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Jacks Of All Trades

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Out of Finland comes rapcore formation Jacks Of All Trades. Though they're not an established band yet, they managed to tour the US last year to support their first full-length album R U Ready. I met them on their stop at the Brainwave Festival while they were on tour through Holland and Belgium. I spoke with vocalist J-Blast and guitarist Lary about their touring, J's Bolivian family and their future plans.

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Discography: Give Way EP (1998); R U Ready? (1999); Liar EP (2000). Available through: Jacks Of All Trades. Official website: Jacks Of All Trades. Interview by: mpo Date: January 27th 2001

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First of all, can you give an outline of Jacks Of All Trades' history?

Lary Launonen: Jacks Of All Trades was formed at the end of 1997. First there were three of us. Me, our drummer Roki and bassplayer Tomi. About a half year later J (Joel J-Blast Niitynen) came in. That was spring 1998. Since then we have been with the four of us. Our bassist Tomi left us in November 1999 and then we took our present bass-player JAR. Our first gig was three years ago. Since that time we have done shows in Finland and we toured through the US last summer and now we are touring Holland and Belgium here in Europe.

Before J-Blast joined the band, did you have a singer?

Lary: I did all the vocals. It was more like punk/hardcore back then. When J came in he brought those rap influences with him.

Was that for a specific reason? That you wanted to go in that direction with the rap influences?

J-Blast: No. The actual reason is: I was in another band. I was doing some other stuff, just rapping. And they (JOAT) heard me and said "would you like to come and try this?" And a lot of people think right now, when rapcore and the new metal scene is so big, that we are copycats, trying to do what Limp Bizkit or bands like that are doing. That's actually not true. Like Lary said, we started with just playing hardcore and added rap to it. So, we sort of invented it ourselves. And that's why we don't sound that much like any other band because what we're doing is something that's coming from us. And we're not trying to copy. Of course we got influences from other bands too. But we're not trying to copy anybody.

Lary: When it comes to influences, I used to listen to hardcore and stuff. But these days I mostly listen to easy pop and rock. Because I'm a bit tired, I guess. But I still like this kind of music. It's most fun to play live. Back then when we started, the only rapcore band I had heard was Rage Against The Machine. So, there weren't so many bands to take influences from.

So, you think it came naturally, to move into rap influenced hardcore?

J-Blast: It came naturally because we were playing hardcore, groovy hardcore, and then started adding rap to it. So, it came naturally.

And someone else said you're copycats....

J-Blast: I don't know if we're lucky or not. I guess we were lucky in a way, because now it's famous. I mean, a lot of people listen to it. So, we're lucky in that way. But then we're unlucky because we weren't the first ones because someone else had done it before us.

In the booklet of R U Ready I read that you, J-Blast,  have a Bolivian family. What's the story behind that?

J-Blast: The thing is, I'm an MK, a missionary kid. I've lived most of my life in Bolivia. I'd like to call them my Bolivian family, the people that I've got there. I start my thank you's with my family, the ones that are really close to me. Like my youngest sister. She was only six months old when we moved to Bolivia and we had been in Spain before that. So, it's not blood-family but I call them my family because I've got some of my best friends in Bolivia. And they are the ones who influenced me in many ways, spiritually. So, that's why I thank them.

I guess you're speaking Spanish. Is that something you're gonna put into your music too? I mean, in those countries there are many people who like hard music and they would love to hear bands from America or Europe doing a Spanish song on an album. Have you ever considered something like that?

J-Blast: Yeah, we had a short song that was in Spanish. It wasn't rapcore really. It was hardcore. It was called Los Angeles Lloran , The Angels Cry. That wasn't a real good song (laughs). Anyway, we never recorded that. We might be looking into some Spanish stuff because one thing is that there are many people who speak Spanish but don't speak English good. Maybe we'll make something for them too. And on R U Ready there is some Spanish stuff. Some parts. Maybe we'll do a whole song some time.

Have you ever thought about touring around those parts?

J-Blast: We'd love to. It would be awesome. Right now we don't have any contacts. The truth is, when we went to the States last summer we had a couple of gigs real close to Mexico. And there were a lot of Mexicanos, a lot of people speaking Spanish. I was speaking Spanish to them on stage and they were really impressed by that. So, it would be awesome to go there. But we'll see what happens in the future.

Lary: They scream really loud! (laughs)

It seems to be quite weird. A band from Finland and they're speaking Spanish.

J-Blast: It is probably. And another things is....I remember when we went to that part of Texas, I spoke better Spanish than a lot of them kids did. Because it's almost my home tongue. I almost speak it better than Finnish. As good as Finnish. Right now I'm studying Finnish-Spanish translation at the university in Finland. So, a lot of them were surprised but, hey, no one knows that we are from Finland. Music is a universal language. So, we can do it in any language. We can. From Swedish to Spanish, to English, to Finnish, to whatever.

To Russian.

To Russian? (laughs)

The drummer is not here but this is something I was also wondering about: In the booklet I read that he's called sir Roki. Does that have some sort of funny background?

Lary: Even Roki isn't his real name, because, he's a funny guy and he's got a lot of nicknames. Sir Roki....we added 'sir' because it was my idea....I don't know. I guess he's so....dignified! (laughs)

J-Blast (laughing): He's not really dignified so we try to make him sound more dignified!

At one point you joined Bullroser Records. How did that happen?

J-Blast: We are all from Jyväskylä, the same town where Bullroser and the whole Little Rose Productions thing is situated. Originally. And we knew the guys and they were the first ones to hear us. And it happened naturally. They liked us. And they thought "this is a good hardcore band, we would like to sign them". And we were happy with that deal and made it.

Last year the label president for that company Bullroser Records, Manu Lehtinen, went through severe personal problems. So, he couldn't promote Bullroser very well. How do you feel about you're deal right now? Are you happy with it?

J-Blast: Actually, no, not really. The thing is, like you said, there were lots and lots of personal problems. Lots of problems with the whole company itself. Right at the time when we were about to release our album, the company splitted. And there was stuff like that going on. So that kinda hurt our album sales, in a way. It's not only that we're not happy with it. But Manu as well as we, understands that it can't go on. Right now we're trying to look for another deal. And Manu is helping us really much in that also.

Lary: Right now our manager Juha is doing most of the work, like trying to sell our albums and promoting us to different countries. He has taken the responsibility of selling our album. That's a good thing 'cause he's good at it.

I read on your website that you're also looking for a license-deal in the US. How is that going?

J-Blast: Actually, right now, we're just about to sign a license-deal with Rustproof Records. For almost half a year though. They are ready to release our R U Ready album. We haven't signed it as for now. But we hope to see that happen pretty soon. And we'll see what happens from there.

On the website I read about the American tour with the band Pillar that we talked about earlier. As Jacks Of All Trades is quite a new band from Finland, a country that seems to be like a corner far away in the world, how was it to tour in the US? How was that experience and how did they look at you as you're from Finland.

J-Blast: First of all, I've got a funny story to tell you about when we went to the States. I think it was the first show that we did at a festival. And we said to people that we're from Finland. And somebody came to me after the concert and said: "Yeah, I kinda know where Finland is." And I was like "really?" And he said "yeah, I do. Isn't that somewhere in California?" "No, not quite. Not in California but in North Europe." A lot of people didn't know where Finland is and they didn't know us. And it happened that we sent one of our albums to HM Magazine in the US and they released one of our songs together with one of Pillar's songs on one of their CD's they do every two months. Our song was on it and their (Pillar's) song was on it, and we heard each other and we kinda got in contact. Our manager did all that. We didn't even know about it till we got in the airplane (laughs). And that's how it happened. They worked it out. We had a couple of festivals that we did in the States and we got together with Pillar to do the shows in between.

And how did the American public respond to the band?

J-Blast: They responded good. There were times when they said: "I can't understand a word they're saying but I love it". But, well, that happens in hardcore a lot even if you're not from Finland. (laughing): Even if you're from the States, because of the screaming! But, a lot of people did like it a lot. And the rapcore thing is very big with POD on the Christian side and Pillar kinda big too. And on the secular side we've got Limp Bizkit, Papa Roach, all those bands coming out. It's a big thing. The kids loved it there and we were happy with it.

Are you going back to the US for a tour this summer?

Lary: Yeah, hopefully. They should be releasing our R U Ready album in May, and we have some plans to tour there next summer. Hopefully two months.

Not bad! And also the big festivals like Cornerstone?

Lary: I don't really know.

J-Blast: We can't say anything, but we'll see what happens. We're working on it right now. Our manager is. So, we'll see what happens.

I have only one question: What are the future plans of the band?

J-Blast: For myself I can say: We're working on some new material. Lary wrote some new songs on his guitar. And we're looking for putting them together. We just have our last EP released with three songs on it. So, we're promoting that right now, now we're here. Still one week to go. Then we're doing some shows in Finland. A lot of it actually. Until this summer we have a tour with Dust Eater Dogs and a band called Jumpin' China from Helsinki. The three of us are going to do a tour across Finland. That's some time in May. And then, maybe, we'll go to the States this summer. That's not totally sure yet but 80%. Then we're going to start on our next album pretty soon too.

Lary: Yeah, hopefully, 'cause I want to sign a good record deal 'cause I really want to do our next full-length album.

J-Blast: And the thing is that we know we've got the skills to do a good album. All we need right now is somebody to believe in us. And we need money and time to make a good album. But on this EP (Liar), you can hear there is some potential in the music. And on R U Ready you can hear that already. When we told people in the States how short time we had, just a couple of weeks, to work on a full-length album, they were so surprised. I say, if we get a good contract there's some very good stuff coming up.

As I understand it, the EP Liar is a stepping-stone to go further, to get a deal?

J-Blast: Yeah, that is kind of a card that we're giving out to record companies, radio stations and who ever holds the power. And we'll see what happens. It's in God's hands right now. We can only wait and see.

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