Children of Bodom’s Alexi Laiho: ‘I Don’t Want to Play Fast Anymore’
Hexed, the newest album from Bodom and their 10th overall, is out now and Laiho discussed how the material differs from previous albums, embracing a more rock 'n' roll philosophy regarding the songs' arrangements. He also expressed a desire to serve the songs better with his playing, rather than shredding for the sake of shredding.
Check out the full chat below.
You guys take a minute for records.
Yeah. This one, I don't know, it's been like three years now [edit: it's been four years]. I'm frustrated, but people hopefully will stay patient. We've been playing shows all the whole time, but still.
The new album is being described as more rock 'n' roll. What's different about the songs that make it that way?
Well, when I said rock 'n' roll, I didn't necessarily mean the music itself. I meant more like the song structures and the arrangements that it's actually more simple; more verse, chorus, verse, chorus thing going on in there. And you know then there's like the part C and that's it. As far as the song structure goes, it's just simpler. There's still crazy guitar riffs in there and there's still a lot of insanity.
When you're working on music and writing and recording, do you try and not listen to other music or do you get into a vibe like, "Alright, I'm listening to metal or I'm listening to punk" - or whatever it is. How do you deal with your music listening when you're working on a record?
I'll just listen to anything. It's basically like any other day. The only thing I'm really trying not to do is to think about my own music. So, when I write, I just like to block everything out of my mind and really try not to think about it and just do whatever comes out naturally.
The fact of the matter is that you can't please everybody. If you start thinking about it too much, then you start worrying whether or not these people are going to like it or not. Then the music's not real anymore. You're better off just doing whatever comes out naturally and then hope for the best.
You're highly regarded as a guitarist. What do you do to challenge yourself as a player whenever you're writing new music?
Well, I suppose it's the same thing — I just play it by ear. I really don't think about it too much. But something I've noticed when it comes to my guitar playing, and this is just in retrospect, it's more like when I listen to I Worship Chaos or the earlier stuff... when I do guitar solos it's more musical than it used to be. It used to be more about just shredding and trying to play as fast as you can, and that's cool. That's part of metal and it's still going to be there, but also it's a lot cooler when you do a solo that really serves the song. It serves the music and makes the actual song better.
This is something that guys like Slash do all the time. His solos, they're a really important part of the Guns N' Roses songs and stuff like that. So, that's just one example. But yeah, or maybe it's just me getting old and lazy. I don't want to play fast anymore.
This is the first album with guitarist Daniel Freyberg in the band. What was unique about the way the two of you worked together in the studio?
Actually it was really refreshing to work with him because he's got that sort of hunger and drive to do music and just tour. I think he's done one tour before and a couple of albums before, but, like I was saying, he just has that drive. He likes to work hard and what I liked about his approach was that, first of all, he asked a lot of questions, which I like, personally. I think it's better that people ask questions as opposed to assuming they know what the hell they're doing because they don't [laughs].
Also, he likes to throw in a lot of ideas here and there. Just small stuff, there's a short guitar lick here and there, or whatever. It's fun to play with him, and he's definitely fun to tour with. The first tour that we did with him, you know, it was pretty clear after six weeks that he's the guy.
Did he know what he was in for? [laughs]
No, not really. But he's a very easy going dude and I think that's something that we need in the group — somebody who's just more mellow. Exactly.
Compared to the last album, you were much more rehearsed going into the studio this time. What encourages spontaneity when you're so familiar with the material?
Well, actually pretty much everything up until you're done mixing and mastering the album. Even when we're recording, and even when I know that the songs are finished, I still end up adding little things here and there. We're talking about small stuff — some chords or some melodies or vocal lines or whatever. But it does happen all the time and I like to keep it that way because it is very important that the songs are finished.
You can't go into the studio and not have stuff ready, unless you're like Def Leppard or something. But in our case, we definitely like to have our stuff ready. But also, there has to be room for new things and sort of room for, you know, parts where you can improvise and stuff like that.
You had extra time to work on this new album. What was the biggest effect having more time had on this finished album?
We practiced new songs for a couple of months and then there was six months of touring between. Then we went back working on new songs and it was actually kind of cool, and yes, it was the first time when we've had a chance to have that break in between and then come back and sort of like reflect on what we did six months ago.
It was actually a good thing because the break wasn't too long. If it was too long then maybe we might have lost it — I'm pretty sure I would have had to start everything all over again.
Do you change your mind about stuff like that if there's too much time?
Yeah. If the break would have been longer, I would have been like... I think it was a good thing. So, after the break, we changed a couple of things up here and there and the songs improved. But we only had like half the album ready. So then the other half was just basically written within three months or so.
You've been on tour with so many great bands. I'm sure a ton of bands you were growing up a fan of. What were some of the biggest lessons learned from some of your biggest idols and getting to know and tour with bands you were a fan of?
I remember our first tour in Europe. I was 18 and like our bass player was 17. So, we were opening up for Hypocrisy and we had no idea what touring means and how to act and how to be. The biggest and the most important lesson is that everybody has assigned bunks in the tour bus. [laughs] we didn't know that. We figured you could just crash pretty much anywhere you want.
The first night we ended up pissing off a couple of the Hypocrisy guys pretty good, but then we ended up laughing about it the next day so it's all good. You know, nobody told us. We had no idea. It turned out that there were no bunks left, so, I didn't have a bunk. And back then I was punk rock, don't worry about it I'll just crash on the floor. But then eventually I found a way to sleep in a bunk, we'll just put it that way.
Thanks to Alexi Laiho for the interview. Get your copy of Children of Bodom's 'Hexed' album here and follow the band on Facebook. ind out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show here. See Bodom's North American tour dates below.
Children of Bodom / Swallow the Sun / Wolfheart 2019 Tour Dates
Mar. 13 - Quebec City, Quebec @ Imperial*
Mar. 14 - Montreal, Quebec @ Corona Theater*
Mar. 15 - Ottawa, Ontario @ Bronson Centre *
Mar. 16 - Toronto, Ontario @ The Phoenix Concert Theater*
Mar. 18 - Detroit, Mich. @ St. Andrews**
Mar. 19 - Chicago, Ill. @ House of Blues**
Mar. 20 - Minneapolis, Minn. @ Skyway Theater**
Mar. 22 - Denver, Colo. @ The Summit**
Mar. 23 - Salt Lake City, Utah @ Metro Music Hall**
Mar. 25 - Calgary, Alberta @ The Palace Theatre**
Mar. 26 - Edmonton, Alberta @ Union**
Mar. 27 - Vancouver, British Columbia @ The Vogue Theater**
Mar. 29 - Seattle, Wash. @ El Corazon**
Mar. 30 - Portland, Ore. @ Hawthorne Theater***
Apr. 01 - San Francisco, Calif. @ The Regency Ballroom***
Apr. 02 - Santa Ana, Calif. @ The Observatory***
Apr. 03 - Phoenix, Ariz. @ Club Red***
Apr. 05 - San Antonio, Texas @ Alamo Music Hall***
Apr. 06 - Houston, Texas @ Warehouse Live***
Apr. 07 - Dallas, Texas @ Canton Hall***
Apr. 09 - Tampa, Fla. @ The Ritz*
Apr. 11 - Atlanta, Ga. @ Masquerade*
Apr. 12 - Charlotte, N.C. @ The Underground*
Apr. 13 - Baltimore, Md. @ Baltimore Soundstage*
Apr. 14 - Pittsburgh, Pa. @ Mr Smalls Theatre*
Apr. 16 - Syracuse, N.Y. @ Westcott Theater*
Apr. 17 - Boston, Mass. @ The Royale*
Apr. 18 - Reading, Pa. @ Reverb*
Apr. 19 - New York, N.Y. @ Irving Plaza*
* Summoner's Circle opening (March 13-16 and April 9-19)
** Hollow Cry opening (March 18-29)
*** Fragmentum opening (March 30 - April 7)
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