Finland’s Children of Bodom have been an unstoppable force in the international metal community since their debut release in 1997.  Nearly two decades since their inception, CoB are still going strong with their keyboard-heavy brand of melodic death metal.  We got a hold of keyboardist Janne Wirman prior to their gig at the Paradise Rock Club on March 27th and got the scoop on the influential Finns’ touring preferences, their writing process, and their taste in alcohol.

Randy: Do you change your setlist much depending on who you’re playing with or where you’re playing?

Janne: Well, actually in the past we were really lazy and we designed one setlist for each tour and never changed it around at all, so we played the same setlist every night. But on this tour we made a core setlist, but then we’d be rotating some songs between shows. That’s something we’ve only started doing a couple years ago. Before the tour we made a setlist and would stick with that setlist for the whole tour, pretty much. But now we’ve started to do some variations so that it just doesn’t get as boring for us. But at the same time I also liked it a lot that the list was always the same because then you get used to the song changes and everything comes out naturally.

Randy: Are there some fans who follow you around to multiple dates?

Janne: Sometimes, yes. On this tour I’ve seen some fans that are on multiple gigs, and I guess it’s pretty nice for them not to hear the same exact show.

Randy: Children of Bodom are a worldwide act, do you have a favorite country to play in?

Janne: My favorite country is Japan, definitely. Such culture and work-wise for us, everything works perfectly. All the schedules, everything goes exactly as planned and there’s never guessing if something is going to happen or if the gear is going to be right because the gear is always exactly what it’s supposed to be and all that. Everything just works so well over there.

Randy: Just in terms of music or do you find that with other aspects of Japan?

Janne: Yeah, I like the cultural differences too. I like how people are overly polite and stuff like that over there. They’re just so well organized in general as a nation, too, so I like them.

Randy: Is that similar to [your native] Finland?

Janne: It’s a bit similar to Finland in terms of Finland being one of the least corrupted countries in the world so that’s something that also reflects in the Japanese culture.

Randy: So do you have a least favorite country to play in?

Janne: Well, I don’t want to name any names, but like I said, I don’t like it when the corruption is present in everything you’re doing. So some Latin American countries, some countries like that are a bit uncomfortable for me.

Randy: Have you ever played in Boston before?

Janne: We played once or twice, at least once.

Randy: Do you have a favorite memory about playing Boston?

Janne: No, unfortunately we don’t have that much experience in playing Boston. It’s interesting because we’ve been touring the States for over ten years and we’ve only played Boston once or twice. We were just thinking, none of us actually remember if it’s only once… I think we’ve headlined only once in Boston before. So that’s why, unfortunately, I have not that much experience with the city.

Randy: Well, definitely try the seafood if you get a chance.

Janne: Well, actually, good thing that you remember[ed] that because last time we were on tour we had a day off somewhere nearby. A friend of mine drove me to the city and I had some seafood.

Randy: I read that you ask for Grey Goose [vodka] in your rider. Do you drink it straight up, on the rocks, in a martini…?

Janne: Yeah, actually nowadays after the show, I usually just have it straight up, on the rocks maybe. Grey Goose is quality stuff, you don’t need to mix it with anything.

Randy: Are you a part of the songwriting process for Children of Bodom?

Janne: Officially, [singer] Alexi [Laiho] writes all the music, but we all arrange it together so he comes through, he has a room with the ideas and riffs, and then we put it together as the whole band.

Randy: The new album Halo of Blood sounds a little closer to the original melodic death metal style on the first couple albums, whereas 2008 release Blooddrunk was a little more thrashy, and you’ve mixed in different styles over the years. Was this a conscious effort? Do you go in to the writing process planning a specific style?

Janne: It was not conscious and we never go in and plan for a style. It comes out how it comes out. When we were doing it I didn’t think it was similar to the first three albums, or whatever. But then when it came out and I read all the reviews and all the fans were saying like, “Hey, it’s more like the old stuff!” Like, huh? Is it really? I guess it is then. But yeah, it’s not conscious. It just came out like that.

Randy: Keyboards are kind of unique among instruments in metal because you can play any kind of sound, instead of being limited to just one. How do you determine which patch is right for which part of the music?

Janne: Within the CoB trademark sound, there are some obvious sound choices. Sometimes here we’re going to do this and this and this (gesturing). When we are making the song sometimes it’s totally obvious which sound is going to be for what part. But then there’s some maybe like melodies and stuff like that where we experiment, try different sounds, try different things. But there’s a couple of trademark sounds that we know we always have to use for certain parts.

Randy: You’ve become famous for your use of the orchestra hit…

Janne: Yeah, the orchestra hit is a classic. Then, also it’s my distorted lead sound which is also kind of like a trademark. And then, there’s a couple like the pad; the choir pad has been with us since the beginning. And the string sound is, nowadays we try to make it not orchestral. It’s difficult to find a string sound that sounds shitty enough, because for us it doesn’t work for CoB if it sounds too real or too orchestral, so we spend a lot of time making really shitty string sounds.

Randy: Speaking of strings and the orchestra hit, I know you have a background in jazz and classical music, and some of the other guys have played in big band and the like. Was that at all an influence on the pseudo-symphonic element?

Janne: Well, I don’t know. The first three albums had these neo-classical things here and there. I don’t know if… maybe that’s something that came from all of our musical background a little bit. But yeah, it could be.

Randy: What kind of music do you typically listen to? Is it metal, and does it have keyboards?

Janne: Nowadays, I listen to such a wide range of music. When we were starting out, like the first three albums, you know, we were kids and, “Yeah! Metal!” and I was only listening to metal music for years and years. But nowadays I listen to everything. I go back and listen to some jazz now and then and pop music, and 80s, 90s pop, you know, whatever.

Randy: Do you think that has had an influence on your writing?

Janne: Oh definitely, yeah. We’ve even said that in some interviews, a lot of our keyboard ideas are from like 80s and 90s pop songs. Because you know, there’s some amazing stuff on there. We need to copy and put it to good use in metal.

Randy: Can you give me an example?

Janne: I can’t give you a straight thingy, but I’m going to repeat what we said in one interview, Alexi and I, when we were asked for keyboard influences. Alice Cooper, even though it’s his later album, Alice Cooper’s album Hey Stupid. It’s a great album, has great songs, and so many guest guitar solos appearances that are awesome. But also the keyboard work on that album is amazing and how they bend sometimes the string and the pad, that’s something we totally copied straight from that album. Like, “Hey! That sounds cool!”

Randy: Thank you so much for taking time before your show.

Janne: Thank you, no worries.

 

 

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