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Los Bastardos Finlandeses: “Rock music stays with you for life”
Actually I have always wondered why people would even think of calling themselves “bastards”, even officially in a band name – and finally I had a chance to find out. Before the show at On The Rocks (see our report ), front man, Los Bastardos Finlandeses singer and Bass player El Taff Bastardo (alias Bryn Jones) took some time off for a chat – and as I discovered, you don´t even need to give much imput with questions, when a seasoned Rock´n´Roll veteran like him gets to talk about music ...
First question naturally about the new album “Day Of The Dead”– how are the reactions so far?
So far it´s gone very well. We haven´t heard back from so many people yet, but the response that we have had has been very positive. I think as well that we are quite confident with it, I think that we progressed, and I think the main difference is not so much that we learned to play better or anything like that. Just the time that you spend – now it´s more than 5 years together, and it´s been now 3 years with Ben (“El Gringo” Granfelt, lead guitar), it really feels like we got our own thing going on. The band´s been together long enough, I think we started to find our own identity and confidence with what we do. I think it´s quite a strong thing if you get past that stage where you feel like people expect you to do this and you should do that, and all of a sudden it get´s to the point when “well – hey we´re good we can do what we want” kinda thing. I´ve got that feeling now that we made a record where there´s some different songs on it, but all of the songs we are very happy with. Friends have come back and they´ve said “I like this one, I like that one” - and it´s always the same, everybody always likes something different, but it´s OK. The main thing, I think, is that the last two albums have been a little bit more Rock´n´Roll rather than Heavy Metal, I think. And we have been wondering if people might get upset that it´s getting a little bit lighter – but it seems not; we are very pleased.
What I could see in the new video (Desperado ) that you had a lot of fun ice-fishing – so how cold was it?
It was fucking freezing! 7 or 8 hours out on the ice, and even though the sun was shining (laughs) that´s enough to get anybody cold! It was fun, these things are – there´s still a learning curve, because relative to the time that we spent playing music and practising music, we do relatively little of trying to make a video. There are at least 3 official ones that we´ve been in, and another one or two that were kind of animation (= “Viva! Los Bastardos!!”) We did “My name is El Muerte” and “Motor Rock Meltdown” and then “Acapulco”, which did very well for us in Finland. When we made the video for that song, they started playing it on Radio Rock, on the playlist, so they were playing four times a day, last summer. Well, we met at Myötätuulirock Festival (2012), and that was just the point where we noticed “everybody knows the words”! We kind of saw it for the first time – OK, so this is one step... So now we made this video for Desperado, on a shoestring budget, pulling in favours – thanks to all those people who did it for nothing (laughs). But I hope – well, with the videos we try to get a little bit of humour in there. We don´t have a budget, we´re not pretty boys – so what can we do really? If you can put a smile on people´s faces, give them a good song, that´s the job that we are trying to do.
Did you actually catch something for real that day?
No, no – I was hoping that we actually to do a bit of fishing. But when doing a video or doing television or something like this … You know, the idea was “OK we gonna go fishing.” And I was “that´s gonna be fun, we´ll have a drink, let´s do some fishing, maybe we catch something”. But actually - you never actually get to do any fishing! You just be there, ready enough so they take the shot, and then they go on to the next thing. It´s a bit like when you do a TV thing – you spend all day rehearsing to make sure that they got the lights right, they got the sound right – and then you get 3 minutes to play the song, that´s it. They don´t care if you break a string or it all goes to shit - “that´s it, thanks, bye” (laughs) “FUCK come on, we´ve been here all day” “Yeah. Thank you, nice. NEXT” … (laughter)
Something I gotta ask now you probably hate to answer (because you must have heard that question so many times) – how come you ended up in Finland, and when was it, how long ago?
First time I came to Finland was the end of ´96, and I played gigs in here with my band from London in ´97, and I moved here in ´98, so I have been living here for 15 years. The reason I came was of course the same old story of love. And actually the reason I moved here to Finland – because so many people asked why I have moved from London to Finland, for a musician that must be a move down, in a way. Because of big city, bright lights and so on. But actually the reason I moved to Finland: this is a fucking great Rock country! And I am a Rocker, I love Blues, I love Country, I love my acoustic guitar, you know. But for me there´s always been that sort of connection from the acoustic guitar through to Rock´n´Roll. Maybe when you look at Elvis, he had this acoustic guitar, and I am very much from Elvis to the Rolling Stones and CCR. I grew up with Thin Lizzy, AC/DC and Motörhead, and it was harder and louder. But there was always this kind of guitar, and it does not matter to me playing an AC/DC song on an acoustic guitar – sounds great. And I play Ace of Spades on the acoustic guitar and it sounds great.
So I came to Finland and everybody is listening to CCR, Lynard Skynard and ZZ Top, and I was like “OK this is my kind of place”. Back then there used to be a Tex Mex bar called Cantina West, and they had great bands there playing, like Stevie Ray Vaughn, and I was in heaven! In Britain we have a very good Pub Rock scene, which I used to really enjoy. A little bit the legacy of Dr. Feelgood, Rhythm´n Blues and good hard energy, and that´s what I loved and grew up on. And it started to get a bit of a bad name, you know, it was like the old-fashioned thing, and in Britain there was so much emphasis on “what´s the next big new thing”, after Punkrock you gotta be the new thing – and actually I had no interest in that. My interest is to find second hand record shops where I can buy old B.B. King albums or Johnny Cash – that´s the music I go for. Of course, I am more likely to find a Jimi Hendrix bootleg than what´s in the charts now. I am not interested in electronic music – it just doesn´t touch me. And I have no reason to say to anybody that “I like everything”, because I don´t. I like what I like, which is really the old Rock´n´Roll. So when I came to Finland, yeah, I came to a woman, but the reason I moved here – of course for her as well, but the music scene was MY scene. And actually it´s changed nowadays, they do have a lot of dance music and club music, and I think you never gonna get rid of that Rock´n´Roll spine, it´s in the people, you know. I think with Rock music it stays with you for life. If you like Rock music, you don´t wake up one day and decide “oh, I don´t like Rock music any more” (laughs). It´s like, if you like it, you like it, and you will always like it. And Olli still loves these Ramones records, and Motörhead and AC/DC. (Olli “Don Osmo” Kykkänen, who has entered the room a few seconds ago, agrees: “Yes, I do!”, he leaves soon afterwards)
”I don´t think we ever mature in a way not to think of booze and girls”
I think this Pub Rock is coming back now... and almost all the bands you mentioned, also Iron Maiden, Judas Priest - are still there and kicking …
… and they are still absolutely brilliant! In that respect, when we are talking about modern music whether it touches you or not – it´s not just about the technology, because for me the digital sound is not my favorite thing. But I think – there´s one thing with that music you hear a lot in the mainstream: you don´t get to hear the bands out on the road, touring – you might hear an old AC/DC song on the radio. But the bands that are out there touring year after year after year, you´re not really hearing their music in the mainstream. The music you´re hearing in the mainstream is probably a record company product: “The singer´s got a great voice, OK, he looks good, sign him up, beautiful. Hey, you, produce this album for him” - he gets 5 songs he has written, 5 songs his mates have written, they get the album done, they bang him out, he sings, nice picture on the front cover – and it sells. Next thing: “Bye bye – NEXT!” You know? Whereas, when you think about Thin Lizzy – it was about 6 years from when they had Whisky in the Jar in 1970, six years of being out there touring, before they had Jailbreak and The Boys Are Back In Town. And when you watch the band live, it´s like – you cannot get those kind of shows without doing these 6 years on the road! You just can´t fucking substitute it! And unfortunately (laughs) I am not interested any more, I have seen enough good gigs, I´m not going to see any more gigs that are just like (gestures: “boring”). Fuck, go and see Michael Monroe! The guy´s fucking unbelievable! I´ll go and pay my money to see him every time, because this guy will not let you down, he is gonna go on stage and rip the fucking place apart – I wanna go and see that show. Still. Last night I went to see Ben and this motherfucker playing the drums (points to band colleague Twist Twist "El Grande Bastardo" Erkinharju who has just entered the room, leaves soon afterwards) and the headliner was Michael Schenker. Ben was great – obviously I am biased ... It was fantastic! So put on your next fucking Idols show, or put on Michael Schenker and Ben Granfelt band – where do you wanna spend your money? (laughter) It´s an easy one...
Well, I have to think very hard – and probably won´t come up with an answer easily – if people asked me “what´s the next big thing from Britain for you”? I´d be – “errr????” - what comes to my mind are the old ones still alive and kicking, like Maiden...
The band I´ve kind of grown up with when I was about 18 – Black Crowes. When they first came out, I saw their first tour, I think I´ve seen them on every tour and I´ve travelled – I´ve got on airplanes just to get to their gigs. And I still do. Because in my opinion they are really – they are SUCH a great Rock´n´Roll band. So many years on the road – and now I am just repeating myself, but to me that´s the difference about a good Rock´n´Roll band. And I hope now that we are doing 5, 6 years, we are becoming a very good Rock band. We are very critical.
I´ve seen you first at Sauna Open Air back then, with Dio...
That was one of our very first gigs. That was when we first started back then, maybe the fourth or fifth gig.
That wasn´t noticable at all for me in the audience ...
Well, I guess in that way – it was the band´s first gig, but obviously we´ve got a bit of experience behind us. (laughs) Unfortunately we´re not young any more – shit happens, we get older (laughter)
But then being a bit more mature, maybe there´s less “distractions” like drugs and groupies, and you can actually focus on the music ... (laughter)
I don´t think we ever mature in a way not to think of booze and girls, to be honest with you (laughter)
Well, now I can pop in that question – how far autobiographical is the Los Bastardos lyrics material? How much is there of the real person?
Well, it´s kind of (long thinking pause) most of the songs have got some kind of autobiographical part in there. But it´s also something I don´t stick to autobio... you know, this is a Rock´n´Roll band and this should be fun. And as I already told you, I love my acoustic guitar, I absolutely love Neil Young and Bob Dylan. I have made records doing this kind of singer-songwriter thing. And I like to play other people´s songs, I like to write my own songs and I like to do this king of “bleeding heart” thing, you know, “how my life has gone”, but with the Rock´n´Roll band, for myself, I don´t wanna give people that. I wanna give them six pints of beer, a big fucking biffta and … like I said, I wanna go and see Mike Monroe, even though I don´t sound like Mike Monroe and I cannot DANCE like Mike Monroe, but I wanna give that kind of energetic Rock´n´Roll show and a kind of “night off”. Let´s not sweat if the relationship is broken down – tonight let´s forget about it, let´s have a good night. I want everybody go home with a smile on their face. You know.
I really respect that guy who taught me my first songs on guitar, a few years older than me and I was at college with his sister, and he was quite a big influence on me, and he said to me: “I wanna make that kind of band that if you got 5 pounds left in your pocket, you spend that 5 pounds to see that gig and you get the best night”. I have always remembered what he said and it´s a pretty good thing to keep in your mind for a Rock´n´Roll band.
Nowadays it can be anything that you like it to be. But for me I like it to be a kind of a party and a time to forget about the troubles – 2 hours out, a few beers …
... and drifting off to a Tex-Mex parallel universe, something like this maybe.
Yeah, absolutely. Kind of escape, you know. (Laughs) People always say to us “what´s the Mexican thing all about?” Well, it´s not really about ANYTHING. Apart from the fact that … well, Olli´s idea for the band came when he was sitting in Sauna. Olli himself is a biker, he has a Harley Davidson, he was touring with this guy´s band (points to El Grande Bastardo, who has returned, but leaves the room at some point) Peer Günt, with Backsliders, another biker band from Finland. And Olli was sitting in the Sauna, wanting to put a band together, he wanted it to be sort-of biker-gang style, black leather jackets, black leather trousers, Motörhead/Ramones is his thing – so he had a very clear picture, and he came up with the name Los Bastardos, which is a great name for a band. The Finlandeses part came because there are other things called Los Bastardos. He had this picture. The Spanish-Mexican thing has never been more than a sort of – it´s a bit of FUN! Hey, we live in Finland, where there´s snow for 6 months of the year, it´s like “let´s write songs about being in the sunshine with girls on our arms and beers in our hands!” It´s as simple as that, really! (laughter) Exactly what we were talking about before, “getting away from it all” (laughs) “have a nice fantasy”, if you like.
The musical version of a Tarantino movie...
Even if we are nothing like that, but the soundtrack of From Dusk Til Dawn, or Stevie Ray Vaughn, ZZ Top – girls and beers! (laughs) Well, you know, we can dream!!
By the way, what you said earlier, how much you like Finland - I can SOOO understand it, being from Austria, where the situation for a – female - Rock fan was even worse...
People here they don´t really understand – when I grew up, we had Radio 1, the only Pop-Rock station, there was only one 2h show, the Friday rock show. Well, anyone who was playing music, Friday night you would not be at home to listen to the radio anyway. So there was no Rock´n´Roll on the radio. You turn the radio on, and there´s Pop. And it was really really hard to hear good music in Britain. I don´t want to talk bad about Britain, I had a great time there, and there´s lots of good music being made there. But: The good bands are out there on the circuit, working really hard for no money, and the music that I heard on the radio, just Pop music – it wasn´t good. (laughs) So for coming to Finland, here with all the good music on the radio, it was like “I like it here a lot”. It meant a lot to me. I really really detested all that kind of Pop music that was played all the time. I got really angry about that. Because I loved Rock music so much.
”We are very lucky”
And there seems to be something here – everybody seems to play, and they play so fucking well. I remember the first tour that I did, not with this band but with the band I was with beforehand (laughs) our van driver was like 18, he was at college, driving the van for us. And after one of our gigs there was a jam session, and he came and played the guitar, and he was dynamite. He was so good. The guy, Nicke, he is 18, he´s been helping us as roadie. I think Alexi Laiho from Children Of Bodom is his hero. You know, the standard of playing in Finland is high – that´s true - they are fantastic musicians, and I don´t know how they do it, but they seem to soak up so much. They seem to know so much about music. My wife says that the radio stations are how she learned to love music, like the old Radio City, now you got Radio Helsinki, Radio Rock, they are playing all sorts of music.
I think what´s changing now is also that the Finnish bands have started to get more international, with English language. The Finns are very proud of their own, and nowadays you have got much more opportunity. When I first came to Finland, I sent out 15 of my CDs to record companies, and I got 15 rejections, like “we don´t work in English language”. Fair enough, back then there was no market for it. But that is changing now.
I think it´s now almost the other way round, it´s rather strange for a Metal band to use Finnish lyrics... Back to music legends – you played with some, like Lynard Skynard, ZZ-Top (in Helsinki) – did you get to meet ZZ-Top, for example?
Nooo (laughs) unfortunately we were headlining a smaller festival that same day – and it was a real nice gig, warming up for ZZ-Top, it was quite a perfect gig for us. But unfortunately as soon as we played it, we had to pack our equipment, jump in a van and get out of there. However, Olli did meet Dusty Hill, and he got his photo taken with Dusty, but you know, I would have loved to have met them. One of the first bands I got into. Lynard Skynard was a treat. I mean, I´ve been very lucky, I played with Lynard Skynard, ZZ-Top, Thin Lizzy, Motörhead, Deep Purple and these kinds of bands, like all my heroes. Of course we haven´t played with Neil Young or the Rolling Stones or whatever – still I´ve been very lucky. And of course it´s like being a kid if you can be 45 and feeling like a kid, then I think that´s the best thing you can say for playing in a band. Really! And actually on that I can speak for all the guys – we are very lucky to be (laughs) we are too old to be doing this, but we are lucky, because we got a fucking great band, you know, and we still got fucking dreams! That´s worth a fucking lot these days, you know!
Well – I mean – I think that we are too old to be dreaming of like “conquering the world”, if it happens then that´s beautiful... what would be a dream for us, that we could get to the level where we can make our living through playing with this band.
WHAT?? I thought you are already there...
Not yet... we are in fucking debt to be in this band.
So you all have still day jobs or...
No, it´s not as bad as this, but at the same time we kind of supporting ourselves between doing other gigs, like Ben has his Ben Granfelt band where he is playing his music, I have my own thing, and Olli doesn´t actually have another band, he has a recording studio. Erki is playing in an AC/DC tribute band. So at the moment we´re all having to do other gigs apart from Bastardos to fill the calendar up. So if we could get to the point where we could be making our living with this band – that would be a quite realistic dream to go for. Because I think this is something within our grasp that we can aim for without people thinking “those guys lost their minds” (laughs) We are all making our living out of playing music, so it´s not that anybody of us would start complaining like “life is shit” - you know. It´s not. Life, in that respect – we are very lucky. And we have all been doing it... I´m the youngest, and I have been doing it for a living since I was 19, so … 26 years...
As your soundcheck is on any minute – last question, what was the weirdest gig for you so far – with this band?
I don´t know if we had anything really weird happening with this band... again, without blowing too much smoke up Finland´s ass – the Rock pubs around the country have it organized so well, good equipment, good technical guys – you get looked after well, they feed you, they give you some drink, they pay you, they put you up in a hotel – you know, they do it really well. I´m trying to think of something like “somebody booked Los Bastardos to play at their wedding” (laughter)
(Erki comes back) ERKI – we both actually destroyed a friend´s wedding... (more laughter) but that wasn´t Los Bastardos... Okay, GERMANY! We played in Germany in a bar, not bigger than this dressing room (maybe max 16m2, the ed.) The stage, I am not even sure if it was big enough to fit a drum kit on... basically they made the stage out of beer crates – and they had like 60-80 people in this bar. That was probably the weirdest... but you can imagine that was great (laughter). Erki: HAMELN! It was in Hameln, the famous whistler place – the smallest gig ever! It was packed, and we played as quietly as we could... It was fun and at the same time very weird... Bryn:I said to the guys, one day we should go back there and make a video. I have done thousands of gigs, and that was probably the smallest ever, and the strangest. Still a brilliant gig! (laughs)
OK. Thank you for your time and this interview!