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Charlies interview with Eero Ravi

We always thought Elonkorjuu was the heaviest album in the early 70s from Finland. But Charlies album features loud and wild guitars, screaming vocals, and can easily be described as the most outrageous Finnish album of the 70s not far away from Jimi Hendrix and Cream.
Buttocks is a heavy, hypnotic and progressive with amazing guitar work from Eero Ravi, the musical soul of the band. So the Finnish scene had much more to offer back in the early 70s beside Wigwam and Tasavallan Presidenti. They have recorded Buttocks for Love Records.
Mika Kaurismäki (film director/producer) wrote: "I had already started to discover blues music, John Mayall, Jimi Hendrix, Cream and others, so it was quite logical, that I became of a fan of Charlies. In Lahti, we thought Charlies was the best band in Finland".
Charlies played the famous Ruisrock festival in 1970. What a great band this is. Their first album "Musiikkia elokuvasta Julisteiden liimaajat" will be released early next year. Buttocks is so good and rare that is deserves a good reissue. The album comes with many extras such as photos and extensive liner notes.
Dave Lindholm (musician) wrote: "Charlies was the first big Finnish rock band for me. They played loud & rough. They looked like men, not popstars. They played the music I love. Could I ask for more? Well, I didn't!"

How did it all began? Were the members of Charlies in any other bands before or during the existence of Charlies?

Me and Pitkä had a instrumental rock bands in neighboring towns near Lahti city, In 1964 we decided to merge these bands. Pitkä started to play bass instead of guitar, and that was it. With him we formed the core of Charlies in years 1964-1971. During the years there were many musicians who played with us that had previous experience in bands. This was due to the fact that military service is mandatory in Finland.

Exoticks (1962)

What were your influences?

Our style was developing towards progressive blues rock. But then, in the fall of 1967, when Cream played in Helsinki, everything changed. At least in me, something ”clicked” in a right way and it changed the way I thought about music and how to create music. And then came Led Zeppelin. Maybe this was the true starting point of Charlies.

Elonkorjuu was considered as the heaviest band from Finland, but I think you are in the same league, if not even heavier. Tell us about the beginning of your band.

In that time in Finland there was no publicity for the bands outside Helsinki. We knew about Elonkorjuu, but the band wasn't that well-known in Lahti. I have always considered the best band from Finland to be Wigwam in it's trio form. Blues Section was the best known of early progressive bands in Finland. We also weren't that well-known in Finland, but we were a great live band, even as trio. Considering the era, we had the biggest amplifiers and we played LOUD. In addition to that we had quite rough look as a band and our style to play music was supporting that. When we played at concerts, no one really wanted to play after us.

Buttocks was released in 1970 on Love Records. What can you tell us about Love Records? How many copies of Buttocks were released?

Love Records was basically the only label that also released music from uncommercial and from unknown bands. However, we recorded Buttocks at our own expense, in two days and took the tapes to Love Records, and they released the LP.  The number of copies issued was very small, we don't actually know the exact amount.

How was the songwriting process like and where did you record the album? I would love if you could share some memories from the recording and producing your LP!

During the years 1968-1971 we played almost entirely just our own songs. When we composed new songs we dropped the old songs out of our sets. Most of those songs are now completely forgotten. Our writing process, if you wanna call it that, was almost all the time team work. Basis for the songs came out of guitar-bass collaboration, from the riffs. Sometimes even the drummer was the inspiration for a song. A few more melodic songs were born through melody or lyrics.
Buttocks was recorded in Microvox Studios, Lahti. Small concrete cellar, no acoustic treatment whatsoever, room height about 2 meters. On a first day we recorded all the band parts, mainly in one take. On a second day we recorded vocals and few solos. We were not happy with the results, we should've had a lot more time in the studio.
This wasn't our first time in the studio, in 1969 we did a single, which might have been the first record from Microvox Studios, that got released. Number of copies issued was very small, maybe 100 copies. In the same year we did LP called Julisteiden Liimaajat for the movie with same name. (There are lots of interesting and funny stories conserning that LP, but more stories about that later...). Shadoks is releasing Julisteiden Liimaajat on vinyl in the beginning of 2014!

What gear did you use?

Guitars were Burns Black Bison and from 1970 onwards Gibson ES 330, which was a truly great guitar! I had a 100w Marshall head and two cabinets. I ordered wah-wah pedal as soon as I had seen and heard Eric Clapton use it. Occasionally I tried different kinds of distortion pedals and tape echo. Gear that is used nowadays wasn't even developed yet, not even a tuner pedal.
Bass was Fender Jazz Bass. Amplifier was Burns 100w and it had two large Burns cabinets.
Drums were Ludwig with double bass drums and extensive amount of cymbals, full-on Cream setup.
For the vocals we had amplifier from Dynacord, echo and cabinets, which were later replaced with bigger ones. I don't think anyone was using the PA system(like nowadays) at the time.

You decided to pick a rather funny cover artwork. Why is that?

Our bassist Pitkä Lehtinen was also great as an artist. He drew the cover and it became the title of the LP too. Rest of the band approved it also and it was painted on the side of our trailer, in which we transported our gear. When the record hit the stores, we noticed it had the same picture in the front and back. Love Records hadn't put any kind of information on the album covers. Even their own logo was missing the red colour. Afterwards we made a insert in which we included info about the band, collaborators, name of the recording studio and lyrics. We distributed this insert to near-by record stores, but of most of the LP's were sold without the insert.

I heard you were an amazing live band delivering raw energy to the audience. Where did you play and with what bands did you share the stage?

You're probably right. Memories grow sweeter with time, but one thing that stuck in my mind is that we were fierce live band. We didn't like studios very much. In the end of year 1967 and during 1968 when started rehearsing more professionally we got more gigs. During the years 1969-1971 we were doing gigs three times a week, sometimes even more.
We had a three week tour in Sweden, otherwise we toured in Finland. We played mostly at schools and without exception sets that lasted nearly four hours.

Is there any particular story, that stands out and you would like to share with us?

We were poor musicians and lived a very ascetic life, which involved mainly music. All kinds of things happened, and I wrote some of the stories to the insert which comes with the reissued Buttocks LP.
This one time, when we were already ”popular”, we had this request to come to play in this private event in to town near us. Outdoor stage and everything! As a pay for this gig we were promised meat pasties with two hot dogs! I was joking to Pitkä about this, but after he heard the offer he insisted that we do this gig! And then we did it.
When we were touring earlier we always had problems with our vans. We had van from Fiat, we toured Sweden in it.
This one time we were in Rovaniemi, we played whole night and during our performance, our roadie Eko did a full engine repair on that thing! He did access the engine underneath the van and changed the bearings of the connecting rod. Not to new ones, because we couldn't afford them. He just picked the best used ones from the bag we had. The van was on it's limits when we were touring Sweden, but luckily we made it through the tour.
We pushed the van to start the engine when we arrived to Turku in a ferry and drove to Lahti with only 3 cylinders. Then we decided to collect money and buy new bearings and spark plugs. More unfotunate memories are two car accidents that we were in. Then we were touring in Dodge van and a trailer.
One more thing comes to mind, we were on the same gig with Tasavallan Presidentti somewhere on the south coast. Their guitarist Jukka Tolonen told me he had bought a new guitar and asked me if I want to try it. So we went to the stage, the venue was already full of people waiting for the gig, but we went there and just tried out the guitar, with loud volume of course. I told him I want the same kind of guitar, so Jukka gave me the info how to get one. In those days you had to travel to Helsinki and place an order for the guitar, there were no stacks of guitars in the shelves like now. It took about month to get the guitar from the States. The guitar was Gibson 330 and I was very pleased with it.

What happened to the band after the LP was out and what occupied your life next?

Buttocks didn't really change a thing. We weren't pleased about the record at all. We thought that the test recordings that we did at our rehearsals with two Akai's and two mics sounded better, even though we didn't really focus on them that much. Our first LP that was released previous year brought us publicity and gigs even though our skills as musicians weren't that great at the time. After Buttocks we got even more gigs.

What are you currently doing? Any future plans? Are you still involved in music?

I had to retire in 1994 from my job because of back illness, but it has gotten better during the years. I met my wife in 1969 when I was playing music and touring a lot. We had two sons with whom I played music a lot during the 90's. Boys have flown away from the nest, so to speak, and we are living in a loving marriage with my wife. My involvement with music is strickly on a listening basis nowadays. We listen to all kinds of good music. Favorites from last years have been for example Gov't Mule and Foo Fighters.

What's your opinion of the music scene in Finland in the end of the 60's and early 70's? What bands did you like then? Are there any bands, that we are not aware of, because they didn't record an album but are still worth checking out?

Especially in the 60's all the power that was in the music business was concentraded to Helsinki. All the things: recording, magazines, radio, tv and even the gigs were there. If you were not from Helsinki, you had no business sticking your nose in there. Before we recorded an album we had no gigs in Helsinki, even though there lived approx. 20% of Finlands population.
I listened bands like: Rolling Stones, Pretty Things and Yardbirds etc. when other people were getting in to The Beatles. After this came John Mayall with his guitar and Hendrix. But bands that struck me the most were Cream and Led Zeppelin. Maybe I add Jethro Tull, Traffic, Uriah Heep and Black Sababth to the list too. From the finnish bands I have always liked Wigwam in it's trio form.

Shadoks reissued your LP. Isn't it great, that after all these years people are still enjoying your music?

Shadoks / Thomas Hartlage has done a great job! We are very thankful to him. Buttocks is now better than ever! And the fact that it was released as a vinyl really warms my heart. And we got to write a little bit of the history of the band too. I find it amazing that people all over the world are digging our music, even though I doubt none of them has seen or heard us live. But of course it feels really great!

Interview made by Jani Pitkänen & Klemen Breznikar/2013
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