The 69 Eyes

author AP date 19/04/11

In conjunction with their headlining performance at The Rock venue's infamous club event known as Rock the Night, we decided to sit one of the most revered people in the Finnish rock and metal scene, The 69 Eyes vocalist Jyrki 69, down for an interview. Over half an hour we touched upon the band's two decade history, influences and career milestones, as well as the state of the Finnish music industry. With thoughtful, extensive answers, the interview transcribed below is a must read for fans of goth, glam, rock n' roll or Finnish music in general, and I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I enjoyed chatting with Jyrki. Let's start with you introducing yourself and your role in the band.
Jyrki: Hi, I'm Jyrki, the singer of The 69 Eyes. How's the tour going so far?
Jyrki: We've been on tour for a month with two Swedish bands, Hardcore Superstar and Crashdïet, and now we have three shows to go: Copenhagen, Gothenburg and Stockholm. It's been an incredible month, and it's been a fucking crazy and great package. I mean, The 69 Eyes... You can't really categorize us strictly to any category. But of course we have like one foot in glam, one foot in goth. So touring with two glammier bands has been really great. I mean it's been a great variety of audiences, and the whole vibe of the tour is like nothing but a good time. Everybody wants to party and it also can be seen in the audiences - it's a really loud, party audience. And every night has been cool, so I think this is exactly what people want these days. Like right here, right now, this is the coolest tour that I can think of for us to do, but also in general this year. In the States there is Mötley Crüe, Poison and New York Dolls touring for the summer, so this is like the European option. Maybe The 69 Eyes would be like the New York Dolls in this package. What have been some of the most memorable moments of the tour so far?

Jyrki: Well, every show has been a really cool one, seriously. The audiences have been really great. Of course it's always fantastic to play, for instance, in London, where the whole audience is going crazy. But I've enjoyed every show. I can't pick or rate any show better than the other, but I'm expecting a lot from tonight. Yeah, it's Scandinavia's biggest rock n' roll party, allegedly.

Jyrki: Yeah, and last time we played here a year ago, it was really cool because we had played two shows before that here in Copenhagen, and they'd been kind of small shows in Christiania only, so we didn't know what to expect at all. And then last time we were here it was sold out, so we expect a similar, huge crowd, since the crowd was so great last time. Your career as a band has seen the 69 Eyes move from a heavily gothic and glam influenced style to a more guitar-driven 80's rock 'n roll sound. What have been the reasons and underlying your growth over the years?
Jyrki: Well, actually, when we started, we were purely glam. And then we wanted to be different from bands that have influenced us, so we brought in the horror element and vampire ideas into our music. Over the years the gothic element was rising a little bit more, and that's when the overall present day 69 Eyes sound was formed, when we introduced keyboards to our sound. Now, with the last album, that was more like a return to our roots - the glam began coming back. That was because we recorded the album in L.A. with a rock producer, Matt Hyde, who really wanted to underline the band's sound - like how our band sounds alive on stage. And as we recorded the album in Los Angeles, we always wanted to, and wished, and hoped, and finally got those vibes from the Hollywood rock bands that inspired us when we started, like Guns N' Roses, L.A. Guns, The Pussycat Dolls, and so on. It was a more rock driven album. But also as we are speaking, we are writing new music all the time, and it's time to go in some new direction. I just think you can't really categorize us into any particular narrow category, like purely gothic rock or purely glam rock. We can always come up with just whatever, and it's always The 69 Eyes sound. I think it's time to explore new territories with the next one. How would you personally describe your sound to someone not familiar with the 69 Eyes?
Jyrki: It's like we have our other foot in glam, and the other foot in goth - and the middle foot is in the groupie's mouth. Would you say that image is as essential to the 69 Eyes as the music, in creating a certain impression?
Jyrki: Well, you know, I always liked the bands whose poster I can put on the wall. So that when we started our own band, of course, that really was important. But we looked like rockers earlier - that's how we got to know each other. It's been like this for 22 years, so it's not like we're designed or anything. It was just how we dreamed it to be. What role has Ville Valo and the commercial success of his band, HIM, played in shaping the music and career of the 69 Eyes?
Jyrki: When he started his band, HIM, I met him in a Finnish rock bar, and he asked if he could come to sing backing vocals for The 69 Eyes some time, he was interested in that. I said "of course, that sounds good", and so he's been singing back-up vocals on quite a few 69 Eyes records. And of course, when he really broke big, that opened doors internationally for many Finnish bands - not only for us. When we started to play in Germany, which is like the first international frontier when you explode out from Finland, the majority of the fans were wearing HIM t-shirts and HIM memorabilia. It has changed over the years, but in general, of course, he was influential as a friend, a really great help, and also gave us some inspiration for us. He was pre-producing one of our albums, called "Wasting the Dawn", for instance. When we were writing demos and stuff he came to the studio to play out new ideas, because he was like the young kid with the new ideas. But in general, when it comes to Finnish music, those bands which you have heard of ten years ago, they are still there and internationally known, but there is not so much new stuff. Everything that you know from Finland is the stuff that you knew ten years ago already. It's the same about ten bands who are internationally recognised. On a similar note, what impact has Bam Margera declaring himself a fan had on your career?
Jyrki: That was of course huge. I mean I got to know him because he was a HIM fan, hanging out in Helsinki. Originally I actually met him in Paris at some HIM show. And then after those early days he started to direct videos for HIM, so when I saw him next time I asked him if he would be interested in doing videos for The 69 Eyes. He said "of course", and then some 6 years ago he directed the first video for us, called "Lost Boys". That was really cool. And then he was promoting us with his TV shows by wearing our t-shirts and stuff, and playing our music in his show - that was of course a big help in the States. On our last album he directed two videos for us. Why him? When you're doing an album in the studio, it's not mostly fun, it's hard work, and sometimes it can be really uncool. So when you do a music video, that has to be a reward for the hard work. With Bam it's all about the party. It's like a long lost weekend, and then you just do the video. It's always been like that: party with him and do the video at the same time. But I guess some six years ago when we first started to tour in the States, we have a lot to thank Bam for, because he was playing our music on the radio and introducing us to the right people. What other bands, musicians and artists do you consider as essential influences, people without whom the 69 Eyes might never have existed?
Jyrki: Well, I mean, from Finland of course Hanoi Rocks is something that inspired us kids to wear make up and stuff like that, to do rock n' roll. Musically, I think Elvis is a big influence to me as a singer. I used to, when this kind of question was asked, to come up with a long list of names and titles, but now I can't even think of anything. I don't know. It's like I described our sound to you - it's really hard to come up with a list of names at this moment because I haven't thought about it for a long time, just because I think we are inspired only by ourselves. I could say Elvis and The Rolling Stones, but that's pretty much it. You can tell from the music, if you know about music, if you think that we sound like somebody else. But in the end, everything always leads back to Elvis, because he's the source of everything. What inspires the lyrics and concepts explored on your albums?
Jyrki: The last album, "Back in Blood", was totally inspired by vampire movies. Since we started the band like 20 years ago, there has always been a couple of horror related songs on our records, and songs about vampires. So I thought that, when we were writing music for the last album and I came up with all these lyrics about vampires for half of the songs, maybe I should start looking at some other subjects. But then I thought, why not have a whole album entirely about vampires? So that's what we did. What was cool was that the record came out two years ago, just before the Twilight mania hit, so it was kind of funny to promote that record back then because everyone was only talking about Twilight, and vampires were so popular. We had to explain that we're not so much inspired by Twilight, though honestly it should be said that the first movie is pretty cool. I think that if you're going to talk about vampires, the True Blood TV series is really cool. At the moment, when I'm writing new lyrics for the next album, I'm trying to get rid of vampires a little bit, but in the end, if you write about night and day, you can always trace it back to vampires in the end. Which album from your repertoire do you consider to be the most important, and which one is your personal favourite?
Jyrki: People think that "Blessed Be", which was done ten years ago, is the album that really defined and nailed the coffin of the 69 Eyes sound. That's when we started to work with Johnny Lee Michaels - he introduced keyboards to our sound; then all of a sudden we got music played on the Finnish radio, which of course made us popular to the extent that we started to sell gold, you know, and platinum, and we've been going with him since. So I think that's, of course, important, and when you learn to like music that gets you on the radio, that also means that you have learned to write music that entertains a larger group of people than just people who are dressed up in black. So that was the turning point in that sense. I like the last album ["Back in Blood", ed.] maybe the most, because the memory of making is still fresh in my mind, and it was such a highlight for a Finnish rock band to have a chance to go to America, homeground of Elvis, to do a record. And then making the videos with Bam, and all the American promotion that we did. So that was the ultimate... You could say that's the ultimate goal for anyone that comes all the way from Finland - if that person starts to play rock n' roll and not sing in Finnish, of course he thinks that he's not singing only to people in your own country, but trying to make international music. In the end, if you end up playing American TV shows and making a record in the states, that's a big deal; that's something you've probably secretly been dreaming of ever since you started to sing along to Elvis songs in front of a mirror. We did that, so now it's time to move forward and find new goals. So I guess it's safe to say that "Back in Blood" is also the album you would recommend to someone who's not previously familiar with the band?

Jyrki: Yeah, yeah. Our last album is definitely something that gives like a nice sneak peak to the whole history of The 69 Eyes. You have maintained the same line-up since 1992. What would you say is the key to keeping a stable line-up?
Jyrki: I don't know if it's even cool. If you think of metal bands, they're changing members all the time. I mean, if you're a metal band, the singer is not the same after a couple of records, and every member is changing. So I don't know if that's a cool thing anymore, to have the same people in the band. But when we started, that was like a holy thing that you have the same guys in the band, you know, like The Ramones or The Rolling Stones... Well, they had little changes, but basically they're eternal bands with the same guys - like AC/DC and so on. So I don't know, maybe we're simple or something, but we just seem to enjoy what we're doing, and the other thing is that it doesn't feel like a long time even though it has been two decades. It feels like yesterday when we started. Considering that, as you said, very few bands out of Finland actually get the chance to release records and tour internationally on a larger scale, what do you feel is holding new Finnish artists back?
Jyrki: I don't know if there's any new Finnish artists. In the rock genre I don't think there's so much happening at the moment. And when I say rock, I of course mean metal, because metal is the one thing that has happened - mainly - in Finland. All the metal acts that you know from Finland, they have been doing this already for ten years internationally. I don't think there's so many, even any new names. I think probably these role game metal bands like Turisas and Korpiklaani are the newest bands, but they have been active already for ten years. So I don't know if there's anything new coming out - probably from some other genres, but I wouldn't know about that. Yeah, I mean, I can't say that I've heard of any new bands coming out of Finland lately.

Jyrki: I mean, the newest thing from Finland is Michael Monroe band [Hanoi Rocks vocalist solo, ed.]. It's nothing new, but it's the newest band - a great band - coming out from Finland. When you were starting out, what was the thing that needed to happen in order for your band to make a breakthrough?
Jyrki: When we started the band, Hanoi Rocks, Smack and Nights of Iguana - bands from Helsinki - they had either broken through or moved to L.A, so there weren't really rock n' roll bands like we liked in Helsinki anymore. So when we formed our band, we wanted to be that band, and that's exactly what happened. There was basically nothing happening before we thought to start something. We were just trying to be the loudest and sleaziest band around. I had been in Los Angeles and noticed how bands were promoting themselves by handing out flyers and posters of themselves - nobody had done that in Finland. I was at university then, so I got a copy card to the machine and I was doing all these flyers and posters, and then I was walking around in Helsinki handing them out to people everywhere, at clubs and so on. So I guess that's how we made a name for the band. After two, three, four shows noticed that the same faces started to show up to our shows - not after being on the guestlist, but because they seemed to get interested in us. Then we got the chance to play outside of Helsinki at some other big cities, and sooner or later, after we played the biggest cities and towns in Finland, we started playing in Stockholm, which was, of course, like the way we thought it was going to be done - like Hanoi Rocks did it. And then after Stockholm, we started to play in London, and so on. You have to remember that this was before the Internet, so you really had to patiently spread word about yourself with flyers and posters, and answering fan letters. You had to be really active, and send a lot of mails. That was the turning point - and it appears to this day too: you have to be very active. You have to devote all your time if you have a band. It's not enough that you're a good bass player, or guitarist, or singer, or drummer, you have to devote all your time to promoting yourself. Those days it was through flyers, posters and letters. So would you say the Internet has made things a lot easier?

Jyrki: I guess. I mean, for example, what I follow a little bit are glam and goth bands that just happened to cross my path somehow over the Internet. So even though if you just look good and have one nice song on the Internet, you probably have thousands of followers without playing any shows - not even being a real band. It depends how you attract the people that you want to follow you. On the Internet that's probably easier since you can capture people all over the world. Maybe you play in your own home town and there's nobody at your shows, but you get messages from all over the world. Obviously the Internet basically didn't exist when you were starting out, but when it did exist, did you notice a changein how you were able to promote yourselves?

Jyrki: It didn't exist until about 15 years into our career! But yes, the first time we played in the States - I think it was in 2005 - that was possible only because of MySpace. MySpace just came out, and all of a sudden we had like 100,000 followers on MySpace, and that's how we advertised our tour. So the shows got sold out. So MySpace was key to The 69 Eyes taking over the States. What do you feel are the strengths or selling points of Finnish rock and metal music - i.e. what distinguishes Finnish variants of these genres from those of other countries?
Jyrki: Well, we're devoted at what we do. We truly believe what we do, whether it's role game metal or glam rock. We're very serious about what we do. And I think also we have a special sense for melancholy that makes the music unique. Our sense of melody is totally different to other countries. This melancholic way of writing music is very unique to us - whether it's Hanoi Rocks, whether it's The 69 Eyes, or whether it's HIM, there's always melancholy. Where do you think that melancholy comes from?

Jyrki: It's in our blood. Finnish music has always been melancholic. Traditional Finnish music, and later on pop and so on, has always been melancholic, and that's something that's in our blood, it's the only way. We are the specialists. If you're in a band and you want to capture the essence of Finnish metal and you come to record in Finland, it doesn't help. For instance, as we are touring here with the two Swedish bands, they have the pop sensibilities, they have the party sensibilities, which is totally different to The 69 Eyes - we have the melancholic longing for summer, longing for love in our music. So Swedish bands have this pop sensibility. And I guess Norwegians have some kind of troll sensibility or viking sensibility in their music. Finally, one of our readers submitted this question, which you are under no obligation to answer: is 69 your favorite sexual position, and if so, why?
Jyrki: That has been asked boringly many times. But actually, you do that when you're really in love - you don't do that with a stranger. I think it's the ultimate... if you're really committed to somebody, you do it. That's what we're here for. So why not? That's it from us. Do you have any famous last words or profound thoughts you would like to share with our readers?
Jyrki: There's a great rock scene in Denmark. I mean, D-A-D are our old friends and have been a huge influence to us. On the other hand there's a band that I like... Baby Woodrose, which is a fantastic garage rock band. And On Trial. There's a really great psychedelic rock scene in Denmark!

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