Still Burning caught up with Stiff Little Fingers main man Jake Burns and asked about the new album (again!), bassists, Newcastle United and of course… crisps!
So Jake, can you describe Stiff Little Fingers in twenty words or less?
Oh, we’ve been called a lot of things ! LOL. I’d rather people just listened and made their own minds up.
Where’s the name Stiff Little Fingers from?
We took it from a song by The Vibrators from their first album: “Pure Mania”. We had a gig booked and didn’t have a name. The guy who owned the bar was hassling us so, we picked that and thought: “We’ll change it for something better later.” Never did!
When did you leave your native Belfast and move to England?
August 1978. In time for our support slot on the Tom Robinson Band tour of that year.
Favourite childhood memories?
Same as everyone else, I suppose. Playing in the street. (I guess kids don’t do that anymore.) Summers that seemed to last forever and were always warm (apart from when it was raining…and even that was warm !). You know the kind of thing.
Is it hard to get everyone together for touring? Ever had a three week strop between any two (or more) of the band members on the tour bus?
No, it’s easy but we have to plan ahead. Sometimes those plans “shift” a little but as long as the general outline stays the same, we’re OK. Haven’t had a “strop” on the bus for years.
Your last lineup change was what, three years ago now, what was the story behind that? I‘ve always wondered what you’d have done had Ali not been available?
Bruce just wanted to do other things. That was it, really. I’m still in touch with him and regard him extremely highly. Ali was Steve & Ian’s idea. I didn’t think he’d want to do it. But, luckily for us, he was more than happy to adjust his schedule and things have worked out really well. If he’d said: “No”. I guess we’d have drawn up a shortlist and started making phone calls.
Two excellent bassists though, what would you say were the differences between the two?
I think because Bruce spent a long time in a three piece band, he plays more “melodically” than Ali. Almost like a “second guitar”. Ali’s playing is much more direct. Both play with fantastic energy & enthusiasm which is just what SLF need, obviously.
Your favourite places to play, any choices that might surprise us?
Glasgow, Barrowland. Belfast, Ulster Hall. Newcastle, Academy. Friar’s, Aylesbury. Bristol, Academy. NYC, Highline Ballroom. Chicago, Metro. Santa Ana, Galaxy Theatre (no longer there.) San Sebastian, Gasteszena. Bologna, Estragon. Edinburgh, Old Picture House. I could go on all night!
Any amusing stories from your gigs in Scotland? And your favourite venues there?
I’ve mentioned a load of venues just there. There are a million “on the road” stories. Most of which would get me sued for telling them! Maybe, one day I’ll write the book!
The last couple of times you’ve played in Aberdeen you’ve chosen Moshulu (The Warehouse) as the venue. Any chance you’ll be going back to the Lemon Tree again?
We have nothing at all against The Lemon Tree. In fact, it’s a lovely venue, we may well be back there one day… soon. But, Moshulu is more of a “rock’n'roll” gig. The stage has more room to manouevre and a few more folks can get in !
SLF have covered a couple of songs over the years, any spectacular failures that never made it to public listening?
Nothing dreadful that I remember. We’ve tried a few things that either didn’t work or didn’t suit us but I don’t recall wasting endless hours rehearsing: “Oops! I did it again” or some such!
What keeps the band going, touring year after year? Ever get tired of it?
Of course you get tired of it, just as you’d get tired of anything. But, at the end of the day it’s what we all love doing more than anything else. When I was much younger, I remember all I wanted was to be a “working musician”. Well, I got my wish. (Maybe I should have wished a bit higher ! LOL !!)
Places you’d like to play, Japan for example?
Already been to Japan once and we’re planning on returning this May. Apart from that, I don’t think there are any gaping holes in where we haven’t played.
Will there EVER be another album released?
On the topic of albums, which is your favourite SLF one?
“Guitar & Drum” from the “second” period. “Go for It” from the first.
Any bands or artists you wished you’d shared a stage with?
Not really. There are a few I never got to see that I would have loved the chance. But, regarding being on the same bill…nah.
Do you get yourself along to St James Park at all?
Not for a long time. Which really hurts after so many years of having a season ticket there. It’s been particularly rough this year as the t.v. here only shows about one in three or four Championship games. Oh well, looks like I can watch them be inept in the Prem again next year if they keep this form up.
Mike Ashley… good guy or… not?
I actually feel kind of sorry for him. Not for what he’s done, because he’s been a total disaster for the club, but more for the dreadful advice he’s been given by the “football people” he chose to surround himself with. I mean: Dennis Wise was never going to be popular at SJP. And, Ashley has stumbled from one P.R. nightmare to another. I’ll be glad to see the back of him.
And the plans for SLF in 2010?
More touring. More writing. And hopefully…that album we mentioned earlier.
Your five desert island tracks?
“White Man (In Hammersmith Palais)”: The Clash.
“Tom Traubert’s Blues”: Tom Waits.
“Roots, Radics, Rockers & Reggae”: Bunny Wailer.
“Like a Rolling Stone”: Bob Dylan.
“Won’t Get Fooled Again”: The Who. (and a million more…of course !)
Finally, your favourite flavour of crisps?
Thanks a lot for your time Jake and see you up there (well at the Barrowlands, but you know what I mean)! Still Burning.
You can catch SLF at The Lemon Tree on Tuesday the 16th of March and at Barrowlands in Glasgow on Wednesday the 17th.