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Interview: Europe
Joey Tempest / EuropeBis zum heutigen Tag dürfte sicherlich den Meisten der Titel "The Final Countdown" bekannt sein. Der Klassiker gehört zu den größten Erfolgen der Jungs von Europe.
Aber war es "nur Triumph" oder wurde Triumph zu "Bürde"? Sanctuary, die aktuelle Label-Heimat hat den Sänger Joey Tempest und den Gitarristen John Norum die letzten Jahr resümieren lassen und bringt Licht in die geschichtliche Entwicklung der ehemals als Pop-Rocker abgestempelten Schweden.

 09.10.2006, Sanctuary

Sanctuary fragte...
 I guess the first step of getting back together was the Millennium show in Stockholm. Which memories do you have on it?

JOEY: It was really exiting. I was in London, you were in L.A. I was just thinking it will be great to get back to Stockholm and play a gig with the guys again, you know. With John back in the band and to play this Millennium show and to be in Stockholm on this evening was special for me anyway. So, I just said: Let's do it. And I was calling around: Let's do it! Let's do it! And it was fun.

And John, how did you feel about getting back together with the other guys?

JOHN: I thought it was great, it was a lot of fun and, you know, I just got a phone call from, I think, it was Ian, the drummer. He called and said: We're planning to do this Millennum show. Do two shows, and you know, "Rock Tonight" and "Final Countdown" and I thought: That's great. Where are we gonna play? - Well, we're gonna play here in this place outside. - Outdoors?! Oh my God! In the middle of the winter. And it was like 20 degrees (minus) outside, very cold. But it was just two songs, so we get managed to get through it without freezing.

What did you think during the rehearsals for this event?

JOEY: He was playing to loud as usual. (laughs) No, it was not too loud. It was nice to hear it again because Kee, the other guitar player, he never played really that loud. So, when John came into the room, it was just "Woo", it was just Rock'n'Roll again. This is fun, you know. It was great. The rehersal was kind of even more fun than the gig.

Let's get back in time for a moment. When you released "The Final Countdown" no one could knew that it would become such a big hit. Which memories do you have on those times?

JOEY: Well, I remember doing "The Final Countdown" it was just such a big circus. I put up some walls, you know. I remember putting up walls and didn't really speak to many people. I was just thinking about the next album. And you put up some walls. And people think you are very arrogant because you just closing yourself in a little bit. But you're shy and so many people wanna have a piece of you. Everybody wants a piece of you. So, you say: I'm not gonna do this. And then you look like you're arrogant. It's kind of weird. We had to deal with it. The thing is "Finale Countdown" was our third album. So, we had a little bit of taste from our two first albums with a bid of success in Scandinavia and Japan. So, we were a little bit prepared. But, I mean, it was huge. We weren't prepared for the whole big circus. But we managed to get through. And I tkink the break that we had with John , nowadays when we look at it, we think, maybe it was good actually because if we woud've continued we could've driven it to the ground. So, now we're lookin' at it: Yeah, it's great. We're havin' fun. We're still creative. Like some other bands from the our time they may not taken risks like we do. I mean, "Secret Society", what band would take a risk like that?! So, I think it's important for Rock bands to do that, push the limits and see if the fans wanna follow, you know. (laughs)

I guess it took some serious discussions on your side if and you are gonna go together...

JOEY: Yeah, we had some serious meetings because we wanted to do it right. We wanted to do new music, new sounds and not be so much stock in the 80's. To create new music and to sound more modern, you know, that was the plan that we wanted to do.

But after the Millennium show in Stockholm it took a while to really get together for a new album...

JOEY: We had to finish some solo albums as well. I had a solo album and John did an album in L.A. with Dokken. So, we had to fulfil those contracts. Therefore we had to wait to 2004. We would've it done propably earlier but it was worth the wait. We talked on the phone we were preparing for it.

Did you feel any kind of pressure when you worked on your comeback album "Start From The Dark"?

JOHN: I never thought of that. I mean, I don't think like that. I just think that we have a special chemistry when we're together and I know we can make a great album and go out and play. And I wasn't thinking how many people would show up at our shows or anything like that. I just go out and enjoy myself and play the guitar as good as I can. And I knew we got a special thing going with the songwriting and all the guys in the band and all that stuff. So, I just never thought of it that way. JOEY: No. We're just really lucky and happy that we back together. Friends from the teenage years and we just wanted to make some noise, really. We didn't put any pressure on ourselves what are people gonna expect and what does the record company gonna say. We didn't give a shit about anything. So, therefore "Start From The Dark" is quite unique. It's just from the band's perspective, nothing else's perspective but us in the rehearsal: This is what we wanna sound like. So, it's a very raw album. I think, on "Secret Society" we have taken it a step further. It's still raw and heavy but we also have more dinamics, maybe in the lyrics. There's also some blues licks from John and starting to get show a little bit broader, it's a broader album, I think. It also goes back further maybe to our influences from way back. With "Secret Society" it could be a Led Zeppelin riff or something. It sounds modern but… Or "Devil Sings The Blues" is very classic rock. And then we have the modern songs like "Always The Pretenders" and "Wish I Could Believe" that sounds like from a band from today. So, it's a broader album.

Before you started to work on the new CD you were on tour in Europe and released a Live DVD of you concert in London. What was that like?

JOEY: Well that tour was special because we tried to make the old songs fit with the new songs. We hat to do a few small tricks to do that we had to slow a few old songs down, maybe detune the guitars a little bit and just make them fit with the new tracks 'cause the tracks from "Start From The Dakr" they were very sort of detuned and heavy. But it worked really well and I think that gig in London was also a very good gig for us. We were just happy that it worked out and the fans were excited and that the new songs worked with the old songs, you know. I mean, I live in London. So, it was a special gig, you know, it was Hammersmith! When I was a teenager I took a boat trip from Sweden to see Thin Lizzy there, very early. It's just a magic place to play. So, we wanted to record that or do the DVD there. And hopefully we can do a DVD on the next tour as well.

Is it fair to say that playing live was and still is a major part of your wirk?

JOEY: We started out having a dream to be a live band, a Rock band, a working band, a touring band. We used to listen to .. our favourite albums were really live albums: "Made in Europe" with Deep Purple or "Made in Japan", "Live and Dangerous" with Thin Lizzy or UFO's "Strangers In The Night". I don't know why, but we liked the live albums when we grew up, not the pop albums. So, our first dream was to play live. So, I think, we are back to that situation now. We want to be a working band we want to play live. Because that's how we found stronghold in the world. If you have a period when you start tryin' hits and things you lose a little bit of the core of the band and you try something else. So, we're trying to be a working band. I think, on the scene, I think we're be a touring Rock band that people, hopefully, will like to see pplay live. With the records we try to show to the people that our music is modern. We want to be contemporary, we want to be there. Hopefully, we we can find a place. But it's not easy to get all the media attention when we've been away so long. So, we have to work, work hard at it.

How do started to write new songs? Do you have some of a routine for that?

JOHN: I usually come up with a buch of riffs and I just kind of put them together and then I send them to Joey. And (he says:) Well, I'm not too excited about that particular one, but the other one is a great one. Because I don't really do the arrangements. Joey does the arrangements. So, he start to arranging it and he's an amazing arranger. And then he sends it back to me put some vocal stuff on there. And I listen to it and usually I'm totally blown away 'cause he's really good with melodies and arranging the songs. And the way he arrange songs is very like up to date, it's like now, you know, what's going on right now which is really cool.

This time four members of the band got involved in songwriting. How did that develop?

JOHN: This time around Mic Michaeli he contributed a lot to this record, you know. He's actually involved in four songs. So, because he wasn't on one song on "Start From The Dark", we thought: Well, give the boy a chance.
JOEY: You just had Jake, hadn't you?
JOHN: Yeah, I had a baby. So, I got really busy. And sometimes I didn't play guitar for like weeks! Not weeks, but a week at least. Because when it goes over a week then I start to get really cranky. So, I have to get a couple of hours in here and there. Otherwise I'm like impossible to be around. But I was just really busy, changing dipers, taking care of the little guy, you know. So, I haven't really played that much, really, the last year, you know. I mean just being busy being a daddy. So, Mic, thankfully, came in there with four songs, you know, making the album actually broader, you know, because of his input.

Most of your lyrics are - so to speak - a little bit in between, using metaphores and imaginations. Who does the writing and how would you describe your approach?

JOEY: I usually do that. I usually like lyrics that you can think: What is this about? It could be about different things. But on this album in particular, I think, I felt it important that if I'm gonna sing this live I wanted to have some truth. And most songs have a story, some sort of reality truth in it.

Would you agree that some songs like "Wish I Could Believe" or "A Mother's Son" have a certain melancholy?

JOEY: Yeah, I think so. And I think it comes from being Scandinavian too. I think, most of the bands that they are very melancholic. A-ha, I think, they are very melancholic, the lyrics are quite sad, you know. Even happy bands like ABBA the lovesongs were very sad, you know, "Knowing Me Knowing You" and stuff. It's like Wow! But the songs are very uplifting. But I think, it's a tradition from the dark weather and the way Scandinavians are, as well. But this album is more a reflection also, what's been goin' on. I mean, during this time with Europe goin' back together again, Ian's mom past away, and Mic's dad past away. And John had a son. So, things happened, and it's great it wakes me up to write about things. It's not great obviously that those things happened but the birth of Jake is great, 'cause that got "Devil Sings The Blues" going. But "A Mother's Son" is more sad, 'cause you realize you're gonna lose your mother. And all my friends losed their mother. This is heavy stuff. And I think it's good if an artist can write about these things. But not too clearly, but make it in there someway, you know.

Some of your songs deal with some of the dark horrible things that have happened in the last years…

JOEY: Yeah, there's a lot of reflections on that and also what's been goin' on around the world of course with the bombings and with 9/11 and all that stuff. It's just been for our generation… it's been what a wake up call! Innocence have lost. We've lost the last innocence, really. And in songs like "Always The Pretenders" and "Wish I Could Believe" is just dealing with that because you want to find faith. You wanna have faith. Sometimes you lose a bit of faith and religion, so you wanna find faith in your friends and family, you know. Where do you find faith to go on, you know? There a lot of thought about that as well.

Where do you find faith yourself?

JOEY: I think the faith is in your family and friends, when things are hard, your loved ones
JOHN: A lot of horrible things have been going on in the world lately. And it's just sad and, you know, you appreciate your family and friends more than ever. And, you know, your parents getting up getting older and you wanna spend more time with them and all that kind of stuff.

Do you think that in music you also can find some sort of faith?

JOEY: I think, music is a kind of faith. And I think, it gives entertainment it gives a release for people to go to a show or listen to an album. And I'm like that: I can buy an album and sit down and think: Uh, I'm gonna relax. For 40 minutes I'm gonna listen to this music. And it's great! And afterwards you wanna play guitar, you wanna run to your friends or you wanna do something. Yeah, it's good, it gives you faith, music.

The title song "Secret Society" is quite unusual for Europe. How did that song come into existence?

JOEY: Actually I just had a riff and then I put it in and I put some arrangements on it, really quickly, and I sended it to the guys. But to my surprise they all like it. (laughs) But then it started to get much better when we started rehearsing with the band, you know. So, we all seemed to like it because it's so different.
JOHN: It's one riff through the whole song but a lot of things are going on anyway, a lot of interesting things, you know. You have the break in the middle and then you have the single note guitar is coming in and a lot of things happening with the drums and you have the keyboard solo happening, the guitar solos coming in in the middle and in the end. So, a lot of things are happening around this one riff that really makes it interesting.

Lyricwise this Song "Secret Society" is open for different interpretations. What did you have in mind writing this song?

JOEY: I don't really know 100 % myself to be honest, 'cause I think, it just came out of me. John heard the demo and he said: What the hell are you singing? But it sounds great! And I: I haven't checked it yet, you know. I just did it so quickly. I just sang something. I just followed my voice in my inner soul, you know and sang something. I changed a few words from the demo, but that's it. It was improvised but I looked at it afterwards and I feel like it's about a Rock'n'Roller, really. About a guy, who is so cocky and will do anything and will go 100 %. And it's about Rock'n'Roll really, in that sence, because the idea came from a discussion with one of the biggest Rock'n'Roll people, Robert Plant. So, I think, it's a little bit of a tribute to maybe that sort of sence that Rock bands need to go on because it's their life, it's a choice. It's a choice of life and you need to go out there and entertain. You need to go out there and play. It's basically about, I think, more of a young cocky Rock star, really.

With the first single "Always The Pretenders" you explore musically and lyrically new territories. Please explain a little bit about the back ground of that song.

JOEY: The band sounds very young on the track, you know. I like that. Lyrically it's just an idea that my wife called me on the 9/11, on that day, and told me to put the TV on. I put it on and I was in a studio. She said to me: There's been an accident. And I looked qucikly and said to her: That's no accident! So, that was… She was lost and she was so devastating. She lost her whole believe because: What? Can people do that on purpose?! And I remembered that that she lost her innocence, really. She now is cynical. Some people are cynical now, you know. She's not cynical! She's great. But, you know, it was just an idea and then I carried that idea throught to the song, really. But then, some people think it's about other things. So, I mean, it could be about other things.

"A Mother's Son" is the most intimate song on the new record. How did you come up with this one?

JOEY: I think, it's kind of a sweet song. You can look at it as a love song, not a love song, but a sweet song to reflections 'cause during the recordings I was living with my parents. And they're getting older and as I said, Ian's mom past away. There were a lot of thought in my head about that. One day that title just flew into my head: "A Mother's Son".

Generally speaking the sound of the new album is quite compact but not over produeced. Was that you aprroach?

JOEY: We don't wanna put too much circus on there, too many pretty things. (laughs) We basically play it live in the rehearsal and then we don't add so many things to recordings anymore, anyway. There's some keyboards on there but in the end this album turned out to be a guitar album again. (laughs) It's like "Start From The Dark" it's very much a guitar oriented album. Mich plays more keyboards but there are in the mix.

You're gonna on tour with this album. What is like to play live these days?

JOHN: It's just a great feeling, you know. Like I said before, we have a very special chemistry when we play live. It's just very easy, you know. It's just a great feeling to see the respond from the fans and everything and og out there and sweat every night. And just hearing that loud blast coming from the amps. It's a really good feeling, you know.

Joey, for you as a singer it's a little bit different when the band is playing live. How do you prepare yourself for a gig?

JOEY: I want us to convey something. I tried to study some of the good live people, you know. Watching Bruce Springsteen, Bono or Michael Stipe and see how the communicate with the audience because somebody has to communicate with the audience. They don't wanna come there and feel like we don't like them. So, I think it's important to get a good warm relationship going and together with the heavy music and the melodies. So I tried to figure out new ways what to say between songs and stuff like that. It's important as well.

¬ Europe
   EDEN [LP]
   EDEN [EP]
¬ 09.10.2006 (eng)
¬ 20.11.2009

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