Despite being one of the founding members of Children of Bodom, Jaska Raatikainen, the drummer, does not usually give interviews. With a reputation for being rather reserved, he prefers to let Alexi handle the press. Exceptionally, however, while Ensiferum and Machinae Supremacy are warming up the crowd, he sits down with Metal Blast to speak not only of his last album, but also about how life has changed with the growing popularity of the band, MP3-sharing… and even Stevie Wonder.
Metal Blast: Jaska, thank you very much for taking the time to talk with us.
Jaska: No problem.
MB: Though it’s a rather common question, there never seems to be a concrete answer What is the genre of Children of Bodom?
J: Just metal. It’s the easiest!
MB: Although in 2005 the Lake Bodom murders trial finally ended, do you still get questions, or even criticism, about the band’s name?
J: Not in Finland … But if the magazine or whatever, is like some huge magazine in New York, or mainstream newspapers, they’ll want to ask about the name, because it’s aimed at people who don’t listen to this kind of music.
MB: You started the Ugly World Tour only a couple of weeks ago. How is it going so far?
J: It’s going very well. It’s been lots of fun on stage, though I was a little sick a few days ago, with a pretty bad stomach virus or something like that, so we weren’t able to play the whole set… though at least I could play something. Now it’s over and I think that everybody is very happy to be on tour again.
MB: Your new album, Relentless Reckless Forever, went gold in no time and has had a great chart performance. What do you think is the cause of its popularity?
J: Good question! Well, our label (Spinefarm) has been pushing us a lot; also, contacts like Chris Cole, the skater [which appears in the video “Was it Worth it?”] have probably been useful. On the other hand, we have been doing this for almost 15 years … maybe it was time!
MB: How do you write the music for a new song?
J: Well, while the whole band participates in the arrangements, sometimes Alexi comes to the rehearsals with an idea about what the song should sound like, with rather specific things I should do with drums.
Other times, I propose something, get some feedback from the rest of the band, and work with it. It’s a cooperative thing.
MB: Relentless Reckless Forever was produced by Matt Hyde, who has a long career producing albums by artists such as Slayer and Hatebreed; this was also the first time that you used a producer. How was it different from your previous experiences?
J: Everything went really smooth; Matt was very flexible so if, for example, Alexi wanted to record at 3 in the morning, he could do it. He had a very specific schedule for how everything should go, so we had to be very prepared for the recordings. Though he was demanding, he was very easy to work with, and he wanted to get the best out of every band member.
MB: Songs from Blooddrunk and Relentless Reckless Forever appear in the videogame “Guitar Hero”. How did this happen and don’t you think it’s weird that now you appear on the same list as Elton John and Stevie Wonder?
J: Yes; it’s weird!Well, I think the goal of every band is to be well known, sell albums, become popular, play big venues and things like that; the business is like this. We were offered to be involved in Guitar Hero and, of course, we agreed, since it’d be good publicity.
Though, of course, as you say, it is quite strange to be on that list… but I didn’t know about Stevie Wonder!
MB: There are a lot of kids in audience. Considering the content of the music of Children of Bodom (“I don’t give a flying fuck motherfucker!” is a good example) how do you feel about having such a young audience?
J: Well, despite Alexi’s cursing, I hope the kids’ parents will tell them that this is just a show, it’s simply entertainment, that the person on stage is not “real”.
MB: Do you also feel that you become a different person when you’re on stage?
J: Well, in a way you can be a star on stage… but when you get off you have to leave that behind.
MB: With the band increasing in popularity with every new record, was there a moment in which you thought “…ok, we’re getting pretty famous now”?
J: About 5 years ago I started to realize that we might be bigger than we think, but it hasn’t changed anything.
Sometimes it’s funny though; you go on vacations to some country you’ve never been before and, out of nowhere, some guy comes up and asks “are you the drummer of Children of Bodom, the metal band from Finland?!”.That still feels strange.
MB: Have you had any problems with fans?
J: Not really… I mean, it’s just something that comes with this business, and we simply have to accept it. Of course, there are things that aren’t so nice. For example, if you’re eating or doing something, and they just go there and don’t go away, not realizing that you have your own personal life and that…you know, they should cut you some slack!
I’m cool with taking pictures with the fans, but if I’m talking with someone the phone… I mean, if I see that someone else is talking on his phone, I’m not going to go and disturb them! That’s just bad manners and, well, rude.
MB: Do you think there’s a constant pressure from the fans not to “sell out” or to become a mainstream band?
J: Well, like I told you, the purpose of the band is to become popular, spread our music to everybody, play big venues and sell albums. In this business you have to do this kind of things that allow you to get popular, like Guitar Hero or things like that.
However, we haven’t changed our musical style to sell more albums. If people don’t believe that, I just don’t know what to do… It’s just ridiculous.
I wouldn’t be in this band if before each album, we planned like “Ok, this type of music is very trendy, so let’s record the album like that”. I really wouldn’t be in this band if we acted like that… I don’t know how people can think that!
MB: The band achieved most of its success at the same time that MP3 sharing became commonplace. What is your opinion regarding this free availability of your music?
J: At first it was frightening to know that people could get your albums for free from the internet… that everything you’ve done is for free there; But at some time I realized that it’s good that people are sharing something you’ve done.
There will always be people who’ll buy our albums (which is good!) but at the same time they share all we’ve done with people who don’t know us, and maybe they’ll come to our concerts, buy the ticket and get some merchandise.
In a way, things like Youtube and Facebook are good advertisement. I don’t even want to think about this too much; about how we might be losing something. It doesn’t make any sense.
MB: Do you ever download music?
J: Not really … because I suck with computers. I tried once, but I didn’t know what to do.
Of course I copy CDs and things like that, and put them on my laptop. Maybe it’s the same thing and, on some level, it’s also “stealing” or whatever.
MB: At what age did you start playing and what would you say to aspiring drummers?
J: I started when I was 12 or 13. Well, it’s not easy to start playing drums, because you need a special room for it, because it’s a very noisy instrument, so sometimes it’s hard to develop yourself simply because you don’t have a place to do it. It’s also a very expensive instrument, and there are things you’ll have to change almost every month… it’s like all your money goes there.
MB: What were your influences?
J: Well, when I started, Metallica was badass, Guns n ‘Roses … Then I got a little heavier with things like Sepultura and Death; later some Death Metal, a little Black Metal… and Jazz.
MB: What are you listening to right now?
J: I’m not really listening to any bands right now; I just listen to mainstream radio channels when I drive my car.
When I’m not doing that, well, I still like Mayhem and classical music, like Bach, Beethoven, Vivaldi and Sibelius.
I think the last metal album I bought was Gojira’s… I love that band.
MB: Heavy Metal tends to be associated with drugs. While some artists are openly OK with them, others, like Bruce Dickinson and Ronnie James Dio, have taken a strong stance against them; what’s your opinion on this subject?
J: Well, I don’t use any drugs, so can I say what I say… On the one hand, I think the world would be better without things like heroin but, on the other hand, I also believe that everyone has the right to decide what to do… it’s their choice. We are here only once.
MB: How did your family react to your music and your status as rock star?
J: I think they like it. We played in Helsinki two weeks ago, and my parents were there. My father was just like a teenager again, drinking beer and watching us play.
They were happy because everything looked very good, the lights were nice and we had pyros… It’s a good show, even if you don’t like the music,, it’s entertaining, because we’re moving a lot!
MB: Any messages for your fans?
J: I hope to see you all as soon as possible; it’s always been great.