A Chat with Finland’s Goth ‘n’ Rollers, The 69 Eyes

The 69 Eyes

As their upcoming record’s release date approaches fast, we couldn’t pass up the chance to interview The Helsinki Vampires, aka The 69 Eyes frontman Jyrki whilst he was watching Johnny Cash – The Man in Black Danish TV show from 1971 to grab some details and speak to him about his love for goth clubs in Rome and Paris, horror comics and the band’s side projects.

For those who aren’t that aware of the band, can you tell us a bit more on how the band formed and the meaning behind the name The 69 Eyes?
The 69 Eyes started in 1989, since our backgrounds were slightly different, from Gothic to ’77 UK punk to glam, our sound was at first more like The Stooges-meets-Dead Boys-meets-The Cramps raw & crazy street rock. Through the first decade it matured into how we are now best known as the melodies and Gothic and dark sound rose above. We were drinking buddies from the Helsinki Goth/punk/glam bar scene and that still appears today. Girls, booze and parties – that’s why we formed the band and that’s the way it should always remain. Though at some point we got a bit mainstream famous here in our home country Finland. The 69 Eyes stands for strange & dark union between Elvis and Dracula.

You’re from Finland, what can you tell us about the gothic/glam rock genre of music there – does it exist or is it pretty much non-existent?
I was last out there in the 80’s, haha! My favorite Goth clubs I go to are in Rome & Paris. My favorite rock’n’roll bar in the world is Manitoba’s in NYC. I know absolutely nothing about what’s going on in Finland now!

Is the gothic culture something you all grew up around and how much of that culture do you use for your music style?
You know back in the day there was only one place in the record store in which they had the albums of Alien Sex Fiend, The Cramps, Gun Club, The Fuzztones, Bauhaus, Sisters Of Mercy etc. All those cool bands with sunglasses! So that’s how I discovered them. Our bass player Archzie used to play in the post-punk band called Syyskuu in Finland in the early 80’s. Naturally all that dark stuff combined with street rock & cool glam was something we wanted to put into our band since the beginning. Especially vampires and rock’n’roll…

Talking fashion basics, you all seem to like the color black, in-fact I don’t think I’ve seen any of you wearing any other color; is this a deliberate choice?
Haha, we’re just 80’s relics…black is timeless of course like our music. Sunglasses, leather jackets, jet black hair…

You’ve recently been in the studio working on your upcoming album which is due for release early next year, will it surprise or shock fans?
It’s coming out so good that I can’t wait to play it for you! It’s pure Goth’n’Roll to the bone! Dark, melodic and rocking, with very strong lyrics too.

How does this new record you’re putting together compare to your last records, is it still on par with the level of darkness?
Since we’re recording it with Johnny Lee Michaels who produced our albums Blessed Be and Paris Kills, this new one can be actually like the third chapter for those, but more mature and darker!

Have you thrown around ideas for titles and what sorts of things do you explore lyrically on this one?
My cities; New York, Rome, Marseilles, Jerusalem, are all on there. As well as drinking with The Death…as for the title, I got the idea in Austin when visiting The House Of Weird…

A lot of your imagery for album coverwork, music videos and even promotional material is quite dark, is that just the way of working you’ve all become most familiar with?
That fits with our music style; we always talk about our new songs by referring to their vibes with movies, so our musical communication with each other is very graphical. We hope to transfer that into our graphics as well.

Quite a few of your tracks are linked to various dark films including The Lost Boys and The Crow, what age were you when you realized you had a fascination with horror movies?
I got my first horror comic book Marvel’s Werewolf On The Prowl when I was about 6 years old.

What’s your all-time favorite horror film?
Could be Fright Night.

I noticed a few crows in a couple of your promotional photos (not sure how old the photos are) am I right in saying they were stuffed?
Ask from Albert Hitchcock about his promo photos for The Birds, haha!

What are your thoughts on taxidermy art – are you fans?
I prefer the nature wild and free! Though I have to admit that one of the first 69 Eyes photo sessions was done in the Zoological Museum of Helsinki in front of the stuffed animals, we never used them in the end!

It was almost 2 years ago that you released The Best Of Helsinki Vampires how has the response for that been and can we expect another compilation (not necessarily a greatest hits) of you guys?
After playing a quarter of a century we thought we’d celebrate it by releasing that compilation. Let’s have another one after we’ve played half a century.

Have you played any festivals this summer and have you got any lined up for the rest of the year?
Yeah, any old summer means a bunch of festivals!

I see you played Gotik Treffen back in 2013, how was that and do you plan on making a re-appearance sometime in the future?
We love to play at both Gotik Treffen and Mera Luna Gothic Festival in Germany! Always huge parties whenever we go and the girls really know how to dress up there…We’re playing them every second year.

Is Whitby Goth Weekend something you’d ever consider performing at?
We’re ready if they can afford us!

What can we expect from you guys in the next year, are there plans in place for a European/UK headline tour soon after your new record is released?
The album comes out in February 2016, so obviously every self-respecting Goth/metal/punk/glam festival will have us on their bills…

I see you do vocals for another band called The 69 Cats which leans more towards the dark rockabilly genre, how did this come about because it’s quite a step away from The 69 Eye’s music?
Yeah, it’s my American band taking me back to my musical roots. Please check out our album Transylvanian Tapes – it’s really a missing link between Helsinki and Memphis!

Do all the band members have separate side projects aside from The 69 Eyes?
We’re rockers, so we enjoy playing – our drummer has a hard rock band called Local Band and the rest of the guys play HC punk/UK ’77 stuff in Kill City. So if you come to Helsinki and there are no 69 Eyes shows while you visit, you might catch us playing out in our other bands!