Can I call this an interview with a Vampire? Am I allowed to steal the title? Oh well, having the leader of the pack that listens to name The Helsinki Vampires grants me the permission to do anything THE 69 EYES related. So yes, METAL KAOZ had the chance to get on the phone with Jyrki to find out about the band’s 30th anniversary, how things will go down when the band will cross the Atlantic after 10 years and what weird things people are doing at shows nowadays, among other stuff. Care to find out how this went down? Read on!
Hello, Jyrki and welcome to METAL KAOZ!
Hey man, how is it going?
I am doing good and what about yourself?
I am really excited with all the things happening for THE 69 EYES right now. It is good times; in fact, it has always been good times. Now, it’s double good times. It is not better, it’s double good.
It is awesome to hear you being this excited, especially with the upcoming North US tour, but it is also about the 30th anniversary for the band.
Yeah, we are closing our 29th chapter with this US tour and a week after that is completed, in the end of May, we will release our first new single for the new album that will come out this September. And it is then when the band turns into 30. We are an original ‘80s band; we started in 1989, so it is a long road but there is no end (laughs)... It does not look like it. Besides, we are the Helsinki Vampires so we are the band that time has forgotten or the band that refuses to die.
Well, this is what vampires are all about...
Exactly! The Helsinki Vampires is a cool name but if you think about how long we have been playing, it starts to sound like a logical thing to do.
(laughs) Absolutely! There is a point at almost every band’s history where it comes close to calling it a day. However, if a band passes that point, then it can go for decades; is this the case for THE 69 EYES?
This is a question that is being asked year after year and every time we come with something cool or funny to answer. I mean, there is no logical answer on why we are still here after 10, 20 or 30 years. Honestly, I think it is all about the attitude. When we started this band it was more like a gang; a gang that plays Rock ‘n’ Roll and travels. If you look at the pictures we look like it, I mean, it is not a gathering of musicians but a gang that travels in places to play music and have fun. And you do not leave a gang.
That’s true, although my question had more to do with how a musicians changes as he grows up. Growing up means changes in life and in priorities, so it is pretty amazing seeing a band going this strong after all these years.
When we were growing up, we were fans of bands that have not changed the lineup or they just lived so short, like Johnny Thunders with THE HEARTBREAKERS. These bands did not live for a long time but they had a specific lineup; you know every member and you can tell everything about them. So, these were our idols and for us playing in a band meant that the lineup would be the same after each record. Obviously, times have changed, and especially in the Metal scene, the lineups change with every record trying to keep things fresh and, like you said, people just grow old to play music and mostly this has to do with the financials with all these business bands. But we are like a gang and we stay together.
Another important aspect of this is that a band should only be called a “band” if new music is getting released because otherwise they turn into a bunch of performers.
I see what you’re saying but come to think of this in September we will be releasing our 12th album and may be things would have been cooler if this would be our sixth album. Don’t get me wrong, I like everything we have released, it is part of our legacy and our fans like to hear new music for us, but there are bands out there with like one handful of records and they are “classics” and you are never feeling bored with that stuff. So, there are different points of view for this but still I think what this band has done is very unique. For instance, when we started in the late ‘80s, we were purely a Glam Rock band because that’s how the world was and we were influenced by it. That was our sound but over the years we added something there or took something away and THE 69 EYES sound became what it is right now. My original idea for this band was a Glam Rock band that would sing about Horror Movies and look like THE LORDS OF THE NEW CHURCH, THE DOORS, THE CRAMPS or have a little dose of Goth from THE SISTERS OF MERCY and THE MISSION; a little bit from here and there. Back then, there was no such band, so we were trying to create it and I think it took many years to come to this thing. And it was weird because people did not get it; “hold on, you play loud guitars but you sound like Goth Rock”. Right now, there is nothing weird about this.
Let’s not forget that in the ‘80s there was Heavy Metal, Thrash Metal and a bit later Death Metal and bands were not “allowed” to go outside these boxes.
Yes, that’s right.
Going back to the US tour; why do you think it took the Helsinki Vampires almost ten years to return to the US? Is it due to the state of the market?
Yes, it was. It was 2009 when we last played in the States. I remember those were still MySpace days and we were kind of popular there and all of a sudden this disappeared and Facebook came along. We were pretty to get all those people to Facebook but nevertheless there are things that happened; we lost the manager and the record company we were working with at that time. And all of a sudden, all these years had passed and we had not been in the States. We decided to concentrate on doing live shows in Central Europe and neighboring countries. We released some records and I have to say life has been good. We have fans all over but for whatever the reason we were not invited to play in the States and plus we did not have an agency there. I love playing the States and my biggest inspiration to start a band was to get a chance to play live in America. I was influenced with New York Rock ‘n’ Roll when I was hanging out there in the late ‘80s and after seeing guys like Dee Dee Ramone and Johnny Thunders I got so inspired to “be like that” and start a band. Even though THE 69 EYES have not being in the States for ten years, I have been there with my solo band that I put together with so LA musicians and we did a very small fan-club tour last Spring on the West Coast. I also have my hobby Rockabilly band, called THE 69 CATS, with American musicians and we have been playing around like in Las Vegas, New Orleans, Austin, Nashville, so I have been going back and forth. I have been flying the flag of THE 69 EYES as much as I can. This also drew some attention of the Oracle Management, run by DEVILDRIVER’s singer Dez Fafara, who expressed the interested to represent THE 69 EYES in the US and bring us to play live. Dez’s intentions are to put THE 69 EYES back on the US map and this is what is happening. In fact, after the release of the new album, we will return to the US. Let’s start where we finished last time in 2009.
Well, you can always bring JYRKI 69, THE 69 CATS and THE 69 EYES on the same billing and play three sets every night…
Well, I would not mind but it would have been pretty weird. After each set, I would go back to the dressing room and just change my jacket or something... Maybe this can happen sometime, you never know.
We can always have a festival…
Regarding the new album; have you finished recording? At what stage is it?
The album is ready and the last songs are being mixed. The first single will come out in the end of May, right after our American tour. Like I said, after this tour we will start our new chapter and celebrate the 30th anniversary with a new album. During summer, we will release two more singles.
Will you be playing any new material in this tour?
We have released two records during that time we have not played in the States, so we have some songs that I think the US fans deserve to listen to along with all the classics. I think there is enough material that nobody has heard for ten years. What I expect to see in this tour is the loyal fans who have been there when we played last time but there may be a generation or maybe two who have heard about THE 69 EYES or even inspired by us to start a band, so I am really excited to meet them and play for them. We are going to make changes on the setlist night after night and also we are going to invite special guests on the stage. We have a lot of musician friends around the States, so in every city we may bring someone. There will be some local heroes with us on the stage.
That’s awesome! Do you see the band returning to the States after the release of the new album?
Absolutely. This is our plan and this is why we are doing with this tour; to start the relationship with the States all over again.
Do you have a working title for the album?
Well, I don’t want to reveal it. There is so much information for people to digest every day from every direction from their favorite movies, bands that they like, bands that they don’t even know, so it is better to keep some things to yourself and reveal it at the proper timing. And I hope that the fans will get the message. I am sure after this tour someone will write on the social media “oh, I didn’t know that you were touring here in the States” or something like that. I remember someone writing something like “you are going to play three blocks from where I live but I cannot come”. After announcing the US tour, there were people writing when will we play to their country and in some cases it was from places we play every time. I know; it is kind of lame for me saying this stuff but you cannot avoid seeing things that you shouldn’t. Anyways, it is kind of weird world compared to the world when we started as a band.
Indeed these are weird times and some people are driven by the ‘instant gratification need’ and want everything right now and outside their house…
There is something else. Let’s say, ten years ago, when I went on the stage, there was like a handful of people with their cell phones right in front of your nose, filming everything and it felt kind of weird filming one hour and a half between my legs on the front rows where he can only capture my legs and almost no sound. Some musicians were annoyed by this and were throwing water on them and so on. I kind of shared the same feeling but that was 10 years ago. Two years ago, everyone seems to be doing this and now this has calmed down a bit, but when you are on the stage, now you are looking at the back of their head because they are taking pictures of themselves being at your shows. They don’t look at the stage anymore and instead they are looking at their phones taking selfies and I can see myself on the back behind them. They are showing to their friends that they are at a show. This is kind of weird and it goes in phases. When I go at shows, I see people who are not paying attention at the stage and they just look at their phones because they think it is important to film. But nobody has the time to look at their videos and it is almost like a nervous reflex people have. Let’s see what will happen next.
It is sad and people seem to be living in a different world.
Yes, and they are seeking for acceptance with the things they putting online. But, like I said, this is where life is at the moment. I am an entertainer/performer and I am happy that I can still deliver and I am also excited to be seen behind somebody’s back on the stage. I am grateful for that.
(laughs) Well, I cannot say that I like this, but I agree, let’s see what’s next. Speaking of music, how would you describe the new music?
It is not Glam Rock, it is not Metal, it is not Punk but it has elements of those. And it is definitely not Goth Rock but also has a little bit of that. Vocal-wise, I am very inspired by Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jim Morrison, Glenn Danzig, David Bowie, Andrew Eldritch from THE SISTERS OF MERCY and Peter Steele from TYPE O NEGATIVE; these are some of the vocalists I look up to and whose voices I love. Music-wise, it has the raw edge of IGGY AND THE STOOGES but it also has [interrupting himself] our drummer [Jussi 69] has this Hard Rock MÖTLEY CRÜE beat, our bass player [Archzie] is closer to Lemmy with his playing, and our rhythm guitarist [Timo-Timo] is somewhere between Johnny Ramone and Johnny Thunders so all these together make our sound unique. Live, our guitars are out of tune, my microphone wire cuts off, there is no special light show and no other gimmicks; it is just us playing the music people know and want to listen to. It is very primitive but that’s the only way we know how to do it.
That sounds absolutely awesome and we cannot wait to see you here in Chicago.
Well, we are not coming to Chicago but hopefully we will for the next tour.
Well, I am sorry, I was referring to Joliet that is one-hour drive from downtown Chicago, so to me, this is the “Chicago area”.
Oh, that’s right, you are aware of that show, man, cool! I am sorry but I did not check the location on the map and I was wondering why the hell we do not play in Chicago. That’s funny because I did not know, so thank you, man! I saw that you were calling from Chicago but I did not know that Joliet is close. In fact, I was expecting that you’d ask me about not coming to Chicago, especially if you consider how great we do there. We always have great crowds even is smaller places like Reggies or House Of Blues. These have always been memorable shows and really cool, crazy and beautiful fans. Chicago has a great Gothic scene and some cool bars. I am happy that we are coming to this region and I am sure we will have friends from the old days coming to see us. So now, if someone asks online why we did not come to Chicago, I can put some emoji with a sad face...
Oh man, you know all the new stuff! I am impressed.
I try to stay on top of things, man – I do not want to stand out from the crowd too much. I do very well even without that, but I try to live in this moment. Because this is the best life we will ever have and we have to enjoy every moment, since life goes by really fast.
Thank you, Jyrki for your time. Have safe travels and see you here in the Chicago area.
Yeah, finally Gotham here we come! Thank you, Dimitris.