Helsinki Vampires “Back From the Grave” in U.S.: Interview with Jyrki69

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Finnish goth-rock legends and self-proclaimed “rock ‘n’ roll gang” The 69 Eyes will perform in the U.S. today for the first time in a decade. The “Back From the Grave” will wind through 26 cities, parking in Brooklyn along with “funeral pop” duo MXMS and dark-rock outfit The Nocturnal Affair at The Kingsland on May 16.

Frontman Jyrki69 came prepared to a Skype interview with questions of his own for Metal Solstice’s Samantha Chilli. The seasoned “Helsinki vampire” also spilled some of the band’s secrets, including songwriting inspiration for their upcoming album, what fans can expect from this tour, and the key to sticking together for 30 years.

The 69 Eyes, 2016. Photo credit Ville Juurikkala.

Jyrki69: All the time in interviews, I’m asked about Helsinki, but I see you’ve been in Finland recently. What was special about it for you?

Samantha Chilli: I spent time in Helsinki, checked out metal shows and hung out at the Riff (a bar owned by The 69 Eyes’ drummer, Jussi69). After that, I spent another week in Rovaniemi and Oulu up north.

J69: That’s extreme! So you got to experience real winter. Finland is like California; there are different climates and landscapes. It’s actually cheaper for us to go to London or Paris than Lapland. But I get to see the country because of touring, and it’s definitely a country worth seeing.

SC: Absolutely. I started learning the language, so I was going to begin our conversation with, “Mitä kuuluu?” If you had responded in Finnish, though, the interview would’ve been all over.

J69: Well, I’m sorry I spoiled your surprise.

SC: All good. So it has been 10 years; why is now the right time for The 69 Eyes to come back to the U.S.?

J69: Last time, we had just recorded an album in Los Angeles, but then we changed record labels and management, so suddenly it wasn’t that simple to come over and play in the U.S. Ever since I was a kid listening to an Elvis tape, playing in the States was my ultimate dream. It’s where rock ‘n’ roll comes from, and we have loyal followers there.

SC: The venues on this tour are more intimate than last time around. How will that create the atmosphere for The 69 Eyes’ set?

J69: That’s how rock ‘n’ roll is. It’s exciting to see the people who came to see us last time, even from the Myspace days. But it’s a rock show; we’re old rockers with leather jackets, sunglasses and amps. Hopefully, the venues have a couple of lights, but it doesn’t matter if they don’t work. As long as we have electricity.

SC: Which songs will be included in the setlist?

J69: It will be all of the classic 69 Eyes songs like “Lost Boys,” “Brandon Lee,” “Gothic Girl” and “Never Say Die.” We have a lot of rocker friends in the States, so we’re trying to bring local heroes on stage in some cities, too. I mean, guitars will be out of tune at some point. It’s going to be old school.

SC: Will you have a photographer on the road capturing these moments?

J69: Not this time, as we did with Ville Juurikkala in 2006, but we have lots of friends in the States who will take pictures. I also like to see The 69 Eyes. Secretly, it’s like my pop art project. Record covers, lyrics, songs, graphics for the band: I’m involved. When it comes to making music videos or photographs, I love to be part of creating something. I know this art by being a fanboy of certain bands, photographers, directors, so I’m making my own fantasy happen through this band.

SC: Other than “Lennä Lennä Lepakko”, I’ve never heard you perform in Finnish. Is writing in Finnish something you’d ever do in the future?

J69: Oh, wow! You’re really good at Finnish. That was over a decade ago; it was part of a children’s record including then-famous pop-rock guys, and I wrote that song about a lonely bat flying around by the bay of Helsinki. But I think that will wait for me in the future. It’s a little bit different to sing in Finnish; for me, the rock ‘n’ roll language has always been English. Sometime I’d like to do the language that my mother taught me, so it waits ahead!

SC: So I was in Oulu, talking with Altti Veteläinen from Eternal Tears of Sorrow and For My Pain…, and he mentioned a time that you went out of your way to congratulate him on a new album and more. Why is this level of connection and community within Finnish rock and metal scenes so important to you?

J69: First of all, it’s mind-blowing that you said that! It’s not deja-vu, but actually today, I was thinking, “What happened to that band? What happened to that guy?” I was really thinking of it! That’s my style; I want to get other people involved with what we’re doing, or try to help them out if I can. I’m a music and pop culture lover, just like Andy Warhol was doing. I’ve never thought about it, but my attitude has something to do with that- to be open and curious for life and creative people. You only live once, except vampires live a little bit longer!

SC: You have a new full-length album coming up in the fall. Where did you find songwriting inspiration for this release?

J69: The album is just getting mixed right now, and the first single will be out at the end of May, just after this tour ends. It’s not moody or shoegazing; it’s a really rocking record. When it comes to writing, there’s a “lost boy” inside of me who’s still excited about horror movies and dark-fantasy things.

SC: What has been the key to The 69 Eyes staying together for so long?

J69: There was a vampire spell cast over us about 30 years ago. It feels like we’re a band that time forgot. We’re more like a rock ‘n’ roll gang that comes to your town, and we play you some music that we have composed.

*Some content reposted with the permission of The Beaver County Times.

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