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The Achtungs interview with Joni Ekman

If The Mummies and Nobunny had some sort of bastard dumpster baby that they left behind a diner where one of the Ramones happened to be shooting up in the alley, who found it and took it home in a doped out haze for Wayne Kramer and Sonic Smith to raise as their own, this would be it!  Blistered and raw tape hiss explodes in spasmodic fits of tightly woven pockets in the form of two minute long punk blasters.  Fashioned with a care and intensity that’s rare and almost unmatched, Finland’s own The Achtungs fit all the mumbling, screaming, fast melting speed and fuzz possible in there, but where the fuck they find time to cram all the insanely infectious and gnarly lead guitar is what I want to know!  This shit sounds like White Stripes-era Jack White completely lost his shit, got hooked on dope, became an alcoholic, bought a tape recorder, kicked the organist out of The Mummies and went Bad Brains on their asses!  With a hefty back catalog at this point, The Achtungs are still working to perfect their own sound, a delightfully garbled mess of distortion and tape fuzz, blending the best of the 60’s and the current no-fi movement, but their newest releases, the Full Of Hate LP for Going Underground especially, just bleeds real punk rock.  This isn’t that pansy shit your friends are listening to, this is the real deal stuff right here.  None of that bubblegum or wanna be hardcore screaming B.S. going on here, Joni Ekman and the rest of the boys mean fucking business.  Snatch yourself a beer out the fridge, kick back with a square and a fatty, and let The Achtungs light you up!  The world needs more music like this, but there’s only one Achtungs.  Oh, and by the way, did I mention they were psychedelic as fuck baby!?!

Who all’s in The Achtungs right now and what do you play?  Is this the original lineup or has there been any changes since you all formed?

Well, The Achtungs is now Jussi Numminen on drums, Teemu Ojala on bass and me, Joni Ekman, on guitar and vocals.  This isn’t the original lineup, though.  Jussi joined the band in March 2011 and Teemu got involved in August, 2012.  There've been quite a few lineup changes since I started the band in September of 2010.

Are any of you in any other active bands or do you have any side projects going on right now?  Have you ever released anything with anyone else in the past?  If so, can you tell us a bit about that?  I love playing musical connect the dots, but I have to admit that nothing beats cheating and getting the answers right from the source!

Yes, Jussi and I are currently playing in a band called Lähtevät Kaukojunat.  We just put out a LP.  We also have an EP out, but it's sold out I guess.  Teemu’s making music under the name Telepiste, but that name might change.  He’s also playing with me in Koiran näköinen nainen, soon to be Joni Ekman & Koira, and Johnny Ekman & U.R.O.  I made my first recordings with my friends as a band called Johnny Ekman & H.I.V. back in 2008 when we we're like fifteen/sixteen years old.  We put out two CD-r releases and played about five gigs.  Then, we broke up and the other guys formed Tohtori Koira.  I also have some side projects with my friends like The Transentiset, Smurfit, T.P. Seller, The Cheese, and Cola Boys etcetera.

How old are you and where are you originally from?

I'm twenty two years old right now.  I'm originally from Somero, Finland; a really small town.

How would you describe the local music scene where you grew up?  Were you very involved in the local scene there?  Do you feel like it played a large role in shaping your musical tastes or the way that you perform today?

There was no musical scene in Somero, just some old farts who liked prog rock and some metalheads playing Metallica covers.  That "scene" made me play something else than heavy metal or jazz.  I really like the music by Rauli Badding Somerjoki though.

What about your home when you were growing up?  Were either of your parents or any of your close relatives musicians or just extremely interested/involved in music?

No musicians in my family, I don’t think anyone from my family is even interested in music that much.

What do you consider your first real exposure to music to be?

I used to listen to my dad's old tapes like Modern Talking, Kikka, AC/DC and Eppu Normaali.  That's the only music I listened to back then.  Then, my sister got into Spice Girls and E-Type, and since we shared room, I had to listen to all that.  My own first CD was Bomfunk MC's In Stereo, but I can’t tell if I really liked that.  I was kinda embarrassed to like music when I was younger.  I don’t know why.  Maybe, listening to music was too cool for me.

If you were to pick a moment that seemed to change everything for you, opened your eyes up to the infinite possibilities that music presents and changed the way you saw things, what would it be?

I guess hearing the Ramones for the first time made me realize something new.  The first vinyl record I bought was Kakkahätä-77’s second EP WTC räjähtää, and it blew my mind.  They sounded so bad that it was the best thing ever.  I was so excited about that record I used to skip classes in school just to go home and listen to it.

When did you decide that you wanted to start writing and performing your own music and what brought that decision about for you?

I never really chose to do that, it just came naturally, or something like that.

What was your first instrument?  When and how did you get that?

My first instrument was a guitar.  My mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas in 2005, and I said that I wanted an electric guitar.  It was actually kind of a joke, but then she got it for me for Christmas.  I remember I felt bad for her, ‘cause I didn’t really want a guitar that bad.

How did the members of The Achtungs meet and when would that have been?

Jussi and I knew each other ‘cause we had a band together before Achtungs called Pill Poppers.  We didn't release anything, but there are some recordings somewhere.  Our bass player Teemu and I met in the Vastavirta club in Tampere, Finland somewhere around the summer '12, I guess.  He was supposed to play in Lähtevät Kaukojunat but that didn’t happen, so I asked him to come and try to play some bass for The Achtungs since our drummer Juha had some difficulties making it to rehearsal with me and Jussi, who was playing the bass back then.

When and what led to the formation of The Achtungs?

In the summer of 2010, I was really bored with the band I was in, Pill Poppers, and I wanted a band that sounded like The Reatards.  So, I formed one.

Is there any sort of creed, code, ideal or mantra that the band shares or lives by?


I know that roughly translated The Achtungs means, ‘The Dangers”.  What does the name mean or refer to?  Who came up with it and how did you all go about choosing it?

The name doesn’t really mean anything.  My friend Santeri came up with it.  It sounds good, though.  Kinda.

Where’s the band located now?

The band is located in Tampere, Finland.

How would you describe the local music scene where you’re at now?

There's some good stuff, but most of the music here is pretty bad.  But that's just my opinion.

Do you feel like you’re very involved in the local music scene or anything?  Do you book or attend a lot of local shows?

I don't know how involved in the scene we are, we play if someone asks us to and that's it.

Are you involved in recording or releasing any music at all?  If so, can you talk about that briefly here?

Well, my friend Juho and I have this tape/record label called Fuck CD's.  We've released a bunch of tapes and one 7-inch, too.  More stuff’s on the way!  I usually record all of my own music but I don't really record anybody else's bands ‘cause I get too nervous about screwing things up and making them sound bad.

Has the local scene played a large or integral role in the sound, history, formation or evolution of The Achtungs?  Or, do you feel like you all could be doing what you’re doing and sounding like you do regardless of your location and surroundings?

Sometimes, when I think about the "scene" here, I just wanna go and make noise.  The scene frustrates me.  That's something!

While we’re talking so much about the history and general makeup of the band I’m really interested to hear who you would cite as some of your major musical influences?  What about influences on the band as a whole rather than just individually?

Well, The Reatards were a big influence when I started the band.   Currently, I’m into Big Star and 60's/70's rock music, but I don't think that will have any effect on The Achtungs.  Maybe some more rock'n'roll clichés will occur.  I don't think other members of the band really share any of the same influences as me.  Teemu really likes the Bad Times LP and so do I.  Jussi just likes to bang drums and play gigs.

How would you describe The Achtungs sound to our readers who might not have heard you all before in your own words?

Noisy punk.

What’s the songwriting process with The Achtungs like?  Is there someone who usually comes to the rest of the band with a riff or more finished idea to work out with the rest of you, or do you all get together for practice and just kind of kick ideas back and forth until you’ve distilled and polished something from the exchange that you’re all happy with?

It has always been the same since we started, I bring some new song(s) to rehearsal and then we just practice it.

What about recording?  I think that most musicians can obviously appreciate the end result of all the time and effort that goes into making an album when you’re holding that finished product in your hands.  Getting to that point though, getting everything recorded and sounding the way that you want it to, especially as a band, can be extremely difficult.  What’s it lie recording for The Achtungs?

I've discovered that by playing all the instruments by myself, except bass, which Teemu records later on, makes the recordings sound more the way I want them to sound.  I have an idea and I’m not satisfied if that doesn’t happen.  For example, I think the first LP sounds horrible and it was recorded with Jussi on drums.  He hits everything really hard, so the drums sound really blown out here and there on the record.  I also used only one mic back then.  Not to mention, I couldn't really record that good back then.  I've learned how to do that now, though.

Do you all like to head into the studio and let someone else handle the technical aspects of recording so you can just concentrate on getting the best performances possible out of yourselves, or do you all take a more DIY approach where you handle the technical aspects of things yourselves so you don’t have to compromise on the sound or work with anyone else to achieve it?

I've been recording everything The Achtungs have released on my tape 4-track recently.  We've had some sessions with other people recording us, but they never really worked out the way I wanted to.  I don't want to waste anyone else’s time but mine.

Is there a lot of time and effort that goes into working out every little aspect of a song before you all head into to record it?  Or, do you all get a good skeletal idea of what a song’s going to sound like while allowing for plenty of room for change and evolution during the recording process?

We used to be more of a "band", but now that I’ve learned to play drums better, I’ve been recording more stuff by myself.  That single we’ve got out on Total Punk for example, was my first experiment playing drums on an Achtungs record, and I think it sounded really good.  It was the sound I’ve been looking for all of these years.

Do psychoactive or hallucinogenic drugs play a large or important role in the songwriting, recording or performances processes for The Achtungs?  People have been harnessing the effects of these substances to produce altered mind states in hopes of channeling it into their art almost since recorded history began and I’m always curious about its usage and application to the artistic process…

Not really.  I don't care much for drugs.

2011 was an extremely busy year for you all to say the least!  The first thing I know of that you all ever released as the self-titled The Achtungs cassette from Fuck CD’s.  Can you tell us a little bit about the recording of the material for that first release?  Was that a fun, pleasurable experience for you all?  When and where was it recorded?  Who recorded it?  What kind of equipment was used?  I’m pretty sure that’s out of print and pretty well unavailable at this point, but how many copies was that limited to?

Was it really that busy?  That tape was recorded with the first lineup of The Achtungs.  We had drums and two guitars; Axel, Arttu, and I.  It was in January, 2011.  We recorded nine songs and put six of them on the tape.  The recording was pretty frustrating ‘cause I didn’t really know how to use my 4-track back then.  Our drummer Arttu helped me a lot during that, with setting the mics up and stuff, so thanks.  We setup two really crappy, cheap mics somewhere in the room and just played the songs.  I got twenty to twenty five copies of the tape to sell at our first gig, which was in Helsinki later that January.  We've released some repressings of that on Fuck CD's, but I have no idea how many copies we've made so far.  Somewhere between a hundred and a hundred and fifty copies, I think.

You also released the Vol. 2 cassette for Fuck CD’s in 2011.  Was the recording of the material for Vol. 2 recorded during the same session(s) as the self-titled tape from earlier that year?  Or, was that material recorded specifically for that release?  If it was recorded for Vol. 2 can you tell us about the recording of that material?  Who recorded it and where was that at?  When was that?  What kind of equipment was used?  Either way, I know that Vol. 2 is out of print as well but I couldn’t dig up many details about it.  How many copies was Vol. 2 limited to?

Vol.2 is pretty much a compilation of demos and failed recording sessions, there's quite a few of those!  And I just decided that I wanna put out a tape of this material.  There're some good songs on there and the recording is really crappy throughout.  It was recorded by me once again, except for a few live tracks on it that were recorded by Jukka Nousiainen.  We’ve never done a repress of this tape on Fuck CD's, ‘cause I think it sucks.  We only made 80 copies of this.

After a short break in 2012 you all released the Vol. 3 cassette tape, again for Fuck CD’s.  Was the recording of the material for Vol. 3 very different than the two previous volumes?  When was that material recorded?  Who recorded it and where was that at?  What kind of equipment was used that time around?  Do you know how many copies Vol. 3 was limited to?

Yeah, Vol. 3 is definitely the best tape we've made so far.  It was recorded with the current lineup.  We we're just starting to play together and I think it really sounds good.  We played it live and recorded it straight to tape.  Teemu was really helpful while recording.  He brought some better mics for us to use and knew some recording tips.  The same old 4-track was used.  I think this was the last recording on that machine.  It broke soon after this.  We recorded this in November 2012 and the B-side, which is a live recording, was recorded in October 2012.  We've made quite a few of these, maybe somewhere between a hundred and a hundred and fifty copies?  I honestly don't know these things very well.

2013 also saw the release of a self-titled 7” EP for Joteski Groteski and Rock ‘n’ Roll Bullshit which was later repressed here in the States by the ever amazing Going Underground Records.  What was the recording of the material for that EP like?  Was it much like your earlier recording sessions or do you feel like you all had learned a lot from the early cassette tape series?

That first 7” and our first LP are from the same sessions.  We we're recording that first LP and I felt like there were some songs that didn't fit in that well on the possible LP, but they would make a good 7”.  So, I just picked a few songs and set them aside for a possible 7” release and we got few of our friends to put it out in August 2013.  I can't really remember anything about the recording, other than it was just Jussi and I playing our songs on that tape.  It was recorded with a new 4-track which allowed you to use all four tracks simultaneously, so that was the biggest change, I guess.

You keep extremely busy, and never once to rest on your laurels you’ve already dropped a single and a full-length album this year (2014) as well!  The Full Of Hate 7” was released by Total Punk Records and features two brand-new tracks from you all, one of which was ironically “Full Of Hate” which is the title for your full-length released this year as well.  Were either “Full Of Hate” or “I Don’t Wanna Talk About It” from the same sessions that produced the Full Of Hate LP later on that year?  I know that album’s limited, do you know how many copies it’s limited to?

It was completely different sessions.  The LP was recorded in February 2013 and the single was recorded in January 2014.  So, that's almost a year in between.  You can clearly hear the difference in the recordings.  The album’s limited to 400 copies 100 on green and the rest on black vinyl.

I mentioned it before, but you released your sophomore full-length album Full Of Hate for Going Underground Records.  Did you all try anything radically new or different when it came to the songwriting or recording of the material for Full Of Hate?  Where and when was it recorded?  What kind of equipment was used?  Who recorded it?

I just had songs and we recorded them, basically.

Do The Achtungs have any music that we haven’t talked about yet, maybe a demo or a song on a compilation that I might not know about?

A few songs appear on some compilations.  The Flash Trash comp had two songs, “I've Had Enough” and “Hey Girl”.  They’re just me copying the first Reatards record, banging on a mattress and a notebook.  They sound like drums though!  Then, we have a song called "Mess MyHead" on a Bat Shit compilation that’s on Bandcamp somewhere, only digital!  And then we have a song on this new compilation by Fuck CD's called Kesäpano.  We're doing a Beatles cover there, “I Saw Her Standing There”.

You’ve already dropped a single and your debut 12” this year but with you all being so productive it does beg the question, are there any other releases in the works or on the horizon from The Achtungs at this point?

We have a three song 7” and a new 12” recorded.  I think the 7” is coming later this year, and the second LP is coming after that, I guess.

With the completely insane shipping rates all over the planet I try and give our readers options when it comes to picking stuff up.  Where’s the best place for our US readers to pick up copies of your stuff?

I think the best place to buy our records for US people is straight from the label.

What about nationally and internationally?  There’s nothing worse than being able to afford an album, but not being able to cover the shipping!

I don't know what stores carry our stuff.  P.Trash and Ken Rock might have some copies of our records.

And where would the best place for our interested readers to keep up with the latest news like upcoming shows and album releases from The Achtungs be at?

Since we don't have a Facebook page, there’s really no place to look for upcoming gigs or releases.  I try to advertise them on message boards sometimes.

Are there any major plans or goals that The Achtungs are looking to accomplish in the rest of 2014 or 2015?

The only goal for now is to get those two upcoming records out and play gigs as much as possible.

Do you all spend a lot of time out on the road touring?  Do you enjoy being out on tour?  What’s life like on the road for The Achtungs?

We've never been on a tour so I can't really tell.

What, if anything, do you all have planned as far as touring goes for the rest of the year?

We have only one gig booked at the moment.  We're gonna try hit the US next year, but we’ll see about that.

Do you remember what the first song that The Achtungs ever played live was?  Where and when would that have been at?

The first song we played live was "Bored" in Lepakkomies, Helsinki.  Our first gig was in late January of 2011 at the Flash Trash Fest.

Who are some of your personal favorite bands that you’ve had a chance to play with over the past few years?

Pää Kii, Atom Mouth Gimlies, Räjäyttäjät, Kakkahätä-77, Moderni Elämä, Mental Problems, Mustat Kalsarit, and Räjäyttäjät etcetera.

In your dreams, who are you on tour with?

Umm...  Motörhead.

Do you have any funny or interesting stories from live shows or performances that you’d like to share here with our readers?

I've broken some stuff and had to pay for it, but I don't know if that's fun?  I once smashed my guitar to pieces just because Jussi was too drunk to play and I got really annoyed by that.  I shouldn't smash any guitars anymore.  That's dumb shit.  And another story, Jussi once hit himself accidentally gave himself a bloody nose with a drum stick.  Blood, sweat, and punk.

Do you all give a lot of thought to the visual aspects that represent the band to a large extent, stuff like, flyers, posters, shirt designs, covers and that kind of thing?  Is there any kind of meaning or message that you’re trying to convey with your art?  Do you have anyone that you usually turn to in your times of need when it comes to that kind of thing?

I don't think about what to wear at a gig, it makes me feel like a rock star and I don't want that.  I want to make the cover art of our records look like crappy 70's punk records.  Those are the best.

With all of the various methods of release that are available to musicians today I’m always curious why they choose and prefer the mediums that they do.  Do you have a preferred medium of release for your own music?  What about when you’re listening to or purchasing music?  If you do have a preference, can you tell us what it is and a little bit about why?

I buy and listen to vinyl, pretty much.  That's why I wanna put out my albums out on vinyl.  They look better.

Do you have a music collection at all?  If so, can you tell us just a bit about it?

Yeah, I have records.  I've been collecting them since I was sixteen years old.  The first vinyl record I bought was Kakkahätä-77's second EP, WTC räjähtää which is still one of my favourites.

I grew up around this massive collection of my father’s music and he would take me out on the weekends and pick me up random stuff that I was interested in from the local shops.  I developed this system of picking up an album, kicking back with a set of headphones, reading the liner notes, staring at the cover artwork and just letting the whole experience carry me off on this trip!  Having something to physically hold and experience along with the music has always made for a much more complete listening experience, at least for me.  Do you have any such connection with physically released music?

Yes, I do, for the same reasons as you.  I like vinyl more than a CD.  Vinyl is just more than a CD and everybody knows that more is more.

Digital music is here in a big way, like it or not.  When you combine digital music with the internet though, that’s when things get really interesting.  Together they’ve exposed people to the literal world of music that they’re surrounded by and allowed for an unparalleled level of communication between bands and their fan bases.  Nothing is ever black and white though and while people may be exposed to more music than ever they’re not necessarily involved in paying for it and for a lot of people music is becoming this kind of disposable thing to be used and then discarded.  As an artist during the reign of the digital era, what’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?

I don't think I would ever have gotten as into punk music if there was no internet and mp3-files.  Our LP is for sale as mp3-files and I’m fine with it.  Most people wanna hear the record before buying it, just like me.  New vinyl also cost a lot nowadays, so I don't really wanna buy a crap record for twenty five Euros, I'd rather buy a good record.  Not to mention, I’m not making any money with my music.  So, I don't care if someone listens to my music for free on the internet.  I’m just glad somebody might get something out of it.

I try to keep up with as much good music as I possibly can but there’s just not enough time in the day to keep up with all the amazing stuff that’s going on out there right now.  Is there anyone from your local scene or area that I should be listening to I might not have heard of before?

My favorite new band from Tampere is Jukka & Jytämimmit.

What about nationally and internationally?

I like the new Giorgio Murderer EP a lot.

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me about the band, it was awesome learning so much about you all and I at least hope it was a little fun for you look back on everything that you’ve managed to accomplish as a band.  I swear I’m done with all of the questions, but before we call it a day I’d like to open the floor up to you all for a second.  Is there anything that I could have possibly missed or that you’d just like to take this opportunity to talk to me or the readers about at this point?

I think we got everything covered here.  Punk is the best.

                The Achtungs
(2011)  The Achtungs – The Achtungs – Cassette Tape – Fuck CD’s
(2011)  The Achtungs – Vol. 2 – Cassette Tape – Fuck CD’s
(2013)  The Achtungs – Vol. 3 – Cassette Tape – Fuck CD’s
(2013)  The Achtungs – The Achtungs EP – 7” – Joteski Groteski/Rock ‘n’ Roll Bullshit/Going Underground Records (Going Underground Records pressing is a repress)
(2014)  The Achtungs – Full Of Hate – 7” – Total Punk Records (Limited to ? copies)
(2014)  The Achtungs – Full Of Hate – 12” – Going Underground Records

(2008)  Johnny Ekman & H.I.V. – Johnny Ekman & H.I.V. – CD­r – Self-Released –
(2009)  Johnny Ekman & H.I.V. – Monoa naamaan – CD­r – Self-Released –
(2012)  Johnny Ekman & U.R.O. – Lost In Time – Cassette Tape –
(2012)  Transentiset – Rock kasvissyöntiä vastaan – Cassette Tape –
(2013)  Johnny Ekman & U.R.O. – 2 – Cassette Tape – 
(2013)  The Transentiset – Kielloista huolimatta... – Cassette Tape –
(2013)  Koiran Näköinen Nainen ­ Rock'n'roll – Cassette Tape –
(2013)  Teendreams – Dead Body In The Sand – Cassette Tape –
(2013)  Johnny Ekman U.R.O. ­ 3 – Cassette Tape – 
(2013)  Lähtevät Kaukojunat – Lähtevät Kaukojunat EP – 7" –
(2013)  Koiran Näköinen Nainen ­ Nussimista auton takapenkillä – Cassette Tape –
(2013)  Koiran Näköinen Nainen – Koiran Näköinen Nainen EP – 7" –
(2013)  Koiran Näköinen Nainen – Viulumusiikkia – Cassette Tape
(2014)  Ralliauto ­ Ralliauto – Cassette Tape – 
(2014)  Koiran Näköinen Nainen – #4 – Cassette Tape – 
(2014)  The Cheese – The Cheese EP – 7" – 
(2014)  Koiran Näköinen Nainen – Kesämuistoja EP – 7"
(2014)  Lähtevät Kaukojunat – Lähtevät Kaukojunat – 12” –
(2014)  Kytänsoittajat/Transentiset – Split EP – 7" –
(2014)  Cola Boys – Cola Boys EP – 7" –

Interview made by Roman Rathert/2014
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