interview @ Mishap-zine #34 (2015)

Juggling Jugulars is one of my favorite punk bands. If you haven’t heard them, I’ll wait while you go to the internets and listen. Or, if you have no internets, read on and check them out sonically later. Every record has been great and every punk should have “Propaganda Immunity” in their collection. JJ doesn’t get a lot of hype or press here in North America, as far as I can tell, so let’s see if that can be fixed. Petteri was gracious enough to answer my verbose questions with thoughtful intelligence and patience, so, read on!
First, who is speaking with us and who is in the band?
My name is Petteri (guitar & backing vocals) and I have been in this band since the beginning, autumn 1989. I am pretty much the main songwriter and also the ”shitworker”: I mostly book our tours & gigs, take care of correspondence and maintain web-things etc.
The other members are: Arja (vocals), who has been in this band since year 2000. Jaani (bass & backing vocals) has been in this band since 2007 (he replaced our ex-bassist/vocalist Jantsa who got brain-hemorrhage in September 2006 and later died in May 2008. Jantsa played bass 1990-2006 and he was the editor-in-chief of very important Finnish DIY-zine Toinen Vaihtoehto. It started in 1989 when Jantsa noticed that there is a serious lack of information about gigs and happenings in Finnish punk-scene and this could be better, united and better organized if there was some publication that informs our punks better about things. He made 200 issues (!) during his lifetime and when he couldn´t do it anymore his friends continued with Jantsa´s permission, so it still exists). Tero (guitar) is the other original member with me. Then we have Marko (drummer) who joined this band in 1992.
Your website has a very helpful “History” page that details the band’s origin in 1989 and subsequent records, tours, line-ups, and the like. A quarter of a century is a lifetime in the punk scene—do you remember the beginning, why you all formed the band? What the Finnish scene was like in the eighties and early nineties?
I already had a punk band, Sabotaasi, in the mid-late 80´s and our bassist Jantsa also had a band, Treblinka, at the same time. My original idea with Juggling Jugulars was to try out some melodic USA-influenced punk in the vain of Circle Jerks, Angry Samoans, 7 Seconds or contemporary Bad Religion and in English (I feel from my personal point of view that when Bad Religion made their ”Suffer” LP it sounded so fresh and inspiring; I guess it was the start of our band [ed. my BR favorite album]). JJ doesn´t really sound like that–but it was the original thought behind this. I think we managed to create our own ”JJ-sound” during the 90´s when we got our package working during our regular tours etc.
The late 80´s was weird time musically–many punk bands mixed some speedmetal elements to their sound and I am afraid that there aren´t many classic recordings of that time (at least from Finland); of course some succeed well but I am afraid that it was more or less crap from today´s perspective…. The positive thing of this mainstream punk that rose with Epitaph bands was that it raised a new generation of punks –at least in here. The negative thing is that it went to the totally commercial direction. To me, the main thing in the punk scene has always been the DIY-mentality. It is the real environment for the punk scene: no booking agencies, no indie-labels, no commercial clubs. In the 90´s Finnish bands played all kinds of punk: grind, crust, poppy, grunge, metal-hc etc. And at the same time grass roots activism became more and more popular; animal-rights movement (including some direct action), antifa- and anarchist-movement was popular amongst the punks at that time– and the media also noticed that! Punk-concerts were organized everywhere in Finland–even in some really small towns –and they gathered pretty large audiences across this little country; some organized bus-transportations from different cities and hitchhiking was still popular, too. Punks made their own home-wine (it was bad economic situation in Finland at that time and no one had money to buy expensive alcohol from shop) and were really drunk…. That was one Finnish specialty too: punks drank too much. Luckily we are getting over that tradition 🙂
In the 2000´s our scene has changed quite a lot; gigs are more arranged in the local pubs, clubs, or sometimes in autonomy centers or (rare) squats. People don´t travel much anymore because everybody moved away from their smaller towns to the bigger cities were the action is. Bands are more ”professional” now; better equipment, serious playing (no more totally drunk performances) and every band tries to make a tour if they can; that wasn´t so popular in the 80´s or early 90´s (actually we were one of the first Finnish diy-punk bands that made a bigger tour in Europe in 1991). Now Finnish bands have toured across Europe, USA, Japan and Brazil –I think that is not so ”popular” in other European countries´ scenes, probably? We have really many fucking good bands in Finland nowadays (Maailmanloppu, 1981, Kovaa Rasvaa or Lapinpolthajat– just to name few). So some parts are better now but I miss that activity and more political atmosphere of 90 ´s– but it was also time before ”everyone´s” internet, so it is hard to say how much of today´s more passive lifestyle is caused by that.
Why punk rock?
I bought my first punk LP in 1982 (UK Subs: Diminished Responsibility) when I was 10 years old and that was it! Or course I listen to many kinds of other music, too, but punk is the main thing for me. It feels like it is the most honest and the real thing; it is music and it is movement –it is like a ”spiritual” home for me. If I would play some other kind of music, it just wouldn´t come from my heart. Actually within punk you can listen to many kinds of music; there´s so much diversity under this label!
How does the scene in Tampere look now?
To me it looks like the best scene in Finland! Maybe we don´t have the best bands but we have many punks in this city, Vastavirta-club (which is 10 years old venue for DIY- and alternative bands, it was founded in 2005 by a collective and renewed by volunteers) and lots of grass roots activity going on. We also have great vegan restaurants and some decent record shops. It is good to be here, not because of official Tampere but because of this local activism and number of ”good people”.
Hard to believe “Nothing’s Finished” is over ten years old! Where does the time go! I love all the political lyrics on that record, but the song “Room For Responsibility” has stayed with me. Punk itself isn’t that old, so we have to figure out how to get older as punks with no previous example. How does it feel to approach or enter middle-age and still be playing in a punk band? I mean, I never understood the idea that one would “grow up” and discard an entire way of looking at the world, interacting with it, and learning. Plus, is there any other music that sounds so good?
Getting older and maintaining our band has been so natural that it is hard to think why we should do anything else than keep this going! We all have kids in this band, so there hasn´t been any bigger crisis because of that; if someone had a newborn at home, then we have slowed down our activities and keep priorities in the healthy level. No hard feelings if we have had to move some tour-plans forward; ”we will do it, but not now”. We have been flexible. For me getting older hasn´t made me a bit less radical; actually I am now more angry and pissed off than ever. The way this world is led is just fucking insane!
Yeah, ”Nothing´s Finished” was recorded in 2004 and for us this record is full of good memories. We had a really good spirit in the band and Jantsa (RIP) was really ”in flames” when we recorded this. Some of the songs weren´t even ready when we went to the studio (at that time each one of us lived in a different city, so rehearsals were really rare) but we managed to create them ready–just like that. This is one of my favourite JJ-records for sure and we still play live many of these songs.
JJ has tackled many serious issues in your songs. Some people claim that having political songs is just preaching to the choir and doesn’t do anything. I like to think of it as staying engaged with the critical issues of our time, sharing our analysis of the world, and starting conversations about what bothers us and what kind of world we want to live in. What do you think? Do bands have an obligation to address racism, sexism, environmental damage, colonialism, and other ills?
I couldn´t agree more. Writing lyrics is my way of explaining things, voice my opinion and make analysis of some political issues –also to myself. Sometimes when I write down my thoughts I also realize things better and maybe get some new point too.
I think that it is not an obligation for a punk band to make political lyrics if it doesn´t feel right. I just prefer political lyrics! More important is how a punk band works; is it DIY-minded or does it want to be a part of something else, to get bigger and compromise everything in order to get in the top? DIY is political, that´s why even a band with funny lyrics can be political without underlining it–if they are a part of DIY scene. You can have great political lyrics but a deal with major label just erases it all–it becomes just an entertainment…
With smart lyrics, ripping punk rock, and a dedication few bands can match, I’m consistently surprised Juggling Jugulars isn’t a punk household name over here in the U.S. How are your shows outside of Finland and how big a response do you get to your new releases? Do you have distribution over here?
Well, thanks for those kind words! We are an old band so everyone in Finland has seen us too many times 🙂 Our shows in Finland are not so ”big”, we have some fans that come to see us every time we play and they seem to have a good time–so we still enjoy our shows in Finland very much. We have many friends all over Europe so we have had some really great shows in Poland, Germany or France. It depends on the city, I guess.
With the recordings it is like this: we are not trendy band so nowadays when there´s really lots of releases coming per year, punks have become more picky. Some of our older releases have had a press of something like 1500-2500, but nowadays the press has been around 500, I think. We have no distribution in the USA as far as I know.
You have a lot of split records (the one with Inner Conflict is my favorite). It seems like there is a lot of inter-band and inter-label cooperation in Europe, partnering up to get stuff done. Is that an accurate assessment?
I think that cooperation of labels is very common because it is reasonable way to distribute records as fast as possible; you make 500 records with 5 labels in different countries and each one of them gets 100 records – it is much faster to get them sold that way, so why not? The only problem I can think with this, is the question who will do the promotion (free copies for the fanzines & radios) but I guess there´s always some label who is more responsible of the release than the others. But I think it is good thing that labels work together; co-operation not competition!
Ever come close to doing a U.S. tour?
We had a serious plan to do a U.S. tour in 2004; we already had some good contacts and it looked really promising and realistic, but… at the same time our old van broke down and we had to decide if we should buy a new one, or should we buy these flight-tickets with that money…. You see, we have toured almost every year in Europe with our own van+backline, so we thought that it is more reasonable just to buy a new van and not risk this ”tradition” in the future. We would really love to do a U.S. (west-coast?) tour someday, it is one of this band´s dreams! So if there are people willing to arrange something–just get in touch 🙂
I’m good at support but lousy at organizing or I’d be arranging your shows now!
Anything you’d like to add I didn’t ask about?
Well, maybe just some news that our latest ”Forward” 12″EP (6 songs) is available from Stonehenge Records (France): – get in touch with them; it is a cool DIY-label, like they say: ”Stonehenge is a do it yourself, non-profit label and mail order, striving for the happy and creative liberation from the capitalist, sexist, homophobic, racist, imperialist and hierarchized’s inheritance that is restraining our lives and our relationships.”
How can the people get in touch?
Feel free to write me: petteri.mikkila(at)gmail(dot)com–or you can find us also from internet pretty easily, just google our name. And from bandcamp you can download many of our records for free:
Thanks so much!