boston’. What’s that?’ He said ‘It’s the one from The Departed (2006) soundtrack.’ So yeah, that’s why I remember that one. It was a subconscious thing. It’s a good movie too.
“It was a challenge to cover and it was fun, that’s for sure. It was definitely a joke. We make these stupid ass mix CDs – party CDs – for the tour bus and that song had been on three of them, so it got in our fucking heads. We were like ‘You know what? Fuck it. Let’s just cover that thing and get it over with.’ The only thing is that I couldn’t sing it, because vocally it’s impossible for someone like me. I’m a guitar player, not a singer. We had somebody else to do the clean vocals, a singer who has sung a lot of stuff for Warmen – our keyboard player’s solo project. A good singer.”
Children Of Bodom found ‘I’m Shipping Up To Boston’ easier to cover than Holiday At Lake Bodom’s second cover tune. “It’s just closer to the music that we play,” the mainman feels. “They’re punk rock and kind of like Irish folk stuff or whatever, so for it was just easier to do that. Basically we dressed it up in metal, and just made it a bit heavier. The funny thing is that we were used to the same kinds of elements musically; it doesn’t sound that obvious, but there’s certain melodies and a certain rawness to the music that they do. I actually never knew about the band till like five years ago; I knew of them, but I wasn’t into them. I guess it was a natural thing for us to cover them.”
Pop-rock vocalist Rick Springfield’s Billboard Hot 100 number one single ‘Jessie’s Girl’ (originally featured on the February 1981 album Working Class Dog) was the second composition to be covered for the compilation. “It was just one of those party songs that we’d been listening to for years on the tour bus, and it was sort of the same thing that we did with Britney Spears,” Alexi surmises. “It was one of those drunken ideas. We kept talking about it, and it got built up to the point that we just had to do it. Production wise it was a lot more challenging to cover than ‘I’m Shipping Up To Boston’ like I said, and the vocals were obviously. It was surprisingly hard for us to do anything with it, to make a metal version of that. I know that it was supposed to sound silly and kind of funny, but we still wanna make it professional. That’s why there was definitely more effort from us to do that.”
An eighth Children Of Bodom studio full-length awaits in the pipeline. “We’re having a break right now, so I’m gonna start writing some stuff,” the vocalist reveals. “We’re gonna do festivals throughout the whole summer, and by the end of June we’re gonna start writing new stuff. We should be in the studio sometime during this year. It’s gonna be metal, that’s for sure.”
Holiday At Lake Bodom (15 Years Of Wasted Youth) was released in the United Kingdom on May 21st, 2012 and in North America on May 22nd, all via Spinefarm Records.
Interview published in May 2012.
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