Interview: Alexi Laiho of Children Of Bodom on Metalocalypse, Mozart’s pop sensibility, and covering Britney Spears

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen news broke that Finland’s Children of Bodom will cause trouble in the Paradise this week — finally, not the stupid Worcester Palladium where they usually play ‘round these parts — I recall somebody on one of my social media feeds posted something to the effect of, “This is a travesty! How have one of the best metal bands in the world been reduced to performing at such a tiny venue?” And I thought to myself, “Well, gee, calling the near-1,000-capacity Paradise ‘tiny’ seems like a bizarre choice. Also, this show is going to destroy everyone much harder than it would at the Palladium.”

In the unlikely event that any of Bodom’s five members need to vomit at any point during their set, audience members ballsy enough to occupy the front could conceivably find themselves vomited upon, which would be metal. Phenomenally metal. That probably won’t happen at the Paradise, but it would never happen at the Palladium, where the greater distance between the crowd and the band makes a band-to-crowd vomit transaction impossible.

All talk of venues aside, there’s going to be a totally necessary keg party after the Death of All Gods, and Bodom have already recorded the post-Ragnarok rager’s soundtrack. The path of destruction commenced in the early ‘90s, reached and subsequently devastated my earholes with 2003’s Hate Crew Deathroll and 2005’s Are You Dead Yet, and now they’re touring out last year’s Halo of Blood. By Odin’s Cock, Bodom have great album titles. It did not occur to me to ask about album titles while Skyping with lead growler/guitarist Alexi Laiho as he was doing interviews from the Sony Offices in Helsinki. I regret this.

Barry Thompson: You’re playing the Paradise instead of the Palladium this time around. Do you prefer playing smaller venues, or do you even get a chance to do that often, or…?

Alexi Laiho: I just like venues that are packed, basically. That’s the most important thing.

Would you ever play a basement?

Well, depends on the basement, and depends on who it is. But I’m not saying ‘No’ right away. It differs, because when you play a festival, you might end up playing in front of 20,000 people, or you might play a sold-out club with 500 people. It’s a different vibe, but they’re both awesome. You definitely get a kick out of them.

I assume you’ve seen Metalocalypse?

Uh, yeah, I’ve seen a couple of episodes.

The big rumor is Skwisgaar Skwigelf is based on you.

I’ve heard about that, yeah. I think that’s funny as hell, if that is the case. I’ve been meaning to get into the show and buy the DVD box or whatever, but I just never really got around to it. I gotta do it for the next tour cycle, so I can watch them on the tour bus, ‘cause they were hilarious, the [episodes] that I saw.

One thing that’s drawn me to Bodom is the pop sensibility.

Yeah, I guess.

Are there songwriters outside of metal who’ve been influencers?

Uh, yeah, well, there’s been a lot of classical music like Mozart and Bach and guys like that. Especially in the early stages of Bodom, they were a big influence. On some level, in some ways, they still are, even though we don’t have as much of that neo-classical influence anymore in our music. Those guys are definitely still in the back of my head, kind of inspiring me.

Do you think Mozart’s pop sensibility is underrated?

Well, yes and no. It depends. Obviously, his music is appreciated, but I’m just not quite sure if… um, y’know, if people really get it. It’s hard to explain, but to me, some people are like, “Yeah, I don’t like Mozart, but Bach, he’s awesome,” and that, from my point of view, is you haven’t listened to Mozart enough to understand what the hell’s going on in there. But that’s just me.

What Mozart pieces would you recommend to people who know nothing about classical music?

Um, well there’s “Requiem.” That’s some dark, heavy shit. There’s “The Marriage of Figaro.” It’s just awesome. That’s one piece I actually picked up and I put on guitar, and I use it as an exercise when I’m warming up. There are a lot of cool things there if you’re into that sort of thing.

Tips for guitar players looking to step up their game?

Well, I mean, the basic idea is just practice and a whole lot of it. That’s basically all you can do if you want to get out there. You have to practice so much that it becomes an obsession. That’s how it was for me, anyway.

Do you still feel the need to practice a lot, even when you’re playing two hours a day on tour anyway?

Oh, definitely. I need to warm up before the show anyway, so I usually end up playing guitar for maybe two hours, or one hour minimum, but I usually play at least two hours before the show, just warming up and shredding just for fun. I love playing, so it doesn’t feel like work for me. I’m enjoying it. I’ve been doing this since I was 11 years old, and I’m almost 35 now, so my fingers are used to it.

Metallica just did an interview where they went into how metal’s not as big in America as it is in a lot of other parts of the world. They seem to be right. What’s up with that?

I don’t know, man. Well, I guess in many European countries, metal seems to be a lot bigger, for sure. At least certain types of metal. Of course, you’ve got those festivals all over Europe with tens of thousands of people. It’s a good question. I don’t have an answer for that. But I think the metal scene in America is pretty good, Usually when we come over there, we play to a packed club, and that’s really what it’s all about.

My armchair theory on that is Europe’s whole World War II thing. The historical memory makes for a greater need to explore evil, ‘n all that.

Yeah, maybe. Then again, the whole thrash thing was pretty huge in America in the ‘80s, right?

Yeah, but it turned into bumble gum hair metal nonsense.

Well, yeah. Which I’m a big fan of, by the way, too. I love that stuff. I love black metal and I love Poison. That’s just the way it is.

What’s your favorite Poison album?

I would say maybe Open Up and Say…Ahh!. It’s the second one. It’s just good party music, y’know?

What did you think of Bret Michaels’s reality show?

What was it called? The one where he was looking for a wife or something? Rock of Love? It was entertaining to a certain extent. Let’s just put it that way.

Metal’s got more sub-categories than, like, any other genre. There’s thrash metal, there’s black metal, there’s power metal, there’s death metal, and that’s barely scratching the surface. What’s up with that?

I don’t know, really, dude. I’ve been trying to stay away from any of those categories. If people ask me, “What is Bodom? Are you guys death metal? Are you black metal? What the hell’s going on? Thrash metal?” We’re just metal. That’s it. End of fucking story.

We’re metal.

I think metal fans in general are just so passionate about the music, that they really like to categorize everything. They really like to get so into it, and that’s a good thing. It’s a great thing that metal fans are so dedicated and so passionate about it.

You guys have a tendency to wink at your audience from time to time. Do you think more metal bands should have a sense of humor?

Well, I’m not saying one way or the other, but that’s just something we do. Obviously, we take our music seriously, but we also love to have fun and we’re not afraid to show it. That’s just us.

Hm, lemme rephrase that — do you think people in general would be well-served to lighten up?

Well, I think that… it’s just funny that some people completely… just one example — some people completely flipped the fuck out when we did the Britney Spears cover, which was obviously a joke. They were like, “That’s so fucked up! I’m never going to listen to Bodom ever again blah blah blah!” At the end of the day, those are the same people who just end up loving the shit out of it. So I think that, y’know, it’s just like, “C’mon dude, obviously it’s a joke, don’t take it that seriously.”

I thought that was great.

It is fun, right? It’s hard not to smile when you listen to it.

I might be screwing up the timeline here, but was the Skeletons in the Closet all-covers record (2009) prompted by the Britney cover?

No, not really. It was just the fact that we’d been recording so many cover songs over the years — we had 20 or 18 or something like that — it was since we had so many covers recorded. Skeletons in the Closet, that’s a good party album, too, definitely. Good beer drinkin’ music.

I’ve asked other bands this question, but you guys have had the same five people in the lineup since the late ‘90s, right?

Uh, late ‘90s yeah, except for the guitar player change. The original guy left the band in 2003, and then, well, our guitar player has been in the band ever since. Yeah. And same four guys for, what’s it? Seventeen years now?

How have you not all killed each other yet?

That’s a good question. The thing is, we kind of grew up together. Most of us went to the same school, so most of us are childhood friends. And we started touring so young, most of us were 17 or 18 years old [at the time], so we’ve basically spent our adult lives on the road. It’s a natural thing for us to live that way. We just know each other so well that we know how to get along in a tour bus.

I’ve been listening to Bodom for years, but I had to look up the proper pronunciation — Bow-dom — so I didn’t sound like an ass for this thing. Does that happen a lot, with people mispronouncing the name?

Yeah, but I don’t really mind. It’s like, you can say it however you want. I say Bow-dom, but it doesn’t really matter. I can say what it’s not. It’s not Children of Ba-Dom. Some people say it like that and I’m like, “Dude, no, no, that’s not the way to go.”

Like Ba-dom-dum-Ching!

Yeah, Ba-dom-bam-boom. Not like that.

CHILDREN OF BODOM + DEATH ANGEL + TYR :: Thursday, March 27 @ the Paradise, 967 Commonwealth Ave., Boston :: 7 p.m., 18-plus, $22.50 :: 617-562-8800 :: advance tickets

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