Sweden’s legendary hard rock band EUROPE, best known for their Worldwide 1986 Smash Hit The Final Countdown, are heading our way for a run of five Australian dates in May 2018. This will be the first time the band has toured Australia in their thirty-five year career! Featuring the classic line-up of Joey Tempest (Lead Vocals), John Norum (Guitar), Mic Michaeli (Keyboards), John Leven (Bass Guitar) and Ian Haugland (Drums), EUROPE have achieved total Worldwide sales in excess of twenty-five million, with the 1986 mega-hit The Final Countdown reaching number one in 25 countries. The band’s live set will feature all their hits together with fan’s favourites from their studio albums. Joey Tempest from Europe speaks to Hi Fi Way: The Pop Chronicles about this massive tour.
Great news that Europe are touring Australia for the first time.
Yeah it is. Absolutely.
Did you ever think it was ever going to happen or was it just this sort of thing where the best laid plans just never quite came off?
No, we were always talking about it. The new management we’ve been with now for four or five years, they’ve been really great, they’ve been trying to find opportunities and working on it. Whereas the managements we’ve had before that, they may not have been so active in looking for it. Now we feel like we have people around us that really want to help us. What happened in the ’80’s … I was talking to the guys in the band and they were trying to remember what it was. We think it was more of a management decision to tour elsewhere. We had something lined up in Australia, I don’t know what happened and we feel terrible about it, but obviously that makes it even more exciting to come now. Touring Australia in 2018, that will be our highlight of this year and we’ve already started talk about set lists and stuff. The crew and the band, are very, very excited about this.
It must be a huge buzz to be playing somewhere for the first time even after thirty-five years?
Yeah, it doesn’t happen that much anymore, we’ve been pretty much been everywhere and now to come to Australia, which I consider Australia rock and roll country as well, some great music come out of Australia and rock fans and press and now we’re getting there, but we’re getting there for the first time, which means we have to think about our set lists a bit. We have to make sure we can spread it out over a lot of albums and also play the big songs, but also try to introduce the new songs that we know that we love and that have gained some respect and excitement over here.
When you look at the Europe back catalogue there’s just so many awesome songs, unless you were going to play for five or six hours it must be a bit of a tough ask to try and put together a set list that will keep everyone happy?
It is. We did a show in 2013, Sweden Rock Festival, it was an anniversary show, two and half hours long and we still didn’t get all the songs in we wanted to, but it is so difficult. We’ll probably play just under two hours in Australia. I don’t know it depends on the what time they give us.
To be touring with a brand new album as well must be a real added bonus for Australian fans also?
It sure is. Yeah. It could be interesting, I hope it’s interesting for the fans in Australia as well. For us it’s because we managed to create something we really love and we’re getting some recognition for Walk The Earth. We got a Grammy in Sweden the other week, we got the best review ever in Classic Rock Magazine for this album. Then we’re like, “How did this happen?” You know? But we’ve just been following our own intuition with this new album. We have just been going on our own journey and eventually it seems like it’s working. It’s a new band in a way, it’s new expression and we’re kind of nerdy with the equipment, recording studios, engineers and we’re just on a journey trying to learn more every time we go in the studio. The old songs are so much fun to play live and they work great with the new tracks so the show’s fucking great at the moment.
How would you compare Walk The Earth with some of the previous Europe albums?
Well it’s still in the same vein. Something happened on Bag Of Bones, so we did that, that’s a few albums ago now. We started recording completely live again, around the drum kit and we went into an old studio with an old knee desk, sixties desk I think in Stockholm, and we started finding that deeper expression and it was more bluesy. It was saying goodbye to the past, at least in the studio environment and those three albums, Bag Of Bones, War Of Kings and Walk The Earth, they are similar in that they are very organic, spontaneous and recorded live mostly, the expression is deep, but the lyrics are getting better. It’s got some meanings in there that we feel very comfortable with and we’ve developed. We try to get better at what we do. But it’s hard to say the main difference because we’re very spontaneous, just keep going, there’s no real plan other than try to get better, you know.
Do you feel like this album really challenged the band? I know you were talking about being on a journey and continuing to learn new things, but was it tough going as well?
It’s always a little bit, if you want to be on top of your game and one of a decent band in your genre, if you want to be up there you have to put in the hours and it’ll be pressure on you, yes, definitely. But what we did was we prepared, we had ten songs, they weren’t finished, but we had ten songs that we liked, and we ended up with I think nine of those and then we worked on a new one in the studio.
So Dave Cobb arranged the songs and he wrote bits for some of them and the environment, just being in the studio where Pink Floyd recorded, being in Abbey Road in studio three helped inspire. The lyrics were written on the spot as well in the studio around the piano, so I think that the vibe of the studio and the fact that we got on and the atmosphere was great with Dave Cobb created this album out of nowhere, like a miracle album in a way.
Afterwards it was like, “How did this happen?” Those are the kind of albums that are fun though. They’re not too planned either, the decisions are made right there and then in the studio those two weeks and it just happens and we’re just lucky to be able to pull this one off. It’s great, hopefully we can do that again.
Did you think recording at Abbey Road Studios really enhanced the recording?
It lifted people, it was exciting to be there, it was something everybody wanted to do once in their lives and nobody’s been there before to do a proper album. We’ve been in there before, but not doing a whole album, so yes of course it did inspire. What also inspired all the old equipment they have in the basement. That’s a completely contemporary, modern studio and the biggest artists record there still in Abbey Road, but the secret gems are in the basement. All the desks that Beatles used, Pink Floyd and all the pre-amps and microphones that John Lennon used. So we tried it all and we used the techniques and we just had a ball with that equipment together with the modern equipment of course, to make it punchy and contemporary as well.
That also inspired the writing, the spontaneous decisions. The equipment there just made things happen, so yeah it did help being in Abbey Road, it did. It kicked us a bit, yeah.
When you look at the history of that place, were you over-awed at all?
As I said we have been in, we did a radio program there in studio two once, I’ve been in at another point, but some of the guys hadn’t been there at all. They were walking around in awe, yeah absolutely, but it was a great feeling the first day because you tell yourself, “Hey we’re recording here, we are actually making a whole album.” You had to pinch yourself, that was cool.
Working with Dave Cobb, that must have been a real feather in the cap to have him on board as well?
Absolutely, but he did work with us on the previous album, War Of Kings in Stockholm. We usually don’t want to work with producers more than once in a row, because we like to keep things fresh and move on, but with him he became almost a band member and we asked him again, “Would you come to London and record with us?” “Yeah, of course I will. We had a great time last time, let’s do another album.”
Who knows, maybe we do a third one together, I don’t know, but it worked so well with Dave. He’s a musician who plays drums, he plays great keyboard lines, he plays guitar fantastically as well. He’s also got his foot in the classic rock world, he was a big Black Sabbath fan, he loves the classic rock side to our music and he loves recording techniques that are proper recording techniques that he learned from the masters how to do it. Record drums properly and stuff, which is invaluable for us. We don’t like any productions that are rushed, that are too digital, too plastic, it needs to be proper.
If you’re going to record rock and roll you should record it the right way and the right way was end of the seventies, possibly the beginning of the eighties, but the seventies I think that’s when they developed and pushed the recordings for guitar and drums the most and it’s found the warmest, the best tone. If you have engineers and producers that can handle that and handle it quickly, because we record live so they have to be on top of their game, which Dave Cobb is one of the best. Kevin Shirley is amazing as well.
I just love the way that it’s all being tied together really well with the album artwork?
Yeah it is cool, I got an email from Dave Cobb a few months and when he saw the cover and he says, “That’s awesome, that’s an amazing cover.” I said, “Thank you, it was you that brought it on.” He came in with a T-shirt where this guy’s art is on him one morning in Abbey Road, and we saw the T-shirt and thought, “Wow that’s a cool T-shirt. Who’s that?” “Oh it’s someone I know in LA did this.” Then one thing led to another, we contacted him and gave him the lyrics and stuff, told him what we liked and a few drafts went back and forth, but that was his original idea this cool image of this guy walking the grid into the unknown worlds in the triangle, it’s kind of cool.
Do you get frustrated when people expect another Final Countdown? I know you guys have moved on and you’ve done a lot of great albums since but is that a media driven thing?
Probably media, to be honest we don’t feel that anymore now. We’ve done so much writing and so many new albums that that we’re very comfortable now in the rock community. When you have a song like Final Countdown, you get thrown into the pop world, it’s a crossover then, it wasn’t meant to be, but it became a crossover and then you start living in sort of a pop world and pop media and that is a strange place. That moves very fast and that will treat you in a completely different way than the rock community and the rock media.
So we’ve learned a lot over the years and we feel very humbled, happy and content having somewhat respect from the rock community and the rock press. That’s where we want to be. That’s how we started, but of course, what a journey, we’ve managed to crossover and we were one of the biggest bands on the planet for a moment in the eighties and everything that went with that, that was amazing to live through and you can’t even imagine. The important thing was there, that we didn’t really go off the rails because we were musicians from the beginning and that saved us. We were those kind of guys that spent seven or eight hours in the basement writing and practicing guitar or drums. We were all the same. So we’re very nerdy like that and that sort of saved us as well.
Maybe thinking, “Long time in the future maybe we can be like Rush, maybe we can be like Deep Purple if we just keep learning our instruments, our craft and learning about recording techniques, studios and just keep moving.”
Is it too early to start thinking about album number twelve? Is that even in the thought process yet?
It’s only in planning. I don’t think we’re going to go in the studio probably until early 2020, we want to Walk The Earth and tour the last few albums a few more years, but not musically we haven’t discussed anything yet. That sort of comes, we write for about five or six months for an album and then we record it quickly, two weeks and then we fix some stuff and then we master and mix it, and mix and master it. So no, musically or directionally we haven’t actually even thought of yet. That comes hand in hand with touring, you tour the album a few years and then you feel like, “I’ve done that. Or we’ve done that. This is what we feel will be great in a new live show.” All those thoughts come into play when we go in to write and record the next album. So we’ll see, we’ll see.
There’s a lot of us looking forward to this tour and that Europe are coming to Adelaide.
Fantastic. Thanks for spreading the word, and since we haven’t been before, I think people need to hear it and see it in print that they actually are coming and I think it’s going to be a great party once everybody knows we’re in town, we’re doing it, so that’s going to be great.
Interview by Rob Lyon
Catch Europe on the following dates…