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Every successful artist has their signature tune, the one song that resonates with both fans and casual listeners so much that it becomes a staple of popular culture. For Bon Jovi it was Livin’ on a Prayer, for Van Halen it was Jump, and for Europe the track they will be forever known by is The Final Countdown.
Formed in Sweden in the late 1970s, Europe rose to fame at the height of the hair metal scene of the 1980s, enjoying considerable success on both the radio and MTV with their hit single Carrie. But in recent years they have defied all expectations and reinvented themselves with their modern classics Secret Society and Last Look at Eden.
Frontman Joey Tempest talks about their influences, the future of the band and how Europe have survived and grown over recent years.
Having originally split in the early 1990s after five successful albums what prompted you to reform once again and how challenging was it to define the sound of Europe for the 21st century with Start from the Dark?
We just couldn’t stay apart any longer. We’d all been on different journeys for a while but it was inevitable. Start from the Dark was just a new beginning. We had a meeting in 2003 where we said – ‘If we’re doing this, we will do it long term.’ We needed to build up a new trust with the fans and media and strive to get better at our job. It’s amazing to think where we’re at today. It feels like we’re beginning to achieve what we set out to do.
Do you still regularly perform much of your earlier material in your live sets and would you rather focus solely on your modern work?
We like to find the balance that works for us. We still feel exited about playing live and we never get bored. Usually we play between 4-5 new songs. Our set list has a core format where certain songs will always be played. On top of that we alternate a few songs more regularly. We have our favorite songs that all five of us agree to play and we don’t really divert much from that.
Having formed in Sweden how do you feel the culture and music of the country influenced Europe and set it apart from the other rock groups during the 1980s?
In the northern suburbs of Stockholm where we grew up there was a lot of British hard rock being played. We all had one thing in common. We wanted to express ourselves that way. The Swedish music scene did not inspire us at all. We got turned down by labels because our international approach. We had loud guitars, long hair and we sang in English, and that must have irritated the music establishment in Sweden at the time. Of course there were some decent Swedish bands and musicians around but they were not our source of inspiration.
Who or what would you say you were most influenced by during the writing and recording of Last Look at Eden and would you say you were aiming for a more epic or anthemic feel with the album?
We started writing the songs while still touring on Secret Society. It inspired us to write more playful and spontaneous. We played festivals together with bands like ZZ Top, Robert Plant, Chris Cornell, Whitesnake amongst others that year. Without knowing it, I think we were all falling in love with pure classic hard rock again with a touch of blues. Together with our modern approach in the studio, everything really started to make sense.
Has Europe ever considered working on a concept album, in which each song runs seamlessly from one another to tell a story? Would this be something that would interest you as a songwriter?
This is always something that goes through your mind as you start writing for a new album. The thing is, if you run into an interesting story or concept, it could happen. So far we have been content with just letting our albums unfold with a set of expressions and songs that together tells the story where we’re at, at that particular time.
John Norum’s recent solo album Play Yard Blues was a departure from the style commonly associated with Europe. As a group have you wanted to experiment more and with your own solo albums did you intentionally avoiding creating what many would consider a Europe-style album?
I think this is Norum’s best album. He is one of the few players of his generation who can really play the blues. Europe‘s Almost Unplugged album is a good example of us stepping out of our comfort zone. We we’re lucky. It worked very well. My solo period was similar. I wanted to educate myself more about song and lyric writing so I studied some of the great singer songwriters like Jackson Brown, Van Morrison, Neil Young and Bob Dylan amongst others. It gave me a new dimension as we started up Europe again.
What era of Europe would you say you are most proud of and what do you feel is your greatest accomplishment? Likewise, what is your biggest regret with regard to the band?
No time for regrets I’m afraid. After a recent festival show we played where we went on just prior to Slash. We made a toast in the dressing room after our gig, where we all agreed that this was the best period in the band’s history. Working hard these last six years is beginning to pay off. Last Look at Eden really put us back on the map again in many parts of the world. This year we also have two great festivals in the UK – the iTunes Festival and Sonisphere.
2008′s Almost Unplugged included covers of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. Were these groups that had a profound influence on Europe during the early years?
We listen to a lot of stuff and every band member has their own favorites. As a band unit some of the artists that we listened to in the very beginning were Zeppelin, Purple and Montrose to name a few. When we started recording our own material, we were into bands like MSG, G-Force, Gamma and Gary Moore’s solo stuff. I suppose UFO and Thin Lizzy were always there as strong influences as well.
Why did you decide to produce Secret Society yourself and how did this affect your approach to recording the album?
We were very stubborn…and I suppose a bit ‘nerdy.’ We wanted to learn everything about the process of recording and mixing. We had great people around us to guide us. That album was a lot of hard work. We were locked in a studio 24/7 for about three months. We had to go through that process in order to move on. Last Look at Eden would never have happened the way it did without the experience of making Secret Society. We could let go during the recording of LLAE and just follow our muse. We had Tobias Lindell producing Eden. He was in charge of the sound, and he was a great asset.How do you feel Europe relates to the modern music industry and are there any young rock bands that you would say have influenced your recent work?
I believe we now know how to make a decent sounding rock record that stands up to the best. Black Stone Cherry‘s second album has a great sound. Them Crocked Vultures sort of wakes you up again…I also like the playfulness of the recordings like Black Country Communion and Chickenfoot. It’s a seventies approach that is so refreshing to hear amongst the overproduced stuff. Artists like Joe Bonamassa are in my opinion saving blues and rock, and carries it to a whole new generation. It really moves me to hear songs like Bonamassa’s Blue and Evil and The Ballad of John Henry. It’s really cool stuff.
Is there a specific song that you would say truly defines the sound and attitude of Europe?
Lyrically and musically, The Beast really hits the spot. It sums up the whole thing right now.
Have you begun writing any material for your next album and what do you think the future has in store for Europe?
We’re in the early stages where you try and feel where the band’s collective soul is. What we listen to in the dressing room is important. What bands, new and old, are inspiring us. It’s a very interesting phase. Anything is possible. The canvas is blank. I love this feeling. Then of course a few songs get written and it snowballs from there, into a new album. I can’t wait to hear it myself!!