Europe Week gathers pace ahead of Monday’s release of Last Look At Eden as we talk to drummer cum rock DJ Ian Haugland. Now one of the coolest dads in Stockholm, he just wishes his old school mates had seen through that superstar perm and string of global hits back in the day…
rushonrock: Do you enjoy being a band member in Europe now more so than you did in the late 80s?
Ian Haugland: Absolutely. I think it’s easier these days to appreciate the success. Back in the 80s everything happened so quickly that we didn’t really know what was going on. When The Final Countdown took off it all happened within the space of two or three weeks. We went from being a regular rock and roll band to stars in a very short space of time. It was only after we stopped touring in the early 90s that I started to realise what we’d done and that we might never do it again. These days it’s so much easier to enjoy the whole Europe experience because we have more time to plan things the way we want them done. And we take care of the business side of things too which makes everything tick.
rushonrock: Do all the members take care of business, so to speak?
IH: We’re very much a democratic band when it comes to making the decisions which will affect our long and short-term future. We have meetings with management on a regular basis to ensure everything’s going to plan,. Of course there are times when two of us want to go in one direction and the other three want to do it differently but we usually manage to work things out on our own way. I don’t think we had any idea about the music business when the band made it big and we left all of our affairs in the hands of management and record labels. We just wanted to play music, party and experience everything that is part and parcel of being in a band. But you’re allowed to do that when you’re young.
rushonrock: What were the biggest pressures you faced back in the 80s?
IH: I don’t think we felt any pressure at all when The Final Countdown took off. We released Rock The Night, Carrie and Cherokee off that album as singles and they were all huge hits all over the world. We felt as if it was easy to write hit songs and we just rode the crest of a wave without worrying about the future. It was only after Out Of The Wilderness had been and gone, and there hadn’t been the same success in terms of hit singles, that we started to feel any pressure. With the next album, Prisoners In Paradise, there was real pressure to come up with another big hit single. I remember we demoed around 14 or 16 songs for that album but the record company people came down and said they didn’t hear a single hit song. They told us to carry on writing and come up with something new. I suppose that’s when I realised the music business wasn’t so simple after all!
rushonrock: How exciting is the renewed interest in the band?
IH: It amazes me really. For me, being in the band for 25 years or so and being involved in the creative process writing so many records, I feel that every album is like a new born child that I’ve nurtured for some time. At that time you give that record all of your love and you feel very proud. Of course not everyone shares that view but suddenly people are talking about us again. I think the last two albums have been great records but when you reunite as a band people have a preconception that it’s financially driven and that you’ll maybe do one new album, tour the world, milk it for what it’s worth and then disappear again. Many of these bands only have one or two original members and fans enjoy the moment without really taking it too seriously. It takes some time for the public to believe that the band is ‘real’ again but Europe has reached that point now where, three albums into our second coming, we’re not going anywhere. We are the real deal again. And Last Look At Eden is a great record. We’ve written some astonishing songs.
rushonrock: Do you feel that LLAE has fused the classic Europe sound of the 80s with the modern rock sound of the noughties to create the perfect record?
IH: That’s exactly what I feel, but then I’m biased. LLAE has that vintage, melodic side to Europe plus the modern sound we’ve developed during the past six years. When Joey wrote the songs for the new album he started the writing process out on the road and many of the best ideas came from impromptu jam sessions. If there was a good idea it was allowed to grow by itself. With Secret Society there wasn’t the same flexibility. We had a plan with that record where we wanted it to sound modern and up to date, which it did. But my only problem with that album is that it lacks the melodic side of Europe.
rushonrock: Describe the Bloodstock experience this summer.
IH: I wouldn’t say that we were worried going into that festival but we were wondering what was going to happen. Would people throw rotten eggs at the stage when they saw Europe or would we be given a chance? I was aware that there were certain threads on the Bloodstock message boards where fans weren’t too happy that Europe was the headline act. But I knew we could only do what we always do and that’s deliver a professional show to the paying public. We have to convince people that we’re great at doing our own thing and that’s what we did.
rushonrock: Weren’t you the least bit intimidated as a hair metal band famous for its power ballads entering the lions’ den that is Britain’s best heavy metal festival?
IH: When we first arrived the first thing that struck me was that people were very much ‘metal’. Out front, backstage, everywhere – there was a metal vibe and some serious metal fans. I just remember thinking to myself we’ll see what happens here. But the reaction was great, the reviews have been awesome and ultimately I think that show will have given us a great deal of credibility. Even after all of these years we’re still trying to convince people that Europe do rock. (Bloodstock photo copyright Christie Goodwin 2009)
rushonrock: What has being a member of Europe allowed you to achieve?
IH: Well first and foremost I’m working as a radio DJ is Stockholm playing classic rock and that would never have happened had it not been for Europe. I play Alice Cooper, AC/DC, Metallica and Deep Purple and it’s a dream job. Anything that you can classify under 70s/80s/90s hard rock gets my vote and of course I play a lot of Europe stuff! But I wouldn’t be doing the job without Europe. We were invited to do a Rock Classic Road Show when the Hard Rock Café on Stockholm celebrated its 15th anniversary – we were special guests because we’d filmed the Rock The Night video there many years ago. Afterwards we went to Rock Classic to do an interview and I liked what I saw. I said to the DJ that this looks like nice work – bullshitting and listening to rock music! I gave him my number and said that if anyone’s ever off sick or on holiday and they need someone to fill in I’d be up for it. Anyway, six months later I got a call from the radio station boss and he asked me to do a show. That was 10 years ago and I’m still here now. All thanks to Europe.
rushonrock: Is there a downside to being in the band?
IH: Not really. At least not these days. In the early days I didn’t like the fact that my old schoolfriends started to talk to me and treat me differently just because I was in a successful band. They couldn’t see that I was the same person even though I’m convinced that I was. They thought I was some kind of megastar and couldn’t behave naturally around me. That really bugged me at the time. You couldn’t really trust people to be straight with you. These days there’s none of that and I just go out to enjoy every minute. The great thing is that my kids’ friends think I’m some kind of cool dad. They’re in their late teens now and when I was their age I’d never have been able to describe my dad as cool. But my kids’ friends actually listen to and like Europe!