Interview with Children of Bodom — “We’re really happy that this can become the living room of the Children Of Bodom community.”

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Despite playing their last show already in 2019 and Alexi Laiho’s passing in 2020, the remaining CHILDREN OF BODOM members have been quite active in recent years to keep the band’s memory alive. We recently attended their exhibition, Strikes and Gutters, Ups and Downs – Children of Bodom in retrospective photos in Espoo and 1 month later, the trio is ready for the next steps in their career: a CHILDREN OF BODOM-themed bar with lots of memorabilia from the band’s history, plus a sauna. We chatted with Janne Wirman, Henkka Seppälä, and Jaska Raatikainen the day before the grand opening of their new endeavor, Bodom Bar & Sauna in Niittykumpu, Espoo. Watch the interview here or read the full transcript below…

First of all, thanks so much for taking the time to do this day. How stressed are you right now?

Janne: Very, very.

Henkka: I have no idea what’s happening there in the main room. I hope it’ll all be cleared.

Janne: Yeah. I mean, we heard that it’s the norm that when you open a bar, the paint is still wet in some places and stuff like that, so… but yeah, it’s been very hectic the past few days. Very, very.

Are you also a little bit excited at least for the grand opening?

Janne: For sure. Hey! Is tonight going to be the soft launch, maybe?

Henkka: Yes it is.

Janne: Fuck yeah, but yeah we are super excited, yes.

So let’s start off by talking a little bit about the exhibition you recently had – I see that you also have some of the photographs here – how was that experience for you doing something other than touring and playing music?

Henkka: It was really cool. It was kind of like a 2-year project, almost. Going through the photos with the guys was very emotional, of course, and then it was also big… it was a lot of work to actually put it together.

Janne: It was very well made and put together, very professional considering it was done by us. But it turned out great. It was a huge success in the space. The city of Espoo gave us the space and they told us that it was the most visitors any exhibition has ever had in that space.

Henkka: By far.

Janne: By far. So it was very successful.

Jaska: And it’s been there for maybe 30 years.

Janne: Oh yeah, the building, the space? Yeah, yeah.

Henkka: And then when the exhibition – it was just one month – was over, when we packed all the stuff. We didn’t know what to do, we were kind of hoping maybe we could have them in some other city or country. But then last week we realized we could just have it permanently here. We don’t have everything up yet, but all the photos will be up here. So then Strikes and Gutters will be permanently here.

Janne: That was a brilliant idea because we were about to pack the photos away, but you know, there is so much wall space here, we kind of needed stuff on the walls here. Now, all the photos can be seen when you visit the bar. It’s a brilliant idea. It was last minute, we just thought of it some days ago.

Henkka: That’s why we didn’t have time to put everything on the walls yet.

Strikes and Gutters

I was thinking that that was what you were going to do while visiting the exhibition and so on.

Janne: We’re dumb. [laughter]

It sure took you a while. [laughs]

Henkka: We’re a bit slow. [laughter] But it’s also a different experience because they are in different…

Janne: They were in very different [setting], in a real gallery setting.

Henkka: They were very well thought [out], which photo goes where and here it is more random. It’s different.

I like them here a lot, I’ve only seen one wall so far, but it all looks great. So let’s get talking about this bar. Is this something you already started talking about when you were still in the band?

Janne: Yes, I’ve said this now in many interviews, but I think I feel like every musician, every band dreams about having their own band…

Jaska: Bar. [laughter]

Janne: Yeah, sorry, bar. So, we’ve talked about our own bar for years and how it would be. The ideas have been changing over the years. Now, it only made sense to add the museum aspect because the band is inactive and the active career has ended. We felt that a lot of the fans would like to see the stuff, the gear, the instruments, and interesting things from our whole career.

Henkka: I think the origin of the idea dates back to our touring years when Janne and Alexi visited quite regularly hard rock cafes around the world, which is also [about] drinking and looking at memorabilia. Then when CHILDREN OF BODOM was coming to an end, when we knew it was going to be over, we realized that…

Janne: We are museum quality now. [laughter]

Henkka: Then we just started to think about it actively and of course, it felt like it’s a utopistic idea, because we wouldn’t know how to open a restaurant by ourselves.

Janne: We know nothing, we can barely play an instrument each. [laughter]

Henkka: So then, [the] stars were aligned and things happened.

Janne: We’re super excited.

Henkka: And now we’re here.

Yeah. This location is also quite interesting because, the last time I was here was in 2017 maybe. It has already changed quite a lot since then, but it still is an area that’s developing. Do you feel like Bodom Bar & Sauna is going to be the place that puts Niittykumpu on the map?

Janne: Niittykumpu is a developing area, there are a lot of new buildings, but there are no bars. So we felt that it was a good spot and the metro station is right there. So you can take the subway from downtown easily and fast, and also, Espoo is so important for our band. We always considered ourselves a band from Espoo.

Jaska: Niittykumpu was like – back in the days 20-30 years ago – there was… Matinkylä and Tapiola, they were bigger places, but Niittykumpu was smaller and just mixed up. Now this is developing so quickly that it needs a…

Janne: It needs a bar!

Jaska: It needs a bar, yeah. Why not? In Matinkylä, a couple of kilometers that way, there’s a big mall, in Tapiola too.

Janne: Oh and something we forgot to say in interviews today for international potential visitors is that there’s a hotel in that mall quite nearby.

Jaska: Yeah, in Iso Omena [in Matinkylä].

Janne: So if you are planning to visit, don’t get a hotel room downtown, you can get a hotel room very near here.

Jaska: Yeah, in Matinkylä, which is like the next stop by the metro. This is no mid-stop anymore.

Henkka: And when I was young, opposite the road there was this world cafe and I frequented it a lot, from 18 to early 20s. But then it was demolished and it was kind of empty here. There was a really good beer house in Niittykumpu, Gallows Bird. They closed down.

Is that closed? Oh my god, no!

Henkka: Yes, but it moved to Ainoa, so it’s in Tapiola. So then again, Niittykumpu was still without a bar, so this is fulfilling the…

Janne: This is fulfilling a lot of things.

What’s on the menu here? Especially since the craft beer place shut down and you guys also have your own beers. Is that sort of the direction you are heading in?

Janne: Well, the craft beer is a big thing and we’re super happy that we have local craft beer breweries from Espoo very well presented. We have from eight different brewery beers on tap.

Jaska: The biggest are Fat Lizard and Olarin Panimo – Olari is right there.

Janne: But [we’re] keeping it local. Beer from Espoo is super cool, I think.

Do you have any plans to develop more CHILDREN OF BODOM beers?

Henkka: We are up for it.

Or cocktails?

Janne: We wouldn’t say no! Now that you mentioned cocktails, we are working on a super secret, top-secret new thing that we can’t talk about yet.

That’s a shame.

Henkka: Hopefully we can have a third beer at some point. We need to talk with Fat Lizard.

How much were you actually involved in setting up this bar? Did you discuss decor together and did you put things in place? Or were these lovely people working here helping you out?

Jaska: Well, we’ve been working here for a few days now.

Janne: We have been decorating the band stuff ourselves. Look at all this beautiful poster work over here by Henkka [points at wall behind them that has been decorated with old setlists]. Our vision of the band stuff was so strong that that’s how we wanted it to be. We’ve been working on that and Jukka here has been working on everything else.

We talked already about potential international guests and the hotel in Iso Omena, but how much did you think about international guests coming to visit this bar, since you for instance, also have the sauna experience? Is that part of the idea behind it?

Janne: Of course, and you know, to have a home base for the international BODOM fan community. Because there are no BODOM shows now to go to and meet up and stuff like that. So we’re hoping to create events here that people could come over for.

Henkka: One fan/friend told me that now that there are no more shows, it’s a great place that all of the fans. You know, all these fans, they met each other at the shows, let’s say a fan from Japan, from Greece, and Germany, they would meet each other a few times a year at a certain BODOM show, but since that’s not possible anymore, we’re really happy that this can become the living room of the CHILDREN OF BODOM community.

Yeah, you said you would like also to organize some events here. Do you also have a small stage somewhere for performances?

Janne: We don’t, we don’t know yet. The space is a bit too small for a band to play, but maybe some smaller musical numbers could be possible. But we’re thinking about different kinds of events that we could set up.

Henkka: Events that we could put in the calendar and tell people that we’re going to be here and whatever there will be a quiz night, or Janne‘s stand-up, or Jaska‘s bingo.

Janne: Or we invite Alexander and have a theme night to ask questions about the early years and stuff like that.

Alright, so sort of like dive bar activities, but then with you guys. Cool! Now, speaking for the international community, I think not a lot of people from outside of Finland are really used to Finnish sauna experiences. To ease their minds, what can you tell them about that?

Henkka: Not to worry.

Janne: Exactly, not to worry. Don’t worry!

Henkka: We have a mixed sauna here and then we have the women’s and men’s separately, and here anybody can come, wearing a bathing suit, or sauna towels.

Janne: So we want to make it super easy, super easygoing for international people so that you don’t have to be afraid of the Finnish naked sauna culture. You can actually wear a bathing suit in our saunas, it’s totally fine. We want to make sure that it doesn’t scare off people. The classic Finnish sauna culture is the nakedness, but it’s not a…

Jaska: Everybody can feel comfortable.

I guess a bar also needs music. Is that something you have also thought about? Have you created a playlist or are you going to be playing only Bodom music?

Janne: A little bit, but that’s also something we need a bit more time to concentrate on, but the vinyl player is a great idea.

Henkka: Yeah, we’ve got a vinyl player here and I already brought some vinyls. We definitely don’t want to be just a metal bar.

Janne: Or definitely not just a BODOM music bar, that wouldn’t be… yeah.

Jaska: And of course, any of the customers can go and ask for music.

Although, then it might become a Bodom bar. [laughter]

Henkka: But yeah, it’s a little bit open. But it’s more of a beer bar where you can have a talk with friends instead of blasting music.

Janne: Yeah, one thing we do want to avoid is the loud metal bar thingy. I grew so tired of that from all of our years of touring, when you go to a metal bar in whatever city, the music would always be so loud and uncomfortable. That’s something we do not want to do here with the music. Not too loud, not too much.

Jaska: But not too middle-aged. [laughter]

Yeah, but you are right. When I would take a non-metal friend to a metal bar, they’d always complain about the music being loud.

Janne: Yeah, and it’s so uncomfortable.

Is that also something that you want anyone to be comfortable in here, despite what music they listen to?

Janne: Pretty much, yeah. For sure.

Henkka: And we want to invite everybody here, all kinds of people.

Janne: You know, exactly what we are trying to stress is that it’s not strictly a metal bar, it’s a BODOM-themed sauna bar.

Henkka: That’s going to be interesting to see how people who are coming here just for the sauna, how they will take it. Can they actually feel comfortable here or not?

Janne: Is it too BODOM for them? I don’t know, we don’t know.

Henkka: But at least the point was that we kept the sauna spaces neutral, except for the coloring. So there’s not any BODOM stuff.

Wise choice, they’d probably melt.

Janne: Quite possibly.

Henkka: Depends on what it is.

Considering you’ve put this all together and you’ve been working on it for the past few years, how was it sort of to look back on the entirety of what you did as a band together?

Janne: Well, it’s been emotional, you know, digging up old stuff and putting it up on our walls and thinking about Alexi. I stop at pretty much every item, I think about Alexi and about his relation to all this stuff. It’s been very emotional the past couple of days.

Henkka: And it’s been so cool to be in very close touch with Alexi‘s family, Alexi‘s sister about this, they’ve been super supportive of everything we do. They gave us some of Alexi‘s personal items to put here.

Janne: And we wouldn’t do anything without asking them. We wanna make sure, we have to be very respectful of course towards Alexi, but their support has been great and we’re super happy to have them on board.

Do you feel like he would be happy with the result of this bar?

Janne: Yeah, he would love it, yeah.

Are there certain things in here that maybe are subtly in his memory?

Janne: Well, yeah, there are so many. But now I just realized that one thing we don’t have in here that Alexi would demand, is some American car brand, some little pieces… We need some car…

Jaska: Like plates?

Janne: Car memorabilia. It’s a good thing that you asked that because Alexi would be like okay that’s cool but we need a hub cap right there. That was a good question, thank you!

No worries. You still have time to make that happen! Obviously, all three of you have your own bands now, WARMEN, MOON SHOT, and MERCURY CIRCLE. Any news related to those projects?

Henkka: We [MOON SHOT] are now done with the first album and touring. The second album is written and also recorded, now they’re just building it and we are looking into releasing it next year, what time, and with who. It’s really exciting at the moment.

Janne: I haven’t said this previously before, but WARMEN has just signed a record deal and we’ve written an album and we’re starting recording in December, I think. It was supposed to happen earlier but I was so busy with everything. But yes, WARMEN is finally working on something.

Jaska: We’ve [MERCURY CIRCLE] been having a little quiet time for the summer and this fall. But for the next album, the songs are ready. But to make the next step, I don’t know how we will do it or when, but we should sit together.

Janne: It’s funny, now I think about how busy we’ve been with all of the BODOM projects these past 2 years, when the band was active, we would have free time between the tours, but now, I see these guys every day. We have so many things going on. It’s good.

Well, it’s good that you guys have been so busy, and congratulations again with the bar! That’s it for my questions; do you have any last thoughts you want to share with your fans?

Janne: We would just like to welcome everyone to Bodom Bar & Sauna. Come check it out.

Henkka: Pizza, beer, sauna, good times. Couple of laughs.

Children of Bodom @ John Smith Festival, 2017

Interview by Laureline Tilkin