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The FINKS Interview

  • WHAT WAVE's Dave O'Halloran plays Q&A with Pete Fink for MISTY LANE magazine (2005)

    1. When did the Finks start?

    Well, I first met Tony Stafford and Chris Stafford back in late 1981, when I was playing in a mod powerpop/waveabilly trio named Redline. We played a house party gig with their punk band Pack O' 3's, which later mutated into 10,000 Screaming Apaches. Both bands kept a friendly rivalry for the next couple of years.

    After spending the mid-80's touring the country in various forgettable bands, I came back to London in early 1986 and was amazed at the degree to which the London music scene had matured along with the rise of The Key West Cafe. I decided to stick it out in the city for awhile, and locked myself away for the summer with a 4-track recorder. At the end of September, I decided to resurrect Redline and took my demo to CHRW-FM for an on-air interview with Skye.

    Later that night at The Key West, Roze White from Ukase offered me an opening slot for her next show, which was in two weeks' time. Of course, it being the weekend and all, I couldn't get a musicians wanted ad into the classifieds until the next Tuesday, by which time I'd already set up a warmup show for the night before the Ukase gig, this one at The Polish Hall with '63 Monroe and The Crawlin' Kingsnakes. This left 9 days to pull it together.

    When the ad was finally published, Tony was the first one to answer. He told me that he had just bought himself a Rickenbacker. I immediately offered him a spot in the band. We went for beers to celebrate, and as fate would have it, The Legend Killers were playing that night. Their drummer Billy Wallace was at his pummeling best, and so we grabbed a napkin and wrote a note to the Killers asking if Billy could come out and play.

    Tony brought Chris out to the next rehearsal, and Chris wisecracked "what a bunch of finks we are", because one of Tony's songs, "Good" had a bit of a T.Rex-like riff to it.
    And that's the start of The Finks.

    2. What is the original lineup of the band?

    Well, I guess that depends on where you you want to define it.
    Chris quit in a huff after our last rehearsal before the Polish Hall gig.
    So we played that show as a 3-piece.
    The next night was our "official" debut, with Ukase at The Key West.
    While waiting for Billy to show up for soundcheck, we got a call saying that he'd cracked his ribs and couldn't play that night.
    '63 Monroe's Steven R. Stunning was bartending, and suggested that we try calling Rooster (Jeff Rooth), '63 Monroe's drummer.
    Rooster fit like a glove, and we were a smash that night, and so for the next 5 months, it was Tony, Rooster, and me.

    3. Can you go through all of the lineup changes, ie various drummers etc...

    Well, ultimately The Finks are built around myself (Pete Gripp - vocals, bass) and Tony Stafford (vocals, lead guitar). Chris Stafford (rhythm guitar) was in, out, back in, back out,... too many times to count.

    The Finks Drummers (in order of appearance):
    Billy Wallace (The Legend Killers, Conning Tower, Crash 80's)
    Jeff "Rooster" Rooth ('63 Monroe)
    Douggie Burton (Tommy James and The Shondels)
    Marcy Saddy (B-Girls)
    Wayne Fischer (Napalm Babys, Condo Christ)
    Neil Docksteader (reunion show 2005) (The Order, Osterberg, China Creeps)

    I moved to Vancouver in 1990, and put together a new Finks, that lasted until mid-1992.
    This lineup was:
    Pete Gripp - vocals, bass
    Danny Johnson - lead guitar
    James Junger (Bob's Your Uncle) - rhythm guitar, vocals
    Brien O'Brien(Curious George, D.O.A., Real McKenzies) - drums, vocals

    4. Is it true that the Finks played the Cedar Lounge?

    Yes and no.
    The Finks as a band never played the Cedar Lounge.
    I played there in 1976 with a hardrock band "Storm" when The Cedar Lounge was still known as The Blue Boot.
    As for the other Finks, well, you probably know better than I do.

    5. Where all did the band play? What gigs did you do out of town? Any tours?

    The fact that we never really had a drummer to call our own made it impossible to play out of town.

    6. How did the record come about?

    After Marcy joined in early 1987 we finally decided to record 3 songs for a possible 7-inch release.

    Armed with a magickal potion which consisted of Southern Comfort mixed with root beer, and beer chasers, we got into a groove and managed to lay down bedtracks for 12 songs, live off the floor. A week later, we started recording vocals, but internal politics and sudden drama surged to the forefront.

    The Finks imploded before the album could be completed. Tony and I sat down over beers to divvy up the tracks, each of us keeping six songs. I added some backing vocals, and released the 7-inch on Paul Wooten's Polycan label.

    And then The Finks reformed, with Wayne Fischer on drums.

    7. Did you approach any labels for interest in the record?

    No. I was very much into the DIY thang at the time. I did, however, later use ROIR as a template to put out The Finks EP "BOOM!" as a cassette-only release.

    8.Can you go into the story with your record on the battle of the bands on CKSL radio?

    CKSL-AM1410 was a local Top 40 station. At the time, there was a nightly segment from 7-9 pm, where they would preview the week's new releases from major label acts in a champion vs. challenger format, in order to decide which songs to place into their rotation. Listeners would call in and vote for their favourite, with the record that got the most votes getting played again at the top of the next hour vs. the next "challenger".

    We had sent copies to every radio station in the region, with "Can't Say No" as the A-side for college/independent stations, and "Now" was the A-side for commercial radio. We didn't expect to get any airplay on CKSL or any other Top 40-ish station, since a conversation with the music director from CFPL-FM96 had let us know in very clear terms that there would be no airplay for a record that had no distribution/support from a major label.

    So you can imagine my surprise when one evening, a friend phoned me and said that "Now" was being played at that moment on CKSL. It took me a little while to figure out where the AM selector on my tuner was, but I got it figured out just in time to hear the last few bars of "Now" fading out. Then the DJ came on-air to say That The Finks were the challenger, up against current champions Go West, and that the voting had started. No mention that we were local.... hmmm.

    I called Tony to let him know what was happening, and we figured that that was the last we'd hear about it, and had a good laugh about it all.

    And then, just before the top of the hour, I got a call from CKSL's DJ, who let me know that The Finks had won in a landslide, and would I mind going on-air with our next play, to do a live thankyou/station promo? Well, I wasn't going to refuse an opportunity to plug the band. For the next three weeks, "Now" was the undisputed champion of that time slot, kicking ass against the latest hits by Motley Crue, Allison Moyet, Warren Zevon, Simply Red, Poison, Eric Clapton, and more.

    It was all so delightfully absurd.

    9. How well did the record sell?

    We had good sales at our shows, but as far as retail goes, our only options were the independent stores. We couldn't get the record into any major retailers as an independent act.

    10. How was the crowd reaction in London?

    I tell you, it was Finks-mania out there. For weeks, there'd be anywhere from 5-12 girls hanging out outside the pizzeria where I worked as a driver, and they'd all be singing "Now" to me as I'd come and go with my deliveries. CKSL kept giving us live on-air promo spots, and our shows were packed like sardines. Radio-folks had conversations with us, saying that if we'd have been in Toronto, or New York, or anywhere except the black hole of London, Ontario, we'd have been international sensations.

    11. Did you release anything else besides the single? On any compilations?

    The single was the only release while the original band, meaning with Tony, was still together. A 6-song EP, "Boom!" was released on cassette in early 1990 to pave the way for my relocating to Vancouver.

    Our reunion show in June 2005 gave us a chance to compile the old recordings, together with some rough mixes and a live session from 1987. We're planning to get that out as a retrospective.

    12. When did the Finks break up and why?

    Well, apart from Chris and his comings and goings, The Finks broke up twice. The first time was while we were recording for the single in May 1987, when there was a sudden shift in the band's dynamic. That was patched up once the record got pressed, and we were playing live again in time for the release party (with Wayne Fischer on drums).

    As for the final breakup in early 1988, I guess you could blame it on "artistic differences" magnified by the frustrations of trying to make a go of it out of London.

    13. What other bands did the Finks open for/play with?

    We played most of our shows with The Crawlin' Kingsnakes and/or Ukase, since these bands also stood apart from the mid-80's London punk scene. We also played with '63 Monroe a few times, Zen Bones, Dyoxen, The Black Donellys, Fear of Dogma, Flying Squad... and more!

    14. What bands were you in before the Finks?

    My first "real" band, Storm, 1975-79, hosted the first live appearance by punk rock legends The Demics at The Ridout Tavern in earlt 1977.
    Redline 1981-83 (mentioned above).
    Jane Doe (Toronto) 1983-84
    The Web (Montreal) 1985

    15. What bands have you been in since the Finks?

    Ah yes, The Vancouver Years:
    Dose Pump 1990
    The Finks*(see above) 1990-92
    Daytona 1992
    The Humptulips 1993-95
    Waltz Darling 1995
    Fishburger 1995-96
    The Lickitysplits 1998
    The Immortal Baebes (Mediaeval Baebes with electric instrumentation) 2002
    The Dropouts 2006
    The Fiends 1998-2007

    Hopefully that's more than enough questions. Played a Finks and a Fiends tune on
    last weeks radio show. Speed City Mike played a Fiends song on the radio the week before...