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In my personal opinion (and I know I'm not alone) Ratsia, originally formed in 1977, is the best band ever to come out of Finland. Ratsia was preceded by a band called Oplanora, and in summer 1977 Ratsia was born, consisting of Jyri Honkavaara: vocals & guitar, Pasi Kuusjärvi: drums and Seppo Hämäläinen: bass. They were mostly playing Stooges and Ramones songs, but soon they started writing songs of their own, sung in English. The language was then switched to Finnish and they recorded a demo, and sent it to Poko Rekords. The demo failed to land them a recording deal, and the band broke up in spring 1978. In fall Ratsia was reformed, this time Honkavaara was accompanied with Ari Lukkarinen on bass, Juha Aunola on guitar and on drums a guy who wasn't into punk rock. This group played some 1960's style music, but when the drummer was replaced by 14-year-old Pop Korni (aka Jukka Viro), Honkavaara got back on track and started writing songs again, and they recorded a tape called Kloonattu sukupolvi at their rehearsal place. Korni then made copies (90 in total) of the tape. Despite the poor sound quality (to make things worse, the tape I used to listen to before an unofficial CD-R copy became available was a second generation copy) you can really hear the band's potential, and Honkavaara's sense for melody that can be compared to that of Stiff Little Fingers and other similar bands. All of the songs on the tape were later re-recorded (in similar arrangements) and released on either the debut single, debut album or Hilse LP compilation, with the exception of two cover songs, a really furious version of Stiff Little Fingers' Alternative ulster ('Kloonattu sukupolvi') and Virtanen's Rolls Royce. The tape brought them a recording deal with Love Records, but before that a couple of important episodes took place. Korni's religious parents refused to let him play on gigs, so he was replaced by Kuusjärvi, who had played in the band's first lineup. With this lineup Ratsia took part in the Finnish rock championship competition in 1979 and won the new wave category. So they had a recording deal before the win, and now they were given the chance to choose whether they wanted their debut single to be the last one on Love Records or the first one on Johanna. Why be last if you can be first, they thought, so in summer the classic single Lontoon skidit/Kassapäät, produced by Pantse Syrjä, was released. And what a single it was! Ratsia was also featured on Hilse LP with a song from the same session called Ihohygieniaa, a cover version of Breakdown by Buzzcocks, which was originally meant to be the B side of Lontoon skidit single. More followed when the band's self-titled album was released in fall. On it great melodic tunes follow one another. The new version of Lontoon skidit, however, isn't as good as the single version. The songs were written by Honkavaara, with the exception of Aikakone, written and sung by Ari aka Rudi Lukkarinen, and two Stiff Little Fingers and Clash covers. The album was produced by Rubberduck Jones from Pelle Miljoona's band. If you really want to find something to compain about the album, you could say that it sounds too clean.

Year 1980 started with a new single Tämä hetki ja tulevaisuus/Älä näytä että pelkäät, which is top quality, as expected. The B side gives a hint of what Ratsia would later sound like. By that time the band had become perhaps the busiest band in Finland, touring relentlessly. Their live sound was captured on Metropolis triple album, a compilation released in summer 1980. Ratsia's part on the release spanned almost one whole LP. In addition to their own material they played Stooges, Stiff Little Fingers, The Kingsmen and Damned covers. Saippuaa by Rudi was a new original, although not a very good one. New material was released in fall in the form of Täältä tulee yö/Uudet jumalat single, a taste of their next album. The B side is recorded live at Tavastia in January 1980, and the A side is a fast Springsteen-esque love song. For the first time since their debut single the songs sound exactly the way they should. The single, as well as the forthcoming album Elämän syke, was produced by Kari Hipponen of Vaavi. Elämän syke, along with Clash and Pelle Miljoona, has made the most profound impact on my life. Elämän syke and Täynnä elämää are songs that everyone (at least everyone who considers him/herself as a punk) should listen to carefully. The excellent lyrics are supported by majestically catchy music. Of course there are other good songs too (the ones by Honkavaara), but those two go far higher than anything else. This time the whole band had contributed in writing the songs, making the album a bit uneven. Lukkarinen sings two songs of his own and Kuusjärvi sings a song with lyrics written by him, but when a band has a composer and singer like Honkavaara, democracy should not be the way to go.

Soon after the band went through some radical changes. Honkavaara became interested in darker stuff like Joy Division, so the band got a keyboard player as Visa Ruokonen aka Brandi joined in. Lukkarinen didn't like the new sound, so he was replaced by former Xtaasi member Kari Starck. Lukkarinen continued as part of Ratsia's road crew. In spring 1981 the new Ratsia recorded a single Eilisen jälkeen/Hiljaisuus. The A side has almost a sunny feel to it, but the flipside sounds like The Cure at its gloomiest. Eilisen jälkeen was also featured in Mikko Niskanen's film Ajolähtö. Even though the band still played two sets on their gigs, one in the old style and new material in the other, the new style was received badly, and Ratsia's days were numbered. The band broke up in fall 1981, but before that they made an album called Jäljet, consisting of the new songs. It was recorded live, even though it doesn't sound like it. The album showed that Honkavaara mastered the new style as well. The album contains some exceptionally good songs, for example Jäljet and Punainen kyynel. It wasn't released until 1982.

Aunola, Kuusjärvi and Lukkarinen formed Rudi. Honkavaara recorded a solo single Leija/Niele valoa and joined Hefty Load. The last of his bands to have a record out was Killer Poodles. There were other projects after that, but nothing concrete came out of them. One such case was Innerspacemen (also featuring Kari Starck): originally led by Honkavaara, but it wasn't until he was kicked out of the band that they started gigging and getting records out. Honkavaara died in 1997. In addition to Innerspacemen, Starck has played in a few bands since then, for example in Sick Things International. Brandi formed the highly acclaimed Shadowplay, and has made some solo albums.

In short: long live Ratsia!

text by Vesa Vahtera, translation by Jarkko Kuivanen