Interview and pics by Arto Lehtinen / Marko Syrjala
When Children Of Bodom called its quits in 2019, Alexi Laiho decided to move on and formed a new group named Bodom After Midnight. The four-piece spent the whole year in the rehearsal chamber working on the new material and rehearsing for upcoming gigs. Because of the pandemic situation, the band had to cancel most of the planned shows, but the band played three gigs in October. They also finished the recordings of the three-track song EP titled “Paint The Sky With Blood” and filmed a video for the title track. The future looked bright for the band, but sometimes things don’t work as planned. Alexi Laiho passed away tragically at the end of December of 2020, and the EP, released in April of 2021, became the swansong of Alexi Laiho’s life and amazing career. Laiho will always be remembered as a phenomenal guitarist, amazing songwriter, and charismatic performer. Metal-Rules.Com had a great pleasure of talking to the surviving Bodom After Midnight members: Daniel Freyberg; Mitja Toivonen; Waltteri Väyrynen about the legacy of the band and their plans to carry on.
Let’s start this whole interview by congratulating you guys on the new EP “Paint the Sky With Blood.” To be honest, I was blown away when I heard it for the first time.
Daniel: Oh, thank you.
Waltteri: Thank you.
What are your feelings and thoughts about the EP right now?
Daniel: It still kicks ass. I’m really proud of that EP, and probably, it’s Alexi’s best work. It’s probably every one of us, best work that we’ve been a part of. So yeah.
Waltteri: Yeah. Like I’ve said many times before, but it’s definitely one of the most important releases I’ve ever been a part of, and it will always be.
Mitja: It turned out to be a great package, the cover choice, and video and cover art. I’m really happy about how it turned out.
Compared to Alexi’s past work with Children of Bodom, these new songs now include some black metal elements and even a bit of symphonic metal. The songs sound like a mix of everything old, but some new spices are in the soup.
Daniel: Yeah. People have been saying that– I totally get the symphonic feeling because– that’s probably because of the keyboards. They were done by this guy called Vili Itäpelto, and he used a little bit more orchestrated stuff. He picked up really cool sounds, generally.
Waltteri, your style is quite different from Children of Bodom drummer Jaska Raatikainen’s because you’re using a bit of blast beat and extreme stuff like that in your playing. That’s for sure one of the key things that makes this EP sound very different from his past work?
Waltteri: Well, I mean, since it was like–
Daniel: Different drum heads? [laughter]
Waltteri: No. But I mean, since it was a different band name, I didn’t have any pressure to sort of keep going the same way that the previous band did. So I had pretty much free hands to whatever I wanted. And Alexi also said, do whatever you want with the drums. And I tried my best to complement the band’s playing and had some funny details on the songs.
You’re better known, and you’re still a member of the legendary U.K gothic metal band Paradise Lost.
I was first playing in Greg’s side project Vallenfyre. First, I got that gig through the internet. They had just a search-on-Facebook “Looking for a new live drummer.” And I just sent my videos and got the gig for Vallenfyre. And we toured for a year. And then I got to know Greg better. And then Paradise Lost was in the same situation a year later. Greg just asked me if I wanted to– he wanted to do some with me. Well, and then, in the end, I joined as a permanent member.
When you joined Bodom AM, you were also very busy with Paradise Lost, but in theory, how would you have been able to sort out the possible schedule conflicts between the bands?
Waltteri: Well, of course, it was the discussion we went through in the very beginning with this band. But I am already playing with Paradise Lost and various other bands that I would not be okay with because I want to join the band. Still, I need to know that they’re okay with my other bands. I mean, they were totally fine with it in the first place. And yeah, so it was an easy decision in the end to join the band. The plan was to try to work out the schedules that they won’t clash that much if they had. I would have got myself a replacement in this band when PL would have been busy.
If needed, would you’ve been open to a double slot on the same night with Bodom Am and Paradise Lost?
Waltteri: Yeah. Of course.
When was this band born, and when did you meet each other for the first time? It must have been sometime in the fall of 2019?
Waltteri: We probably didn’t start it then, but back then, it was just–
Daniel: We were talking about it. Yeah. I don’t remember the exact month; what was it when we first started talking about it. But yeah, around that time.
Mitja: But then, we started working, I think early March 2010 or something?
Daniel: And that was when we came up with the name.
It’s a bit ironic that you started at the same time when the corona thing came up.
Daniel: Well, a little bit before, but pretty soon, corona came.
Waltteri: Yeah. I think it was like a week before the band launched. We got to know that the first shows are going to be postponed before those were even announced.
We all know how Daniel ended up in this band, and Alexi spotted Waltteri from Paradise Lost, Bloodbath, etc., but how about you, Mitja? How did you get connected with the rest of the guys?
Mitja: Yeah, it was this one kind of thing. I was playing with a friend of mine in Semifinal. He just started working on his solo thing. And he’s coming over because he lives in Hawaii or something, and asked, he’s going to have a show in Helsinki, would I be available as a bass player? And I said, ‘Oh, why not,” and help out an old friend, so of course. And then I think it was at the pretty end of the show when I saw Daniel and Alexi in the audience. I was like, “All right. What’s up with this? How did you end up here?” since it’s a really small club. You can really see everybody there. It’s 100 people, maybe? So it wasn’t that hard to spot these guys, so. Yeah, after the show, we were loading up the gear, and then I went to say hi and what’s up since I’ve known Daniel for like what, ten years or something, maybe. We’ve known each other for a long time, so like, “Hey, hi.” And, of course, I knew Alexi that well. And then I said, “What’s up?”. And they were, “Oh, actually, we need to talk a little about something.”
I wondered if Alexi ever asked you to join the Local Band when they had some problems with the past member?
Mitja: No. No, we never talked about that. No.
WORKING ON THE EP
So what was the first song that you started to write and work on together?
Daniel: I think “Paint the Sky With Blood.”
How long did the whole process take, starting from the early demo to the final product?
Daniel: That was quite long.
Waltteri: Yeah, we started it, well, last summer.
Daniel: Yeah, but there’s all that bullshit going on with the shows and everything. We tried to practice the live set at the same time, and then we heard that shows got postponed after. Okay, we got back into the writing mode. Then we heard that we might do some shows. So we went back to the rehearsal.
Mitja: And then actually, we did a couple of shows there in between and then got back to the process of writing the songs, so.
Daniel: We had to split our time between studio and rehearsals.
When did you start recording the material for the EP? I think the drums were recorded at Finnvox sometime in the fall?.
Waltteri: Yeah. It was early November, I think.
Mitja: Pretty much after the gigs.
When you record the other parts, and which studio did you use then?
Mitja: It was the East studio, where our producer, Jonas, works. So we decided to do it there because it was easy and comfortable to do it in, so why not.
As for the Dissection cover, I guess the idea came from you, Waltteri?
Waltteri: Yeah, I did. Yeah.
Children Of Bodom recorded many covers in their careers, mainly classic heavy metal rock songs (and even Britney Spears), but Bodom AM decided to record a song by another extreme metal band. It must have been something that you did on purpose?
Waltteri: Yeah, it was done on purpose because we thought we didn’t want to continue doing some goofy like B-sides.
And Alexi already had The Local Band, with whom they played the 80s hard rock covers.
Waltteri: Yeah, exactly. So we wanted to take a different approach and actually think of some [inaudible] meaningful, like I said, with a song and [we just go through it?]. That’s kind of how it went. We talked about that Dissection quite a lot and, well, not as Black in general as people like to say. And yeah, it’s an important band for all of us. And yeah, I suggested doing “Where Dead Angels Lie” -also because I couldn’t remember any other band recording the cover of it before.
Mitja: And we’re listening to that album a lot during the period when we’re rehearsing.
Daniel: And now, when I think about it, even more, I’m pleased it was Dissection than some Poison or either goofy tune.
Mitja: ZZ Top cover. That was one.
Waltteri: And also, this EP was going to be the first release. So if we would have put some goofy stuff on it…
Daniel: it would have been an old joke. It’s not funny anymore. It’s not funny to them.
Mitja: It’s weird, though, a cover that is not that far-fetched. It wasn’t that obvious of choice rather than taking something totally different.
Daniel: Yeah, and picking an extreme metal song felt like a new idea.
Waltteri: Yeah. And we wanted to show that we’re– well, obviously, serious, and we can do serious covers also.
Was the song a kind of tribute to the late Jon Nödtveid?!
Waltteri: Yes. In a way, yeah. But I think that was an amazing song and a great song.
You’ve said that Bodom AM doesn’t have any unreleased songs left, but do you still have any demos which could see the daylight later on?
Mitja: No, it was all in Alexi’s head.
Daniel: He didn’t present us any of those.
Mitja: Maybe he started working on something because the idea was to start working together in January, but we haven’t heard any.
THE LAST GIGS AND THE VIDEO SHOOT
We both witnessed the Bodom AM gigs at Tavastia. The shows were amazing, and it was easy to notice a positive atmosphere and a lot of fresh energy on stage when you were performing.
Mitja: The shows were originally planned to be– or take place in April, so we’ve been waiting then for a long time, and they got postponed at least two times during the year. So we’re really eager to play and get to play together on stage.
So you had rehearsed the set already in the spring?
Mitja: Yeah, we had a lot of songs rehearsed, and I think around 30 songs we had kind of a catalog, and then we just chose, what, 15 of them too–
What was remarkable that you also played, not the obvious stuff only. There was some rare stuff included as well.
Waltteri: Yeah, that was the plan from the beginning to mix up the setlist a little bit and play some songs that haven’t been played live that often.
Why did you choose not to play any new songs on those shows?
Daniel: First of all, we didn’t want to play new songs before they are recorded. And the other was that they weren’t ready.
Waltteri: Yeah, because if we want to play some new songs on the shows, some would have filmed them, and then it would’ve been on YouTube. Everybody would judge] them.
Mitja: Yeah. We wanted the first impression to be the recording.
The shows were done, and the EP was finished. The next and the last thing you did as a band was the video shoot of “Paint the Sky With Blood.” When did you actually shoot it?
Waltteri: It was actually ten days before Alexi’s passing, and that was the last day we all saw Alexi in person the last time.
So that must have been in mid-December?
Waltteri: I think it was the 19th of December? It was just a regular workday.
Mitja: In general, there was nothing that special about it. It was sort of like professional shooting day. It was really quick to do, I think, in a way.
Waltteri: And after that, we sat together for a bit and discussed that the recording would continue after the holidays.
Mitja: Straight after the holidays, that was like, let’s do the video and the EP stuff first and then start fresh at the beginning of 2021.
FAN BOY TALK
One obvious question you’ve certainly answered many times, but what’s your background on Children of Bodom from a fan’s perspective?
Waltteri: Well, it was one of the first metal bands that I have listened to as a kid. Our parents were into metal and still are, and that’s how I got into heavier music as well. FOLLOW THE REAPER was the first album that I ever bought my whole life as a 6-year-old kid, and everything’s [inaudible] COB has been in my life one way or another.
Mitja: Yeah, thinking about it, of course, Bodom has been there for pretty much all of my life since SOMETHING WILD came out when I was four. But I really– or now I don’t– actually, thinking about it, Lake Bodom must be in the song that everybody was playing. I can see how fast somebody’s doing the guitar parts and stuff. But the other one, when I really got introduced to the band, was HATE CREW DEATHROLL when it came out. It must be in the same year when it got out when I found out about it, and it was actually one of the first extreme metal bands that I was introduced to, and afterward came even the US bands like Pantera stuff. When I started listening to that album, I figured out how big a thing it actually is and wanted to start playing myself.
I can guess that you and Alexi shared a similar taste in music?
Mitja: Yeah, well we did, when we go across YouTube from Guns ‘ Roses all the way to Megadeth, and because Alexi was also– he wanted everything to look good in a way. That was also a thing. He was calling me up before the music video shoot and was like, “Oh, dude, should we be without our t-shirts?” or something like that. It was really important to him, and then we were like– and all the hair and stuff. But, yeah, we shared a lot of that side with him.
Daniel, how much did you listen to Children of Bodom before joining the band in 2016?
Daniel: Well, I mean, I heard Children of Bodom when SOMETHING WILD came out. When HATEBREEDER came out, that was a record that blew my mind. And actually, that was the first Finnish band who blew my mind, so yeah. But Something Wild was– I wasn’t blown away right away. But HATEBREEDER, so since then, I’ve been a fan.
I agree with you all, but I would like to add HEXED to the best Bodom album list. I mean, it was easily the best record the band released since the first four ones. Daniel, do you see any similarities between that album and the songs Alexi composed for Bodom AM?
Daniel: They’re different songs. I know it’s a little bit different. But I don’t know. That might be a coincidence. But it’s tough to pinpoint some particular reason. I like HEXED too. But why is it better than previous albums? I don’t really know. Yeah. It’s hard to say.
Well, have you heard any comment about the EP from your former bandmates? Daniel, have you been in touch with those former band members of COB?
Daniel: Oh, yeah, I’ve been actually in touch with Henkka quite a bit, but yeah, that’s about it. He actually said that “Paint the Sky with Blood “is a fucking awesome song. Just yesterday, he texted me.
So what’s up now when Bodom AM is going to be laid to rest. Waltteri is continuing with Paradise Lost, but what kind of plans do you other guys have?
Mitja: Well, at the moment, I don’t have that much planned out yet. Of course, some band, and we’re not even multiple– but nothing solid yet planned out. But I keep on making music, and maybe who knows, this year or next year, I’ll have something released, hopefully, but we’ll see.
Do you think it’s more challenging to start ground zero with a new band now?
Mitja: Well, of course, there’s always the thing that we’re starting from the beginning. It’s really an effort. It’s not like a day job where you skip from one workplace to another. So it’s a lot of work starting a new band, and it’s sometimes even a bit frustrating to start over since with pretty much with Bodom AM with me now, we just got over that part of starting a new band. And now having to do it again, yeah, it’s a bit frustrating, but what can you do?
Daniel – what are your plans?!
Daniel: I have one project, but it’s still unannounced. And we are still putting the pieces together. But as soon we have everything in place, we’re going to announce it to them. You’re going to hear about it. But yeah, there could be even more bands than one.
And Waltteri, besides continuing with Paradise Lost, I guess you got something going on with other bands too?
Yeah, I mean, I tend to do session work for different bands to keep myself busy that way. And whenever the world goes back to normal, there’s going to be a lot of touring with Paradise Lost as well as with the band Bloodpath. I’m filling in for Martin Axenrot every now and then when he’s busy with Opeth or his other bands. So yeah, there’s going to be a lot of live activities.
Because you’re all continuing to work in the music business, and some of you are forming new bands, do you see that it would be possible that some of these Bodom AM songs could be heard live someday?
Mitja: Anything is possible.
Daniel: Yeah, but I don’t know?
Waltteri: That’s an interesting idea, but…
There are so many bands playing COB songs, so why not doing Bodom AM when the time is right?
Daniel: Yeah, why not? But it’s something that hasn’t been planned.
Yeah, if nothing else, but maybe some kind of Alexi’s memorial event will happen at some point?
Daniel: Maybe we can do something, yeah.
Waltteri: Yeah, I like the idea when it’s possible to play live shows with the full capacity again. It would be cool to have a massive memorial event.
That would be awesome, and I’m sure that many musicians like to participate in an event like that.
Waltteri: Yeah, exactly.
Mitja: And people that Alexi have worked with to get together, that would be a cool thing about it. I think it’s pretty early to start planning it out since this corona thing is still running.
After you have finished these press days, do you still have plans to promote the EP in the future?
Daniel: Well, if people are interested, why not? But yeah, we’re going to do as much promo as people want to.
Mitja: Oh, yeah, as needed, but.
All right. All right, guys, we thank you for your time for [doing this?].
Daniel: Thank you
Waltteri: Thank you.
MORE PICTURES FROM THE LAST BODOM AFTER MIDNIGHT SHOW IN TAVASTIA