Children of Bodom are celebrating the 20th anniversary of their debut album, “Something Wild,” with their “20 Years Down & Dirty” tour.
The Finnish melodic death metal outfit crafted an “old-school” setlist for the occasion, according to bassist Henkka Seppälä, full of deep cuts and consisting only of songs from the band’s first four albums.
And while that will surely give longtime fans a throwback experience, it’ll also deprive listeners of some fun insight into the band members’ eclectic minds. You see, Children of Bodom have become somewhat notorious for their unique assortment of cover songs. While there’s some fairly predictable source material — Slayer’s “Silent Scream,” Iron Maiden’s “Aces High” — there are just as many oddball choices, like, say, Britney Spears’ “Oops! … I Did It Again,” or Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone,” or Kenny Rogers’ “Just Dropped In (to See What Condition My Condition Was In).”
Following is The Salt Lake Tribune’s full Q&A with Seppälä:
Children of Bodom
With Carach Angren, Lost Society, Uncured
When • Monday, Nov. 13, 6 p.m.
Where • The Complex (The Grand), 536 W. 100 South, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $24.50 advance/$30 day of; Smith’s Tix
Children of Bodom are celebrating the 20th anniversary of your debut album. What does it mean to you to reach that milestone?
Really, in a way, it’s kind of surprising, even though we’ve been calculating it in our heads. It’s still surprising when you actually put the number down — “Oh, it’s 20!” I don’t know what does it mean. When we look back, we just feel grateful and humble that we’ve been able to do it actually so long. We didn’t realize how long we’d be doing it. And we’re still doing it. So it just makes you feel really grateful at all the years we’ve had. I think that’s mostly what comes to my mind.
Is there anything to which you can attribute the band’s enduring popularity and success? Anything you can point to as the main reason you’re still doing it 20 years later?
Well, one thing is that we never split up! That’s probably because we started so young — the first touring we did, we were 17. I think that’s one thing that kept us together, because we were over almost the hardest phases of a band when we were teenagers still. I think that’s one reason why we’re still together as a band. And then, of course, I think we have been working hard. We have been putting out almost 10 albums and touring constantly. I think that’s what you need to create a fanbase around the world, so we’ve been doing that. And, of course, we’re doing, also, good music. It’s all of those things.
Having started at 17, clearly you’ve experienced some of the most pivotal changes of your life in the time you’ve been in the band. Aside from lineup changes and stylistic shifts in the music, what else is fundamentally different?
Of course, 20 years ago would be a totally different scenario, it would be a totally different band, it would be totally different guys, totally different … everything. Everything’s changed in the mentality of how we do it, the way we do stuff. Then, we were 17-, 18-year-old guys playing in a garage. And year by year, when you keep on playing, you have to change your view on the whole thing — it’s not anymore just a hobby, it becomes almost like a profession, and you have to take it more seriously in many, many ways. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. But when it comes to music, we are still making music in the same way we always did it, since the first album. We jammed songs together at rehearsals, and it’s exactly the same kind of process still. That never changed. That’s the way we always needed to be, all the five guys in the room. It doesn’t work for us to have one guy send files from one country, and someone fly in from another country and we practice for a day. We actually spend a lot of time practicing together, which is old-school, but I think, in a way, I like that kind of old-school. Those are the things. And then, of course, the music has changed, but that’s just something that comes out of the subconscious, mental stuff, that’s something that we cannot really describe what happens.
On this tour, you’re mostly focusing on material from the first two albums and not playing anything at all from beyond the first four albums. What inspired the idea to go old-school on the setlist?
In the beginning of the tour in Europe, we decided, “Let’s go old-school.” The thing is, the first album only has seven songs, and the total length is, I think, like 33 minutes … 36 minutes. So we couldn’t just play that album and then that’s it. We’d be short. So we figured, “Let’s just play all kinds of old-school stuff, let’s just have the first four albums in the set.” I think almost half the songs are from the first two, and then the rest are from three and four. It’s a special thing, because a lot of the songs we normally play are from the last five albums.
Speaking of which, because a lot of the older songs are not ones you routinely play, in looking back at them, what strikes you most about the old material? And are there any particular challenges in dusting off so many old songs that don’t often make it into the repertoire?
Well, there was a lot of practicing, of course. It was hard to choose the songs, and then when we agreed what we were going to play, we had to practice a lot, especially because the first two albums are very technically challenging and very diverse, in a way. There’s so many parts, there’s so many small things. We still, in a way, do a lot of technical stuff, but especially in the first albums, I think there were more parts and more notes than we have nowadays. So it was a lot of work. But it was really, really good to concentrate on what we actually did 20 years ago, and kind of look at your roots more closely. And now that we’ve finally got them down, it’s really, really fun to play them, actually. We are actually confident playing them, which is a nice thing! I’m sure it’s healthy to, like I said, to actually be familiar with what you did back in the day. Even if you listen to your old songs, you don’t really listen to it that thoroughly. But to actually have to practice every note …
So do you anticipate any of the older stuff will stay in the setlist going forward, even after this tour is over?
I don’t know. Probably we’ll have to see which ones seem to be the most popular in the crowd. But I’m sure there will be a couple of songs that we never thought we would play again that might stay in the set. But who knows? We’ll see next year or the year after.
Roope Latvala did an interview earlier this year in which he said he didn’t understand his dismissal from the band back in 2015, and that he felt like he’d been “stabbed in the back.” Do you have any response? Is there anything you feel needs to be cleared up?
Well, it was pretty clear, the whole thing, when we made the announcement when we split up. There was really nothing unclear. I don’t know where this now came from. It was really kind of, like, sad — a sad thing to see it. I’d rather not talk about it. There’s nothing to comment about it, and I’d rather leave it like it is now.
People tend to look at black metal bands and just assume that they’re ultra-serious all the time. That’s why I love that you counteract it a bit with some of the cover songs you do. Songs like “Oops! … I Did It Again” and “Danger Zone” are about as far away from black metal as you can get. So I was wondering how you choose these songs, and also is there a song out there that you haven’t done yet that you’re eager to cover?
It kind of started with a request from the Japanese label, it would be a bonus track with the Japanese versions [of the albums]. So we started doing some covers, and then we kind of kept the tradition. And it’s also, for us, like a [breath of fresh air] in the studio sessions, because we have a couple of songs that are a little more funny than our own, and usually a little more simple to play. So they’re easy breaks in between doing tracks for our own songs, so that’s also one reason. And then usually the creating process, the figuring out what song to play is also fun, and then the actual arranging is also fun. But lately we’ve been having troubles to come up with new ideas, because we haven’t found anything that’s suitable for us! And also, we like to have songs that are, of course, surprising and not obvious choices. So yeah, it’s getting harder and harder every time, so I don’t think anybody knows yet what we’re gonna do for the next album.
I’ll just throw this out there, and you can ignore it if you want, or you can take it and run with it if you deem it worthy. My wife and I were just on a road trip, and we were listening to her music, and the Jim Steinman/Air Supply song “Making Love Out of Nothing at All” came on, and I said, “This song is quite power-ballady. Some enterprising metal band should cover it and take it even further!” So maybe that’s one you could look at.
OK, I’ll look it up! Thanks! I don’t know the song, but I will definitely check it out! That might be an excellent choice.
Getting back on a more serious track, Janne Wirman has been quoted as saying that after the tour wraps, you guys will begin the process of writing and recording for the next album. Do you have anything specific in mind in terms of new ideas or concepts or the sonic direction of where you’ll take things next?
We’ve been already writing the whole fall, actually. We have almost half the new album. So we’ll go back and do some more new songs. And then, in the spring, we’re gonna start laying the tracks. Regarding the direction, I don’t know. It’s always hard. For me, for some reason, I’m incapable of describing any direction that we go. There’s always something new, and it’s always somehow refreshing to me to do the new songs. I’m very, very excited. Very, very excited.
Do you have a general timeline in mind of when it might be released?
Actually, no. It should be mastered by the summer, but the release date is still a question. I don’t know.
Well, thank you for your time. Was there anything else you wanted to add or mention?
No, I think you covered it pretty well. Thank you for having me!