The 69 Eyes are a Gothic Hard Rock sensation around most of the world and have been doing their thing for about fifteen years or so with the USA fans only recently being able to enjoy one of their albums unless they were resourceful enough to dig deeper into their catalog. I’m proud to admit that I had slightly more background in their wares than some peers but the album “Devils” is the first from the bands extensive catalog of music to hit our Shores and to celebrate the release a U.S. tour was planned at long last. I had the opportunity to sit and talk with lead singer, the enigmatic Jyrki 69 before their New York show at The Bowery Ballroom. The hustle and bustle of a backstage dressing room the night of a big appearance is not the best place to conduct some lengthy discussion so I kept it brief and to the point. We talked about his new music and life as Lord of the Rock and Roll Vampires. Below is our transcribed conversation and I hope you find it as interesting as I did speaking to him.
PiercingMetal: We are here with Jyrki69 of The 69 Eyes who is making their very first appearance in New York and I ask how come now with the band being formed in the 90’s, whets the feeling on coming here now.
Jyrki 69: Actually since the late 80’s.
PiercingMetal: So then what is the type of excitement you are feeling with coming here for the first time and New York especially?
Jyrki 69: New York is like a really special place for us since I was here when “Appetite For Destruction” came out. I heard stories when Sex Pistols had that “Bollocks” album out and then that generation got exciting and went to London. It was where the action was then so that when “Appetite” came out that is was my time to go where the action is. But unfortunately I didn’t have enough money to go to L.A. so instead I got into New York. Lucky for me and maybe lucky for The 69 Eyes because I started to hang out here a lot in those days and I saw during my first visit, which was like in 1988, I went to see Nina Hagen at the old Ritz. Also the Throbs played like their second show ever and they were the supporting act. That’s when I really realized that I have to form a band as well or get into a band as well. To me The Throbs show was such a cool one. It became some sort of a beginning for us. So I began to hang out here during many Summers to see the bands and meet the bands and become friends with a lot of people. You know those days where Circus Of Power, The Throbs you get the idea that it was really cool here and of course seeing Johnny Thunders, Joey Ramone and all the others Dee Dee and so on.
PiercingMetal: Did you guys go and pose in front of CBGB’s as it’s around the corner (the club is legendary and set to close soon so I wondered if the band had done that).
Jyrki 69: Well actually we were walking today and this is because some of the guys in the band have never been here. I had actually been to the CBGB’s and I saw White Zombie there and at the time there were only 5 people there. There were so many cool shows back then that I remember. So anyway, New York has a special place, not only in my heart but also in the history of The 69 Eyes. So being a source of inspiration and being the place where we got the ideas to form the band it and also the home of the bands that were a really big influence for us. Everything that gives us ideas has come from New York, The Ramones, The New York Dolls, and KISS.
PiercingMetal: I find that really interesting Jyrki because the key influences to the style of The 69 Eyes being based in The Ramones and The Dolls but the band itself being Finnish and having so much of this Power Metal being so fresh and exciting from your area of the world. Nightwish, one of the biggest bands in Power Metal history – Finnish, Sonata Arctica another heavy hitter in the genre – Finnish again. What do you think about this “New York” sound that appeals to you as a Finnish musician and makes you start something other than something like a Power Metal band? The 69 Eyes are more hard edged Rock and Roll when you think about it.
Jyrki 69: Well, we are a Rock and Roll band and not Metal at all. All of our roots are roots are based on American pop culture from Elvis to New York Dolls. Everything in between as well, horror movies, Marvel Comics which is once again from New York – Spider-Man who’s character was from here.
At that point Jussi the drummer chimes in while changing and adds to the conversation
Jussi: My first influence to the New York sound was with Hanoi Rocks.
PiercingMetal: Isn’t it interesting that you say you discovered the NY Sound from Hanoi Rocks who are not from New York at all.
Jyrki 69: Yeah they are from Helsinki also. It’s like the endless circle but I mean it like this, let’s say that The 69 Eyes we have always been imaginary Americans or an American Band. That’s the reason why I think this is why we appeal to American youth so much right now because there is such a recycling of the classic elements of that kind of Rock & Roll with black hair, sunglasses, leather jackets and all. We are recycling and sort of bringing them back and maybe also teach a little history of Rock and Roll for these kids. We are trying to bring back all the good things which are probably at some point forgotten.
PiercingMetal: How does the sound of The 69 Eyes compare today against the way it started when you first kicked it off. Are you sticking to the plan or is it growing exponentially changing as time goes by.
Jyrki 69: Well you know we still listen to the same records as we did when we started the band but back then we were closer to The Dead Boys and other garage rock Glam bands but over the years we had been searching for the kind of sound which is like what we will create better than anyone else. So I think that’s when our Gothic roots or of course Goth Rock Records were really important as well. So I think that’s when they started to become more visible and the most important thing is that if you think of Hanoi Rocks, Nightwish, HIM, us and what is typical of all these bands and what is unique is the way we write the melodies. The way we have them in our songs is that there is a sense of melancholy there and that is something very typical and unique for Finnish bands. The way we write the songs is just that melancholic style and I think sometimes you hear this melancholy style in Ramones especially in the songs that Dee Dee wrote. Still with all these Finnish bands it’s like this sense of longing, longing to go somewhere, longing for love or something like that and The 69 Eyes songs are not desperate or suicidal or something like that. They’re more like movie kind of Rock songs but still you know that the melancholy melody is the main element there. So when that started to rise from us and that type of thing was rising in general we realized that this is the best we can do and be really unique for us as a band. So that’s when the Gothic element started to come into the picture and we started to develop our sound more towards that.
PiercingMetal: I’m going to mix a couple of questions together now because since you are talking about the Gothic and Melancholy melodies we have a lot of that on “Devils” the first 69 Eyes album to be released domestically in the USA. It seems like Bam Margera is really behind the group and has you on his CD “Viva La Bands” so overall what is the response like for the record in the few months that it has been available.
Jyrki 69: It’s overwhelming and this is the third show that we are doing in the US and the two we have done before this one tonight have been mainly sold out and the kids are singing all the lyrics so it’s like really cool and really exciting. I actually went when we were writing the songs for the album I got this idea that it would be a little bit tongue in cheek. I was saying that this is our Hollywood album – that this record will take us to Hollywood which later turned out to be the case when we filmed our video for “Lost Boys”. Anyway, the way I write the lyrics and way I handle the themes of the songs and the whole terminology of the album I’m thinking that the American kids or people will know what I’m writing about. You know, about Marvel Comics, Horror Movies and Rock and Roll – these things which are the knowledge of the culture that I know so well and am an expert of that in my area and that’s what I’m using in the records I do. Maybe also because we are a mainstream band in Finland, we sell gold and platinum when our records come out. It’s different because you don’t have to be a specialist to like the song “Lost Boys” but I still know that some people who I know who are into this stuff that I am and are fan boys know exactly what I am writing and that’s how I also knew that these kind of things that you Americans got it right off the bat as well. I didn’t have to explain it and I’m saying that because in Central Europe and Germany which is a big market for us you end up having to explain so many things and so on.
PiercingMetal: With 456 Entertainment releasing this album here can we count on seeing some of the older material coming out over here as well.
Jyrki 69: That would be really nice but I have no idea at the moment. It seems like no matter how long I have been in the Rock industry that I don’t understand the record industry. I don’t have a clue why they don’t release this and that – I don’t understand it at all. It would be logical for them to release that stuff but you know the record industry is not about logic like we know it Jim (doing his best Spock imitation).
PiercingMetal: So do you think the fans will be surprised at how young and immortal you look. I mean you have played in bands since the 80’s yet you don’t look like you have aged a day from the pictures I have seen.
Jyrki 69: Yeah well that is why we are called “Helsinki Vampires”.
PiercingMetal: Now the show we’re going to see is primarily songs off “Devils”.
Jyrki 69: We will do a lot of “Devils” and some classics to us and perhaps a few surprises like cover tunes since we are here in New York.
PiercingMetal: I know we should close out and get you time to prepare for the show, is there anything that you want to add for the public in general. What should we expect from The 69 Eyes going forward?
Jyrki 69: It’s like this is the ending chapter of a book called “Devils” because we have been touring for this record for about a year and a half by now and after that we go immediately into the studio to write new songs. The next album is of course going to be called “Angels” but let’s talk about that later on. The only thing I could say is after these couple of dates here is that the US has been fantastic. GOTH BLESS AMERICA.
PiercingMetal: Thanks for the time Jyrki, have a great show tonight.
Jyrki 69: Thanks man, take care.
The band came on just a little while later and truly performed an energetic set of Goth & Roll much to the delight of the screaming audience in attendance. Just as Jyrki said about the previous nights; so many people around me were singing the songs and knew all of the changes. Not bad for a band with limited exposure in this market and one available domestic release. I look forward to more music from the group and seeing them return again soon.
Official Web site: www.69Eyes.com