With a new album, I Worship Chaos, due in a couple of weeks and a stonking tour line-up heading our way the month after it seemed the perfect time to grab a few words with keyboard maestro Janne Wirman. As well as the new album, we asked about the band’s history, how they keep things fresh, his opinion of the music industry these days and whether people in Finland get really miserable over winter…
Janne, you’ve been with the band since the first album which makes it about 18 years now. In fact, you were with the band when they were still called Inearthed?
Yes, at the very end of that.
Is it true that you were a jazz pianist prior to joining the band?
It kind of it and isn’t. I can’t understand why everyone is picking up on that one fact in this promotion trip! I used to study in a jazz conservatory but that doesn’t mean I was ever a jazz pianist or planning to become one. I was just studying for music theory.
Was that a path you would ever have considered or was metal always the direction you were going to go in?
Well, I was a huge fan of Metallica as a kid, so that was the heaviest stuff I was listening to at the time.
When the band started off, you were always a bit different – playing melodic death metal before anyone had eve coined the name “melodic death metal”. You mentioned Metallica, but were there other bands that influenced you back then? Or were you always out to do something a bit different?
The first album was very much a huge mix of all kinds of influences. Neo-classical bits and everything from black metal to death metal. From thereon we’ve been trying to get our style together, but the first album is a mix of everything. We were kids, we didn’t know what we were doing!
But kids with a contract! Eighteen years ago that was something!
It really was!
I Worship Chaos comes out on October 2nd which is youir tenth album. You say you’ve been honing your sound all this time. What sets this one apart from the previous albums?
This one is just a natural continuation of what we’ve been doing. It has a really dark feel in some parts, but is still very recognisable as CoB. I think some of the arrangements are a bit more straightforward.
Did you try any new production methods this time?
We pretty much did what we’ve done before with Mikko the producer. What we did do differently was that we didn’t use a commercial recording studio at all. We recorded drums in a warehouse! This was pretty interesting. We didn’t think it would work as the space was huge, but he knew what he was doing. The space was high and wide enough that the microphones for the drums don’t pick up any of the ambience at all. You actually find that you’re in a very good acoustic situation, then you can blend in the ambience mics as much as you want.
You’re very well known for your cover tracks (in fact, the first time I ever heard Children of Bodom was a Maiden cover) – are there any on this album?
There are three. I think all three will be on one special edition release [they’ll be on the digipak release – Mosh]. There’s a Plasmatics’ cover of a song called “Mistress of Taboo”, a Kenny Loggins song – “Danger Zone”. And then we did an Amorphis track [“Black Winter Day” – Mosh] and at the same time we challenged Amorphis to record a CoB cover for their upcoming album [which Aoife reviewed for us – Mosh]
Why the Kenny Loggins song? Do you guys watch Archer?
No. For us it’s from the Top Gun movie we watched when we were kids!
Earlier this year Roope left the band after around twelve years to be replaced by your younger brother Antti…
Yeah, he stepped in to help us with the live shows. We had quite a busy schedule with a lot of festivals this summer. With Roope’s unfortunate departure we needed to find someone quick! It was really easy for us to get Antti in because he’s family and we didn’t need to get a stranger and teach him the songs. He’s going to help us out until the end of this year.
Is there any chance he’ll stay with you?
No. He’s got other things going on, but we’re having discussions and meeting and I think we’re going to announce another member early next year. We have some names already, but we’re not saying anything at this point!
The album was recorded as a 4-piece after Roope left. Who handled guitars?
Alexi did all the guitars.
Album number ten, as we said; more than twenty years with a very solid line-up… How do you keep things fresh? How do you write something new and different that’s still recognisably Children of Bodom?
That’s the whole challenge right there! [laughs] When you start writing new stuff, you have to block out. You can’t think of the direction you’re going to go or any of the fan reactions or anything. You just have to feel what comes out naturally and just follow that. Then hope it works.
Moving on to your live show, you’re hitting the UK in November with Megadeth, Lamb of God and Sylosis. What can we expect from you for those shows?
We’re doing a whole European co-headline tour with Lamb of God and Sylosis, and for the UK dates we’ve managed to get Megadeth on the bill which bumps us up to bigger rooms which is awesome. We get to reach out to bigger crowds.
Have you decided how much of the new album you’re going to be playing?
We really want to play quite a lot of the new stuff as we’ve been getting some great reactions to it. We hope to put a lot of the new stuff into the set. But then again, we need to include old stuff too. It’s going to be a balance.
So the obvious hint there is for anyone going to see you in November to make sure they buy the album first?
What is your personal set-up for a live show?
I have been using the same little Korg X5 controllers for years. My sounds come from a rack with a mix of Korg and Roland modules. I’m currently in discussions with Roland and maybe I will update all my gear and go fully with Roland.
You guys come from Finland which seems to have earned itself a reputation of being a haven for metal. What is it about the country that has caused this?
I dunno. For some reason there was – and is – a big metal scene in Finland. I get asked this a lot and in honesty I have no fucking idea! Maybe it’s because it’s so dark during the winter, but then it’s very light the whole summer!
As someone who comes from Finland, is that something you get used to?
It affects you, definitely, but I think it’s mainly the winter where you only see sunlight for three or four hours a day. That’s just weird.
Think back eighteen years and then look at all the experience you’ve gained since. What advice would you give to a new band today who are in the position you were then?
Well none of that applies any more as the whole music business is shit now! There’s no physical sales, just that streaming shit and there’s no money in streaming for the artists. Everything we got to do when we were kids when records were still selling… that was awesome. But nowadays young bands are in a whole different world. There’s no support from a label for touring or anything if there’s no money in it any more. It’s just way different. Way, way different.