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M!kan Ramopunk-sivut     Ramopunk-uutisia    Ne Luumäet-lehdissä

Ne Luumaet

This article originally appeared in NFH# 22 in the winter of 1992.

You 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.)

Heko 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 of it.

Heko: 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.

Pete: It was a lynch mob!

Heko: 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.

Pete: And I didn't know that because they made the statement before I joined the band. And we left another statement was at that time when the guys made the statement that the Ramones were having this "Ramones Aid" thing.

Heko: 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.

Heko: 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.

Pete: Very clever Finnish words; clever translations.

Heko: 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 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.

Pete: 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.

Heko: 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."

Pete: Yeah and you've done all the dirty work so let's get famous.

Heko: 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.

Pete: When you listen to that album and compare it to the earlier ones you can hear that now we have a producer.

Heko: 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.

Pete: Having fun in a more professional way! That sounds good! (laughter)

"We have girlfriends so they can get killed in the most tragic ways..."

Heko: 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's not a dance's a...there are no such places in America.

Pete: 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.

Heko: 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.

Pete: 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.

Heko: 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.

Pete: They're the real musicians!

Heko: 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.

The 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.

Pete: The last gig suffered from it.

Heko: 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.

And 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.

Yesterday 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.

We 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.

Well, 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.

Pete: What our main jobs are doesn't interest anyone. That has nothing to do with the music.

Heko: 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 of Sony.

Pete: I've said a few times that I'm a gravedigger.

Heko: Yeah, and a slaughterer.

There 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 don't know.

Pete: 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.

Heko: 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...

Pete: Yeah, Mega City Four is my favorite band at this time.

Heko: Yeah, Metallica.

Pete: I've always loved Madonna!

We 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 hurt.

Heko: 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.

Pete: They sing quite a lot about environmental things.

Heko: And they care for the nature and so on, so they have some kind of message in their songs.

Pete: Then there's this new band called Hairikot...

Heko: 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 anything else.

Pete: Some Australian bands...Hard-Ons.

Heko: 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.

New 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.

Pete: So we will never play in Madison Square Garden.

Heko: Well, if there is a football game there. Pete actually has played for the Finnish national football team...

Pete: For 16 year olds, not for men.

Heko: So let's get back to music.

Pete: 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.

Heko: 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.

So 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.

Pete: What was the average height? That's important.

Heko: 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.

Pete: Except Finski, that's why he's only a half member. We can't count him because he's so short.

Heko: 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 wait.

Actually, we have a message, and it goes like this: "Never grow a mustache. Never grow sideburns. And your life will be good. Thank you."