5 minutes alone: In Flames' Björn Gelotte

(Image: © Future)

The In Flames axeman on his metalhead dad, first guitar heroes and essential gear…

Got my first real six-string…

“My mum and dad came home with a Suzuki guitar - looked a little bit like a Les Paul but kinda not. It didn’t even come with a case, it just arrived in their hands! It didn’t look anything like the guitar I wanted to play and sounded crap, so I quickly bought a Yamaha RGX. I found an EMG in a music store and carved out the space for it, as well as the battery in the back. It looked shit but sounded great – my first steps on stage were with that guitar!”

We could be heroes...

I must have listened to Van Halen II about a billion times

“My first guitar hero was Ritchie Blackmore, he could be my favourite songwriter of all time. I’m really lucky, my dad was a metalhead so I grew up on Deep Purple, Rainbow, Whitesnake, Sabbath and Ozzy! After Blackmore came Van Halen, Rhoads, Wylde, Slash… I took elements from all those guys and tried to incorporate them together. When you’re a fanboy, you try to learn all the tricks of your heroes and later they combine into your own sound.”

Everybody wants some...

“I’d love to sit down with Eddie Van Halen, even if just to sit and watch him play guitar up close for a bit. I went to see them in the US on this reunion, I brought my dad and some friends over to see two shows. He was seriously good – the whole band was fantastic, actually. Alex’s drumming was insane and Eddie’s kid Wolfgang was playing bass and doing all the backing vocals… shredding with his dad! If you get the chance, you need to see it. I must have listened to Van Halen II about a billion times, the skill and ease Eddie plays with is unbelievable – he was just laughing his way through those entire records!”

Swaying to the symphony of destruction...

“My biggest breakthrough on guitar came early on, when I started learning about harmonies and all that dual lead stuff that Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy were famous for. When I got to grips with the power of those harmonies, it yielded great things. I actually went a bit crazy with it – some songs had two different harmonised rhythm guitars, then up to six lead guitars all harmonizing over top. It became a symphony orchestra at times!”

Straight for the heart...

“The one piece of gear I couldn’t live without would be my Dunlop 95Q Cry Baby wah. For years I didn’t know how to use it, but I eventually found the sweet spot and it’s now become integral to my sound, especially for leads. Different notes on the guitar have different sweet spots and I think Michael Schenker is the king of all that. Michael Amott from Arch Enemy, too… the way he plays hits you straight in the heart. I also think Fredrik Åkesson from Opeth is insanely good at that stuff, yet he’s the most chilled and laid-back dude ever!”

Only for the weak...

I was always too lazy. I still am!

“My main weakness would probably be picking. In order to be precise and clean, you need to practise. There is no shortcut… and that’s my problem. If I manage to do something that sounds really good on record, I have to work my ass off to be able to play it okay live! I’ll keep going through the leads until they are in the same area code as what was recorded. Guys like Paul Gilbert are flawless: he can start with upstrokes or downstrokes, nothing seems to bother him! I was always too lazy. I still am!”

In Flames’ new album, Battles, is out now on Nuclear Blast.

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