INTERVIEW BY MARKO SYRJÄLÄ AND MICKI CURTI
LIVE PHOTOS BY MARKO SYRJÄLÄ
Europe, the Swedish hard rock band, formed in Upplands Väsby in 1979. The group got a breakthrough in Sweden in 1982 by winning the Swedish Rock Championships. The line-up of Joey Tempest, John Norum, John Leven, Mic Michael, and Ian Haugland rose to international fame in 1986 with the album, THE FINAL COUNTDOWN, which sold over 3 million copies in the US alone. Kee Marcello later replaced Norum, and the new line-up released two more albums, OUT OF THIS WORLD (1988) and PRISONERS IN PARADISE (1991), before the band went on hiatus in 1992. Europe reunited temporarily for a one-off performance in Stockholm on New Year’s Eve 1999. A full reunion was announced in 2003; the band has released six albums, including their latest, WALK THE EARTH (2017). Europe is a regular visitor to Finland, and in June 2018, they performed at the Tuska Festival in Helsinki. We had the pleasure to sit down with vocalist Joey Tempest and discuss various subjects, including the latest album, changes in the band’s musical direction, and future plans.
WALK THE EARTH
The latest album, WALK THE EARTH, is like every album you have produced. It has its own identity and personality, and that is one of the great elements of your music-making, straight to expressing what you want, not necessarily following a fashion or a certain code of overproducing “catchy tunes. “ Tell me a bit about what went into the “boil“ of what created WALK THE EARTH?
Joey Tempest: We just worked fast. It usually takes five to six months to do the whole thing. We send ideas to each other. We don’t plan anything. We booked two weeks in the studio. And we try to have fun and do new things without ever to repeat ourselves. It’s a new band, basically. But we like to mix it up when we play live with the old songs. But on the record, we’re a new band on the albums.
As you said, you are a kind of a new band now. After the reunion, you released START FROM THE DARK, a modern, heavy, and dark album. But since then, you have musically gone more and more towards the 70s sound and style. Every album has gone a step further in that direction. Is this kind of music something you always wanted to do, but it wasn’t possible until now?
Joey Tempest: It began on BAG OF BONES when we started recording live again and digging a bit deeper with our blues side. And we began touring a lot again, and I think that colored the band too. So, BAG OF BONES was a new beginning. And then working, it was just automatic, experimental trying not to repeat ourselves because we get bored. We have more fun making a career like this. It might shock some people, but we don’t care what anybody says. It works for us. We can do this for a long time now if we’re having fun like this. Otherwise, we would have done just one album, one 80’s album.
There are bands classic bands, like Deep Purple and Whitesnake, whose effect can be heard on Europe’s music, especially on the later albums. How do you feel about that?
Joey Tempest: I met David Coverdale a long, long time ago. I used to go and see Whitesnake with Bernie Marsden and Micky Moody and “Slide It In” with Mel Galley. And then John Sykes came in. We used to go and see Whitesnake a lot when we were starting Europe. And he, David, inspired me so much. And Thin Lizzy. They taught me many things about taking the audience, moving, singing, and phrase. And no, I don’t want to be anybody else. “Laughs.”
I can see some similarities between your and Coverdale’s stage presence. For example, “the mic stand moves.” “laughs.”
Joey Tempest: Oh, okay. Yeah. That’s probably from me watching so many Whitesnake shows “Laughing.” It’s inside of me. In Italy once, we were invited to play with David on stage in “Still of the Night,” me and John Norum. And I made some of my mic stand moves, and he was looking back, and I said, “I stole some of that from you [laughter],” I told him that, and he thought it was so funny. Of course, when you grow up, when you’re between 15 and 25, your impressions that’s where you form your DNA. And those shows you go to are always inside, and you pick some ideas and use them yourself.
One thing that you have adopted from Whitesnake and Purple is the way how to use keyboards; I mean, it’s evident that you love the sound of Hammond?
Joey Tempest: Yes. Well, keyboards. I mean, Mic is one of the best Hammond players in Sweden, in the world, maybe. I mean, you see John Norum, he’s a writer as well, a player, and he’s very musical. I think his mother was a good piano player, and he’s just natural. And we want to use that more and start a WAR OF KINGS because, with WAR OF KINGS, we panned the keyboard out on one side and the guitar on the other. So, on the songs of WAR OF KINGS and other songs, you can hear the keyboard a bit more that way instead of if there is just a layering sound, you know? If you use real instruments like Hammonds and mellotrons, you can pick them up in the mix. When you use some of the ’80s keyboards, you have to be careful of the mix.
I’m not a big fan of the ’80s keyboard sound, but I love the ’70s stuff.
Joey Tempest: Well, they did the best recording. They recorded really good music in the late ’70s, really, really good.
SELECTED SONGS ON WALK THE EARTH
Let’s talk about a couple of songs on the album. “Walk the Earth,” the title track, is a very particular tune. It is incredible because one feels the sound is both evoking being brought to the ’70s but also yet projected into the future at the same time. It’s futuristic but also showing your influences: How did it come about?
Joey Tempest: Oh, man. That’s a long story, but it started backstage. Mic Michael was doing a keyboard feature, you know how he does his keyboard feature sometimes, and he plays it, and I’m starting recording extra stuff on the computer with Matias. “What’s that?” I said, and Matias said, “I’ll be recording this,” and we were. He’s passed away now, a moment to God, but he recorded it, that little riff. “Da da da da da.” And I said to Mic, “You did something tonight that was really, really cool. I want to have a look at it.” So, I got the tape. Then Mic and I went to Stockholm together, and we did our writing sessions, two or three days. I played the drums and sang, and he played keyboards. And we record 40 or 50 hours of music, and after that, I take it to London, go through it, see the good bits, and then start writing on them. And “Walk the Earth” was one of those bits. That’s how it started, and then I had a chorus that… I had a kind of a dark chorus. I was singing ”Goth, (it was called Goth something?) [laughter], and we walk the Earth.” And I thought that could work well. And then I wrote that “de de de,” the bridge. And then I put that chorus on it, and I sang it differently. Then it started turning into a great song. And then the solo. I remember writing it before one of the rehearsals in Stockholm. “Te de de, de de de.” And it all came together. It took a long time for that song, but it just happened, and we’re really pleased. We love that song.
Another great on the album is the song “Pictures.” It’s not currently on the setlist; many fans have asked, “Why isn’t “Pictures” in the setlist when it has this legacy and kind of David Bowie sound?”
Joey Tempest: Maybe it will be added in the autumn, maybe because we haven’t done that many songs from WALK THE EARTH. At festivals, there’s not enough time. Maybe in the autumn, we’re going to mix in some more new songs and next year as well. So, yeah. We want to do more songs from WALK THE EARTH and more things that we like to play. And when we do our own shows, maybe we can do some of that.
THE ANNIVERSARY OF OUT OF THIS WORLD
The “OUT OF THIS WORLD” album is 30 years old this year. Do you have any plans to celebrate it somehow?
Joey Tempest: I don’t know, maybe in the autumn? I don’t know. But there is a re-release of OUT OF THIS WORLD coming out. I did an interview for some liner notes, you know, inside the booklet? So, there is an OUT OF THIS WORLD re-issue or a re-release, I think, with a new booklet, I guess. It’s not our company or anything, but I helped them. I did an interview for it.
Does the release include any bonus material, unpublished songs, outtakes, or live recordings?
Joey Tempest: It’s not our own release; it’s just the album. In fact, we don’t’ have any extra materials, but we’ll see in the future.
One former Europe member told me that the band might get the rights back for those 80’s albums soon, including OUT OF THIS WORLD. Is that true?
Joey Tempest: In certain territories, not everywhere. The early albums are difficult. That’s a long battle, but we own everything the new albums, starting START FROM THE DARK.
But you’re working on getting the rights back for all albums?
Joey Tempest: We’re working with some lawyers. We’ll see how it goes. We’re hoping so.
When I interviewed Kee Marcello some time ago, he was hopeful that the band would celebrate OUT OF THIS WORLD anniversary, and there could be something special happening then?
Joey Tempest: He can hope. I don’t know?
THE SECRET OF LONGEVITY
Do you realize by looking around that there are not many bands in their 30-plus year career which are still together with their classic line-up? So, what is the secret of Europe to be professionally such a close band but also such a strong “family”?
Joey Tempest: Well, we met when we were teenagers around 14, 15, 16. That’s when we met. Used to go to shows together. UFO, Queen, Rainbow, Whitesnake, Deep Purple. And we went to these shows together, so it’s like a bond. It helps. So musically, we have the same background, which helps a lot with the band because many arguments can come from musical differences. And we come from the same part of Stockholm as well. Ian Haugland comes from a little bit further, maybe 20 minutes away, from Märsta. So, that helps too, and also that we’re musicians. It’s not only about being in a band or selling records. It’s about being musicians as well. We want to get better at instruments. And John Norum is such a… he wants to get better and better. And in this band, everybody wants to get better at the instruments. And after every show, we talk about how we played, and we’re still serious about doing the greatest that we can, the best we can.
In the early days, everyone in the band lived close to each other, but nowadays you live in London. For how many years have you been living there?
Joey Tempest: Since 2000, I think?
Is there something you still miss from Sweden?
Joey Tempest: Well, I often go to Sweden because my brother’s there and my parents are there. I used to say, “After 15 years, you don’t miss home anymore. It changes.” So now, I miss England instead when I’m away. But of course, there’s something about the Scandinavian weather as well, yeah, that crisp twilight thing and light. Scandinavia is kind of cool.
In the late 80s and early 90s, the whole band lived for several years in the Caribbean. It must have been a fantastic time and lots of fun?
Joey Tempest: We had a lot of fun there. We lived close to Miami. We were in San Francisco quite a lot as well in those days. Those years were great. I mean, we had a lot of fun traveling a lot and hanging out, drinking rum on the island, and jamming. It was great.
SWEDEN’S HALL OF FAME
Europe got an award and induction in the Swedish Hall of Fame recently! How did you react when you found this out?
Joey Tempest: Yeah. They emailed us and said, “This is a big secret. You can’t tell anybody, but you’re going to be inducted to the Swedish Music Hall of Fame together with all those bands,” Abba, Roxette, and all those bands, and all these Swedish artists as well. So that was a big thing for us. So, we were looking forward to it, and the ceremony was beautiful. They got artists to play our songs for us. We were sitting in the audience listening to our songs, somebody else playing them. It was a big honor for us, really cool.
How about your tour plans? So, now we got the summer festivals and the UK tour in Autumn. What about December and the year 2019? Is there going to be more dates announced soon?
Joey Tempest: Yeah. We’re going to look at other territories in 2019. I mean, in other places that we don’t play so often. We want to play in Russia as well, but we haven’t played that much in other places in the world. I can’t tell you what we’re looking at, but we will continue touring in 2019. We will do some festivals as well, I think. But we’re also going to try to get to other territories that we don’t play so often.
But do you have plans to add more dates for Europe, Canada, or the US?
Joey Tempest: Maybe, yeah, because nothing is decided. And if I say something and then it doesn’t happen later, I’m the guilty one! “Laughs.” But we do tour the whole year to 2019 as well. And then we’re planning on recording at the beginning of 2020, yeah, the next album.
Ah, the next album is coming already, then?
Joey Tempest: Yeah, we’ll tour this year and next year, then record in 2020. That’s it.
EUROPE LIVE PICTURES FROM TUSKA FESTIVAL 2018