The 69 Eyes have been celebrating their overall 30th Anniversary this year with the arrival of their new album West End, which was released on September 13th via Nuclear Blast (order here). These Finnish gothic hard rockers have had quite the journey over the years as we caught up with frontman Jyrki 69 to discuss the importance New York is to the band’s history, the group’s new album, and more.
Jyrki 69 started the conversation:
New York is an important part of the history of The 69 Eyes. That’s where I got the idea to put up the band in 1989. There was a band in the 80s; I was a teenager. One of the coolest bands here in Finland was called Hanoi Rocks that was very influential. They split up, but there were similar bands like Hanoi Rocks or this band called Smack. Later on, of course, if you know rock history, Hanoi Rocks and Smack were very influential bands over there in the U.S. for Guns N’ Roses and other bands. We were a little dose of goth, and all of a sudden, there came a group from the States which was Guns N’ Roses, and they looked like guys like we do back here in Helsinki, and they dressed up like all of us here, did.
And then bands like Faster Pussycat, L.A. Guns. That was weird to see all of these bands from Hollywood; they looked like us here in Helsinki. So, I was curious about what was going on. The music was great, of course. They sounded pretty much like my favorite bands, local bands here. So I wanted to go to Los Angeles to see what’s going on. I had heard from the older guys when the Sex Pistols came in the mid-seventies in London; people used to go there. My old friends went to see the punk rock explosion, like what’s going on in London. So it was a generation, which all of them went to London to experience. About ten years earlier, in 1967, San Francisco was the place to go for that generation. So my generation’s place was Hollywood and everything that was happening there. I heard about the news, I saw the magazines and so on, and so it looked like a fascinating place, but I didn’t have enough money. I couldn’t buy the flights to L.A., So I ended up going to New York, and that was 1988. But lucky for me because obviously, the New York scene was very, very good as well. There were great bands. Of course, the legacy of CBGBs. I saw the Ramone’s walking on the streets.
And then there were great rock clubs like Cat Claw, Limelight, and great New York rock and roll bands like The Throbs, Princess Pang, a lot of really, really cool bands. And then I was so inspired, I went, I saw The Throbs, a local New York City band and I think they were supporting Nina Hog and they played at the Ritz. And when I was looking at them, I felt that this looked like something I might want to do if I was in a band. So when I returned to Finland, I had a vision of what kind of band I wanted to start with. I began to figure out guys who were playing in a band, and all these bands from New York sort of totally inspired my vision. Classic Scene, like The Ramones, Johnny Thunders, but also having a modern flavor. And it took a year. Like I told you, I was there in 1988 and it took a year. By 1989, I had a crew of people which, I was a temporary singer. In my head, I wanted to know guys who play in a band, but I knew what kind of band would be cool.
The idea came from New York and then ever since I was a student. I took a student loan, traveled to New York, all these classic years until I think ’92 was the last year I was there. Every summer I was there hanging out in the rock clubs. I ended up finally at some point in Hollywood, as well. So I was there during the Sunset Strip classic era as well. I was so inspired by everything that was happening there. Also in London, too. At some point when The 69 Eyes released our first single, couple of early singles, I like to tell that we were a half New York and Helsinki band because all the ideas came from New York to me.
I wouldn’t say it was a lie, but it was kind of like my dream — same thing with Hollywood at some point. We were thinking about trying to go to play there as well. At some point, we were booked to play in Hollywood in the club called Raji’s, but then the earthquake came, and Raji’s was closed down. Those days you were communicating with snail-mail letters, and we got a letter like, “Oh, unfortunately, Raji’s is no longer available for you guys to play.” That was I think 93 or something like that. And then it took some 12 years for us to finally end up playing in Los Angeles and the States in general. But in the early days, all the inspiration came from the States. I kept it up like that. And always the 69 Eyes has been imaginary in my mind, an imaginary American band. All the influences and whatever is still there if it comes from American pop culture.
But when it comes to the music and when it comes to the melodies, the melancholic melodies that we write, they are something that only Finnish guys can do because that melancholic vibe is in our blood and comes to us in mother’s milk as well. How we write the music, that’s pure Finnish way of writing. But the inspiration for me and when it comes to the visuals and vision, that’s something that I got inspired and learned and copied, stolen, and used what I saw in the States back in the day and still today.
You re-inspired me to stay in New York.
Well, there’s not so much rock and roll left there. A bunch of my friends still there from the Lower East Side. There are some legendary places, and you can sense the vibes. Then there are some original rockers still out there. Unfortunately, I don’t know if there’s such a scene that you could go there and start something like that. In those days you just went to Rock Bar or Limelight, and you could probably form a band because it was full of rockers. It was more adventurous, but those were the times and things happening in New York, of course today. Those were the classic days, but you know the spirit is still there if you search. And there are still old school rockers. You have to study the internet; you might end up seeing something very legendary.
Artists like Walter Lure from The Heartbreakers, or even guys who are not that famous, there’s cool bands still. Also young rockers, for instance, a group called Sweet Things. They are a legendary, cool new band but already legendary.
A lot of places have closed down, that’s for sure. There are not as many places, but people find a way, the scene is still active out here, which is good.
Yeah. And it’s New York for Christ’s sake. You don’t need anything. There’s fucking Central Park; there’s Apollo theater, Empire State Building, Lower East Side, everything. Spiderman is there still.
Yes, he’s always here.
Relax. Yeah, he’s around, so there are no worries.
Let’s talk about the new album, West End, what was the process making it?
Well, the thing is how we write the music is our guitarist delivers me the ready songs. Instrumental songs. But the structure is the structure that ends up on the album most likely. Sometimes they are arranged differently. And then it’s been like three years. Once upon a time, he had delivered me cassettes, C-tapes. And then later on C.D.s. Nowadays, it’s just a link to Dropbox, and then there are songs. When I listen to them, if I got the idea for the song, I hear something, I hear a story, I see a picture or something like that, which when I hear the music then that’s always happening.
I trust the first instinct. Usually, with the best songs, I get the chorus immediately during the first listen, in my head. This time around, I got a bunch of songs, and I was on one of my trips to Hollywood, and I came to my hotel room, and the sun was coming up. So I went pretty late. So I thought that “All right, I’m here. What about using this magical moment, seeing the sunrise over Hollywood Hills to listen to the demos, maybe write some stuff?” I was listening to the songs, and they were cool, and the hotel rooms have always got a little notebook and paper. So I wrote down some lyrics and ideas and then I didn’t think about it until later. Then I went back home, started to listen to them a couple of weeks later. None of the songs were happening, and I was shocked. Like “Oh dear, what should we do?” And I asked him to, “can you write a couple more songs I can’t hear these songs happening.” A few months later I went back to L.A. Same thing, in my hotel room. And I started to listen to the same songs and the new ones and then they began to happen again. And one of those songs when I heard for the first time, and it worked. But back home, it didn’t, and I had to travel back.
It’s true, you need to search for inspiration, and it comes in at different times. Of course, if I had this kind of situation is at home. For instance, this Saturday as we speak, if I would have new songs and have decided I’m going to create something new music from those songs, during the three hours, I probably wouldn’t even open, listen to them, or they wouldn’t happen. The inspiration, of course, comes when it comes, it’s our subconscious that works. And it’s always when I’m writing the lyrics if I leave something open and I don’t come up with some cool rhyming for it or something that I’ve learned that I forget about it and I go to sleep. Then when I wake up in the morning, I write it down. Your brain is doing the math. That’s also very interesting, and it happens that way. Maybe it has something to do with that I don’t drink, but I might drink when I go abroad. Perhaps it has something to do with that.
Speaking of finding inspiration in the story. I enjoyed the song “Last House on the Left,” and I think it’s a fun song. It’s a great tribute to Wes Craven films, and I can see the movie while I’m listening to the track. Can you talk more about how you wrote this one?
I’ve known Wednesday 13 you since the days of Murderdolls, and over the last couple of decades, we’ve been touring in Europe and the U.S. I don’t even remember how many times. So we were doing a lot of tours with him, and he’s been a friend for at least 20 years, even more. And then I hadn’t seen him for a long time, strangely. And then I was, well, L.A., once again. I was at the Whisky A Go-go. I have had my little solo band adventure with the L.A. based rockers, and I played shows on the West coast, and the final appearance was at the Whisky A Go-go. And it was such a great surprise to have Wednesday 13 showing up.I haven’t seen him in ten years, so I just straight up thought that hey, let’s do something finally after all of these years. And you know when you meet a fellow musician, the first easiest thing is to think of doing a tour. Then at some point, you think, let’s make a musical collaboration. So this time, I already had the song, “The Last House on The Left.” But I wanted him to write the lyrics and finish the story along with the movie. And then he was excited about the idea as well. If you know anything about the film, and I don’t reveal this, this is not a spoiler, no spoiler alert, but in the movie, the certain female gets her revenge. So we needed a female voice for the song as well.
Calico Cooper was the obvious choice. She’s part of The 69 Eyes family as well. And so Wednesday wrote the storyline, and Calico Cooper got her revenge in the end. And yeah, it’s just a fun song. It’s a tribute to the late Craven. I have been a fan of his movies ever since. The second single, The 69 Eyes ever released, had a song called “The Hills Have Eyes.” It’s a long tradition for The 69 Eyes, have not only a movie titled songs but also have a film titled songs by Wes Craven. So it just one of those things. And then we added Dani Filth screaming on backup vocals as well. I hope that people will enjoy it on Halloween 2019.
West End is an enjoyable album. Another song I liked was “Outsiders.” There’s a line in the lyrics that goes something like “living the last days of our lives,” and the delivery is as though you’re excited about living your final days. How did this song come together?
It’s just pushing the limits all the time, not being afraid. What’s waiting, you know? And the book’s by S.E. Hinton; the author is namely The Outsiders also Rumble Fish. They were important to me when I was growing up in my teens, and I read them over and over again. Then obviously, there’s Coppola’s movie from the book, The Outsiders. When I heard the song, somehow, it brought me to this kind of rebel. It’s rock and roll rebel, as a teenage juvenile riff in that song. So it brought me back to memories from that book and also memories from the movie. It’s our tribute to both the book and movie. The film by Coppola, The Outsiders, it’s not that talked about unlike other movies from the 80s that are mentioned all the time. The Lost Boys, The Breakfast Club,etc.. But in the end, The Outsiders should be there as well. I hope that it will be like a little forgotten classic that people will check out.
Also, the book is fantastic — great American history from the 50s. A female author writes it, but she describes growing up as a teenager, outsider, young rebel boy, perfectly. So I could relate to that even when I was reading that when I was in my teens. Yeah, and I was not American. It’s a great book. I wanted to put all of those vibes in there. And in the end, being a rocker, you’re always an outsider, outlaw and with The 69 Eyes, been doing this for a long time, we don’t exactly belong to any genre. We’ve always been outsiders. Maybe we were late when we started the garage band. I think we were sort of like late or ahead of our time. Or we’re just timeless.
With our records, if you look at our back catalog, we’ve been ahead of our time. On the other hand, during those days we’ve been probably late, but also that makes us timeless. You can’t define it. I as an artist, I don’t say that I see in the future, but I sort of sense a lot of these vibes around us, and I try to be a contemporary artist as well. We are not a retro band, even though I was telling you about the late eighties in New York. That was a fantastic place. We all watch what’s going on with CBGBs and everything lovely on the Lower East Side. That was a dangerous city, and it was fantastic. But that was then.
Same with the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. That was an amazing time. And I’m glad I could live through it. I saw it. I was there. I experienced that, and I’m still excited about it now. I’m thrilled about the year 2019. 2020 sounds like science fiction, but I’m, boldly going where no rocker has gone before and enjoying life. And this is my way of communicating with the world, with everybody.
Speaking of the world and how things have changed over the years, I believe reading in the press that you think the world has shifted and that inspired the name West End. Can you talk more about that?
It’s a dark name, which is perfect. I like the West, and also I wanted the end and the end is always near. So West End is just a cool kind of dark title. I’m not predicting anything, but it’s just a cool title. Maybe it raises a question; hopefully, it inspires people to think about a little bit of what’s going on. We are living very dark times, but I mean, I always have said, the internet was supposed to unite us, but it’s really divided us. So I think Rock and Roll is the only thing that unites people. The music unites people these days and the title West End. It’s just perfect to be dark, but it’s rock and roll. It’s mysterious, and it’s iridescent, like the color itself. I don’t bring any bad news. I try to remind people that no matter what’s going on, there is always hope, as long as there are rock and roll.
That’s a beautiful statement. And it’s true. The internet sadly has divided many people and knowing that there’s hope is something we can always count on.
Yeah. That’s why we have art. Art is there to bring something else for our lives as well. I’m a rocker; I’m a spokesperson for rock and roll. So I like to say that rock and roll is one of the last things in this world to unite us and solve problems.
Is there anything else that you want to add or say about West End?
Well, I’m very thankful for all of you vampires out there who have been supporting The 69 Eyes for over thirty years and who are still there with us. We made this record for our fans. We know who our fans are pretty much these days. They are the people who listen to our music. What we can see through algorithms that they are not so many passive listeners for The 69 Eyes because our music is not on the playlist. Devoted people who have been supporting us two decades, one decade, there’s also always a dose of fresh blood, which is always welcome. I’m glad we have been sharing these times with all of the vampire family that we have around the world.
And now there’s a new chapter coming up with our twelfth album, West End, and we are going to tour more than ever around the world with this record. So I’m pretty happy to see most of our fans in the next year. It’s going to be good times in 2019 and 2020.
The 69 Eyes will embark on a North American tour next year with Wednesday 13. Check out the tour dates below: