I had seen Children of Bodom play at Heavy Mtl. Their grooves were heavy and they were super tight. I was amazed how front man Alexi Laiho could play these insanely technical lead lines while singing a completely different melody. I was blown away.
It wasn’t something that I’d thought about when I’d listen to them – but I became absolutely fascinated after seeing them play live. I knew that I wanted to talk to him…so I took full advantage and asked him during our pre-show interview when COB played in Montreal at the end of February.
I have to admit that I was a teeny bit intimated going into this interview. I mean, COB is a heavy band. I’d seen a few interviews that Alexi had done, and although always cordial, he often seemed cautious, maybe even guarded during the interviews.
In all honesty, I can understand why. Sometimes I see interviews that absolutely make me cringe – it’s like the interviewer is deriving some kind of sick pleasure out of making the subject uncomfortable. While this might be a suitable approach for politicians, or totally unaccomplished celebrities, I get angry when I see a musician being deliberately put in an awkward position.
Before the camera rolled, I told Alexi that I really appreciated him taking some time to chat with us, and told him how I felt about the shock-value interviewer. I promised him that I wouldn’t be asking him anything that would make him uncomfortable. His succinct response “Oh, that would be nice,” spoke volumes. Without him saying so, I was left with the distinct impression that he’d endured some very awkward interviews, and may even be growing weary of playing nice when what he really wanted to do was to give the interviewer a high five to the face with a chair, or a pat on the head with a hammer…You get my point.
Right away, I got a sense that Alexi is one of those people that can express a whole lot with very few words. He seems very comfortable in his skin and has a profound intensity about him. He is neither shy, nor stand off-ish but through his stillness, he silently commands a generous degree of respect.
I liked him.
While researching Children of Bodom, late one night – I stumbled across some YouTube videos from the recent 70 Tonnes of Metal Boat Cruise. I was tickled to discover some footage of Alexi performing a scintillating rendition of Stayin’ Alive and a smoldering version of Turbo Lover with Annihilator’s Jeff Waters. How do metal guys blow off steam while on a cruise with a boatload of metalheads? By singing karaoke…of course. What a hoot! I love to see people who are free enough to let loose, be silly and have fun. (I’m grinning as I write this – recalling the fun!)
Speaking of Jeff Waters, the man himself had come to Montreal to hang out with his pal Alexi. We bumped into him backstage before the interview. The always-playful Waters said “I should crash his interview – like right in the middle of it…” Hey, far be it from me to stand in the way of friends hanging out. Jeff stayed true to his word…and surprised Alexi partway through the interview. Too cool.
There were a few things that really stood out for me during our interview.
Not only is Alexi extremely talented, but he’s also very, very intelligent. He has a precision about him that seems to colour everything. He seems to be committed to doing one thing at a time so that it can get 100% of his focus. For example, he doesn’t write new music when he’s touring. Touring gets 100% of the focus. When he’s at NAMM he’s working – so he doesn’t go out and party like a madman. In his 15 years in the industry, this young veteran seems to know exactly what works for him.
The other thing that stood out, when we were talking one-on-one, is that Alexi is tired. Not fed up. Not bored. Just fatigued. And no wonder. COB has been touring almost non-stop since releasing Relentless Reckless Forever in February of 2011. Starting in Europe, then hitting North America, Germany, the UK and Finland for a few summer festivals, followed by Russia, Israel, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Japan, Costa Rica, Mexico, Brazil, Uruguay, Venezuela, Chile, Columbia,
El Salvador, then back home to Finland for the “Wild Xmas” mini-tour. Then Namm, 70 Tonnes of Metal, followed by another North American tour. Of course there are summer festivals in store for COB in 2012 too.
I got exhausted just writing that! Imagine living it?
Alexi mentioned looking forward to being back home, resting a little and starting to write some new material. Don’t misunderstand me; nothing Alexi said could be construed as complaining. He was just tired.
But you’d never know it once he stepped onto the stage.
Alexi was larger than life and oozing energy when he stepped on stage. With one searing lead after another COB had the crowd on its feet with roaring applause whenever they paused long enough to catch their breath.
Alexi thanked the fans for their continued support through the years smiling broadly when the audience threw their metal horns in the air, cheering. I was among the fans.