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“By the last show, I knew he’d die from his addiction”: Children of Bodom’s Janne Wirman on Alexi Laiho

Three years on from his untimely passing, Laiho’s former bandmates recount his tumultuous final years.

Alexi Laiho performing live

Credit: Miikka Skaffari/Getty Images

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Alexi Laiho’s death in 2020 shocked the guitar world – and indeed the wider music community. The Children of Bodom frontman passed away aged just 41 as a result of what was later revealed as “alcohol-induced liver degeneration”.

Now, Laiho’s former bandmate – COB keyboardist Janne Wirman – has reflected on the guitarist’s final years, saying that signs of his addiction became more and more obvious closer to his death.

“By the last show, I knew he’d die from his addiction, Wirman tells Metal Hammer in its new issue. “He wasn’t interested in getting help and had told me so.”

But though his struggles became glaringly clear later on, Wirman and his bandmates had spotted issues many months prior. He recalls the time Laiho returned from Australia with his wife Kelli Wright-Laiho after the release of the band’s 2019 album Hexed was delayed: “He was always a skinny guy, but now he’d lost so much weight he looked like a skeleton.”

“He’d attempt to play guitars, but he couldn’t play at all,” Wirman continues. “We didn’t know what the fuck to do.

“We had a kind of intervention at the end of the [Hexed] tour and Alexi got so mad at us,” adds Children of Bodom bassist Henkka Seppälä. “We told him things couldn’t go on like that.

“He was in such bad shape that our tour manager had to have every city’s morgue number, just in case we woke up and found him dead in his bunk. 2019 was such a shitshow.”

Children of Bodom ultimately called time in 2019 after wrapping the Hexed tour, a move Seppälä still contemplates.

“You always wonder if there’s something you could have done to prevent what happened to Alexi,” he says. “If I had spoken to him more… whatever. But knowing how stubborn Alexi was, I think he wouldn’t have listened to me anyway and probably just kicked me out.

But despite Laiho’s tumultuous final years, his former bandmates still remember him for the highly skilled and influential musician he was.

“Alexi’s talent was so huge that he inspired people to practise more and more, to reach his level,” says drummer Jaska Raatikainen.

“We knew nothing about anything but we blew up and became an international thing,” adds Wirman. “Our legacy should be that if you believe in what you’re doing and don’t let anyone control you, even with music as weird as Bodom, you can make it.”

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