|EUROPE – Out of the Dark and Into the Light!|
By: David Priest
From: On Track Magazine.com -
Yet another of the 80’s elite of rock resurfaces with a renewed outlook on life and their place in the music world. The band
EUROPE who spawned one of the greatest rock anthems of all time in “The Final Countdown” have returned to the frontlines with what may possibly be their finest material to date. Start From The Dark is a return to the bands earlier sound of more straight ahead hard rock with as little commercialization as possible in the mix. Returning to the bands ranks is original guitarist John Norum whose abrupt and meaty hooks only serve to solidify that
EUROPE are still a band in control of all their faculties. While they have in fact had their share of ridicule and prejudice, it is plain to see that they intend to take this way of life to its fullest capacity and woe to anyone who stands in their way. It’s been fifteen years since
EUROPE last toured here in the states and fans have eagerly anticipated their inevitable return. I managed to score some time with vocalist Joey Tempest on the last night of the band’s North American tour to discuss their rather timely return (as this seems to be the ongoing trend for artists of that decade) as well as their refocused musical direction, the return of John Norum to the fold, positive vs. negative influences, the song that won’t ever die and their love and respect for the legendary Thin Lizzy among other things. Be sure to get all the latest happenings in this revealing and insightful interview with Sweden’s leading hard rock export. They may be starting from the dark but their time in the limelight is not over by a long shot.
OT: "Y’know it’s been many years since fans have been treated to anything new from the band EUROPE and, like many other artists who were prominent figures in the 1980’s, you guys have decided to put the band back together and begun anew. What specifically prompted this reunion?"
Joey: "I think it was inevitable since we were all teenage friends from the start; it’s just comin’ back full circle I think. During the 90’s I did three solo albums, John Norum was doin’ his solo stuff, the other guys were playing various projects. We still kept playing and we still kept calling each other and seeing each other and I think everybody knew that it was just a matter of time. But I think the general view in the band is that: when we met to do the Millennium show we did two songs in the Millennium Eve show in Stockholm, we did “The Final Countdown” just before midnight, it was a special invitation thing. And that sparked a really good feeling and there was no turning back after that, so after a few more years we just ended up reuniting and that’s it."
OT: "Very cool. I’m glad you guys are back on the scene, your music is sounding fantastic and you look good too."
Joey: "Alright, thanks."
OT: "Now the new CD is called Start From The Dark, I know it’s been out in Europe for awhile and it was just released here in the beginning of June. Taking a deeper look, it seems to offer the premise that you’re starting over from scratch and setting out on a journey to regain the popularity that you once held. Is this anywhere near an accurate observation?"
Joey: "The observation is good. For us, we wanted to make an album that was like the first album we ever made; just make it raw and fresh and to the point at that particular time. We wrote it in six months and we rehearsed, recorded it and mixed it in forty days and forty nights. We wanted to capture the feeling, the exciting feeling of being back together and then move on from there; tour, and start working on the next album when we finished touring. Yeah we wanted to be doing something at least that was a little bit relevant now; bit of a dry mix, detuned a bit. So we felt like we didn’t want to do an 80’s album per se, we just wanted to start like a fresh band really."
OT: "Right, right. And actually, unlike your most prominent work during the 80’s era, this CD tends to be a lot less pop-oriented and more straight-ahead rock. Why the decision to go for a sound that is less radio-friendly and more directed toward a harder-edged audience?"
Joey: "It was how we felt when we were rehearsing; it was how we felt that we wanted to project ourselves. It was to make a statement, like a bold statement: “Either you like it or you don’t, we’re here.” That’s how you make your albums in the beginning of a career, even our first two albums were very sort of spontaneous and raw and when The Final Countdown came we did spend more time writing and producing. So this was more back to finding what we really want to do ourselves, and who knows what the next one’s gonna sound like, but that’s what we did right then."
OT: "Well I’m diggin’ on it, man; the new album’s just absolutely fantastic."
Joey: "Well thank you."
OT: "Now then do you feel that this new trek for EUROPE actually fits into the modern scheme of today’s music, as opposed to what was out in the 80’s?"
Joey: "It would be great if it did, we don’t really think in those terms, but if it does that’s cool. I know that the mix is kind of dry and it’s kind of detuned, it’s kind of cool and it probably stands up to a lot of rock bands now. But we don’t really look at those things, we just want to do something that really moves us and this one does, and it translates very good and we’re very pleased with that. And people who come to see us play, especially in America, it’s just so nice to see that they’re interested in the new songs as well. They’re really listening and some of them have already bought the imports and they know ‘em so there’s good interest for our new stuff and that’s very good for us."
OT: "Yeah it is, that’s great. Now because you somewhat strayed away from the 80’s sound do you feel that you’ll achieve greater amounts of respect from both the fans and the critics for playing in a style that’s closer to your roots than what you’ve maybe done on such monumental albums as The Final Countdown or Out Of This World?"
Joey: "Yeah, I think those two albums, for instance, they stood out pretty good there in the 80’s where record producers and bands, they have big ideas, big productions. It’s just a product of it’s time, really. I think this album really holds up though, it’s got its own thing goin’ on."
OT: "It seems very obvious to me that every band out there, at some point in their career, faces criticism, but for you guys, a lot of people would criticize you for catering more to the pop world than maybe the rock world. And with this one, obviously it’s a much heavier album than what you guys have done in the past and I, for one, think that you’ll get a lot more respect for it."
Joey: "Yeah I think you’re right. What we noticed when we started doing promotion for it was that people came out that didn’t really come out so much during The Final Countdown album. They thought that period was a bit too mainstream and stuff, so yeah, I think we’re cementing some good stuff here with this album. We’re meeting people that really are into hard rock and that like that kind of straight-forward heaviness; there’s no polished stuff here. And, yeah, I think you’re right, I think maybe we can cement some respect and stuff and that could lead to good things in the future."
OT: "I know when listening to the new CD, for myself – and again, it just absolutely rocks – I can’t help but feel uplifted in some way. This is probably one of the most positive-minded CD’s that I’ve heard in quite some time."
Joey: "That’s good to hear."
OT: "In the 80’s the attitude of living life to the fullest was in full effect. Is this something that you would like to see re-introduced into the rock world?"
Joey: "Well I think what you hear there is what I heard when we were rehearsing. It was just a very exciting feeling to bring this music back and it was also exciting to be part of playing with John again, for instance, those things really trigger me. We started the band when we were fourteen-fifteen and he triggered me a lot then and he triggers me now to write and to drive this band; he’s a very important ingredient. There was a feeling when I wrote the lyrics - some of which were written last minute in the studio - I just wanted to capture the feeling of the band and of the anticipation of meeting the fans again or meeting a new audience; it was just a great anticipation when we were working on it. And we were working in secrecy, we didn’t really want to involve people. We didn’t want to involve record companies, we made the deals afterwards so we own everything and we licensed it ourselves. So it was an exciting feeling and I think that it’s something you can hear, like a new band that don’t have too many restraints and just want to do exactly what they want to do. It’s great that that comes across because, I don’t know, sometimes it doesn’t come across in albums, y’know?"
OT: "Yeah, a lot of the CDs that are out today, many of the artists, when you listen to their albums you walk away feeling down or depressed or angry or whatever."
Joey: "Yeah I see that. That period has been going on for a little while and, I don’t know, we need…., even bands like the Darkness could lift things up a bit. It might not be the right thing, but at least it’s about portraying a good feeling."
OT: "Absolutely. It’s something that’s very needed right now and I’m diggin’ on your disc, that’s all I can say."
Joey: "Good, that’s great."
OT: "Now you mentioned John coming back to the band, after the album The Final Countdown John left the band and, for many, it seems kind of inconceivable that he would choose to depart at the height of the band’s success; eight million albums and all of a sudden he’s leavin’. Are there any fears that the band’s current line-up could become unstable again in the face of regained fame or maybe unforeseeable tribulations?"
Joey: "I don’t think so because we’ve learned a lot and we’ve talked a lot about it. Even when we started, in 2003, we had a meeting, we discussed everything and we realized where we went wrong. We went from being a rock band… all the dreams when we were kids, was to be like Thin Lizzy and to be popular and tour like a hard rock band. So we did albums because we wanted to get on the road, basically. So the albums were not the first thing that came to our mind, but then when I wrote The Final Countdown for the third album, it was meant to be for the fans, it was meant to be for the opening track and it was six minutes long; it was not meant to become a pop hit. But what happened with the band was we were sort of moving from the rock arena to the pop arena for awhile and I think we’re more comfortable being the underdog, we’re more comfortable coming from our old influences. I think John really…, he’s just a musician, he just wants to play his guitar, and he’s not much for the things around: videos or photo shoots and stuff like that. He’s much more professional now, though, he’s learned a lot over the years but that really hit him hard, he’s told me that. And we stopped communicating too, ‘cause I was going, ‘Come on, man, it’s happening now, we gotta do it.’ And he was, ‘Oh, so many people want a piece of me and I just want to play guitar.’ So it was a lot of that; it’s exciting when you become that big that fast, but it’s also hard for any band, y’know?"
OT: "Absolutely yeah, I totally can see that. People sometimes forget that the musicians in the band are actually people and they have those types of feelings and can be overwhelmed. So, yeah I totally see that."
Joey: "Yes, you’re right. ‘Cause all of a sudden everybody was expecting him to be a spokesman and be photographed all the time and do playback shows. We used to hate those playback shows, we’d do them all over Europe and you go and do them for a few months and you don’t play live and it’s terrible."
OT: "(Laughing) Hah, yeah, most of the bands that I talk to consider themselves a live band first and foremost and recording albums and doing video and TV comes secondary, so I can hear what you’re sayin on that as well. Now I’ve always felt that although an artist may have numerous hits throughout their career, there’s always that one song that stands far above the rest. Aerosmith has “Dream On”, AC/DC’s got “Back In Black”….,"
Joey: "Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven”."
OT: "Yeah and obviously, in the case of EUROPE, that would have to be “The Final Countdown”, which is still one of Rock’s all time greatest anthems. I know that you just said it wasn’t meant to become a pop hit so how do you feel about the success of that song standing in contrast to all of your other work?
Joey: "Well I think people know, when we go out playing, we play the whole catalogue and we mix in different songs from the past and present some of the older ones sound a bit more relevant now because we play them a little heavier with a bit of a modern twist. I think people realize that we have more great songs than just “The Final Countdown”, which is really good for us because we could have a lot of songs that are no good. That song, “The Final Countdown” in particular, just took on a life of its own and that happens sometimes. Now we’re really happy for it ‘cause when we play it live it just communicates so well with the audience and we tune it down a bit and it grooves a bit better now. We don’t really rehearse the song, but we play it live because it was written for the EUROPE show from the beginning, it was written for the fans."
OT: "I know, seeing the show in Anaheim, I enjoyed everything that you guys played, but I could tell from looking at the audience that they were just waiting for that one moment at the end when “The Final Countdown” would finally be played."
Joey: "Oh yeah. Sometimes we wait for that too, it’s just a great feeling when everybody’s communicating like that and it’s really cool."
OT: "Right on. Now, obviously, when you began the band your primary audience was from your home country. Over the years I’ve come across different people from Sweden who were split in their opinion of EUROPE; some were all for you and then there were others that pretty much didn’t have anything good to say at all."
Joey: "(Laughing) Yeah I know, but that’s the way it goes in your home country, that’s where you’re gonna get the most friends and the most enemies. We did play around there quite a bit, before the rest of the world, we did tour there and Japan before and we laid a good foundation. We can do good shows and big shows there now, we have a decent relationship with Sweden but ever since we were kids, we were fourteen or fifteen when we started to hang out with each other, we listened to English bands, there is no doubt. We were asked by record companies to sing in Swedish, we said, “No, we don’t wanta do it.” They said, “Just cut your hair and sing in Swedish and we can make you a deal.” And we said, “No way, we’re gonna do our thing.” We were just influenced by English and American bands. It was the natural choice for us, our dream was to tour…, we have posters of Thin Lizzy touring in Europe with a live audience on it and that’s what we wanted to do. We came from Sweden which is probably going to give a slant to the music as well I suppose, ‘cause we didn’t grow up in America or England so I suppose we write in a certain way, but our dreams were the same as most bands which was to tour, really."
OT: "You’re right, that’s usually the driving force for a band. Now I always thought it was interesting that you chose to call the band EUROPE as opposed to Scandinavia. (Laughter) Now you have a song on the new CD called “America” and being that you’re not from America, I think you live in England now right?"
Joey: "Yeah I live in London, yeah."
OT: "It seems that you have a track record for endorsing everywhere but where you’re from. Can you explain the story behind the song “America”?"
Joey: "For awhile I’ve been playing with the idea for EUROPE to have a song called “America” and I thought it was a neat idea and then when we wrote the album…, it’s more of a metaphor as well, for still finding what you’re looking for. That’s kind of the idea of the song. We’re gonna go now boys, we’re gonna do this, but we’re still gonna try to find our way and, hey, that’s the feeling of the song really. And I just remembered this young country, America, and I remember all the Swedes that went here and all the Irish people that went here; it’s just finding the new world when you’re finding what you really want, that’s what it’s about."
OT: "That’s cool. So where would you say the core of your fan base lies? Is it Europe or elsewhere?"
Joey: "It’s pretty spread out but we’ve done some great concerts and festival tours in Europe and we realize we have a good support there. Japan, of course, we’ve been to and Russia’s opened up now as well; it’s pretty spread out, to be honest with you. We’ve been lucky enough to release our albums pretty much everywhere. Scandinavia is a stronghold, I know Italy and Spain are good, Germany, Holland’s good, Japan’s good. But now, it’s good for us now that the album’s selling steadily and to the right people rather than being too hyped and too weird, you know what I mean?"
OT: "Right, right, absolutely. Going back to why you called the band EUROPE, I mean, did anybody ever come to you and say, ‘Hey, how come you didn’t call it Scandinavia?’"
Joey: "Hahha. No we used to listen to Deep Purple live records and one of the albums, when we used to party together, was Made In Europe by Deep Purple. And John Norum seems to recollect that I got it from there, I don’t even remember, but I think that could be a big possibility, that we just looked at that sleeve and came up with the name from that sleeve really."
OT: "Sounds believable to me, that’s cool. Now it’s been more than a decade since fans that are here in the U.S. have been able to see you perform live, have they remembered who EUROPE is?"
Joey: "Yeah, we leave here with a good feeling, ‘cause the interest in the new songs and also the people that have come to the shows, they’re so warm and have supported us. Some cities have been selling a lot of tickets, some cities not so much, but still, the reactions have been great and the people that hang out after the show when we sign some autographs and stuff, it’s really a positive feeling that we’re back. And everybody keeps saying, ‘Don’t wait so long the next time.’ So we’re trying to get something else lined up, we want to come back soon."
OT: "Well I checked out the Anaheim show, which was the first date of the tour and I know you guys probably hadn’t gotten warmed up for the U.S. just yet. There weren’t a lot of people there, I mean it was a good-sized crowd, but I know it could have been a little bit better."
Joey: "Yeah, I know, but sometimes when there’s more than that…, like New York was completely packed, they had to turn away a lot of people. So we’ve had a good run, but the reactions are the most important thing. We knew that we had to sow a seed again, we knew that this would not be easy; we’re gonna have to fight and work for this. But the feeling is good now, that’s the thing, and we want to come back. If the reaction would have been different we would just think, ‘Oh ok, maybe we should just start playing more in Europe again.’ But, no, we want to put in the work here so we’re trying to find another tour to come back on."
OT: "Very cool. Well, Joey, you guys sounded great, ya looked great, I can’t wait to see you play again. One of the other members of the staff here at On Track went with me and had never seen you before and didn’t know a whole lot about your music but, man, she was, head-bangin’ and rockin’ out and everybody was just havin’ a good time, we really hope to see you guys come back around soon."
Joey: "Yes, we want to do that."
OT: "We’ll be lookin’ forward to it and thank you so much for your time."
Joey: "Yeah, thank you!"
OT: "We’ll be pushin’ the album and we’ll see you again."
Joey: "Thanks a lot. See ya later, ‘bye."