The 69 Eyes are back and
By Naughty Mickie
Photos by Byron Spears
I'll admit it
with ease-- I'm a huge fan of The 69 Eyes. Ever since their
album, "Angels," landed on my desk, I just can't get enough of
these guys. I've dabbled into the rest of their catalog and kept
waiting for them to announce a new record and, better yet, a
tour. Finally I got both. "Back in Blood" (The End Records) was
released September 15 and The 69 Eyes passed through Southern
California at the beginning of October.
The 69 Eyes was formed by friends in
Helsinki Finland in 1989 and the lineup, Jyrki 69, guitarists
Bazie and Timo-Timo, bassist Archzie and drummer Jussi 69, has
remained stable. They began as a glam metal group and gradually
evolved in to what they refer to as goth n' roll. The band's
music is influenced by the The Doors, Elvis Presley, Hanoi
Rocks, Billy Idol and Sisters of Mercy, as well as vampire films
and literature. The 69 Eyes have several gold records, including
"Angels," which debuted at number one in Finland. They are very
big in Europe, while the U.S. is still discovering them.
"Back in Blood" was produced by Matt Hyde
are recorded in Helsinki and Los Angeles. It was released in
Europe in August and in the U.S. in September. Bam Magera
directed the first video for the first single from the album,
"Dead Girls are Easy," which premiered on playboy.com in July.
I answer the phone to hear a deep,
"Greetings from dark, September Helsinki
and all that," Jyrki says.
I respond by commenting that "Angel" and "Back in Blood" seem
very different from one another.
"I don't think that there's that big
difference, but the main difference for it is how it was
produced," Jyrki replies. "All the records we've done during the
last 20 years, we've done here in Helsinki, Finland. We've never
even done any records outside of Helsinki, we've always recorded
here. This time around, this was our ninth album, so we thought
let's try to do something different, let's try to at least get a
foreign producer, we've always worked with Swedish guys before.
"We were going through a few ideas as
producers and then we figured out that Matt Hyde is the best guy
because he came up with some great ideas, he seemed to
understand our band perfectly and then after that we were trying
to get Matt Hyde here to Helsinki to do the record with us, the
whole album," Jyrki continues. "Then he had the idea that hey,
why don't you come to L.A.? He has studios there and everything.
Of course that was one of the things we wanted to do actually,
we wanted to get out of Helsinki. It wasn't a dream like let's
go to L.A., it was like let's do the record somewhere else than
Helsinki with a foreign producer."
Knowing bands work in various ways, I ask
if the material was studio-ready or did the band still need to
"Everything was already written." Jyrki
explains, "We had a little over 20 songs and Matt Hyde, when he
came into the picture and we chose him, he did the cherry
picking from the songs, let's have this and this on the album.
Then we flew him over to Helsinki to do the pre-production with
us, when we played the songs with him and we did some
arrangements before going to Los Angeles to his studio.
"This was something we had never done
before and obviously I think that's why I'd like to explain it
comes with a package when you get a record producer and go to
the States, and that's what we wanted actually as well, the
sound is more rocking. And I think there's a little more
American-wise there, which it doesn't come with the package
automatically, like oh, yeah, you're recording something in the
States and then you've got it. It comes from the producer, but
especially in this case when the producer is the rock producer
who's based on classic rock values, like AC/DC, Led Zeppelin,
Thin Lizzy, this kind of stuff. So of course he tries to
introduce those ways more to our sounds as well.
"Especially if you think Finnish bands
like HIM or like us, our music is pretty polite." Jyrki goes on,
"American music has always been, ever since the days that Elvis
was leaning over the audience or Jerry Lee Lewis was setting his
piano on fire, it's always been very aggressive with a very
strong attitude, so if I think like more American rock, the rock
music you guys hear on the radio, there's bands like Slipknot,
Mastodon, Disturbed, this kind of stuff really just rolls over
you. That's what I understand is the American sound and
attitude, so a little bit of that is added to the regular 69
Eyes sound, but otherwise I don't think it's that drastically
different at all and the songs and the melodies and the concepts
are 69 Eyes."
So how does The 69 Eyes write their
"Our guitarist Bazie writes the songs and
he comes up with the demos, which are instrumentals without
vocals, and then I listen to them and some songs I have the idea
immediately and some songs I don't. I just listen to them for a
couple of weeks and I still don't come up with an idea, I just
throw them to the trash bin. Sometimes he tries to recycle those
trash bin songs and tries to mask them with some other idea,"
Jyrki says and laughs, "that if I don't figure out, oh, that was
the song that was terrible, then it might work, I come up with
some other idea. Otherwise it's like, hey, don't try to bring
this song back to me.
"I already have some ideas. I come up with
ideas lyrically for the song or chorus which I saved somewhere
or I get the music from our guitarist and it starts to happen in
my brain and I come up with the lyrics and we have another 69
Eyes song." Jyrki continues, "He writes very different kinds of
music. For this particular album I wanted to have an unhealthy
dose of gothic juice as well. There's a lot of really rocking
and more clangy stuff, but also there's this classic 69 Eyes
rock and roll tunes. That's something we talked about, let's
have those songs, like what kind of music comes out of it."
As a vocalist, I'm curious where Jyrki
finds lyric ideas.
"They come out of nowhere when I hear the
music or when I see something which I want to be included in the
future," responds Jyrki. "For instance, we have this song called
'Hunger' on this album and which of course is inspired by the
movie called 'The Hunger.' I was enjoying the movie and I was
thinking since I'm the guy who makes songs eluding to the
movies, like 'The Lost Boys' or 'The Crow,' I should pay a
tribute to this movie as well. My intention as well in this case
is I hope there's some young kid who is into 'Twilight' and
discovers our band, maybe goes to rent 'The Hunger' and
discovers that movie and maybe up from that David Bowie,
Catherine Deneuve or even Bauhaus from the movie. It's a little
bit of little clues to go and find out some cool things in the
music. I was referring to movies in the songs like this, it had
been waiting there so long, so it was time to do a song called
"In general, especially this album it's
mostly inspired by vampire themes and also horror movies. I
really love to write songs which are more like mini-movies or
short comic stories, like from 'Creepy' (an American
horror-comics magazine originally published 1964-1983) or
referring to that kind of thing. In this album there's, of
course, I'm dead and vampire, but out of that there's nothing
else which has inspired my role like stupid heart, it's more
like 'Kiss me, I'm dead bitch' or something like that.
The 69 Eyes has been around for 20 years
and still gets buzz from the media and boasts a growing fan
base. I talk to Jyrki about their success and staying power.
"I think we're pretty fortunate for the
fact that, now I'm talking from the point of being a European
band and having a record out here, every time we have a new
album, the media and press here in Europe has been very
interested in us, like in a way we are still a very exciting,
new band," says Jyrki. "I think we've had that going for the
last 10 years. Every time we have a new record out some part of
this world, we're introduced like this new exciting band, which
has played 15 years or 17 years or 20 years. But always it's
never like, 'Oh, they have an album out and a tour coming out,
see you soon.' It's always like, 'Wow they have a new album out,
this is fantastic and this is a great band, though they have
been together a few years.'
"We have somehow managed to maintain this,
which I think is really cool and very unique and it's not my
imagination, it's true. I said European band because to the
States we absolutely still a very new exciting band. We've never
done appropriate press for the States before this album, so once
again, in some part of the world we're always introduced as a
new exciting band."
Jyrki, himself is very intriguing. He has
a low, operatic voice and is influenced by Peter Murphy, Elvis
Presley, Jim Morrison and Danzig. He has a degree in analytical
chemistry and reads and draws comics. His book, "Zombie Love" (Deggael
Communications), was published in Finland in 2006. Jyrki is a
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador of Finland and has visited Kenya
twice in that capacity. He is currently helping to campaign
against child trafficking and sexual exploitation in West Africa
and on HIV-AIDS issues in Kenya.
I can't resist asking Jyrki if he sang as
"I was more mimicking in front of a mirror
while listening to Elvis and I had my hairbrush, which looks
like a microphone," Jyrki shares. "What the hell are the kids
doing these days? They probably have a 'Rock Band' I think,
'Guitar Hero,' but I mean what happened to the mirror and the
hairbrush? Come on guys, get real. That's how it should go. It
should be don't buy your kid a 'Rock Band' or 'Guitar Hero,' buy
them a hairbrush, mirror and classic '50s rock and roll and
let's see what happens."
Chemistry and rock- what's with that?
"I feel pretty stupid to be just a
singer." Jyrki expounds, "Once you have a brain I thought it
would also be pretty cool to use it. It's not a big deal to get
an academic education at the same time as being in a rock and
roll band, That's the best thing to do, get yourself to the
university and start a band, that's how the Beatles did it,
that's how the Stones did it. Or drive a truck, that's another
I wonder if Jyrki has to work a side job.
"Not at this moment, but of course if
you're a real rocker you probably don't make a real fortune with
your band." Jyrki says, "I think that's the case with The 69
Eyes, we're probably closer to the Ramones or the Cramps or the
New York Dolls, if I see what's going to happen in the future.
We're probably one of those bands that people are wearing our
t-shirts and playing our songs as cover songs and praise how
great we are, but we'll probably never end up selling more
records that New York Dolls."
OK, I have to ask about UNICEF.
"I think that's a really gnarly move from
Finnish UNICEF to pick up a guy like me to be their spokesperson
or their ambassador because my mission is like this- exactly
what I'm doing right now," states Jyrki. "It doesn't matter if
I'm doing an interview like this or if I'm being interviewed by
a Brazilian black metal magazine, always in the end, the
question about UNICEF, so through me the whole UNICEF concept
goes to different media that it probably wouldn't otherwise. And
in the end, I think, it's a win-win situation when there's a
gothic girl who Googles what UNICEF means and figures out that
it's a cool thing and maybe she takes part or at the least buys
a UNICEF Christmas card.
"As the Goodwill Ambassador I've had the
chance to make a couple of trips to Kenya, Africa and I know
what they do there so I can explain or tell kids about it and I
push the message to some other media that where it wouldn't
otherwise go. Of course, that's an interesting topic always,
everybody has to know about it." Jyrki goes on, "People are
always interested in what's my favorite vampire movie all the
time and are most likely interested also in why I'm involved in
UNICEF and what is this UNICEF. That's the whole thing. That's
the least I can do for Mother Earth."
Back to music, I prod Jyrki to compare
European and American fans.
"Obviously the answer is the fans are
pretty much the same, they even look the same, they dress up the
same in every country," Jyrki replies. "The 69 Eyes is the kind
of band that if we don't know where the venue is, we just follow
out audience, it's pretty easy to point out that 'Oh, these guys
are probably going to see our band' because we gather all these
grave rockers and freaks and goths and psychobilly people and
everybody is our audience. The audience looks fantastic and
scary at the same time.
"A Latin American audience is more
passionate, they might even cry when there's some epic song,
they put more of their heart there, they have a different kind
of life there. In some parts, an American audience might put up
a mosh pit more easier than for instance than let's say a German
audience. There are tiny little differences, but not that big,
our audience all together are beautiful."
Jyrki seems to have a good grasp of
English. We discuss writing and singing in English when it is
not your native language.
"I think in English," Jyrki shares. "The
language of rock and roll is English so I always listened to
American rock and roll and especially my roots are in the '50s
rock and roll and Elvis. That's the only language for rock and
roll for me. That's how I learned to write the lyrics. It's
natural, I don't translate anything.
"In Finland we might have a little bit
easier access to English because in the rest of Europe they dub
their movies and it's still going on. If you go to Germany, you
can't go to movies because they speak German, it's strange, you
can't find a movie theater or go to see American movies unless
you want to hear an actor speaking in German. That same thing in
other European countries, they dub their movies and TV shows. In
Finland we only have subtitles so it's
The 69 Eyes will tour America for six
weeks, which will be followed by tours of Finland for the
remainder of the year and then Europe. I ask if the band will be
working on any new material during that time.
"Not really. These days if I write on the
road, I write MySpace blogs, that's what you're expected to do
if you're a modern rocker, that's what your fans expect." Jyrki
says, "I think the fans expect you to write blogs and take
pictures instead of writing music on the road. Especially in my
case, even though I'm hyperactive, I can't do all these things
so I have to choose, but maybe one night I write a blog and the
next night I write the lyrics for a song.
"The 69 Eyes exists for our fans. The fans
are our bosses and that's why we still exist and that's why we
make records and that's why we tour. So these days also fans
want to interact with you and you have to be available or
telling a lot of things all over and that's what you do in the
Internet. You tweet with Twitter and then you write a blog for
MySpace and all these things, that's part of the thing that
belongs to it if you want to be a full-time rock and roller."
"It's been two years since we played last
time in California," Jyrki goes on. "Personally, and I know from
the band, we can't wait to come over there to rock. It was
painful to record the album there knowing that we don't have a
chance to play a show there and meeting fans on the street. I'm
happy that we've come this fast. I wasn't lying to the people
that I run into in the clubs and the street that we will come as
soon as possible because this time we do, we start the tour from
California. That's a privilege for us and I think and hope that
the fans realize that that's a privilege for them as well. The
whole world has been waiting for 'Back in Blood' two years and
we're starting from California this time."
Learn more about The 69 Eyes, their album
and their tour at
Also visit my blogs at