INTERVIEW | DEMONA LAUREN for Vampyre Magazine
Jyrki 69 is probably one of the most eclectic artists in the vamp, dark metal and goth'n'roll scene. Nicknamed the "Vampire of Helsinki", he is also one of the figures whose curriculum has no end. Lead vocalist of the Finnish group THE 69 EYES, he is also involved in social action in his personal life. In 2005, he was appointed UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Finland before flying to Kenya where he participated in an anti-HIV-AIDS, anti-child trafficking, as well as an anti-sexual exploitation program. His actions led him to receive the TOYP award by Junior Chamber International in Seoul, South Korea in 2006. In October 2013, Jyrki made headlines when he announced the creation of a new, more rockabilly musical project called THE 69 CATS alongside Danny B. Harvey and the former member Chopper Franklin. The following year, they released their debut album entitled Transylvania Tapes. In 2014, “Bad Things”, a song from the album, appeared in the True Blood series. In 2021, Jyrki's rockabilly band released their second LP, Seven Year Itch.
† Hello Jyrki, how are you today ?
Life is good, thank you!
† There are so many people who are depressed with the current situation. But a Vampire never dies, does he?
Gotta keep on rockin’, that helps a lot.
† How did you spend your days in quarantine ?
I recorded my second solo album, "American Vampire" and we wrote new 69 Eyes music too.
† By the way, are you still into comics? I remember a comic book entitled Zombie Love was released in 2006 featuring only comics you created.
I have done some sketches, I might have an exhibition at some point.
† Tell me if I’m mistaken but I heard you even released a cooking book?
I released a juicing book called Rock'n'Roll Juicer some five years ago.
† You are someone who is constantly looking to evolve, or to test and experience new things. What is your new target today? Do you have something new that you would like to try?
I'm interested in studying religion and art history. I'm getting deeper into that. I’m also reading classic literature and philosophy. I think I'm in that age for all this now.
† You've been in the music industry for 32 years now, first with THE 69 EYES. That band started in 1989 as a maverick band in Helsinki and gradually developed their own style, Goth'n'Roll, Glam'n'Roll, Vamp Goth'o'Roll so to speak. Is there a spirit, something that you miss from the early years of your career ?
I'm glad we came out then, the 80's were great! I miss that late 80's rock vibe, but on the other hand I was there, so all good. I have stories to tell.
† Very soon after debuting, you inherited the nickname 'The Helsinki Vampires'. How did you get into Vamps and the Culture of the Night Creatures?
People started to ask about vampires from me in the NYC club scene. Anne Rice's books were very famous among rockers then. I had always been interested in vampires since I was a kid. Horror comics and movies were also famous in the early 70's. When we started our band, I wanted to bring my horror fan ideas to our music as well.
† What kind of kid were you in the past? An Oskar or an Eli of Tomas Alfredson's Let the Right One In?
Mowgli from the Jungle Book.
† How did Mowgli meet the other members of THE 69 EYES? Did you have a similar profile when you first met? Do you remember some anecdotes from these days?
We were a gang of rockers going to the same rock shows and clubs in Helsinki. Some were looking for a band, I was just dreaming about it.
† According to you, what reasons explain the longevity of the group ?
We were a gang of rockers going to the same rock shows and clubs in Helsinki. Some were looking for a band, I was just dreaming about it...
† Speaking of dreams and evolution: the album West End. You said shortly before the album came out, “ I feel like this planet is on some turning point. The end of the western world is near and the question is: What is happening when the west ends...? The title has multiple meanings for us…” It sounds premonitory.
It's crazy now, right?! I have to be more careful with the album titles from now on... It's art, artists sense things, have vibes.
† And, since then, have you had any draft answer to this question ?
Like I said, it is art in that sense of rock'n'roll.
† Yeah, your words were rather premonitory. I am thinking in particular of the song "Outsiders".
Oh, "Outsiders" is inspired by S.E. Hinton's classic book actually. Also Coppola did a pretty cool movie version about it.
† You do not seem to pick any side though.
I wanna rock, that's all.
† Speaking of social contexts, was your Master degree in analytical chemistry useful to you?
Academic education is the coolest thing you can get. It helps in this modern world to understand as well. It is free for everyone here in Finland.
† Speaking of turning points, in 2014, you decided to create a new parallel project to THE 69 EYES, THE 69 CATS. Why 69... Cats ?
We had Danny B. Harvey from The Headcat, 13 Cats, and Rockats, so he brought "cats" and I brought "69". Chopper from the Cramps brought "The".
† Also, can we talk about the name “69 Eyes”? It sounds so familiar without even knowing what it means. Where did the idea for this name come from in the first place?
If you twist "96 Tears" a bit, there you go!
† Hm... as expected then! Back to THE 69 CATS. It is probably one of the most iconic projects of the musical genre. The group reunites Danny B. Harvey (guitars ), known to be Lemmy's former colleague; Kim Nekroman (stand-up bass ), Rat Scabies (drums), and you as vocalist of the formation. It looks more like a dream team than a band, don't you think ?
Exactly! When we recorded the album, Seven Year Itch, we were planning to tour for it. Let's see how that will happen in the future.
† What is the genesis of the group? I heard you had an epiphany when you were in Memphis...
I was hanging on Beale Street in Memphis and thought to start a rockabilly band; Danny B. Harvey came to the rescue. Now we have done two albums, and hopefully, we will tour a little and make new music. I'm very fortunate to make music with legends like that.
† Ha! Tell me about legends. Like you and this burning passion for Elvis Presley for example.
He was the first rocker to caught my attention as a kid. I'm still a fan.
† If we were to compare THE 69 EYES and THE 69 CATS, I think there are some obvious commonalities. First of all, perhaps the title? More seriously, there are divergent points as well.
The 69 Eyes have more modern sound. But I needed to go to the roots of rock as well. The 69 Cats is my humble pilgrimage for that.
† The latest album you released is Seven Year Itch with THE 69 CATS. Can we expect THE 69 EYES releasing the next one then?
My second solo album American Vampire comes out in December 17ththis year and new 69 EYES music later on next year.
† Your formula to end a conversation ?
Keep on rockin'!
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© Demona Lauren