|In search of paradise...|
Flug From: ?
A few years back, EUROPE bugged the Hell out of
everyone with an irritating ditty called "The Final Countdown". It
went to Number One all over the world - including here - and the Swedish band's
blow-dried fizzogs appeared in so many music papers that we all became immensely
sick of 'em. Two albums later the sextet are back once again, this time pursuing
a far more Rockin' sound. Frontman Joey Tempest and skin-pounder Ian Haugland
fill in the gaps to an expectant Gail Flug.
EUROPE vocalist Joey Tempest, drummer Ian Haugland and the rest of the band, not the continent, are stuck in the New York office of Epic Records. They've been meeting and greeting for four days and in a hour or so, after our chat, it's off to an industry-only listening party for the new LP where they'll meet and greet yet more label staff, press and radio people. Such is life in the public eye.
Indeed, the Swedish quintet of Tempest, Haugland, guitarist Kee Marcello, bassist John Levén and keyboardist Mic Michaeli have a bit of re-introducing themselves to do with their latest release "Prisoners in Paradise". It's been five years since a catchy little tune called "The Final Countdown" brought this relatively unknown band to the heights of mega-stardom with a Number One record in almost every country that had a singles chart - including the UK! And when their follow-up album "Out of This World" failed to match its success, many thought EUROPE were all but washed up.
"The band really wasn't upset about it, but it did fairly well, about two-and-a-half million copies. A lot of bands could only dream to do that," remarks Joey on "Out of This World". "That's less than half as good as 'The Final Countdown', but we had no idea '...Countdown' would sell that much, and when we did 'Out of This World' we didn't know anything either, you just have to do the best you can. I admit we were under pressure 'cause everyone wanted the best you can. I admit we were under pressure 'cause everyone wanted the follow-up out really quick, and we didn't like that."
"We also have different audiences," adds the singer. "There are those who stick by you for a little while because they like the songs and then there's the core audience that knows all the album tracks. The second kind tend to stick around if you keep doing good stuff, and that's why we took our time with this one."
"Prisoners..." is certainly filled with plenty of good stuff, demonstrating a somewhat harder, more guitar-orientated than the previous affair. They, in fact, have been working on this new material since as far back as the "Out of This World" tour, being bold enough to add "Little Bit of Lovin'" into the set. And the show-stopping Milton Keynes Bowl appearance a year later (supporting Bon Jovi) unveiled more heavier newies like "Bad Blood", "Seventh Sign" and "Yesterday's News" - not to mention a rougher image.
The album was, in fact, due for release last year, but EUROPE held back in favor of writing a few extra songs, one of which was the majestic first US single and title track. On an interesting note, the boys had already decided on the album title before the song of the same name was written!
"Our manager called us on the island (the band all have homes in the Turks and Caicos) and we were just sitting there for four months, totally bored out of our brains and wanting to get out on tour. He just said: 'You guys are just prisoners in paradise,' and we all liked it. Then I got a flash and wrote the song. The idea had been with me for a while, but I think it's the best lyric I've ever written about the lives we lead."
"In my opinion," adds drummer Haugland, "it's one of the best songs on the album. It has a 'Bohemian Rhapsody' kind of feeling to it."
"It's like a classical Rock song, more or less," interjects Joey. "It will be timeless. Some of our melodies stick around for a long time and that's a challenge for a songwriter; to write a song that will live forever. One that's put in a jukebox and in ten, maybe 20 years, people are still playing it and loving it."
The latest release is the first to feature songwriting and arranging from the rest of the band, an area that in the past Joey has taken full responsibility. They've also worked with outside contributors such as Jim Vallance (partner of Bryan Adams, no less), Mr. Big vocalist Eric Martin (who added to the anthemic "All or Nothing) and Nick Graham, who had worked with Cheap Trick on their US No.1 "The Flame". They also found a good working partnership with Beau Hill (of Ratt / Winger / Warrant fame), who offered to produce the album after seeing them play a surprise gig in Los Angeles under the name Le Baron Boys.
"We really connected with him, 'cause he was on our level," states Tempest. "Ron Nevison (who handled 'Out of This World') was more of a loner, so he didn't become the sixth member that Beau did. It turned out great because he's a good friend now, and he makes powerful albums, which was what we wanted."
On the other side of the coin, "Homeland", the sole ballad has a hunting Hammond organ sound woven within the verse, with shades of vintage Deep Purple, leading up to a simply huge chorus. It was written about their longing for family and friends back home in Sweden, a place they only return to for a few weeks each year due to hectic schedules and (inevitably) tax reasons!
Touring is next on the agenda, and this time EUROPE hope to hit areas they've never visited before, which doesn't leave 'em too many territories to cover. The quintet are one of the few Rock acts to venture beyond the normal routes, despite the less than perfect living conditions in some of the places they've been to.
Joey: "It's a big world, and what better way to experience it? We've been to so many strange places, like India, Iceland, all over Asia, Russia, Chile. South America was great. Most bands go to the routine places where everything works perfectly, but where you play these other places you have to be totally open-minded because anything can happen. You have to be careful too. We're very easy-going and I think that's helped us a lot in our lives."
Nothing ventured - nothing gained, so they say, and the band had no idea they had such a huge following in areas like South East Asia until they got there.
"We asked the record company how many records we'd sold in Bangkok, and they said it wasn't much. But 50 000 people came to the show, so it was a bit weird. It seems there's a lot of pirate taping going on down there, and the whole crowd was screaming and singing along, we realized they must have heard the album somewhere. Probably on a street corner."
The funny thing was that we bought one of our own tapes, and it had a local artist tacked onto the end," states Ian before it becomes clear, thanks to a gesticulating PR person, that our chat has come to an end. "Bootlegging is so strong that it could take years to get hold of the problem."
Before their publicist snatches them off for more shaking hands, kissing babies and promotion tactics, Joey and Ian mention they hope to start another bout of touring shortly after the album's release, so they will not be prisoners in paradise for much longer!