Velikije Luki (the band, not the city), Venno from Verine Pühapäev, Tarvo from Novikov
and Mati from somewhere formed J.M.K.E. in Tallinn on January 18th, 1986. The
original singer, Mati, left the band soon afterwards, leaving Venno on drums, Tarvo on
bass, and Villu on vocals and guitar, sometimes working together with guest singers (with
Tõnu Trubetsky from Vennaskond they played under the name "Vürst Trubetsky &
J.M.K.E."). For the first three years they mainly played concerts in Estonia, and a
couple of times in Latvia, Lithuania, and Russia. It was almost impossible to travel
outside the U.S.S.R. in those days, especially if the KGB took an interest in you.
J.M.K.E. came into vogue due to their lyrics, whih were
at the same time angry and funny, ironic and melancholic, full of care yet cynical, and
also because of their peculiar melodic yet hardcore punk rock. They became the most
popular punk band in Estonia, and remain in this position until now.
In 1987 Villu wrote "Tere Perestroika",
initially singing it alone with guitar. Later the band made numerous different versions of
the song. It became a big hit because of its humorous topicality, and in 1988 won hands
down a song contest on a popular Estonian TV show. The prize, a holiday in Europe, never
In 1988 came the first line-up change – Tarvo skipped
from J.M.K.E. to Röövel Ööbik and a new bass player, Lembit, joined the band.
In 1989 two men from Helsinki, Joose Berglund and Jorma Ristilä, founded a new
record label, Stupido Twins, with the aim of publishing some Estonian bands.
J.M.K.E.'s "Tere Perestroika" was release # 001. The winds of change in the
Soviet Union had already blown some chains away, and so J.M.K.E. were able to travel
abroad for the first time in April 1989, playing their first concert in Finland to
middle-aged communists at the Leftist Forum in Helsinki. Later that autumn they recorded
for Stupido Twins their first LP, "Külmale Maale" (To the Cold Country),
which was the first Estonian rock record made abroad. Maximum Rock'n'Roll called it
At the end of 1989 Venno moved to P.V.A. declaring that
J.M.K.E. has become too commercial for him, and Ardo took his place.
The band toured Estonia, the Nordic countries, and Germany, made a couple of EPs, and only
by 1993 started to record a new album, "Gringode Kultuur" (Culture
of Gringos). Meanwhile Estonia had regained its independence and
J.M.K.E. couldn't continue with their anti-Soviet songs (what was the point?), so they
found their new "enemy" in the invading burger-culture, increasing poverty, and
other early-capitalistic distresses.
Lembit left the band in 1994 and was replaced by Sten.
J.M.K.E. got also a new drummer, Andres, who plays the majority of gigs nowadays while
Ardo, who is constantly travelling somewhere, has played on all studio recordings up to
Their third album, "Sputniks in Pectopah" (1995), is an eclectic
collection of popular Russian songs, sung in high energy Russian. The cover versions
include the national anthem of czarist Russia, old revolutionary marches, soldiers' songs
from WW2, and melodies from popular cartoons.
In January 1996 J.M.K.E. celebrated their 10th birthday with the longest lasting
concert of their history presenting on stage almost all persons who had ever played with
the band, permanently or temporarily, and with a cassette-only-release, "Rumal
Nali" (Silly Joke, on Fucking Cunt Records). This contained old D.I.Y. recordings
mainly from 1986 and 1987. J.M.K.E. didn't make their first "tidy" studio
recording until 1989 in Finland although by that stage they had enough songs for three or
four albums. It was just impossible to release punk rock records under the vigilant glance
of sickle and hammer.
J.M.K.E. have gradually abandoned their directly political slogans and now tell more
varied stories than before. Their newest album, "Jäneste Invasioon"
(Invasion of Rabbits, 1996), is a good example of their present character. Besides, it can
be considered J.M.K.E.'s best product since the legendary "Külmale Maale".
Toomas-Erik Mathäus, Tallinn, April 1997.
(From the "Totally Estoned – The Best of
to the J.M.K.E.