Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The story of the Demars

This is an article for some US based indie zine - I forget the name, but it's the one Anthony Rettman publishes. The Demars is the band my kid brother Matias and our cousin Juho had 1995-1997. They recorded over 450 songs on C-cassettes - I call the music kiddies' hardcore. There's a 7" out from Lal Lal Lal called Blood Stains: The Best of the Demars (2004).

Masters of kiddies' hardcore
The Demars from Finland

The Demars is a loud fuck-off at your face. It’s a Finnish punk/hardcore/whatever band with only two guys in it, and the guys are only something between ten and fourteen.
Demars is also breath-takingly naive and absurd. The lyrics don’t make any sense or if they do, then there’s no logic in the world. Maybe there’s none, because they sing in their hit tune Pallomainen vittu/Ball-shaped Cunt: “Ball-shaped cunt / flies in your ass / ball-shaped cunt / you don’t understand / what’s flying / ball-shaped cunt / it visits your pants”. Get it? I don’t, but it’s funny as hell.

The story of The Demars begins at my father’s home. Matias, the guitarist-drummer of the band, is my kid brother from our father’s second marriage. I used to visit them a lot and we used to hang around from the time when Matias was just a kid.
He was a bit of a weirdo, drew strange pictures of strange cultures he’d invented himself and made weird home videos with a crap video camera.
We started playing our own songs when he was about five or six (that’s something like 1985 or -86). We taped the songs on C-cassettes. Sometimes our little sister Essi joined the sessions. I remember one in which I shouted “Back in the sixties!” and drummed the empty yoghurt can, with Essi or Matias playing the harmonica.
For some reason, our father had amassed lots of toy instruments, many of them pretty old, which we used in our sessions. Some of them were broken or at least not in good shape. At one point we decided to put up a band. That’s maybe too much said, because I remember that we just started playing. We used an old National Panasonic cassette player and at the start of the cassette I declared: “Ladies and gentlemen, now The National Panasonic Boys!” We taped three songs at our first session: Bylsimme sinut, Raju meininki päällä and one whose title I can’t recall. (The first one was a mistake: the title means “We fuck you”, but I didn’t know that at the time. I was only 14 or so. The second one means something like “The going gets tough”. It was about earthquakes and car crashes, sung with a fervor of a seven year old.)
The National Panasonic Boys lasted up to 1990. We taped some fifty or sixty songs, all improvised and played with a different set of instruments every time. The hit song was Robottien kosto/Revenge of the Robots, our only venture into electronica. Matias played the old toy organ (great sound! too bad the organ has since disappeared) and I played the plastic toy drum with an intensive beat.
It’s altogether possible that someone will issue the lost tapes of The National Panasonic Boys.
But that’s only the beginning. I moved out of our hometown, Pori, in 1990 and the band “split”. Matias was ten at the time. In 1993 or 1994 I came to visit Pori and Matias played me a cassette. He had formed a band called Pyro with a drummer friend of his. Matias had acquired an electronic guitar and played quite well for a self-educated punk man. The songs were pretty good, Ramones/Offspring-influenced punk pop. Pyro recorded some thirty songs and Matias’s capabilities as a songwriter got better with the time.
The spin-off from the whole game was a different issue altogether. We have a cousin called Juho, who is born in the mid-eighties, and he was eight when they made their first tape together in 1994. I gather the tape is lost, since I’ve never heard any of it. It’s rumoured to be acoustic and it was made in Forssa, where our uncle lives with his family. The band’s name might’ve been The Communists.
Juho visited Matias in 1995 in Pori and now they had Matias’s electronic guitar and some other instruments. They recorded the real first Demars session at the eighth store of a ten-story building. It’s amazing that no one ever complained.
The first Demars session is still one of the best to me. It includes some real classics like Maitoa mä juon/I Drink Milk, Laula/Sing a Song and Vanhan mummon kehtolaulu/Lullaby of an Old Granny. The songs are very, very crude, but they were like a breath of fresh air at the time: funny, absurd, at-your-face, irreverent and naive at the same time.
And the lyrics.. they are great. “Sing a song / and go fuck yourself / I can’t listen to you / if you won’t sing”. Say what?
There’s sure something of a punk attitude in the lyrics, but at times there’s not enough kick in it. Jälki-istunto/Detention tells about staying after school: “I got detention / it was a tough break / I got detention / I couldn’t get out / for another ten hours”. Hey, this is eight-year old singing!

Technics

The technology behind the Demars is astonishing. Now, Matias had his cheap guitar and a small Gorilla amplifier our dad had bought for 50 marks (8-9 dollars at the time). He also had a small drum pad you had to tap with your fingers. The songs were all improvised. Matias played the guitar and drums and Juho sang. They just decided the title of the song and started playing. I don’t believe any of the Demars songs have been composed beforehand (unless some of the last ones, which are quite sophisticated compared to the earlier ones). Matias said later that the worse the songs sounded live, the better they sounded afterwards.
Of course not all the Demars songs are good. There are some real clunkers, forgettable laugh-offs, but then there are some real gems, including Ball-shaped Cunt mentioned above. It’s fast and catchy. Even my wife likes it and she’s not into this kind of music at all. Well, to be honest, some of our friends have asked the music to be shut down.
The songs were all recorded with an eighties cassette player. So, you were supposed to have only one track. For some reason, though, you were able to record in two tracks with it. First they recorded the song with guitar and vocals, then Matias rewinded the tape and recorded the drums over it. It worked to everyone’s surprise.
One thing about the recording technology: many of the Demars sessions were recorded on game C-cassettes our father had bought somewhere. They were all the same Batman game.

Lyrics

The lyrics are part of the game. You don’t always hear what Juho is singing about. But when you can make the lyrics out, you’ll be delighted. In Veriläiskiä/Blood Stains Juho sings something like this: “Veriläiskiä / joka puolella / veriläiskiä on lakupekan päässä”, which translates as “Blood stains / all over/ blood stains / are on the licorice guy’s head”. I burst out laughing every time I think of that. Elina, my wife, said that they must’ve been eating licorice candies when they were recording the song.
Then there’s one song which strikes me as an example of pure genius. I don’t know what’s actually happening, but all of a sudden Matias starts singing too, something totally different from what Juho is screaming. Their voices couldn’t differ more – Juho screams at high pitch, Matias has a low baritone. The contrast is great and makes up a great song, which unfortunately isn’t on the Veriläiskiä EP. I can’t remember the title.
What does Demars mean? “Demari” is a Finnish word used to describe the socialdemocrats who are the biggest party in Finland – they are left from the American democrats, but very far from the extreme left and communists. There’s no word “demar”, which should be the English equivalent, but who cares?
Demars made some political songs about socialdemocrats and they are not nice. To be frank, I never understood the political agenda behind the Demars, but clearly there’s none.
Unless one counts the song which is one of the first, called Heap of Dung. Juho sings or screams: “Fucking huge / heap of dung / it’s cows who make them / and commies who smell them”.

Fast boys

The cassettes kept on coming. The boys were fast. They had appr. 4,3 “albums” every year, totalling in thirteen.
The songs got better and better, including the one session where I was in. I played the organ in two songs, called Utsjoki yllätti/Utsjoki Has a Surprise and Roihuat/You Are in Flames. Utsjoki is a small town in the Finnish Lappi, but that’s all I know of what the songs are about. I can’t make out anything of what Juho sings, even though I was present at the time. That’s also me who kicks the Lal Lal Lal issue going with the shout “Yy kaa koo”. It’s Finnish and means simply “one, two, three”.
The two songs are what turned Lal Lal Lal’s Roope Eronen to put out the Demars 7”. We had a party couple of years back and after midnight I started playing some songs at the downstairs disco we had (it was actually our study). It was either Utsjoki yllätti or Roihuat playing when Roope’s eyes began to shine and he asked: “What is this?”
One of the best Demars songs is Vehkeilijä/Con Man. It starts with the gripping, almost funky riff. The lyrics are again crop of the cream: “Con man / lived in Fuck Alley 6 / but he will come back”.
Some of the Demars sessions were what you might call concept albums. Muna-albumi was one of those. In it all songs had the word “muna” in them. It means “egg” in English, although I believe the boys had something else in mind, since it also means “dick” or “cock”. There are songs like Salimuna/Gym Egg, Pimppimuna/Pussy Egg, Lohimuna/Salmon Egg, Plektramuna/Plectra Egg... The buys must’ve invented these titles as they go.
The boys also had something of media critique in mind. There’s a great song called Helsingin Sanomat in which there’s a brooding slow death metal riff and Juho repeating in a very low voice the words “Helsingin Sanomat” over and over again. Helsingin Sanomat is the biggest newspaper in Finland, so you could gather Matias and Juho had something nasty to say about them.
Well, then maybe not. Who can tell with these guys?
Some of the later songs were not all so crude. For example Siementerska/Semen Glans Penis is almost psychedelic, in the manner of Syd Barrett’s solo work, with carefully recorded two guitars. The boys also could slow down: Vanhan ajan panolaulu/The Good Old Fuck Song is a nice and clean acoustic folk song. There’s funny discrepancy between the titles and the feel of the songs.

Electronic department

Demars also made three electronic masterpieces. The best of them is clearly Lada of which Kompleksi of the pHinnWeb fame (www.phinnweb.org/kompleksi) may do a cover song at one point. It’s a rollicking and very light pop piece about Lada, the Soviet car that our father used to drive. “Jos ajetaan ja ajetaan / pitää olla Lada”, improvises Juho (“If you drive and drive / you gotta have Lada”). The tunes are made with an old plastic organ.
The other two electro tunes are Munakenno/Egg Cell, in which Juho doesn’t clearly know what “munakenno” is and he seems to think that it’s someone’s name, and Leonardo which is again a great tune, slowly and stomach-grindingly swinging song about someone called Leonardo. I don’t know what’s it about. At one point Juho sings: “Leonardo antaa meille läksynsä”, meaning “Leonardo gives us his homework”. Great verse there, huh?

Catalogue of over 400 songs

As it always happens, the drive behind Demars started to fade out as the millennium drew close. Their last “album” Isänmaan parturit/The Barbers of Fatherland came out in 1997. Matias has had another bands going and Juho has since learned to play – his instrument is guitar.
The bands Matias has been in have been great. One of them was called Tha Aslak and they had a great tune called Hornaan sun tiesi vie/Your Road Will Lead to Hell, which mixes tango, ska and death metal in one astonishing tune. Matias had also Pornolääkäri/Porno Doctor which plays one instrumental tune hours on end and some other bands with equally great names.
Demars are nevertheless a great band which deserves to be known better. The Lal Lal Lal 7” isn’t enough. Demars recorded over 450 songs and you should hear them all.
In 2002 Matias made a CD-R with 110 Demars songs. It has had a very limited distribution, but maybe someday it will be issued for a larger audience.

The Demars discography (all C-cassettes)

The Demars, 1995
Väsyneitä juttuja/Tired Stuff, 1995
Natsisika/Nazi Pig, 1995
Pervot sosiaalidemokraatit/Perverted Socialdemocrats, 1995 or 1996
Demarit aikuistumassa/Demars Growing Up, 1996
Unplugged, 1996 or 1997
Demarivaltio/Demars State, 1997
Muna-albumi/The Egg Album, 1997
Vitunkatu 6/Fuck Street 6, 1997
Vitu riskaabeli/Fuk’n Dangerous, 1997
Leonardo, 1997
Isänmaan parturit/The Barbers of Fatherland, 1997

5 comments:

going said...

very interesting post!
i really like the demars and purchase the 7" several years ago, everyone i make listen to it become an instant fan, it is quite fantastic how much they happen to create something so rough and yet so perfect.

i was looking ofr the CDR you mention but couldn't get an hand on it
if you have any leads please get back to me
i am very interested
such a good band

your article is great

adrien

Juri said...

Hey, Adrien, nice to hear about you and thanks for your comments. The CD-R wasn't for public distribution, but I'll ask my brother about it. I'll try to get in touch with you.

Anders E said...

I'd wish you had provided some downloads.

Anyway, DIY bedroom recordings are something I hold quite dear. Done'em myself, from 1973 and for some years onwards. But also because one of the most baffling acts in history of recorded music was a Swedish act somewhat like this. In 1971, Philemon Arthur & The Dung released their first (and only) LP. It consisted of stuff recorded at home over several years.

Here's an example. Arguably the best hangover song ever.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOHI8GPaHHQ

But it gets better. Said LP earned a Swedish Grammy in 1972. Yep, it really happened somehow. But it gets even better... Because an amateurish racket such as this could win a Grammy, all major Swedish record pulled out and the award was in hibernation for 15 years until 1987.

Here's another of their classics:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hRUPBiMt9eo

Juri said...

You're right, Anders, but there haven't been any digital versions to download. (Don't know how to make them myself.)

But here's one in YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQZrLEZdO0o

Juri said...

Compared to The Demars, Filemon Arthur sound pretty sophisticated!