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The 69 Eyes have been on the rock and roll train for three decades. Formed in the clubs of Helsinki in the days when their country was little more than a rock music backwater known solely for one band, Hanoi Rocks, The 69 Eyes have outlived almost every one of the Finnish bands from that period and most of those that have come along since.
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“When we first started there was still the ghost of Hanoi Rocks here in Helsinki and we were very inspired by them and another Helsinki-based band called Smack,” says vocalist Jyrki 69. “Both of those bands are, of course, long gone. We existed between Hanoi Rocks and HIM, and that band is gone now too.”
Those familiar with The 69 Eyes’ dark rock may find similarities between them and HIM, particularly Jyrki’s Pete Steele (Type O Negative)-meets-Andrew Eldritch (The Sisters of Mercy) deep bass-baritone vocal style. Both bands feature a strong Gothic streak, but The 69 Eyes developed from a more straightforward rock and roll direction. Jyrki offers a laundry list of early influences as he talks more about his strongly resilient band, one which has suffered only a single member shake-up, way back in the days before their first album was released.
“We’re an original 80s band, which is pretty cool. When we started the band, there was Guns ‘N’ Roses, Hanoi Rocks, The Lords of the New Church, The Cult, The Sisters of Mercy, The Mission, The Cramps. All those bands were at their prime… Billy Idol of course. They were the coolest bands on the planet and they inspired us to try something similar. Also what inspired us was the really cool rock scene in Australia and bands like Lime Spiders, Hoodoo Gurus, The Screaming Tribesmen – really cool bands that inspired our sound.”
The idea, he promises, was to be “cool” while coming up with their own take on what was inspiring them.
“We wanted to come up with something original, combining our basic street glammy rock and horror,” he says. “I was a big fan of The Cramps, Alien Sex Fiend, and we played cover songs of Iggy and the Stooges, early Alice Cooper… combining those elements with something original was our mission.”
We’ve been doing these interviews and people are saying, ‘Hey, there was bands like HIM, Sentenced, To/Die/For who were from Finland, and you’re the only one left’. I didn’t realise that! It wasn’t that obvious then. Maybe to outsiders it was a scene… maybe it was! But what we were inspired by was original rock and roll, but we have tried to make it more current-sounding. Basically, The 69 Eyes has always stayed the same, all these years, but the time has changed, the world has changed around us!
That mission took ten years, by which time they had recorded three albums attempting to come up with that sound. In the meantime, the Finnish music scene had begun to blossom, spreading its tendrils into the thriving metal underground. On a landscape surrounded by bands obsessed with the aesthetics of gloom, it was perhaps only natural that The 69 Eyes began to highlight the gothic aspects of their music.
“We had three albums trying this and that,” the singer says, “trying to find that original sound and then, exactly ten years after we started the band, we released the album Wasting the Dawn and we added more Gothic elements to our sound. It was always there, we just added more keyboards and that made it more dark. I think the time was suitable for us coming out of Finland. At the time there was a bunch of dark melodic metal bands here and we were considered part of that scene.”
Jyrki was apparently unaware of how much a part of that scene they were until very recently, when interviewers started bringing it up.
“We’ve been doing these interviews and people are saying, ‘Hey, there was bands like HIM, Sentenced, To/Die/For who were from Finland, and you’re the only one left’,” he says. “I didn’t realise that! It wasn’t that obvious then. Maybe to outsiders it was a scene… maybe it was! But what we were inspired by was original rock and roll, but we have tried to make it more current-sounding. Basically, The 69 Eyes has always stayed the same, all these years, but the time has changed, the world has changed around us!”
On West End, their twelfth studio album, The 69 Eyes invited some old friends along to add some extra flavour to their now-well established “Goth n Roll” sound. Dani Filth (Cradle of Filth) and Wednesday 13 contribute to the album, musicians with long established histories with the band as supporters and touring partners. Alice Cooper’s daughter also makes an appearance.
“A 69 Eyes album doesn’t really need any guests. It’s our record!” Jyrki says. “But it’s cool to invite friends, and it was important that it was friends. After such a long time playing, we don’t have any expectations that these guests will bring a new audience or anything like that. We just did it because we have been friends forever and we’ve never done this before.”
Cradle of Filth took The 69 Eyes on a US tour in 2004 which Jyrki describes as “probably the best days of my life! It was the best tour we’ve ever done.” The band also toured extensively with Wednesday 13. The singer crossed paths with his old friends recently in Hollywood and the seeds were sown.
“Our producer had a good idea to have Dani Filth on the opening track Two Horns Up. It really kicks the album open. I can’t wait for the fans to see the video and hear the song. I’m really thrilled to see the reaction. The other track is The Last House on the Left which is a Wes Craven movie originally from 1972 but there’s also a remake,” he gushes, “which is really highly recommended by me. I had the idea for the song, but when I ran into Wednesday I hoped that he would guest on the song and I asked him to write the storyline according to the movie, and he did a really great job. Of course, in the movie there’s a vengeful woman, so we needed a female voice, and Calico Cooper from Beastö Blancö was the perfect choice. It’s just a fun horror punk song, and it also has Dani Filth screaming his lungs out. It’s a cool horror punk song for Halloween 2019!”
The 69 Eyes were last in Australia in 2009. Jyrki hopes that can be rectified on the back of West End, especially as digital platforms suggest they have substantial fanbase here. He hopes those fans can make enough noise to convince someone to bring them back to our shores.
“Australia is in the top four of the countries on our playlists, so it’s a crime that we haven’t played there since 2009. It’s a criminal injustice, really. It’s time for The 69 Eyes to return to Australia. Seeing as it’s our 30th anniversary, we just released our best album and we have always had a loyal fanbase there, so it’s time to return. Obviously,” he adds with a chuckle, “a vampire needs an invitation, otherwise he can’t enter, so I hope I can get the message to our promoters there and convince them it’s worth bringing The 69 Eyes Down Under after a decade to show you how goth and roll is done!”