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Interview: Joey Tempest of Europe

It seems to be living its own life out there now, that line. It’s almost like its own soundtrack, it’s so different. It’s kind of progressive in a way because it stands out. But you tell me, is it that recognisable (laughs)

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Forming in Sweden 1979, Europe have released 11 studio albums and 3 live albums. They draw deep on their influences of bands like Deep Purple and Thin Lizzy but have a distinct sound all to themselves. They are best known, of course for their 1986 smash “The Final Countdown”, but their extensive catalogue has wide ranging appeal beyond that.

2018 sees the band finally hitting Australia for their first tour, and we spoke with singer Joey Tempest from his home in London, about the tour, and more.

H2Z: Thanks for your time today Joey, we appreciate you giving some time for a chat with us. How are the band feeling ahead of their first trip here?
JT: Hey Mate, we are getting really excited now, we are meeting up in a few days for rehearsals, the band and crew have all been emailing like crazy organising the gear and set lists. Everybody is so excited. This is the highlight of our year.

H2Z: Your last album “Walk the Earth” got some great acclaim around the world. What was the experience like recording in Abbey Road Studios?
JT: It was really, really cool. I have been trying to get the band and producers to record in the UK for years now, I have been trying to just work in various studios here. But a friend called me up and said that he may be able to get us into Abbey Road Studios, he said “It’s such a busy studio, but I might be able to get you two weeks”. I called the others, and then everyone got really excited about recording in the UK (laughs). We got to use old equipment that Pink Floyd and John Lennon and The Beatles used, which we then combined with new technology and techniques, and we really had a blast. Dave Cobb (producer), came over from Nashville, where he lives now. He really enjoyed it, he was like a kid in a candy store, just enjoying all the equipment and recording techniques. We were very lucky to get everything done in two weeks and then mixed it. It was a great experience.

H2Z: Sonically, the album has a lot of power. Was this something you deliberately set out to achieve, especially given the studio, and keeping the music more in line with your roots?
JT: Absolutely, but in saying that I also think it just happens automatically with the group we are and our producer Dave Cobb. We are all fans of Glyn Johns, Martin Birch and engineers like that. We know what we want. We want to record Rock N Roll the way it should be recorded, the way it was during the late 70’s and perhaps into the early 80’s, so we used all those techniques but combined them with newer techniques, so like you say its powerful, and punchy, but it’s also has different dimensions and an organic and warm feel, which is where a lot of band ignore and make the mistake by working too much in the digital world, which then makes it sound a bit plastic and thin. So, we really became nerdy and tried to do this right. We also mastered it in analogue which is a different way to go about things, so that also brought warmth to it.

H2Z: What have the band got in store for fans on the Australian tour?
JT: We are planning a big span of our career and we will try and do it in two sections. One hour, then a small break, then another hour. While we will play for over two hours, there will also be features, the band members will have some features in the show. I mean, John Norum, a legendary guitar player, just him coming to Australia is a huge thing for me too (laughs). For people to see him play, and see this guitar player, that I saw when I was 15 and he was 14, and I said to myself “I have to start a band with this guy”, and we started “Force”, and here we are we are bringing John Norum to Australia, but the entire band are just amazing players. So, it’s a great night for musicians as well as songwriters. So, we will do a big span. We will play the big songs people know from the 80’s but we are also going to do some new stuff, maybe 3 or 4 from “Walk the Earth”, some from “War of Kings”, “Bag of Bones”, and maybe some from “Last Look at Eden”. We also want to revisit the first two albums, so maybe a few songs from the very early days. It’s going to be great music, great guitars, great songs, and just seeing the fans of Australia, as you know we haven’t been so it’s going to be one hell of a night.

H2Z: Speaking of John Norum, there was a period of time where you weren’t in a band together, and while there was no public falling out, once Europe came together again, what’s been the secret to keeping a good band relationship?
JT: We always kept in contact. During that time, I recorded 3 solo albums, and the other guys recorded and toured with other artists like Glenn Hughes. Everybody kept touring and playing. The thing is, I was living in Ireland for a while, and Mic (Michaeli – Keyboards) and Ian (Haughland – Drums) came over to see me a few times just as friends, and also just to jam. John Norum sent me all his solo albums, he was out living in L.A., and because we were always in contact, we knew one day we were going to start this up again. But there was also something brewing with the fans, and we didn’t have internet in the way we do now, but we were getting a lot of mail, and there were a lot of rumours around about us, but also a lot of strong support still for us while we were away. It was amazing for us, in 2003 to have a meeting at Mic Michaeli’s apartment in Stockholm, and said “Let’s do this, but let’s do it long term. Let’s learn about the music and the songs, and studios and engineers, and do what a real rock band should do”. We wanted to make all the decisions, we owned all our music and licensed it, but we also went one step further and started a whole new chapter. And that’s what we did in 2004 with the release of “Start from the Dark”.

H2Z: You mentioned the songs. Europe play festivals, you play headline shows, which are two very different environments. When the band sits to work on set lists, how are those particular decisions made and what is factored in?
JT: In a way it’s difficult, but some of it is really easy. There are certain songs that we all enjoy playing all the time. So, there is a selection of songs that we all agree on. There are a few that are on the periphery, they are out there on the side. 3 of the guys might not like them, and 2 might like them. So, there are always conversations at the beginning of every tour. “Should we do this?”, “Should we do that?”. But then we can also switch from night to night, one night we do the one those 3 want to do, next night we do the one the other 2 want to do. So, there are a lot of discussions, but it always works out. We do always tend to pick the songs that we like playing. Sometimes we play songs that we may not enjoy as much as other, but we make sacrifices as they are fan favourites. Being that we have never been to Australia, and we have people that have been fans for a real long time, so we want to stretch ourselves, and play those songs we don’t play all the time, so it’s going to be a very interesting set list, I think.

H2Z: Is there any songs from the back catalogue that has never been played, but you wish you could have played live?
JT: Oh man, there are a few songs, that would have been good to try, but we have way too many songs to try to remember, but we are getting more experimental, we throw the rare songs in more than ever, so we are getting good at stirring things up.

H2Z: Is there one essential thing the band needs on its rider
JT: Oh no we have become quite easy with that. We took out hard liquor 10 years ago as we thought it would be too risky (laughs). We appreciate a good wine or some beer. They usually send me the rider ideas and I just tell them to go with it, have some healthy stuff, have some naughty stuff, it’s all good.

H2Z: Now for the last of Joey Tempest. What was the last book you read, and the last movie you saw in a cinema?
JT: Oh wow, I’m trying to remember. (long pause) I think I re-read “Life” by Keith Richards, as for last movie, (laughs), I’m trying to remember, let me ask my kids (laughs). My kids said the last “Star Wars – The Last Jedi”, my boys are big fans so that was the last one.

H2Z: Now cast your mind back. Did you ever think that a keyboard riff you wrote in the early 80’s would go on to become one of the most recognisable keyboard riffs of all time?
JT: It seems to be living its own life out there now, that line. It’s almost like its own soundtrack, it’s so different. It’s kind of progressive in a way because it stands out. But you tell me, is it that recognisable (laughs)
H2Z: It definitely is, you know the song the minute you hear it, but now it’s almost not your song anymore, it belongs to everyone.
JT: Yeah, I think you are right, it’s out there, it has a life of its own now. But even now we all still enjoy playing it live, as we do with songs like “Superstitious” and “Rock the Night”. It’s amazing. It brings people together. Oh, and I just remembered (laughs), the last movie I saw was “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (laughs)

H2Z: Any final words for the Australian Fans
JT: Oh man. It’s going to be so exciting. From the contact we have had from people growing up in Australia that are working with us, the last 10 years. We have had information from fans in Australia and seen it on social media. We are so excited to finally meet the fans, sharing our songs and stories, and just having a great night, we cannot wait to see you all.

We would like to thank Joey for his time, and don’t forget that the tour is just around the corner. If you don’t have your tickets yet don’t make the mistake of missing out

Europe Australian Tour

With thanks to Showcase Entertainment Group

16th May 2018: Perth – Perth Concert Hall (Buy Tickets)

18th May 2018: Adelaide – Thebarton Theatre (Buy Tickets)

19th May 2018: Melbourne – Palais Theatre (Buy Tickets)

22nd May 2018: Sydney – Enmore Theatre (Buy Tickets)

23rd May 2018: Brisbane – The Tivoli (Buy Tickets)

Visit Europe Online

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