by Alexander Laurence
Interview with Eduardo Martinez and Jay Burnside
the Stooges, the Sonics, and The Kinks as musical inspiration
Helsinki's The Flaming Sideburns are new pioneers of garage
punk and psychedelic rock. Their first EP, "Close To
Disaster," came out in 1997 and their first full-length
It's Time to Testify...Brothers and Sisters was released
in 1999. Save Rock N Roll (Jetset) is their first American
release. I spoke to the band after they had recently finished
an American tour with Sahara Hotnights. Their last two shows
on the tour featured sold out nights at Elbow Room and Mercury
The Flaming Sideburns:
Eduardo "Speedo" Martinez (vocals)
Ski Williamson (guitar)
Jeffery Lee Burns (guitar)
The Punisher (bass)
Jay Burnside (drums)
AL: Has the band has
been together for a while?
Jay: Yeah. We had all
been in different bands before, but in 1995 we decided to
play together. The band was formed in Helsinki. We all come
from different cities in Finland. Eduardo comes from Argentina.
That makes us the only Finish/Argentinian band in the world
AL: What is the song "Spanish Blood" about?
Eduardo: That is one of the first songs that I have written
in Spanish. It's about my trips back to Argentina. Nothing
specific. It's about an attitude. I have been living in
Finland now for thirteen years.
AL: What is Helsinki like compared to Stockholm?
Jay: It all started in Helsinki. People are talking about
Scandinavia rock and roll. In the beginning, I think that
it was based there. Back in the 1970s we had this band called
The Hurricanes. They were the first real Scandinavian rock
and roll band. They were from Helsinki and they were a big
influence on all Swedish bands. At some point in the 1980s,
Sweden took over. Helsinki has always had bands like Hanoi
Rocks. It's a good city for rock and roll. Thanks to us,
The Helicoptesr, The Hives, and Queens of The Stone Age:
these are all top ten bands in Finland.
AL: Did you grow up listening to punk rock?
Eduardo: I grew up listening to classic stuff. Music that
came through my parents.Stuff like the Beatles and the Stones
and bubblegum and heavy metal bullshit. All the stuff you
would listren to as a teenager. I was into a lot of Argentinian
music also. When I moved to Finland it was a total different
thing. I remember that I listened to The Stooges. Raw Power
was the only record that I had. When I met the rest of the
guys in The Flaming Sideburns, I was totally changed. I
discovered Roky Erickson. It was hard to find foreign records
Jay: In Finland in the late 1970s, punk rock was huge.
Bands like The Ramones. People realized that there was life
before that. The Stooges, the MC5, and The New York Dolls
all got a bunch of attention. When I was a teenager in the
1980s it was easy to get all those records.
AL: What is working in the studio like?
Jay: When we first started we would go into the studio
and capture us live. With the new record, we did the basic
tracks, then we did some overdubs. The funny thing is that
this record sounds more live than us actually playing live.
We recorded it in two months. The next record is going to
be better. We have already started it and it's going to
be different again.
Eduardo: This gave us more chances to choose the exact
sound that we are looking for. I like our first recordings
too. We had been on the road for three years and then we
cut the first record. It still sounds okay. We were going
for a Sonics sound, more or less sixties stuff. We were
criticized in Finland for the direction we chose, but in
the end, time proved we were right. But of course we are
not about repeating ourselves. We are always trying to develop
sound-wise and songwriting-wise.
AL: Who writes most
of the songs in the band?
Eduardo: Usually Ski Williamson comes up with some riffs
and hooks. Sometimes someone else comes up with a song,
or an arrangement, or the lyrics, usually me. The band is
involved in every aspect of the song. Accidents are good.
Jay: Last summer we hired this summer cottage by the sea
to practice the new songs. We went there for two weeks to
rehearse in the middle of nowhere. It was in the woods.
We had a sauna. The sea was nearby. It will be in Europe
early in 2003.
AL: Do you ever play with keyboards and techno gear?
Jay: No. Who needs that? Even the techno bands are usuing
real instruments so why should we go back and use synthesizers.
There are already enough bands like Air. There doesn't need
to be more.
Eduardo: I like acoustic piano. We used that a lot in our
early recordings. It's just straight ahead playing. We used
it once live. We had a sax player in the band. We have a
lot of guest players on the record.
AL: What are your lyrics about and what inspires you?
Eduardo: I just improvise the lyrics. They come from experiences.
Things that have happened to me and the band. I am lazy.
I write a lot of lyrics but usually I can't read my lyrics
the next morning. I usually leave them and then picked them
up again. I take one sentence from here and one sentence
from there. I build new things. In the end, the lyrics don't
mean anything. They are just lyrics.
AL: Pelle from The Hives joined you onstage the other night?
Eduardo: Yeah. We did "Dirty Robber" together.
It's an old song by The Sonics. Ebbot Lundberg from Soundtrack
of Our Lives joined us onstage as well. We are not competing
with each other. We are usually helping each other out.
Jay: Eduardo has sang with The Helicopters. It's a big
family there. Many of these bands have been going for a
long time. We have all known each other and played with
each other for many years. The Nomads are the grandfathers
of all bands.
AL: There are a lot of bands from Finland and Sweden?
Jay: People may be tired of it here. But there are more
bands that they haven't even seen yet. We may be having
our fifteen minutes now. But the American invasion has been
going on for fifty years. It's only fair that we get our
little chance. American bands are very competitive and they
are always fighting. Who's the first to make a million dollars?
In Scandinavia, there's not a lot of money, so bands do
music for other reasons.
AL: Does the government help bands?
Eduardo: It's not a perfect system. I was unemployed for
many years. It's like you are a student and studying something
and getting support. There are no rock and roll schools
to deal with the whole situation. For example, once you
are unemployed, you cannot go abroad to another country.
You start out with a losing attitude. The music industry
forces bands to think that way. They don't want them to
think they have any power.
AL: How would you define music?
Eduardo: Music is related to sex. It's bumping sex music
Jay: The best compliment we have ever got while playing
live was that there was this couple in Helsinki that we
having sex. That was the best response we have ever got.
Go ahead if you want to. Last Christmas we were playing
in Helsinki, and there was a Christmas tree. Someone grabbed
the tree, and the tree was crowd surfing.