Jyrki 69 of Goth’N’Roll Band The 69 Eyes On His

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The 69 Eyes Jykri 69

It seems to be the summer of goth with tours from Depeche Mode, The Cure, and even Siouxsie Sioux coming out of retirement to play a one-off festival date. Right in the middle are The 69 Eyes. The Finnish vampires are credited with inventing the genre of goth’n’roll. The other, other, Jackass band (next to HIM and Turbonegro), the band sounds like they’re Elvis but look like they’re part of the Lost Boys of the undead kind. In fact, creating hit songs around some of horror’s cult classics like, well, The Lost Boys and The Crow are how they’ve made a name for themselves these thirty-odd years in the business.

With the recent release of their newest record, Death of Darkness, I spoke to lead singer Jyrki 69 about the record, his influence, how to keep fandoms alive while still evolving, and integrating new sounds in a changing world. Even though cult classics, like vampires, are eternal.

Dread Central: You’ve been doing this for a while now and it seems like you’re still not only keeping the same spirit of goth and “Helsinki Vampires” alive but sincerely, too. It’s not just for the performance?

Jyrki 69: When it comes to us we do everything seriously, we believe in that kind of world. On the other hand, I do think it’s fun too, but some music can be more for fun, especially rock’n’roll. You can’t take it too seriously all the time.

DC: That’s how being a fan is, too, I think. You appreciate it on its own but allow room for interpretation. Both for me as someone who listens to your music but perhaps to you as well as someone who incorporates so many known influences into the music? 

J69: Being a fan takes you places and being The 69 Eyes has taken us places we’ve never imagined. We’ve never been the kind of musicians that think of this as a professional business. When we started out, the aim was to see if we could play cool clubs in Helsinki actually, which we did. Just recently we played one of the biggest clubs and also did a few years after forming the group, so that was great. But our thoughts were like maybe if we get to play festivals we would get to see Motörhead live or meet Glenn Danzig backstage. Those were the reasons why we started the band and why we still are one. Just being fans of the music basically and making our own.

The feeling is still there, that excitement, nothing has changed. Sometimes it’s kind of weird to see even the same leather jackets I was wearing twenty years ago in photos now. We recreated a photo we took twenty years ago and it was the same exact jacket! But that symbolizes a lot of things with The 69 Eyes. I’m not crying over nostalgia; I like new music, new things but on the other hand, I was there in the late 80s in New York and LA. I got to live in those times. I don’t want to go back there but I experienced it and get to write about it. And I’m also excited about the future, too. 

DC: Oh, on the topic of old, well I shouldn’t say old, but previous-

J69: You can say old. I mean I wouldn’t mention how many records we’ve done because it makes us sound old. Like if I went to a bar and a really nice person approaches me that I don’t know and I mention that I’m in a band, I wouldn’t say I’ve done… THIRTEEN albums. I would say I have a new album out!

DC: But it’s lucky 13 now!

J69: Yeah, but it’s like holy shit maybe should we have stopped 15 years ago. I think if we had, it would have been fine, too. We have the classic songs on those earlier records that we still play. But, we’re still hunting high in the way of new music and I have to say straight from my heart, I think we’re getting better. 

DC: That’s the difference between fandoms I think. Because they do seem stuck in a moment and time. And I do love your old songs like “Lost Boys” and “Brandon Lee” as much as I love those movies and that time. But it feels like with this new record even though you do recall a niche time again, it’s evolved to integrate a modern sound too. 

J69: We had a very young guy as a producer. On earlier records, we’ve collaborated with older guys who worked in the ‘80s who would have the exact knowledge of the authentic ‘80s sounds. Which was great and sounded great even though the music was done 20 years later in our case. That was the sound we wanted then. But for this one, this young producer made ‘80s keyboards and sounds from his own mind and interpretation now, which is why everything sounds updated and fresh. 

DC: It seems pretty obvious but just for my peace of mind, the song “Call Me Snake” from the new record, it’s an Escape from New York reference, yes?  

J69: Exactly. I got a demo from our guitarist and it was just hard riffing over the drum machine and it sounded like a mix between The Stooges and Ministry and pretty apocalyptic and I was thinking, what comes to mind with apocalyptic rock’n’roll, like what movie? And what haven’t I recycled in our music yet? So, Escape From New York. And it was fun. Just insane fun. Nobody said no to recording it so my attitude is always to put totally crazy ideas forward and see where they will go.

Another crazy song is “California” because I’ve done my share of writing dreamy rock tracks about Los Angeles for life and I was done, no more inspiration from there. Then I heard the music and it sounded like California vibes. So, I thought what if I put those lyrics to it? Again, no one said no. And that song is more The Doors-like dark, kind of dreamy. I even mention the Nightstalker so it goes to a dark place rather than too dreamy and light. 

DC: So even though there are shades of previous work you’ve done, there’s quite a bit that’s changing from the mood to the music, to the way it sounds, to even the album art and how you’re all perceived. 

J69: When we were starting out, Guns’n’Roses was a big inspiration. And Hanoi Rocks, being Finnish, were huge, they were like our blueprints. When we would go out to goth rock clubs [in Finland] on weekends and such, they’d play The Cure and Sisters of Mercy. I know New York was like that, too, in those days; goth and glam went hand in hand. At some point when we “darkened” our sound with albums like Blessed Be and Wasting the Dawn, we got more famous in central Europe, in the 2000s. It got kind of difficult to reunite different audiences that expected us to be just dark goth music when we had guitars integrated.

But our gothic was more like dark cowboy rock’n’roll. At that point, gothic rock was turning to something different and now it’s very electronic too so it’s always changing. And I guess we confused a lot of people with what we were doing. I guess we invented goth’n’roll, with glam rock in there, too. But I think it’s cool to be called a glam rock band in your 50s. I like it. 

DC: So, are there any plans to stray into the movies? Take the vampires from the music onto the screen and pull a director Danzig?

J69: That’s exactly what I’ve been doing a little bit. The same company, Cleopatra Entertainment, the same studio [that distributed Danzig’s Verotika], has been asking for a movie script from me. Now it’s just waiting for the next steps to see what to do and my idea is.

My intro to cult movies was by way of The Cramps. In the early ‘80s like they had a song, “Faster Pussycat,” which was the title track for the movie Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill! by Russ Meyer but I didn’t know that at the time. I discovered the movie and that whole scene through the song. And Russ Meyer became the most influential inspiration for me. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is probably my favorite movie. And Andy Warhol is also a huge inspiration in the way he always documented and collected and never got involved with his art.

But back to the movie thing, if I was involved in a movie I would like it to be like a Russ Meyer production; an all-female vampire movie.

DC: Like Carmilla

J69: Something like that. But more Russ Meyer, in the way of Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill! The hottest women are the strongest women who do what they want to do. I want that mindset. I’ve been talking about it for a while so we’ll see. I want to make a movie with strong women, and vampires, of course, because that’s just me, but something no one has done before. 

DC: And just because I have to, what’s your favorite vampire movie? Are you going to see Nicolas Cage be Dracula in Renfield

J69: I probably will, being who I am. But Only Lovers Left Alive is a favorite, the dialogue and music were fantastic. 

The 69 Eyes just wrapped up a West Coast tour and are on tour in Europe in June. There may be plans for possible East Coast dates in the future. 

Categorized: Interviews

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