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The new album “Angels” that right after release tops Finnish charts, the completion of a US tour – plenty of reasons for STALKER to meet in Helsinki with the The 69 Eyes drummer Jussi 69 right before the band continue their life on the road, this time through Europe (check out STALKER tour dates).
Despite all the stress with interviews and photo sessions he is in good spirits and gladly shares some happy tour memories with us.
First, of course, let´s talk about the new album “Angels”.What is different, what is new, in your opinion?
If you look at the cover, nothing is different. (laughter) No, the difference is maybe that there are faster songs on this one because we´ve been touring so much after the “Devils” album. We played in 17 countries and were touring like hell. So when it comes to live-situations, you really want to rock and to sweat and to play fast Rock songs. We had this kind of vibe in our heads while writing songs for “Angels”. Well, what´s new? Something is new, there´s a real ballad on this album, “Star Of Fate”, something we have never done before, like a ballad in the very sense of the word. And I would not say that we re-invented ourselves, no, like it´s a perfect classic 69 Eyes album, but we are getting better and better in writing those perfect 69 Eyes anthems like “Never Say Die”. I would say it´s closer to “Lost Boys” than any slow dark Gothic songs we´ve done.
What is it like to work with Hiili Hiilesmaa and Johnny Lee Michaels (“Angels”- and “Devils”- producers, the ed.)?
They are like day and night! Absolutely! Hiili likes to work daytimes, Johnny does not start before 10 pm. Hiili is very strict with schedules, and when I am recording drum tracks with him he would say after one hour and six minutes “we have to move on”, and that´s it. With Johnny you could go on for six months, if he is not satisfied, he doesn´t give a fuck about schedules and deadlines. He is an artist, and Hiili is a producer, that is the difference. But you need both of them, if all of us were artists, you not gonna get any 69 Eyes albums done anymore... (laughs)
The ballad you mentioned, ”Star Of Fate” with a choir and all that, how did it happen?
It was Johnny who came up with the perfect people for singing on that track, I don´t remember how many... We were thinking of something like soundtrack of Peter Pan (laughs) it could be on a Disney animated movie, Peter Pan meets Ennio Morricone Western music ...
Apocalyptica also play on “Ghost”, how come? Was it because you are friends?
It was because of the song. I have been talking about having them on the album before, on the last album “Devils”. We had a demo for “Sister Of Charity” which is the epic song from that album, and I was playing it to Eicca from Apocalyptica, telling him “you guys need to do the strings in here”, and Eicca told me, as a professional musician, “dude, you need violins in here, and we are playing cellos”. I was like “ooops, what the fuck to I know about that” (laughter). Anyway, the point is, it´s not because we wanted to have Apocalyptica, it´s because this song needed cellos. And if you want cellos on your album, you want to have Apocalyptica, because they are the best guys to do that.
Well, I heard some rumours that now you are more popular in the States than in your own home country. Is it true, from your point of view?
I don´t know, we just came back last week and we toured in the States, it was the longest tour we have ever done anywhere, like six and a half weeks. And when it comes to being popular, I don´t give a shit. I mean, we are not even close to the level – I hate that word, by the way. - where Children Of Bodom or HIM are. No way. But we are lucky enough that we can tour in the US, and that there are enough fans, so we can tour from Texas to Canada to Miami. And that´s something we have always been dreaming of and we had never dreamt of having big bank accounts or No. 1 charts positions. Not that it wouldn´t be fun, of course it would be great, but our Rock´n´Roll dream has always been to play live on tour. And new places keep things fresh.
So how was the tour with Cradle Of Filth?
It was great. My mind is still on that tour. I´ve been in Finland for a week and I am leaving again next week... it was great. We have been to so many places we have never been before, either as a band or even as a tourist. I have never been to Miami or Texas or New Orleans or Canada. We did all those places, too, seven shows in Canada, that was great. Yeah, and it´s kind of surprising that there really are, in every city, people with 69 Eyes tattoos and stuff like that. It was great, and my personal highlight was meeting my childhood heroes, like Phil Lewis, L.A Guns, Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul, a big 69 Eyes fan. He´s been sending e-mails, and finally we got to meet and party, it was awesome, when it comes to Metal drumming, he is god! He gave me his signature snakeskin snare drum... we met Glenn Danzig, he was asking us to do a tour with him. We got a record release party in New York, and people from Type O Negative and Slipknot were there, great exciting stuff. And that´s more important for me than charts positions or royalty checks (laughs).
Was there anything weird that happened on tour?
Once we had the intro going on already, that means only ten seconds to go on stage, and somebody tapped on my shoulder, and it was the Bass player from Aerosmith, Tom Hamilton, he was asking if he could take a picture with me. So I was like “Dude, this should be the other way round”... (laughs) that was weird! What else? Well, the driver accidentally threw away the bag with all my hats and all the souvenirs I bought for all my friends, and I am still pissed off... but that´s the only real bad thing that happened on tour... Oh yeah, it was really weird to play in Disneyland, AND Disneyworld, both of them! For me this is pretty fucking weird! But if somebody plays in Disneyland or Disneyworld, who else but The 69 Eyes...
Are fans in the US totally different to Europeans?
I think they are a bit more open-minded. In Europe it´s like, when you´re a fan of a particular band, everything else sucks, you hate every other band except them. In the States you can like Hip Hop and AFI and 69 Eyes and Slipknot, and there is nothing weird with that. But of course I am not trying to tell that everybody is like that... fans of legendary bands, for example. If you go to see the Rolling Stones, people don´t give a fuck whoever is opening.
But it worked out for you with Cradle Of Filth?
Absolutely! In almost every interview I am asked about that, like “you guys are so different”, some people call them Black Metal. But I don´t think they are Satan worshipping church burning Norwegian Black Metal guys (laughter), they are much more MTV-friendly image conscious, in a kind of Marilyn Manson way, just check out their pictures or T-shirts. In that sense we are very close to them in the scene we represent, and if you go to some Danny Filth fanspace page, you can find pictures of Danny Filth along with pictures of Brandon Lee, Ville Valo and also Jyrki 69. So in a way we are not that different, that kind of Goth, the whole thing around the band is movie-like...
I remember Helldone Festival at Tavastia, I signed a girl´s arm, she had this 69Eyes tattoo and she was wearing a Cradle Of Filth-T Shirt. Then I knew OK this is going to be a good thing... We did get a couple of middle fingers but we had expected that. What we didn´t expect was that we got to see so many 69 Eyes T-shirts in the audience. It was basically almost 50:50 our fans and their fans. Plus they are nice guys, friends of us for ten years, we have been talking about having a tour together and now we finally got to do it!
Well, there is this Comic book Jyrki did, “Zombie Love”, so are there other side activities of 69 Eyes members we have not really heard about yet?
Not really. Bazie is producing some little bands, Demos and stuff. Jyrki and me like to DJ a lot, and Archie likes his bikes, that´s about it.
And Jyrki is still active for Unicef as goodwill-ambassador?
Yeah. Once in a while. The way he sees it, he is always available when the call comes from Unicef.
Do you happen to know if he experienced a sort of culture shock when he was travelling for Unicef in Africa?
Yes, but in a good way, when he came back from Africa for the first time he had almost the whole concept for the “Devils” album, and songs like “Hevioso” are totally about Africa. Well, as fans know, he gets his inspiration basically by travelling and movies, and that´s about it. Now he is travelling more than ever, which is good for us as a band (laughs).
Did you experience some kind of reverse culture shock, coming back to Finland after being on tour somewhere, irritating and annoying things in your home country?
I think a perfect example for that, when I was on the plane back home from the tour, I got Finnish newspapers to read, and on the first page of the biggest newspaper in Finland there was a question you should answer with Yes or No by e-mail or text message, it was “Is it OK to be proud of whatever you are doing, if you are good at it?” And that way of thinking is like “welcome back to home”. (laughter) In here everybody hates whoever is kind of successful with whatever he is doing. And when they actually make it, and it doesn´t matter if music or mobile phones, then they are proud “yeah, we did it”, but just imagine they would fuck everything up the next week, people would say “yeah, we knew that they are losers, such a bunch of Clowns, they cannot do shit”. And I am not talking about being arrogant, sort of an asshole telling everybody that “I am the best, I am so good”. But if you are trying something very hard for a long time, and you actually succeed, whatever you are trying to do, it is forbidden to be even happy about it. You are supposed to say, and this is Finnish culture, “I kind of suck anyway, it is an accident.” This is a culture shock, always, when I am coming home.
What kind of thing inspires you, is it more everyday experiences or travelling?
Travelling gives you this weird kind of adrenaline, so you really don´t get hangovers, don´t get tired. And if you do, you don´t really notice that. If you were at home doing nothing, you start to be tired and you cannot do anything anymore, but if you travel to new places, nonstop, you get a weird kind of energy from that...
Like you´re always on the run...
Well, kind of ... for many years I have not been lying on my sofa with TV open that much. Yeah, it gives you energy, the ability to keep your eyes open for every other thing. I am not talking about only sightseeing, but every sense... you hear the music differently, be it Jazz or Blues, differently when you are actually on Bourbon Street New Orleans, you get the idea what it is all about. And music is the best example, you hear Hip Hop quite differently in L.A. when it comes blasting from a huge Hummer car, rather than if you listen to the same song in your i-pod in Helsinki in February in the snow... you don´t really give a fuck about (sings) “California” Pop song or whatever...
Looking back, your career and all, is there something you would have done differently in the past, if you had a chance?
No. You live and learn, and you learn from mistakes, and I have done a couple, but there is nothing I regret.
What is your advice for a newcomer band, the most important thing to do?
Don´t try to be trendy, don´t try to be whatever is cool at the moment, because if you try to do that your are always a year or two too late. And the trend is gone and you look like stupid fools. Do whatever you feel like doing. The advantage we had was that we were so unfashionable, untrendy and such a wrong band at the wrong time, a time when Nirvana and Pearl Jam were like the biggest thing. When we did what we are doing, everybody laughed at us like“ these guys are so ridiculous”, but it became an advantage for us that we did not sound like these 2500 Pearl Jam- wanna-be-bands ...
Perhaps one more thing, your thoughts on the popularization of Heavy Metal music through mass production, like Idols or Eurovision contest, and that especially happens in Finnland.
Finland is a Metal country, it has always been. Some friends of mine from the US or wherever don´t even believe that we can have album charts like Children Of Bodom number 1, Iron Maiden numberr 2 and Manowar number 3, so...
This is exactly what I like about Finland...
It´s weird. And when it comes to Idols or Eurovision, I don´t give a fuck (laughter).
Well, finally, can you give some characteristics of the band members, what is nice or annoying about the guys?
Timo-Timo is a Punk rocker, he doesn´t give a fuck. Archie is a biker, he doesn´t give a fuck. Jyrki is hyperactive and he does give a fuck about everything. Bazie seems to be the silent one, but he works the most for the band, at the moment he is going through mixes for this live thing, he is working non-stop, day and night. Not that we wouldn´t, but he is especially involved when it comes to album tracks and mixes mastering and stuff like that, he never sleeps. Jyrki never sleeps either (laughs). And I am the most traditional cliché example how Rock drummers should be, I cannot remember anything, make a total mess out of everything, and I guess I am hyperactive, too. And loud! And messy!
Hyperactivity, in my opinion, is a good thing for drummers ...
Yeah, I guess so.
Thanks for the interview, and good luck on tour! Author: Text: Klaudia Weber, Denis Nazarenko, Photos: Denis Nazarenko, The 69 Eyes Date: 2007-03-18