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INTERVIEW: Janne Wirman – Children of Bodom

Finnish metal titans CHILDREN OF BODOM have kickstarted their tour to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their first album, Something Wild. With ONI and FOREVER STILL as support, it’s looking to be a tour to remember. We sat down with CHILDREN OF BODOM keyboardist, Janne Wirman to chat all things touring, the development of the band over the past two decades, and the current state of the metal industry.

It’s a couple of days into the tour now. How’s it going so far?

Janne: Good! Really good reactions to the special setlist.

How do you think the music industry has changed since CHILDREN OF BODOM came into it?

Janne: Well, it’s changed massively. When we started our career, there were physical CDs produced and made and sold. But that doesn’t happen anymore, so it’s changed a lot, yeah.

Do you think it’s changed for better or worse?

Janne: I don’t know, I think it’s in a weird state now. Currently it’s changed for the worst, hopefully it can still turn around, I don’t know.

What made you choose this special setlist? I’ve seen on Facebook that you hinted you’d use material from your first four albums. What made you choose them?

Janne:  Well, this year is the 20th anniversary of the first album, so we decided to build a setlist mainly on the first two albums, so we have five songs from the first album and five songs from the second album. And then we came up with the idea of filling the rest of the setlist with songs only from the first four so we don’t play anything newer than that on this tour.

Awesome. What would you say your highlights are of your career with CHILDREN OF BODOM?

Janne: Well, some of the highlights, like these days, the first three or four albums we never got to tour the US, but after the fourth album we started touring the US. That was, obviously, a big thing for us because it’s a big market, it’s a whole other continent out there. But there’s so many, we’ve played in so many countries, over 60 countries, and stuff like that. I mean, a lot of great stuff has happened, but yeah, we’ve got to play in so many places, and I think that’s probably the best thing ever! [laughs]

Yeah! Where have been the best places to play?

Janne: Well, I really like Japan. It’s the culture, so many things just work well in Japan. It’s just a combination of weird little things that click, it’s fun, you know? But, it’s like touring the USA, it’s so big and massive, there’s so many different states, it’s like we tour the US and even though it’s one country it’s the same thing as touring Europe. Yeah, you get to see a lot of cool stuff.

Awesome. When you compare the time you released your first album to today, how do you think people’s attitudes have changed towards metal?

Janne: Yeah, I don’t know. Music goes in cycles, and I think for a moment metal was a bit more mainstream and a bit more popular, but I think now it’s on a downwards slope a little bit maybe, I don’t know. But those kind of trending things don’t affect us that much anyway. We do what we do, our music doesn’t change. You know, we write the music and we play the shows whatever is ‘hip’ in the music business. [laughs] It doesn’t really matter.

At the end of the day, you just want to play what you like playing, right?

Janne: Yeah, right!

Building on that, do you feel that’s part of what’s kept you guys strong over the years?

Janne: Yeah, staying true to your vision and not following trends is a very important thing, and that’s what makes your career if you want to have a long career, this is our 20th year now. So, if you start chasing the trends and don’t stay true to music you want to play, then you fuck it up. [laughs]

So, who would you say your biggest influences have been over the years, musically?

Janne: Well, there’s so many and there’s so many for each band member. But obviously, it’s the big metal bands, SLAYER and METALLICA and stuff like that, you know, so many different ones. But then some guys in our band are more into black metal, and then some more into 80s glam metal and stuff like that, so it’s a mixture of so many different things.

How do you feel like you guys have developed as a band since the first record?

Janne: I think the major changes happened early in our career. The first two or three albums had them neo-classical things that we’ve finally later on decided that were not our thing any more. You know, when we recorded the first album, we were like 17 years old, so we were still developing as musicians a lot, so that’s why the progression rate on the first three albums was massive! [laughs]

Looking back, you guys basically put Finnish metal on the map and you’ve been a massive influence to a load of bands over the years. How does that make you feel?

Janne: Yeah, I mean it’s great obviously, we’ve been around for so long and then younger bands name us as their influences, it’s great! You’ve done something right I guess, you know?

And it’s been two years now since your last album, I Worship Chaos. How was the reception to it?

Janne: I think that it was received well. But we’ve been around for 20 years, there’s always a group of fans who are like, the newer stuff isn’t that relevant, it’s all about the old stuff. But yeah, I think the newest album was received well, and I think even the old-school fans did like it. It has some hints to the older stuff.

Yeah, definitely. Do you think that’s still an issue that’s present in metal today? People preferring a band’s older stuff and not giving a chance to a band’s newer material?

Janne: Right. It’s a little bit of a problem, and I see myself doing it too when I was in the other bands, I was like “Hey, I like the older stuff better!”, but it’s just how it goes. I guess all bands have that magical moment in their careers, sometimes it’s early in their careers when they peak, whatever album it is, but then that’s the moment you always go back to.

So, what have you guys got planned for after the tour?

Janne: This year, we’re going to start writing our new album, we will record a new album this year.

Awesome! Do you have any idea what you’re going to go for with it?

Janne: No, not yet.

And what’s your greatest accomplishment as a member of CHILDREN OF BODOM?

Janne: I guess it is just having the opportunity to play around the world in so many different countries. Like, crazy places, we’ve played India, the whole of South America, like the weirdest places you could imagine and then a bunch of metalheads show up and It’s just amazing.

So how does playing in somewhere like India compare to playing somewhere like the US?

Janne: In some of those places, like Indonesia, it’s just so exotic. And not all the gear is up to the level of some of the Western countries, there are so many variables, it’s a whole different thing. You know, but sometimes it works well and sometimes there’s a little technical problem but you just have to go around it, but they’re all fun experiences.

I guess all the little bits that mess up sometimes just add to the fun?

Janne: Yeah, that’s right!

That’s awesome. Thanks so much for your time.

Janne: No problem man!

I Worship Chaos is out now via Nuclear Blast Records.

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