Children of Bodom have recently finished a successful headlining tour in The States and have started the New Year off right by beginning the European leg of the world tour. Supporting their fifth studio release Are You Dead Yet?- this highly energetic band of beer drinkers and hell raisers are just moving into their prime after being together ten years. What's more, these five Finns are playing heavy music that is really good - brutal, memorable, and makes you really happy that you went out to see their show.
Bassist Henkka T. Blacksmith gives TheGauntlet.com a few minutes backstage, pre-show at the House of Blues, Hollywood, CA to tell it while Gnarly Charlie asks it.
The Gauntlet: You're headlining this tour with Trivium and Amon Amarth, and from what I've heard you're really packing the houses.
BLACKSMITH: Yeah, it's been amazing. I think most of the shows have been sold out so far we weren't sure if we were going to make it to pull off a successful headlining tour in the US -- and it's been going so well. Of course, we have Trivium with us and Amon Amarth, so that helps a lot. But it's a good package and at the shows there are a lot of people showing up.
The Gauntlet: I read that prior to you becoming a bass player you were a guitarist, and at the ripe old age of fifteen you joined Children of Bodom, and the rest is history. You've been a bass player ever since.
BLACKSMITH: Yeah, that's right.
The Gauntlet: Do you still dabble with guitar?
BLACKSMITH: No, I haven't for many years - last year I just bought a guitar so maybe I could play a little more. I should do it more because it's very helpful for a bassist to play guitar once in a while.
The Gauntlet: I think you need to upstage Alexi [Laiho] - knock him off his throne.
BLACKSMITH: Yeah (Laughs), yeah.
The Gauntlet: How is it, playing with one of the best guitarists in the business?
BLACKSMITH: Well, yeah to me it's very normal because I've been playing with him ten years now. You don't realize that he's so how do you call it, like, appreciated- or to be one of the best guitarists that is around. Well, he practices a lot that's sometimes very annoying when you have a very small backstage room and he's doing his leads with the small cabinets (Laughs).
The Gauntlet: How about you? As a practicing musician do you play a lot? What do you put in as far as practicing?
BLACKSMITH: I practice usually at the rehearsal place, just like jamming with the songs and trying some new things on them, but most of the practicing thing is with the band.
The Gauntlet: As far as equipment; what kind of cabinets and amps do you use?
BLACKSMITH: We don't have any endorsements, except ESP for the guitars and basses, but I use an Ampeg 8 x 10 cabinets, and on the road I have actually two cabinets now. At home I have one, and then I have an Ampeg SVT-3PRO, for the preamp and then I usually boost my sound a little with the Super OverDrive pedal.
The Gauntlet: The new release, Are You Dead Yet is being very well received here in The States I believe you recorded your first album in '97 and you released it in Finland, correct? You guys were children (Laughs) when you guys became signed, professional musicians and you were touring all over Europe. And you're still alive. Did any of you fall or were you ensnared by the attractions of the road the drugs, the women were those things factors, or were you guys so driven to make music that you were able to forego that bullshit?
BLACKSMITH: I don't know I think the first tours we did in Europe, for example, we were young I was like, seventeen when we did the first tour and the others were eighteen but the first tours were pretty easy, there was not so many negative things happening, or the rock and roll lifestyle things. But the tours were quite short, when you compare them to the tours that we're doing nowadays. It was pretty easy; the only thing is that there was just a lot of drinking. I remember also the big thing during the first tours we did everybody was gaining weight very much, like becoming very big because of the food, all the beverage, all the candies, all the beer, all the fast food and then we realized that we couldn't go on like that we were going to end up dying.
The Gauntlet: Dying early while you were still children.
The Gauntlet: The name, Children of Bodom brings up imagery of blood. Who picked the name?
BLACKSMITH: I remember we were sitting in the conference of our record label and we were wondering what our name should be when we had the album out and everybody was suggesting some simple names, but none of them were clicking in. Then one of the guys from the label came up with the idea of Bodom, and we were like "Oh, sounds familiar. What is it?" He goes 'Yeah, that's the lake where the three kids were killed in the 60's', and we're like "Yeah, that's right. Maybe we'll do something with Bodom." And then we just played with all the words that could go with Bodom we didn't want to do it with only Bodom, because it didn't sound good, and then we ended up with Children of Bodom.
The Gauntlet: After this US tour you're going to Europe, right?
BLACKSMITH: Yeah, we're doing six weeks in the US, and then we have ten days off in Finland for Christmas, and then we get seven weeks in Europe. Then we've got some time off to come home and then we go back to Asia. And then we'll probably come back to the USA.
The Gauntlet: I bet they go pretty crazy over in Asia for you guys, huh?
BLACKSMITH: Yeah, like they do in general anyway.
The Gauntlet: They like rock
BLACKSMITH: We have been doing well there lately. The record label has been really pushing us and its' been really good.
The Gauntlet: Are any of you family men? Are you married or still single?
BLACKSMITH: No one is married, but people have girlfriends and stuff. Actually three of the guys live together with their girlfriends and yeah, a pretty normal life. No one has kids or anything so it's pretty easy so far to be on tour.
The Gauntlet: Were there a lot of up and coming heavy music bands when your band was coming up?
BLACKSMITH: There have always been a lot of heavy bands in Finland. It's been very hard for Finnish bands to somehow break through abroad. That's been the problem. There were a lot of Swedish bands who did very well before the Finnish bands started to grow internationally. Yeah, we just had those couple of big bands like Amorphis or Statovarius that did extremely well in Europe, and then we got HIM.
The Gauntlet: HIM is big over here in The States.
BLACKSMITH: And also in Europe.
The Gauntlet: Gaining popularity all the time.
BLACKSMITH: At that time it became somehow interesting for the media, for the people bands from Finland. Since then there's been a lot of bands that have been picked up from Finland to be part of the international markets.
The Gauntlet: Which bands do you personally listen to?
BLACKSMITH: I've always been a fan of the Swedish sound, like In Flames and Soilwork. Lately I've been listening to Amon Amarth their new CD. It's pretty good.
The Gauntlet: Any Arch Enemy?
BLACKSMITH: I was a big fan of theirs, but I've somehow lost the touch. I don't know why. Just yesterday, actually, I heard Doomsday Machine. It sounded good, though. There are a couple Finnish bands, like hardcore punk bands that I listen to that are smaller, from Finland.
The Gauntlet: I heard that Flea is one of your favorite bass players.
The Gauntlet: As far as bass players; who else do you like? Les Claypool?
BLACKSMITH: Les Claypool, of course. He's amazing. I don't listen to Primus that much. He does crazy things with his bass. Flea, he also does crazy things, but he always has the groove.
The Gauntlet: Fat.
BLACKSMITH: Yeah, it's a fat bottom. That's how I like my playing to be like, too.
The Gauntlet: Alexi writes most of the music and the lyrics, right?
BLACKSMITH: Alexi prepares a lot of stuff with the 4-track recorder at home usually, and then we gather up at the rehearsal place and then he starts showing his ideas and his riffs. Usually they're just like random riffs. Then we start jamming them, and we start putting it all together. It's like a puzzle that we complete together. Everybody's contributing to the structure of the songs, pretty much. Sometimes he comes up with a complete song already. Usually we do it like a very democratic process completing the song.
The Gauntlet: With five guys is that fairly easy ï¿½the democratic process?
BLACKSMITH: So far it's been very, very easy. There are never any arguments about some musical stuff kind of like Alexi still has the final word but usually it's been very smooth.
The Gauntlet: What about "Oops!... I Did It Again" (Laughs), whose idea was that?
BLACKSMITH: I think it was Janne [Warman] on some drunken night on the last tour with Lamb of God. After the show we were on the bus and we had MTV or something on and there was Britney Spears. I think it was Janne who first came up with the idea.
The Gauntlet: It works, though.
BLACKSMITH: I was like "Wait, wait we're never going to do Britney Spears." But then we were at the studio session we had to pick up a couple songs to do. Then Alexi somehow remembered Janne's joke of doing Britney Spears. It worked out pretty well. I think it sounds good.
The Gauntlet: You guys do a lot of cover songs. You're fans of Ozzy, Alice Cooper, Andrew W.K. and Britney Spears.
BLACKSMITH: Uh (Laughs) we're not Britney Spears fans.