Songwriter Interviews

Alexi Laiho of Children of Bodom

by Greg Prato

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Children of Bodom's ninth studio album overall, I Worship Chaos, appears to be a "back to your roots" type of release for the Finnish band. After all, they returned to Danger Johnny Studios (located at a top secret, undisclosed location in Helsinki), while producer Mikko Karmila (who worked with the band on such earlier albums as Halo Of Blood, Hatebreeder, Follow The Reaper, and Hate Crew Deathroll) was back behind the console.

The group's leader - singer/guitarist Alexi Laiho - spoke with Songfacts shortly before the release of Chaos, and chatted about songwriting, the stories behind several Bodom rockers, and why it's important to keep things light-hearted when it comes to recording B-sides.
Greg Prato (Songfacts): What sets I Worship Chaos apart from previous Children of Bodom albums?

Alexi Laiho: A lot of people have told me - all my friends that I played the album for - it's got a lot darker vibe in it. And it's definitely heavier. Not only because the guitars are even more low-tuned, but also, just the way it's played.

It's definitely catchier. Song-structure wise, it's very simple when you think about it. The riffs are not necessarily that simple, but the arrangements definitely make it catchier. I suppose it's just more approachable for people to listen to it and actually get something out of it from first time hearing.

Songfacts: Producer Mikko Karmila has returned for this album. What does he bring to the band?

Alexi: He doesn't get involved with the songwriting - he's in charge of the sound and the production side of things. He knows exactly what we want and what we need, and he takes that and makes it "bigger and better," so to speak. He's become a very important part of the whole thing. We're definitely going to work with him in the future.

When a heavy metal band records cover songs to issue as B-sides or bonus tracks, it's usually a tune that was originally done by a fellow high-decibel band (Metallica/Diamond Head's "Am I Evil?", Pantera/Ted Nugent's "Cat Scratch Fever"). Not the case with Children of Bodom, who regularly offer up metalized renditions of pop tunes.

A list of their incongruous covers includes Britney Spears' "Oops!... I Did It Again," Poison's "Talk Dirty to Me," CCR's "Lookin' Out My Back Door," Kenny Rogers' "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)," Pat Benatar's "Hell is for Children," Eddie Murphy's "Party All the Time," and Roxette's "Sleeping in My Car."
Songfacts: How does the band go about picking such unlikely songs to cover?

Alexi: Well, when it comes to covers, we love to just mix it up. It's not a secret that we enjoy doing a lot of goofy covers. Come on, we've done Britney Spears! This time around, we did "Danger Zone" by Kenny Loggins.

The thing is for us, covering metal bands is just kind of boring. It's already metal. It's much more fun to pick a disco song or a country song or whatever, and then polish it up in metal. We just get such a kick out of it.

Songfacts: I agree, because it seems like by and large, heavy metal bands take themselves too seriously.

Alexi: Yeah. That's very unfortunate. We really do like to have a lot of fun and we're not afraid of showing it, either. OK, the music is aggressive and dark, but it's important for us to show people we're not all that serious. At the end of the day, we like to have fun and we like to laugh, as well.

Songfacts: As far as songwriting, do your best songs come the easiest?

Alexi: Not necessarily. It is what it is. I don't think there's such a thing. Sometimes, the best songs are actually the ones that you've been going crazy with, and then you go back and forth with the arrangements, and you don't seem to be able to get it together. And then, it can actually become one of the strongest tracks on the album. But then again, sometimes it's the other way around. At least for us, it changes.

Songfacts: Could you give an example of a song that took a long while to complete?

Alexi: For example, from this album, the track "My Bodom (I am the Only One)," it was just one of those things that it seemed like it took forever to get it together. There were so many different riffs that were originally in the song, but I basically felt that the riffs were not good enough for that song. So if they're not good enough for one song, they're usually garbage. I just ended up taking a break from that song, moving on, and working on the next song.

And then, all of a sudden, we went back to "My Bodom," and tried something else. Then the song finally got a whole lot better, and when I finally laid down the vocal tracks, that really brought the song alive. When you think about it, the guitar riffs and the parts are very riff-based, and the vocals... not to toot my own horn, but I think I did a pretty fucking good job, as far as making that song a lot better than it was before the vocal.

Songfacts: What was the lyrical inspiration behind the song "Morrigan"?

Alexi: Morrigan is a goddess - she's one of the goddesses of the underworld. And this song is basically about mortal man being obsessively in love with a goddess, and can't let go. It's a very dark and twisted love song - that's really what it is.

Songfacts: The title track from I Worship Chaos?

Alexi: Well, I'm a very restless person. I don't do well with silence at all. Dead silence just freaks me out. I guess I have too much crazy shit going on it my head. I sort of need chaos around me to feel comfortable, and I ended up writing about that.

But it doesn't necessarily have to be something so dramatic. It can be something as crazy as having to have the TV on when I go to sleep. As long as there's something. I really can't deal with dead silence.

Songfacts: "Downfall"?

Alexi: It was more about feeling suicidal and the moment where you are about to do it.
The word "Bodom" is linked to a ghastly murder in the band's homeland of Finland: it is the name of a lake where in 1960, three teenage campers were stabbed to death, while a fourth survived. The killer(s) were never found, but in 2004, the lone survivor, Nils Wilhelm Gustafsson, was arrested on the suspicion that he was in fact the murderer. A year later, he was acquitted of all charges.
Songfacts: "Are You Dead Yet?"

Alexi: It was inspired by one of those mornings where you wake up with a cast on your hand and a black eye - having realized that you've done something a little stupid. One of those things. Mornings like that were part of my life sometimes. But this is back in the day.

September 24, 2015.
For more Children of Bodom, visit cobhc.com.

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