26 June 2008 will be a day to remember for New Zealand Metal fans when one of Finland’s premier Metal bands CHILDREN OF BODOM performs in our country for the first time ever. And it’s about time as well considering this legendary band has been in operation since the 90s! Bassist Henkka Seppälä (aka Henkka T. Blacksmith) speaks to NZRock’s Dave Borgioli-Jones about Gigantour, the new album ‘Blooddrunk’ and a case of mistaken identity with LORDI!
What have you been up to? Have you had a good chance to relax after Gigantour?
Yeah we came home last Saturday and the tour was great. Great bands, great tour and a great atmosphere, a lot of people of course and a lot of shows. And in the springtime America is getting nice and warm. But yeah we just got back on Saturday and now I’ve just been doing my personal stuff here in Helsinki and it’s getting really like summer here as well. Actually just two minutes ago I got out from the swimming pool HAHA! I’m just enjoying the summer here, it’s beautiful! Usually the hot summer is in July or August but now it’s June and it’s already 25°.
Did you have a big party after your last show on Gigantour?
Actually I was very sick for the last three days which kinda sucks because usually the last shows are some fun. Also the last show was in Arizona and our flight was from Los Angeles so after the last show we had to pretty much pack stuff and drive back to LA. But we had lots of parties during the tour. The show before the last one was in LA and then we had the flight to Arizona so we didn’t do very much.
Did you have any good chances to catch up with MEGADETH’s Dave Mustaine on the tour?
Personally I didn’t that much. Of course I met him but I didn’t really hang out you know. But some of our guys yeah really had lots of fun with him and he was a really cool guy. I’d heard a lot of rumours and a lot of bad stuff about him but he was really cool.
New Zealand is really looking forward to this first ever CHILDREN OF BODOM gig in our country this June. Do you guys Children Of Bodom Bandknow much about this place and have any of you ever visited here before?
No none of us have been there. That’s one of the places… I mean from Finland you cannot get any further HAHA! Literally it’s on the other side of the globe and it’s always kinda been fascinating for Finnish people especially because you cannot go any further. And of course the landscapes which we have seen in the movies and pictures, look so beautiful so we are very, very looking forward to it. The only bad thing is that we only have one day off so I don’t know if we’ll get to see much of New Zealand but we’ll get to see some.
There was talk about you guys covering a song by a Finnish band called DINGO, did you ever do that in the end because it’d be quite appropriate for your Australian leg of the tour?
Actually we had to cancel that. It was supposed to be done in August but then we realised we had no time. Do you know the band? It’s very sleazy stadium ballad Rock from the 80s sung in Finnish so not my cup of tea.
You guys have picked some strange songs to cover in the past…
Yeah I mean we always want to pick something exciting and interesting. Of course we have aways done songs like SLAYER’s but they have always been requested. But if we get to choose it on our own then usually we choose something peculiar.
This year CHILDREN OF BODOM was nominated for best band and best album at the Finnish music awards but you didnt win either category. Do you think you should have?
I dont know. I think we did a great album but actually I don’t know who won the awards. Awards are always very… I dont know… I think if people win something of course it is great but it’s not the thing that we are in for. We tend to do the music that we can be proud of and this album we definitely managed to do it.
The new album ‘Blooddrunk’ is heavier and more progressive just like Alexi said it would be in an earlier interview. Is that the direction you were trying to go in with this release?
No, we never try to do anything. We just sit down with the other guys and start jamming the songs and they just turned out how they are. We didn’t try to do anything in particular.
Before you started playing bass for CHILDREN OF BODOM you were a guitarist. Do you contribute guitar riffs to this band though?
Pretty much like 95% is Alexi. I wrote some riffs for ‘Are You Dead Yet’ but yeah almost everything in terms of riffs is done by Alexi. But then of course the arrangements are done by the whole band.
You’ve said before that’d you’re not really that interested in doing any side projects because you want to focus on CHILDREN OF BODOM but do you think that one day you might?
Well I don’t know I mean… I’m not saying that I’ll never do it but at the moment I’m 100% satisfied with CHILDREN OF BODOM when it comes to music and when I have musical ideas they always fit in BODOM songs so I don’t really feel it necessary to do something else and of course I don’t have much time. That’s the reason.
When your former guitarist Alexander Kuoppala left CHILDREN OF BODOM in 2003 did you consider the possibility of moving to guitar and finding someone new to play bass?
Well I never considered my self a very skillful guitar player and I think I’m much better on the bass so actually I never thought of it. I mean I was never so talented with guitar anyway so I would just be an average guitar player. I’d rather a little bit better on the bass.
Finland seems to be the breeding ground of awesome Metal bands. Have you ever had the chance to hang out with the guys from bands like AMORPHIS, FINNTROLL or SENTENCED (R.I.P)?
Yeah we’ve hung out with SENTENCED, we never toured with them though but usually when we’ve played in the area where they’re from they’ve come and hung out – especially Ville Laihiala. He usually comes and drinks our booze HAHA! But in a good way though. AMORPHIS we used to share the same rehearsal place for years and they’re also from Helsinki so we know them really well and I’ve been a fan since day one, since they started. But we’ve never toured with them either. And FINNTROLL, we’ve played many, many festivals with them so we know them as well. All of these bands are really nice guys and especially AMORPHIS. I remember when I went to see my first AMORPHIS show when the played in Helsinki. So I saw them live then but I met them five years later when we started to share the same rehearsal place and we basically saw them almost every day. We were practicing in the same room. The were really cool.
You’ve been studying Political History at your own pace for several years now, are you close to graduating?
Actually I have this big plan of graduating with my bachelors degree this summer. That’s my goal for now and them maybe masters later on. But I don’t know, if I get the bachelor, the BA, this summer then I’ll really be happy and then I can just concentrate on the music for a while and do the masters if I have time. Studying has always been more of a hobby, whenever I have time. But it’s a good balance, I really like it.
The new CHILDREN OF BODOM album ‘Blooddrunk’ was certified gold in Finland before it was even released (15,000 presales). How did that feel?
It felt really good. We’d never had gold before the release so it was really good. It feels like there is more interest in the band which is great, what more can I say HAHA!
‘Blooddrunk’ also made it to #22 on the US charts which is huge! What did you do to celebrate that?
That was a big deal! We were on tour in the States when we heard it so we really couldn’t realise it until a couple of days later and then we started to get congratulations from everybody. In Finland the media made a really big deal out of it. But yeah, that was a great thing also.
There was a three year gap between ‘Blooddrunk’ and ‘Are You Dead Yet’, what was the reason for that?
We were touring with ‘Are You Dead Yet’ for almost two years and we’re not able to write songs on tour. We usually just tour as much as we can and then we go home and have a couple of months off and then we start writing again. Actually it was a pretty deliberate choice because this time we wanted to have enough time for composing and we would’ve been in a rush. So this time we had a lot of time to compose, maybe that’s one of the reasons why we had a little bit more gap. Of course the labels and everybody want us to make albums as fast as possible, like every year but it just doesn’t work like that. If you have do it really fast its crap.
Who’s idea was it to do the cover of CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL’s ‘Lookin’ Out My Backdoor’?
I think it was me and Jaska (drums) who wanted to do it HAHA! It’s a great song and we knew it’d be a lot of fun so yeah me and Jaska were like hey lets do it and then we tried to do it and had a lot of fun. I don’t know what John Fogerty thinks about it but yeah… HAHA!
OK so you’ve covered those guys, THE RAMONES and even ‘Opps I Did It Again’ by BRITNEY SPEARS! Any idea who you’re going to cover next?
The next cover? I dont even know. I had an idea… what was it?… Of course, we were drunk and we were thinking of doing RIHANNA’s ‘Umbrella’ but I mean it wouldn’t make sense after doing BRITNEY because we cannot do the same genre again HAHA! It’s so fucked up, we couldn’t do it any better than that HAHA!
You recorded trhe music videos for ‘Blooddrunk’ and ‘Hellhounds On My Trail’ in Germany. What was it that made you choose this location?
In Berlin yeah. There’s this film production company that we have been using lately and they are based in Berlin actually. They showed us some footage or some location photos in Berlin and they just looked so cool. And I mean Berlin is pretty close to Finland anyway and beautiful and a very nice city. In Eastern Berlin there are these crazy DDR / Soviet things that are just out of this world – perfect for a video shoot.
Compared to the previous albums, was writing the music and working in the studio more intense or more relaxed given the extra time you had?
It is always very intense in a way but I mean this time we were also wise enough to book a lot of time and it wasn’t such a rush – we had six weeks and we had our own house on a farm in the middle of nowhere so it was really laid back. But of course the recording process itself is always very, very intense so in a way it was really laid back but on the other hand it was not really.
I know this is probably more a question for Alexi but do you know what’s happening with SYNERGY at the moment?
I think they’ve been working on this album for two years now. The album is pretty much ready but there’s no lead guitars and no vocals yet. But I don’t know, nobody is interested and nobody has time but maybe someday they will finish it and they will come out with the new album. But at the moment it seems like it’s just on hold and nothing is happening. But there are no official statements or whatever regarding the status of the band. Somehow just everybody has split and everybody is doing their own thing at the moment so it’s like on hold I guess.
Your drummer broke a rib earlier this year and Alexi broke a toe as well as other bones in the past. Are you the luckiest member of the band or have you had injuries yourself?
HAHA! I usually get sick. I have somehow sensitive lungs and I always get bronchitis every tour. In Gigantour I had bronchitis twice so in a way I am always injured but it’s different, I don’t break bones I just get sick. But I mean everybody gets their fair share of these unfortunate things, they just come in different forms. My bones are fine, I’ve never broken a bone HAHA!
Do you collect vinyl records and if so what are your most prized records?
I don’t collect vinyl but I have a bunch of them. But I never buy them anymore. A lot of memories are with my Black Metal records for example ‘In The Nightside Eclipse’ by EMPEROR or ‘Transilvanian Hunger’ by DARKTHRONE or ‘Frost’ from ENSLAVED. I remember when I got them when I was a teenager and they were really big things for me when I started playing. I still have those vinyls and they are actually in really good form, almost like they were never used. They always bring back a lot of memories.
What’s the most incorrect thing that the media has ever published about CHILDREN OF BODOM.
You know the band called LORDI, the one that won the Eurovision contest? They have these masks and nobody knows what they really look like in real life, it’s kinda like a secret. Well anyway, when they won the Eurovision Song Contest some tabloid in the UK published a band photo of LORDI without their masks and makeup and it was a picture of CHILDREN OF BODOM from like 10 years ago HAHA! I think it was some little paper in the UK so that’s probably the most incorrect thing I’ve ever seen HAHA! Even though it was about LORDI it was our faces in the picture.
In a past interview you said that you wished the music industry was more honest. What particular experiences have made you think that?
I think now that I’ve been involved in different kinds of business stuff as well… I think when it comes to business there is not so much honesty and I wish it was a bit more honest. Ususally it’s everywhere where people try to make as much money as possible there’s always this side of it – people ripping people off and trying to take advantage and pretending that somebody is your friend when actually they don’t really care at all. But I mean it’s not just in music, it’s in all kinds of business, it’s a bit of a shame but it’s money, money, money.
What’s the strangest or coolest thing that you’ve ever been given by a fan?
One Japanese girl gave me a Police jacket once, that was pretty random – of course it was very nice! And then I’ve got loads of boxer shorts. I remember one show in Moscow where there was huge security but somehow during one song a small little girl managed to walk on stage – security didn’t even notice her at all! – and then she just handed me a rose then she walked back. I was really scared because usually there’s no one else allowed on the stage but then she just handed me a rose and walked away. It was both weird and really cool.
Was it also Russia as well where it was rumoured that you’d been shot?
Yeah, yeah that was like 10 years ago. I don’t know where it came from but I just remember the record label girl at that time, she called me and she was in a panic. She was like “Oh oh oh I’m so glad to hear your voice because I just heard you’d been shot” and I was like “well no”. First of all I hadn’t been to St. Petersburg in a while and second of all I’m on the phone line.
What happened on this last Gigantour when a barrier collapsed at your Louisville show?
Children Of Bodom Transmission Room Auckland 2008Oh yeah that’s right, in Louisville, Kentucky. Obviously there’s not so many Metal shows around that area so I guess they were not prepared in a way that these Metal shows should be done. There’s always a barrier between the audience and the stage because there’s like one or two metres of like empty space for the security guards and photo people but this barrier was so bad. Everybody knew it before the show and then when the show started and people started going crazy then the barrier started to fall down. There were 5000 people in the crowd. Then the chief of the place came to the stage and said we had to stop playing while they fixed the barrier. But it was a little scary. They stopped the show just in time before the barrier really fell down but yeah, in southern Europe there would’ve been a riot if we stopped playing for 20 minutes. But the crowd took it pretty easy which is very cool.
Its your birthday on 7 June 2008, what are you going to do to celebrate?
I will watch the opening of the European Championship Football Tournament on the soccer channel and there are going to be two games on that same day so I’m probably just going to be prepared with lots of beers and lots of friends then sit in front of the TV and watch great football. That’s probably the best thing I could get for my birthday!