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Exclusive Interview with Alexi Laiho from Children of Bodom

By Charlie Steffens aka Gnarly Charlie, Writer/Photographer
Sunday, April 16, 2006 @ 9:03 PM

Pizza between pals

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The Sunset Strip echoes with the footsteps of the pioneers of rock: Morrison, Page, Van Halen. Nestled between such venerable venues as the Key Club (formerly Gazzari's), Whisky a Go-Go, and the Roxy, sits the fabled Rainbow. This funky bar and grill, whose walls are hung with imagery from celebrated rock photographer Glen La Ferman, has been the site for many rock myths and legends. What better place to snag a piece of pizza with Children of Bodom, and then sit down for a chat with Alexi Laiho, guitarist extraordinaire?

KNAC.COM: Just to start it off, will you punch me in the face?

LAIHO: You want me to punch you in the face?

KNAC.COM: I heard there was some guy that asked you to punch him in the face and you punched him in the face…is that right?

LAIHO: Yeah, that's true, yeah. It was at this signing session in Salt Lake City -we had like an in-store signing at a record store, whatever …I don't know what it was called. But, yeah, we were just signing autographs, and this one guy -he had a fuckin' …you know, the Mormon or the Bible …I don't know what it's called …

KNAC.COM: The Book of Mormon?

LAIHO: Yeah, exactly. He wanted me to sign that, plus a white t-shirt, which was all covered in bloodstains and shit. I was like "Oh, shit, I'll sign it", and that guy's like "Just one more thing …could you punch me in the face? My friend's going to take a picture of it." And I was like, "Are you serious, dude? Like, you want me to punch you in the face?" He said "Yeah!" and I did.

KNAC.COM: Did you hammer him?

LAIHO: No, I didn't pound him.

KNAC.COM: Liability?

LAIHO: (laughs) Yeah, it's like next time I'll have a fuckin' lawsuit or something like that, but I did punch him, though. He was like "Okay, thank you." Ciao.

KNAC.COM: I'm a fan, but maybe not to that degree.

LAIHO: (laughs)

KNAC.COM: You just wrapped up another leg of the Are You Dead Yet? tour. What did you think of last night's show in Anaheim? How did that feel?

LAIHO: We had played Anaheim before and it's always been really good, but I think that probably last night's show in Anaheim …it was just, I thought it was probably the best one of the whole tour as far as the whole atmosphere. It was a killer fuckin' crowd, and I think that with the band, you know, since it was the last show, the band was in pretty good shape as opposed to the first show of the tour, which was New Haven, Connecticut, or wherever the fuck, you know. I was so bummed because we sucked so bad, because we had a few weeks break before that. But it's like you just got to keep touring before you actually get in that killer shape.

KNAC.COM: You guys have been together a long time, so I would think that any break in the action -- whether you're out of the studio or off tour -you probably come back to it feeling pretty rusty. It's not like you just fall right into it, right? You gotta get your chops back…

LAIHO: Oh, yeah, definitely. The thing is that before a tour or especially before we go in to the studio, you gotta rehearse your fuckin' ass off. But right now the problem, really, is that we're touring so much that there is only one week between each of the tours, which means that we're shipping all of our equipment to the next country or wherever, and that's why we're not able to fuckin' rehearse. And even one week …I mean, can be that it takes a couple days to get back on track. We did a 6-week US tour, and we had less than one week for a break, and then we did a 7-week European tour. I would just say that on that European tour the band was in such a fuckin' killer shape that, you know, we played really good shows. It's only because we've been on the road so much -we're just really used to what we're doing and everybody felt confident about it. Usually the first shows of the tour -they're always like, all fucked up in way, because there's always problems with the equipment and stuff like that.

KNAC.COM: I understand that even on the road you practice quite a bit.

LAIHO: Yeah, I do.

KNAC.COM: I heard that you, in particular, usually get up around 5 PM, so you enjoy the excesses …it's a good life.

LAIHO: Yeah! I'm having fun, man, that's the thing. And obviously …fuck, I always get my job done. I don't get fucked up before the shows or anything, you know? Obviously, it's always about the music, but after that, what the hell man …I enjoy the life. I enjoy meeting new people everyday, being in a different city every single day. I've always had a hard time staying still; I just get too anxious being still for too long. I mean, right now I feel pretty burned up …I'm probably going to take a little break from all the craziness, like for the Slayer tour I'm trying not to drink, I'm going to try to get in better shape. We've been out rolling since September and it's been pretty fuckin' crazy, so I can kind of feel it right now. And, for me, as long as it's fun then I'll keep doing it, but when I feel that something's fucked up and I'm just doing it for the sake of it and it's not fun anymore, so then I'll just quit doing it, you know?

KNAC.COM: So you know how to put the reigns on it, unlike some people with an addictive personality. You know when to stop?

LAIHO: Well, at least so far I haven't fell in to that category …and I don't think I ever will, you know, because I know when to stop. But then again it's really hard to stop drinking while it's after the tour, and you're in Los Angeles -in the Rainbow. I'm going to keep drinking until I get back home and then I'm going to sleep for one week and just rest, you know? That's the thing …I guess I'm …I don't know … I think alcohol's like my worse vice, because I'm not that much of a drug person -I'm just more into drinking. But, you know, that can fuck you up, too. And I don't want that to get in the way of me and the fuckin' music we're playing.

KNAC.COM: I know some of your favorite guitarists have a strong work ethic. Who would you model? Who's your all-time favorite guitarist?

LAIHO: That's always a super hard question …

KNAC.COM: (laughs) What a fucking dumb question! Scratch it!

LAIHO: (laughs) It's actually a good question, it's just that it's super hard to pick just one, but if I had to -- I would probably say Steve Vai, only because he was the final reason why, after hearing him play I had to start playing guitar.

KNAC.COM: Passion and Warfare was what tipped you over?

LAIHO: It's just incredible, dude.

KNAC.COM: Any desire to do any solo records or side projects?

LAIHO: Well, not right now. I got enough shit on my plate already with Children of Bodom, anyway, so I just want to concentrate on this one thing and try to do it as good as I can. If it seems like that things are going to calm down a little bit-if I get some spare time-I'm sure that almost all the spare time that I get I usually spend it playing music. One good example is that I have this stupid fuckin' punk band, you know, like a couple friends of mine from Finland, it's not even like a serious band, but the point is, that if I have a great time I'd rather spend it drinking and playing punk rock with my friends instead of going to fuckin' Acapulco or something like that. I just know I enjoy playing so much that I tend to do that on my break time as well. I don't really have any interest in doing a solo album …well, maybe one day, but it's nothing that I've been thinking about lately or anything.

KNAC.COM: Cover songs: you've done quite a few different covers. We touched on the Britney Spears ["Oops! …I Did It Again"] thing earlier at dinner, what do you want to do next?

LAIHO: Dude, that's a good question (laughs). I mean, what can you do after a cover of Britney? You've gone so, like, over the line that I don't think there's anything to do -I think we're going to have to go back and cover Judas Priest or something like that. I think we took it that far step by step. The first thing that we did, which surprised a lot of people, was that we covered The Ramones. I know that it was a bonus track on the US release of Are You Dead Yet?, but we actually recorded the song in 2001. After that we covered Billy Idol "Rebel Yell", we covered Andrew W.K. We kind of drove ourselves into a situation where we just have to go crazier and crazier and do even more obscure choices of covers. The reason why we do that, myself especially -I just love to do crazy shit to see how people react. Sometimes I say totally crazy shit on interviews just to see how people react to it, to see how serious people how people take certain stuff. For example -covering Britney was super funny because there were people saying that they didn't know what to think of it, but over the Internet there were all these "true metal" dudes saying, "Oh my God, I can't believe it. COB just covered Britney Spears. I can't ever fuckin' listen to that motherfuckin' band again. I just smashed all my COB CD's and burned the motherfuckin' shirts." Dude, we were just laughing our asses off, you know, because it's fuckin' metal. It's not a fuckin' courtroom drama. It's supposed to be fun. All those motherfuckers take it too seriously. That's the thing …that's the kind of reaction I kind of want to see just to see, just to show them how ridiculous they're actually being. But to answer your question -I don't think we can go any further (laughs), because there is no any further …

KNAC.COM: And if you mention any song that you'd like to cover at this point, you're going to be obligated to do that song.

LAIHO: That's true, so I better not say anything.

KNAC.COM: You play ESP guitars. How did that relationship come to pass?

LAIHO: Well, the whole thing started when my Jackson guitars were stolen. I never had an endorsement with Jackson, but I had done a lot of promo for Jackson, just for the hell of it, because we were endorsed by the shop in Finland that imported Jackson. But anyway, my Jacksons got stolen and I had a shitload of touring coming up and I didn't have my guitars because a motherfuckin' asshole stole my guitars from my rehearsal place. What happened was that Jackson was sold to Fender and when it was sold to Fender, Fender cancelled all the custom shop orders. Even though I was willing to pay for them I couldn't get any. So when that happened the same dudes that used to import Jackson started importing ESP, and they told me that ESP could hook me up. At first I was "Oh, I don't know", because I was a die-hard Jackson dude, but they kind of saved my ass in a way. They told me that they would build them to the specs I wanted and I got past all the lines of the custom shop orders and I got two guitars within two months. And they were super fuckin' good guitars, exactly the way I wanted them to be. So after that I've always been with ESP and I don't have any reason why I should change to any other brand.

KNAC.COM: You're going to Japan for a few dates in a couple weeks and then you're going to do tour with Slayer and from there you're going to be putting out a live DVD, right?

LAIHO: Yeah, we're just working on it. It should be coming out after the Slayer tour. We shot a live gig in Stockholm, so the DVD should be a live gig, plus we got a lot of crazy-ass offstage footage of us being drunk and being idiots. It's the kind of DVD that I want to put out. I want it to be interesting, and not only music-wise, because I remember when I was a kid I was watching all these Pantera home videos and Skidrow home videos and shit, and I thought for me, and like everybody that I knew, it was interesting to see how these guys were and what they were like offstage. Being total idiots and drinking.

KNAC.COM: Yeah, do you remember one of the Pantera home videos when they were popping the boil on that guy's ass?

LAIHO: Oh yeah, yeah! That was so fuckin' gross, dude. They were like white blood cells or something…

KNAC.COM: Yeah, the pus and shit. They even took a stab at Yngwie [Malmsteen] when he was going into the hotel.

LAIHO: Oh yeah, that was fuckin' brilliant (laughs). It was so good. It was in the first Pantera home video. Yngwie Malmsteen walks into a hotel with two Asian-looking chicks, and for some reason the tech guys were trying to give him donuts and something, and he's like "Get that fuckin' thing out of my way. I don't eat donuts, all right? I don't eat motherfuckin' donuts!" It was just funny as shit. Okay, we don't have Yngwie Malmsteen on our DVD, but you know what I'm saying. We want to make it a good one, where people can see how we are, and we don't want to project this image that we're like these fuckin' rock stars and we're like up here and you guys are down there, like we're this mysterious whatever-the-fuck. We're just a bunch of dudes that like to play metal and drink -end of story. That's what it is.

KNAC.COM: Tell us something about yourself that we wouldn't guess that you like to do.

LAIHO: I don't know … I could think of a couple things musically, but that's not that interesting. I don't know if it's so interesting, but I love animals. I like dogs and cats and shit like that. I'm not an activist or anything, but I love animals. I'd love to have pets and I would have a dog if I could have one, but I'm touring all the time. So that's why I can't have one at home, you know, I can't take care of it, but I had two dogs before -- when I used to live with my parents and shit like that. I don't think anybody knows that.

KNAC.COM: Do you have a home in Helsinki or do you stay with family?

LAIHO: I live by myself. I got an apartment in Helsinki, yeah.

KNAC.COM: Do you get swarmed by women? I mean, do the doors get beaten down? In Europe you do, don't you?

LAIHO: Yeah, like Southern Europe, Japan, South America …even some parts of the US, as well, but I wouldn't make a big deal about it. It's not like fuckin' KISS or Poison or whatever, dude. It happens sometimes, you know …but, shit, I ain't complaining about it, though (laughs).

KNAC.COM: Have you far exceeded your expectations?

LAIHO: Have we done what?

KNAC.COM: I know you're nowhere near done, but fuck; you guys started touring when you were 15 years old. Has it been like a dream, like a flying blur?

LAIHO: First of all, I never expected to succeed in life anyway …like, in any fuckin' way. I was going to be happy if we would have sold, like, 1,000 copies worldwide, with Something Wild. I remember when I was younger and just totally fucked in the head-- I thought if I would ever get on a tour outside of Finland, then I would be happy and I could just fuckin' die after that. Then, all of a sudden, we're like sitting here at the fuckin' Rainbow, here in LA and doing this interview …it's like, time just flies so fuckin' fast that it's incredible. I still don't really realize what the hell happened, because everything happened so fast, yet so slow. But, definitely …everything that we have had for the past few years is way more than I, or any of us, ever expected to happen.

Photos by Charlie Steffens, aka Gnarly Charlie

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