Alexi Laiho: Covering Fire

Originally published in Guitar World, Holiday 2009

Children of Bodom unleash a white-hot collection of cover tunes on Skeletons in the Closet. Alexi Laiho talks about the inspirations behind the Finnish metallers’ ash-kicking musical selections.

Looking at the selection of covers that make up Children of Bodom’s latest release, Skeletons in the Closet, it’s obvious that the Finnish band holds heavy metal, Seventies rock and teen pop in equally high regard. On Skeletons, guitarist/vocalist Alexi Laiho and Co. rework 17 tracks from a surprisingly diverse group of artists, including Slayer, Billy Idol, Kenny Rogers and Britney Spears, giving each cut a boost of shred-heavy energy. Here, Laiho takes a moment away from Children of Bodom’s headlining U.S. tour to give Guitar World the skinny on each and every skeleton.

“LOOKIN’ OUT MY BACK DOOR” Creedence Clearwater Revival

“We're all huge fans of The Big Lebowski [the Coen Brothers’ 1998 cult classic film]. We love the black humor, and the soundtrack is awesome. This is one of the tunes in the movie, but I knew the song way before I heard it in The Big Lebowski. I liked Creedence when I was a kid because my dad listened to that stuff. I knew I wanted Bodom’s version to have banjo on it, but I thought, Who the hell owns a banjo? [laughs] Then I remembered that one of my friends plays, and when I asked him, he was into it. His banjo is a little out of tune on our recording. When I hear it, I imagine some toothless redneck is playing it, but I think that’s just the perfect thing for this song.”


“This is one of the two songs, along with Trust’s ‘AntiSocial,’ that we recorded specifically for this release. From the very first time I heard this song, I knew we had to cover it. For me, it was a perfect song to turn into a metal cover. It definitely has some dark feeling in it. I’m a big fan of Pat Benatar’s music, and obviously the title fits us pretty perfectly, too.”


“People probably think its weird that we would cover a Ramones song, since we’re a metal act. I know that, back in the day, metal dudes and punks used to hate each other and fight, but when I was a kid it was more like metalheads and punks were on the same side against all the other fucking jerk-offs. So for us, the Ramones are like kindred spirits.”


“The lead on the original track is pretty good, so that’s why I did it almost exactly like the Sepultura version. I don’t know why I picked this song; it’s just a good one. We could have done other songs, but ‘Mass Hypnosis’ was a little less of an obvious choice compared to ‘Desperate Cry’ or something.”


“This one we did for a Scorpions tribute album. It’s actually one of the first Scorpions songs I ever heard. It’s a real good track, and once again it’s one of the less obvious cover choices, as opposed to “Rock You Like a Hurricane.” Matthias Jabs and Rudolf Schenker meant a lot to me growing up, but not as much as Steve Vai, for example. It’s funny, because now when I’m listening to the Scorpions, I think the guitar solos are a lot better than when I first heard them. There’s actually a lot of really cool stuff in there.”


“This was for a Slayer tribute album. When we got the list of songs we could do, most of the obvious ones were already taken, except this one, which I’ve always thought was a cool song, anyway. The main ‘Silent Scream’ riff is amazing. When it came to the solo, I did something completely different. I didn’t even try to learn the original solo note for note. A Slayer solo is their thing; I’m not even going to try and imitate that.”


“The first two W.A.S.P. albums [W.A.S.P. and The Last Command] helped put the group on my list of favorite metal bands. This song was the first cover we ever did. We recorded it during our sessions for our first album, Something Wild [1997].”


“This song was another cover from the Big Lebowski soundtrack. But unlike the Creedence song, I’d never heard this tune before I watched the movie. I think it’s a lot more fun and challenging to cover non-metal songs. It’s more surprising for Children of Bodom fans, too. Covering Slayer, Maiden or Judas Priest is just so obvious for a metal band to do. That’s why we wanted to do something different and record a Kenny Rogers song.”

“ACES HIGH” Iron Maiden

“I first got into Maiden when I was about 10 years old. My friend had some Maiden tapes, and I’d go over to his place and listen to them. Like most of the metal covers on this album, this track was originally recorded for a tribute album. ‘Aces High’ is a great song to begin with, and we just went over the top with it. It’s pretty hilarious. It’s just so fast, and we added a bunch of crazy licks. I also redid the solo completely. Otherwise, we stuck pretty close to the original.”

“REBEL YELL” Billy Idol

“I didn't know what the hell was gonna come out of this, but it turned out surprisingly well. I was definitely into Steve Stevens’ playing on the original. He’s an awesome guitarist. When you’re listening to Billy Idol songs, there’s so much shit going on that you don’t really pay attention to what the guitars are doing. This song is so strong, but it also has a lot of crazy guitar work.”


“This song was originally done by [Children of Bodom guitarist] Roope [Latvala’s] old thrash band from the late Eighties. Back in the day, they were really big in Finland. We actually recorded this cover, like, 10 years ago.”


“This was one of the two new ones we recorded for the album. I only knew Anthrax’s version of the song. We were tight with scheduling and already had the Pat Benatar track chosen, and we didn’t know what the other song was going to be. Then someone suggested ‘AntiSocial’ because it’s metal but kind of punk, too.”


“I still don't understand why people give [Poison guitarist] C.C. DeVille shit. I’d like to see those people try and play some of his solos. I pretty much grew up with hair metal. I started listening to these bands when I was real young because my older sister was way into hair metal, but by the time I was a teenager I got into a lot harder stuff. But nowadays I’m totally back into the hair metal bands. I love Eighties metal. I can’t help it.”


“I can't remember when I first heard this song, but it was probably when I was really young. I feel like it was in some cartoon I used to watch. For this cover, the arrangement is pretty much based on what they did in the Blues Brothers 2000 movie soundtrack.”

“WAR INSIDE MY HEAD” Suicidal Tendencies

“Suicidal are still one of my favorite bands. When I first heard them, it just sounded like what metal should be. I was still so young that I wasn’t thinking about stuff like crossover [the mixing of metal and hardcore]. I love Suicidal and how their attitude is so in-your-face. They’re tough, but they have the whole insanity thing going on, too, which I think is so cool.”

“OOPS!…I DID IT AGAIN” Britney Spears

“It was me and Janne [Wirman], the keyboard player, who came up with the Britney cover. Everyone else in the band was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ [laughs] And we were both like, ‘Dude, we’re so not kidding you. We’re doing this.’ It was the ultimate thing that we should definitely not do, and that’s why we did it. It would be fun to play live, but there’s this chick doing the background vocals in the chorus, and without that it would sound pretty terrible.”

“WAITING” King Diamond

“I’m a fan of his earlier stuff, but ‘Waiting’ is pretty good. I do the falsetto on this song, but the whole thing is a joke. We recorded the music, and then I was thinking to myself, What the hell am I going to do about the singing? Then it just got out of hand. It’s pure fucking comedy. I knew I could sing like that, but only in a goofy way.”

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