Interviewer Adrian Hextall (Writer / Reviewer / Photographer – MyGlobalMind Webzine)
Fully 20 years into the tough, heroic grind that represents the lifeblood of extreme musicians, Finland metal scientists Children of Bodom have certainly won over crowds globally through a crafted alloy that is theirs alone. But the building of their esteemed career has also been aided and abetted by the simple maths of all that work, the intense touring, that inevitable return visit to your town that has made the band’s shows engaging, personable and energetic thrash parties indelibly stamped on the circuit boards of headbangers worldwide.
Adrian Hextall sat down with Janne Wirman at Nuclear Blast’s London offices to see how recent changes in the band’s line up has impacted the recording of the new album and how they are going to deal with the requirements for the upcoming tour. It’s probably not the best time to lose a key member of the band…
Janne Wirman: No, not at all. Yeah, very unfortunate. Luckily, the studio session, though, was not affected. I mean, the album was written for two guitar players, just like every other album. but then, just – we made this decision that Alexi will play both of the guitars for the album which, I mean, obviously, is not a big problem because he knows exactly how to play both of them. So that wasn’t a big problem. The main problem was that we had tours and festivals lined up right from the studio, we went back on tour. So, luckily, we found my brother could help us out and he filled in for the live dates and he’s going to be filling in for the rest of this year.
MGM: Excellent. So, when you guys are on tour with Megadeth, Lamb of God he’s going to be stepping in for you as well?
Janne Wirman: Yes.
MGM: Just temporary situation?
Janne Wirman: It is, yeah, we already have meetings and discussions and I think early next year, we will announce a new member for the band.
MGM: So, you don’t intend to record as a four-piece going forward. You are going to go back to five?
Janne Wirman: That’s the plan currently. We’re hoping to go back to five because it just makes sense.
MGM: You’ve done this time the album with Alexi doing obviously both of these pieces on guitar as well, so the album’s probably a little bit more personal this time around with fewer members playing on it.
Janne Wirman: Yeah. I don’t know. I mean, like, honestly for me, it didn’t change the studio, the recording bit at all, because, you know, nowadays – back in the day we would all hang out at the studio for the whole six weeks and, you know, when somebody was recording, the other guys were partying. But, nowadays, you know, just the guy who is recording is at the studio so, you know, I wouldn’t be around there, around the studio anyway for the second guitar or the first guitar recording, so for me, it didn’t change anything at all.
MGM: So nine studio albums in. Where are you still finding your inspiration from? What’s driving you guys still?
Janne Wirman: What’s driving us is that we know that after releasing the new album, we get to go back on tour because we’re all about the live, we are all about the touring and playing the shows. It’s just every new album is a way for us to go back on tour, basically so, you know, that drives us. I mean, you know, the state of the music business there’s nothing much, like there’s no album sales any more so that – in that sense it doesn’t make any sense to keep releasing albums, but, you know, what really drives us is that it gets us back on the road.
MGM: And I guess it gives your fans an incentive to come back and see you with something new to hear as well. The albums almost now have become an advertisement for the upcoming tour.
Janne Wirman: Pretty much, yeah.
MGM: What stands out for you? You’ve even got covers on here. I mean Danger Zone?????
Janne Wirman: Yup (laughs). Yeah, dude. I mean, we were kids when Top Gun was out and, you know, we tend to do funny covers every now and then, but everyone in the band, you know, remembers Top Gun from their childhood and stuff like that, we just had to do it, you know. It’s fun.
MGM: Presumably that’s when you did Skeletons in the Closet as well, didn’t you?
Janne Wirman: Yeah.
MGM: And, again, that was done for fun? They were just songs that you guys enjoy?
Janne Wirman: For sure. I mean Skeletons in the Closet was a compilation of all the covers we had done over the years, so we just put them on one album and you know it’s a lot of fun, you know. Covers are fun for us.
MGM: How much of the new music is added into the live shows because presumably your core fans are wanting to hear new album material?
Janne Wirman: I think last year, last Christmas, we played the Ramones’ Somebody Put Something In My Drink for fun at, at a couple of shows, but usually we do not play any of the covers live. Back in the day when we were young and only had released like one album, we had to play some covers to fill the set list (laughs) but nowadays for, like, for a really, really long time, we have not played any of the covers live.
MGM: I suppose it’s another reason then to get your fans, say, ‘well, we have got some recorded material come and check it out? Oh, by the way, you can get this as well’.
Janne Wirman: Right, right.
MGM: Because as you say, the actual album potentially doesn’t drive sales, but then your bonus is the limited editions, the additional tracks are an incentive to say actually physical copies, yes please?
Janne Wirman: That’s right.
MGM: The tracks themselves – I’ve been listening to them now for a couple of days, catchy as [email protected] I think is one of the phrases that was used in the press release.
Janne Wirman: Yeah.
MGM: You guys made this very, very accessible and seemed to have continually done so as the albums have progressed as well. Do you feel it opens it up for a wider audience in this space?
Janne Wirman: Well, I mean that was not the plan, but I hope so. What you said, what you mentioned is that it is a bit more straightforward. Yeah, again, it’s more easily accessible, yet I don’t think we lost any of the key Bodom elements. You know, we still got the melodies, we still got the solos, we have, you know, the brutal riffing going on.
MGM: Yes, but it’s still ferocious, isn’t it?
Janne Wirman: But it still feels a little bit more easily accessible, which I think is only great and given this, you know, how long we’ve been doing this and what’s going on in the music business and all that, I mean, I don’t mind at all that it is – it could maybe reach a wider audience.
MGM: Yeah. I mean it feels a natural fit, for example, that you can play and support Megadeth.
Janne Wirman: Right.
MGM: You know, they, they’ve got that more melodic element so their earlier thrashiness works as well. But then you’ve also got the brutal, more ferocious elements that do fit Lamb of God, quite honestly. It’s a good balance between the two, isn’t it?
Janne Wirman: Sure. Yeah. Sure. And, you know, I’m personally a, a big fan of Lamb of God and, you know, I think it’s a great fit, you know, for us to go on tour with them.
MGM: Now, you make an interesting point there. You’re a big fan of Lamb of God. What drives you to listen to that style of music, for example as a fan? Because you have to surely be in the right place, for example.
Janne Wirman: Yes. You know, for me, we’ve toured with them over the years a lot. We are great friends with them. But, you know, I, I would say their Sacrament album is, is one of the best releases in heavy metal music in a long time. Their Sacrament album has these killer catchy tracks, and yet, the whole album feels, as a whole. It doesn’t feel like any of the songs are left out. I just got their new album. I haven’t listened to it yet properly but I’m hoping it’s going to be killer stuff, but just really one of my favorite bands.
MGM: Do you need to be in the right frame of mind to listen to it or is it you picking the musicianship part and just appreciating what’s behind there?
Janne Wirman: Yeah, yeah. I mean, for me, I said this in another interview for a couple of summers where me and my brother would sit down in my back patio and barbecue and drink beer, we played that Sacrament album over and over again. It was just, you know our love for the musicianship, but yeah, it’s catchy and has, you know, brutal, awesome vocals and it’s just – for us, it was just like a party. Like the Sacrament album became our like go-to, you know, drinking beer and just chilling album for, for a couple of summers.
MGM: So, the ten new tracks that we’ve got on offer, excluding the covers, for example, tell me a little bit about it – the theme?
Janne Wirman: Yeah. Well, we have released two tracks already, Morrigan and the title track.
MGM: That’s just out the second one, isn’t it?
Janne Wirman: Yeah and those give a pretty good view because Morrigan is a bit more melodic and not so crazy, and then, again, the title track is quite brutal and heavy, so those give you like a pretty good idea about the stuff. But, yet, there’s like the number two track, My Bodom, is a very classic Children of Bodom track. It has elements, I think, from earlier on that people can really relate to. The number one track is a bit more melodic and then there’s also a slow song that we have, we have always incorporated one slower song into our albums. So you know, I’m hoping people will find everything they want to hear on the Bodom album in there.
MGM: And what about all the individual tracks, is there an underlying theme that you’re pushing out there in terms of the lyrical side?
Janne Wirman: No, and, you know, Alexi writes all the lyrics. I don’t have them. I don’t know much about them, to be honest. I don’t think there’s a theme. There’s not a theme that carries throughout, I think. And he says in interviews, even though he has, like, interest in witchcraft or something like, I think, what the Morrigan song is about, but I think most of his lyrics are just about negative feelings he gets you know, in his…
MGM: His best way to express them.
Janne Wirman: Yeah, right.
MGM: Musically, as, as I say, it was your keyboard works that opened it up for me. Musically you aren’t far off potentially moving into a prog metal element. You could quite easily do that.
Janne Wirman: Yeah.
MGM: It’s technically very complex. You have some very interesting runs and breaks on those keyboards and the guitars as well. Has that more progressive style ever been considered?
Janne Wirman: Well, it hasn’t been considered, but, you know, we never considered nothing, you know. We’re making a new album. It just takes a direction and the outcome comes out naturally. You never know that on the next album. It could move potentially towards a bit more progressive side, but I think it can never become too progressive. We wouldn’t want to. And you know like on the previous album, there was this one track that had a really weird tempo thingy going on, and it was like, you know, that was pretty progressive, I think. So, we’ve played with the idea a little bit, but just –
MGM: Fringe experimentations.
Janne Wirman: Yes. Right, right. But just a little bit not to piss off any of the, I would say we have a lot of fans who would not be into it if you would get too progressive, I think. But you never know…..
MGM: Yeah, we find, a lot of crossovers who will then say something like Dream Theater actually, we like them, we like them, and we like them and they’re all from different genres of music so you say you open it up to a wider audience and bring it together, I suppose can’t it?
Janne Wirman: Sure.
MGM: Just going back to the touring side of things as well, did you ever manage to finish that original tour with Lamb of God because Alexi fell offstage, wasn’t it when he was touring with them originally?
Janne Wirman: Yeah. Years ago, the last week of the tour we had to quit. Yeah, we were not on it, yeah.
MGM: Yeah. And have you toured with them subsequently?
Janne Wirman: I think, hold on. Shit. I…
MGM: We’re now going back to 2009 on here.
Janne Wirman: Yeah, I can’t remember. Maybe we haven’t toured with them since. We played a lot of the same festivals, I know. But I think that was – we have not had a tour with them ever since, yeah.
MGM: So, this is going to be pretty cool coming up when you’re actually out on the road with them as well.
Janne Wirman: Sure. Yeah. Like we – like I said, we’ve toured with them so much back in the day we’re good friends with the guys. We always get along great, you know. I mean, I’m really looking forward to going out with them always. Always a good time.
MGM: Who else, apart from Megadeth are on the tour with you?
Janne Wirman: Sylosis and I’m afraid to admit that I don’t know much about them, I have all their albums now in my bag, so I need to look into it. Everybody has been saying that it’s a good fit to the bill, so looking forward to that one, too.
MGM: In terms of, again, kind of going back to your style of playing and whatever, one of the things, and I’ll be honest. I picked this off Wikipedia in the small print. You originally started out as a jazz pianist, is that right?
Janne Wirman: Yeah. I don’t know why every interview I’ve now done for this album, everybody mentions that. I don’t know why it’s come back, why it’s resurfaced. But I studied in a pop jazz conservatory in Helsinki, Finland and you know what’s funny, we studied at the same time. Alexi studied at the same school, but we just never met at the school so I have a really good education in music theory from the pop jazz conservatory, and obviously, yes, I was playing some jazz at the time, but it doesn’t mean that I was like a full-blown musician, you know. People ask me questions like how hard was it for you to transition from jazz to extreme metal, but I mean there never was no transition. I was a kid I was a Metallica fan at the time, you know, so it’s not like I was like pursuing the full-blown jazz musician career and then, you know. For me it was not, it was not weird at all and, you know, part of what became one of my trademarks and my singing is that, obviously, having studied that and played a little bit of the jazz, you know, part of it is improvising and then I play a lot of solos in COB so for me it’s just ‘oh, great. I’m not a stranger to playing solos’.
MGM: And then you can improvise as you get along.
Janne Wirman: Yeah.
MGM: If it fits, it fits.
Janne Wirman: Right, right.
MGM: The school has got some pedigree. It seems to have pushed out a lot of musicians into the world.
Janne Wirman: It’s very famous in Finland for what it is, yes. It’s high, high quality. I mean they do provide really good level of education when it comes to music and for me, the main thing was the theory, the music theory. I study – I, I loved it, you know. I obviously, I played my instrument and all that, but I was the youngest kid to, you know, go through all the theory classes when I was there, so, you know, I loved it.
MGM: Yeah. So you’ve done it almost the proper way, all of the exams and all the –
Janne Wirman: Yes, all that.
MGM: Fantastic. That’s good inspiration for your fans and any upcoming musicians as well, isn’t it?
Janne Wirman: Yeah. What I’ve been saying in interviews that for me, I could not play in a band when I couldn’t talk to the other members of the band with proper music terminology, you know. If Alexi didn’t know the notes and the – how to describe the passages and the rhythms and whatever, I couldn’t communicate with him. I would be frustrated as [email protected] when he would start talking in guitar tablature language or whatever. So for me, I mean having a band member who I mean most of the music communication is between me and him, it’s like crucial that we both understand music theory. I couldn’t, I could not do it any other way.
MGM: Because, I mean, as you say, certainly on the guitar side of things, so many people learn from tablature these days actively learning about the music. Must be difficult to put one and the other opposites of the table.
Janne Wirman: That’s right.
MGM: Tell me a little bit about your fanbase as well, because I’ve seen a couple of comments just around how you refer to them as a group, the Hate Crew?
Janne Wirman: Hate Crew, yeah.
MGM: Yeah. Coming off the back of your 2002, 2003 album, something like that, I believe was it, why did that name stick?
Janne Wirman: I don’t know. It kind of started differently. Originally recall the core band in our crew, we call the Hate Crew, but then, I think – and, you know some guys got the COBHC tattoo because they belong to the Hate Crew, you know.
MGM: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Janne Wirman: Our crew, crew members and, you know, artists like that. But I think it’s just a great way of bringing it together, you know whenever we go to a country, Alexi goes, like, you know, “Hate Crews pain, how are you doing?” I mean it just brings it together. I mean it’s not – and that’s something that’s very, like, super important for us, but I think it gives a good sense of the fans belonging to it.
MGM: Yeah, almost like a brotherhood.
Janne Wirman: Yes. Yeah.
MGM: And in terms of, obviously, what they get from your music and everything like that, everything that you put out will have meaning to them and even down to things like the artwork as well. I mean you’ve got very notable design work on the album.
Janne Wirman: Yeah.
MGM: Who did that for you this time?
Janne Wirman: It was a new guy, a guy who we have not used before and we approached originally the guy who did the previous cover, but he was too busy so he gave us this new guy and I’m glad he did because he did a killer job on it. And when it comes to our band, our bass player is the one who is most responsible for the art, or he is in constant communication with the art side of this thing. And then you know, he shows us the ideas and we’d pick whatever ideas we like and then that’s how it goes and in the end we get this art, cover art ready. And this time, I mean a lot of people seemed to really like it and a German record company had even made it into like, this, canvas looking painting thingies and it looked amazing.
MGM: Is the canvas part of the sort of package releases that your fans can buy?
Janne Wirman: Yes. Yeah.
MGM: Because that seems to be coming quite popular now, doesn’t it? We’ve gone from just putting a CD out, where it’s almost back to that earlier era where we had all the limited edition releases.
Janne Wirman: Right. Because, you know, I guess the thing is that kids just don’t buy the CD any more, but then, the fans will buy it if it’s packaged with something nice, you know. So I guess that’s what I think it’s the reasoning with record labels now coming up with all these special editions where it’s packaged with something because, you know, the CD itself doesn’t sell any more, but if you put something nice on top, you know.
MGM: Yeah. Agreed. I mean, back in the day, it would have just been a folded poster that would have been the drivers. Everyone got a poster back in the day but now… canvas art, that’s going to look fantastic on walls. And what was the sentiment behind the artwork?
Janne Wirman: Well, it’s pretty like post-apocalyptic, you know. The lake is all dried out and the trees are [email protected] and the reaper is standing by the lake and, you know, it was just our three first albums had these main colours, like the first one was red, then it was green, and then it was blue. So, for years and years the fans were asking for like a yellow album and so now we’re going to finally – now it’s there.
MGM: And you, you obviously were saying about the lake being all dried out as well, the lake in the title of your name?
Janne Wirman: Yeah, the lake, the scene in the cover art, it’s Lake Bodom, yeah.
MGM: All of your albums of late have all hit top of the charts in Finland. You’re hoping for something similar I would imagine?
Janne Wirman: Well, yeah, but at the same time, I know how the physical sales are nowadays, so I mean the – for me, personally, the chart positions don’t mean that much anymore because, you know, it’s – in some countries they also calculate some fucking streaming and shit on the album charts so it doesn’t tell you nothing nowadays pretty much.
Janne Wirman: But, obviously, it would be nice to be on the charts, but for me, it’s not important anymore.
MGM: I suppose it still provides some publicity.
Janne Wirman: Yeah, that’s what it is.
MGM: But, as you say, that then at least generates the interest that maybe they touring.
Janne Wirman: Yeah, definitely. But back in the day when it was all about true record sales, obviously, it was very exciting if you got a good chart position. But nowadays it just really doesn’t matter.
MGM: Caught you briefly at Hellfest this year, what was that like for you?
Janne Wirman: That was a good show and that was kind of cool. We played the tent and not the main stage because, you know…
MGM: It was pretty intense. Yeah.
Janne Wirman: Yeah, it was so intense. It was very intense and then you – like when you put the main stage not too late, you know, the light show and nothing doesn’t really, you know, it’s just doesn’t make sense. But then, on the tent, the same thing we did in Graspop which we’ve always played at the big tent at Graspop instead of the main stage and I, I think it suits us way better. It gets – the crowd gets more intense. It’s way more intimate the whole reaction.
MGM: You’ve immediately got a darker surrounding you so the lighting works in your favour then doesn’t it?
Janne Wirman: Yes, yeah.
MGM: Did you check out anybody else while you were there?
Janne Wirman: Lamb of God a little bit, but they played almost at the same time just before us. I checked them out a little bit. But then I think we left pretty early. I think we had to drive out to the next festival so I didn’t see anyone who played after us, I think.
MGM: Yeah, it was, it was one of the festivals over the summer season where back to back festivals were just carrying on, weren’t they?
Janne Wirman: Yes. I saw a little bit of Alice Cooper, too.
MGM: Yeah, and there’s was an example, where as you say, main stage, of course, it’s Alice but it was far too light for it.
Janne Wirman: The Horror Show. Yeah, no, no. The Horror Show like bright sunshine, it doesn’t work, not at all. It’s not, like extreme bands like us, playing in the sunlight, it’s not mellow, man.
MGM: Right. It’s far too happy, isn’t it?
Janne Wirman: Yes, yeah (laughing).
MGM: When you finish the tour over here with Megadeth, the guys, where are you off to next?
Janne Wirman: That is a part of our full European co-headline tour with Lamb of God so we’re touring the whole of Europe with Lamb of God and then, on the UK bit, we have, you know, even Megadeth on the bill, which is great because we get to play bigger rooms, obviously. But – so, that’s, and that’s going to be – at the end of that, we’re going to have some headline dates in Finland so that’s going to be this year. It ends in mid-December and then, I think, from January on, we’re going to go on tour in the US.
MGM: Fantastic. So they can expect you sometime January onwards?
Janne Wirman: Yeah.
Children of Bodom’s new album “I Worship Chaos“ is out on October 2, 2015