Finn & The Sharks is a New York roots/rockabilly band which has been playing American music since the late 70s during the great rockabilly revival.
Their current sound is as great and powerful as it was then. Individually the band members have worked with music legends like B.B. King, Dave Edmunds, Sonny Burgess & DJ Fontana, Carl Perkins, Albert Collins, Bo Diddley and many more!
Billy Roues the lead guitar player and vocalist agreed to answer a few
questions for Really Rockabilly website.
RR: Hi Billy!
Thank you for chatting to us. Please tell a bit about the band memberís
music background and who influenced you the most.
BR: Hi Anya! Thanks for asking me to do this interview.
The guys in the band are all incredible musicians and I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to play with them as a band again. Jimmy is one of the finest vocalists Iíve ever heard, let alone played with. He is an exceptional musician and songwriter as well. I think he has perfect pitch or very close to it. Jimmy and I ran into each other in a record shop Ö both of us scouring the shelves for old rockabilly recordings. Thatís when we decided to hang out and ultimately form a band doing the rockabilly music that we fell in love with.
We started out doing a lot of 50ís covers and few originals. It was a four piece acoustic band with my electric guitar being the only amplified instrument. I guess you can check our set lists for the people who influenced us but I think the list would be very long. First of all, we were probably turned onto Rockabilly in the first place by The Beatles so you canít discount their influence, especially because we are all prolific songwriters and the Beatles were nothing, if not great songwriters. At the time that we started we covered everybody from Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Little Richard, Elvis, Gene Vincent, Johnny Burnette, Carl Perkins, Eddie Cochrane and Roy Orbison to Dale Hawkins, Sonny Burgess, Jerry Lee Lewis and Billy Lee Riley. (This is why I hate these lists Ö I know Iím leaving at least a dozen names off it).
We all grew up loving the blues. Muddy Waters, Howliní Wolf, Little Walter Ö all the Chess and early Sun artists. My brother can play just about every Sonny Boy Williamson harp part, note for note and I picked up on the late Robert Jr. Lockwoodís licks on those same recordings. Ya know, if I had to try to keep it short and sweet Iíd just say we love all kinds of American roots music Blues, Old time country and bluegrass, jazz and RockíníRoll. But then, I love the music of Django Reinhardt. Heís my all-time fave guitar player.
I hate to hint at how old we are but when youíve been listening to music since you were a kid and youíre still playing, writing, recording and loving music 40 years later then the list of people who influenced you has got to be mighty long. I remember Ricky Nelson on the Ozzie & Harriet Show and my mom used to always have American Bandstand on the TV.
RR: Maybe it's a tricky question. Billy, are you a fan of any modern rockabilly / rock 'n' roll perfomers or bands? Have you been following the changes in rockabilly culture over the past 5-10 years to modern days?
BR: I have been following it. Iím very happy but not surprised that rockabilly, as well as other roots rockiní music has had such an upsurge lately. I am a fan of anything that happens to move me and there are a lot of bands to check out. Myspace has been an incredible tool for getting to know who is out there and what they sound like. I think Eddie Angel is a great artist. We wrote a song together about 10 years ago in Nashville when he was playing with the Planet Rockers and I hope to record it one day. Itís nice to see Bill Kirchin having some new success with his Hammer of the Honky Tonk Gods. Once again, Iíd be leaving someone off if I started listing names.
Thereís a big rockabilly scene happening on the West Coast (USA) and a lot of great bands emerging. Iíd like to think we have something uniquely our own in the way we interpret the various roots that have shaped us over the years to offer. My favorite bands have always been the ones who re-interpret what came before to create a hybrid sound of their own. Elvis, Scotty and Bill did it at Sun Records, The Beatles and Stones took the 50ís blues and rockabilly and gave it a new energy, Rockpile, The Blasters, Los Lobos, in the 70ís, 80ís and 90ís. One thing I noticed about the modern rockabilly/roots rock scene is thereís a mix of older and younger artists together. I think thatís a real good thing. Good music doesnít have a gender or age or nationality. It comes from the heart and soul and it can be shared by all. Another thing Iíve noticed is that more people have heard of rockabilly than ever before.
Yes, Anya, this is a tricky question.
RR: As Individuals you played with many great music heroes of our time. How do opportunities like these come your way?
BR: Thatís a good question. Just lucky, I guess. I can tell you this; those experiences were some of the most rewarding moments in my entire life. To write a song with Lonnie Mack!?! To have Dan Penn sing a song you wrote with him and have Spooner Oldham play organ and piano on the recording?! Opening for Howliní Wolf and having him dedicate a song to you in his set?! Backing up Bo Diddley on stage, not once, but twice!! Jimmy recorded with him. I donít know exactly how these things happen. I know that they are rarely planned; they just seem to occur in the music world when youíre out there playing. Most of the more famous artists are incredibly generous people. Once they know you can play and you know their music they just want to do the music and have some fun.
RR: Finn & the Sharks is a very new name in Europe. You have a few
followers here, but it's mainly in your homeland United States where you have gained popularity and big fan base. Have you played any gigs on the Continent?
BR: Not as Finn & the Sharks but Muddy and I played in a jump blues band called The Bluesjumpers. We played in Italy and also at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland where we got to jam with B. B. King for 40 minutes in front of 4000 people. I have a DVD of this and itís one of those events, like I mentioned in the previous question, I will never forget.
RR: You re-united in 2004 and already released three albums. Can you tell
us if it's all new material, re-issues or never been available before tracks?
BR: Well, our press release for ĎShark Therapyí explains what that one is about. We had over 40 studio recordings in the can and decided to release an albumís worth for our fans when we got back together. We were going to put out another CD of old recordings but the band felt it was crazy not to do something current since we have all these new songs. We are constantly writing and re-writing. I think we are happiest when we are creating music, rehearsing and arranging and trying new things. We had released a 4 song EP in the early 80ís and a two song single in 1985. 2 or three songs were in movie and television soundtracks in the 90ís. Itís really only 2 albums because ĎSneak Previewí is a 4 song EP preview of ĎBuilt To Lastí. Built To Last is all new recordings that we did over the last year and a half.
RR: Your latest album 'Built To Last' is an absolute gem. I think the first day I heard it I played it 5 times in the row. The only word is beautiful! I would recommend this album to real music fans, you won't be disappointed. Did you carry the plans to record the album for many years, or did 'the Sharks' write it after coming back together in 2004?
BR: Thanks so much for your kind words. We have been getting enthusiastic reviews for this album all over the world. To tell the truth, I never thought weíd ever record another thing with Finn & the Sharks before 2005. I was actually very grateful to have Shark Therapy get released. The band was so into recording again that it just gushed out of us like a tidal wave. All of us canít wait to get back in the studio and record some new things. The hardest part for us is that when we play we never get to do all the songs we want to do. Even of the new ones! I guess thatís a great problem to have.
On Rockabilly Bash we have two MP3s by 'Finn & The Sharks',
'Rip Roarin' Ready' from the 'Built To Last' album and 'Rhythm 'n' Ruin', which was recorded in 1983 and hasn't been released yet!