I had prepared set of questions but the interview took a totally different turn. What happened and how it happened was utterly unexpected and thereby on the other hand exactly what one might have thought, considering the description that Pasi Koskinen has been known to be unpredictable.
But let’s go back to the start. Finding no media person I had written to the band directly and after quite some time the manager replied. He would manage to provide an interview slot, yet he could not make sure it was a long one. Never mind, I thought. Meeting Ajattara’s front man at all would be worth the while.
Their Nummirock gig approached. They had the last slot to play that night. And despite the late hour and unfriendly cold the crowd was impressive massive and excitedly waiting for the gig.
Ajattara had played at Nummirock in 2016 as well all coloured with blood. In the very beginning they had taken a large quantity of blood and spilled it widely, meaning showering all the photographers in the pit. So the pit was not too crowded this year.
The band entered the stage in street ware, no colours, no blood. The crowd cheered. I cannot comment too much on the gig as I am not familiar with the music, at least not in a way I’d see myself fit speaking of it publically. The band delivered a show with rather massive light effects, pretty much vocal participation from nearly all musicians and especially Ruoja was a lot more active, banging and steering the crowd than I had expected. The only recently released album ‘Lupaus’ is selling very well and received impressive reviews from national and international media. And the crowd shared this appreciation very obviously.
In the end, some kind of magic spell took over. Really. I can’t name it any other way. Ruoja announced the song and spoke the magical formular pointing with some momentum to a different part of the crowd with each single word. “Moshpit.” “Moshit.” “Moshpit.” Just that simple. Not loud. Not ordering. Just normally spoken. The song started and the crowd obeyed its master, or his spell, or both. As suddenly as if someone had switched on the crowd, the front compartment turned into a running wildly, yet still somehow rhythmical and even aesthetical mass of people. The moshpit! Just like being under a spell … under Pasi’s spell, the man I was to meet soon.
This moment had left its impression on me. But then, remembering the days of old, Pasi was a most charismatic young front man. And yet one portrait photo of him that I saw after Nummirock 2016 had shocked me. This portrait showed a totally different person. I found it hard to believe it was him at all. We all have to pay our toll to time, of course, but what this portrait showed pointed on something deeper. I had never spent a thought on that, I admit. And I never tried to translate his latest interviews.
Then I met Ajattara’s front man after his show back stage. He introduced himself as Pasi, shaking my hand politely. There was a large company of well-drunken party people around and friends of the band, such as Aksu Hanttu and Mikko Herranen amidst. Pasi and I left the party for the container in which I had met S-Tool earlier that day. He straightened the black cloth roughly covering the table and offered me to sit opposite of him. He spoke slowly. I was nervous and very tired, I admit. But the situation felt comfy. Really. Aksu followed us into the container, still speaking to Pasi. And Pasi asked me how long it would take as his friend wanted them to continue their party. “I don’t know. Not too long”, thinking of manager’s words.
A few minutes later, we sat in a calm and relaxed atmosphere while the heavy partying outside went on, flushing a weird mix of voices and music slightly dimmed by the metal walls into the container. I started classically: “Thanks for meeting me at all, especially at this late hour.”
Pasi who sat his face turned towards the far end of the container, replied: “Oh, no problem. It will be better after the show. I am too nervous to concentrate to anything else before.” His voice was rather low, his words came a bit slower than one might expect, but friendly.
“I can imagine that because if I had to go out on stage, beforehand I would like to have my time to me and being on my own and all. I was a bit surprised. I saw videos from your last show here at Nummirock 2016 and there was still a lot of more corpse paint and all …” Before I could end my sentence, Pasi started replying: “Well, we, Ajattara did never have corpse paint. We had blood.”
“My mistake, sorry.” I answered, “but there was noting alike this year. What happened?” Smiling he says: “It took one hour and a half to clean the stage after us. So they made us from the Nummirock more like ‘If you please do not”, he laughs, ”do this bloody mess again this year, please. And I don’t know it didn’t seem to matter maybe.” He takes rather long breaks within his statements so that time and again we start speaking in the very same moment.
“But you’re still doing it usually?” —“Yah, for the special locations. Blood is life, you know”, he adds with a trace of superiority in his voice – not towards me, though.
“ It definitely is”, I agree, “I am not proficient in Finnish, you know, and actually I don’t speak Finnish at all.” —“I can hear you”, he says joking, and we both laugh.
“So I have really hard times to understand the lyrics.” I go on, “maybe I have no more than only a shallow idea what the lyrics are about.” Instead of a reply he asks back: “What is your shallow idea?” I feel a bit uncomfy now as (some of you might know I really see no sense in using digital translators. So I had no real idea): “Could be like death and religion. Some kind of religion. Could be something into it … “ He sighs and I continue: “Is it?” But says: “Not really. Actually it is against all kind of religions. I am atheist, myself.” – “Ok”, I reply and Pasi explains: “And there are true stories, like everything is real. The real evil that men do to each other. Whatever shit happens. But it is our point or my point if I write the lyrics for Ajattara. I have to go through something in my life that has to hit at least one moment of Black Metal before I can get over it. This way, why, you know, I pull out my bad shit. But also I give all the good shit. I give everything into the music biz. And they’re about life. Mostly.”
I’m getting more curious: “Is it …” But before I can finish my question he continues his illustration: “But the biggest moments in your life are the biggest losses – always. So that is, you know, the paradox. Try to figure it out. I just got 45 and, yeah, I’ve been thinking a lot. Reading a lot. Figuring a lot. Being dead for a minute and a half. Whatever. I still don’t know it.” He laughs shortly although I have no clear idea why. “Like what’s this thing with eternity? Because it is for a man – it is impossible to understand. Because it is forever!”
Dead? Seriously? Metaphorically? Or was that some kind of imaginative, hypnotic or whatever experiment? “Did I get you right? You don’t have that near-death experience?” But he simply says: “No, I was dead!“
Suddenly everything seems to have changed. The party noises from outside underline the absurdity of being. And perhaps our conversation has at this moment not the linguistic perfection of a Shakespeare play but surely some depth. “You were?!” – “For a minute and a half.”
“No. But long enough.” – “Yeah. It’s total darkness. It’s nothing like you know … And still you don’t move anywhere. You just start to be in a different form.“
“Wow. Ok.” I say trying to keep some inner distance. “Like black matter. Lubricant black matter.“
I am overwhelmed and the situation couldn’t be any more bizarre than it is. From outside of the container some heavy party noise drips into my consciousness. And in front of me … ?
I kind of sigh: “That’s deep.”— “Yeah, it is. “
“Absolutely.” – “Ähm, when it happened, I was strangled to death.” His voice sounds amused which makes no sense to me in this situation, however, it adds to my strong impression of something surreal going on here: “By a well, it wasn’t like a hate crime. It was just, you know, too much booze and stuff like that. And my so-called friend strangled for taking me one cigarette from his cigarette box.” He laughs short. Hysterically? No. More cognizant. “He went very nuts. There was noise not like parties for him. Of course, the party was over, for I was lying fucking motionless on the floor, peeing in my pants and everything. And no pulse. They tried to do everything and finally there was one guy who was being in a military as a profession and he turned me around and hit with the fist. Of course, I don’t remember this.”
“But they told you”, I fill in. – “Yeah. Like with the fist here and this bone broke”. He touches his sternum.
“It usually does in cardiac massage.” I add (no idea, why). “And I thought ‘Thank you for life!’ But I was there. And I was when I – it is hard to explain. You don’t go anywhere. This is a change of a whole.”
I think of the usual stories you hear and read on this. But what Pasi just said leaves a different image in me: “So all these images …” I start asking but once more he explaining his experience at the same moment: “You become everything. No worries. Nothing. No hunger. No thirst. Nothing.” I try to say something but in the same moment he continues. “Are you afraid … ?” – “But you still are. Because I remember it! That I was there when I … when they got me … how do you say it? Recovered?”
“Back to life?” I suggest. “Back to life”, he repeats.” Yeah. And another thing: They hurt my throat. Putting me back on my back again and put it this water tube into my mouth. Cold water for as much person you can put in. And I was like the fingers started to …” he drums his fingers on the table. “I woke up again. Or like … actually I didn’t remember my name. Or anything. It’s like. …” He whooshes ”… total black out. I remember it now. But I couldn’t understand anything afterwards. For a while. Actually I didn’t stand. I was a little drank but then, too. I am never that drunk that I cannot walk. You know. And it was just because of” he whooshes again, “this death thing. Actually, I didn’t sleep for two weeks afterwards because I was afraid that I never woke up again. It was quite stressful. And like my roots and everything were always you know like I was sort of a rebel king – just like my grant parents, they were some of the opposite of the everything and so on. And so it’s also for me that I’m against, you know. Well. Ask something, I’m just talking.”
I just think, ‘Why would I?’ What Pasi just told me was a lot more than I ever hoped any interview to be. We both laugh. And so I try to stick to the topic and yet somehow bridge to music: “Has it changed your attitude towards death in the lyrics? Was there before this incident you had another ideal you wished to transfer? I mean, yes of course, it was a shocking experience and all the more is it possible at all to transfer this experience you have into words?” – “Not really. Actually, yes. Because it is also simple. So simple! Then just – that’s the thing. Every human, including me, thinks too complicated. Everything, you know and that’s why it is so hard to understand sometimes, you know. Just few more things. It’s like that. I know. It’s the same thing, I can’t. Too easy. Too simple. You can’t believe it.”
Obviously being dead is not to be explained in words. “So the words are too complicated?” – “Yes. Unless you haven’t experienced it yourself. Do you know Barathrum?” – “I have heard the name but that’s it”, I state honestly. And Pasi tells me how these amazing photos for the Inferno cover story came to be: “Ok we did the one interview to Inferno.” Although he goes on I say: “I have seen the cover – cool photos, by the way!” – “Yeah. Yeah”, he laughs, wants to go on telling but accepts the compliment. Then he admits still laughing: “Like we were having a forty’s crisis or something. Midlife crisis. I don’t know. No, we had just created.” He is laughing out loudly now. “Actually the point was that I came from the prison. I was visiting my friend. He is in there for his detention. So I went not in. I had only like Addidas trainers and a hoody and I didn’t go on the cover of a magazine like in trainers and a hoody.” He laughs hiding. “It’s like I didn’t know. So Barathrum’s main guy, he had the idea to take the clothes off. Ok. So simple.” He laughs again, shielding and in the same moment I feel his awe towards the simplicity and incomprehensibility. “It’s like that thing with death. He understands, too. “
“He has this experience of death, too?” – “But we talked to each other about it. There are a lot of things I don’t know. Maybe people are interested in it. Cause there’s two of us. ‘That weird singers have been dead.’” He laughs again perhaps with a trace of superiority towards the voyeurism. Then serious again: “He did overdose. And got killed.” He laughs again. “It is quite hard”, he says calming down. “But hei, there is only one song about this on the new album, Lupaus’. It’s ‘Sinä’ which means ‘you’. And it’s dedicated to that guy who did this to me. Who gave me this noise that I can never share with anybody else accept that Demonos Sova, that singer of Barathrum because he went there, too. We are alike. We are very alike.” His voice sounds strange, not sure if swallowing upcoming tears, laughing or gulping. “We paint and do music …”
“You paint?” I ask a bit surprised yet excited. – “Yeah.”
“What kind of paintings?” He smiles and says: “My kind of paintings.” His laughter reveals a bit of uneasiness. Then he hurries on: “I do it with acrylics because I am a kinetic personality. I started when I was 16. I started with oils. But the drying time was too long.”
“Yeah, it’s very thick, so it takes very long.” – “A month and so on. And of course the colours are something unbelievable – with this oil. But for painting me with oils always left this grey area on the canvas where nothing was oiled because I never have a patience to wait for it to dry enough so that I can really paint on it. And stuff. But then somebody told me about this acrylic paint. And then I started to … started to … paint with acrylics and still going strong.” He laughs again shortly. “Actually have you seen the cover of ‘Lupaus’?” I nod so he continues: “It’s my drawing.” – “Really? I love it. It’s really great. I love the colour.“ – “Thank you.“
“And I see the fans love it too, because there are incredibly many shirts and hoodies with the ‘Lupaus’ cover image are around all over. I …” before I can finish, Pasi says: “Yeah. It’s quite nice picture …”
I try again: “Actually, I think the album …” but he: “It’s …” then he shows the letters tattooed on his fingers. I read it out loud. “Maha Kali “— “It’s a Hindi goddess. Kali.” – “Of course”, now that took me a while to comprehend. I am getting even more tired – obviously. No surprise, as it is well past three in the morning. “And Maha Kali means great Kali. There are so many bands having Kali in their covers and so do we. I draw it myself in 2013.”
“Why did you choose this motif for the album?” – “Because I was a little lost. Because as we talked before everything is about loss if you’re not fine …”
“Yes, of course.” – “If you’re not fine with everything it is always loss” he laughs, but convincing. “Some kind of … so first of all, Ajattara’s drummer died in 2012. He died from drugs and alcohol – too much shit. And he was 38 back then. And that same year on New Year’s Eve my cousin got shot. Shot dead at New Year’s eve at 10:00 o’clock in the evening.” His voice sounds laden.
“Fuck”, I say in a very low voice, not thinking. So I excuse. “Sorry.” – “It was a year I started wondering and he always called me, and we lived in different parts of Finland. But still we are calling to each other every day. And we saw each other as much as we could. He had different interests than me, you know, something like frenzy stuff, you know. He was criminal. And I was and am but this … he got killed. These two persons lost in the same year… Negativity was like the year before and everything. I went like into drain”, he laughs in a hiding manner “very fast like … “ Pasi snaps his fingers and exhales heavily.
I nod and feel the sadness, the emptiness and the massive lack of reason. “And as a Finnish man I drowned my sorrow”, he shakes an empty beer tin, “into indulgence, all kind of …. Which is the only way not to think about it.”
“But it did return.” I push him out of some far away thought: “Ha?”
“But it did return?” I repeat my question. “It took four years from me to recover from this. Everything. And then I got killed. That was fast. You know I got that loss and everything and I realized so much. Afterwards when I started to realize that I surely was dead, like seriously dead.”
“Were you having a thought on revenge?” – “No”, he says. His smile and laughter are meant to hide something he would not tell: “Actually I did or really it’s a different – I can’t talk about it. I hate violence myself.” And I wonder what he means. But I leave it to this.
“Revenge could also be …” – “My violence is this lyrics!”
“Yeah”, something like that I meant. – “And the things about what people are able to do to each other. Whenever it comes to like …. Whatever. Power. Power is the worst.”
“I think revenge often takes place only in your head.” – “It’s what you are thinking about it. If you are totally lost, you don’t care about consequences. You just do it. And maybe regret it afterwards. But I do …” Once more he laughs to hide although it is impossible to tell if it is embarrassment, pride or both or even pure cynicism. “… I do fuck off things like every day. But still I’ve learned something like this during all these years. That is the revenge is not the answer, ever. If someone’s screw up things very bad then it’ll give him a lesson or her.” And while I wonder if he learned his lessons from what he screwed up when actually he is told to have screwed up a hell lot of things again and again. “Not the revenge. Lesson. That won’t happen again. But it will. We all do the same shit that we have done before”, he says smiling knowing exactly what he is speaking of. “It’s just the way it wheels the DNA chain, you know. There is a different DNA chain as we all have one.”
“So you think we cannot change?” – “They’re all different but still the same. And you won’t change until you die. I don’t know if we do change then but comes, fall with everything. Dark matter.” We drift bit off the topic as I misunderstood a term before laughingly I comprehend. He explains: “Dark matter. The stuff between the stars.”
“Usually I end with an add question but consider it inappropriate here. So I am very, very grateful we met. Thank you so much. And I think there is a lot I will think through again…”
“Ok”, he says and it seems he is surprised of what I said. “Hey, it was also nice to meet you!”
Something strange happens. While saying goodbye and shaking hands, Pasi remains seated so that I think it polite to stay where I am as well. Not one minute later, he just resumes the conversation. I never recorded what followed. But if truth be told it was mostly him speaking. My parts grew even less then before. The atmosphere stayed just as relaxed and very open. Pasi went on telling me more details of these dark moments and leverages in his life, chiefly of the more recent years. And he went on and on. I have no idea if he noticed that I did not record. And I have no idea how much longer we had sat there in that container with that weird party noise all around, speaking of things that really matter if not at some point, roughly 15 to 20 minutes later Vesa Wahlroos had entered. He intended to pick up Pasi for the shuttle transfer to the hotel. Considering the time (approximately 3:20 am) I was desperately longing for some hours of sleep. Yet instead of getting up, Pasi asked Vesa to sit down and me if it was ok, if Vesa joined the interview.
Yet a couple of minutes later we do part after all. Pasi and Vesa are in the middle of a conversation with Aksu Hanttu who had returned. But before I leave the container Pasi hugs me cordially … On my way over to the camp I let some impressions of the past hour just flow.
I had not many expectations and no idea what this interview would be like. There was much I had heard and read about Pasi Koskinen’s vita, of course. But once more Pasi gave proof of being in unpredictable – only in a way that literally no one expected and certainly me in the least. After all, he is as much as I am a human being and was kind enough to show me a part of divergent personality I had not dared to hope it could be revealed to me.