“Somebody told me, it’s all the same now.
Somebody told me, we’ve had our turn.
I gotta believe that time is still ours.
I gotta believe it’s still ours to burn.”
Just like these lyrics from the song, “Days of Rock and Roll,” Europe is out to prove their days are far from being numbered. Having wrapped their first American tour in 10 years at the M3 Rock Festival in Columbia, MD, Europe is on their way back to the top. With new American management, a new album; War of Kings, and a Geico commercial, Europe is sure to prove it’s not their “Final Countdown”.
I was lucky to catch front man, Joey Tempest, between the Michigan and Milwaukee shows to talk about Europe then and now.
An Exclusive Rock and Roll Interview with Joey Tempest
K: Hello there. How are you? How has the tour been going so far?
J: Great. We have been here a couple of days so far and we’ve been having a good time. This is a new experience for us. We were in Michigan and we’re going to do Milwaukee tonight; yea so, we’re just honored really.
K: How excited are you to be back in America after ten years?
J: It’s amazing. America is one of the true rock and roll countries of the world. You go back and look at the music, art, entertainment, movies, and it reminds me of how we grew up in Sweden. In the 70’s and 80’s we were influenced a lot by America; it is instilled in us. So it is really cool to play here.
We haven’t been here for a long time so we’re just taking it a step by step and go in and out a bit and get a feel for it. Trying to come back again and hopefully this is the start of something.
K: Did you do anything different to prepare for the U.S. tour, let’s say, compared to when you toured in Europe or Asia?
J: No not really, we tour a lot in the U.K. I live in London so we play England a lot, which is very similar to the States, very rooted in rock and roll; very rooted in music knowledge; and it is instilled in everybody. Playing the U.K. and U.S. are very similar. We have a positive attitude and positive performance and try to have a good time, you know.
K: When you were writing the album, War of Kings, and had teamed up with Dave Cobb to produce the album, was it your plan to come back to the U.S.?
J: Yes, the last 3 or 4 years we have been talking about coming back. It worked well with War of Kings because we switched management before the release of the album. So it was a great opportunity to explore [touring] America, this time with American management.
We had also wanted to come back for a long time. It is just getting the right people to work with you, the right momentum, and the right offers. We found agents and promoters who like what we are doing and want to help. It is good timing right now.
K: I’m in California and I spoke to some fans the other night that said, “[.] always loved Europe because they stay true to themselves. They are good looking guys, but they don’t base their music, careers, or fame on their looks like other bands. They have always been great musicians and artists and [we] just can’t wait for them to come back to California.” When are you thinking about a trip to the West Coast?
J: I appreciate that! We always started out as musicians first and foremost. We were always hiding in rehearsal rooms; learning our instruments and getting better. We used to go and watch American bands play in Stockholm, and then we’d rehearse the next day.
Our band was built on musicianship from the beginning and I think that is why we are very interested in going on journeys sonically with new producers and studios, and trying to push our writing in different directions. We enjoy ourselves, and that’s probably why we’re here now with 5 new albums. We are seen as more of a new band in some countries, but we have survived and have just moved on with a new expression. That was our plan, to move forward.
K: War of Kings definitely has more of a classic rock feel, which is still so huge and what people want to hear. I understand the song “War of Kings” was based on a Swedish book. What was the inspiration behind doing it?
J: When John had the riff, he sent it to me and I played the music very loud and sang over it; over and over again until the melody and words came together.
I got the feeling of old Scandinavia coming into that riff. So we thought maybe we should read that book Rode Orm again. It translates into “Long Ships” or “Red Orm”, and is written about the Viking Age. It has some really stoic characters travelling from Scandinavia out into the world; so the song is loosely based on that. The rest is just about experiencing life and what is going on in the world. It is a reflection of our lives really.
K: Swedish and American bands have completely different backgrounds that they draw from when writing. Do you feel there is a difference in writing style?
And what do you feel it is about Swedish rock that sets it apart?
J: That is difficult to answer. Obviously Swedish rock is very prolific. There are a lot of writers and a lot of bands that work hard and reach success.
I have been out of Sweden for 25 years, which is cool because I can look at Sweden over those years and see why it is a happening place. But I think it is rooted in a bit of long gone melancholy. There are minor key melodies and are old European classic rock melancholy feel to the things we write.
There are different examples of Swedish bands of course; there are party bands from Stockholm and there are other bands that really go for the glam thing.
There are also some more serious bands that think about musicianship and the sound and are more melancholic; both very sad in the tone and the lyrics. Even bands like Abba, the melodies were always happy, but the lyrics were always about breakups and philosophy. Not always the happy side of life, you know? I think there is a bit of that in Swedish music. It doesn’t mean we are sad, or morbid, or melancholic; I just think that tradition and history and old folk music come from there too.
K: I agree 100%. Another one of my favorite songs from your new album is the ballad, “Angels with Broken Hearts.” As a woman, I absolutely love this song. Tell me about the making of or inspiration behind this one?
J: Yea it is kind of an interesting story. We didn’t have the song when we went into the studio. We had 2.5 weeks in the middle of recording. John was making this riff and Dave overheard it and said “Hey, that’s cool. Why don’t we all write a song over it?” Because he comes from a different background, he’s American from Nashville and Alabama, and people there tend to get together and write; everyone chips in. We were not used to it, so we’re like “Okay, let’s write together.” So all 5 of us get together with Dave in the studio late at night and we start jamming on this song and it comes together really quickly.
I had a bridge with a chorus idea and we were jamming it late one night with guitars and organs when, in the middle of the session, we get a call that Jack Bruce had passed away. I didn’t have any lyrics yet, and so while we were jamming, that is when the lyrics came in about people close to us passing away. It became a plea to the angels to have mercy on us, that we are just people. That was the idea and then song was written in 2 hours tops.
When we recorded it the next day, John played amazing emotional guitar-showing what a great player he is-took it down a bit; the vocals came quickly, in one or two takes; and it was a great song. It was great keyboard work that Dave and Mic worked out on it that as well. We used a retro keyboard all over World of Kings too and it gives the album sort of an identity throughout.
K: Yea, it is beautiful. Are you guys going to be playing “Angels with Broken Hearts” on your U.S. tour?
J: Haha, we haven’t played it yet, but we are trying “Hole in Your Pocket,” “Praise You,” “Second Day,” and “Days of Rock and Roll.” We have also tried “Nothing to You” and that worked pretty well. On the list to try is “Children of the Mind” and maybe “Angels.”
K: I am putting “Angeles” in the suggestion box at the M3 fest because it is so beautiful and I would love to hear it. But another great song on your new album is “Days of Rock and Roll”. The cool thing about that one is that the actual main riff was written in 1989 to follow up the “Final Countdown.” Why did you wait so long to use it and why didn’t you use it back then?
J: Yes, that happens to me sometimes. I write something, a part to a song, and it takes years to finish it. It is not the right moment or I can’t find the right piece for it. Sometimes that happens. Even “Final Countdown;” I wrote that in college and had that idea years before we did the Europe album.
Same thing happened with “Days of Rock and Roll” I had that main riff on keyboard and I did a demo – it was actually called Out of This World (ha-ha) and it wasn’t good enough. The riff was incredible but I thought I’d wait; and then last year I started playing around with it on the guitar and thought “Hey, this is great on guitar!” And I got this sort of shuffle thing going and thought “we’ve never had a sort of shuffle tempo before.” So I started making a demo, and played it for the guys and they loved it! So then when we finished it, and it was a fun, uplifting classic rock track.
K: Well, that formula seems to work. I’m so glad you brought back the classic rock vibe; the whole album is brilliant. I often find at least one song on an album that I feel does not get enough praise or play time though. For example, I have always loved “Ready or Not” from the Out of This World album. Is there a song or two from the past that you feel maybe did not get the attention that it deserves?
J: Probably, there are too many now to think of. There are songs we talk about and want to play, but really don’t fit or everyone doesn’t really agree on them. But “Ready or Not” from Out of This World, we have been playing that a bit more lately. To be honest, the songs that the band feels deserve to be played, they do get played. But there might be songs like “Prisoners of Paradise,” which I know Mic and John Leven really like, but John Norum is not too keen. So, we play “Prisoners,” but it doesn’t happen that often.
Things like that can happen where one or two guys really love a track but they can’t get it through because all 5 of us can’t agree on it. And we always say that all five of us must agree. That is why some songs don’t get played and some songs always get played. (laughs)
K: So it is important to you to please everyone and not just one, right?
J: Yes, it is important to us. We are all out there together and we share everything. We talk about the set list and if one person definitely doesn’t want to play a song, we won’t play it, you know. We definitely like doing everything equal here and we don’t want someone to feel terrible on stage if they have to play a song they hate.
K: And that is so important as you guys have known each other since you were 14, 15 years old, or something like that. Is that a big part of why the band is still together and producing such strong albums?
J: Yeah, yeah. That’s what happened with recording of War of Kings. John Leven wrote a lot, Nick wrote a lot, and Ian helped a lot too. Ian is more of the arrangement guy in the studio. When he is involved everyone is there for those two or three weeks, we are all very creative, and everyone is chipping in. With other bands it is usually 1 or 2 people producing and taking charge.
We’ve heard people say it is great that Europe does it differently because it will keep the band happy and keep us together. Otherwise there would be a lot of changes on top of changes because of musical differences or people might feel put aside or as if they are not a part of the team. It is very important, but like you said it is easier for us because we’ve known each other since we were 14 or 15 years old, so we have learned when to step away, when to help, and how we are as people.
K: Yes, I don’t want to go too much into the past, but one question I have for you since we are talking about it – all bands have their ups and downs; has there been a time where it was rough for the band to stay together?
J: Yes, there have been a few moments but we learned that we have to talk about things immediately, to bring things up and discuss it. Where as, the first period of Europe, we didn’t communicate and towards the end and we were talking to each other through the tour manager. Then egos get involved and it goes too far … So you know, we need to communicate. If the members get into a situation where they don’t like each other for whatever reason, they work it out or we work it out, all of us together. As a band we haven’t gone through any major things. We have gone through some minor arguments over the last 11 years and we have come out stronger for it because we get to know each other more.
K: That’s wonderful. Now, you said that you believe musicians need to get to the core of rock and not over produce the music. How would you explain to the new group of young musicians what that “core” is? What is that core of classic rock?
J: That’s a really good question. That is something that if you are interested in music and rock music you will know what I mean when I say it.
Sometimes young bands think they have to emulate the bands of the 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s and they try to learn exactly what was played on those records. And that is not exactly right because we were going on a journey in the 80’s, to push hard rock to MTV perhaps, or push it towards the mainstream. Not deliberately, but it became a big music forum and sometimes then the core and musicianship gets lost. And now the new bands listen to that music and try to emulate it. You will not get to the core or the depths of it that way.
Bands like Europe and Def Leppard grew up listening to Thin Lizzy, Deep Purple, UFO, where musicianship was key. We adore albums like Made in Japan because they are great songs, but the performance, and musicianship, the playing, interaction, feel, and the soul are amazing – the real proper stuff that all got diluted over the years. Some bands kept it, or were able to keep it in moments. Even in Europe in the 80’s, we’d keep moments of it but with the producers and studios you might lose some of it.
So you can see it is hard to give advice on it. But listen to the albums, find the music that is great, you know, Deep Purple’s Made in Japan or Machine Head, and just learn from there. It is not all about learning exactly what they do on there. It is the feeling and hearing and understanding of what they are doing; where it makes you think, “wow this moves me; it makes me want to hear it again; it makes me feel warm inside; it makes me want to play!” That is the feeling that is important. It is important to not look in the wrong direction. You have to find out what is good and that is what you have to measure yourself to.
K: So it becomes very tricky if someone is not feeling it and is not as emotionally connected?
J: Yeah, yeah.
Then it is different; then it becomes a job. You can learn how to be a performing artist and you can become really good at it, even if you don’t feel the “core.” You can still be a successful artist and learn how to write songs. But it is important to not overproduce and overdub too much. If you can play live in the studio and listen back and you like it, that is better than trying to fix everything completely, you know?
K: Are there any new upcoming bands or artists that you are a fan of and think have great potential? In that they are going to carry on the classic rock tradition?
J: Yes there are a few; there is a new generation. Obviously, Rival Sons we think are great and they are younger. They do understand expression, the singer is incredible, and they know what they are doing. They are amazing, very creative. Dave Cobb, as we know now, has been a key factor in that band. “Pressure and Time” is a good place to start for a young person. Check out “Pressure and Time”, “Open my Eyes”, and “Electric Man” and you can see that younger people can actually can express themselves with the real over all core of rock.
There are bands like White Denim, they are kind of a funky outfit but they also carry the torch of that old feeling and they play amazingly and the singer is awesome; they know what it is about. There is an interesting band, Blues Pills, with a Swedish singer in it, that are jammy and if they take the right steps they can become something really interesting too.
K: If you had your pick of musicians or a band to collaborate with, who would it be?
J: That is so difficult. Because I have my foot in the past and I love David Bowie, I’d say him. I grew up with David Bowie. I was recently asked, “Which artist would you really cry and miss most when they pass away?” You know, I said “David Bowie.” I am going to cry when that happens. He is such an astounding artist; inventive, great voice. And Bowie’s expression, music and lyrics, and [he’s] very quirky as well, and very deep; also not staying in one place, just moving it all of the time and keeping people interested. He would be incredible to collaborate with.
Europe’s Music Videos
K: Now, about your music videos, who comes up with the ideas and how does the process work?
J: Well, I’ve gotten to work very closely with the director, Patric Ullaeus. We’ve gotten to know each other quite well now. The first video we did was “Last Look at Eden.” He really blew our minds with that one so we haven’t worked with any other video directors since then.
K: So do you sit down together and visualize how it will go?
J: That is the thing with him. He’s an enigma. He’s a Europe fan but also a film fan and he’s also done work for big companies. He knows how to use his tools; he’s fantastic. The great thing about Patrick is that we usually just send the song to him, maybe even just a few words of what we would like, or what we think would be cool; he doesn’t want to sit down and talk about it. We have learned to trust him. So basically, he just books up 2 days and says “Why don’t we do it here?” or “Why don’t we do it there?” It’s better to just let him run with it. So no, it is not a big thing.
Like with “Days of Rock and Roll,” I said to him let’s do a live [performance] and so it was sort of my idea to do a live video. But he did the video; I didn’t tell him how to shoot. We trust him and he is an artist, and other than a few emails going back and forth with ideas, he runs with it and he is amazing.
K: Do you have any plans to shoot another music video in America? Like maybe your song “California 405”; which I assume is the freeway 405, right?
J: Yeah, that is a cool song.
It is a metaphor for driving south. There is still hope in this world; there is still soul, even though everything has changed. California has changed so much since we’ve been there in late 80’s and 90’s but I still love going there and there is still a feeling, you drive south and you feel free, and that is what that song is about. I don’t know if we will shoot a video when we are here. It is a possibility but we will probably shoot one later in the year if we do another video.
K: Do you keep in touch with any other bands here in the U.S. that you used to play with back in the day?
J: Not really. It was great to hook up with Def Leppard and Whitesnake.
We did 4 or 5 shows with them in Spain; that was cool. If we ever are in the same town we’ll go see them and hang out. We toured with Def Leppard in 1988 in the States, so we have an old relationship with those guys. Of course there are some people long distance we keep in touch with through email; but just a few.
K: I am sure you know here in the U.S. lots of these stars and musicians are getting involved with reality TV and taking roles in movies. Would you ever consider bringing reality TV cameras into your home and letting them into your personal life or to do an entire reality series about the band?
J: No, that is something I have turned down actually. This is something that does not appeal to me. It doesn’t come like a part of my music world. I know a lot of people who have done it in the U.K. and especially over in the U.S., but no it is not of interest to me. What could be of interest would be to do a proper movie or documentary with Patrick in a cool style about our early years and newer years with Europe. That is something we have put in the pipeline to do; but it could take years.
We wish Joey Tempest and Europe continued success. We are
excited to follow their journey and can’t wait to fall in love with whatever their next endeavor creates.