DATE OF INTERVIEW:
25th August 2009
METAL DISCOVERY: Hi, Mark from Metal Discovery here. How are you doing?
JOEY TEMPEST: Hello Mark, how are you? I’m alright.
(Joey Tempest on forthcoming new album 'Last Look at Eden')
"I think ‘Last Look at Eden’ is a good example of where we’re headed as musicians. It’s really groovy; it’s a bit more bluesy...and this is a good example of how good we can be."
Joey onstage with Europe at Bloodstock Open Air, Derbyshire, UK, 16th August 2009
Photograph copyright © 2009 Christie Goodwin
Interview by Mark Holmes
Until Europe went on hiatus indefinitely in 1992, the Swedes worldwide album sales were in excess of twenty million, undoubtedly securing their place in history as one of the most successful rock bands to emerge from Scandinavia. Reforming briefly in 1999 for a special millennium concert in Stockholm, fans had to wait until 2004 before the their reactivation became a more permanent arrangement with the release of brand new material, the introspectively titled album 'Start from the Dark'. Touring ensued, followed by another full-length release two years later with 'Secret Society'. With both comeback albums, and indeed Europe's general appearance, eschewing the glam rock/metal aesthetic with which they became famous in favour of a more modern sound and band image, the Swedish quintet are well on their way to re-establishing their relevance within the scene as a powerful, contemporary rock act. And forthcoming new album, 'Last Look at Eden' (set for release mid-September), will no doubt consolidate and boost their renewed popularity. It's already receiving rave reviews, and justifiably so for the twelve skilfully composed cuts on offer strike a perfect balance between both the retro and the modern with a mammoth production that will surprise newcomers and established fans alike with its often heavy, infectious groove driven vibe. When Metal Discovery were offered a half hour slot on the phone with frontman Joey Tempest, I took the opportunity to question him, among other things, about the new album, including the ambiguously provocative cover artwork that has sparked many a lengthy discussion on various internet forums. I begin discussions by asking him about the controversy surrounding Europe's recent Bloodstock Open Air headline slot...
MD: I’m fine thank you. How was the recent Bloodstock show for you?
JT: Well…[laughs]…it was quite a controversy when they announced us to headline but, I have to say, afterwards we were very pleased. Judging by the reactions, I’ve checked the Bloodstock forum again and it seems we converted a few perhaps.
MD: You’ve kind of answered my second question - I was going to ask if you were aware of the animosity on the Bloodstock forum towards…
JT: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, we checked it. We’re on the internet quite a lot through our website as well - europetheband.com and through different communities, so it spread really quickly…you know, talk about us in various places. So yeah, we found out about it and saw the controversy - you know, it was quite exciting. We’ve done a similar show in France a month earlier, and it was also an extreme metal festival, but it went really well so I suppose that helped us a little bit as well.
MD: Definitely. I mean, I think the animosity was more aimed at the fact you’d been booked rather than directly at your band, so it wasn’t anything too nasty.
JT: Yeah, I think so. The audience was great and we had some great press related to it so we’re very pleased.
MD: Were you worried about going on stage in any way after what happened to Cradle of Filth the previous night?
JT: Yeah, they were planning on not telling us, but it slipped out and somebody told us anyway. But it was okay. We’ve been through quite a lot of shows over the years, especially, like I said, doing that extreme metal festival, Hellfest, and that went really well, so yeah.
MD: I heard you ended your set with…..I promise you this is my only question about ‘The Final Countdown’! I’m sure you probably tire of answering those kind of questions! You ended your set with ‘The Final Countdown’…
JT: Of course.
MD: Is that always in your live set, and dare you ever leave out that song?
JT: We’ve never done a gig without it! Maybe a radio gig or an acoustic session without it perhaps, but not a proper gig we’ve done without it. We still love playing it live; it’s a great connection with the audience. I wouldn’t say we listen to it in our cars or at home, but we do love playing it live. It was meant for that; it’s really for the live performance. So yeah, we do enjoy it still.
MD: Great. It’s often said that Europe split up in 1992, but I understand there was no official split as such, just a break for the band. Did you anticipate that break lasting for so many years before you got back for that millennium show in 1999?
JT: No, not at all actually. We were calling each other and pestering each other throughout those years, and we got stuck doing different bands, and I got into a solo contract and so forth. So it took some time before we got going, but that show really kicked things off - the rehearsal for that, in particular. In 2004, we came back with the comeback album. We couldn’t do it before that because we were stuck with the contracts and so forth.
MD: Of course. Did you ever have any apprehensions ever about resurrecting Europe properly, and were you surprised by how successful the reunion has been so far?
JT: Well, yeah, we sort of stuck to our plan though to start from the beginning and really doing what we really wanted to do, so we shocked a few when we came back with ‘Start from the Dark’, I think. But we slowly build up the trust, I think, and we are a happier band. We started to build up the trust, and we weren’t that nervous really because we knew the ‘Start from the Dark’ songs were strong and we didn’t expect too much either, to be honest. That’s the right attitude, and then it went well, and we built it up and decided it was our aim to do more of a modern rock album. ‘Last Look at Eden’ was very organic; it just happened - no analysing, just do a fun rock album, and it seems like ‘Last Look at Eden’ is the one we’re most pleased with so far.
MD: It’s great, yeah, and I think you have many more fans in the UK after your Bloodstock performance, anyway. When I was in Sweden last month for the Rockweekend festival in Kilafors, I was told by quite a few different Swedes that “if you’re Swedish, you love Europe!” Do you still have a large fan base in your home country as big as the band’s early days?
JT: It has become bigger in the last few years. There was a while there where it was hard to get a profit in your own homeland, but I think they were just thinking that we maybe didn’t care so much about Sweden because we always toured abroad. But, now, we just did a show in Gothenburg a couple of weeks ago, a street concert, and a hundred thousand people came out into the streets and we really got shocked. So there’s great support in Sweden, and we’re quite happy that our home turf is working well again. That’s really good.
MD: How would you say you’ve all progressed as musicians between ‘Prisoners in Paradise’ in 1991, and composing and performing again with ‘Start from the Dark’ in 2004?
JT: Well, I think we glue a little bit better with more experience of course, and the lyrics are getting a bit better. I mean, when we grew up, we just had to cling on to clichés and things to make it happen, because we didn’t have English as our first language, but now living outside of Sweden for…in my case anyway as a lyricist, helped…for twenty years now, and living in London now, and living in England for many years. We get better lyrics too, but I think ‘Last Look at Eden’ is a good example of where we’re headed as musicians. It’s really groovy; it’s a bit more bluesy. We’re not afraid to show our influences, or not afraid to sing or play guitar full-out, and this is a good example of how good we can be.
MD: I was going to say, you have a very good English accent actually. You sound perhaps more English than Swedish!
JT: Alright, yeah, well, I’ve married an English lady, and I have a son now who’s going to be two years old and…of course I speak Swedish on the phone because the management are in Sweden and I don’t live there now, but it’s English all the time for me now!
MD: A lot of practice then!
JT: Yeah! [laughs]
MD: Like a lot of great singers of your generation and older as well, your voice seems to have matured with age. Would you say personally you’re a more powerful, wide ranging vocalist now than during the eighties and nineties?
JT: I think so. Then, it was just a matter of singing loud, and singing high. I didn’t have much choice as John Norum played so loud, but that’s how it started in the rehearsal really! [laughs] But no, it’s more experience now. Like John Norum said, he said this is my best vocal I’ve ever done because it’s more fluency, it’s more experience, it’s more…it’s not just high singing; it’s got character in it. And I think if it’s got character, if you find some character that fits the song then you come across very well to the audience.
MD: I received a promo copy of ‘Last Look at Eden’ just a couple of days ago so I’ve only managed to listen to it a couple of times, but I’m seriously impressed; it’s a really good album. The first thing that caught my eye though was the cover. It kind of looks like a cross-section of a spiked apple in the form of a vagina!
MD: What’s the story behind that, and what’s the artwork supposed to represent?
JT: It came about from the title ‘Last Look at Eden’…as an apple, and then our designer just had fun with it! He sent us this suggestion, and we really loved it. We think it’s iconic, and we think people will remember it; it sticks out. It caused a bit of talk and, yeah, we really like it.
MD: It’ll be quite noticeable on the shelves of record stores, I’m sure!
MD: I think when it was announced on Blabbermouth that the artwork was available, I read some of the comments on there, and people were saying “It’s a butt! It looks like two butts!”. It was quite amusing.
JT: Yeah, I know! The threads on various forums are amazingly long and just talk about that cover.
MD: It’s done its job - everyone’s talking about Europe again!
MD: I think the song writing on the new album has a great balance between the classic, retro-Europe sound, and a much more modern edge to it too which I think, for me, works perfectly on songs like ‘No Stone Unturned’, a very modern sounding song and even a little Pink Floyd-esque in the melodies. Did you consciously try to make a more contemporary sounding album, or did you just go more with gut instinct and compose more naturally?
JT: This one was actually natural; organic. It came about very fluently - no over-thinking or analysing, so the songs just happened the way they happened, which is actually a benefit. It’s actually a good thing for this album. It shines…it has links back to seventies influences, our seventies influences and the beginning of the eighties perhaps, and maybe even the nineties from John residing in LA with the grunge movement. Some of the songs like ‘Only Young Twice’ and maybe ‘Run with the Angels’ have some sort of inspiration, at least, from some of those LA bands. This album is actually more like a pure rock ‘n’ roll album in the sense we wrote it when we were still touring with ‘Secret Society’, so between the shows we came home and we had inspiration from the shows. We played with various bands on that tour. We played with Robert Plant on one gig; Chris Cornell I think, and other bands, and it really triggers you. If you tour all the time and you write on tour, you can write a great classic rock album, I think.
MD: Because you’re in the vibe of performing and being together all the time, and that kind of thing.
JT: Yeah, you get into a certain zone. Yeah, you’re into a certain vibe, and if you write in that circumstance, if you’re in that sort of touring mode, then you get a certain album out of it.