INTERVIEW AND PHOTOS BY MARKO SYRJALA
In late December, Swedish hard rock band Europe visited Helsinki and played their last gig of the year in the sold-out Club Circus. 2013 will be a major year for Europe. After nine studio albums, three live albums, and millions of records sold, the band is now going to celebrate its 30’TH Anniversary. On the eve of the show, vocalist Joey Tempest sat down with us backstage and talked about the anniversary, the latest album, BAG OF BONES, and more… Read on!
THE 30’TH ANNIVERSARY
It was just announced that you would celebrate the band’s 30’TH Anniversary at the Sweden Rock Festival in June. Would you tell us something more about it?
Joey Tempest: Yeah, it was announced today, and we were just talking about it; on our Facebook, we blew it up and, because we are very honored, very pleased, and very happy. It feels like we made it, you know, we have one of the headline slots. Rush, one night, Kiss, one night, and Europe the other night, and we’re going to make the most of it. Play two and a half hours, have some guests, play songs from three decades, bring in some big light shows. It’s going to be – it’s going to be magnificent, we’re going to have a great time. ‘
I was just going to ask how do you count the birth date of Europe because wasn’t the band actually formed in 1982?
Joey Tempest: Yeah, it’s the first – it’s actually the 30th since we released the first album. I think, yeah, it’s hard because we changed the name to Europe in sort of this late summer 82′ and we won a rock competition 13th of December 82′ under the name Europe. So I suppose that could be a start, but I always think the first album is a good start, you know. Lucia competition, the 13th of December 1982 was the night we won the rock competition to record the first album, and 2013 is 30 years since the first Europe album was released.
Do you have other plans to celebrate the Anniversary other than at the Sweden Rock show?
Joey Tempest: Not really. In Stockholm a few weeks ago we played in the “Future to Come,” we played a song that on the Lucia night, 13th of December when we won that rock competition with that song, so we played that. So that was kind of fun, but then we haven’t done anything else because we want to focus on the Sweden Rock; we want to do everything there. There won’t be any 30-anniversary tour or anything, that’s it, that’s the event – that’s the event.
THE EARLY STUFF
Yeah, the band started a couple of years ago before under a different name, right?
Joey Tempest: Yeah, actually in 79′, we started, John and me, and we’re called Force.
In the early day’s band had some line-up changes within the band, so what do you think?
Joey Tempest: Not so many, but in the beginning, it was a few changes, yeah.
So my question is, what do you think, would the band have reached all its success without doing those few changes back in the day?
Joey Tempest: Nah, I think everything is meant to happen because, you know, it’s meant to happen, you know. John Norum needed to leave to do some solo stuff and clear his head and do some stuff, and then he was away two albums then came back, and now he’s been back for four albums. And Kee Marcello was a replacement there for a while, but I missed John all the time, so. And you know everything is meant to happen, I think, in bands.
How about the original drummer Tony Reno, who played on the first two Europe albums? What happened to him back in the day?
Joey Tempest: Yes, too long ago too – I remember – I remember being a great friend with Tony. He was a big Thin Lizzy fan, and he had Thin Lizzy on his jean jacket – jeans jacket I remember when I met him. He’s really a good drummer as well, but we lost contact over the years, but I think we were going quite hard in the beginning, you know, and it just didn’t work out. He’s a great guy, though.
At one point, you also had bassist Marcel Jacob (ex-Yngwie Malmsteen, Talisman) in the band.
Joey Tempest: Oh, yeah, that was more of a short thing because John Levin was playing with Yngwie and Marcel playing with us; we sort of switched bass players for a while. But that was great, though, because Marcel was so smart and a very good writer, and we wrote “Scream of Anger” together, so it was meant to happen, and we’re still playing that song today – so you know. He was a great guy. ‘
There are so many stories about the reasons why you split with John Norum back in the day, so what is your version of that story in brief?
Joey Tempest: Yeah, it’s hard to be brief about that its so many layers. I don’t know if he didn’t get along with the management too well. He had some problems in his personal life as well. I remember because we were in Japan when we talked about it- it was all upside down. But I was very focused, and I think we both were very stupid because we talked to each other through the tour manager so that John would say something to me through the tour manager, and I would answer. And we would sit in different limousines – different cars, different taxies, so we were stupid really; we’ve realized that now as soon as we have a problem, we talk about it now. And I think we missed each other immediately, but when you’re young, the ego comes in, and you know you get a bit proud.d ‘I’m not talking to hi,m you know so we learned a lot from that but I think also he wanted to make more guitar-oriented music what happened with FINAL COUNTDOWN is there was a mix for American radio – the guitars were cut low in the mix, and he didn’t like that at all. It sounded good on American radio, but if you listen to the album on a record player, it’s quite mellow, it’s quite a lot of keyboards and vocals; the guitars are further down, and the bass is not so much bass in there either its – it works really well on that three-band compression they use in America, on the radio. Still, I think that John reacted to that as well.
THE OFF YEARS AND RE-UNION
After Europe went on hiatus, you decided to leave Sweden behind you and change the British Isles. You look thrive there as well because you have settled there permanently with the family.
Joey Tempest: Oh, that’s a long time ago. I met my wife Lisa, and now we are married for many years. I met her in 92′ when we… I think it was after – after we’d just been there touring. I liked London already because my parents brought me to London when I was twelve; I really liked it and then when I went back with my first manager to London to do a promotion and hang out. I loved it again, so I rented an apartment in 88′ as well when we were recording OUT OF THIS WORLD, and I just loved it there, and I’ve never left you to know.
After spending your whole life in Sweden and then moving there, it must be quite different there. As a Scandinavian, what have you learned during your time there?
Joey Tempest: You learn a lot about people and your patience because you realize that there are many different kinds of people out there. If you live in Scandinavia and… that is, changing now, I mean there are so many people moving to Scandinavia now more than when I grew up. You learn about different religions, different people and how that people are very different. You develop patience and also… lyrically it’s really good to be in England you know you start thinking about lyrics first, whereas in Sweden when I grew up there a lot of people think of melody first but… so that was really good. You learned to have more dimensions in your writing, maybe, you know, more layers.
It was in the late ’90s when the Europe re-union gossips started to fly around. At which point you started seriously to discuss the possibility of a Europe reunion?
Joey Tempest: Yeah, 1998. 97′ I think Ian and Mic we even… yeah, I think it was 96 – they came to Ireland to see me; I lived in Ireland for a while for five years actually. They came to visit me, and we started talking about things in 97 – I was still doing solo albums, so I think Mic and I wrote a little bit for my solo albums as well, but we kept in contact all the time, and I remember John calling me as well from L.A. when they were there. So yeah, there was a time around 97/98 we were talking a little bit but nothing concrete cause John was deep in his work with Don Dokken and his solo albums in L.A. living there. I lived in Ireland, and the other guys were touring with Glenn Hughes and stuff and living in Stockholm.
At that point, was it obvious that if a reunion is going to happen, it has to be that particular line-up with John Norum included?
Joey Tempest: Yeah, sort of – he’s like a brother, and I missed him already. It’s just that certain chemistry we have together.
Your first public appearance together was the New Year’s Eve 1999 to 2000 show in Stockholm. Tell me something about that one?
Joey Tempest: The Millennium is short; yeah… that was great because the rehearsal was fantastic! The show was kind of cold, and it wasn’t too good. Then we got really, really drunk afterward as well; don’t remember a thing – I think my wife was completely shocked how the Swedes could drink cause I brought her over there, you know. But no, it was an important event because of the rehearsal with John. And that was it.
Kee Marcello was also in the picture then, but he never made it to the actual reunion line-up a few years later. How that thing actually went with him?
Joey Tempest: Well, actually, to be honest, we actually discussed playing with two guitar players, doing a tour… Because… on the rehearsal, we talked about it, but I remember Kee being very busy with his K2 and producing and stuff; it didn’t really work out because a lot of time passed after the Millennium show – a few years, and it just didn’t happen.
I think that Norum did like that decision since he prefers to have one guitar and keyboard on the band, right?
Joey Tempest: Yeah, he does like one guitar player and keyboard. He thinks that the guitar sounds suffer if you have too many guitar players. They sound smaller if you have two guitar players than one. If you have one guitar player, it sounds bigger. I mean, if you listen to a Van Halen, it’s true you know if you can dial in the right sound, one guitar player is bigger.
Once you decided to make a full-time reunion and started to work on START FROM THE DARK, I think that you had to make a lot of compromises between the band members to make everybody happy, you know, how the band sounded and so on?
Joey Tempest: Yeah, I was open to everybody, and John had detuned his guitar and B drop and D drop and inspired me. I started writing songs like “Flames,” and I also started writing with D drop and it was an exciting time; it was a new expression for me. And then I’ve been away learning about lyrics through Neil Young and Bob Dylan and all that stuff and really trying to write lyrics with some more depth and stuff. We came back with a new expression in the guitar, with the new lyrics and the band was great. The band kept touring and playing, so yeah… now we were all older, we didn’t censor, or we didn’t listen to anybody outside either. Nobody knew we were doing that album in the winter START FROM THE DARK, you know, but we did it exactly the way we wanted to do it. It’s quite raw; it’s not really polished or commercial or anything; it’s just an expression, you know.
START FROM THE DARK was really different from anything that Europe had done before, but it was still quite successful. Were you any surprised how well it actually was received among the fans?
Joey Tempest: Yeah, it did real good for us, it made us be able to start from scratch; from the beginning because from a dark album like that you can go different ways, if we would have started with a very bombastic, commercial, 80s album it would all be downhill after that you know.
BAG OF BONES
When START FROM THE DARK was really something new from you guys, it was a dark and heavy album, but the latest one, BAG OF BONES, goes directly back to the ’70s. If you ask me, at times, it sounds like an early Whitesnake?
Joey Tempest: Yeah its more – more blues-based hard rock, and that’s because that’s what we grew up with, that was our first influence, early Whitesnake and also Deep Purple, which had the blues element in it and some Rainbow stuff too, you know; Rainbow Rising and stuff like that and Led Zeppelin of course. So BAG OF BONES has gone all the way back.
It does sound that it’s like an album that you guys have always wanted to make. But would it have been possible for you to make an album like BAG OF BONES in the 80s even if you would have wanted to?
Joey Tempest: We could never have done that, not with those lyrics and not with John’s playing and the production, and it’s hardly any overdubs, and it’s just playing and having fun, and there’s no way we could have done that, we were too one dimensional back then. Actually, we were quite playful on the first album, the first Europe album. It’s quite progressive, actually.
Joey Tempest: That’s quite cool.
Okay, so I think you have done something right because of BAG OF BONES because it just went gold in Sweden, and it’s getting great reviews everywhere.
Joey Tempest: Yeah, yeah, we’re lucky because we getting the rock community behind us, and we’re getting journalists behind us, and that’s always good for the future.
Have you got any feedback about the album you know from the “old school guys” like Glenn Hughes?
Joey Tempest: We haven’t met them yet, but I’m sure… we are getting good reviews and good reactions from people like Joe Bonamassa. We gave him a copy. The UK really likes the album – yeah, it’s doing well for us.
So what are the plans of Europe after the year 2013?
Joey Tempest: We’re going to do festivals next year round the world, and in 2014 we’ll be very lucky to do our tenth album, we’re going to do our tenth album, and that’s a big thing for us.
That sounds like a great plan. Have you already been thinking about who you would be working with this time in the studio?
Joey Tempest: I don’t know yet, maybe Kevin Shirley? I don’t know, yet I think we had a lot of fun with him so we’ll see.
The last thing… Your solo career, do you have plans to release more solo albums in the future, or is that thing on the ice now?
Joey Tempest: Yeah, it’s on the ice. I can’t do both – there’s so much going on with Europe, you know, so much fun as well so if we take a long time in the future, maybe if we take a long break; I don’t have any plans.