NE LUUMÄET LEHDISSÄ
This article originally appeared in NFH# 22 in the winter of 1992.
are about to enter a time warp, a space-time discontinuity in which the
Ramones are translated into the frozen north and reincarnated as Ne
Luumaet, singing the same irresistibly simple 4:4 punk rock music with
Finnish lyrics. Ne Luumaet (means The Luumakis in Finnish) are a four
piece band with Kaide Luumaki on drums, Pete Luumaki on bass
and backing vocals, Joey Luumaki on lead vocals and Heko Luumaki
on guitar. Heko and Pete look similar, and never appear at any band
event not wearing matching T shirts. They'll even change shirts when they
come out for an encore so that they still match. They've got four lps out,
the first titled Ne Luumaet and featuring cover art that
could be Rocket To Russia. The songs on that one were
Ramones covers with lyrics translated into Finnish in a way that put a new
twist on the original stories. After this were three more lps, Verta
Ja Luita (Blood and Bones), Laki Ja Jarjestys (Law
and Order), and Pahat Ja Rumat (The Bad and The Ugly). These
last three are all originals, but the concept hasn't changed since the
first one. They have song titles that translate into things like "Lena
Is A Glue Sniffer", "Heli Was The Most Beautiful
Girl In Nevada", "The Motorbike Club Of Texas"
and so on. The last two lps were released on Finnish major label Poko and
are truly great records both. Verta Ja Luita and the Ramones covers
records are now available together on one CD, and they're quite good but
haven't got the production together as well as the other two. There's also
a live Ramones covers lp (called It's Alive, of course), but
don't bother trying to find it because it was limited to 1,000 copies, all
long gone. (1997 update…they’ve now released a CD that doubles up
the first lp and the live one.)
and Pete got together to answer my questions. It seemed that they might
never stop talking. Let's start with a story about the origins of the
band's name, and how they found their way into a scary situation because
Our last name, Luumaki, is actually the name of a little countryside place
in eastern Finland, so everybody was joking "when are you going to go
back to your home where you got your name from?". And we did, we had
a gig there, but unfortunately we had made a truly tasteless and morbid
and black humorous and cruel...and funny...joke about a guy that lived
there and had been in an accident in an ice hockey game and was paralyzed.
So we made a joke in an interview and...we can't call him a journalist
because that's too good for him...the poor writer put that joke in the
paper and people in that place Luumaki thought that we had something
against this guy. That's a thing you can joke about with your friends and
most people do, but that's not a thing that you would want to see printed
in a paper. And people came to our gig, and we were wondering, "something's
wrong here, this is not so fun". It's our first time in Luumaki and
should be like home, and it's not going; we are not getting this crowd.
And some were angry with us and came to shout and tell us about this guy,
and tell us that we were real pigs, and well, that's what we looked like
at that time.
It was a lynch mob!
Luckily we had baseball bats at our gig, we would use them in the song
"Beat On The Brat" (with a baseball bat) which we
played at the time. And our roadie, for instance, knew absolutely nothing
about this incident, and he was wondering why was everybody so angry.
And I didn't know that because they made the statement before I joined the
band. And we left another statement out...it was at that time when the
guys made the statement that the Ramones were having this "Ramones
Well, yeah, this joke, it was actually quite a beautiful thing. After the
Ramones Aid we thought about Ne Luumaet Aid, and the punchline was about
how much money would we get if we made a tribute to this guy who had been
paralyzed in this ice hockey game. So we thought about the money and
somebody came up with the idea that we would get enough money to buy
roller skates. So the idea was to joke about how little money we get, not
to joke about this guy's unfortunate position. So everything went wrong,
and they printed this roller skate thing their way when it should have
been left out. So there we were in the middle of nowhere with 30 angry
guys shouting at us and getting real excited. So somebody called the
police, and so we arrived nice and quietly and left with the police in
front and behind of our car.
We started up in 1983, just having fun in a school band. We didn't have
any idea of ever doing any gigs or records or anything; just playing in
the basement and having a good time. And then we heard about this singer
called Joey, who's over two meters tall. And my friends told me that he
would be a great singer for our band, so we took him for a singer and kept
having fun in the basement, still never having any intention of doing gigs.
Then our friend asked if we could do a gig. He had heard that we were
doing only Ramones songs; we translated them into Finnish and had lots of
fun doing that. Then we had a gig and played six songs. Then we practiced
for some three months or four months and took everything from the Ramones It's
Alive lp including the one liners that Joey used on the record. We did
them all in Finnish and when Joey Ramone said "Take it Dee Dee"
we said the same in Finnish! So we did everything like the Ramones and
tried very much to look like them, but nobody else succeeded but Joey and
the first bass player, Kari, who actually looks a lot like Johnny
Ramone. The first gig was like all first gigs are. Then we had a few
more, and we just kept having fun, still never intending to have records.
But are gigs were quite successful and it felt like people had been
waiting for something like that in Finland. I think we did the Ramones
thing as good as it can be done in Finland with Finnish words.
Very clever Finnish words; clever translations.
That's when we started wondering, well are we so good? We were practicing
real hard; it was important to play fast and play accurate, just like the
Ramones did. Well, we succeeded and in a year and a half there was a man
asking us to make a record of these Ramones songs. And we thought, oh,
that's funny. But he was serious and we started with two whole days in the
studio playing 14 Ramones songs (that appear on the CD of Verta Ja
Luita). A week later we mixed it up after a gig at night...from 1:00
to 6:00 in the morning. So that's what it sounds like. The cover of the lp
was straight from the Ramones' Rocket To Russia. We tried to sound
as much like the Ramones as possible. It was just fun...no intentions to
get famous or make more records or anything. It was made in 1986 or 1987,
I don't know. The gigs were good all the time; we had energy and fun and
nobody else was doing anything like that in Finland at that time.
I used to love to go and see the guys play. I wasn't in a band, but I
started to know them because we were hanging in the same bars here in
Helsinki. I can tell you that the gigs were really a great thing. I came
in the band after the first album...Kari the original bass player didn't
feel like playing any more. I used to play with Kaide in another band that
he played in at the same time as Ne Luumaet, and that's the way I came in.
The second album, Verta Ja Luita was the first album which we made
our own songs.
Yeah, that was originally my idea; we were getting bored with playing only
the covers...all our gigs we were just doing Ramones songs, and that was a
good joke for a year and a half or two years, and then we got less gigs
and started thinking about doing our own songs. Our first bass player
thought that it would never go through so he left, and I convinced Pete
that it would work, and we started making songs of our own. And we got to
do an lp, and got five days to do it. We knew absolutely nothing about
what to do in the studio, so we played lots of pool there and had a good
time, but we did less for the sounds, and that's what the lp sounds like.
But the words were good; we had a good style of making words. Our
translations were good and we found out how to make lyrics of our own. So
we sold some 2,000 copies and we were wondering what next? And Pete was in
the band and we got a few gigs and kept going on, and then we signed on
the major label Poko Records, and they said, "Well, welcome, now
you've done all the dirty work and we can start working seriously."
The headman in Poko Records has always been one of the greatest Ramones
fans in Finland and he told us when we went there "I would have liked
to have you from the start, but now I'm happy I've got you on my label."
Yeah and you've done all the dirty work so let's get famous.
The third lp Law And Order sold over 5,000 copies and had some sort
of, well not a single hit, but quite a famous singles, so we were getting
more widely known in Finland.
When you listen to that album and compare it to the earlier ones you can
hear that now we have a producer.
That's one key thing, there was at least one person who knew what to do in
the studio, what all the buttons were for. So we knew absolutely nothing
about that. When we did the second lp, Blood and Bones, we were
starting to be more serious, and starting to think of this as a real good
hobby instead of just having fun. But we were always thinking that this
shouldn't be our job, we shouldn't be working with this music. We should
still be having fun but in a more professional way.
Having fun in a more professional way! That sounds good! (laughter)
have girlfriends so they can get killed in the most tragic ways..."
I'm a pro-fun haver. Our songs are about comic books and girls and horror
movies and everything that's funny. Beaches and cars and accidents
happening to our girlfriends. We have girlfriends so they can get killed
in the most tragic ways. The name Sheena came originally from the "Sheena
Is A Punk Rocker" translation "Siina On Punk Kari".
The word "Siina" has two meanings in Finnish; it's Sheena the
name of a female or "Where" in Finnish. So it was a good joke on
the first album and we thought it would be a good joke on the second album,
"Se On Sheena", "That's It". On the
latest lp it's "Sheena Se Taas On", that's "It's
Sheena Again" or "It's There Again". So it's a good joke
and maybe we'll do another one on that line. And we have songs like "I
Don't Want To Go Down To The Basement" that's got nothing to
do with the Ramones but the title. "Somebody Stole My Bicycle"..."Son
Of A Pilot", which is a true story about Pete, whose father
is really a pilot. "Straightjacket"..."The
Judge"...absolutely nothing to do with Judge Dred. We
played for many years in the Finnish clubs and we were a club band for
some five or six years, only playing in clubs and a few festivals. Then we
have this...what's the name...it's not a dance hall...it's a...there are
no such places in America.
No I don't think there is a word for that in English. It's a big barn with
a stage and it's for minors. No liquor and beer sold. So you can see the
bands and you don't have to be overage.
They are mostly in the countryside and for almost a year now we have been
playing those places, too, and we have received a real good response from
the minors with our latest lp. Last winter we had a great hit with a song
from the Pahat Ja Rumat lp, "Onnellinen Perhe",
which is "Happy Family"...nothing to do with the Ramones but the
title once again. It was the number one hit in Finland for six to eight
weeks. And one reporter wrote in a way that was nicely put, that this has
to be the fastest song ever to make it number one in the Finnish charts.
So that was our greatest hit so far. And in all the biggest cities there
are good clubs for us.
In the big cities that have universities there are lots of people from 18
to 25 or 30 which are our audience, plus the minors nowadays.
In the biggest cities the diehard fans are in front of the stage screaming
and shouting the songs and yelling and dancing and sweating like we are.
Then there's the silent crowd that know the songs and tap their feet and
clap their hands and smile and check our show, but they don't so much
party. Then there's the last line that are standing far behind.
They're the real musicians!
Yeah, the real musicians wondering "How can this kind of crap go
through? I've been practicing for five years now and I know all the chords
and I know all the melodic lines and still I'm getting nowhere fast. How
can so many people go crazy over a band like this?" So that's what
the crowds are like. In every big city there's the diehard fans right in
front of the stage, and they are real nice people. Sometimes they are
aggressive and sometimes drunk but they are always fun to watch and they
know everything about us.
latest lp, Pahat Ja Rumat, the Bad and the Ugly, has sold over
12,000 copies for now, so it's a real success; I think it's the most
successful lp of this kind of music that's ever been made in Finland.
That's a real good sales in Finland for a real rock and roll lp. We could
play more often, but we don't do as many gigs as we could. We are trying
to have fun, trying to play fast, and trying to be accurate. We have done
five gigs in a row, and that's too many.
The last gig suffered from it.
Well not the last one, the last one is always one of the best ones because
we know that it will be over after this hour. But five is the absolute
limit for us in a row; then you have to have a break. We can do two or
three gigs in a row and then have a break and go on, so every show has to
be unforgettable for at least one member of the audience.
every gig has something funny going on, because that's something we love
to do. We've had lots of hats and masks and signs and everything funny you
can think of.
we were playing in shorts and Joey was introducing the band and I was
standing in the middle of the stage and getting my turn and there I stand
and everybody's looking at me and these guys are pulling my shorts down,
so Kaide almost lost the beat...he somehow managed to keep it in control,
but almost lost it. Then I took my brush from my back pocket and started
brushing my hair in front of 10,000 people, and Finski (the 5th
member of Ne Luumaet), he sings backing vocals and plays our little organs,
well he started laughing when he saw my brush. There's always something.
kept this thing very important, that it doesn't matter to us whether there
is 20 people in the crowd or 2,000, we try to do a great gig. We put
ourselves into it fully and completely.
last week we played for an audience of some 100 people in a club and we
had a real good time and a real good show, and the owner of the club was
like "Ooo, I'm sweating just for looking at the band". He had
never seen us before. We had a real good time even though the crowd was
small. And yesterday we played to 10,000 people at an open air festival.
So we had a real good time, and that should be on Finnish TV later this
summer. But no matter how big or small the crowd we are trying to have a
good and fast and funny gig. So we could have more gigs but we don't want
to because we are not doing this as our main job.
What our main jobs are doesn't interest anyone. That has nothing to do
with the music.
We've been telling that I'm the manager of the Finnish Post Office. So if
we were American I would be the manager of IBM and Pete would be the head
I've said a few times that I'm a gravedigger.
Yeah, and a slaughterer.
are lots of good records in Europe, but it seems to me that I get most of
the good records from America nowadays. So I don't know so much about the
opportunities for a Finnish band now. We have never had any intentions to
go abroad. We sing in Finnish, though we could sing in English and have
lots of success in Europe. I think the clubs are the same all over, but as
you have heard one band you might have heard of, the Ramones, has done
that in English, so why do it again? We like the situation we are in now,
so if a band is good it will break, and if it won't break it will be a
cult band. That's almost as nice. I don't think we'll ever play outside of
Finland. Maybe Sweden...we had some talk about going to Sweden. But I
But as for opportunities for Finnish bands, there are more opportunities
for them to go to mid-Europe; France or Belgium or Germany. Nowadays the
doors are opening more everywhere in Europe and there are lots of bands
that sing in English here in Finland. Good bands, too. And they have lots
of opportunities to go for Europe.
And I think they should go for Europe, because I can't understand why
should you sing in English, live in Finland, and play only in Finland.
Because most people in Finland speak Finnish as their mother tongue. Our
favorite current bands from abroad...we should mention the (pretends to
have a hard time pronouncing it) the Ram...Ramo...Ram-o-nays (laughs) from
USA, everybody likes Nirvana, most of us like bands like Black
Crows, Mega City Four...
Yeah, Mega City Four is my favorite band at this time.
I've always loved Madonna!
can say we like the bands if there's hard guitar and a straight beat and
the songs are something like two or three minutes. And a good melody won't
Finnish bands...Pojat Irti. We like them; they are our
friends and we like them a lot. We have gigs with them quite often and
whenever we meet there is quite a lot of fun. And Luonteri Surf,
they are farmers, the band, and play music that's quite similar to us, but
their songs are not so filled with black humor as ours. They can sing
about the farmer's life and farmer's daughter...things that we can't sing
about because we know absolutely nothing about cows and things like that.
They sing quite a lot about environmental things.
And they care for the nature and so on, so they have some kind of message
in their songs.
Then there's this new band called Hairikot...
And they are like our songs...they sound a lot like us, they look like us,
and they are telling everyone they don't copy us, and that's hard to
believe. I produced their first lp and it was lots of fun...sounded like
we did some five years ago. So the straightforward rock and roll tradition
is alive and well in Finland at this moment. In other parts of world, well
the most music I listen to is from the USA and England, not so much of
Some Australian bands...Hard-Ons.
Oh, Hard-Ons! Eastern Dark. And Sloppy Seconds, from the
USA. That's our favorite. Their lp destroyed. I wish I'd made that one.
That's a good band.
plans...we do gigs this summer, then the record company said you can do a
new lp if you like. And I think we will. Next fall we'll be doing an lp
and then maybe take a break and then do those clubs over and over again.
We are doing this as long as it's fun, but now we've seen all the possible
places that you can play in Finland. We've had a number one hit single,
and we will never have a number one lp in Finland, not with this crap.
So we will never play in Madison Square Garden.
Well, if there is a football game there. Pete actually has played for the
Finnish national football team...
For 16 year olds, not for men.
So let's get back to music.
We do have our own soccer team, and we have in Finland every summer a rock
soccer tournament for a Finnish championship. The teams are made from
bands and roadies and people who work in clubs and record industry and so
on. We still are the indoor champions of Finland; they had a tournament a
few years ago and we won that and they've never had a tournament after
that, so we are ruling champions still.
But we are getting as famous as can be. We've been in the TV quiz shows
and all the papers in Finland and when I go to work people notice me. Even
my workmates now know that I play in a real band that does real gigs and
real records and everybody's heard it.
what are we going to do? We are going to have fun, we are not going to get
any slower. We are not going to do longer songs. We are not going to save
the world in a song or two. We will never play long guitar solos; just
some melody lines in between verses. I don't like solos, I never even
practiced them. I could play some lousy blues or rock and roll solos, but
that's boring so why bother. We are not going to have any solos. We are
going to do this as long as we sweat on the stage and as long as we enjoy
it. And as long as there is somebody laughing in the audience. We never
intended to be a funny band or a humor band, but we find out that we are
without any intention to be that way.
What was the average height? That's important.
One meter 89 centimeters. I don't know what's that in the US. That's some
6'9" or something like that. (6'2" actually. My band the Gamma
Men beat that - ed) So we are the tallest band in Finland so anybody can
come and try to be taller than us. Joey's over 2 meters and everybody else
is over 180.
Except Finski, that's why he's only a half member. We can't count him
because he's so short.
And even though Joey's not here I'm sure that he'd like to say to all the
readers that they shouldn't walk against the red light. You should always
we have a message, and it goes like this: "Never grow a mustache.
Never grow sideburns. And your life will be good. Thank you."