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Europe

It was not easy to interview the guys from Europe this time. Two engagements did not work out, but third time lucky. ’War Of Kings’ is again such a stunner that we wanted to speak with someone of the band about it. Our patience and perseverance was finally rewarded with a conversation with vocalist Joey Tempest who found himself in the middle of a UK tour with Black Star Riders and took a break at his hotel room. The right moment to call him for a very agreeable conversation!

By: Vera | Archive under hardrock / aor

band imageI am glad to have you on the line! You are touring now in the UK. This is your home place more or less. How is it going and how are you doing?
Yeah we did three shows until now. We did Dublin, Belfast and then we did a night in Glasgow. We are still here and it is going really well. We did some new songs and these are crazy nights, you know. Today we have another night in Glasgow. We are mixing up some old stuff with four or five new songs and that goes great.

I saw on the internet that it was a great success yesterday in Glasgow…
Yeah, it was really great! Most of the time, when we tour the UK, we go to Glasgow. It almost feels like coming home. Nice people here and it is a good city. Today our album is out over all Europe, so maybe we will bring another new song tonight. It is a big day.

New songs… that means a lot of rehearsals as well. Do you do this in London or Sweden?
In Sweden mostly. We have a rehearsal place in Sweden. The guys live in Stockholm and I live in London, so I go home for a while. We usually record in Sweden too and rehearse. It is nice. I can go home and visit my parents. Actually we have rehearsed pretty much the whole new album, so we are going to change a little bit through the tour, throw some new ones in and see how it goes. They grow in a live situation as well. The songs we have done in the studio. When you start playing them live, you give them a new life. You start playing them slightly different and it is kind of fun to bring them on the stage as well.

I have experienced that with ‘Bag Of Bones’ as well. When you played them live at PPM Fest and at Graspop; it really was an outstanding performance…
(smiles) The new songs get better indeed. Yeah when you record them in the studio, you really have a creative time, and you have great fun recording it, but when you start playing them live, new dimensions to the songs start appearing. So that is pretty cool.

One of the most emotional gigs must have been the thirty anniversary concert at Sweden Rock, which was eternalized on DVD…
That was a big show! 30.000 people, sixteen cameras running and we were kind of nervous before, because we were going to play two and a half hours, twenty-eight songs I think, we had two guests… but it went really well. We were happy. It was a big show for us, a big moment in our career, because we could put our whole back catalogue into one show and document it, almost like a double live album or something.

What struck me is that Europe gigs are attended by a various crowd, also in age. So even the people who might have seen you as a chart-breaker band initially like you now…
Yes and they seem to like the new songs too, because we have a few songs now that are becoming classics, like ‘Firebox’ and ‘Last Look At Eden’… two new songs that are really getting popular among the fans and that is really good for us.

So you fly over the lapse of time…
Haha exactly. We mix it up too, we still like to play ‘The Final Countdown’ or ‘Superstitious’. Those songs are usually in the set as well.

I remember that ‘Bag Of Bones’ was created with all the musicians together. Was it the case for ‘War Of Kings’ again?
Yes, we can never go back to any other way of working, so we did exactly the same way as with ‘Bag Of Bones’, but we added a little more keyboards. We used some vintage keyboards, like Mellotrons and Hammonds. We took ‘Bag Of Bones’ to the next level. We tried to add some vibes and a genuine atmosphere to ‘War Of Kings’.

You obviously hear the influences from bands like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple…
Indeed, also the producer, Dave Cobb is a huge Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath fan. He wanted to use a lot of vintage effects and stuff and we were exactly in the same way of thinking. It is a sort of a modern sound, but we used a lot of vintage gear to warm it up like a classic rock record.

You have chosen Cobb due to his work for Rival Sons. How did you get to know them?
I have only seen Rival Sons live, but we used to play the records backstage in our dressing room. We play a lot of music over there. We show each other new bands and artists and we talk about our future. A lot of decisions are made in the Europe dressing room, you know. Few years ago we heard Rivals Sons and we thought they are fantastic and their producer is great, so let us call him. And he used to listen to Europe when he was a kid, Dave Cobb. He used to play drums to Europe. So he said: I’d love to produce you, guys. He knew about us, we did not know that. That was kind of cool.

You see, the generations are meeting each other. How old is he?
I think he is in his mid-thirties. Maybe forty, but he used to know Europe and he is a musician. That is a pro. He was a band member for two weeks with us. He came in and worked on songs with us. He co-wrote four songs with us. I mean, the songs were done, but he added bits to them and became a writer on them. He was really involved. It is really good to have a talented man that comes with great ideas and have a great feel for classic rock and rock music.

And he has a new studio, the PanGaia Studios…
Yes, it was a brand new studio. That was a bit risky, because it is meant for artists like Lady Gaga and stuff like that. It is really top notch, the best equipment and they wanted us to go in there first. We asked: do you really want a rock band in here? What we did… we rented a lot of vintage effects and gear and microphones to make sure that we’d make a warm, classic rock sound. We could not risk it with all that new stuff in the studio. Basically we rented stuff from another Swedish band, called Soundtrack Of Our Lives and they have all this old vintage gear that we used on the record. The bass player of that band runs a studio in Gothenburg and he has all that wonderful vintage gear.

What can you tell about the lyrics? Are there special things that are connected with some kind of feelings or things that you have gone through?
Yeah there’s connection in all the lyrics. There may be a few that are more fantasy based lyrics, like ‘Rainbow Bridge’, but a lot are connected to my personal life, a lot are connected to big events that have happened in the world. I do not want to talk about details, but ‘The War Of Kings’ actually, that was loosely based on a book about the early days of the Vikings. Two early battles outside of Denmark, with the Swedes and the Norwegians and the Danish involved. It is called ‘The Long Ships’. I read it and I wanted to write that lyric, but other than that the album is not a concept album for that reason. ‘Angels (With Broken Hearts)’ was written the night when a fellow musician passed away: Jack Bruce. We were just writing a song in the studio with the producer Dave Cobb and in the middle of that session we got a text message, saying ‘Jack Bruce passed away’, so the lyric turned somewhat emotional towards people passing away in our lives. It became a very emotional song.

’Rainbow Bridge’ reminded me of Jimi Hendrix of course…
Yeah absolutely. That is one of the connections actually; but I just remember being in Tokyo and I was up in a skybar, seeing this beautiful bridge outside and the skyline. They call it Rainbow Bridge. I just remembered the name. One year later I used it when me and Mick were jamming. Mick and I sometimes meet up and I play drums while he plays keyboards and I sing and we jam the whole day. Then we take bits that we like and write songs from it. ‘Rainbow Bridge’ came from one of those jams. Very much a fantasy lyric. I like imagination and escapism.

Another influence that struck me in the bonus track ‘Vasastan’ is Pink Floyd, but Gary Moore has been a very important musician as well, isn’t it?
We wanted something for John to show his more tender and emotional side on the guitar. He is a wonderful guitar player and we were discussing doing something which we could do live. When we have our long shows, we can do that song in the live set. That was the main reason we did it and it turned out really nice.

These days your style of singing reminds me a lot of Robert Plant…
(laughs, and then respectful) He is probably my biggest hero, but I did not really deliberate it. I think I am more a sort of singer like Coverdale or so. Plant has a different range than I. I have a rounder tone I think, but yeah he is a big influence in my life. Well, this record I just sang. John Norum says it is the best vocals I have ever done on this record, but I do not know. The crew says that my voice has changed over the years. It is more round, more expression in it. Dave Cobb said: sing as on stage and I did not really plan to sound like anybody else (excusing chuckle).

I can image you cannot have that maturity as a teenager…
No, this is the result of thousands of shows. When you are younger, you try to sing right, you try to sing beautiful, and that’s cool, but sometimes the expression is not there. I mean the melody is there, but now when you have been doing this for a while, you manage to get the message of the lyrics across and the expression in the voice is deeper and more soulful. There are beautiful things on both eras, at least for me. In my old singing, it was more kind of Steve Perry kind of singing, higher. I needed to do that, because John Norum was so fucking loud on the guitars. He was crazy. These days it is more about expression, trying to reach heart and soul. There’s two different eras in Europe and they are both interesting in different ways. We were there in the beginning to help shape the eighties, but now we are here to save classic rock music. We are probably one of the important bands right now. There are new bands like Rival Sons of course and some progressive bands like White Denim from America. I think they are pretty cool and Jack White is very important. Because the business went into turmoil and the record companies got left behind - they never regulated anything - now musicians and artists have to save the music business ourselves. It is important that we are serious about making records and making videos. We should never think that it is time to give up, because the music is down. Forget it, it is the opposite. We got to work harder and we have to take it back, you know.

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That is real challenge, because it is not always easy to follow the right tracks and do what’s best for you…
No, it is completely different than when we started, but it is kind of good for us, because we are a live band and we can play live. Live performances are very important today, merchandise as well, to own your music is important… We own our music, we license it out, we have our own company running the whole thing, our own company… so I mean you need to take control, you need to work on social media, we work on Facebook quite hard. These are things you have to do for the band, with the band. We have our own imprint Hell and Back and we work with a new label now, UDR, a German label that helps us. They are quite good, we want to find labels that like what we are doing and that follow our directive. I do like the work they did with Motörhead; that was one of the reasons I wanted to work with them. They have made them actually quite relevant again and they got some good results with the last few albums with Motörhead and I appreciate labels that think long term, that want to think of long campaigns. There are a lot of labels out there now that starts the promotion with a bang, but they do not keep on supporting you with a second single, a second add, a second video and so on. The important thing is to find people who actually love music and love the bands they are working with and they want to work a longer period and build it up. That’s what we want.

One of the first shows you saw was Electric Light Orchestra in Stockholm. That must have been great!
Yeah! It was actually my substitute teacher’s idea. He was a cool guy, he was a musician. He managed to tell the principal of the school to take thirteen year old kids to a big rock concert. It was not our choice, it was his choice to show us that. It was the original ELO, with all the laser beams and a big show. That was pretty amazing!

Was it around the time of ‘Mr. Blue Sky’?
Yes, or ‘News Of The World’, I do not remember, but it was the big album yeah, with all the classic songs!

Those things were possible at that time, without being criticized too much, that is absolutely fabulous…
He was a musician himself and he was touring in Sweden at that time. He also helped me, because I was only thirteen years old, did not know anything. He actually leant me his guitar and said: ‘You seem to be talented, you can borrow my guitar during breaks in school and sit and play.’ So I sat and played during school hours. Then he asked me to go on tour, I was thirteen years old... And I was kind of smart, because I knew these guys. They were touring in Sweden, you know, and I thought: if I leave school now and go with these guys, I am going to miss my musical friends here at school and my own band and everything. So I said no, but I could have start touring already at thirteen years of age with another band.

You have your own Demon Head beer…
Yeah we developed that last year with a small micro brewery. We were involved in choosing the hops and the malt. We want to start marketing it as well. It is a quite small organization right now, but we are getting there. It is made very close to where we were born and grew up, in Sweden. Upplands Väsby is where we grew up, but the brewery is more north.

Now that we are talking about Swedish things, what does ‘Vasastan’ means?
That is actually the district where the studio is, but it is actually just a part of Stockholm. Vasa was an old king in Sweden and ‘stan’ means city in Swedish. It is like king city almost.

As you are already a very, very long time friends with John (Norum – Vera), with ups and downs, as good friends experience… tell me… how did you ever meet him?
Well I saw John play when he was in another band in Upplands Väsby, he was in a band called WC and I heard about him. I went to see him play and he was amazing. I never saw such great guitar player around here where I lived. So we started a band together called Force and we later became Europe. So he was a local guitar player I heard about and he heard about me as well and we sort of got together.

And how is the connection now? Are you still friends or is it more on a professional level?
No, we are still brothers. We are like brothers. We know each other since we were fourteen, fifteen years old. He left the band for two albums, but came back. Now he is back in the band for five albums and it is pretty solid. I think everybody’s been lucky that we have this now and kind of put aside the egos, so everything is working well.

What feelings did you have when Europe became suddenly such a huge success?
The first time I heard Europe on the radio was in ‘The Future To Come’ on Swedish Radio a long time ago. ‘The Final Countdown’ was our third album. It became a hit in Holland and we got a fax, saying ‘You have a number one in Holland’. Everything just went crazy after that, because Holland was a very important country for discovering new bands. I still like to do interviews for Holland, because they are serious about it. Then we were signed in America and that continent followed when they realized: ‘Hey they are having a hit with our band in Europe, we better start marketing this’ and the ball was rollin’… It was our third album, we were ready for touring and the album only slowly began to sell. But the single did very well on MTV and stuff like that.

As I have an Opel Kadett D 1980 I was fascinated by your love for older cars and Volvo and BMW. Can you tell anything about that?
My first car actually was a Volvo P1800. An early form of Volvo. It was a used car, but it took me to my first job, you know and that’s it. I am not that much into cars, I do not collect them at least. I bought a BMW 635. It was a cool car, I remember buying that when I got my first money coming in. That was the first real car I could buy, that was a big moment yeah (smiles).

There is a video clip for ‘War Of Kings’. Are there plans to shoot other videos?
Yes, we are going to do another video soon. I do not know for which song yet, but we are talking about doing another one within the month. We are going to keep pushing, there will be another single too.

What are the plans after this UK tour?
After the UK tour we have a little break and then we go to America for three weeks. We have not been touring over there for ten years: that is going to be great. We have a new American management, so things are changing slowly. We are going to do some work over there, slowly building it up, because they don’t know the new albums really. Then in Summer we do European festivals. After that we are going on the actual European tour, which will include most countries and an intense trek through France with The Scorpions in November, six shows. Next year we will continue touring and start working on the new album. So we are working hard.

Joey I think I have flown through everything. Any words to round off?
It is great that we have the support, still, from you, from people and readers that are still interested in Europe. We are really interested in coming to tour in your country with this new album. We are excited to do our proper tour in Autumn when we can play almost two hours and do a lot of songs.

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