Houston Calling

10 Questions for Stiff Little Fingers

August 11th, 2004 · No Comments

Rock reunions tours by seventies-era bands are nothing new. KISS has been playing a farewell tour it seems like 10 years now. Even the hair metal bands of the eighties are getting back together in droves these days. Sometimes it seems like you wish they’d leave well enough alone and stop even trying.

Then you hear something like this: Stiff Little Fingers is coming to Houston.

This Saturday, August 14th, at Engine Room, the late seventies punk icons will be in town to promote their new album, Guitar and Drum.

I recently asked Jake Burns, lead singer/guitarist for Stiff Little Fingers, a few questions for Houston Calling. He was kind enough to respond.

Ten Questions for Stiff Little Fingers

HC: Are you aware of the Triple Fast Action song “Aerosmith,” in which lead singer Wes Kidd namedrops Stiff Little Fingers? The line is something like, “I’ve got my Aerosmith and my Still Little Fingers…”

Jake Burns: No. I’ve not heard that one! Quite why they would position us next to Aerosmith, I don’t know though. Maybe they can hear an influence that I can’t!!

HC: Stiff Little Fingers has undoubtedly influenced dozens of bands over the years (and continues to do so). What do you consider to be YOUR musical influences?

JB: That’s very kind of you to say so. It’s always flattering when someone names you as an influence, particularly if it’s a band that you like. My personal influences would be: initially, Rory Gallagher, an Irish blues guitarist who was the first guy that made me stop what I was doing and listen to him play. Then, people like Graham Parker, Dr. Feelgood for the consice songwriting. Finally, that attitude and intelligence of The Clash.

HC: You’ve been around the music “business” for decades now. What is your take on the music industry? What do you think of the MP3 “revolution”?

JB: I fear that the music “business” is more about business than music these days. Not that it was ever much different, it just seems to be more cynical in its exploitation of young people and their dreams, particularly the hwole “American Idol” showbiz sham.

HC: What is your favorite city to play in?

JB: …past experience in America tells me that our favourite shows are not always where you might think. Yes, NYC, Chicago and San Francisco are fantastic, but you also get wonderful audiences in Santa Ana in Orange County, for example. So, you’ve got to approach the large and the small with an open mind!

HC: Do you think Dead Men Walking (with The Alarm’s Mike Peters–I’m a big fan of his, Kirk Brandon from Spear of Destiny, among others) and your 3 Men & Black projects have helped keep the music you do with Stiff Little Fingers fresh? What are some of your best experiences from these shows?

JB: Undoubtedly. In fact, the Men & Black stuff has restored a lot of my enthusiasm for actually playing the guitar, which might sound a strange thing to say, but you do fall out of love with it from time-to-time. I think the best thing about those shows has been in informality of it. It’s not as regimented as an SLF show and as a consequence, I think I’ve become a better frontman in terms of talking to the audience.

HC: Is there any band in particular you’d like to hear cover a Stiff Little Fingers song? If so, what song and what band?

JB: Anytime U2 want to cover anything of mine they’d be more than welcome. Or Eminem. Or Celine Dion. Anyone who’s going to make me enough money to retire, actually! (LOL) Seriously, I’m always flattered when anyone covers any of our songs. It’s a really nice thing to have happen.

HC: How is working/recording in the studio now compared to how it was back in the day? Do you guys have a better handle of what all is involved or do you let the “pros” handle it? How was your experience recording your latest album, Guitar and Drum?

JB: It’s much easier because we know what we’re doing now. Also, the equipment is so much better. It doesn’t break down as often! We usually work with an engineer and produce ourselves as we’ve tried working with producers in the past and there always comes a point where their idea of what SLF should sound like and ours differs wildly. It just saves a lot of arguments. After all, we know what we sound like better than anyone else!

HC: What do you think of U2?

JB: I think U2 are the most important band to have come out of Ireland. You could argue that their influence isn’t as great as, say, Van Morrison, but I’d disagree. They changed the entire musical landscape, and not just once. Look at the number of poor imitation U2 bands there are/have been from Echo & the Bunnymen up to Coldplay. They were/are immense. I don’t always like what they’ve done musically, but no one can deny their success and integrity.

HC: What’s in your CD player?

JB: Hang on, I’ll just go have a look. At the moment: The Best of Thin Lizzy. Beside the player are: Sweet Home Chicago a 3-CD set of blues originals and Irish Heartbeat by Van Morrison. (Pretty traditional, eh?)

Who would win in a fight between Paul Weller and Robbie Williams?

JB: Ah, the searching political question at the end, eh? Well, pound-for-pound you’d initially go for Robbie. But I think he’s too cuddly. I’d go for experience on this one and say that Mr. Weller’s street sense would see him triumph.

Special thanks to Jake Burns for taking the time to answer these questions. And thanks to Shirley for setting it all up. Much appreciated.

Be sure to come check out Jake & company as Stiff Little Fingers takes the stage at Houston’s Engine Room on August 14th with Throw Rag and The God Awfuls. Tickets are only $15.

SLF’s latest album, Guitar & Drum, can be purchased at most record stores or online.

If you haven’t heard their incredible Inflammable Material, you should check it out as well.

Remember that the Curiosa Festival is this Sunday at The Woodlands. Bringing together The Cure, Mogwai (read the Houston Calling interview with Barry here), Interpol, and The Rapture on the main stage, this will be the show of the summer. Some tickets are still available. Come on out and brave the heat!

This Friday, the 13th, at Super Happy Fun Land is “Split Head Revisited” Cdart by artist Shaun Kelly, with music by muzak, kairos, don walsh, concrete violin, rotten piece. SHFL is located in Houston at 2610 Ashland. For more information, visit their website.

Now Playing in My iPod: The Polyphonic Spree — Together We’re Heavy

Tags: Music