Finland’s 69 Eyes carries the glam-goth torch

Getting a Finnish guy to open up sometimes requires a bottle of Koskenkorva, but the singer for the 69 Eyes is a natural motor mouth by his countrymen’s standards. Reached at the House of Blues in Cleveland, Jyrki 69 (aka Jyrki Linnankivi) shrugs off his proximity to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when he discovers this interview is for the Georgia Straight.

“It will be really cool to come to Vancouver with its musical heritage,” effuses the 38-year-old Helsinki native. “I respect the radio-rock sound of the 21st century that Nickelback has created, and we now have an everyday Vancouver connection with our orc-slaying tourmates, 3 Inches of Blood.” The bill also features extreme-metal headliners Cradle of Filth, whose friendship with the 69 Eyes goes back a decade.

The leader of the self-dubbed “Helsinki Vampires” talks a good game, but will his glam-goth rock quintet heat up the blood of local fans? Based on the group’s ninth studio recording, Angels, the answer is yes. Produced by Hiili Hiilesmaa (HIM, Sentenced), Angels takes flight with a dark, sleazy mélange of crunchy riffage from guitarists Timo-Timo and Bazie, plus campy Elvis-meets-Bowie vocals.

“We’re carrying the torch that Dee Dee Ramone, Jim Morrison, and Johnny Thunders gave to us,” Jyrki 69 proclaims, but the new material mostly evokes Billy Idol’s best Sunset Strip sneer. Mid-interview, the black-tressed frontman gets a text message indicating that “Perfect Skin”, the lead single, has just topped the Finnish charts.

Outside Finland, 69 Eyes has endured cult status for the last 18 years, so touring North America for the second time is like a Hollywood fantasy come true. That’s especially fitting since many of the band’s songs are inspired by celluloid kitsch. If only Corey Feldman and Corey Haim hadn’t just left Vancouver after wrapping the shoot for their new reality-TV show. The ex–child stars could have rocked out to live performances of 2004’s “Lost Boys” (think the ’87 teen horror flick) and the upcoming single “Never Say Die” (the rallying cry in The Goonies).

Jyrki 69 has taken the latter sentiment to heart. He travelled to Benin in West Africa in 2003 to stimulate his songwriting creativity, and was shocked by the country’s poverty and child trafficking. Two years later, UNICEF Finland invited him to serve as a goodwill ambassador. He’s since visited Kenya and Russia to meet underprivileged kids and raise awareness about AIDS.

And apparently there’s been no backlash over his filling a diplomatic role while simultaneously flaunting a rock ’n’ roll image: “It was a very wise move by UNICEF. I’m this edgy character, so that draws 10 times more interest in what I’m doing than if I was some Idol winner. I reach totally different people than they have reached before.”

The 69 Eyes play the Commodore Ballroom on Sunday (February 11).