Alexi Laiho of Children of Bodom: "Yeah, I broke my shoulder bowling."

Children of Bodom
Children of Bodom
Jussi Hyttinen

Children of Bodom (due tomorrow night at the Gothic Theater) formed in 1993 in the Finnish town of Espoo. Lead guitarist and singer Alexi Laiho and drummer Jaska Raatikainen formed the band around the age of fourteen under the name Inearthed. By the time the outfit released its debut album, 1997's Something Wild, the band had filled out its line-up a bit and changed its name to Children of Bodom, a reference to the infamous 1960 murders of children in the Lake Bodom area near where the band grew up.

Though sometimes referred to as black metal, the music of Children of Bodom bears closer sonic kinship with the melodic death metal that had come out of Gothenburg, Sweden, in the handful of years before Bodom got together.

This act seems to tour more often than it is home, and its latest release, Relentless Reckles Forever isn't really the sound of a band maturing so much as one where Laiho and company definitely aren't afraid to crack a smile -- particularly on the Japanese import of the album, which includes a cover of Eddie Murphy's "Party All the Time."

We recently spoke with Laiho who had woken up for the long night ahead on stage and discussed his early years in music, his deep appreciation for the various Ozzy guitarists and the bowling accident that took him out of commission for a bit a handful of years ago.

Westword: You learned to play many different styles of music growing up. How did you get involved in playing heavy metal?

Alexi Laiho: I started playing violin when I was seven years old so there was a lot of classical music going on. My older sister, she started getting into hard rock and heavy metal and that held an instant appeal for me. When I was really little I was listening to her tapes. I just became a fan of that style of music.

Who were the most inspirational guitarists for you as you were developing your own style?

You know, the guys who played for Ozzy like Randy Rhoads, Jake E. Lee and Zack Wylde. Then like Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen, Paul Gilbert. Guys like that.

Why were the Ozzy guitarists especially influential on you? It sounds like you have a special affinity for them.

They just seemed to have the most character in their playing. They all had different styles but they had a special kind of thing going on.

Are there any guitarists today that you very much respect?

Oh yeah. Not that I can think of many at the moment. Though Jeff Loomis, who used to play for Nevermore -- he's pretty badass.

What specific guitars do you like to play the most and why those guitars?

Oh, I have a signature model for ESP. It's the same shape as what Randy Rhoads played. It's pretty simple. It's got a single pickup, a whammy bar and twenty-four frets. It plays well so what's not to like?

What about the Lake Bodom murders inspired you to take that name for the band?

It was just the thing that we grew up near that lake where everything went down and we were at a point where we had to change our name for the first album.

When you were starting out, what was it like being in a band in Finland?

It was more like an underground scene. Black metal and death metal and stuff like that. The scene that we were a part wasn't easy to get a gig, and you had to really be out there and beg every fucking venue to have you play or open up for somebody. So yeah, it was pretty harsh. I mean, it was pretty rough, but it didn't stop us. We just wanted to go forward, and we would do anything to get a record contract and after years of playing shows in dingy dive bars and whatnot, we ended up getting signed. It was a lot of hard work but it was worth it.

Did you play outside of Finland early on?

Yeah, after the first album came out, we did the first European tour opening up for Hypocrisy and Covenant. It was mostly in Germany and Western Europe. That was amazing and at that time something like that seemed so huge.

How did you have enough of a bowling accident to be out of commission in 2007 forr a little while?

I don't know dude, I was totally wasted, and we were bowling with friends. I slipped somehow and did a fucking 180 in the air and landed on my shoulder. Which probably makes look like the biggest idiot in the whole fucking world, but yeah, I broke my shoulder bowling.

When I read that, I wasn't sure if it was even true.

Yeah, dude, believe it or not, it's for real.

Your band seems to be touring constantly. What is the most challenging aspect of that, and what do you find the most fulfilling?

Obviously the playing part...

Interview continues on Page 2.  

Your band seems to be touring constantly. What is the most challenging aspect of that, and what do you find the most fulfilling?

Obviously the playing part. To me, it's the perfect lifestyle. We move around all the time, and it's a different city every night and different people and different lives, so I like that. I have a hard time staying still anyway so it suits me pretty well. It can be a lot of fun and there's a lot of partying going on, but when you've done that for a year and a half in a row without a decent break, it does get to you. You start to see the wear and tear, especially when you have to fly everywhere or like when you're in South Africa or Asia and they don't have tour buses, really, so you lose so much sleep. Just things like that. It can definitely wear you down and it's definitely not for everybody.

What video games do you like to play most often now and what have been some of your favorite video games?

I like GTA games, but usually driving games, and I liked the type of games like Resident Evil or Silent Hill. But I haven't bought anything new recently, so I need to check what's out there.

On your website you list a few of your favorite albums of all time. Why did you include the Ozzy Osbourne album Tribute?

It's my favorite Ozzy album, and it was the first one I ever heard. I was supposed to learn "Crazy Train" for this music school thing that I was going to. I had never heard Ozzy before. I'd heard Yngwie Malmsteen and stuff like that, and I didn't know who Randy Rhoads was. When I heard that album, it was pretty amazing. You know, the guitar playing and good songs and the whole vibe on that album, just the whole live thing. It's pretty intense.

You went to music school. Did you have a lot of freedom in what you were learning to play, or was there a more strict regimen of education involved?

When I went to music school, it was mostly jazz and stuff like that that I was learning and musical transcription. Just shit like that.

When you're at home in Finland, do people generally know who you are say out on the street?

Well, yeah. I get to do my thing in peace but I would just say that in Finland where the non-metal people would know who I am.

What do people there generally think of someone who makes his or her living being a musician?

Mostly people respect what I do for a living. Of course in the vein that you have the balls to drop out of school and do something that you love. It is true that not that many people get to do what they love for a living.

What's the most unusual or interesting place you've played in your career?

There's so many countries, it's hard to pick just one. I don't know, dude, the whole fucking planet. We haven't played Alaska yet, and I haven't even been there so that would be cool.

Children of Bodom, with Eluveitie, Revocation and Threat Signal, 7 p.m. doors, 8 p.m. show, Tuesday, February 7, Gothic Theatre, 3263 S. Broadway, $20-$25, 303-798-0984, All Ages

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