What’s worse than doing an interview you don’t want to do? Interviewing someone who clearly doesn’t want to be interviewed. So when Karma Bertelesen had to settle for Children of Bodom keyboardist, Janne Wirman rather than Alexi Laiho, the result was as stilted as you’d imagine.
A couple of weeks ago I jumped at the chance to interview the most influential melodic death metal band in my universe. I’ve loved Children of Bodom since I discovered them in early 2007 and have fantasised about dry humping the leg of shredding god, Alexi Laiho many a time. Unfortunately, my dreams did not come true. Maybe some other time.
As has often been the case, Alexi was reluctant to go through the arduous process of talking about himself so it turned out that I wouldn’t be able to interview him. Out of all the band members who were too ill and tired to do an interview, Janne Wirman [keyboardist] was able to give me 10 minutes of his time to discuss the Finnish metal market, touring and avoid a question on misogyny in lyrics. Sadly, I could tell he wasn’t really up for it.
What was it like growing up in Finland with regards to musically educating yourselves, was the schooling supportive of this?
“Yeah, we had a band in school ever since I was 10. I actually had a great music teacher about the time I was 13-15 years old who was really supportive of our band playing.”
And even back then were you playing heavier music?
“With him, he was really into classic rock so we played The Doors and stuff like that. He was one of the reasons I really got into playing in a band because it was so much fun when we were kids.”
Were you all classically trained?
“I had some classical piano training but then I studied in a pop-jazz group from six years so I have that side too.”
How many instruments can you play?
“I used to play the drums, they were my second instrument after piano and I play a little bit of guitar but nothing too much.”
How does the Finnish market differentiate from the UK market within the Charts?
“In my perspective, the UK is a really weird market because you kind of try to differentiate yourself from the mainland Europe and from the US; you are kind of your own thing in between. So what I’ve always noticed, that the charts run different in the UK to the rest of the Europe. One reason being because you have big pop artists who are huge over here but that we don’t even know of in the rest of Europe. It seems these are very different territories chart-wise to me.”
Do you feel that the Finnish youth appreciate metal music more than anywhere else?
“I don’t know but there was definitely a part, like all my friends were listening to Metallica at some point. A lot of people were into it. Metallica is Metallica but it still was heavy metal at the time.”
Finland voted Lordi to represent them in Eurovision 2006, who then when on to winning it, do you feel they were chosen because the Finnish market is more supportive of heavier music or was it just a weird fluke?
“I think it was more about them being weird. I don’t think the Finnish metal scene had much to do with it.”
With regards for you collectively choosing to go down the melodic metal route, was that a conscious decision?
“I guess that was one of the bands original ideas to be different to other death metal bands, not be so classic death metal, have some melodies in there and I think that’s one of the reasons the band got recognised so much early on, because it differentiated from it.”
Who are your top bands of all time?
“If we are talking about metal bands, even though it’s not super melodic, I’ve been listening to a lot of Lamb of God, I don’t know about all time, it’s hard to tell because I listen to everything from classic rock to pretty extreme metal sometimes. But then again, sometimes I’m lazy and I don’t listen to any metal for six months. It really varies but I also listen to what’s on the pop charts, just to keep a fresh ear on everything.”
There is a lot more awareness now for misogyny in lyrics, how do you feel about it in Metal music?
“I’m a music guy, so I rarely listen to lyrics, especially the more extreme the metal band are, I don’t give a shit what they are trying to say. For me it doesn’t matter, I just listen to the music. The more pop the music is then you kind of have to listen to the lyrics. I’m just not big on lyrics, to me it doesn’t really matter what’s going on there.”
Do you feel there is an even gender split [between men and women] In Finland who enjoy Metal?
Do you feel that Finnish fans are more loyal or vocal about their admiration for you?
“They are very vocal about their opinions, like what they don’t like about the latest album and stuff like that.”
Sweden is another Nordic country that is well known for having a great metal scene how do you feel that compares to the Finnish scene?
“Sweden has a great scene and there are a lot of really great bands, a lot of bands I’ve toured with or just know and like, like In Flames and Soilwork. Sweden has always had a really good scene over there. It’s a little bit different, so the Gothenburg scene, you can tell when you put a CD on and immediately tell when the band is from Gothenburg or Sweden. The oral quality of stuff coming out of Sweden is really high though I have to admit.”
How do you feel about the age range within your fans?
“It’s cool to see that there are young kids in the crowd who were barely born when we released the first album. We’ve been around for 16 years already so, it’s good to see that we reach out to new people but also then again you see fans that are my age so you kind of know that they’ve been with you for years.”
What is the worst thing about being on tour?
“The waiting. The hurry up and wait mentality. You just wait for the show all day. Well, first you wake up and then you wait for the interviews and then you wait for the show.”
And the best thing about being on tour?
“The best thing is when after the show, you feel like having a couple of drinks and there is an after party or a nice bar around or the bus pulls in early so you can go out a little bit. I guess a little bit of partying is a good thing.”
What’s top of your rider?
“We have mellowed down a little bit lately but we need quality vodka, so Grey Goose Vodka.”
Who is the goofiest on tour?
“Roope, when he gets a little bit of the good quality vodka in him, he’s just such a goofball and all the opening bands always love hanging out with him because he is mumbling in his own weird way and people don’t even understand what he is saying.”
Who is the calmest person on tour, if there is one?
“Well, it can be Henkka but right now it’s part of the tour where everybody’s got a little bit of the ‘flu because if somebody on the tour bus gets it, everybody gets it.”
Finland not included, where’s the best place you’ve played?
“Japan. I just love the culture and how it’s so different there. And I love when everything works, when it’s planned and scheduled and everything works there. How they arrange the shows and all the gear and everything.”
How do you find that the UK is in organisation?
“Don’t get me talking about your ‘superior plumbing’ and your house building ‘qualities’. [The room we were in was cold, grey, had cracks all down the walls and piping could be seen] So far, on this tour we haven’t had any problems. I mean we play here so much and I think we normally play bigger venues so everything is fine.”
Do you prefer playing larger venues?
“No, I mean it’s funny on this tour a couple of venues got downgraded to smaller ones and we actually have a better time like yesterday in Manchester we were in the smaller venue [Academy 2] and it was a great show and the crowd were really into it. And a couple of the bigger shows like Sheffield, it was in a big arena, it was like they weren’t feeling it. Obviously I don’t think all the bands would say that but sometimes the smaller clubs can be so much more fun and intimate and awesome and then again when you’ve got a big stage like at Wacken you can have a brilliant show too.”