Children of Bodom’s brainchild, Alexi Laiho, plays his ESP LTD signature model “Pinky” tuned to B–F#–B–E–G#–C#. His guitars are scalloped on the neck from the 19th to the 24th frets. Photo by Frank White
On the “Hexed” solo, you guys go back to that neoclassical melody immediately out of the solo’s last high note. Have you done it live yet and is that a tricky transition?
Yeah, but, I mean, we’ll pull it off. We’ve definitely had more difficult stuff in the past, so, it’s just all about practicing.
Speaking of practicing, are you practicing much on the road?
When I’m on the road, I'll usually do like two hours or something before the show. Sometimes I’m just playing for the hell of it. I mean, I’m not counting but at least two hours.
What kind of things are you working on?
Just warming up and keeping up with technique. For me, building up speed and trying to get back to where I was before the shoulder operation. It kind of set me back a little bit so I’m working on that.
You’re still recovering from the shoulder operation?
Yeah, it’s a chronic thing. It’s pretty difficult, I got a metal plate and everything.
Left. It’s not the ideal place for a guitar player.
Do you constantly have to be warmed up to play in full-speed mode?
Oh yeah, definitely.
What advice would you give to aspiring guitarists looking to play razor sharp, 16th-note, alternate-picked rhythm figures like in “Kick in the Spleen?”
Just practice with a metronome. Gotta do it a lot; that’s the only way. Try to balance between practicing standing up and sitting down. Standing up takes its toll. The guitar strap is right there and it puts all the weight on your shoulder.
Your shows must be extremely physically demanding.
Yeah. I can live with it. I just gotta practice a little bit more. Just sort of learn how to live with it. But I’ll get there.
You’re influenced by many of the classic metal guitarists like the Ozzy guys: Randy Rhoads, Jake E. Lee, and Zakk Wylde. Are you influenced at all by newer guys like Tosin Abasi or even the newer generation of YouTube guitar sensations?
No, not really. I guess that shows my heroes when I was a kid. I’m sticking to that because that led me to develop my own style.
What gear did you use on Hexed?
Actually, the same: I used the Marshall JVM and my ESP guitars. That’s pretty much it. The Marshall I’ve used since Halo of Blood.
Why do you have only a bridge pickup?
It just fits the music. When you’re playing metal, it’s that high-end sound that always sounds great. I just never needed the neck pickup.
Tell us about your EMG passive pickups with the gain boost. How do they interact and what advantages do they offer as opposed to just active EMGs?
It just gives it more output than there is with the active ones. I can put the (amp) gain up, too. It’s hard to explain, but it makes you play harder and the sound is definitely different. It’s just more raw.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in your guitar playing over the years?
I think it’s more about the melodic side for me. Whatever serves the music and whatever serves the song, as opposed to just showing off. I mean, showing off is really cool and I still do it but it’s more about stuff that fits the music.
You’ve proven yourself a long time ago. You’re a legend already.
Well, I don’t know about that, but thank you for the compliment.
Children of Bodom performs “This Road,” the opening track of their latest release, Hexed, at the Chicago House of Blues.