Interview: Jake Burns (Stiff Little Fingers) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Stiff Little Fingers were formed in 1977 in Belfast, Ireland and along with the likes of the Clash, Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks, Sham 69, Stranglers, et al were at the forefront of the punk movement. They wrote initially about their own lives, growing up at the height of The Troubles in Northern Ireland, in songs like “Suspect Device” and “Wasted Life”. The bands lyrics melded the personal and political and their music combined the energy of punk with infectious hooks, and delivery that was honest and committed. In 1979 they became the first band ever to hit the UK top 20 album charts on an independent label with their debut Inflammable Material.

The band are as popular as ever and still releasing new materials, this summer they will be delighting fans in the North-East with a performance at Hardwick Live. We had a chat with singer and guitarist, Jake Burns ahead of their performance on Saturday 17th August.

Growing up, which musicians or bands made you want to be in a band of your own?
The first “lightning bolt” that made me want to be in a band was seeing Rory Gallagher’s early band, Taste, on t.v. in Northern Ireland. I was about 12 years old and realised that that was what I wanted to do with my life. Of course, being 12 years old, I’d wanted to be George Best the previous week, so it took a bit of time to convince my parents to buy me my first guitar!

You were seen as a political act. Do you think there is enough politics in music nowadays?
 Something like that is a personal decision for the artist concerned. I write songs that are seen as “political” simply because I need to feel passionate enough about something to act on it. For some people that’s a love song, for me it’s a protest song. An unfashionable term, but really that’s what they are.
Is there any new material in the pipeline?
Yes. Slow and steady wins the race. Well, I keep telling myself that. We’re currently writing, although it is a slow process, but that’s also because as I’ve gotten older I’ve become much more critical of my output. In the past, I may have rushed things and accepted songs that, in hindsight, weren’t that great. I try to be more discerning these days. 
What advice would you give an up and coming band?
As soon as you’re confident in your playing, try to find your own voice. Everyone has to learn how to play, and most people do that by playing the songs of their heroes. That’s great as a preparation, but the real fun and challenge comes in being yourself and not slavishly following what’s gone before. Oh, and accept every chance you get to play in public. There is no substitute for playing in front of an audience.

What can people expect from your show at Hardwick Live?
Well, it’s a festival show, so we try and stick to the songs that people hopefully know! However, we will probably throw in the odd “curve ball” just to keep ourselves on our toes.


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