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In the leadup to their much-anticipated show at the 2004 Sweden Rock Festival, EUROPE speak of their career past, present and future. This article is taken from Sweden Rock Magazine. Thanks to SRM and all involved with the translations and text!

Article by: Tony Balogh Photos by: Micke Johansson
To visit the SRM website, please visit: http://www.swedenrockmagazine.com

Very special thanks to Dimitrios Dimitriadis for permission to use this article.

It's Time For A New Countdown
Sweden's Biggest Hard Rock Band On Coming Back

Only four Swedish groups have succeeded in breaking through internationally and sell albums by the millions. Apart from ABBA, Roxette and Ace of Base it's hardrockers EUROPE. 18 years after the breakthrough with "The Final Countdown" and 12 years after the last real tour, the band has re-united their classic line-up and started working on a new studio album. The band tells Sweden Rock Magazine exclusively the story of the big breakthrough, the break up, and the future.

2004

The 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.

In a 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 album."

"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."

2004 - EUROPE today: Mic Michaeli, John Levén, Joey Tempest, Ian Haugland and John Norum.
Does 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 internationally."

1978-80
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 girlfriend," 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 bass.'"

1981

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 philosophy."

"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!"

Yngwie Malmsteen 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," tells Levén.

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.

1982

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 though.

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 Väsby,'" explains Levén.

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 can't buy."


1983
English or not - EUROPE had won. The first prize was to be transformed into an album which was to be released on that record company which Thomas Erdtman had made: Hot Records. "We recorded in Electra's Studio. It was really a dance band studio. In the weekends no one was there, so it could be used for free. We went there two weekends, then it was ready. Five days in all," Norum says about the untitled album which was released in February 1983.

For Levén the Rock-SM as well as the recording had been a trial in more than one way. "It was tough since I was doing the military service in Kungsangen at Ir. I just didn't get a leave of absence and I had to leave without permission. When I was out in the field I had to walk three miles through the woods to get to the base, have a change of clothes and then get on my way to do the recording of the album. But you had that youth enthusiasm so you got through it."
1982 - EUROPE, a couple of days after the victory at Rock-SM. - Photo: Hans Hatwig.

"We had some hockey guys who got leave all the time, among them an AIK-guy and Jens Ohling (Djurgĺrden). They got leave to play elite series hockey. Elite series or Rock-SM - it's in the same league, right? But no."

In a short period of time the debut sold more than 30.000 copies and formed the base for a public park tour. "In Väsby there was a record shop called Mickes Musik," says Levén. "When the first album was released the whole front window of the shop was filled with our cover. And on the day of the release there was a big queue on Centrumsvägen which goes through all of central Väsby. If we sold 30.000 copies in Sweden, I think Mickes sold 10.000, ha, ha!"

To Norum the whole recording and touring wasn't exactly news. His mother Sofie was for a while together with Thomas Witt who at that time worked at CBS. He got to hear the young Norum play. "He lived with us and heard when I practiced the guitar. He thought I should do an audition for Eddie Meduza. Eddie told me that I was the first guitar player he had heard who'd learned all of the Chuck Berry solos in five minutes," Norum says.

All three?

"Yeah, exactly, ha, ha! There are only three licks, so that wasn't such a big accomplishment. But I went on tour with 'Punkjävlar' and did about 30 gigs. I was the only one in EUROPE who'd toured and done albums before."

Eddie Meduza, or Errol Norstedt, which is his real name, was the uncrowned king of "raggarrock" and made his breakthrough with the song 'Punkj
ävlar', which came from Eddie Meduza & The Roaring Cadillacs' debut album from 1979 (on which Witt drummed and produced). The first tour was in the fall of 1982 with Norum in the band. He is by the way on the cover of the live album 'Daren e Los' which was released in 1983. About EUROPE's debut album, on which there is the instrumental 'Boyazont' written by Norum and Meduza, Norum says: "We didn't have the same style, as Iron Maiden, for example. We were more into the more melodic and 'softer' bands such as UFO and THIN LIZZY. I think we came with a personal sound."


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