“…we do stuff together but we also try to dig deeper with each record and find the expression rather than copy ourselves from the past or anything, we think there’s room for nostalgia in the live concert but in the studio we don’t find any room for nostalgia like that.”
From Release: Sweden’s legendary hard rock band EUROPE, best known for their worldwide 1986 Smash Hit The Final Countdown, have announced a run of five Australian dates in May 2018. This will be the first time the band has toured Australia in their 35 year career! Featuring the classic lineup 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. The band’s live set will feature all their hits together with fan’s favourites from their studio albums.
At home in London we gave Joey Tempest a call to talk about Europe’s upcoming first ever tour of Australia, their new album ‘Walk The Earth’, influences, recording, solo albums, vinyl, and much more.
Let’s just get straight into it, you’re finally heading to Australia! After so long, how pumped are you to finally be heading Down Under?
Oh man it’s so exciting, we did a show the other day and the band and the crew we were all talking about how excited we are to get there in May and we should’ve been there, I mean there was a tour planned in the 80’s and it got cancelled for some reason so it’s always been on our minds to get back there and yeah we’re very much going to enjoy that.
What sort of reception are you expecting from the fans and why has it taken this long to get here?
Not really nervous, more excited, we’ve seen some reactions as we follow some stuff on our facebook, when we announced it we were checking people and it seems so positive and it seems like the tickets are going well. So we’re not really nervous but we are kind of excited to play some new stuff but also I think it’s important to Australia since we haven’t been to maybe play a few more old ones as well because it’s kind of it’s going to be a first meeting of band and fans so we’re going to mix it up, obviously play the new stuff but we’ll also bring some of the big guns as well.
When you’re coming to a territory for the first time is it a hard process structuring a set list?
A little bit, you have to think you have to make people feel like if they haven’t seen you before to get to know the band a little bit and the songs that they know. Obviously over here there’s territories more used to the new album so we can rely a bit more heavy on the newer stuff but we also enjoy playing the older stuff so it’s going to be a great mixture when we get to Australia.
Of course people will always associate you with ‘The Final Countdown’, how hard is it for a band like Europe to get past that stigma and to make people realise you’ve released eight albums since then and that you are more than that one song?
*laughs* Yeah, well we’ve done eleven albums now and to us The Final Countdown is also an album track, it was always six minutes long and we have a slightly different relationship to the song we actually enjoy playing it live and we may not sing it in the shower and we may not rehearse it, I mean we don’t need to listen to it at home as we’ve played it so many times but it still has a place in our live set and we do enjoy playing it and we don’t really want to get past it. I mean it was on our third album, Final Countdown was our third album and we toured in Scandinavia and Japan before that and it opened so many doors for us, we got to tour the world like our heroes Deep Purple and Thin Lizzy and bands like that and it opened everything up for us the third album so we’re grateful to the song as well.
Speaking of one of those albums, you have recently released ‘Walk The Earth’, and it’s another monster effort, how if in any way has the creative process changed for the band over time as you continue to create music?
I think the process changed quite a lot, we write songs together now in different ways and different combinations within the band but we also write all of us together so that’s a big difference. I used to write most of the stuff but they’ve caught up with me as well and it’s amazing so we do stuff together but we also try to dig deeper with each record and find the expression rather than copy ourselves from the past or anything, we think there’s room for nostalgia in the live concert but in the studio we don’t find any room for nostalgia like that. We want to dig deeper and express and find expression and find good studios and engineers and consoles and compressors, we’re a bit nerdy like that and we want to explore how best to record rock and roll music and Dave Cobb the producer and the one we used before Kevin Shirley they are amazing and together we tried to create the best possible scenario for recording drums and guitars and vocals the way it should be done in our view and it was done in the late seventies, maybe the early eighties too but that’s how it was perfected to record rock and roll and we tried to carry on that tradition together with a modern sound and tried to push our song writing. ‘Walk The Earth’ is the album where we really went outside of our parameters for the first time in a big way with songs like ‘Pictures’ or ‘Wolves’ and other tracks and it’s been an amazing thing for us to push things and to try to explore our musical universe to the fullest. We don’t copy anything we’ve done before so that’s what we’re doing.
I’ve seen mentioned that ‘Turn to Dust’ was written many years ago by Mic and that you picked it up again for this album. How far back does the track go and why did you decide to revisit it now?
That goes back to hmm it’s hard to say exactly but we discussed that song for the last three or four records I’d say it goes back maybe ten years and Mic has had that riff, that haunting circles of chords and we’ve always said to him we need to finish it, we need to do that song and we never did until now and I really pushed him too and said have you got another part for it and when we were rehearsing for ‘Walk The Earth’ it’s exciting then and he got into it and started writing more bits and I started helping out with some melodies for the vocals and we finished it finally and it’s one of the coolest songs on the album so we’re really pleased with that.
There’s a definite vibe of Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy and UFO on ‘Walk the Earth’ which I believe are three of your favourite bands. Was there an intention to draw inspiration from them?
Not really, no, everything was automatically and you have to bear in mind in our prolific years or the years that we are most influenced sort of between fifteen and twenty five perhaps, we knew each other and went to all these concerts together and that’s sort of embedded in us. So I think it comes out automatically now, when we record we work fast, we write fast and we work fast so nothing is planned like now we want to sound like that or sound like them no it happens too fast, but I think your reflections are correct there are some similarities but they come automatically from our youth.
Watching live performances over the years as it was the only way to see you without getting on a plane, your voice has remained pristine where many from the same musical era have deteriorated, what sorcery do you use to keep up the magic?
*laughs* Good question, I wish I knew I would bottle it and sell it. I’ve been lucky the crew that’s been with us for many, many years said my voice changed slightly a bit rounder a bit huskier maybe and they prefer it so in a way I’m lucky in that sense. It’s difficult sometimes when we’re out on the longer runs I mean my voice disappears and I’ll say before a show, listen, my voice isn’t good today and we’ll maybe need to have a longer keyboard feature or put a drum solo in, so it happens to me too. It’s important to get the sleep and I take care of myself a bit more these days and do what I can because it’s the instrument that we’re born with and it’s kind of delicate and that’s why it’s hard as when we tour two hundred maybe three hundred days a year I mean that’s going to take its toll. We try to take breaks now with our families, we still work hard and tour a lot but we try to get back home with our families and try to take breaks as well and I don’t know, I’m lucky the voice is working.
So it’s sometimes easy to say what’s changed in your time in a band but what would you say is the one thing that’s stayed the same in your time together in Europe?
Well as I said we met when we were teenagers so something that’s stayed the same is our connection and our sort of joint soul of bands and knowledge and we can always dip into talking about influences and events that happened when we were younger. So something that’s stayed the same is the camaraderie and memories that we have together, I mean we have thirty or forty years together knowing each other so that’s stayed the same and also remained very important to us. Another thing is the love and all those nerdy and geeky sounds and instruments and recording techniques, we just have a love for it and that’s why we try to seek out the best engineers and studios and things to satisfy and learn so we can learn about equipment in there, so there’s something there that we have in common all of us. Also we love big melodies, even though we might be slightly more progressive these days and more daring with writing we still have a love for melodies and guitar riffs and we love that you know?
I love that it’s just the five of you guys because in the past you’ve said ‘Wings of Tomorrow’ and ‘The Final Countdown’ and the most recent releases are your favourite, was the record company part of the reason you may not have liked the Kee Marcello era as much and was it an interesting time in that period without John Norum?
It was an interesting time for me because I started Europe and Force with John Norum, he was my brother and we started it really and for him to stop and leave to make solo albums was an interesting time because we were also one of the biggest bands on the planet and this happened and it was kind of a strange thing that happened. We kept powering through and John kept powering through in LA, writing and doing albums and we kept in contact, that was the thing we were calling each other, me and John and he’d send his solo albums to me, but the era with Kee was great he’s a great guitar player and he’s a funny guy on tour as well. We got on famously with him but I suppose John came from the same neighbourhood he came to the shows with us in the early days, there was a different and deeper connection with John from way back, but the years with Kee was amazing too, great guitar player. The record company never really had much to do with the band we’ve always done our own thing even though we were with one of the biggest labels. I suppose the only thing they ever influenced was to tell us to write more songs for ‘Prisoners In Paradise’ so we went and wrote a few more songs for that, that’s the only thing ever that they influenced us. Other than that, and these days when we started together in 2004 we licensed our music, we own all the rights to our music and we like record companies that we trust and they like what we do and we are in control of all that stuff, in the old days in the eighties the big labels they mostly owned the music for bands and it was a different thing and they could have more influence. I remember we wanted to do more live albums when we were with Epic in New York and they weren’t too keen on live albums, we grew up on live albums and we wanted to really do more Europe live albums but that’s kind of tricky to get through. Now anything we want to do now we can do because we are the owners of the material.
Any chance you’ll record some of the Australian shows?
We probably will, we record most of it, I mean on the new album ‘Walk The Earth’ the title track and the keyboard was done at the live show and I was standing by backstage and hearing Mic improvise this bit and I said to my tour manager are we recording and he said yes we’re recording, so I just asked if they could email it to me and I started working on that song and it continued. So yes we record for many reasons, for releases but also for inspiration because we have sometimes solo parts that we want to grab afterwards, but yes, it’s almost certain that we’ll record the shows.
Aside from Australia what are the touring plans for ‘Walk The Earth’ in 2018 and will you be heading to any other territories for the first time?
For the first time that’s difficult to say at this point but we will be going to many places, we’ve started to call the tour ‘Tour The Earth’ now *laughs* but we’ll see. Our 2018 tour will continue with more European dates and the UK and hopefully we can go to South America and North America and we can do some more stuff in Asia and we have Australia of course. I’m sure it’ll take us to many places.
On a personal note and I know we’re here for Europe, but I’m a huge fan of your solo albums, in particular ‘A Place To Call Home’, are there any plans for further solo albums in the future?
I don’t see it right now it’s kind of difficult to see because of Europe and there’s a lot of things going on with the band and it’s kind of vibrant and I feel like we’re on a good run and having a good time so there are no plans whatsoever, but you should never say never. I had a great time doing these solo albums, I did a lot of research I was listening to everything and going to all the shows by Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne, Van Morrison and all that so I wanted to learn more about song writing and push it a little bit, it needed another dimension I thought. So in the break with Europe I did a lot of research, a lot of recording of that type of stuff and it was a great period for me, I don’t see it right now but who knows? If I do something it will be very different, if I ever do something.
You recently mentioned that you have started collecting vinyl again. Is that a factor in putting together your albums now?
Yeah we always try to do vinyl for our new albums and we’ve done it for quite a few years so we have most of our new records on vinyl and it’s just something that’s nice, you go into record shops when you travel and my collection that I’ve started to do now is based on the collection I had left at my parents’ house in Stockholm, I’ve lived in London for so many years but I still realised I had about a hundred records and I’d forgotten about them and I started looking and I was like wow this is amazing, now I know why I wrote a certain way, all my influences and that’s why my record collection is what I like and listen to and what brought me to where I am today, I’m not just going to collect everything I’m going to collect stuff I like to put on the turntable and listen to or I know that’s influenced me. So that’s my collection and just sort of starting again really and it’s kind of interesting but it has to do with my past, so that’s one of the reasons.
What’s your holy grail you’re looking for?
Well there are certain bands that I would love and also records from my solo era, records from Jackson Browne, Van Morrison, I would love to have most records Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Mott The Hoople, all those records I was listening to as a kid, Thin Lizzy, I have a lot of it on vinyl but not all because I was kind of in the CD era, that’s where we were in the eighties and the nineties and there’s a lot of stuff missing that I need to collect. It needs to be stuff that I like and that I’d listen to, I’m not going to bother with something just for the sake of it just because it’s worth something or anything like that, it will only be stuff that I like.
Lastly let’s look ahead to the future, finish this sentence for me, in 2018 Europe will…
*laughs* Tour the Earth *laughs* in 2019 probably some more touring, in 2020 we talked about going in the studio again, so that will lead us into touring in 2021 and 2022, a new record in 2023, and yeah so that’s our few years so we’re just enjoying it.
Amazing, you’re the first person to go five years into the future, love it.
EUROPE – AUSTRALIAN TOUR DATES
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
Presented by: Showcase Entertainment Group
Band members: Joey Tempest (Lead Vocals), John Norum (Guitar), Mic Michaeli (Keyboards), John Leven (Bass Guitar) and Ian Haugland (Drums),
Latest Release: Walk The Earth – Out Now!