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| 12 May 2018 | Reply

By Shane Pinnegar

With over 25 million records sold around the world in the nearly forty years since their formation, Swedes Europe – most famous for their global smash hit The Final Countdown, which topped the Australian charts for two weeks in October, 1986 – finally visit Australia this May.

Wednesday, May 16: Concert Hall, Perth
Friday, May 18: Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide
Saturday, May 19: Palais Theatre, Melbourne
Tuesday, May 22: Enmore Theatre, Sydney 
Wednesday, May 23: The Tivoli, Brisbane

Tempest recently announced that the band’s Australia tour will be labelled “An Evening With Europe,” and in a world first for the band, will feature not one, but two full sets of melodic hard rock.

Joey Tempest has delivered this message to their fans.

Featuring the classic line-up of Joey Tempest (Lead Vocals), John Norum (Guitar), Mic Michaeli (Keyboards), John Leven (Bass Guitar) and Ian Haugland (Drums), Europe have achieved total worldwide sales in excess of 25 million, with the 1986 mega-hit The Final Countdown reaching No1 in 25 countries.

We got singer Joey Tempest on the phone from snowy London, where he’s lived for the past decade.

100% ROCK: You’re touring Australia for the very first time in your long career. Are you planning on playing a retrospective right through your career?

Joey: Well we’ve been talking a little bit about the set list. I mean it is important when you get to a place you haven’t been, to sort of play your favourites, but also try to play some older stuff and obviously the big songs and try to maybe even do some features – guitar features, keyboard features – and make it an interesting show to show the span of the band, yes. So this is kind of special for us, I would say the highlight of the year. And we’re really, really excited to finally get there. Something was [talked about] back in the ‘80s with our management but it was a management decision [to not tour Australia then.] We talked about it the other day in the band and we said we don’t remember what happened, it was a pity. But obviously now, we are on our way.

100% ROCK: After working together for so long, do you consider yourselves more a band of friends or work mates?

Joey: It’s both. We go through so many different periods. We’ve gone through the early days with the egos, with everybody trying to throw their weight around. We’ve gone through a long break and then coming back together again. We met when we were teenagers. I met John Norum when I was 15, he was 14. And the other guys just maybe one or two years later. So we go back, way back. So there’s sort of a bond there that’s hard to break, and now we embrace it more than anything. We try to talk things out if there’s an issue of any kind, we need to talk things out quickly because it’s not worth it. We try to just understand how lucky we are to be able to do this after all these years, but we’ve gone through everything now but I think we’ve come out of the other side and realised that we have a great job and we just want to keep being adventurous and try to move forward all the time.

100% ROCK: Well you do that, and I do want to talk about that in a moment. But first, you mentioned egos there… especially when The Final Countdown was such a huge global hit, there must have been so many different pressures on the band pulling and pushing you every which way. It’s almost incredible that you are still that close, after going through that.

Joey: Yeah, it is. You’re absolutely right, I’ve seen it with so many other bands. They’ve gone through the highs and lows, and a few of them, they just don’t talk anymore. And it’s so easy that that happens. But I think the bond we’ve had, by being mates from teenage years, helped. But obviously when the big success hit with the third album, the problem we faced was more that we crossed over to the pop world. And that was… we weren’t that comfortable there, really. And John and John, the bass player and guitar player, they hated those playback shows because they actually didn’t play. We did so many, we did months of promotion which was only photo sessions and playback shows [miming to the song] on TV. And a lot of in Europe, France and Germany, they were big on those things.

And that sort of pulls the band apart, because you’re not playing live, and these are musicians that have been practising since they were 10 or 12. So that was one thing. And then a few others in the band just wanna keep going – ‘this is important now, we gotta dig in deeper.’ So yeah, a lot of discussions when a band hits highs like that. So to come out and have eleven albums now – we’ve done six new albums [since those days] – and now we feel close enough to face anything really. It’s been a long road.

100% ROCK: And if you mention the band Europe to anyone who’s not a big hard rock fan, they’re instantly gonna think The Final Countdown or Carrie, the big hits.

Joey: Yeah.

100% ROCK: Has it been a double edged sword to have those hits that crossed over to the pop world almost eclipse a lot of the rest of your work?

Joey: It’s something that we are so aware of, and we have insight in that fact, which makes us realise that there’s nothing for us to worry about, really. If we can be respected in the bigger rock community, that would make us feel okay, we’ll be fine with that. But obviously we knew of that… people that don’t listen, like you say, generally every day and are interested in rock musicians or rock or bands or classic albums, they will only hear radio and they will probably only hear the songs you mention. Then the songs live in a different universe for a while, you know? But we are very much aware of that. We haven’t seen it as a big problem because we’ve been so creative in making new albums and staying together and keeping focused on new music. So it hasn’t become a real problem for us really, since we have kept being adventurous and moving forward. But if we weren’t prolific and we were sitting around more and not doing things, it would be an issue, I suppose.

100% ROCK: The enduring popularity of the song, The Final Countdown is just incredible. I heard it on the radio last week. My 10 year old walks around the house singing it. It just instantly connects with people – it’s crazy.

Joey: Yeah, it is crazy. Some of those songs and albums and recordings, there’s so many factors in it, it’s the sound, it’s the production, it’s the vocals, it’s the melodies. Everything comes together. A lot of songs did come together in the ‘80s in that way. They still do, but that was an era that was quite big for that kind of thing. And yeah, I hear my kids, they would react to that song and they obviously hear other Europe stuff too and they have other favourites. But it’s something about certain music that just goes straight into people’s beings.

100% ROCK: You must be very proud of that, because not many people get to write a song that is known around the world, let alone was as big a hit as that.

Joey: Yeah. It is amazing, because if I think back, I only had the riffs when I was still in high school. It was one minute long, the demo. And then on the third album, we decided actually, we could do with an opening song, something dramatic. And yeah why don’t we try to write around this riff that I have? And it was six minutes long. So it was never meant to be any three minute pop song or anything. It was a feeling, an emotion like a soundtrack almost. We never really expected it to be more than an album track. We used to love album tracks by bands, tracks that were just meant to be a bit longer and a bit sort of dramatic and a lot of things happening in it. Yeah, I’m really chuffed and proud and we are too, we’re proud of the song, we don’t rehearse it, we don’t sing it in the shower, we don’t need to.

But we do love playing it live. It really brings people together, whether at a family festival or a heavy metal festival. People tend to gravitate towards our stage and enjoy the band and wait until that song comes on. So yeah, it brings people together and we love playing it live.

100% ROCK: And you’ve been together now, since reforming, longer than in your initial incarnation. And you’ve made more albums than you did that first time around.

Joey: Yeah.

100% ROCK: So there’s certainly no question amongst anyone who is a fan of rock music, you guys are very much a valid creative force now, you’re not just a heritage act like a lot of bands of that era.

Joey: Yeah. I agree with that, and that’s been a mission for us as well, to try to be creative and think about pushing and learning about stuff. Learning about studios, engineers, compressors, consoles, where to work and how to work and how to record. It’s kind of a constant journey, you can learn so much. And the best rock and roll was probably recorded – technique wise – in the end of the ‘70s. And to embrace that and combine it with modern technology is also a mission. To bring with us the best of rock recording and then to make it something that works today. There are bands out there that do this very well, like Rival Sons and maybe even bands like The Temperance Movement and there are other bands as well that are embracing the right way of recording. It feels modern, it feels cool. So that’s important as well.

100% ROCK: Personally as far as albums go, I’m far more interested in the albums you’ve made since reforming than I am in the earlier ones. I like a lot of the songs on the earlier ones but the more recent albums, it sounds like you’re a band that is still exploring and is still finding which direction you want to go in for every different album. And that’s a very ‘70s thing, to my mind.

Joey: Yeah, it is spontaneous and organic and there is no master plan rather than moving forward all the time and getting better. And also like you say, the productions of the ‘80s were quite dependent on the producer and the studio. And the bands were probably very young and didn’t have that much influence in the actual procedure and the sound. Which was good and bad, but, in the last six albums with Europe, we are in the driving seat and we try to figure out who’s the best out there to work with. So that’s why we work with people like Kevin Shirley, Dave Cobb, who can handle a live rock band and do it the best way.

Maybe that’s another reason too, we like to listen to the new Europe albums. They sound a bit warmer, they have a depth to them. Some of the ‘80s stuff is amazing, but there was also a lot of new equipment in the studios, a lot of digital equipment that made the productions a certain way. And it works really well for some songs. But for some bands and some songs, it’s almost too ‘80s, you know what I mean?

100% ROCK: Yeah, I know exactly what you mean. Walk The Earth was recorded at Abbey Road. Now that must have been amazing, just to feel the energy of that place?

Joey: We’ve been in the studio before, we’ve done some smaller things, but never recorded an album. We were there, I don’t know, maybe 10 years ago. We did a radio show link to a station in America. But to record there and to have access to their basement equipment – like all the desks the Beatles used and Pink Floyd and also compressors or preamps that John Lennon liked singing through. So we wanted to try all those things. And Dave Cobb, who is really knowledgeable with equipment and everything, he brought everything up to the studio and it looked like a lab. And we just had a lot of fun with it. It inspired us, like you say. The walls… we knew that Pink Floyd had worked on their music in the studio, they’ve actually written there. So we felt like we left a lot of, we had ten songs, but we left them a little bit open for some extra writing, for some lyrics to happen in the studio.

So the two weeks we were there, we were sort of borrowing the feeling of Abbey Road to generate and finalise the album, and it really did help being there, just feeling the vibe, to push this album. Maybe that’s one of the reasons this album is one of our favourite albums. So it just happened really quickly in the studio.

100% ROCK: So apart from being very good with gear and whatnot, what else does Dave Cobb bring to your sound? He’s done the last two albums of yours now.

Joey: Yeah. It’s hard to let go of someone that clicks with the band. And also he’s a great hang, he’s a great guy to hang with and he’s humble and a nice guy as well. But I think the most impressive thing with Dave is that he doesn’t really need to hear the demos. The day before we go into the studio – this happened on the War Of Kings album too and Walk The Earth – we play the songs the morning or the day before. He never heard them and he trusts the band, and then he listens to a song and he sits down by himself for five minutes and he thinks about it. And then he comes to us and says hey, let’s meet up in the studio. And then he has some ideas. It could be arrangement, it could be writing an extra bit, maybe a drum part or an intro. And we sit around with him and listen to him. And he lifts the songs further.

He’s a drummer, he’s a guitar player, he’s a producer, he’s also worked a lot with Brendan O’Brien, I think early on. He knows the ins and outs of recording, drums and guitar and everything. So he can then rely and trust on his ability to become part of the band as a writer and arranger as well. So the songs just grow with him involved. And he likes working with us as well. So yeah, it’s a good combination for us.

100% ROCK: That’s fantastic. In the very early days of the band, you wrote most of the material yourself.

Joey: Yeah.

100% ROCK: Whereas nowadays, the other guys are bringing in some bits and pieces as well and contributing more to the songwriting. That must help in terms of what we talked earlier about, each album sounding a little bit different and heading in a new direction and exploring a bit more.

Joey: Absolutely, that’s the beauty of it. There’s songs like Turn To Dust or Pictures or Wolves. Songs like We. They’re not in the parameters, within the normal realm of Europe, so yes. You get some ideas from the bass player or from John Levin or Mic Michaeli and it’s like, wow, I wanna do some vocal melodies on this. Yeah, it does make it more exciting. It also makes it easier for everybody to feel like they’re pushing forward and they’re part of the project, everybody, it’s a big team. Everybody in the band helps with the writing, even Ian Haugland’s got great ideas and Dave Cobb as I said. John Norum, he might be coming late with his songs but he had two great songs added to this album – Haze and GTO. That’s amazing when we get his stuff as well. It’s a great collection, yeah.

100% ROCK: I guess that pushes forward that camaraderie of the band as well?

Joey: Yeah, absolutely.

100% ROCK: You’ve toured with or played with a lot of your heroes, is there one artist on your bucket list that you would love to see every night on tour with them?

Joey: I mean, we’ve toured with very interesting bands. Lately with Deep Purple, of course, which we followed all through our career, starting with Made in Japan, and we went to see them play on the Perfect Strangers tour, when Richie [Blackmore] and Ian [Gillan] and the guys were back together again. And that was when we were working on Wings Of Tomorrow and just starting to get out in the world. And that moment was amazing to see them come back and play live, and we toured with them now, we know them a little bit, and it’s a great honour. But there’s some great bands, if you think about it… Rush, for instance, there’s some amazing bands out there that we’d love to tour with. And so far we’ve had some fun on the road, we’ve met a lot of great artists and yeah, it does inspire.

Category: Interviews

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