Photo Credit: Johnnie Crow
Joey Tempest has led Europe to quite an impressive career: multiple albums and, years of touring, including a successful return to touring in the states and a headlining slot at last year’s M3. Joey sat down to talk about Europe’s return to the states, their latest album, his thoughts on the people we’ve lost, and the writing of their biggest hit,” The Final Countdown.”
Shockwave Magazine: How’s the tour going?
Joey Tempest: Yeah, it’s good. We’ve got four or five gigs left. It’s been a pleasure. We haven’t been in the states at all in 10 years. We did a small tour in 2005 but before that we’re talking ’87, ’88. It’s been great to come back here and meet the fans and meet some new fans. War of Kings has been doing better than some of the other new albums, which is why it was specially released, and it’s been really good.
You headlined the M3 Festival here in Maryland last year. I was at that and you guys sounded great.
Oh yeah, thank you, thank you. We’ve toured a lot the last 10 or 11 years now, and built up a new thing over there in the UK and Europe. We want to do a little of that over here. We realize it’s a big challenge, but we’re going to do what we can and try to rekindle our relationship with America as well.
Absolutely. Since War of Kings has been out for a little while now, how do you feel the reception’s been?
The reviews for this album have been even better then Bag of Bones. So we’re very thrilled in the band at the reception. I think Dave Cobb’s production also made it kind of fresh and that feel — it speaks to people. They seem to like War of Kings a lot.
It seems that over Europe’s career the band’s sound has gotten heavier over time. Was that something that was planned, or is that just kind of the way the music has worked out?
I don’t know actually. Everything is organic, everything just happens. We don’t really plan things like that. But I suppose when we started again in 2004 with Start from the Dark, John (Norum, guitar) came in, having lived in LA for a long time, with a detuned guitar, and the other guys had been touring with other band,s so when we started rehearsing things were slightly rawer, heavier like it was maybe when we were teenagers, when we just started. But it’s nothing planned really. It’s the way we rehearse and write nowadays, I suppose.
I have a question I wanted to ask you because I value your opinion on it. Unfortunately, with everything going on with the people that we’ve lost in the music world recently, what’s your take on that, since a lot of these musicians are right in your area — not only in your genre but many of them, I imagine, you’ve met and done music and shows with.
Absolutely. We talked about it in the band a bit. It’s kind of inevitable, I suppose, but some of the greatest rock bands are now getting a bit older and I think it’s going to happen more and more and it’s kind of sad because, for us, they’re part of our lives, almost like family members because you listen to the albums so much and they’re in your system, and when they pass away, like David Bowie, everything stops for a couple of day,s and it’s just weird, but you have to start getting used to this now, I suppose. It’s sad, but being musicians and songwriters, like for me personally being a songwriter, you listen so much to certain artists. They become a part of you because you know every song and every word almost and how they write and what system they use and how they think almost with their writing. It becomes very close to you. So in that sense, for a songwriter and musician, it has another dimension to it. It’s not just hearing them on the radio or going and seeing them live, it’s other things too. So, we also need to keep everything alive. We need new bands and we need a new generation of bands so we love to help out with that. We try to put young bands to support us. We found great bands from Iceland and London, and Rival Sons are doing an amazing job so it’s important that we see the new rock and roll as well.
Absolutely. When something like that happens where, unfortunately, we lose our friends in what seems like a short amount of time, does it ever make you question your own mortality?
No, I think we all do. I think everybody takes a second and questions your mortality and in a way, you turn things around because you start thinking how lucky you are to play with your friends from teenage years and make the most of it and not quarrel about small things because there’s bigger and worse things out there. It sort of fuels you as well as makes you very sad, but it just makes you lucky that you can do this, and you want to do every second as good as you can because you never know when it’s going to end.
For the fans who are getting into Europe now, when you have a song like “The Final Countdown” which has taken on its own identity. People recognize it from not only the intro but the chorus. How did that song come about?
I wrote songs for Force, we were called Force, and then we became Europe. I was continuing most of the writing, and as a writer I would use different instruments as inspiration. I could write maybe on a bass sometimes, maybe on acoustic, maybe on piano, and also on electric guitar. But as a writer I would experiment. In the beginning of the 80s, the Japanese and the Americans had great keyboards, but I remember hanging in the music shop and seeing these coming in because it was only guitar and bass before that, and I thought that was interesting. I thought maybe as a writer I could play around with that, so I borrowed a keyboard and it was actually from a guy in school, Mic Michaeli. He wasn’t in the band yet, but he was the only one with a keyboard. I was interested to see what I could do, and one night I just came up with that riff. I had that on a piece of tape for years and there was a nightclub where we rehearsed in Stockholm, and they used that for the night show at 12 o’clock when the midnight nightclub started and we were standing there, dancing, partying and drinking, but we were standing there thinking that sounded pretty cool and maybe we could use it for our show. So, I started writing the song for the album and it was sort of a galloping anthem that was probably inspired by “Run To The Hills” by Iron Maiden, songs like that or UFO’s “Lights Out” but that galloping bridge is kind of a hard rock thing and that fit really well.
Lyrically, “Space Oddity” was the first single I ever bought by Bowie because he was singing about thinking about leaving Earth and floating in space, and I was going back and forth with that and my title, because I had the title “The Final Countdown.” So I wrote the song based on that and kind of influenced by that. In the studio, we worked on it. It was, kind of, unique and different. We wanted it to open our show and our album, The Final Countdown album, to make people react because it was unique and different. We knew it was, but we didn’t know it was going to be a classic or anything like that, or a big song, but we knew it was cool and different so that’s, pretty much, how it came about.
Joey, good luck with your show tonight and I appreciate you taking the time to talk with Shockwave.
Ok, no problem. Thank you.
Europe are currently touring in Europe as they continue to promote their latest record War Of Kings. They wrap up the tour in Norway in late August.