617 Q&A: The 69 Eyes’ Jyrki 69 on going glam to goth, veganism, and why Finland loves rock and roll

Photo Credit: Marek_Sabogal

Very few artists in the history of music have been able to course correct from starting in a genre that became not just outdated, but almost loathsome in the wake of shifting tastes, into a touchstone of a different one altogether. But that’s exactly what happened though with Finland’s The 69 Eyes, who began as a glam metal outfit just when the spandex and hairspray were being tossed into the trash in the early ‘90s. It was an all too familiar case of a foreign band who were trying out a particular type of music right when it was dying out.

Then something interesting happened. Instead of trying to hold onto the musical echoes that initially inspired them, The 69 Eyes found their own sound, pulled from the gutters of 1980s Los Angeles and New York City, as well as the gothic pop culture of movies like The Lost Boys, The Crow and the darker side of Marvel Comics. Today, the band is revered as one of the contemporary goth acts who remain significant as ever by keeping true to a goth musical core which somehow lives on while being undead.

“You just spot out the freaks on the street, then start to follow,” frontman Jyrki 69 tells Vanyaland ahead of The 69 Eyes show tonight (April 8) at Brighton Music Hall. “Then they come to the show. That’s the ‘80s legacy. [It’s] how we always wanted it to be, and it was from the beginning, and it still is.”

That doesn’t mean The 69 Eyes are a legacy act – far from it. While they easily could be getting around to making an appearance in support of their 13th LP, last year’s Death of Darkness, they continue to veer just left of center. Take the newest single, “Fade to Grey,” an unexpected collaboration with one of the greatest songwriters of the modern era, Diane Warren, known for such smash compositions as Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me” and Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Time.”

Jyrki 69 recently sat down with Vanyaland for a 617 Q&A (Six Questions; One Recommendation; Seven Somethings) to discuss how The 69 Eyes progressed from glam to gothic rock, what it was like as a teenager trying to immerse himself in American culture from thousands of miles away – without the benefit of the internet – and why we should all be giving the upcoming remake of The Crow a chance. The overarching theme during the conversation seemed to be returning to one trait that while about Jyrki and the “Helsinki Vampires” have been around for some time, it’s hardly near the end of the road.

“I’m fucking 55,” he says. “I have a song [just] released and written by Diane Warren, so I’m far from being done. Maybe, hopefully that inspires somebody as well.”


Michael Christopher: Tell me about the evolution of the sound of The 69 Eyes, because if somebody didn’t know you and listened to Bump ‘n’ Grind, it sounds like a completely different band compared to Death of Darkness.

Jyrki 69: Well, does it in the end? Because the first album, Bump ‘n’ Grind, has songs like “Dream Master,” which was written inspired by The Sandman, Neil Gaiman’s comic book, and later on younger people know that from the TV series. So, I think the themes are pretty much like the same and also the attitude. But that record, as we started in the late ‘80s, I had been in New York a lot and I went there over and over again in early ‘90s with our lead guitarist who actually even lived there one year. We were influenced by the New York rock and roll scene.

Back then, there was great bands at the CBGBs, also the CBGBs legacy of bands like the Ramones, Dead Boys, Blondie still lived on, The Cramps of course. And that kind of scene was there still existing. You could see Dee Dee Ramone walking on the street or if he went to The Cat Club. There was Joey Ramone, and also that scene was there and that whole rock and roll and punk scene, but also in late ‘80s, early ‘90s in New York there were particularly really cool local bands like Circus of Power and The Throbs, Cycle Sluts from Hell – those kind of very different band bands than anywhere else, and obviously White Zombie.

So those bands were inspiring us with what they were doing and those sounds and aesthetics and ideas were based on the original rock and roll and also the New York rock and roll scene punk scene from ‘70s to ‘80s. So, when we started 69 Eyes, we wanted to sound like a loud glammy rock and roll band – and we didn’t have our own songs, of course – we were just covering stuff from the Ramones to early Alex Cooper, Iggy and The Stooges, even GG Allin and stuff like that, and Dead Boys. So, we played that kind of rock and roll. Then all of a sudden we started to write our own songs and add their horror flavor. It was glammy, vampire rock and roll from the beginning.

Obviously the most different thing there is my voice. I was screaming my lungs out because that’s the only way I knew. And then the evolution, it took 10 years, a couple of albums from us to just experience everything, but we always wanted to sound like a contemporary band. We never wanted to, even though I mentioned those early influential names that we were covering, we always wanted to sound like a contemporary rock band. And you have to remember that those days when we started there was the biggest band in the world was Guns N’ Roses, which obviously inspired us. Also, The Cult. We were light years away from being this naughty punk band, but we were dreaming if we played at the CBGBs, people would love us. So that was a blueprint of the band, what to follow from Helsinki, and it took 10 years. We had the chance to make albums and played shows and we had nice little cult audience like those over the years.

And at some point I experienced, “What if I sing from low?” Because obviously one of our influences was the gothic culture and gothic bands, gothic rock and roll bands like Sisters of Mercy and Mission UK, and of course The Doors was there always. tried to sing low, and then I realized that “Holy shit, I can sing from very low.” And so all of a sudden we were, our music was on the radio in Finland and all of a sudden our records started to really give sell and we all of a sudden had a teenage audience. Today, wherever we play, when there’s shows that all ages can come over, there’s always a bunch of teenagers dressing up for the first time to be a glam rocker or punk rocker or goth, and they come to see our shows.

Talking about rock music just as a whole, it seems like Scandinavia never disappoints. Whether it’s the Swedish punk rock of bands like Refused or The Hives, then you have Finnish outfits, of course The 69 Eyes and HIM, and that’s just scratching the surface of the artists that mainstream might know. What do you attribute the sort of unwavering love of hard rock in the region to?

I think we just get it, and we know it needs guts and we are determined and – most of all – what is most important, we’re just music lovers and we love that kind of music. Finland has always been a rock country. Well, actually these days it’s more like a rap country, like a Finnish rap? Can you believe that? So the guys imitate being from the States, having their similar clothes, but they come by five years late. But on the other hand, rock is big like Metallica sells out stadiums in Finland for three nights or something like that, and it’s also played in the radio. So traditional rock and roll is really deep down there in the roots and that’s how we got it. We’re getting it in our mother’s milk, so that’s why we get it.

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The new single, “Fade to Grey” is a collaboration with Diane Warren, who has obviously written some of the biggest hits in history. You’ve also worked with everyone from Danny Filth to Kat Von D. Is there anyone out there that’s on your bucket list of who you’d love to collaborate with, whether it’s a songwriter or a singer on a song?

I think we’ve pretty much done everything by far. And I think you can’t top that you have Diane Warren as your songwriter. I mean, I was even thinking of posting something like, “My songwriter is better than yours,” and a picture of me and Diane Warren there. But I thought then again, maybe somebody will [get] upset from that. [laughs] I think those collaborations are just because they’re friends or we’ve known them forever, we’ve been doing something with them, they’re our friends. But if there’s bucket list, well I’d love to do, if I ever do a duet, that would be cool to do with… well, Lady Gaga would be pretty cool. Let’s just say after Diane Warren, I can aim higher, higher.

Lyrically, you’ve always taken so much inspiration from sort of the classic pop culture from the United States, the film and music of the ‘80s and ‘90s. At the time you were getting started, there was no internet. And I was wondering how were you getting informed about what was popular in the States and what was getting big here?

That’s a great question. Thank you for that. So let me speak for the next hour. [laughs] Well, I was loner. I was a total nerd and one of the favorite things of mine was of course Elvis and rock and roll in general, which I tried to discover or borrow from the library, everything I could find. Then I was into comics and especially Marvel Comics. Now, I’m talking about Marvel comics that you got here, not translated in Finnish, not like Finnish reissues of classic Marvel stuff. I was hardcore Marvel Comics fan in the ‘80s when I was a teenager. All the money I got from delivering newsletters or something like little jobs that I had after school, I put them to ordering Marvel comics. So, I was like a subscriber of Daredevil when Frank Miller was writing it. If somebody knows anything about these things, those are the really classic stuff. Also like X-Men and Fantastic Four and obviously Spider-Man. Marvel Comics was the second golden period in the early ‘80s. So, when I got those magazines, they came every month and there was definitely no internet, but we had American TV series on Finnish TV and no overdubs, so we learned English from there. We had all that from Dallas to Miami Vice to Happy Days or Love Boat. Those were the important ones. [laughs]

When I was 19, my first travel alone anywhere was to New York because I’d seen it in comic books. Those magazines, they had also advertisements of Return of the Jedi, new movies and stuff like that. So, I’ve sort of in my dreams – totally in my dreams – I was living in a way, a little bit the same life that any other teenager in the early ‘80s here [in the U.S.]. I absorbed all the culture from that way and from wherever I could watching TV, movies, reading comic books. So, I was ready when we started the band and I headed out to New York, so I was ready to, I’ve done the paid the dues. So I was ready to start to write the lyrics and put up the band and play vampire rock and roll when the time was right.

You mentioned movies and I know you are a fan of The Crow. What do you think of the fact that they’re doing the remake?

I think that’s what happens. Every generation experiences all cool things and have a right for that. And I liked some of the images and posters have been pretty cool, but I saw the trailer. So that is, that’s very modern in a way of when it comes to the violence. It’s closer to the latest Equalizer, kind of very violent, but that’s how the movies are these days. But it doesn’t kill the original one, so maybe it makes the original one rise to even one more step to the next level.

I went to see the original one of course in the movies when it came out, and I didn’t know what to think. I was a little bit confused after it because I obviously had the comic books, which were kind of very dreamy and magical and they were so deep. So, they were so mysterious and deep. And then the movie came and then afterwards, after a few years, the movie was available commercially as a videotape. So I got that. And in the videotape there was, in the end there was a making of the movie and also interviews of Brandon Lee. And those were the ones that really inspired me a lot because how Brandon Lee talked about life in general and appreciating life, realizing that every day is unique, every sunset, every sunrise is one of a kind and we should more enjoy those in our busy scheduled lives.

So that made me a huge impression and that actually inspired the song “Brandon Lee” that The 69 Eyes has and inspired my approach to The Crow. If somebody makes a remake, it’s a hard task. But I’m seriously just excited that the new generations will discover the old one again because of the new version. I mean, let’s have a positive approach.

You’ve been a vegan for how long?

10 years. 10 years this year.

How different is the vegan food situation in the United States compared to Finland? Is it hard to find quality foods?

No. In L.A. it’s like every new restaurant is vegan here. For instance, I’ve been a road and there’s an application called Happy Cow, which I use internationally to spot out the vegan restaurants. And also my rider, if we have one, is vegan. So, it’s not a big deal. That’s just something that I chose just to stay more lean. And I found effects that I can rock harder longer. And originally, I chose this style because I was hanging out with elder American rockers who were vegans. For instance, I heard that The Cramps were entirely vegans and they rock harder, partied harder because they were vegan. So I was just like, “Okay, that’s a path that I like to follow,” and I’m still on the same path.

Is the food better here or better in Finland?

Is the pillow better here or at home? Or do the girls kiss better here or in Finland? Those are my answers.

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Jyrki 69: The new Black Crowes album. That is a surprisingly great album. If you like rock and roll, or you’ve seen the band in your father’s or mother’s record collection, check out the new album because it’s something. It’s the best Black Crowes ever. They’re still there, they sound better than ever. And it’s hungry, it’s dangerous. The record is happening big time. I hope that if you know or not know about the band, you would have some moment to check out because it’s really worth it, it’s the best rock and roll album by far in this year.


* * *

So much of The 69 Eyes music up to and including the recent single, “California,” has been inspired by the West Coast. Give me seven of your favorite bands from California.

Let’s start from the early days, from early rock and roll. Jan and Dean, early rock and roll, those guys, Eddie Cochran, Richie Valens, The Seeds, Jan and Dean, they’re from there and they have that special sort of sun, like a California vibe in their lyrics and their sound.

Later on in the ‘60s there’s so many good bands from there starting from Jefferson Airplane.

Also, The Mamas & The Papas, The Beach Boys and The Seeds.

Obviously, The Doors. I don’t have to tell why they are cool because you listen to their music still today is the answer. And because there’s a mystery in their sound, in their lyrics, you don’t know what it is.

Guns N’ Roses obviously changed my life so much.

L.A. Guns is another cool band.


Motley Crue.

So, there’s more than you wanted, and let’s end it to the ‘80s and keep it there. And if you make a playlist with Eddie Cochran, Richie Valens, Jan and Dean, The Seeds, Jefferson Airplane, Mamas & The Papas, The Doors, The Beach Boys, L.A. Guns, Ratt, Motley Crue, and Guns N’ Roses. That’s pretty cool playlist.

THE 69 EYES + THE BITES + BUDDERSIDE + GRETCHEN SHAE & THE MIDDLE EIGHT :: Monday, April 8 at Brighton Music Hall, 158 Brighton Ave. in Allston, MA :: 6:30 p.m., 18-plus, $27.50 :: Event info :: Advance tickets