RUSHONROCK editor Simon Rushworth caught up with a bullish Joey Tempest as the critically acclaimed War Of Kings continues to cause a stir in its first week of release.
Look out for a full review of the band’s Newcastle O2 Academy show this weekend.
RUSHONROCK: War Of Kings boasts a classic sound – is that what a producer like Dave Cobb can bring to the table?
JOEY TEMPEST: Well the band is on a journey right now and we’re really into experimenting with new sounds, sound boards and drum sounds. All of that kind of thing. It fascinates us. We’re interested in all of the details that maybe passed us by in our younger days. When we first heard Rival Sons our ears were drawn to their sound because of how the drums were recorded and how organic the sound was. We’ve been getting quite tired of that over-produced sound – we wanted to make a working class rock album if that makes sense. Kevin Shirley and Dave Cobb can handle that and they both do it really well. We were so excited about what Dave had done with Rival Sons and when we heard their last record we were keener than ever to bring him on board. They make their records fast and we liked that. We wanted to take a chance on him and he felt the same – we found out he used to play the drums to all the Europe songs when he was a kid.
RUSHONROCK: So was the recording done and dusted in double quick time?
JT: We did it in two weeks! All the songs were recorded in two weeks. We used the Hammond organ sound a lot this time and it was a very creative and intense process. We wrote with Dave and he co-wrote a couple of the songs. It was a quick process but we put a lot more work into War Of Kings than we did with Bag Of Bones. It’s a very current album.
RUSHONROCK: Making War Of Kings must have been as far removed as possible from the over-produced albums of your 80s heyday then…
JT: Yes we used to get around three months to make a record back then. That included the mixing but even so we didn’t really need that long. Now we’ve got the whole thing down to a month – mixing included – and it’s far more natural and efficient. We’re getting quicker in the way that we work but we’re also living for the moment. We can do that now that we’re more confident and more experienced.
RUSHONROCK: As a band are you still keen to develop as musicians?
JT: All of us are the same in that respect. We’re kind of nerdy when it comes to the equipment we use – and we want to use – in the studio these days. We’re very much into that side of things. It helps us to focus on something new and gets us excited as a band. When you’ve been in the business as long as we have it’s important to have something to get excited about!
RUSHONROCK: Are you pleased to see new bands like Rival Sons carrying the flag for classic rock?
JT: Absolutely. It’s great to see and of course Rival Sons do it so well. They’re a young band but they make and play their music with conviction. They’re not copying something that’s been done before – they’re stamping their own mark on a classic sound. They’re so keen to carry the torch for classic rock and I can relate to that. Rival Sons and bands like White Denim – I just love them. And there are many more bands recording rock music in the proper way. Over-production is hopefully on the way out.
RUSHONROCK: Is that another reason Dave Cobb came into contention when you were considering producers?
JT: That and the fact he said that he only ever works with bands who have great singers! To hear that from him was a huge boost. He believes the vocal has to be right and that it’s the most important ingredient. I belted out the vocals knowing that was his opinion and I’m so pleased with the result. We brought in an old mic used by our friends in The Soundtrack Of Our Lives and it just fitted so well. The vocal vibe was fantastic.
RUSHONROCK: Europe’s sound continues to evolve but do you feel this is your most powerful album to date?
JT: It was a very emotional recording process and I think that comes across. A song like Angels (With Broken Hearts) isn’t a heavy track but it has real emotional depth. John (Norum, guitars) is toning down the distortion and there is that more tender tone to a lot of his work on War Of Kings. But I know what you’re saying. War Of Kings and Nothin’ To Ya are heavy songs by Europe’s standards and we enjoyed mixing things up. Right across the record there’s a substance and an emotional depth to the music that maybe hasn’t always been there. The new record is a very expressive album and we’ve laid our souls bare.
RUSHONROCK: The Deep Purple Burn-era influence is audible from the start – how difficult is it to fuse your own sound with that of the bands you admire?
JT: It’s not too difficult and with War Of Kings it’s not as if we set out to make a Purple album. We’re on our own journey but we do find ourselves talking about certain vibes from certain albums during the recording process. We found ourselves referencing the vibe on Heaven And Hell with Ronnie James Dio and the vibe that underpins Led Zeppelin IV. It’s a very spontaneous process. We’re not a band that copies other bands – we never have been. But we can’t help channelling a certain vibe at different stages of the recording process.
RUSHONROCK: Your own voice has rarely sounded better – what’s the secret to your success?
JT: I think my voice has evolved over the years on the road and maybe I’m better suited to singing songs in a certain way now. If you ask any of the sound crew who come out with us they’ll say that they’ve noticed a definite change in my range over the years. They hear it more than a hundred times a year so they’re probably the best judges. John believes the vocals on War Of Kings are the best I’ve ever done. I don’t do anything differently apart from look after myself a bit better. My voice pretty much does its own thing but of course I can protect it. I try not to drink too much on tour. Ask any singer and the ones who are still going strong are the ones who stopped drinking and made sure they started getting some sleep!
RUSHONROCK: John’s work on War Of Kings is in a different league – do you feel he gets the credit he deserves as one of the world’s great rock guitarists?
JT: Dave Cobb said the same thing. I actually heard Dave say that John is the best guitarist he’s ever worked with. He showed us a much more emotional side and a more spontaneous side on the new album. I think he will get the recognition he deserves once people hear what he’s done on War Of Kings. He will get that credit very soon because he really is one of the finest guitarists of his generation. That’s why I want to work with him now. That’s why I wanted to work with him the first time I saw him play. I couldn’t quite believe that a guitarist as good as John came from the same town as me. I was blown away by him as a kid and I was blown away by him during the recording of War Of Kings. It was fate we got together all those years ago.
RUSHONROCK: When you see a band like Motley Crue deciding to call it a day do you ever reconsider Europe’s future?
JT: We talk about it sometimes. But we’re going to keep going for as long as we’re having fun. Right now we’re joking about playing for another 10 years! I don’t think Europe is the kind of band that will go out on a farewell tour. We know we can’t go on forever but we’re some way off calling it a day. We make an album, we go on tour and if we decide we can’t do that again then we take a break. But we won’t go away for good. It’s not been a difficult choice sticking with this band since we got back together buy you just never know what’s really going on behind the scenes in other bands. Some musicians just don’t get on with each other. Some bands won’t carry on as soon as one of the core members calls it a day. Some people just decide they want a change of scene.
RUSHONROCK: How excited are you to hit the road with Black Star Riders?
JT: It’s another great line-up after we went out with Foreigner and FM last time. It’s a fantastic double header and it will be a great evening of rock. They have so many classic tracks and great new songs to choose from. That’s what we have in common. I think it will be a real treat for fans spanning the generations. Classic rock needs bands like Black Star Riders and I’ll enjoy their set as much as the next man!