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Interview: Jakes Burns From ‘Stiff Little Fingers’

SLF 2012 Promo 2

Belfast punk rock veterans Stiff Little Fingers (SLF) are finally coming down under for an Australian tour next month. Frontman Jake Burns took time out from preparing for SLF’s upcoming shows to speak to us about the past, present, and future of the band.

Hey Jake, so great to chat to you! I know your touring Australia very soon. What can fans expect from the show?

Well we’re basically playing from all of our records. I mean, I really don’t like it when I go see a band and they say “we got a new album!” and they proceed to play the whole damn thing, you know? Like, we’ll definitely be playing some new stuff, but equally we’ll also be playing older stuff as well, for instance some songs from our first album ‘Inflammable Material’.

Awesome! Well any city in particular that your most excited to play in? 

To be honest, all of them! We visited Australia about 2 years ago for Soundwave and it was such a huge undertaking and tight schedule, that we didn’t actually get any time to see the cities we were playing in. All I can remember is the airport, the hotel & the venue. Yeah, so this time around, it’s our own tour, so hopefully now we’ll have time to you know, visit the local bars, have a few beers and actually explore the city.

Did you know your Brisbane show at The Triffid is already sold out?

Yes, I do and it’s phenomenal! For it to sell out, well, we’re all absolutely astonished, it’s fantastic. Thank you Brisbane!

Can I ask what it was like growing up in The Troubles and for those who are unaware, can you give a bit of background on what The Troubles in Northern Ireland were?

Well I was around 11 years old when the rights protest began and things started to get violent. There were a number of reasons involved that started The Troubles. The main one that drove it was simply to end discrimination against the Catholic minority by the Protestant dominated government. So although Catholics had the right to vote, it was basically pointless. Back then it was a political war that divid up in such a way, that the Catholics were always going to be out voted by the majority of the Protestant. For example, with circumstances like getting a job, if the employer saw what school you went to on your resume, and it was ‘St whatever’, then they most likely wouldn’t hire you.

And when I got older and became more aware of the situation, I realised I was a target. Like I used to work for a firm that crossed over Protestant neighbourhoods and when I would walk home, I would just get beaten up. So there were certain areas you couldn’t go and certain things you couldn’t do. It just became boring. I mean, I know it’s a weird thing to say, but even though riots and shootings were a everyday occurrence, it was because of that, bands just wouldn’t come and play. Belfast quickly became deserted, it was like living in a ghost town.

Oh, well have you heard about the Australian lock out laws? Sydney is now supposedly a ‘ghost town’.

Yeah, yeah, I read about that. I remember when we were last there they were talking about it happening. Terrible news!

It really is, but back to SLF. Do you still feel that songs like Alternative Ulster are relevant today?

Sadly they are. I mean, by this stage I was kind of wishing if anyone would even remember songs like Alternative Ulster they would just be known as old folk tales from the dark past or something, haha. But unfortunately no. Even though Northern Ireland is a much better place than it ever was, there’s still underlining tensions there, still mistrust and still a lot of battle lines that are drawn.

Well looking back to pre-punk, who were your early musical influences?

So the reason I picked up a guitar was because of a guy named Rory Gallagher. He was this amazingly talented Irish rockabilly guitar player. He was a huge influence on me when I was growing up and I think that was the case for a lot of Irish musicians of my years, quite simply because he was one of the few at that point that had gone from Ireland and made it internationally.

Is there any new or different music you’ve discovered recently you just can’t get enough of?

Do you know what, I’m the worlds worst at going out and watching bands, haha. I’m dreadful at it. That’s why I really enjoy when we get booked on a festival bill or something, it’s the only chance I get to see bands that are up and coming.

What are your thoughts on the Grammys? Are they still relevant to musicians and fans?

I don’t really have any thoughts on it honestly. It’s not something that impacts on what SLF do. I did hear about the Gaga tribute to Bowie with mixed reviews and I did actually see the Hollywood Vampires. But I just thought they were let down by the actual sound of the thing, I didn’t think it was great at all. Like, award shows make me really nervous. Over the course of our career, we’ve been offered a few bits and pieces, but we usually turned them down. It was almost a little too show business for us. But so far we have accepted 1 kind of big award and that’s only because it came from The Northern Irish Music Association. It was basically a validation of where we came from.

And finally, can fans look forward to another album in the near future?

Yes, well I literally starting writing new songs earlier this week. I mean, it took so long between the last 2 records because of life in general and since we released our last album ‘Still Kicking’, we’ve just been busy on tour and I’m not the kind of person that likes write while I’m touring, haha. But hey, this year we don’t have a massive touring schedule, so after Australia we only have a few festivals in the Summer and possibly a Canadian tour, so if we can get the songs together by the end of this year and at the start of next. I don’t see why we can’t have an album out by 2018.

Stiff Little Fingers Tour Dates


Capitol, Perth


The Gov, Adelaide


170 Russell, Melbourne


The Metro, Sydney


The Triffid, Brisbane

Get Tickets HERE