Joey Tempest – Europe – Interview Exclusive
Written by Tazz Stander
Monday, 19 July 2010 06:00
Calling up a Swedish hotel and asking to speak to his touring nom de plume was not exactly how I ever envisaged starting off a conversation with Joey Tempest. After getting patched through and Joey picked up the phone … I decided to leave this interview exactly as it happened. Normally I would clean up all the “hello’s, how are you’s” as you all know they happen – we don’t just go balls to the wall straight into the first question. I have done this for a very specific reason. I was lucky enough to chat to John Norum last week and this week I get Joey … how luck does one girl get eh? Well, here is the thing; both John and Joey are some of the most friendly and relaxed, enjoyable and honest men that I have ever had the pleasure of interacting with. They are real men, they don’t have egos, they don’t have ‘smart’ answers – they just are. Perhaps it’s the Swedish way, perhaps it’s because they have been interviewed millions of times before, or perhaps it’s just because they are both from a group of a handful of genuine musicians that work hard and realise that interviews are just another extension to their ‘business’. Whatever it maybe, I’ve tried to recreate the relaxed atmosphere and the friendship that Joey and I shared for half an hour.
Hey Joey, it’s Tazz from Uber Rock, how are you?
Hello there, hey, I’m just going to get off here, hold on a second. Hey Tazz, sorry I was speaking to my manager on the other line. What’s happening?
Nothing, I’m incredibly ill and I’ve taken the afternoon off work. I’ve been asleep for the last 3 hours and now I’m chatting to you.
Wow, well let’s have a relaxing chat then. I feel better now but I’ve had some weird cold that wouldn’t leave for a while but now I feel much better.
You’re better just in time to play the iTunes festival and Sonisphere then.
We’re touring all the time you now, mainly weekends and we’re having a great festival season this year. We haven’t seen a year like this in a long time and obviously the most exciting and culminating things are the iTunes festival and Sonisphere festival. It’s amazing for us; we’re like kids in a candy store.
I’m the biggest kid in that candy store.
(Laughing) We are very excited. We are doing a show tonight in Sweden so this weekend is easy but next weekend we are doing the iTunes show and two other shows so it’s a bit crazy.
Almost a year into touring on the back of ‘Last Look At Eden’ and midway through the summer festival season, are your fans reactions mirrored in your expectations of this album?
Well, what can I say? After the last gig we did, we were on stage just before Slash, we had a toast in the dressing room and were all saying that maybe this is the best time for the band right now. It is a lot of thanks to the album and the fans seem to discover it and not let go of it. I don’t know if it’s just a good period … I don’t know with this album, things came together. Its taken a bit of time to come back, I mean, 3 albums and we had to work quite hard but we are very pleased with ‘Last look at Eden’ I have to say.
It’s more in a classic rock direction with a very distinctive bluesy feel. Do you owe this to experience and a change of influence or could people associate this with the ‘older generation’ that we are moving into musically?
There is definitely something going on. I mean, look at Joe Bonamassa coming in and saving the blues (laughs) he is amazing. We could not have done this album without the other 7 that we have already done. We were from Sweden originally so for us to get experience … it’s just taken a lot of years of living outside of Sweden like me and John [Norum] have to get to ‘Last look at Eden’ and get to do this album. What’s you’re take on it?
A long story short here. I was given the best ever birthday present ever when I was 11 – you released the ‘Final Countdown’ on my birthday. I will never ever forget it, it was the best birthday present any band could ever give me …
(laughing) That is great.
… then it all sort of died away for a bit as I started getting into all the other bands around at the time but ‘Last look at Eden’ is that album that drew me completely back into Europe again. Hence me asking if it was associated with the ‘older generation’ as I think the classic rock resurgence is now coming through in Europe. I think the album is absolutely incredible as a new and natural progression of sound.
I think you’re right. ‘Secret Society’ was a big album for us as we became almost nerdy in the studio; we wanted to learn how to make a mono rock album. We had a really good team around us. We had Stefan who mixes Rammstein on it and we learnt from it. We worked really hard on it to make sure that people know that we really know what we are doing. It was really hard work whereas ‘Last look at Eden’, we had a lot of fun and let our influences shine through. I think we fell in love with classic rock and big chorus’s and riffs again. We weren’t afraid to show it basically. When we did the secret society tour, we toured with bands like Whitesnake, Chris Cornell, Robert Plant and ZZ Top. We were on festivals with these bands and we fell in love with the whole thing again and that spontaneous rock album feeling. It’s really nice to hear that you got back into Europe because of this album. It’s really nice to hear that.
I never left but it’s the album that pulled me right back into the fold.
I know what you mean.
I watched you guys live when you played at The Garage towards the end of last year and it was incredible to see how ‘Carrie’, ‘Rock the Night’ and ‘Final Countdown’ really set the crowd alight but it was amazing to see the energy and response carry on through all the new tracks amongst your fans.
It is amazing, and we are so lucky. We are in talks to come back to the UK next year but I can’t say it officially right now. We definitely have a small little love affair going on with the UK right now and I hope it will last and grow.
You’ve lived in London for a good few years now.
It just makes a lot of sense and it also makes me happy and proud because we were really big British rock fans when we were kids. Just to be able to say to the guys on the phone, “Oh, Classic Rock is writing something or these guys are doing an interview” and they’re always like, “Oh great, the UK, it’s the cradle of rock” (laughs).
You pretty much answered my next question already. How would you describe the evolution of your music over the years?
When we wrote ‘Start From The Dark’, it was a very raw album. We just played in the rehearsal, John came from one direction, I came from another direction, learning about lyricism, song writing and lyrics and John came with the D tune style all of a sudden. We cranked it up and did an album quite quickly. The only promise we had with each other was to do this long term – albums were just organically coming out – we weren’t really analysing it too much (laughs), we were just doing it. The only thing we really knew was that we were going to have to do this for many years to regain the trust from the media and the fans. Now, 3 albums down the line, it seems to be working. Our music has changed a bit, its a bit more guitar based like the first two albums. We went through this phase, like with ‘Secret Society’ where we wanted a more cutting and modern sound and now with ‘Last Look At Eden’ we’ve come full circle. It’s more like a ‘Wings of Tomorrow’ album that is born out of touring not being afraid of using big hooks.
I definitely think you could say that ‘Secret Society’ was your turn around point as far as albums go.
It definitely was. We learned a lot during it and also produced it ourselves and we worked non stop. It was hard work but we had to do that album in order to know what we can achieve and what sound we can do. We could then work with the new producer Tobias and just enjoy it and let him do some of the work.
Do you think if Europe came out today, the way things are now, that you would have had the success that you did in the 80’s?
I don’t know. We are just 5 souls that are really committed. When there is a new record and new tour, everybody jumps up and does it. Lets say that there are 100 bands in the world where every band member is 100% into it, those bands are quite successful because it’s a passion and a connective soul that really does it. I think if we came out now we would have some degree of success because we are committed and musically good at writing. We would do some damage now as well I reckon. The 80’s were really special though and CD sales, that new format was really taking flight and record companies and studios were spending an awful lot of money. It was a very interesting era but yeah, we would probably do some damage now as well.
Veering slightly off track here, my favourite track off ‘Secret Society’ is ‘Wish I Could Believe’. What is that track all about?
Oh yeah, ‘Wish I Could Believe’. I wrote it with Mic [Michaeli] I think and he had the chorus chords or something that he sent to me and I just started building on it. Lyrically, it was kind of an awkward period, it was a very strange period for us because Mic’s dad passed away and Ian’s mom passed away. Maybe we were searching a bit spiritually. I think that was what the lyric was about, trying to help each other and be there for each other. There is a hopeful hint in the lyrics even though I sing I wish I could believe in God. Of course, after that, a lot of things happened that was positive. Jake came into the world [John’s son] and now Jamie has come into the world [Joey’s son].
I think if that song had come out in the 80’s I would have turned out to be very different to what I am now (both laughing). How did Europe survive the decay of metal in the 90’s?
I think Portsmouth was the last date on our tour, and we had a discussion and decided to take a break. I wanted to do a solo album and we had also been going for 10 years by then … the break became a little bit longer than we thought (laughing). How we survived it though – there are many factors – the fans are one reason. The internet started in the 90’s and all these groups started popping up, it was really strong and it put a lot of pressure on us in terms of that it was very new for us to get that pressure. In the 80’s we had fan clubs but we didn’t really get to see all the letters. We also missed each other during that time and I think that helped us as well. We came back with a view that we need to do this long term; we still had things to write and to prove. It was a strange time though when grunge came out. Now when you look at things, I really like Alice in Chains’ sound on the new album and they have actually moved a little bit into the hard rock world so that is kind of funky and cool. In those days there was a divide, absolutely a divide but the divide was more with the record companies. I like some of the Rage Against the Machines stuff. They were amazing. A lot of those bands, Stone Temple Pilot’s as well, they had their foot in the classic rock, and Led Zeppelin era, but they did it in a very different way. I’m sorry; I’m just going off on a tangent (Laughs). What is your view on it?
Some of the biggest and best 80’s bands sort of dissipated, they were still about in a sense but most of them moved off and had their own solo careers or formed other genre’s of bands and now, post grunge, we seem to have this original 80’s line-up bands coming back, better and stronger than before. I don’t think any of us really understood it at the time and lots of fingers were pointed at grunge for “killing rock ‘n roll”. I don’t think it did though; it appears to only have made it stronger.
You’re right. These bands, the big bands like AC/DC and Iron Maiden, they can’t be denied. They are always underneath everything, all the trends and everything. You have these classic rock bands that just carried on living. Hard rock is so primal and so strong that it will survive any trend. I don’t know, it’s an exciting music form.
After your 2003 reunion there were talks with Kee [Marcello] to do a 6-piece tour, which never happened. Could we ever expect this to happen?
I don’t know, we will see how it goes. Obviously the Millennium gig at midnight in 1999 was played with Kee so we had two guitar players but Europe has always been a 1-guitar band. There has never been a plan to have two guitar players, never. That is why we got a keyboard in the beginning. I used to play the keyboard in the beginning, in the very very early days of Europe. When John went into solo, we found it very nice to fill it out with something, an organ or a pad. That is how is started for us and then I got into keyboard and started experimenting with it. So in that sense, it’s always been one keyboard, one guitar and then the rest of the band. I don’t think it will ever be a 2-guitar band but you can never say never really when it comes to guest appearances. Also, it feels really good with John and I as we started the band when we were 14 or 15 and we kind of have this brotherly connection going on. It feels good now.
What for you are the fundamental differences between Kee and John?
They are both very talented. Similarities are that they are probably two of the best guitarists to come out of Sweden. I think John may have more of a bluesy style and more of a blues soul style even though he plays fast and I think he might be more technical in certain ways, scales and things. They are both tremendous guitar players and both very funny people, great senses of humour. Both of them are great to tour with.
Since you guys have been around for so long, are you noticing a 2nd generation of fans at your shows?
Yeah we are. We talk about that backstage after shows. The first 5 to 10 rows is all new generation, young people. It’s amazing for us and we get very flattered with that. Some of them are there because they never saw us the first time around, they were too young perhaps and some of them are there to check out the new albums and they haven’t even heard the new stuff. Well, they’ve probably heard ‘Final Countdown’, it’s just a mixture really. What can I say? We are very lucky (laughs).
Are Jamie and Jake Europe fans?
Yeah, Jake is beginning to strum his guitar now and I think he is into some of the Europe tracks but I know for a fact that Jamie likes to listen to “Last look at Eden” over and over again when we’re in the car. That is his favourite. Sometimes he just wants to hear the intro, that is kind of funny (laughing), “again, again”. He calls it the “dum dum” song because you’ve go that (sings) “dum dum du dum” intro. That is definitely his favourite and if you put another track on he always says, “no no no no, dum dum song”.
(Laughing) I think ‘Last look At Eden’ is going to be the ‘Final Countdown’ of 2010. ‘Final Countdown’ was originally written as an intro song …
Yeah exactly. It’s got similarities there actually. It’s a classic track and we are beginning to feel it as well. Some tracks live, we know are going to be around for a long long time. ‘Last Look At Eden’, ‘The Beast’ we love playing live and then there is ‘A New Love In Town’ too. ‘No Stone Unturned’ is popular too, but I have to say, everybody in the band loves playing ‘Last Look At Eden’. It’s got a good groove and melody. I think you’re right, it’s going to be one of those classic Europe tracks.
(Laughing) I’m definitely going with the “dum dum” song.
(Laughing) Yeah, that’s it.
I know this is going to be a tough job but in what order would you rate all the Europe albums?
It’s difficult but ‘Last look at Eden’ is my favourite right now. The probably ‘Secret Society’ and then ‘Start from the Dark’. It’s difficult but just probably going backwards really. It would then jump to ‘Wings Of Tomorrow’, ‘Final Countdown’, ‘Out Of This World’ and then ‘Prisoners In Paradise’ and finally, ‘Europe’. I don’t know, I’m just winging it.
Do you think now that ‘Europe’ the album is an underrated album?
It is, but we only mixed it once and I wish we had mixed it another time. It’s the sound that lets us down a little bit on that one. It’s still OK but very adventurous. I love ‘Seven Doors Hotel’ – that really has emerged as a classic track from that album. ‘In The Future To Come’ I like too and ‘Paradise Bay’ is kind of cool too, but we were so fresh. We were 17 or 18 and it was our first time in the studio and the engineer wasn’t that good, it was a crazy time and we drank a lot of beer. It’s an interesting, naïve album but it’s more of a progressive album than a straightforward album. I think we tried a lot of things on that one.
During your hiatus with Europe you had three successful solo albums. Could we be expecting any more?
Maybe sometime in the future. It’s hard for me to combine the two. John is much better at it, he can combine the two because he loves playing and is fast at making things like that. When I do solo albums, I need to do research, I need to feel it – it needs to get into my blood and soul and that is why when I did my solo albums I went to all the Neil Young shows, Jackson Brown and the likes. I studied all those guys, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison – I just wanted to learn that side of things. You need to live in the world and be honest with what you do. It’s hard for me to switch back and forth. Now I’m just completely honest with Europe, this is Europe 100%. Maybe sometime in the future if we have a little break or something and there is nothing on the horizon. We have planned 2 years ahead and then 5 years ahead. We know 2011 we will record a new album, we know 2012 will be touring again and we know we will probably still be touring in 2013 and then we will have to start thinking about a follow up album to that album … it’s Europe all the way now.
You jumped ahead of me on that one. I was going to say that John mentioned that you would begin work on your next album after summer. Does this mean we could expect a 2011 release and do you have any ideas in the direction of the new album yet?
We are in a fantastic moment right now and the canvass is blank. We are just talking about what music we like. We play music in the dressing room and we talk about where we are at as a band. I’m sure there will be a continuation to ‘Last Look At Eden’ but we only have a few riffs coming up so it’s too early to say. We are very excited about recording another album as we had a lot of luck with this one. If it’s going to be out in 2011, that would be great but it could also be at the beginning of 2012. We have just decided to tour a bit more in 2011 because (laughing) “Last look at Eden” has been so good to us, we might go a bit longer. The next album is very important and 2011 will be dedicated to it.
Talking about how quickly John works through material, what do you think of ‘Play Yard Blues’?
I think it’s his best solo album. When we heard it, we all thought it was great. He’s finally being taken seriously and he’s getting good interviews and reviews in the right magazines. He loves those specialist guitar magazines and he’s getting good reviews and mentions. He deserves to be respected; he is one of the best of his generation. By him moving into the blues area a bit has helped him reach out to people that understand music. If you stay too much in metal, sometimes you end up in metal magazines and they don’t really understand you as a musician sometimes. So this has enabled him to – we spoke about this today on the tour bus – be appreciated with great magazines and stuff.
Finally, finish off this sentence for me. The biggest cliché in rock ‘n roll is ….
That it is always glamorous.
(Both laughing) You mean sometimes you wake up and your hair is standing up?
(Laughing) Yeah exactly, it’s kind of a package thing. You have to take the good with the bad.
Joey, thank you or should I be saying thank you.
Yeah, thank you very much; I hope you’re feeling better.
Uber Rock would like to extend our thanks Joey Tempest for the time he spent chatting with Tazz and don’t forget that Europe plays the iTunes Festival with Foreigner on Sunday July 25th, followed by a performance at Sonisphere on Friday July 30th.
For further information visit: www.europetheband.com.
You can also win tickets to see Europe at the iTunes Festival by clicking here –
Photo kudos to Tina Korhonen, Christie Goodwin and Fredrik Etoall