Since their 2003 breakthrough, Hate Crew Deathroll, Finland's Children of Bodom has been a staple of the international metal scene, thanks to the high-speed shredding of frontman Alexi Laiho, the precise interplay between the guitars and prominently-featured keyboards, and their relentless touring schedule. Their latest, I Worship Chaos, is the band's first album recorded as a four-piece, and the stripped-down lineup resulted in what editor Thom Jurek hailed for its "very sharp teeth, a nasty disposition, and a hell black sense of humor" in his four-star review.
We spoke with Laiho about some of the stylistic diversions on the album, treading the line between delivering what people want and what he's interested in writing, and why he likes to swear so f***ing much onstage.
AllMusic: When you decide it's time to make a new record, is that more exciting or stressful?
Alexi Laiho: It’s both nerve-racking and exciting, for sure, that’s definitely the hardest and the most difficult part in the whole playing in a band bit. It’s the hardest thing, writing a new album is the hardest thing in life, basically. That’s why I really need to shut everything out so I can concentrate on the music and make sure that I don’t think too much and so everything comes out naturally.
AllMusic: How do you shut things out?
Laiho: I think I’ve just learned how to do it over the years. I’ve always been good with blocking things out of my head, I’ve always had a knack for it. So what I do is I just really try not to think of anything like what we should sound like or plan what the new sound would be like or just think about stuff like what the fans expect or what they want to hear or are they going to like this or that, I don’t think about any of that stuff, I just go and do it and hope for the best.
AllMusic: How easily do songs tend to come to you?
Laiho: I can come up with an idea while I’m driving a car or doing laundry or whatever, so I get inspired all the time by so many different things. Then sometimes if I don’t have anything, you just sit down with a guitar and start playing and see what happens, sometimes I just play for hours and hours without getting anything out of it, really, as far as music goes. Then all of the sudden I’d find myself repeating the same thing over and over and say, “Oh, there’s a riff,” and I start working on that and once I get the first riff of the song, then that always makes things easier. When you don’t have anything and you start from scratch, that’s always the hardest part.
AllMusic: If you're really not worried about expectations, do you think you could get away with making a record without guitar solos?
Laiho: Probably not. People ask me, “How come there are less guitar solos on this one than any of the other albums,” and I don’t know, nobody seems too upset about it. My answer is that this time around we just did what serves the music, and as a guitar player, I want to do the same thing. If the song is perfect as it is already, why would you want to force a guitar solo part in there? I don’t want the guitar solo to be a necessity, it needs to be something that serves the music. To me, that makes sense.
AllMusic: Some of the tracks on the newer album that stand out the most are the slower, more elegant songs. Are those more fun to write?
Laiho: Definitely, it’s pretty hard, too. “All For Nothing,” that was definitely one of the most challenging songs in the history of the band, because it’s so different and so peculiar, as far as anything else we’ve done before. It was definitely a pain in the ass to put it together, but once we did, we were like, “This is actually pretty awesome,” so we just went for it. And it seems to be a lot of people’s favorite, which makes me really happy. It’s so different and it was a big challenge to make it work. It’s good to do stuff like that, not to stay in your comfort zone and to try new things, but you also have to be careful with that, too. I don’t want to experiment on records, I want to experiment on my own time. When you’re making a record, you don’t mess around with it.
AllMusic: The closing track on the album also jumped out at me. What sort of special thought goes into choosing the final song on an album?
Laiho: That’s always been very important for us, not only just the tracklisting, but especially the closing song. You need to leave a certain type of feeling, you need to leave people hungry. No matter what happens if you go two songs back, that doesn’t matter at this point, something really awesome has to happen at the very end of the album. So that’s kind of the old school way of thinking, it seems that a lot of young kids don’t listen to records like that anymore, and I’m not going to start complaining about that, but to me, the tracklisting and the closing song, it’s still very important.
AllMusic: A lot of your lyrics are about finding inner strength. What are some songs by other artists that give you that feeling?
Laiho: There’s a zillion songs like that, today I was listening to the opening track on Slipknot’s Iowa, “People = Shit,” and a song like that, when I wake up and I just can’t get myself out of the bed, I’d put that album on. I listen to music constantly and I change what I listen to, but that song, and the new Slayer, Repentless, the title track, that’s a good wake-up song, too, it just makes you want to get out of bed and rage.
AllMusic: You swear quite a bit onstage. Do you think you swear more when you're speaking in Finnish or in English?
Laiho: I use a lot of cuss words in both. When I speak Finnish, there’s a lot of cursing, too, especially when I get riled up. I’m pretty riled up when I’m onstage all the time, so that’s got a lot to do with it. It’s just the way I talk. I really have a hard time doing certain interviews, like when people tell you that you can’t curse, I don’t know how to express myself anymore.
AllMusic: How early on did you learn English?
Laiho: Finnish is my first language, then I learned Swedish and in third grade of elementary we start learning English. But before that you’d hear it in movies and music and all that, so a lot of the kids know English before they start learning it in school.
AllMusic: And when the band got going it was always obvious that you'd sing in English.
Laiho: Oh hell yeah. We didn’t even discuss that subject, of course it had to be in English. Singing in Finnish, a rock band or a metal band singing in Finnish, I know they exist, but in my book, it’s just not an option. It would not feel natural at all.
AllMusic: After nine albums, have you decided what your favorite part is about being in a band?
Laiho: It’s all about playing live and touring, that’s what the band is all about, really. Honestly, at the end of the day, that’s the reason why we make records, so that we can go back on tour and play live. It’s hard to describe, we’ve been on the road since we were 17 and 18, nonstop, that’s the way we grew up. That’s a very natural life for us, and even though some of the guys have kids now, we still haven’t slowed down one bit. If anything we tour now more than we did before. Everybody still loves playing live, so that’s the best part of it for sure.
For more on Children of Bodom, including the remainder of their 2015 touring schedule, head to their website.