cinema at Rĺsundavagen in Solna (in Stockholm) disappeared a few decades
ago and with time was rebuilt into a recording studio. The lounge,
where people earlier were sitting in soft deep armchairs, is now accommodating
the big studio hall. The control room is approximately on the spot
where the old projectionist room used to be. The studio used to be
called Soundtrade. Today it goes by the name of Studios 301.
way it's a special place for EUROPE since it was upstairs in the kitchen
they signed the record deal that eventually led to the international
best seller "The Final Countdown". The group became the
second Swedish band after ABBA to be an international act. It's in
Studios 301 that the five musicians in EUROPE and producer Kevin Elson
not only are setting the foundations for the 6th studio album but
also the foundations for the new beginning of their career.
They are receiving us only three days after the recording started
and it's the same night as the Swedish finals for the Eurovision Song
contest are held in Stockholm Globe Arena. But EUROPE are already
winners. "We are number 2 in the sales chart with a compilation album
that really doesn't include anything new. It's fantastic, we're totally
surprised," says vocalist Joey Tempest (born as Joakim Larsson 19/08/63),
standing in the studio with guitarist John Norum (born 23/02/64),
bassist John Levén (25/10/63) and keyboardist Mic Michaeli (Gunnar
Michaeli 11/11/62). Drummer Ian Haugland (Hĺkan Haugland 13/08/64)
is sitting behind his drum kit in the big studio-room.
Their appearances don't differ that much from the glory days. Or to
quote Tempest when he recently watched the Rock-SM finals: "We almost look like that today." The only thing missing is the big hair-styles,
especially on Ian Haugland who's been bald for several years.
You don't have to spend many hours with the band to realize that these
are five friends working. "Back with the old pals," as Norum puts it, and that
it's full concentration on the recordings. Twelve working titles have been
put up on the wall. Hero, American, Roll, Sucker, Underdog, Faith,
Dark, Reason, Flames, 12, Stop and Settle for Love. Judging
by the markings on the board Levén and Haugland have in less than
two days recorded the basic tracks for almost every song.
"There will probably be less songs on the album,"
says Ian Haugland. "Today there is so much music pressed in onto
an album. Even if there's 16 great songs you can't listen to them
all. That's why we're probably gonna record 10 songs and make a strong
"It feels great," says Norum and smiles. "I've
always thought we had a special chemistry and I've missed that for
a long time. EUROPE is the most professional band I've ever been in."
During the time when Sweden Rock Mag is in the studio, EUROPE records
drums and bass for the songs that at least for the moment have the
titles Stop and Settle for Love. The last one is a beautiful
kind of a ballad but with a larger and more serious depth than what
is common in ballads. Stop on the other hand is a more straight
rock song. The band grew up with 70s rock and Tempest's feeling for
sharp melodies together with Norum's love of riffs probably makes
the new material melodic but at the same time heavy hard rock. During
the interviews we can hear Norum laying rhythm guitar on some of the
songs and to say it's got a big sound is no exaggeration. The classic
EUROPE sound is updated to 2004 - the last ten to twelve years heavier
music is obvious without overshadowing the impression that that band
has kept their musical soul. The listener will recognize it but still
think it's 'here and now'.
"'The Final Countdown' got big and it was
the first EUROPE album a lot of people heard," says Joey Tempest.
"In Sweden we have another foundation. A lot of people remember
the beginning and the first albums. In Sweden people look at us from
two directions. There are people who followed us from the start as
the garage band playing lots of gigs and there are people who found
us after 'The Final Countdown' and sees us more as a pop band."
- EUROPE today: Mic Michaeli, John Levén, Joey Tempest, Ian Haugland
and John Norum.
it feel more right now?
"The wheel has turned," Haugland says. "Melodic hard
rock is hip again with bands like Nickelback, Creed and The Darkness.
In the 90s there was a lot of aggressions with no melody thinking."
"The feeling is great since we started again," Michaeli
says. "Positive, creative. We have a goal and a common will.
The success has had a downside though. The price has been high both
financial and socially."
"One should write a guide for new
talents on what not to do," Levén says. "On the other hand
we've had some great success so we must have done something right."
Do you feel a need to defend your place in rock history?
"I get extremely annoyed whenever I read about a band and it's
said that they will 'follow in the footsteps of ABBA, Roxette and
Ace of Base' - and they 'forget' to bring up EUROPE," says Levén.
"I think we've been there opening the gates, you can't look past
that we've sold 10 million albums. I get extremely proud when I look
into a rock encyclopedia and see that EUROPE is in there. We've made
an impact in Swedish music history and left our footprints
In Upplands Väsby, which is situated among field and wood areas in
the landscape Uppland, in the last years there were exactly 37 397
inhabitants. The main place is located 25 km north of Stockholm and
15 km south of the airport Arlanda and is divided by a motorway. When
Tempest is on shorter visits in Sweden he lives at his parent's place.
He returns to the room where so many of his dreams of and around music
were born and where he also wrote songs and lyrics.
"I was four
or five years old when I made my first brave attempts to record music
from TV. I wanted to record it in order to listen to it again,"
tells Tempest. "My dad had a friend who had a guitar and when
I was seven years old, he showed me several chords. I got to learn
to play by ear. When I was ten or eleven, I heard 'Crocodile Rock'
with Elton John. Then I started to learn to play the piano. The guitar
and the piano came early into my life."
Together with his friends from school, Joey went through a number of
bands before he at the age of 15 met John Norum, an encounter that
he describes as a "milestone." "I had heard about John. He lived
on the other side of the motorway, on the Väsby side, while I lived
on the Odenslunda side. He was more into bands like THIN LIZZY and
UFO. I was listening to Elton John and David Bowie. They interesting
combination has always been between my liking for pop and his liking
for hard rock. When we meet it is tough but melodic. The blend was the
special thing with EUROPE. I loved to write songs, He liked to play
riffs and solos."
John Norum played in the band WC, that besides himself had Tony Reno
on drums (born Tony Niemistö 10/02/63) and Peter Olsson. "We were a trio
then, but we decided that we needed a singer. An awesome singer,"
continues Norum. "Joey was in another band - BLAZER - and I thought
that he was really great. He had a charisma on stage and a beautiful
pitch to his voice. We met probably at a party or when we were out
riding our mopeds. There were a lot of mopeds in Upplands Väsby at
the time. One evening we were rehearsing in the Centrumgarden and it worked
at once. It was a special sort of chemistry."
Peter Olsson left gradually (because "Joey started dating his
according to Norum) and they should find someone in his place. John
thought of another John - Levén by surname. "I knew him for
some time through a friend. Micke Lindholm. John had heard about us
and seen us live. He was a guitarist at the time. I thought that he
was very good and had good vibrato and a cool feeling for the instrument,"
says Norum who, in connection with a party and a beer or two, got
on his moped in the pouring rain and rode home to the Levéns. "I
said to Levén: 'you get the job in the band - if you play the
John Levén remembers the visit paid in the pouring
rain and also remembers when he started believing that FORCE, as the
band was called at the time (named after the UFO album "Force
It"), could become a full-time job for him. "It was from
day one! Maybe it had something to do with the self-confidence that
you always have as a teenager. When you are a teenager, you think
that 'we will become the greatest in the world.' You are maybe too
dumb to grasp what a long way it actually is to go," says Levén more than 20 years later. "Now we were lucky. All pieces of the
puzzle fell into place. When we played together, we felt like 'we
are going to continue playing'. The thing was that I had been doing
a lot of motocross. But when I began playing with these guys, I said
to my dad that 'I want to sell the bike and buy a bass rig.' 'Why
is that?' 'Because I will be a rock star.' He only laughed but I said
that 'I am sure I will, absolutely!'"
The hard rock scene in Sweden
was still in its infancy, but was exploding as more albums and more
foreign hard rock bands came to tour. "The bond between us as a band came to exist by going to all
those gigs at the Ice Stadium in Stockholm. It was RAINBOW,
THIN LIZZY and many others. Then Norum, Levén, another friend and
myself loved to watch those bands live," tells Tempest. "I
also remember when I went over to England - I was probably 15 or 16
- to see THIN LIZZY at Hammersmith Odeon, with Scott Gorham and Gary
Moore on guitar. It was an experience that I have kept for a long
time. Many of these experiences have become part of out band
"And we were at the same age, had the same interests and rode
mopeds," says Levén. "We were moving around in the same
circles. Joey and I played football in the same team when we were
12 or 13 years old."
Why has just Upplands Väsby been associated so much
with hard rock?
"I don't know, really," says Norum. "It's very odd,
but there were a lot of musicians and bands. Upplands Väsby has always
been a musical hole type of village, ha ha!"
had a band in Upplands Väsby that was called RISING FORCE. At one
occasion the two bands exchanged bass players. "Yngwie could
not get along with 'Marre' (Marcel Jacob), so I began playing with
RISING FORCE, who were just then going to record an album for CBS,"
CBS had had big success with groups like MAGNUM BONUM and FACTORY.
CBS said that 'this sounds great - but you have to sing in Swedish'.
Then Yngwie said: 'fuck you, there will be nothing with you'. And
FORCE did the exact same thing and got exactly the same answer. In
other words it was difficult, not to say impossible, to get an album
contract if you were a hard rock band that absolutely wanted to sing
in English. And it would have probably remained this way if it wasn't
for Thomas Erdtman and Anita Katila.
At that time Thomas Erdtman worked as head of production
for the Swedish CBS, but had gotten a bit tired of his work situation
- in fact so much that he, with capital from two people, Bo Svensson
and Christer Olsson, as well as sponsorship from Aftonbladet made
Rock-SM happen. More than 4.000 hopeful bands sent in cassettes.
Then they chose between the bands to find the ones for the different
parts of the competition. One of the contributions came from FORCE
in Upplands Väsby, but no one in the band knew anything about it.
Tempest's girlfriend at that point, Anita Katila, had sent in a cassette
containing five songs. The members of FORCE weren't particularly interested
in the competition. But the fact that they advanced through the part
competitions all the way to suddenly being in the final on Tyrol in
Gröna Lund, which also was transmitted live on TV on Lucia night,
changed the band members' minds. On the way there they changed the
name from FORCE to EUROPE (that was Tempest's idea) and some of the
band members took on artist names: Joakim Larsson became Joey Tempest
and Tony Niemistö became Tony Reno. The two Johns kept their last names
EUROPE got the prize for best singer (Joey Tempest) and ditto guitar
player (John Norum) and they also won the whole contest and thereby
first prize: an album recording. A massive cheering broke out in the
audience. "By then we already had a "following" by
our home audience. We'd played a lot and were 'world famous in
But in spite of the reaction from the audience it was hard to convince
the record business of the possibility of playing hard rock and singing
in English. "I never thought we'd win," Norum says. "Around
1982 it was mostly Swedish lyrics that counted. Gyllene Tider, Noice
and such bands. I never thought it would be a hard rock band. Rock
SM was just a cool thing to do. But it wouldn't have mattered much
if we won or not. We would have gotten the record deal one way or
another. We had that special thing. We had that chemistry that money