Children of Bodom: Alexi Laiho Discusses Berzerkus Tour
GW I read somewhere that the first Children of Bodom album, Something Wild , is your least favorite because it had too many neoclassical elements. It sounded too much like Yngwie Malmsteen.
LAIHO I wouldn’t say that we sounded like Yngwie. We were pretty fucking far from Malmsteen. But yeah, that classical element is in there, especially in the guitar solos. There was too much of that, and at the time, especially in Europe, every guitar player was doing that thing. I decided I didn’t want to be one of them.
GW It seems to me that each of your albums has gotten progressively harder, in a good way. Each has gotten less dainty and Euro. Your sixth album, Blooddrunk, is the most organic and original sounding.
LAIHO I agree. It came from a more emotional place. It has a lot musical detail, but also a lot of primitive rage. I try not to think about stuff like that when I’m writing music. It’s just been a natural evolution.
GW Using keyboards in metal is always a tricky thing. They tend to make music sound more polite.
LAIHO Polite I’m not into. [laughs] Yeah, you really have to know how to use keyboards right, or else you start sounding like a “European metal guy.”
GW On Blooddrunk, the synthesizers add color without dominating the surface, like they do on some of your earlier records.
LAIHO A lot of people ask me, “How come you don’t use as many keyboards as you used to?” I tell them, “We actually have more keyboard parts. They’re just less obvious.”
GW Is that an ongoing conversation that you have with your keyboardist, Janne Wirman?
LAIHO You know, we’ve been working together for such a long time. We’re always coming up with keyboard sounds together, and most of the time we’re on the same page. Sometimes it’s cool just to shamelessly ape the Eighties and play big minor chords with a string setting, but more often we’ll try to come up with super-wacky sounds that we just put somewhere in the background. You can feel it, but you can’t necessarily tell what the hell’s going on.
GW Very few American metal bands use keyboards. Is that your Nordic side coming out?
LAIHO I never really thought of it that way. But you’re right—none of my favorite American bands have keyboard players. It’s probably something I picked up from Scandinavian death metal.
GW Does playing with a keyboardist inspire you to play different patterns or scales that you wouldn’t ordinarily think of?
LAIHO It would be pretty strange if it didn’t. Before Janne joined Bodom, he was a straight-up jazz player and wasn’t really into metal that much. I thought that was great and have always encouraged him to play whatever he wants when he solos. I really love it when he plays a bunch of gnarly jazz and classical shit.
GW Who writes the unison and harmonized lines that often appear in your arrangements?
LAIHO I usually do, and more than a few times I’ve totally bummed him out, because I’ll write something from a guitarist’s perspective that just isn’t possible for a keyboardist to play. He always figures something out, though, and then he gets me back. All of the sudden, he’ll throw these arpeggios at me that are barely possible to do on the guitar, and I’ll say, “I don’t know how to do it, but I’ll find a way.” But it’s really cool to get a mission that seems impossible. If something feels like a challenge, it just fucking fuels me up to the point where I can’t sleep at night until I figure it out.
GW Do you ever regret when you’re playing onstage that your songs are so technically demanding?
LAIHO No, it’s not like that. I just practice until I can play whatever I need to play. I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m the front guy, so I’ve gotta sing and engage the audience while playing this impossible shit. I have to work at it.
GW You’re going into the studio soon with producer Matt Hyde [Slayer, Porno for Pyros]. Where do you see your music going with this next record?
LAIHO It’s hard to say at this point. We have a lot written, but all I can say is, this is definitely gonna be heavy. I’d rather not get into it too much, because it’s always too early to tell before it’s recorded. But I’ll tell you, we’re not wimping out.