“I’ve come to the conclusion that the less you think about it, the better the outcome is. This is our ninth studio album, and it’s not easy to keep the music fresh and genuine sounding. If I start wondering if fans are going to like a song or how they might react, it’ll throw me off track. It’s not like I don’t care. Of course I care. But I just do whatever comes naturally and hope for the best. I hope that people like it.”
This M.O., as articulated by Children of Bodom guitarist and leader Alexi Laiho, is working out pretty well for the Finnish melodeath metal band. Since the band’s inception in the early ’90s, Laiho and company have seen bigger and bigger tours, an ever-growing fanbase, and more and more accolades for the skills of their guitar hero frontman.
The band took a hit three days before the recording of their latest, I Worship Chaos (Nuclear Blast), when longtime guitarist Roope Latvala left the band, forcing them to record as a quartet for the first time. The Bodom kids didn’t let it throw them, however, because the results are as heavy as ever, as evidenced by the Randy Rhoads-approved rhythm lines and blazing solos on every track. Laiho spoke to GP from his native Finland, fatigued after a long day of pre-tour press, but psyched to talk guitars, techniques, and what it takes to survive in the new musical world order.
Watching you play the intro to the title track, “I Worship Chaos,” I was really struck by how relaxed and loose your picking hand is. How important is staying relaxed for your rhythm playing and your lead playing?
It’s really important. That’s how you control the tone and that’s how you control everything. You can control what the whole song sounds like. If you’re too tense, there’s no room for any dynamics or anything. Keeping your right hand loose all the time and then emphasizing certain notes, like every fourth note, gives it a groove and a pulse. I try to do the same thing in solos.
The riff in “Morrigan” contains some surprising notes. There’s a major 7 in there, and some cool chromatic notes. Can you describe how you come up with a riff like that?
Honestly, I just kind of do it without thinking about anything. I jam with the riff at first—the rhythm part of the riff—and then I start messing around with the harmonies a little bit. I add small details here and there, which makes a difference. You’re talking about the pre-chorus, which is in B minor, but all of a sudden I throw in a G minor instead of G major. I guess the G major would be the normal thing to do, but to me, the G minor just makes it sound a little bit more evil.
Read the entire interview in the Holiday 2015 issue of Guitar Player.
Watch Alexi demo some riffs off his latest here: