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Europe (Joey Tempest)

Nadat de viering van dertig jaar ‘The Final Countdown’ vereeuwigd is op de DVD ‘The Final Countdown 30th Anniversary Show – Live At The Roundhouse’, kijkt Europe terug vol vertrouwen naar de toekomst en presenteert ons vlotjes de opvolger van ‘War Of Kings’ (2015). Deze is wederom in de befaamde Abbey Road Studio opgenomen en zet de muzikale koers van recente releases verder. We praatten met zanger Joey Tempest die ons zacht en weloverwogen uit de doeken doet hoe ‘Walk The Earth’ ontstaan is en natuurlijk is er ook een nostalgische noot met jeugdherinneringen omwille van de dertigste verjaardag van hun eerste grootste succes.

Door: Vera | Archiveer onder hardrock / aor

band imageBefore we will go into the new album ‘Walk The Earth’, let us go back in time to the 30th anniversary tour of ‘The Final Countdown’, since a DVD/blu-ray came out of that recently as well…
That was a great event. We did ten shows where we played ‘The Final Countdown’ and also our new album ‘War Of Kings’. It was a perfect night for the band, since we could play our new music and also play ‘The Final Countdown’ music. It was a great little tour, only ten exclusive shows. We really enjoyed it.

When you were going into the process of writing the new album ‘Walk The Earth’, what was the state of mind within the band?
We toured a lot last year and then in the winter we started writing together. We were very excited because we knew that we were going to work again with producer Dave Cobb, this time even at Abbey Road Studios. We recorded the previous album ‘War Of Kings’ with him, so we wanted to continue and have a nice adventure on this one as well.

That is a super legendary place!
Absolutely and it is also a modern studio. Artists like Adele and Bruno Mars… anybody knows the fame. It is also a legendary place for pop artists from the sixties and seventies and for rock bands. It is still a very exciting studio, because they have all the old equipment in the basement. We used recording techniques from the past and mixed it with the new and that’s how we got a very cool sound.

You can hear that. Of course you always had influences from the past, like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple – with whom you are going to tour pretty soon – but I am really fond of that mellotron and Hammond organ. For instance the beginning of the record is already really impressive…
Yeah fantastic! Great sound! That is a mellotron with modern stuff included, and we also used a lot of Hammond organ and Nord piano. All more organic sounding; not that many synthesizers really.

Did you do something special to the sound of John’s guitars as well?
He recorded some of the stuff through vintage modules to make it sound a bit warmer and also stronger. He used some really interesting gear indeed.

The album is called ‘Walk The Earth’ and I know that you are pretty aware of what’s going on with this planet and concerned about nature. Can you tell a bit more about the approach of the lyrics this time?
With ‘Walk The Earth’ we just wanted to make a positive song for human kind. The world has been pulled in many directions and many different opinions and views and we wanted to make a song for the human kind basically. The songs ‘The Siege’, ‘Kingdom United’ and ‘Election Day’ are more observations. Political observations, because there are a lot of things going on in the world. And ‘Kingdom United’ is based on when democracy came to the UK. It was when the Magna Carta was signed and that is when democracy started to take shape in the UK. On ‘The Siege’ we are in the French Revolution. It is when Napoleon is getting from success in bringing down the aristocracy and democracy is taking shape in France. There are a few songs on this album dealing with when and where democracy came into being. ‘Election Day’ is more of a reflection of recent elections in the US and the UK. It is the first time that we have grown up and did some observations politically. We are still a rock band, we are entertainers and the rest of the lyrics is just rock poetry really (chuckles).

These days you cannot ignore politics anymore and since you live in the UK, you are involved in the Brexit…
Yes, I have always followed politics, ever since I was a young boy. My parents were very much into politics and I have always listened to the news when I was a kid. I am very much into politics but I have never put it into music and lyrics. Maybe until now… now we have done a little bit on this record.

’Wolves’ sounds a bit psychedelic, so you agree with that?
‘Wolves’ is a different track. I brought it to the guys and they loved it. We managed to record it different as well, making it sound really cool. We just liked it and it just happened that way. It is one of my favourite tracks.

For a moment I thought that the album had a conceptual aura, because it is called ‘Walk The Earth’ and the last track is called ‘Turn To Dust’. Or anyway it has a contemplative air…
Really? We thought of that too. We thought it was a good beginning and a good end. It works very well that way, as an opening track and as a closing track.

When you grew up in Sweden, how did you ever get into music?
I just started to listen to the radio when I was very young. Artists like David Bowie and Elton John. That’s the world I lived in. Mott The Hoople as well. I was reading English music press NME and Melody Maker at school. I started playing in bands when I was eleven years old. I just loved music and I found other drummers and guitarists and formed different bands. It was really a matter of following British and American bands because we never sang in Swedish and later on I wanted to be in a band that toured the world, like Deep Purple, and be musician full time.

And that dream came true. What was your first concert of a famous band?
The very first time, I was very young and probably that must have been Electric Light Orchestra. Maybe I was twelve or thirteen years old. The album ‘A New World Record’ had just been released. It was my first big concert. My music teacher was a substitute teacher and he was not allowed to take us out, but he did anyway. We went – being thirteen years old – out into Stockholm. We lived in the suburbs. I don’t know how, but we managed to go to a rock concert. I’ll never forget that feeling!

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Did you ever record in that famous Polar Studios in Sweden?
Yeah we recorded ‘Wings Of Tomorrow’ over there, our second album. We did not have that much money. We were only there in the weekends and hours here and there, but we managed to get ‘Wings Of Tomorrow’ recorded with songs like ‘Open Your Heart’, ‘Dreamer’ and ‘Scream Of Anger’, songs that we still play.

What do you think of the rise of Sabaton?
I haven’t lived in Sweden for twenty-five years, so I don’t know so much about the Swedish scene these days, but I know about them and that they are successful. I also know that they play ‘The Final Countdown’ before they go on stage, through the PA for the audience. It is cool. It seems that we inspire a younger generation. I think it is amazing!

You will be touring in the UK with Deep Purple. What does that mean for you? How did you ever get into Deep Purple?
It was through my friends John Norum and the first drummer from Europe, they were listening to ‘Made In Japan’. That became our bible, our blueprint for playing rock-‘n-roll. It is an amazing record, a live record that Deep Purple did in Japan and still it is one of the best live albums ever made and we still can listen to it. But that was all the inspiration we needed and we followed Deep Purple all through their career. We went to see them for the first time in 1984 when we started out as a band and we saw ‘Perfect Strangers’, the tour when they got back together. Ian Gillan, Blackmore, Glover and everybody and we were amazed by that show. We went home to dream even more. Deep Purple are still showing us the way. They are still making good albums, choosing good producers, touring a lot, building their profile. They are a bigger band now, a big arena band and we think they are amazing! We were too young to see them the first time around, it was the first opportunity to see Blackmore and Gillan together, but we used to see Rainbow of course with Blackmore. We have seen Whitesnake, Scorpions and UFO. Every British and American rock band came to Stockholm and they toured over here in Sweden. It was amazing. We could see these great guitar players and singers… it was heaven for us.

I noticed that you were out in the Lake District recently for new promo pictures. Can you tell anything more about that?
The bass player John Levén found this photographer Brian Cannon and said; why don’t we check this guy out? We knew about him, because he did Oasis first few album covers and he did work with The Verve as well. In the UK he is one of the best photographers. He is moved up to the Lake District, with its beautiful mountains and lakes. We wanted to do something which was connected to ‘Walk The Earth’. We went over there and the result was amazing. You’ll see one of them in the booklet. We will probably release a few more pictures later on as well.

The artwork is done by someone of LA, Mike Sportes…
Yeah it was a coincidence. We were in the studio, in Abbey Road and Dave Cobb, the producer, wore a T shirt with a really cool sign. We are always interested - especially when we are in the studio – we are interested in looking for album cover ideas. We asked info about the T shirt and he said it is a guy from LA. We just took a chance and called him. He wanted to work with us and that’s how this design came into being after a while. We are very pleased with it. It has depth, it works with ‘Walk The Earth’. It’s got a retro vibe as well.

Are there plans for video clips?
Yes, we are going to do a video for the single ‘Walk The Earth’. It should be out within a month.

What are further tour plans in addition to the UK?
Right now we are planning and we are going to announce more tour dates pretty soon for this Autumn, November and December. We will also continue the ‘Walk The Earth’ tour at the beginning of next year and tour as much as possible.

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