Jyrki69, frontman of the 69 Eyes
Photo by Jeffrey Delannoy
Last night’s concert at Revolution marked the 69 Eyes’ first ever appearance in South Florida as headliners. Despite playing, and with the same lineup, for over fifteen years, the Helsinki, Finland-based quintet has remained something of a cult band in the United States. But thanks to a tour earlier this year with Cradle of Filth, and the band’s velocity on Myspace, the self-proclaimed “original Helsinki vampires” decided it was time for their own outing. This past March saw the release of the band’s tenth American-distributed album, Angels, as well as a re-release of its back catalog by Cleopatra Records. The young crowd was thus properly armed with memorized lyrics, and orange wristbands for a mobbed post-show album signing session. With the late-setting Florida sun, 7:00 p.m. seemed a weirdly early start for the show, which featured Night Kills the Day, Fair to Midland, and Wednesady 13 as openers. But like good vampires, by the time the 69 Eyes emerged, night had truly fallen, dramatic intro music had struck up, and a cloud of smoke engulfed the stage. It was a fitting setting for the hour that followed of sexy, sleazy rock and roll, darkly enshrouded. Frontman Jyrki69 owned the stage, flicking his hands gracefully, pumping his fists, and twirling and gesticulating with the mic stand. He was like a risen Sunset Strip ghost. I caught up with frontman Jyrki for some questions before the show. On his oddly quiet and clean tour bus, the crystal-eyed, kohl-painted wraith clutched a Red Bull in a black-gloved hand as he waxed articulate on touring, the creative process, and why the band’s uncoolness made them cool. – Arielle Castillo After the jump, read the full Q&A with Jyrki. Watch a slideshow from the concert here.
What’s it like playing in South Florida? Have you played in the area before?
This is our first time headlining here. But we actually played in this same place last February or March, and it was great. This is the second U.S. tour for us this year, but last time we were here with Cradle of Filth.
Those shows were amazing because they were big places, maybe 2000 people every night. We’ve been friends with Cradle all these years, like ten years, and over the years we’ve been talking about someday doing a tour together. I was happy that it actually took this long, because now the timing was right. According to Johnny Filth, it was the best tour they had ever done. It was great to be part of that.
The audience was very acceptable for us. I mean, at first they were like, “Who the hell are these guys?” But in the end – of course, there was that diehard following in the front – but they were like, “Yeah, let’s rock!” And we went to our merch stands doing signings and guys would come up to us and tell us that we rocked. And that was like our feedback, and that’s exactly what we wanted.
That was a great tour, and after that we had a new album come out, which is called Angels. We’ve been touring all over Europe for like two months, so now we just flew over here, and we’ve been here maybe three weeks by now. We have one week to go. And then of course festival season is going strong out in Europe, so we’ll start to do that.
Is this your first headlining tour of the States?
No, we were here about a year and a half ago, and that was our first ever tour in the states, and that was a headlining tour. That was kind of peculiar, because we had a smaller record label which put our then-new album, Devils, out. We were more like these Myspace generation kids, we were like this secret new band. We did that tour and there were a lot of people at the shows.
We played the Last Call With Carson Daly show then, and then a legendary California gothic label, Cleopatra, released our entire back catalog, every record here in the states. And now we have a new label [Caroline] that released Angels, and is going to re-release Devils also. Kind of an interesting package coming up.
So a lot of things are happening, interesting things, like our songs going into movies. So even though the record isn’t on the Billboard 200, still a lot of things are happening, and I think we’re still this interesting cult band for the Myspace generation. It’s nice to come here for a change; we’ve been touring relentlessly in Europe for so many years, and it took a while for us to start to happen here.
The band’s been around for over fifteen years. How does it feel still being a “secret” here when you’ve been playing for so long?
It’s cool because we’re not seen as this old band like Black Sabbath with this long history as a burden on our back. We are interesting, something really fresh, from somewhere beyond. That’s really cool, and sometimes I don’t even know what to think myself. As I said, our whole entire back catalog is out, so there are these teenage kids who have our first albums, which were out in the early Nineties. And they’re like, “Wow, I love the sound, it’s so raw.” And I don’t know what to think!
But somehow it’s like all dreams seem to come true. Well maybe that was more like yesterday, because it was the Fourth of July! But in a way, I mean, there is definitely some strange magic in the air. It’s like we made the impossible possible. There isn’t any other band with our background and history. Also, there’s no other band like us in music in general.
What’s been the biggest challenge breaking into the United States?
Well, now we play all these really classic rock venues which are known all over the world. Things we recognize from buying records since we were kids, Live at the Fillmore, Live at the Whisky A Go-Go. Also, now that we’ve done three tours we’ve done the bigger venues, like the ones we did with Cradle, by ourselves. And they’re not so packed, but still we’re doing it!
According to plan, we’re of course coming back. We might play some odd Halloween shows around that time. Then we are doing another tour I think in February, but this time I think it’s time to do a support. We have a lot of offers.
The cool thing is that when we started the band, it was mainly because we were fanboys, fans of rock and roll. We’ve met a lot of our heros, and a lot of them have turned out to be our supporters, nearly fans. That’s always amazing.
You said that there aren’t any other bands like you around right now. What do you think sets you apart?
Well it’s like if we only forget the history part… We combine some things that were not combined before. Like when we started the band, we were really heavily into glam rock, old school New York Dolls, but also the Eighties Hollywood glam rock. But also at the same time, darker stuff like Danzig and the Misfits, and Sisters of Mercy; pure gothic stuff. So we wanted to put all the influences into what we were creating. We wanted to create our own favorite band. And it took nearly ten years to create the 69 Eyes sound as it’s known now. Also, I think all these other things are solved also. If you listen to our new album or look at our picture you can point out our influences.
We never tried to be fashionable. It’s something to do with the fact that Finland is an isolated country up north. Even though we wanted to sound like modern rock or metal music, we never, like, had a turntable guy with the band, or gold beards, or someone playing this nu-metal style or anything like that. We stood out of trends; we passed trends. We were so unfashionable, we never went out of style.
But there are some things that are always around. Like horror movies, they are always cool. They didn’t make so many horror movies in the early Nineties, but now there are a lot of horror movies. Or something like a black leather jacket, black hair, sunglasses. Even tight pants. Maybe they were not so cool a few years ago but in a way you never go wrong with something so – rock and roll, really.
I think the most important thing is the friendship. We were friends from the beginning, and it’s still the same guys. I know how some of those guys’ farts smell, so I just don’t go and sit next to them. That’s how it is; somehow we have transformed into one person. It’s like sometimes, one person goes to do some shopping, and without knowing, some other guy goes to the same place, and we all buy the same thing at the same time, or something like that. It’s something strange which has happened over the years. We’re a rock band and we are friends, and this is the deepest friendship we’re ever going to have. We’re living the greatest adventure!
How do you keep the songwriting process fresh after all these years?
That’s one of the best reviews that I read from our album Angels, someone pointed out that this doesn’t sound like “the eighth album from a nearly 18-year-old band.” It sounds like a fresh, energetic, aggressive, and sleazy and horny record. And that’s how it should be.
There are some ideas – Sometimes I’ve said we’re the most American band to come from outside of America. Like how we recycle pop culture. It’s like we pick out the best fruit. We’re the Del Monte men of rock and roll.
So the new album is called Angels and the last one was called Devils. Did you conceive of them together as parts of the same work?
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Yeah I had the idea. It’s pure entertainment. It’s like, I can make all these webs going around and everyone has to get this record and this record. But there are some similarities. But we also added and took away some things. Like Angels is a more raw, organic record, with less keyboards. Devils is a more – Angels is actually a darker record, even though the name isn’t.
Sometimes the songs take their own lives. It’s hard to explain something that you do, you know. Sometimes it’s just better to leave it than to critique.
Now that you’re headlining, what can the audience expect onstage from you? What have you changed about your stage show?
Well, of course it’s longer. It’s going to be a retrospective night of the albums of 69 Eyes, but also a heavy dose of new stuff. We just keep it as tight as possible and hit them hard.