|Joey Tempest - Europe - Uber Rock Interview Exclusive|
|Written by Matt Phelps|
|Sunday, 08 December 2013 03:00|
I was just eleven when THAT song exploded into my little rockin' life back in 1986 and its sister hit 'Rock The Night' certainly went on to be the official soundtrack for a lot of my later teenage escapades. Basically I've been a huge fan for as long as I can remember, Hell, I even bought the slightly dubious 'Final Countdown' dance remix for the millennium celebrations back in December 1999. Their return to action with the 'Start From The Dark' album in 2004 sparked a new wave of worldwide interest in Europe. Since then they've gone from strength to strength, following it up with another three equally impressive studio albums and have this year celebrated their thirtieth anniversary. So it was something of "We're not worthy!" moment for me when I fired up the Uber Rock hotline for a chat with the one and only Joey Tempest. Up for discussion was Europe's latest release, a double live CD and DVD that documents the band's headlining performance in front of thirty thousand fans at Sweden Rock back in June this year.
Joey, thanks for taking some time out to talk with us today, I know it's been a very busy year for you. I believe you've just got back from Dubai? What were you doing down there?
Well, we just did our first show ever in Dubai. We were in a stadium there and we had a great show, a great first visit. It's always exciting to go to new places. We were really happy with that. We're just doing one more show this year in Stockholm, Sweden, I think that's on the 14th of December. But before that me and John Norum are going to Las Vegas to do a charity event, so that's cool. Those are the two last things this year.
Cool, well I know we're here to talk about the new CD, DVD and Blu-ray release 'Live at Sweden Rock' but first I think I'd better say "Happy Anniversary". Thirty years now for Europe, how does it feel when you take a step back and think about that?
Thank you very much. Well, it's pretty amazing. If you'd asked me when we started out if we'd do thirty years I would have laughed and said no way. When we started I was just a teenager and you don't really look that far ahead. So when we were at Sweden Rock, standing on stage in front of thirty thousand people and playing some songs from our first album I took a look around and to still have the same people around me felt amazing. Amazing that we could do this. It's also amazing that we managed to claw our way back as well in the music scene, at least in the rock community. It's been nice to be able to claw our way back and do this anniversary DVD with new songs as well that are relevant like 'Last Look At Eden', 'New Love In Town' and 'Firebox'. It's amazing.
It's great that Sweden Rock came along to coincide with the thirtieth anniversary. How did that come about, did they ask you or did you go to them with the idea?
Well, we were actually looking to do a new DVD after 'Bag Of Bones' but we didn't know what to do this time. We've done sort of mid-size venues and smaller venues, we did Shepherd's Bush and we also did Hammersmith before so this time we wanted to do a bigger venue. So we were actually looking around for a venue but we had a request from Sweden Rock to play there and we were very honoured. KISS were headlining one night, Rush were headlining another and they wanted Europe to headline the third night. I don't know how it came about but we started discussing whether we could do the thirtieth anniversary show there and film this for a DVD. We thought that's the venue we're looking for, that's where we're gonna do our next DVD and as it's our thirtieth year why don't we combine everything, do a sort of homecoming , a thirtieth anniversary show at Sweden Rock with guest appearances and stuff. So basically they asked us and then we thought of the idea.
I take it that trying to film a DVD of a one off event can be kinda stressful. There must have been a lot of pressure to get it exactly right on the night. How did you feel walking out?
(Laughs) Yeah, there was a bit of pressure before the show. Luckily this band is probably playing the best it has in many years because of a lot of the touring from 'Bag Of Bones' and everything. So we know how to play but there was a lot of tension because we were gonna play twenty eight songs and have two guest appearances, Scott Gorham and Michael Schenker. We were gonna have fourteen cameras pointed at us and we were going to play in our home country. So yeah it was a lot of pressure but it was good pressure. Before the show Scott Gorham and Michael Schenker came backstage and John Norum was jamming with them in his room, the rest of us were preparing and getting ready. It was a great feeling and I said to Neil Warnock our agent after the show we're lucky, the show went well. So many things could have gone wrong but we had a really good night and it was a good show and it translates well for the DVD.
You mentioned Scott Gorham and Michael Schenker there who came out to guest on 'Jailbreak' and 'Lights Out'. What was the relevance of you choosing those two particular songs to add to the set list for Sweden Rock?
Well the songs came about in discussion with the artists. First we had a list of people that we wanted to come and guest at our show and both Scott Gorham and Michael Schenker were top of the list because Thin Lizzy, UFO and MSG were the bands that probably influenced us the most, along with maybe Deep Purple and Rainbow, Whitesnake, bands like that. But we thought it would be amazing if they said yes and they said yes immediately. I think it was Scott that suggested 'Jailbreak'. We were talking about 'Waiting For An Alibi' but Scott suggested 'Jailbreak' and we said that would be great. When it comes to Michael Schenker I think we suggested 'Lights Out' and he was very much OK with that. Basically we had to pinch ourselves, it was a dream come true because we used to go and see them live, we used to buy all their records and now they were standing with us, some punks from Upplands Vasby, Stockholm. It was a big moment for us having them on stage.
The rest of the set list then, how difficult did you find it to compile and try and reflect every facet of Europe from the last thirty years?
It took a couple of months actually. A lot of emails and then we did a week rehearsal prior to the show where we shuffled the songs around a bit. I think we found a good balance in the end with some rarities like 'Prisoners In Paradise' which we never play with John Norum. Also 'Paradize Bay' and 'In The Future To Come' from the first album, we haven't played them many times at all over the years. So there was those kind of rare things and of course the guest appearances, those songs were also a rarity for us to do. But everybody sort of emailed each other with suggestions of lists. We do have a core number of songs we play, a core selection so to speak. Now there are certain songs that certain members will never play so there is a core selection that we have to work within but perhaps this time we went outside that a little bit with 'Prisoners In Paradise' and a few other things. Also we decided to put the acoustic set in there that we had tried earlier on the 'Bag Of Bones' tour. We were wondering if it would work because this was a rock festival, people were there to have a few beers and rock out but it worked fine. We did two songs, 'Drink And A Smile' from 'Bag Of Bones' and 'Open Your Heart' and that moment in the show was really cool because it was great to bring those dynamics to the show, then after the acoustic session rock out completely again.
Some of the newer tracks you included I think particularly stand out. 'The Beast' for instance is phenomenal. And certainly when you look at the start of the DVD with 'Riches To Rags', 'Firebox' and 'Not Supposed To Sing The Blues' if you played that to someone in 1986 they would never in a million years guess it was Europe.
I know, it's kind of amazing. We're still amazed that we managed to do that 'Bag Of Bones' album, it's very much a rock album for the touring band. We managed to find a deeper, soulful and bluesier expression which I never thought a band from Stockholm could have. It's pretty amazing, I'm still amazed, and like you say it's a band that has developed and taken a journey along different routes but it's still primarily the big riffs and stuff that is connected to Europe. But yeah the sound is more punchy and we're really proud of that. The album that maybe turned things around for us and was probably the most important album of the comeback years is 'Last Look At Eden'. You have the title track 'Last Look At Eden', you have 'The Beast' that you mentioned and 'New Love In Town'. That album was really really important and it was great to play songs from that album on 'Live At Sweden Rock'.
Another of my favourites from the newer era is 'Love Is Not The Enemy'. I remember seeing you open with that at Bristol Academy on the 'Secret Society' tour and the place was half empty that night. Going through those kind of undersold nights was all part of your comeback I guess but being here several years later headlining Sweden Rock and as you say getting the respect again for 'Bag Of Bones' it must be so fulfilling.
Yeah it is, it's very gratifying. 'Secret Society' though, that was more like the dark years of touring, the dark years of the comeback. Obviously when we did 'Start From The Dark' there was an interest, Europe's coming back, they're doing something. It was a dark and raw diamond that album so at the start people were curious but when 'Secret Society' came we had to show that we meant business, that we were gonna stay around for a while. We pushed the limits with 'Secret Society', it was quite a modern record. That was the moment where the hard work was, like you say some places where half empty and stuff. We had to put in those hours on 'Secret Society' to cement maybe a deeper respect from the rock community. I think we did that with 'Secret Society' and what was interesting was that the UK press started to sit up a bit and react and I remember some reviews were really good for 'Secret Society'. It did a lot of good for us, it wasn't a very commercial record but it did a lot of good for us so it was nice to play 'Always The Pretenders' and 'Love Is Not The Enemy' at Sweden Rock.
How does the feeling onstage playing the newer stuff compare to the feeling you get when you blast out those really early songs like 'Paradize Bay' and 'Seven Doors Hotel'?
There's an emotional side attached to playing stuff like 'Paradize Bay', 'In The Future To Come', Prisoners In Paradise' and all this stuff. You look around and see your mates thirty years on from when we recorded them and it's amazing, so there's that element towards those songs. But at the same time there's a special element to the new songs, we really enjoy playing them. 'Last Look At Eden' for instance, that's our favourite song to play right now so it has a new value to it. The old ones have more of a nostalgic, emotional value but it is more fun to play new songs. On these occasions though when you do a sort of career spanning DVD it's amazing to play the old stuff because it's part of the catalogue and those are our favourite old songs as well.
Looking back at the two distinct eras of Europe, your original run from '83 to '92 and then when you came back with 'Start From The Dark' in 2004 to today. Which would you say has been the most enjoyable personally?
It's really difficult because the first period was where we first got to tour in the UK and the US that was our dream when we started. We were just a little band from Stockholm so there was a really big fulfilment there. Also to get a record deal with CBS in New York and to become one of the biggest rock bands on the planet for a while. But everybody wanted a piece of you and we had to go on promotion tours for three months without playing live and stuff. It really wears on bands and it was a lot of hard work in that sense. Playing wasn't hard but doing all these playback shows and TV shows and not playing live that was hard, that was the other side to it. But we did feel fulfilled in the first period because we set out with the dream we had to become a touring band like Thin Lizzy and tour in England and tour America and we got our dream. But what is so satisfying with this new period is that we're doing it on our terms. We own our music and we license it out. We choose who we want to work with, management and agents. We plan our tours more. We're in control, that's a very satisfying feeling. Also we've been lucky this second time because we've gained some respect again and done some decent rock albums. The feeling is amazing to do it the second time around and it's even more gratifying to be able to do it on your own terms completely. It's a really good feeling.
You're coming back to the UK next year with Foreigner. Are you looking forward to that?
Yeah, indeed. In 2010 we played the iTunes festival at the Roundhouse and Foreigner were on the same night. They were an amazing rock band and they surprised us, they really did a good job. That's why we said yes to this tour. They approached and asked us if we wanted to go on this tour and that is one of the reasons why we said yes because we know they are a great rock band. The other reason that we want to do this tour is that it will be nice for us to step up and play Hammersmith again and bigger venues out in the UK. It's a nice step because we've been doing a lot of Academy tours like Shepherd's Bush. It's sort of a nice thing to be able to move up, it could be a bit of a stepping stone for us here in the UK so we'll see. We're just looking at it very positively and I think it's gonna be a great night out. As I said earlier Europe are playing really well at the moment and Foreigner are a fantastic rock band so I really think it'll be a great night out for people.
After that then, has there been talk of maybe a new album? Album number ten!
Yeah, album number ten. We're talking about it all the time now and we want to record next year. Whether we manage to get it out next year we'll have to wait and see. But we are definitely writing and recording it next year and it's a big moment for us. Ten albums might not be a lot for some bands but for us it's a milestone, it's very important and we're really looking forward to it. Having done 'Live At Sweden Rock' and having done these four comeback albums it's amazing to do a fifth studio album. That will mean we'll have done as many studio albums now, the second time around, as the first time around.
The last thing we need to talk about today is the guitar auction that you've just started. You're auctioning off ten signed guitars I believe, each with different artwork based on your album covers. How did that idea come about? I believe some of the proceeds are gonna be going to the Philippines relief effort?
Yes, it's ten guitars that we've signed as a band and we had a guy airbrush them and paint them on Epiphone Gibson guitars. I think the idea came from the band. We wanted to do something unique, something that would last. Something that could be a collector’s item for our thirtieth anniversary. I think someone in the band suggested guitars and I think it was our idea completely to do ten album covers, it was just brainstorming I think and then we just put it together. All the proceeds from the 'Final Countdown' guitar, which we hope could maybe raise the most money, will go to charities to help the Philippines. I think it's a nice thing to be able to do that.
It was great to see the photos you're using to promote the guitars, it was especially good to see Kee Marcello and Tony Reno in there adding their signatures to the guitars. Was there any talk of having those guys up as guests at Sweden Rock?
It was discussed but it didn't happen because of schedules and everything but it's really a pleasure to have them on board for this project as it's the first thing we've done with Kee in a long time and it's the first thing that we've done with Tony in a long long long time. It's really special that we can do this project with the guitars together and who knows where it may lead.
Well I think that's a perfect place to leave this today. Thank you again for your time, it's been a real pleasure.
Hey no problem, see you soon.
The Europe guitar auction ends on Sunday December 15th, full details can be found here: http://www.stadsauktion.se/