The sun sets on Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto, and on Children Of Bodom’s black tour bus. The atmosphere at the venue is slowly getting a little darker and more electric, as everyone from packs of fans to PureGrainAudio staffers wait for the show to kick off. Municipal Waste, God Forbid, As I Lay Dying, Children of Bodom, and Lamb of God are set to tear the Ricoh a new one and the night promises to be memorable. I lurk behind the venue next to the parked tour buses. The six-wheeled behemoth beside me has no COB sign or logo to be seen, but the spiked hubcaps tell me this has got to be the right bus. Before long, COB drummer Jaska Raatikainen emerges, the red sun causing him to squint as we shake hands and introduce ourselves. A stark contrast to the intense, relentless assault of his drumming, he’s a friendly and understated guy. Within minutes of beginning the interview, it’s like we’re just a couple fans talking about metal, waiting for the sun to retreat and give way to mayhem.
First off, thanks for taking the time to talk to us today. We’re huge fans, and it’s a great honour to speak with you.
Jaska: Cool, thanks.
Having toured worldwide over the course of your career, you’re back in Canada yet again to play for your legions of loyal fans here. Having played so many shows in so many places, is there anything that strikes you as unique about playing in Canada?
Jaska: Yeah, the last few years, we’ve noticed all the shows we’ve played in Canada, they’ve been very successful. The fans are really great, to be honest. It’s becoming one of our favourite countries in the world. I don’t know why, but I love it here.
Right on, that’s cool. So, it’s been said that your early influences include Judas Priest and Motorhead. Is there one album which is especially important to you from those early years?
Jaska: Well, yeah. Personally, I like Painkiller, of course. That’s one. Those drummers… I like [Motorhead drummer] Mikkey Dee! As a drummer, he’s badass, his playing and timing was something that I really got into. There is no specific album, nothing like that… just the drumming itself, I liked it.
Definitely a classic album. So what can you tell us about being a fan, being in the audience instead of being onstage… is there a show you can tell us about that was memorable as a fan?
[Jaska misinterprets the question and launches into a breakdown of his experience playing the Wacken festival in Germany. No big deal, we’ll take it]
Jaska: We played that one show in Wacken, it was a year ago, and it was like, I heard it was around 80,000 people we were playing to, it’s ridiculous… so many people. When we were on the stage, we couldn’t even think about that amount. So many people crowd surfing, it’s just amazing. You really can’t even describe the feeling to people that haven’t been there.
You’re obviously a metal drummer, but trained on piano and French horn. Do you feel it’s important for a musician to take inspiration or techniques from outside his chosen discipline as well? If so, what are some of your non-metal influences?
Jaska: Well, I wouldn’t say it’s THAT important, but of course if you have that kind of technique, like classical training, it’ll help you. Of course, the way you’re thinking about things, it might make you a little more… unique.
Can you name one artist, living or dead, that you would want to work with if you could?
Jaska: Well I was a huge Death fan, so that would be it for me.
Blooddrunk is your highest charted album to date, and represents a new evolution of the C.O.B. sound. What do you feel is different about this album compared to the last?
Jaska: It’s more honest, and… straight. It’s like… if you compare it to, for example our second album, that was more styles combined in one, a mix of everything. This one is more of a solid package.
Having released 5 albums before this one, with each having a particular sound or style associated with it, what do you feel has been consistent through all of them?
Jaska: First, our standard for like, technical playing is always there, without any… I mean, we’re not trying to just make technical music. The speed, all the catchy melodies, they’re always there. All those great solos, and just all that… [slaps hands together] fuckin’ crazy shit.
Is there one C.O.B. album that stands out for you personally? Why is that?
Jaska: With every album, there are lots of memories, but Follow the Reaper is one of the albums where I really started to practice. My personal practice routines and all that stuff changed from touring, when we were composing music, so I kind of went over so much doing that album. I dunno, yeah, just lots of different memories.
What do you find most rewarding about your music and the band, now that 10 solid years are behind you?
Jaska: When you’re not in a band, you always think, “oh, they got so big that they don’t have to worry about anything…”, like money-wise or whatever. But when you’re in the band, you don’t think about that. You think about how you’re still doing this with the same people, and that’s really great. I’m finding out that while this is our job, we’re still able to speak to each other, we’re still just the same stupid group of stupid people… [laughs]. That’s a good thing in this job.
After releasing multiple gold-certified albums, and going from being an underground Finnish band to an international success, what does the band look forward to in the coming years? Have you thought that far ahead yet?
Jaska: [laughs] Oh man, not really… But I hope I’ll still be able to do this – I’m 29, I hope that I can do this, after 5 years I’m still here and maybe talking to you, and able to play. Of course, we had this one goal, when we started to tour in the States, to open up for Slayer. And we did, so that was one step. So the next step, the next very practical step would maybe be Metallica. You know, all these guys [referrring to the other bands on the bill that night] are really great friends of ours, it’s great to open for them and be in this package. I dunno… I started to play drums when I was a kid and now we have all these albums, it’s been almost 20 years now.
Well that’s awesome. Thanks for taking the time to do this today and good luck with the show. I’m sure it will be great.
Jaska: [modestly] Uh, yeah… I hope so!
Well you know, it always is. Thanks Jaska.