Can Can Heads is a long running experimental punk group from Kauhajoki, Finland that has been around for more than twenty years. Instead of copying current trends and hypes they do their own thing in an uncompromising and radical way. Janne Mäki-Turja (drums) answered my questions.
What’s the origin of your name? What does it represent?
There's a town called Kankaanpää some 81 km from Kauhajoki (CCH's HQ city) where Raine used to go to art school in the 90's. Our name is a kind of wordplay that our original bassist Harri came up with. You know, Kan Kaan Pää… "pää" meaning head, or the end of something; literally Kankaapää means "the end of fabric", so: Can Can Heads.
You’re active since 1993. What’s the difference between playing in a punk band in 1993 and 2014 and what’s the difference concerning the whole punk scene?
I see no huge difference. Of course nowadays it's easier to get your music across, but at the same time it's harder to get your music really HEARD, with hundreds of bands struggling for attention. Can Can Heads has always avoided media attention. This has not been a conscious decision, but an unavoidable result of playing the kind of music that we play.
When people ask you about what kind of music you play, what do you say? How do you explain it?
I used to say it's kinda close to punk but with some jazz and experimental influences, but nowadays I just say "Ramones meets Albert Ayler". Arttu Tolonen came up with a good one too: "violent music with a gentle heart". That’s pretty accurate, because, although at times our music can be quite depressing or heavy on the ears, we try to maintain a certain level of joyfulness in it.
After being in a band since more than 20 years, is it hard to write new material?
No, on the contrary. Let's say we are practising for a gig. Now, any sane band would just play the setlist and be content with it, but for us it's always hard to get to the bottom of the planned setlist because we usually end up "jamming" with new riffs and rhythms that spring to our minds during or between songs. It seems we always have lots of new songs we need to arrange.
Why are your live shows so rare? Have you plans for touring outside Finland?
We have families, work, other activities and 3/5 of the band live far away in Helsinki, so it's usually a pain the ass to arrange dates that could fit everyone's schedule. Also, it' not a secret that audiences for this kind of music in Finland are not exactly plentiful. We've been talking about playing UK next fall, but nothing's confirmed yet.
Are there any bands you identify with?
Of course I identify with any band that struggles to get heard, doing their own thing. There are way too bands to mention, really, but let me just mention a few bands that I myself indentify really strongly with: This Heat, pre-major label Butthole Surfers, Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, Run On, The Dead C., Laddio Bolocko, Contortions, Dog Faced Hermans, Stretchheads … You know I could go on for days. Maybe I left out some of the more obvious ones. The other Janne in our band told me to say that he's really into Flipper.
Your band’s front man Mikko doesn’t sing for most oft he time...
He's too busy dancing his ass off! I guess many of our songs are so filled with stuff that there’s no room for singing. I'd like to hear more singing but for a band who usually practises as a duo (gtr & drums) because other members live in Helsinki, its difficult to arrange.
Do you play in other bands or are you involved in any other „scene activities“?
Well, right at the moment at the moment Tomi plays with Weepikes, who reactivated a couple years back. They used to be on Bad Vugum, too. Janne M has Mohel and Gunk and he also co-runs the Verdura record label. He and Mikko have also been involved in various theatre/performance art things. Raine runs the Kissankusi label and organizes jazz-related gigs. I've been publishing Mutiny!, a marginal music fanzine since 1987. Me and Raine also used to be the rhythm section of semilegendary hardcore band Valse Triste during most of the 90's and 00's, but we quit a few years back.
Why did it take so long until you’ve put out your first vinyl album?
Supply vs. demand? Maybe Raine, the guardian of our enormous tape archive wants to shine some light on this? Oh, he doesn’t. I guess the position of the stars was right, to put it simply.
Mohel, Taco Bells, Black Motor, Horst Quartet, Räjäyttäjät, Kylmä Sota, Selfish, Perikato, Backlash, Hero Dishonest, Radiopuhelimet, Sur-Rur, Moderni Elämä, Spoonshiners, Fate vs. Free Willy, Maailmanloppu, Pekko Käppi, Sokea Piste, Silent Scream, Aortaorta, Troutmen, Vene, Throat, Hebosagil, Cosmo Jones Beat Machine, Melmac, Pöllöt, Have You Seen The Jane Fonda Aerobic VHS?, Death By Snoo-Snoo, Muscle Kings Of Mexico, Hopeajärvi, Tii Nakujalka, Panssarijuna... You want me to go on?
What do you prefer: Poko Records or Propaganda Records? (Classic Finnish punk or hardcore?)
Wow, that's a hard question. Both label started great, with essential records in punk/hardcore categories, but then something happened. Propaganda started their shady deals with Rock-O-Rama, the white power label, and generally began treating their bands like shit. I'm sure Poko was more fair in their business practises, but then again, they released a lot of Suomi-rock garbage with an unforgettable line of horrible cover art. In the end, I'd choose Poko cos they released Ääretön Joulu EP by Terveet Kädet, the best FInnish hardcore piece of wax ever, and they took the risk of releasing albums by Sielun Veljet, a brave choice if there ever was one.
What’s next for the band?
More gigs, more records, more insane amounts of Vita Nova. And more silence from the Finnish media.