We've been counting the minutes to the release of Back In Blood, the latest studio album from legendary 'Helsinki Vampires' The 69 Eyes, so I was not only thrilled to get a preview of the new material, but also excited to have a few words with frontman Jyrki69 to discuss the album and the hot video for Dead Girls are Easy, as well as the singer's lifelong obsession with sexy cinematic bloodsuckers – something I'm sure we all have in common. Read on for the full interview, and to find out more about the excellent Back In Blood!
FEARnet: You've said that Back in Blood sounds "more Motley than Mercy," and you've definitely moved into a harder sound. What led you down that path?
JYRKI69: [Producer] Matt Hyde, Los Angeles and the pre-production session in Helsinki... in January, when it's the darkest time here! Matt opened up our eyes (removed my sunglasses for a while) and kicked our asses to realize that it's time to rock again. He banned all the extra keyboards from our sound and encouraged us to rely on rocking. We loved that idea... and the rest is history, like they say.
Is it true Matt shares your passion for horror movies?
Oh man, he's THE horror and comics freak! We started watching all those classic horror and biker movies during the recording sessions of my vocals to create a special atmosphere in the studio. Matt had a nice collection for a start and we watched some 3-4 films each night. After couple of weeks we were through his vault of horror and had to get some more! At the end of the month we started to go to the local DVD rental store in Van Nuys and simply rented ALL the horror DVDs: first the vampire movies, then everything else. So while it was a sunny California day outside, in the studio Dracula was fighting against Van Helsing in a Hammer horror film, like, 24/7!
Sounds like you've seen just about every vampire flick... can you name your favorites, or is it kinda tough to narrow that list down?
Not that tough, actually... Fright Night from the '80s has all I need: a cool rock star-like vampire, a great story, spooky music and great actors. The Lost Boys, Interview With The Vampire, Coppola's Dracula - those are also cool, but you really can't beat Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee as Dracula. My most recommended new movie is the Swedish Let The Right One In.
Speaking of newer stuff... what do you think of the vampire trend taking over popular media lately, like the Twilight series for example?
I think Twilight is actually cool... why not?
Well, a lot of old-school horror fans aren't really into it...
Hey, we need some fresh blood! It's all good, I think. Mainly these movies and books are made for a female audience... but that's how it was in the 19th century already.
I'm a big Jean Rollin fan, and I was excited to find that you pay tribute to his movies in songs like Lips of Blood.
They're amazing, dreamlike movies. All the colors and the whole atmosphere in those movies is so surreal. I heard about them a little over a year ago... I became a total freak for those!
Speaking of sexy vampire chicks... I have to say the Dead Girls video is some of your best work.
I love that video's comic book look... the coloring of our performance scene is straight from our album cover. Everything really matches in that video!
It looks like you just filmed one of my dreams.
Oh yeah, those vampire chicks were hot as Hell... actually, they were pretty much like creatures that Jean Rollin would like!
How much fun was the shoot?
Making videos with Bam [Margera] is just always a long party! That vampire bar scene was actually filmed at 11 o'clock in the morning... notice my Bloody Mary?
Are you planning more videos from Back in Blood?
There might be another one coming up... not sure yet which one, though. I'd love Rob Zombie to direct a video for us next!
Back In Blood comes out in the US tomorrow from The End Records, and I gotta say it's a keeper. The influence of Grammy-winning producer Matt Hyde (who has worked with rock greats like Slayer and Monster Magnet) comes across in a big way, pushing the band's sound, as Jyrki explained, from their usual gloomy, vamp-glam Gothic style into heavy, amped-up and seriously dark rock. The personality of the music remains true to their sleek classic form, but this time around they've bolted a turbocharger onto it for a muscular turn of speed.
Jyrki's statement that Back In Blood is 'more Motley [Crüe] than [Sisters of] Mercy' is made instantly clear with the opening/title track, which gets down and dirty with '80s metal riffage, beefy lead vocals and backing harmonies that manage to capture all the testosterone-fueled power of arena-packing cock rock without all the hairsprayed goofiness. Hyde’s touch is front-and-center in many of these thirteen cuts: Kiss Me Undead is another rock-solid example of how he helped the band hitch their goth stylings to an old school power chord-cranking machine... and it works amazingly well, especially with more than a little horror-punk flavor in anthems like Suspiria Snow White.
There's a spirit of breathless fun running though the more up-tempo entries: the over-the-top opening chants of Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll! from The Good, the Bad and the Undead (a tribute the badass bloodsuckers of the silver screen) sound like they could have come from straight the band's fellow countrymen Lordi, and the wildly entertaining Dead Girls are Easy is a fast-paced sleazy romp infused with porno-riffic wah-wah guitars and a big grand chorus hook ('All they want to do is... ROCK!').
Fans of the band's previous material shouldn't worry though, as it's not all fist-pumping mayhem; there's still a strong dark-romance undercurrent evident in vampire anthems like We Own the Night, the doom-filled pop ballad Dead 'n' Gone, the bittersweet Hunger and the Jean Rollin-influenced Lips Of Blood (featuring Jyrki's beloved baritone, straight from the Andy Eldritch school). Nightwatch and Some Kind of Magick, both with strong chorus hooks and touches of melancholy piano in the verses, are reverential nods to those other death-obsessed Finnish rockers HIM, but with more of a wink and a sneer to the somber proceedings.
To wrap things up on a pensive note is the haunting ballad Eternal, in which Jyrki weaves one of his familiar tales of ageless nocturnal love, given epic weight from a backing string orchestra and female choirs, with just a touch of Mellotron flutes in the bridge and a sweeping, grand finale.
If Back In Blood represents the band's new direction, I'm totally onboard with it, and I think you'll dig it too. Everything that elevates them above the standard goth gloom of lesser bands is still here – the vampire obsessions, the grandiose romantic themes, the leering, party-animal attitude – but it's been given a double-kicker of adrenalin this time, which is exactly what it needed to keep it fresh and alive... much like the warm blood craved by those undead babes they (and we) adore so much.