the 69 eyes’ jyrki 69
By Jay Oakley
I’m sitting with Jyrki 69 from The 69 Eyes. First off, thank you so much for taking the time.
Yeah, anytime. Any old time.
First tour of the U.S. in ten years, we’re all very excited so we have to start off with how the tour’s going, how’s the reception, how are the fans?
Tonight is going to be the 21st show if I’ve counted right. It’s been incredible. We didn’t know what to expect. I’ve been here by myself because I love the States, I love the road and I love the American road especially. So, I’ve been here doing some little solo things during this ten year absence with my solo thing last year. I released a solo record and I came out with an L.A. based solo band. We did a short tour on the West Coast and then previously I also had my rockabilly-hobby band, The 69 Cats, we played around in the States, Nashville, Austin, L.A., we’ve been playing around also during this ten years.
So, I’ve been around and I’ve noticed that people are and, of course, people have been asking, “When will The 69 Eyes be coming back?” We really had to wait this long because last time, ten years ago, everything really changed, the music business. I don’t want to go into more details because not everybody remembers, some people haven’t been here long enough and it doesn’t matter. You have to realize that in those days we were a MySpace band. Now, we’re slowly becoming an Instagram band but it was a very different time then.
So, it took us this long to come back but we’ve been naturally releasing records and been active, touring around the world and elsewhere besides the U.S. and the most heart-warming thing has been, since we’ve had the chance to meet our fans during this tour, I’m personally very attached that the people have been telling what their favorite songs are and what songs they like, what records they like and what records they bring to get signed. So, during this absence we have released a couple of records and it’s amazing that people really have followed us even though we haven’t come here and they like songs from these records that have come during this ten years. I like that a lot and it’s amazing that we have very loyal people and fans here and I’m very thankful for that. Everything’s great. Being here is the best time of my life by far, seriously. Culturally, this trip has been amazing. Today, I went to Edgar Allan Poe’s grave, so I’ve been doing all of my cultural travelling and research during this trip. So, for me, I’m just collecting material for whatever I’m going to create next. Also, the cool thing is we actually have a new record done and it’s coming out at the end of summer. The first single comes out the 25th of May which is within two weeks so it’s crazy. It feels like a new beginning for The 69 Eyes and it’s like a fresh injection of fresh blood through the old vampire veins of ours to come here to the States and, once again, we don’t have to start to build anything from the beginning but we have this new record to deliver for fans starting with the new single in two weeks, it’s incredible. So, it means that naturally you won’t have to wait for another ten years for us to come back.
With the record coming out at the end of the summer and the single being released shortly, for the fans that will be attending this tour are you currently playing the new single?
No, no. There are so many songs and we have a set list that we will play and also give the meet and greet fans and I’ve been asking what they think of the set list because it was hard to put up because we don’t know what era or what record or what songs people want to hear. Everyone has been saying that the set list is solid and we’re happy about that. Some people have mentioned some other songs so from that point of view there’s no reason to play material that people haven’t heard because we made two or three records, at least two during this ten years absence so there’s enough material from those to be fresh for you guys and for fans here. Next time, of course, we can play it out.
Are you able to tell us the name of the upcoming single?
Yeah, of course, it’s not published anywhere yet but you can put it out. It’s called “27 & Done.” The chorus goes “Let’s all die young, 27 and you’re done.” It’s pretty sarcastic and grim at the same time but I put things out and it’s guaranteed 69 Eyes but it’s also a really rock and roll song. It’s not a slow goth song more like glam goth. More like sunset strip glam goth.
You had mentioned your solo band which played with MGT. I wanted to ask you about that because I’ve known Ace (Von Johnson) for many years and I thought that was great that you got to play with him and I’ve met Ashes a few times as well. How was it getting to work with those guys and get to do that West Coast solo tour?
Well, I just wanted to make music. I’ve been releasing a new record every year. It’s The 69 Eyes, it’s been The 69 Cats, it’s been my solo record, last year it was actually a Finnish goth band called, Musta Paarati, where I’m singing and this year it’s the new 69 Eyes album. So, I just want to keep myself creating so I’m releasing new stuff every year.
So, with that solo record thing, Cleopatra Records gave me the opportunity to release a new record under my own name. The album, Helsinki Vampire, it’s actually songs by, longtime 69 Eyes producer, Johnny Lee Michaels. The music is by him and it’s like, electronic, moody, more like film score music. I just put it out and I thought it would be fun to tour in the States. I’ve known Ace for a long time and we’ve always talked about doing something together so we put together a little Hollywood vampire band and did this short tour and it was really cool. We played songs from the solo record, a couple of 69 Eyes songs because people would obviously wait for that to happen and also some covers like The Doors and Danzig and stuff like that. It was, kind of, like a rock and roll holiday for me. It was really small scale in that sense but I’m planning to have a second solo album at some point and continue that as well and same thing with The 69 Cats. We released a dark rockabilly record (Transylvanian Tapes) a while back so it’s to have some new stuff come and it’s already being planned. So, I look to create many things and everything can happen just not at the same time but everything will have a certain time and space to happen in the near future and now is the time for The 69 Eyes. Coming to the States is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. That’s why I’ve been coming back and forth here so now it’s finally happening and it’s a seriously amazing comeback because this tour, it’s this underground cult tour. It’s not being advertised nearly at all, it’s only through the internet but the shows have been packed, people go crazy people are super happy. It’s been wonderful.
Absolutely, Jyrki. One of the things that you touched on before that I think is very cool is starting out as dominantly a MySpace band. Talk about being one of the earliest examples of a social media, internet driven band.
That was something that helped us get noticed in the States. We had some fans who helped us put out those sites back then. It’s hard to explain because nobody remembers that but, honestly, in MySpace there were a couple of people who were famous people there because that’s how it worked and then you had your “Top 8” things you follow and those two more famous people put our band there so it really exploded everything. At the same time we were on MTV on Bam Margera’s Viva La Bam show which, most likely, people don’t even remember. They remember Bam Margera from being in the news and movies once in a while but yeah Viva La Bam on MTV and there was an episode of Cribs which was a TV show where the superstars showed their homes so MTV had a show where Bam Margera presented his home and we were, by accident, there in his pirate bar sitting. Those kinds of things were important then and all of a sudden those things happened and they really pushed us to people in the States along with the songs. We also played a couple of TV shows too but that happened already fifteen years ago so the band has just been doing records and playing around the world but it’s time to return here and the welcome has been amazing.
That’s also something that I’ve always found interesting about The 69 Eyes and it also has to be very gratifying to be this successful band with limited exposure, but your band lineup has been solid and hasn’t changed, you’re continuing to put out music, the fans are right there for you, ready and waiting on a tour with limited promotion like you said. So, it’s got to be gratifying for you as the voice of the band to have your brothers and band mates right there for the ride.
Well, I feel sorry for anyone who is starting a band right now or tries to get any kind of new lineup together because it’s pretty hard. There’s so much stuff coming up and trying to get people’s attention so that obviously helps that we are a little older. In someone’s eyes we are an 80s band because we started in the ’89 but an older band that has paid their dues and we have the fan base and we’re still competing for attention with people who come to the shows with younger artists or even more hipster names. Even if you go to shows, maybe you go to see a show like Aerosmith or huge artists like that and don’t have the time or money to spend on a minor act if you even like them. But, we’ve been lucky in many ways and as weird as this sounds, even on this tour I feel the best is yet to come. It’s weird but it feels real like that and musically we’re releasing records because we want to because we think we can get much better and the band is getting better and better all the time. Like The Rolling Stones, I think they’re at their best live recently and if you go and see Judas Priest the new album (Firepower) is blowing your mind. It’s insane for old these guys are and how long these guys have been doing it and it’s the best metal record you can imagine from anybody and then going to see them live. Also, Ozzy Osbourne was really good when I saw him. I saw him for the first time on the No More Tours Tour in the 90s and I think Ozzy was at his best when I saw him last year so I think a similar thing is happening for The 69 Eyes. I think we are just getting better and I’m happy that we make fans so happy as well. They stuck with us through the times so it’s cool. Of course, there’s also younger generations all the time which is also amazing. Even on this American tour, we’re not just a nostalgia trip for MySpace or MTV or the Jackass guys, there are young generations as well in the crowd. It’s fucking cool.
One more thing to close things out that’s more on the personal side of you that I think is very rad is you have a masters degree in Analytical Chemistry. So, talk about it because that’s a very cool thing.
It leans to the fact that in Finland you can study whatever you want as long as you want. Our education is free so I was just a good boy. I started the band and I was a student and I was a student for a very fucking long time because the band started to keep me busy. I didn’t know what I wanted to do after school so I kept on studying at the university. Nowadays actually, I have two master’s degrees. I recently studied another master’s degree in Computerized Sciences. I just like it. It’s our country so we’re pretty free to do what we want and also education is free for us. That’s actually some of the explanation for when people ask about it because I understand that studying is expensive here and sometimes you have to have rich parents or something. I’m from a super poor background but I want to do a lot of things in my life. I started to write books, I’ve drawn comics, I want to be in the movies, I want to direct a movie, I want to draw more, I want to write more and I’m doing music and jumping around on stage in Baltimore tonight. I want to do everything in my life. I hope other people can fucking do that too. Life is free, man. Death is free too.
Jyrki, I want to thank you so much for taking some time to talk about the tour, what you’ve been doing with music and a bit of your personal life.
Thank you, sir. This was really cool stuff. We could talk for hours but we’d need a couple bottles of something sparkling or non-sparkling.