BODOM AFTER MIDNIGHT was supposed to be a force to be reckoned with in the Finnish metal scene, one of the biggest export products in metal, but unfortunately, the project was cut short due to the sudden sad passing of guitar hero Alexi Laiho. Before the tragic event, BODOM AFTER MIDNIGHT were able to record, mix, and master three songs, which are now going to be released under the moniker “Paint the Sky with Blood.” We met up with Mitja Toivonen, Daniel Freyberg, and Waltteri Väyrynen to talk about the release of the new EP and reminisce about the exciting adventure they were able to share with their late bandmate, Alexi Laiho. Watch the complete interview or read their story below.
I met up with Daniel, Mitja, and Waltteri of BODOM AFTER MIDNIGHT at 12:00 in Sanomatalo, Helsinki. The otherwise buzzing building was now next to deserted because of the coronavirus. Due to restrictions, the cafe where we were supposed to be seated and do the interview was closed. Doing the interview outside seemed like a great option, as it’s corona-friendly and the weather provided a nice and cozy little atmosphere to an otherwise somewhat uncomfortable situation.
We started talking about the band’s current state-of-mind and Daniel mentioned that the whole experience has been a rollercoaster, they’ve done a lot of work for the upcoming EP release and because of that, they were able to concentrate on the work, which was a good thing to keep their minds distracted. Mitja added that they focused a lot on the release and that that has taken a lot of their time, so they have been okay.
In October, 2020, BODOM AFTER MIDNIGHT was able to do a couple of shows in Finland, with restricted capacity and regulations set by the government and experts. I asked them about their experience performing for the first time with the band. Mitja mentioned that the meaning of the shows has changed a lot for him after what had happened. He continued that those shows are going to be very dear to all three of them and mentions that the shows, in general, went really well and they were thankful to do them even though there were only three. Waltteri reckoned that it was very rewarding to be able to do those shows because they were postponed three or four times in 2020. At first, they were supposed to play their first show in April last year. Of course, it was very frustrating for them every time they got canceled or postponed. In the end, when they were able to do those shows, it felt great and really rewarding. Daniel admitted that he can’t really wrap his head around the fact that their last show was actually Alexi‘s last show, saying that it feels really strange. We concluded that it’s symbolic that he played his last show in Tavastia, Helsinki, one of the most legendary venues in Finland.
Back when CHILDREN OF BODOM called it quits, there were some rumors about ex-SANTA CRUZ members joining CHILDREN OF BODOM; among others, Mitja Toivonen. Soon, Wikipedia had changed the band’s line-up and thus came to be Mitja‘s allegedly short career in CHILDREN OF BODOM. This was before anyone had announced BODOM AFTER MIDNIGHT and its line-up. I asked Mitja and the others whether they knew anything about these rumors. Mitja mentioned that he noticed and thinks it’s funny that the rumors are made out of Chinese whispers as the trio laughed. He continued that he thinks it was hilarious in a way. I asked him if by then he was already in discussions with Alexi to join the band. It turns out that he had already talked about it with Alexi and Daniel. Daniel mentions that he, up to this date, still has no idea who wrote that, but assured us that it wasn’t them.
When asked whether the EP was always part of the plan, Daniel commented that they would have always released an EP first. Waltteri continued that that wasn’t the plan in the beginning. He mentioned that they were planning to focus on live shows and a tour for 1 year to 1.5 years before even thinking about writing new material, but then the pandemic struck and in the end, it was kind of a gift for the band. If it wasn’t for the pandemic, they probably wouldn’t have the songs out. If that isn’t a silver lining to this whole global crisis! Daniel also mentioned that after they signed a deal with Napalm Records, it became a plan. Mitja continued that the cool thing about it is that the whole EP was approved by Alexi, rather than something they put together afterwards. It’s really the way he wanted it to be. Since this was really interesting, I asked what Alexi‘s thoughts were about the finished product. Daniel said that he couldn’t wait to get them out. Many people have commented that this is perhaps Alexi‘s best work to date and I ask him about his thoughts. He stated that it truly is Alexi on top of his game, you can hear how hungry and eager he was to conquer the world again with his new band and it was going to be a very strong start with the new line-up.
On the cover of every CHILDREN OF BODOM album, there’s a reaper present, so some fans have been speculating online about the significance of the lack of reaper and if it has some sort of a deeper meaning. Earlier, Mitja already mentioned that Alexi approved everything, including the artwork. I ask them whether there is a meaning behind the cover. Waltteri mentions that he and Alexi were working on the cover art together, Alexi wanted the album to be red as a prominent color and he wanted to have a scythe in there. For the rest, Waltteri emailed back and forth with their artist until the cover art was done. Everything was finished before his passing.
While listening to the EP, it was clear to us that this was not going to be a CHILDREN OF BODOM 2.0, but a different band, with different musicians who have their different styles and input into the music. I asked the band whether they had many discussions prior to writing new music about the direction of the band. Mitja started off by explaining that he doesn’t think that there were many discussions about the direction. Daniel mentioned that before they joined, he and Alexi had a tiny discussion about the solos and lead work and that Alexi felt that it was time to go to a two lead guitars -styled band and he kept the keyboard solos at bay. According to him, that was the only thing they ever discussed. Mitja continued that, of course, Alexi wrote the songs but with the whole new line-up, of course, it’s going to sound a little bit different, since it’s all different players. He further mentioned that he thinks that’s why it sounds so different from CHILDREN OF BODOM‘s material. Waltteri adds that, musically, BODOM AFTER MIDNIGHT would carry on where CHILDREN OF BODOM left off. He laughed that there were no big plans to change the music style and explains that that is the main reason why Bodom is in the name and that obviously they were planning to do some CHILDREN OF BODOM tracks during the live shows. Mitja believes that Alexi saw it as a continuation of his work that he did with CHILDREN OF BODOM, so it was kind of the eleventh album in the making for him.
On their Instagram account, there is a pretty cool photo of them singing gang vocals for “Paint the Sky with Blood.” From other interviews, I remembered that the band mentioned that they had mostly done the recordings separately, but there seems to be good energy in the photo. I asked them about the recording days together and how they experienced them. Mitja confirmed that they did the recordings separately and that, for instance, with the bass tracks it was just him alone with Joonas Parkkonen, their producer. When it came to backing vocals, they were recording simultaneously. He believes that they all had a good vibe and it felt like they were doing something meaningful and special back there. He continued that everyone was in a good mood in general and they felt as though they had strong songs. He said it was a good process and it was the first time for them to be in the studio together and provided an interesting experience.
Not only were we blessed with these three songs, but we also still managed to get a music video for the title track of the EP. I ask them if they have any special memories connected to the day of shooting the video. Waltteri started off by saying that the most important story from that day is that that was the last time they all saw Alexi; that was the very last piece of what they did together. Daniel added that, other than that, it was pretty much a normal music video recording day, but a lot of fun nonetheless.
I watched an interview with Loudwire, where the interviewer asked Daniel about his favorite memory of Alexi Laiho, where he mentioned in that interview that he likes to think that the whole time he got to work with him is one big memory. Since Mitja and Waltteri were not present during that interview, I asked them about their favorite memories connected to Alexi. Waltteri began by explaining that it might be a boring answer. The band continued that the whole year felt like it passed in the blink of an eye and, in general, that they got to be together and, because of the pandemic, they didn’t get to do many shows, but they still hung out a lot together. He says he’ll always remember those times. Mitja said that it felt like it was only a couple of months that they spent together, but it was a full year, so he remembers feeling exceptionally excited when they played their first gig in Seinäjoki, getting on the stage as a band for the first time, that was something special. Waltteri agreed and added that that’s when the band kind of became a “real thing.”
That takes me back to their very first show as BODOM AFTER MIDNIGHT. Our magazine was lucky enough to cover one of their gigs and spoke of a great performance, but I wondered what it was like for the band and how the crowd reacted to them in general. Waltteri reckoned that 99% of the comments on their performance were immensely positive. Mitja continued that the bulk of the feedback came from the YouTube videos, rather than from the audience, especially because due to the pandemic, they couldn’t really hang out with the audience after the show. I asked them whether they felt anything from the restrictions on stage and Daniel explained that when you’re on stage, you just forget everything around you. Waltteri said that especially in Tavastia, you couldn’t feel it at all because everyone was really into it. He thinks that it was restricted to 300 people, but because they were so spread around, the venue didn’t look like it was empty.
While I felt like I could talk with the guys for hours asking questions about this topic, the band had other obligations and our time was almost up. I wanted to fill our last moments with some more meaningful questions before talking a bit about what the future holds for them. I asked them if they learned a valuable lesson from the year they spent with Alexi that they will take with them for the rest of their careers. Daniel started off by saying that there is probably something, but he doesn’t know it yet. He’s not sure if he knows right know what it’s going to be, because it’s probably not something he will think about until it happens. Waltteri mentioned that obviously it was a great honor to get to play with Alexi Laiho, a phenomenal musician, and continued that the biggest life lesson for him was that you should enjoy every little moment you have with your friends and loved ones because you never really know when it’s going to be the last time. They all agreed.
Even though during all the promo and interviews they have done in the past few months, they have been pretty vague about their plans, it feels almost mandatory to ask them about their future. I specifically asked Daniel if he is planning to maybe reboot NAILDOWN, one of the projects he was involved in prior to CHILDREN OF BODOM. He smiled and said to wait and see. I faced Waltteri and asked him whether he has any plans on Finnish soil, considering PARADISE LOST – an international touring act – might not be able to get to go on tour any time soon due to the pandemic. Waltteri replied that they are waiting until the world reopens. He explained that he is trying to keep himself busy with session work and recording playthrough videos and such, but once they get to travel around and start touring, there are going to be a lot of shows for PARADISE LOST. He laughed that even though they released an album one year ago, they haven’t had the chance to play it live, so there is going to be a lot of touring for them whenever possible. Mitja shared that he doesn’t have any plans yet, as he has been quite busy with closing this chapter and hasn’t had the time to think about it yet. He mentioned that regarding putting together a new band of sorts, he doesn’t know yet, time will tell, but of course, he will keep on doing music. Daniel laughed and asks if he needs a guitar player and Mitja promised to give him a call. They laughed jokingly, but I wonder if they might really consider it. After all, it would be great to see these guys continuing to play music together in a different project, because, for me, that’s perhaps the ultimate lesson from a chapter called BODOM AFTER MIDNIGHT… not only does the band consist of talented musicians, but they were also friends who had great fun creating one of the most iconic releases in metal music. As actress Amy Poehler once said so wisely, “As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you; spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.”
Written by Laureline Tilkin
Photos by Sami Hinkkanen Photography