by Steve Scanner late 2001

1. As MANIFESTO JUKEBOX are a moderately new band to most readers, can we just do some history? When did you get together, how did you all meet, is it still the original line up, original influences, have you been in any bands previously that we may have heard about?

Jani: We’ve been together since January’99. I’ve been in bands with Antti since i got into punk and we had been seeing Jukka at gigs for years. I dunno if it’s possible that you’d have heard of those bands – although some good people like Richard AWA have tried to distribute them in the UK… bands like Sharpeville (anarchopunk based monumental hardcore) and Aurinkokerho (female fronted punkrock).

When we started, i don’t think anyone expected us to play music like this! Everyone thought Jukka and Antti only like fast and aggressive hardcore/punk but they were wrong, ha! It’s good to shuffle the deck a bit. This was so different from what any of us had done before and we could not expect anything and everything was new and interesting…

Yes it’s still the original line-up – but on our first gig it actually was not! Antti broke his arm just a few days before and we had to get a friend to play bass, i switched to guitar and Antti only sang!

2. Did the band have a set direction & definite ideals when you first formed? As in where you wanted to take the music, any set ideas about lyrical content, anything you wanted to achieve with this band that previous bands had failed to achieve? Did you have an original Manifesto that you abide by?

Jani: Yes, i think we had a pretty clear vision of the musical direction and the way we wanna do stuff, and luckily it has proven to work! We wanted to combine the hardcore energy with melodic guitar and vocal stuff and we wanted to do a lot of the record and gig stuff ourselves and do it well…

The lyrics were a big question mark when we started but then Jukka turned out to be a productive young poet and he’s written all the lyrics after the first 7", where there are songs from all of us. I’d love to write them too but i just can’t heh! Jukka has this distinctive style that fits us well… we have been able to find kind of roles for everyone, although of course everyone’s opinion is heard on all matters. But Jukka writes most of the lyrics, Antti most of the music and i do most of the other stuff like the record business, internet stuff, all that.

We have definitely been able to do a lot of stuff that our old bands never managed to do… maybe it helps that thre are only 3 of us so schedules are easier to make. And we’re all very motivated to do this, which has never been the case before. Now i can honestly say it really is way more than music to all of us!

3. You released your own debut 7" yeah?? Was that because no labels were interested, or just a matter of it being the easiest way to get it out there? Did you enjoy the experience of releasing your own record? Was it easier to do - as in set up a label - than you expected? Have you still got any copies left? Is the label still an on-going project?

Jani: We released it ourselves cos we wanted to. We wanted to do as much as we can ourselves, and also we wanted to have something out soon so we didn’t even ask anyone cos that would have taken too much time. We’d only practiced for like 3 months before we recorded that 7". But the releasing and distribution part was nothing new since i had already been running a small label of my own for years and also Jukka was running what at the time was maybe the most important punk distro in Finland, Fragments Of Hope. The only difficulty at first was that our contacts maybe expected more hardcore stuff… but now that people have actually heard the band itself and not just comparisons to HuDu and Leatherface, the response has been way better than i could ever have expected for a totally unknown band playing unexpected kind of music. It was sold out for a long time but my current label Combat Rock Industry just repressed it cos we still like the record and want to keep it available… it has now sold 1200 or something. The Desire LP/CD/MC has sold like a bit over 3000 or something like that if anyone’s intererested.

Releasing records of the bands i ’ve played in is what i’ve been doing right from the start. That’s what my friends were doing when i got into punk so i started doing and learning by mistake myself too… i had never even asked anyone to release "my" record before the LP. When we wanted to do it we realized it’s too big of a project to do just by ourselves, we simply did not have the resources to do it as well as we wanted. So we ended up thinking about european labels who we could ask and Nabate was the only one we came up with. And amazingly, when i asked he said yes! I could not believe it cos Nabate had been running like 10 years and had not ever released a melodic record – yet still wanted to do it. And it worked!

Our recent 7" on Japan’s Snuffy Smile is the first ever record i’m playing on (OK, compilations do not count) that i’m not involved with from a label perspective. He he, at first i was a bit nervous as i’m a bit of a control freak, how would it work, blah blah… cos this is so big part of my life and it’s very personal so i don’t wanna lose control. But i was worried for nothing, it’s going very well! Snuffy Smile is a great label and everything has worked perfectly… and of course since he’s in Japan we are distributing loads of the record in Europe ourselves.

4. Coming up to date a bit & your recent release 'Desire'. Are you happy with the way it came out? It's got an awesome sound. Are there any faults, or things you'd change in hindsight? Is the process of recording something the band enjoys?

Jani: At the time we did it i was happy but now i realise we made some bad decisions when we mixed it… i’m still very happy about the songs and that’s what is most important. But the mixing is weird – the vocals were meant to be lower than usual to make the overall feeling a bit rougher than what’s usual for this kind of music but they ended up being almost unaudible at parts… and we do not want that!

Recording is very important for this band. Since there’s only 3 of us there’s some stuff that’s impossible to play live. Like on the record there are often 3 different guitar parts at the same time and what Antti plays live is a combination of those. I can’t understand how he does it, the guy is the best guitarist i know! I like being in the studio although with our band it’s over for me pretty soon. Me and Jukka play the basic tracks in a few hours and then Antti does his stuff for a few days! But i like thinking about the sound and mixing, the production part and i’ve often been in the studio with the bands on our label, just hanging out and telling my opinions if they are needed. Some people think it’s somehow more punk to have crappy sound – in most cases that’s bullshit, an excuse for not trying your best!

5. It seems to have been released on a whole bunch of assorted labels, including Belgium's Nabate. Were they the first label to pick you up? How did you get involved with them? And there's a Polish cassette version yeah? How did that come about? It's been released in Brazil too yeah?

Jani: Yep… all this releasing stuff must sound very chaotic, which it is! The original CD pressing was released by ourselves and a bunch of Finnish friends. Then there’s the Boss Tuneage repress in the UK and it will soon be released in Brazil by a local label. I traded a few copies of the record with this Brazilian guy who does a big punk newsletter and plays in bands and when he got it he loved it and wanted to put it out over there, whoa!

Nabate did the vinyl version and Trujaca Fala did the tape for Eastern Europe, which is very cool! Filip from the label saw us when he was in Finland with this Polish band Post Regiment and it grew from there. Eastern Europe is so cool! So enthustiastic and heartfelt, i love touring there! The kids don’t have much money and that’s why all the stuff has to be released on tape there and we’re lucky cos Trujaca Fala is possibly the best label for this job!

6. It's been released over here by Aston & his Boss Tuneage label, you been happy with the support received from Boss Tuneage? How did you hook up with Aston for the release of this?

Jani: I’m happy, oh yeah! I haven’t known him for a long time and have not met him personally which is why i originally was a bit nervous at first… but i can say all the surprises have been positive! I knew Boss Tuneage since we traded some copies of our 7" came out and he also distributed the Desire CD in the UK when it came out. Then in winter’00 he wrote he would love to release a miniCD or something like that for us but the timing was not right as we’d just agreed to do the 7" for Snuffy Smile

However a bit later i realized we had a spring tour booked, Desire was almost sold out and we did not have money to repress it cos i had spent it on other bands’ records… i was frustrated. But then i remembered Aston. I knew he works in a pressing plant so i asked if he could make some kind of a friendly deal about the price or payment time… and then he said he’d be interested in participating in the re-release. And he’s been doing a great job – originally i only wanted to keep the album in print but on top of that we’ve gotten so much more, so we’re very happy!

7. If we can just talk about a couple of the songs on the album, starting with 'Our New Lenins'. That's an interesting title, what's the idea behind this song & what are you trying to say here? There's a line about "Stars shooting through cyberspace aiming at your heart" - how does that fit into the message of the song - is it an Internet reference?

Jukka: The idea to the lyrics of "Our New Lenins" came after reading a book (whose name I have blissfully forgotten) which drew parallels between the old state communist monoliths of Lenin which could be found all around the ex- Eastern Bloc countries and the commercial billboards we are unable to escape here in our own western countries. These Lenin monoliths supposedly pointed the way to the new, brighter future which turned out to be a totalitarian nightmare whereas the billboards and advertisements serve a somewhat similar purpose to us these days. We are constantly force-fed with the idea that our lives must be lacking something essential unless we buy this and that product. On another level the song is also about the concentration of political and economic power into fewer and fewer hands. The line you quoted in your question is indeed an internet reference and the babble about the stars refers to the flag of the European Community, so there you have it!

8. What about 'Filter'? In particular the opening line, "Rub my nose into my own hypocrisy", what is your hypocrisy? What else lays behind this song?

Jukka: "Filter" is about those depressing moments when you notice that despite your efforts to fight and diminish your life-long conditioning and indoctrination to the Western capitalist values and the shit floating around them, they still have their effects on how you think and behave. In my opinion we can never be "pure" of all this, so it’s better to recognize these symptoms for what they are and try to at least reduce them to their very minimum. The song also tries to communicate that there is always hope to overcome this sick conditioning.

9. The lyrics throughout the album seem to be rather cryptic - is that something you intended, to make people think a little, look a little deeper into the songs rather than just skim the surface of more blatant Political dogma or jaded love song?

Jukka: The supposedly cryptic nature of my lyrics is not intentional at all. I do not try to impress people with particulary obscure sentences or metaphors or the extent of my vocabulary (he he). This is just the style of expression that I feel most comfortable with at the present stage of my life so the lyrics turn out that way. I don’t have any illusions of the impact our lyrics have on the people who listen to our music, but if people have to rack their brain a bit with the words it would be fine by me, maybe they’ll even get something I never thought of out of the songs. I sincerely like many bands that have a more direct political approach to their lyrics and can even stomach a jaded love song or two but it would be totally unfamiliar to me to try to write in such style for MJ. Do it your way and I’ll do it with mine.

10. You seem to be a band who tour a lot - you obviously like being on the road yeah? How important is the live show in getting MANIFESTO JUKEBOX's message across? Any neat tour stories you wish to share?

Jani: Yeah touring is a crucial part of this in every way, it’s a crucial part of how this underground network works and also the experience of travelling is very important for me personally. Touring is the combination of everything that i love! I like travelling, the feeling of going to some place and i love playing music. And of course i love free beer too, ha ha! And i also do the record label and i don’t think it would survive if we and Endstand and Wasted did not tour and do distro every night.

Tour stories… it’s hard to pick just one and i can’t write about all of them! We even decided to start this kind of band while on tour, Antti and me. We were with Sharpeville, sitting in a squat in Potsdam, Germany after the van the band had just bought before the tour had just burned after 2 gigs! So we were stuck there, drank beer and had plenty of time to go though different ideas… most of which never happen but this one did and here we are!

11. You've toured at home in Finland & abroad quite extensively. Do you find you are treated differently as a band when you play abroad? Do you have a preference between playing shows in Finland or abroad?

Jani: Every place is different, there are more differences inside the countries than between them i think. I think Finland is pretty similar to England actually. Here too the gigs have to take place at normal pubs or rock clubs, you get no food at the venue and you have to buy your own expensive beer! Maybe that’s why we feel like at home there!

Germany is very easy for touring bands, it seems that even in the smallest place there is a youth center or squat where all kinds of things happen, you get more delicious food than you can eat, more beer than you can drink and usually enough money too, it’s just unbelieveable for us Finns. Then in Eastern Europe things can be pretty chaotic and out of your control, but that’s ok cos when you play, the crowd is enthustiastic and out of control too! We like playing anywhere where people wanna see us. Sure we have had our fair share of bad experiences as well but i don’t want to publicly slag people off…

12. What differences do you see between the audience reaction towards yourselves at shows abroad? Do you notice any great social or political differences when you are in other countries?

Jani: One thing that’s a bit sad about touring… you know, many people assume we see a lot of things and know some stuff about places since we tour a lot - that’s not true in most cases! Life goes like this for weeks, starting from the morning: We wake up, have breakfast, load the van and start driving. Then we arrive to the next venue having seen a service station or two, or a record or tattoo shop if we’re lucky! We carry the backline in, do the soundcheck, wait, wait and wait… set up the distro, eat and play. And get drunk somewhere in between. Go to sleep. Start over again.
OK i’m being a bit sarcastic but that’s how it sometimes feels like. Sure there are a lot of times when we can actually enjoy things, otherwise i wouldn’t be here doing this! We talk about a lot of stuff with people we meet but the fact is that there’s very little real life that a touring band can really see for themselves, we’re often just entertaintment for people and tourists in their life ourselves… but sure it’s great to get to see the surface of a lot of places, i’ve found many where i want to spend more time when i have the possiblity some day. I want to say hi to people in Liege, it’s always especially great to go there!

13. Tell us a bit about the Punk Scene in Finland. Is it strong, many bands, venues etc? Is the Finnish scene still dominated by Dis/Crust bands that it always seemed to be?

Jani: No, it’s not crust dominated at all, luckily! But sure if someone likes that stuff there’s plenty of that too. There is a bunch of great rising bands that are doing really great stuff… i think the best Finnish bands now are definitely Wasted and Endstand, and the mighty Umlaut! But that goes without saying cos they’re on my label. Of the other bands please do yourself a favour and pay attention to at least Hero Dishonest, Rebound and Unkind.

There’s a lot of people who are interested, records sell really well… but the core of active people who actually make most of the things happen is pretty small which is too bad. The gig situation is pretty bad, they are regular only in the 3 biggest cities: Helsinki, Tampere (where i live) and Turku. There used to be more gigs is smaller places when i first got into punk and it was cool but now most of the people have moved to the cities (hmm, myself included) and the new generation has not been not so active in this area… but like i said there’s a big young crowd who’s interested in punk so maybe things will get stronger again!

14. Is Finland a good place for a Punk to live? Is the society of Finland open to all forms of radical beliefs, music, ideas & art? Or is it pretty conservative?

Jani: It really depends on where you come from, where you live… i mean i’m now used to living in a city, although i originally am from a small village where the social control is pretty strict. I already had long purple dreadlocks when i worked a summer job at a factory there… thinking back now, i must have been crazy! Not really – i had no problems cos i knew everybody there before, but say if you came from the neighbor village, it was a big chance you get beat up no matter how normal you are!

Anyway, onward… now years later i am playing in this band and i guess i look more like a rock’n’roll guy than the punk i am at heart and we play this village next to Tampere and at the end of the gig as we are getting ready to leave, all the boys of the village show up and want a fight: we are faggots because we are from Helsinki. That’s Finland for you… in the cities you can do whatever the fuck you want and no-one will notice and in the countryside you can’t do anything. Hell, i don’t know which is worse?! I actually think being from a small place is good, you have to deal with all kinds of people no matter what they are like and what you are like.

15. Do you feel that coming from somewhere like Finland - which isn't exactly a recognised hot spot of Punk Rock as far as most eyes go - has hindered your developement? Or do you feel that it has allowed the band to grow at its own pace & not bow to any form of trend or market?

Jani: You said it yourself in the last sentence! This is not a punk rock supermarket like America or even the UK or Germany but i think that’s good in a way. The thing is, if you are from a place like Finland and you want your stuff to be heard, you’d better be really good and try really hard! People who are into trends will most likely not think of Finland as the hottest spot on earth so you might as well actually try to come up with something original!

This issue is not something i usually think about… to use a cliche, "We just do our own thing…"

16. I understand you are in some way involved with a distro there in Finland? Tell us a bit about that.

Jani: I run the label Combat Rock Industry together with the Endstand singer Janne. We had been doing labels of our own for years and wanted to do something new so last year we started this. It’s been great, better than i could have imagined! The main thing is to release and support Finnish stuff that deserves to be heard. We distribute lots of great stuff from all around the world, we mainly trade it to our own releases. That’s how this system works.

Now we’re coming to a new phase, we can’t just release Manifesto Jukebox, Endstand and Wasted records all the time! So we are starting to release some stuff from other areas too - but all of this new stuff still has a strong finnish connection. We are releasing the Oi Polloi "Fuaim Catha" album on CD, that came about cos their singer Deek has been living in Finland for many months now. Then there’s a beautiful hardcorepunk photobook by this really talented guy Kristoffer Pasanen from Sweden, who’s also been living in Finland for a long time. And then there’s the crazy hot album from the notorious Umlaut. Nobody knows who they are but they mean business!!! I would love to write more about my label but i don’t want to turn this into a total advertisement… if you’re interested and wanna know more, our address is at the end of this story.
Jukka also has been doing a distro but now he’s put it to ice as he works full time and this band is pretty time-consuming. Antti is involved in a label called Pathetique, they release and distribute a bit darker and heavier stuff like Sharpeville, Unkind, Jeniger… and we are actually joining forces with them to release the aforementioned Umlaut record!

17. I know you've recorded a BORN AGAINST cover, have you done any others? Do you do any live, or have any plans to do any more?

Jani: Ha ha, the first song we ever played together at our first practice was Real World by Husker Du – not exactly a surprise?! Live we’ve also played Schwarzeneggar, Social Distortion, Crucifucks… and Black Flag once when we were drunk at a midsummer festival!

But the Born Aganst one is the only we’ve recorded for a release. We were asked for this compilation a log time ago and we promised but when the deadline was, we wanted to save the new songs we had for the next LP so we thought we’d do the Shroud cover, we thought it would be good cos not so many people know Born Against in Finland. But then when we played it on tour, really a lot of people were going wild! It was a nice surprise in a way... but on the other hand we try to change the covers we play pretty often, it sucks if people start expecting us to play a certain cover… we’re not a jukebox, ha! But just this has now happened with the Born Against song and it’s annoying but we can only blame ourselves…

18. I read on your webpage that you refused to do Military service. Is that something everyone in Finland is expected to do - a national call up type deal?

Jani: Yeah, there’s still conscription here. Everyone has to do something if they are healthy. But Antti and Jukka went to the psychiatrist and pretended they have serious mental problems and they got away with it. This very common here. Most punks however do the "civil" service. But in my opinion it is not so civil, it’s a part of the same system so i said i’d rather go to jail than support it – and surely enough, that’s where i ended up!

19. You also spent time in prison yeah? Why was that? Was it to do with not joining any form of Military Service? What did you take away from your prison sentence?

Jani: I spent six and a half boring months there. It was not so bad all the time - i went to sauna and talked about tattoos with motorcycle gang guys every night, studied and wrote a lot ("jail is the university of revolutionaries", right ;) ), played too much ping pong… it’s ridiculous, why do they have to waste society’s recources by putting us there? Finland is actually on Amnesty’s black list for doing this to conscientious objectors but nobody seems to care as long as the business is good, which it of course is. More and more people are going to jail every year and maybe, hopefully the system will have to change in a few years. Not just because of some punks and hippies going to jail but because of the whole concept of war and peace changing in this world of technology. I hope what we do will make some people notice a few things and maybe even tell their friends about them!

20. Do you guys work at all, or is the band your main thing? Is there a lot of unemployment in Finland? What about the homeless? Is that a big situation in Finland? Surely the winter there must be a great problem to the homeless.

Jani: Jukka is working full time as an offset printer and he actually wants to do it, he’s crazy! We are hoping we can slowly brainwash him and convince him of the joys of unemployment but he’s a tough nut to crack… Antti sometimes works at construction to get money to live a life like this, touring and putting out records. Me, i’m unemployed but it is not a problem for me… i am actually doing a lot of things, i work for the label countless hours every day, book tours and gigs, blah blah… i would not be able to do those if i worked some shitty useless job. See, i don’t have education to any job, that’s the price of rock & roll for me! I hope could pay the rent doing this (meaning the band and the label) some time in distant future but…

The social security is still very good here. There are not many homeless people and there would be room for most of them too if they could stop drinking. Alcoholism is a horrible disease, very common in Finland even among the people who to the outside seem to be doing very well not to mention the less fortunate. The social security money is enough to pay rent and eat decently and do something else too.

The winter is hard… maybe that’s also one reason why there are no squats here and we’re all so content living on the dole cos the arctic winter makes many things close to impossible.

21. What are your views on a United Europe? Are you in favour of the Euro?

Jani: I am not in favour of the European Union in its current form, or the Euro money system the Finnish government chose to join. I don’t think it can be a good idea to tie so totally different countries with different economical structures and situations so closely together. If some disaster happens, the normal poor working people will suffer the consequences. They are trying to build a fortress of Europe, to shut out the less fortunate who live outside of it.

22. So, what are the bands plans from here? Any tours lined up? You thought about the new album yet?

Jani: We have an UK tour booked but by the time you are reading this it’s propably already history, what i can say now is that i’m really looking forward to it! As for next year, i have no idea… there has been talk of touring in Japan, the US / Canada, Brazil… hell, if even one of these actually happens i’m more than happy!

We have most of the music for the next LP but we haven’t decided on how to release it yet… we’ll see.

23. Lastly, the name MANIFESTO JUKEBOX conjures up some great images. What are the 10 tracks you'd have on your JUKEBOX & what MANIFESTOS would adorn it?

Jani: Ha ha, this is nice… the only manifestos i would have are "TRUST YOUR DESIRES" or "RESPECT" or something like that… for the music, here’s a list in no particul order – and it’s not my all time top 10 of great songs either, just ones i think would fit in a jukebox! It’s the most beautiful object american culture has ever produced… so all punk does not necessarily fit in! I mean, i get a certain feeling when i see a jukebox and then i’m not thinking of Discharge! It’s OK to love good rock’n’roll too… and i do actually have a jukebox in my room! So now you know the name of the band is not a total coinsidence, i have a long history of jukebox obsession…

* The Clash : London Calling
* Stray Cats : Rumble In Brighton
* Elvis Presley : Burning Love
* Billy Idol : Rebel Yell
* Chris Isaak : Wicked Game
* Johnny Cash : Ring Of Fire
* Black Flag: Six Pack
* Leatherface: Not Superstitious
* X : Burning House Of Love
* Brian Setzer: Switchblade 327

24. Anything you wish to add?

Jani: …phew! I think thing is the longest interview i’ve ever typed. This will have to do… but feel free to contact us directly if you have any questions, want to tell us how you’re doing, send 7"s for my jukebox, healthy vegan recipes for Jukka, blah blah… we can be found at: PO Box 813, 13501 HML, Finland. www.fireinsidemusic.com/manifestojukebox manifestojukebox@hotmail.com