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The Flaming Sideburns
by Alexander Laurence
Interview with Eduardo Martinez and Jay Burnside

Citing 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 Lounge.

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 then.

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 in Argentina.

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 for me.

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.


--Alexander Laurence

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