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Music & clubs

Five questions for… Leningrad Cowboys’ Sakke Järvenpää

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Undying Finnish alcoholic Elvis obsessives return to SO36 on Fri, Dec 9. Leader Järvenpää explained in Oct 2009.

Image for Five questions for... Leningrad Cowboys' Sakke Järvenpää
Photo by Dirk Behlau

Undying Finnish alcoholic Elvis obsessives return to SO36 on Fri, Dec. 9. Leader Sakke Järvenpää explained in Oct. 2009.

The merging and transformation of several Finnish acts into a pompadoured Siberian juggernaut for Aki Kaurismäki’s film Leningrad Cowboys Go America (in which they went West, just like the Marx Brothers) has led to one of rock’n’roll’s most durable set of eccentrics.

Another film followed (they found religion, sort of), they appeared on MTV with a 70-piece Russian ensemble in 1994, and a Viking’s funeral-worth of members have come and gone. But rock’n‘roll, we should add, is here to stay, and as the Cowboys celebrate their twentieth anniversary, they’ll be playing Astra on Monday, October 5. Bandleader Sakke Järvenpää was happy to drink in a few questions.

The Leningrad Cowboys have undergone endless changes in the last two decades. What has been consistent?

Changes are necessary, but obviously the hair and the shoes have been there since the beginning. Heavy drinking is also consistent. Ex-Cowboys are sent to work camp in Siberia, some of them even like it – it’s less work than being part of this group… and the shows have changed from good to great!  

Then what does it take to be a Leningrad Cowboy?

It takes more and less than anybody could ever imagine. At the audition, the person’s wife or girlfriend must be present. And if they look good, you’ll have a chance.  

Hipster-Slav bands such as Gogol Bordello have kept you au courant, but do they also owe you a debt?

All bordellos around the world have kept us au courant and in great debt!

As your shows must. What’s the new one like?

The tractor is still there: that will stay. We have a new set list! Of course, the set includes old favorites, but many new songs also. We will have surfin’, violins, Monty Python, Las Vegas, Mongolian emperors and – this is something we haven’t told anybody yet – there will be a big, live singing lobster onstage! If that’s not entertainment, then nothing is! One must see this! We’ve always had animals onstage and off – not too many fish though. I don’t know how we can fit everything onstage; maybe we have to throw away some band members.

As old commies, how do you feel about Nokia’s Leningrad Cowboy phone? Does it also double as a vodka flask?

Everything doubles as a vodka flask, even mobile phones

Leningrad Cowboys, Dec 9, 20:00 | SO36, Oranienstr. 190, Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Kottbusser Tor

Originally published in October 2009