EXCLUSIVE – Europe Interview
Multi-million selling melodic rockers Europe are back with the best record of their career following 2004’s much heralded reformation and lead singer Joey Tempest is loving life as a fully fledged star again.
In an exclusive interview with rushonrock he talks about that comeback, that song and that era of excess. With new record Last Look At Eden out in September, and an EP of the same name slated for release around the band’s Bloodstock headline show, the good times are back for one of Scandinavia’s hottest properties. And it’s about time too.
rushonrock: It’s almost 10 years since your comeback in Stockholm. Has the last decade gone to plan?
Joey Tempest: In a way! The Millenium gig was the spark and then we started 2004 with the idea that we wanted Europe to have some longevity this time. Start From The Dark is very raw but that was the plan – to start from scratch and craft a new sound all over again. From the individual members’ point of view it was about building up a trust again. We went back on the road again and we’re still on the road now, five years later and three albums down the line. So yeah, things have gone pretty much to plan.
rushonrock: Has the renewed interest in the band come sooner than anticipated?
JT: Well I thought that, maybe, it would be the fourth comeback album where people would begin to buy back into Europe in a big way. We’re ahead of schedule because interest in Last Look At Eden has taken off. We’re getting some really good press and a lot of the major magazines are interested in us again. It’s nice to have that level of interest again especially when we’ve worked so hard laying the foundations. We like to be the underdog, fighting back, but of course it’s a good feeling to have people backing us again. We’re ready for the fresh interest and we’re ready to take people back to the classic Europe sound of the past.
rushonrock: With the fresh interest and success do you regret taking a break in the first palce?
JT: Not really. There are no regrets. We actually talked about it earlier this month and we came to the conclusion that it was a good thing. We all went and played with different bands and met different musicians and we learned things we could bring back to this band to make us even better. I got into lyrics in a big way. I started studying the likes of Jackson Browne, Neil Young and Bob Dylan and working out ways I could become a better lyricist. That was time well spent. We were outside of the Europe confines and I think it was good. Of course it’s not good to stay away as long as we did but other bands have done the same and survived. The Rolling Stones disappeared between 1982 and 1990 and a lot of big bands have had long breaks. We just keep hoping that people will forget our break one day and it will feel like we’ve never been away!
rushonrock: When you say you studied the world’s great songwriters was that due to a lack of confidence in your own ability to pen lyrics?
JT: I didn’t lack confidence. Far from it! But I have to say that, of course, being born in Sweden I didn’t always feel comfortable writing in English. Don’t get me wrong – I was an A-grade English student at school but I still wrote a lot of clichéd lyrics because that was the kind of thing I’d been exposed to listening to music. Even so we did a good job in Europe’s early days and the lyrics didn’t seem to do us any harm. But I’ve lived outside of Sweden for 17 years now and I’ve developed another layer of understanding. I wanted to create work that could be ranked alongside the grandmasters like U2 and REM. Studying lyrics by the best in the business really taught me how to write the correct words and say different things.
rushonrock: Do you look back at the late 80s with fondness or is it a period you were glad to leave behind?
JT: I think we were all glad to emerge intact from what was a pretty crazy period. A lot of people do look back on that era with a great fondness though. Yes there was indulgence – there was way too much money floating around in the music business back then and the productions were ridiculously over the top. But the classic rock element of the music is gaining popularity again and there are all of these festivals popping up all over the world celebrating that music. Just look at the Sunday at Download this year! It’s not so bad anymore to say that you like these bands – even to say you like Europe! The new generation pick tracks they like and through that new audience seems to like classic rock.
rushonrock: What were Europe’s biggest excesses during the band’s commercial peak?
JT: It was an extreme period with extreme excess. We got to live through all the rock and roll stuff that we’d only read about. We could play two gigs in a day thanks to the fact we had our own private jet on call. We had bodyguards 24/7 and all that stuff. We stayed in the best hotels in Paris, London and New York. It was amazing and at the same time it was important to keep things in perspective so that we’d get through it. Looking back it was a good time for us because there were so many positive things that happened. We were still young and because we had that energy it means we can still do what we do today – just!
rushonrock: Is there anything which really embarrasses you now about that time?
JT: Nothing that embarrasses me but of course you can’t help but raise a smile when you look at some of the clothes we wore back then. I didn’t give it a second thought though because I modelled myself on Robert Plant and always wanted to look like a bit of an English dandy. Is that embarrassing? I don’t think so.
rushonrock: What kind of opportunities did a hit single and album like The Final Countdown present to you?
JT: Many. That song opened – and still opens – many doors for us and brought us to the world’s attention. It gave us all kinds of opportunities in all kinds of places. If you look back now it was a real crossover song. It was originally six minutes long and never meant to be a pop hit. It was the song we used to open our show and it became the song we used to close our show. These days there’s still a new audience out there checking it out and they want to hear the song at our gigs. It still opens doors now. Some people still only know us for that song and that’s fine. But a hard rock fan will class it as one of many songs by Europe and that’s good too. We’re not really a poster band and never have been but for a while that’s what we appeared to be to the wider world.
rushonrock: Has The Final Countdown hindered you as much as it’s helped you?
JT: In a way I suppose it did for a while. Immediately after that record the media and the record company wanted to hear another Final Countdown somewhere. As a band we made a conscious decision not to do that. Imagine The Final Countdown parts two and three and four. It would have been very cheesy and got extremely silly. It was a moment in time and it worked nicely for Europe in terms of where we were then and where we wanted to be. We’ve done it and we’ve moved on. Last look At Eden proves the point. As a musician you’d quickly get bored rehashing the same songs over and over.
* Check out rushonrock later this week for more from Joey – including his verdict on the new record, his friendship with John Norum and the career in the fast lane that never was…
I’m a journalist specialising in sport and rock music. Can’t play either so I write about them instead.