1977 was a year that gave the musical world a lot of positives, but also had its share of negatives to remind you that life isn’t always fair…
Fleetwood Mac released their Grammy award winning album Rumours in February, but this was off-set by Elvis Presley passing away in August. The Clash exposes the UK to their self-titled debut album in April, whilst Led Zeppelin performed their last concert on US soil in July. Lastly, in October Lynyrd Skynyrd lose three members in a horrific plane crash just days after releasing their fifth album Street Survivors. Then from a political perspective, there was just too much going on to mention; the one I will focus on is ‘The Troubles’. This conflict was taking place in Northern Ireland and had been doing so since the early 60s.
As a result of the situation that they were growing up in, four lads decided to take the name Stiff Little Fingers and sing about their experiences. Fast forward to this current day and Stiff Little Fingers have released ten studio albums, seven compilation albums and numerous live albums! Not to mention that 2017 marks 40 years since Stiff Little Fingers first came to exist; this most definitely calls for a celebration, which Jake Burns and crew don’t let us down by coming to Australian shores in 2018. The 40th Anniversary (Give or Take a Year) tour sees Stiff Little Fingers embark on five shows across Australia within six nights, starting Monday February 19th in Perth and ending in Melbourne on Saturday February 24th.
OVERDRIVE got the chance to speak to Burns about the upcoming tour; first thing this interviewer had to do was congratulate Stiff Little Fingers on reaching 40 years, give or take. Burns explained how “the odd thing about it is sometimes it feels like it’s been a blink of an eye, yet other times it most definitely feels like it’s been forty years [laughs]. It has most definitely snuck up on us though; it only seems like yesterday that we were celebrating our 25th anniversary. You just got to be careful to not find an anniversary every damn year; otherwise you’d be just celebrating non-stop and what a terrible way to live [laughs again]” before touching on what has been keeping them motivated for the last four decades:
“I’ve often joked recently that it’s because we’re unemployable in anything else; but it has become our lives, most certainly mine! As the songwriter, that’s what has really driven it; that fact it is my life and I’m documenting what’s going on around me. As long as there is something that upsets my sense of fair play, I find that the best way I can release that frustration is by writing a song. As long as I carry on writing those songs, the band wants to keep on playing those songs and people want to keep hearing them, I don’t see there’s any time soon that we will be hanging up our boots! There’s always something that upsets me enough that I feel the need to pick up the pen and paper or the guitar and write about it. It’s an old adage but ‘if you do something you love, you never work a day in your life’; it’s absolutely true, as I can’t believe that I’ve reached this stage in my life and I’m still doing something that I love!”
Last time Stiff Little Fingers came to Australian shores, tickets flew out the door and the band were performing to some close to sold out crowds nationwide; just how quickly did Burns and the rest of the band just at the chance to get back to Australia and celebrate with us once again? Burns mentioned how it was the “first chance we got, seriously.” before giving OVERDRIVE an insight into just how it came to be:
“When we did the last tour a couple of years back, we were talking to the promotor whilst in Melbourne and he asked us ‘when do wanted to come back?’; we responded with ‘as soon as you want us’. There was a possibility of us trying to get over there about this time of this year, so instead of doing the interview over the phone, I could have been doing it sat in front of you; that just wasn’t feasible to do it with all the other touring we have booked this year, but it’s the first thing we’re coming back. It’s only the fourth trip to Australia; I know it’s been concentrated over the last six or seven years that we’ve come four times, but over forty years, it’s kinda shameful at one a decade [laughs heartedly]. Right from the very first trip, there was just a warmth from the audience that we were just blown away by; every time we’ve gone back, it’s just been bigger and better! We’re more than happy to come and play, because it’s a fun place to be.”
Touching on the fact that this trip is a celebration of forty years, are Australian fans going to be treated to any obscure or long forgotten gems from the back catalogue? Burns mentioned that “the hardest part of putting together a set-list for an anniversary tour like this is what you leave out really!” before going into greater detail:
“We’re on stage for an hour and a half and I can guarantee that when we get together for rehearsals we’ll have a set-list of over forty songs, which we’ll then have to lose half of them. Over the years, we’ve written songs that we HAVE to play in our set, otherwise fans will walk away disappointed; once we place those songs in the set, there are very few slots that are left to balance between ‘something we haven’t played in forever to surprise people’ or ‘we have some new stuff that we want to try out in front of fans’. We don’t usually want to be a nostalgic band, but because of the importance and celebration behind the event, it can be excused for one or two nights!”
Over the years, numerous bands have come out and cited Stiff Little Fingers as a source of inspiration; two of the biggest bands that have done so are Rancid and Bad Religion! When asked about how it felt knowing that these huge punk bands see him as an inspiration, Burns stated that “it’s very flattering; particularly the two bands that you mentioned, as we’re friends with both set of bands! I toured a solo set with Rancid earlier this year plus the band have played with Bad Religion quite a few times; it’s very flattering when it’s such a great band that’s cited you as an influence and as having inspired them. You’ve got to be flattered by that, especially when those guys have gone on and done such incredible stuff on their own as well! Mind you, once you start touring with these guys, all that congratulatory stuff goes out by the wayside; the first few days it’s a mixture of ‘you guys really influenced us’ and ‘well, we loved what you did here!’, but after that it just turns into ‘shit, just pass us a beer will you’ [laughs].”
So once Stiff Little Fingers perform their last song on Australian shores, what does the future hold for the band? Burns concluded the interview by mentioning that “after we’ve played Australia and New Zealand, we fly to the UK and tour there until April I believe; then we have some festival stuff and some summer bits and pieces. Hopefully next year I’ll be writing enough material for the next album and by this time next year, we’ll have enough songs to sift through and get into the studio to begin recording!”
BUY YOUR TICKETS TO THE STIFF LITTLE FINGERS 40TH ANNIVERSARY (GIVE OR TAKE A YEAR) TOUR HERE!