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Children Of Bodom    
Children of Bodom

Since bursting onto the scene with 1998's 'Something Wild', Children of Bodom have made it clear that they are a force to be reckoned with. Truly a worldwide phenomenon, the Finnish act's brand of technical, melodic death has connected with fans in their native Europe, Japan and, cemented by a break-out performance at the Milwaukee Metalfest, the United States. With Bodom's third studio album 'Follow The Reaper' ready to drop, the Metal Update had a chat with guitarist Alexander Kouppala.

METAL UPDATE: Could you tell me a little bit about the story of Bodom Lake?

ALEXANDER KOUPPALA: Yeah, well the story of the lake is that there was a murder, 40 years ago. To be exact, it was 1960, the 5th of June. There were four campers. Two guys which were 18 years old and two girls which were 15 years old. They were camping there, having fun and stuff like that. In the middle of the night someone came and cut the ropes of the tent, jumped over them and started to stab them. Three of them got killed immediately and one survived. He still lives nowadays but he doesn't remember anything about the event. It's a really famous crime story here in Finland and what is really interesting is that the killer never got caught. So that's the basic story.

MU: Was there a sudden change musically when the band changed the name from Inearthed to Children of Bodom?

AK: Yeah, for sure. The first demo tapes we did were more like just pure death metal style. We haven't made any radical changes to our music. It just developed towards what it is today. When we make music we just want to make good music. We don't want to think about how the fans would react. We just make the music and let them decide.

MU: Have any of the band members attended music school?

AK: Alexi, who makes all the music - he studied to play different styles of music, as myself. We played jazz and blues and whatever. It is important to listen to and play different kinds of music. It gives you an impression of how to use your instrument so you can get everything out of it. So it is very important to study and listen to different kinds of music. We also listen to a lot of classical music and stuff like that. Our keyboard player has been studying in music schools also.

MU: You can definitely tell from the playing. You guys play some intense and technical music yet it appears that you guys like to drink. Is there any partying before you hit the stage or the studio?

Children Of Bodom

AK: Not before we go on the stage. We have to play the best that we can. After that, of course we can drink shitloads of beer and booze but never before then. We were in the studio in September. There we did these nine to six days, eight hours per day. After that we had a party once in the week, not too much of course.

MU: Yeah, with some types of music you can probably get away with some partying but as far as how technical your music is you probably have to keep a clear mind.

AK: If you are a fan and you come to see our show, you don't want to see any drunken idiots on the stage. We want to offer them the best show that we can do of course.

MU: What is Asphalt Annihilation?

AK: (laughing) Where did you hear of that? MU: Well, I was checking out the website and I saw that is was mentioned a couple of times in the band profiles.

AK: Well the story behind that game is when we were in the studio. It was the second or third day. Our VCR broke down and we had nothing to do. When a human being has nothing to do it, it tends to try and figure things out. We got a bunch of blank paper and made games. One of them was this kind of formula game - a car race game - we decided to call it Asphalt Annihilation. It was a really cool game but it doesn't exist anymore.

MU: You should try to market it and make some extra money on the side.

AK: Yeah, perhaps, but it was just that we had nothing to do and made the games ourselves. We didn't have any kinds of channels on the TV, the VCR was broken. We had no games. Nothing. We had to make something up.

MU: What was your motivation to start playing guitar?

AK: When I was ten years old I got my first guitar and from that point. I liked music. I liked. . . well every musician mentions KISS of course. Then I started to listen to heavy metal. WASP and Judas Priest. Then I decided that was what I wanted to do. Along the way I have played different styles of music. Not metal, but blues and whatever to just get the feeling of what is out there. I have never thought of anything else other than music. So, the first day I got my guitar it was like. . . my mother showed me the first chords and I was like, "yeah, this is what I want to do." But as a guitarist, I started listening to Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai and, of course, Ozzy Osbourne guitar players Jake E. Lee, Randy Rhodes and especially Zakk Wylde. He is one of my favorites.

MU: Which do you prefer, playing live or in the studio?

AK: Live definitely because you get the energy and you are there for the fans who come to see you. It is really good to perform and try to create a conversation between the band and the fans. It is really important that they really feel that you are on the stage just for them and not yourself. In the studio you have to be so sharp all of the time and do the best that you can do. It's really stressful.

MU: Yes, it is really stressful. What was your worst experience with the band?

Children Of Bodom

AK: Worst experience? Whoa. There have been so many.

MU: Pick one.

AK: Within the band, we have very good spirits. We never fight. We are very good friends with each other. We don't have any personal problems and that's a very cool thing. But there have been a few gigs where the equipment doesn't work or whatever. Or I fell from the stage on the Montreal gig. Something like that. Nothing really bad has happened.

MU: Is there any significance to the Reaper on the majority of the Children of Bodom album covers?

AK: When we picked the cover for the first album, it was purely an accident that we found a reaper picture and it was just "OK, this is very cool" and I think it is a very powerful picture. A red cover and the reaper is reaching his hand towards you. And the second one, on the Hatebreeder album the cover is green and it's a little bit mystical. On the new album the cover is blue and is like "follow the reaper." It is asking you to follow. Of course we don't want the fans to kill themselves. We ask them to follow our music and stuff like that.

MU: I read in one interview that someone was kind of complaining about the band name and the album covers, how it takes away from the band. Personally, I think the album covers add a lot. The simplicity is a really nice thing. Just the one color on the album and then the reaper with a fairly simple background. It's really effective if you think of it.

Children Of Bodom

AK: I think the color issue is very important. To have the controlling color. To have red, green and now blue. But I don't know what the fourth album is gonna be.

MU: You ran out of the red, green and blue.

AK: Well I don't know. I know that we cannot do a black album because Metallica did it. It can't be white but let's see what happens.

MU: Maybe you can combine the 3 colors.

AK: Perhaps yes. But anyway, the reaper is gonna be there somehow. I don't know how yet but somehow. I think we have to figure something new out. Not the same kind of style anymore, something new.

MU: Why did you release a live album after only your second album?

AK: That's really bizarre for a band. It was just an idea from our label to record the gigs and we were like "OK, let's record them, but we don't want to release an album." Then we mixed the stuff and decided, "This is not so bad. OK. Let's go." It's limited to like 20,000 copies for the really dedicated fans. Nowadays I'm really comfortable with the idea. It doesn't sound so bad. It has the mistakes and everything but it's really a live album.

MU: It was surprising to me because from hearing the albums I was like, "I can't believe those guys can even play that live." Then I heard you came out with the live album and I ended up seeing you play in Milwaukee. I knew then that it can be done.

AK: Yeah but we have problems with live shows. Sometimes we play the songs too fast. In Milwaukee we had lots of problems with technique but the festival gigs are always like that.

MU: I think the crowd was impressed overall.

AK: Yeah, I think so too but of course as a musician things on the stage were bothering me like thes monitor didn't work, but what the hell.

MU: Will the lyrics be included on the new album?

AK: Actually no. There are lyrics for two of the songs. That is kind of tradition for us. On our website we are releasing more of the lyrics. But anyway it was just kind of an emergency solution because we had to get the album out in Finland and Alexi was really busy with Sinergy and stuff like that.

MU: Yeah, lyrics usually seem to come after the fact on Children of Bodom albums.

AK: Yeah, but now we are releasing a few of the lyrics on the website anyway. For the fans it's really important. In our chat room everyone is screaming, "I need the lyrics!" It's really important to give them what they want there. We are not releasing all of the lyrics but a few.

MU: You guys concentrate on the music more than the lyrics, right?

AK: Music is the number one here of course.

Children Of Bodom

MU: How was the recording experience this time around?

AK: It was really different. So far we have done everything here in Finland and now we decided to go to Sweden to Abyss Studios to escape the same style of recording and the same sound and stuff like that. We wanted to do it differently and the first one was, of course, the Abyss Studios because we knew that Peter is a very good producer. He can produce very good sounds. Tight sounds but still with attitude. That is what we wanted to do because we had a few problems. The studios that we've used, they put effort more to clean and technical sounds and they forget the attitude. That's not our style. There has to be aggression and rage. We are really satisfied with the guitars on this new album.

MU: Definitely. I think Peter does a great job. He knows how to bring out every heavy band.

AK: Yeah, the only problem we had with Peter is that he is a really busy man. Hypocrisy was releasing a new album and he had tons of interviews and stuff like that. So he said, "just go to the studio and record until you are happy and then I will come and check if there is anything to change." But when we started to do keyboards and vocals, then he was a really professional guy. He had amazing ideas for vocals and he gave Alexi a few lessons on how to use your throat. It was really amazing what he does.

MU: And you guys co-produced the album?

AK: I give the whole credit to Peter anyway.

MU: Have any of you guys had production experience before?

AK: Not so much. When we did the first and second album, we brought our ideas more. But then we didn't know so much about what we wanted. We didn't know anything about producing. Now we let Peter decide everything. It was a really good decision.

MU: What do think this new album offers that perhaps the previous albums do not?

AK: The first album was very very primitive album - aggression - not so clean. Hatebreeder was a very technical and clean album and I think this is between them. Some people said that this is a really complicated album to listen to. They hear it the first time and they are like, "What is going on?" When they hear it the third or fourth time they are like, "Now I get it. These are really good songs." Or course it's better that way. If you listen to it. . . everytime you'll hear something new.

MU: So what other projects are the members of the band in? Probably not much except for Alexi, right?

AK: Yeah, well he has the Sinergy thing going on. It is his second band kind of. And our keyboard player released a solo album. The rest of the guys are just concentrating on Children of Bodom and nothing else. We don't have time.

MU: What's the keyboard player's other project called?

AK: Warmen.

MU: What was your first impression of the US metal scene?

AK: It was the first time I had ever been to the United States of America and I was in Milwaukee. The local people came to me and said, "How do you like America?" and I was like, "This is fucking great. Awesome." They were like, "Excuse me but you are in Milwaukee. This is the worst place to be in America." I was like, "What?? This is a cool place." But anyway I think the audience was great and I really hope that next year we can provide a proper tour with a good tight package of like three bands or something and then we know exactly what is going on. Our equipment and stuff like that.

MU: Exactly. I think you guys definitely proved yourselves and I 'm sure you'll be one of the top priorities for a good package in the US. You guys are going to be touring soon in Finland, correct?

AK: After Christmas we have this mini tour. Six gigs only and we are playing in the most important cities here in Finland. It is really important for us to play for the Finnish fans because most our fans live here in Finland. We are selling many records here and it is very important to show our faces to the audience. It was July when we last played here in Finland so we really have to get on the road with this new stuff especially. After that we have a European tour with Primal Fear in February and some intentions to go to Japan in April.


review of Children of Bodom 'Follow the Reaper'






Interview: Scott McCooe [ ]
Editor: Brant Wintersteen [ ]
Twin Axe Photo: Cynthia Pelzner [ ]
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