INTERVIEW WITH JOEY TEMPEST OF EUROPE
Date: March 21, 2016
Interviewer: Metal Headz Media
Photos: Wendy King (third photo), Olivier (fourth and seventh photos)
WHEN EUROPE — THE BAND THAT BROUGHT US “THE FINAL COUNTDOWN” — GOT BACK TOGETHER MOTE THAN 12 YEARS AGO, THEY BECAME ONE OF THE ONLY BANDS TO BE ABLE TO SUCCESSFULLY REINVENT THEMSELVES WITH A NEW MORE BLUES ORIENTED SOUND. FIVE STUDIO ALBUMS LATE SINCE THEIR COMEBACK AND EUROPE ARE STILL GOING STRONG. SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH EUROPE’S LEAD VOCALIST JOEY TEMPEST TO TALK ABOUT THE CHANGE IN MUSICAL DIRECTION, THE NEW ALBUM ‘WAR OF KINGS’, WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE BAND AND OF COURSE “THE FINAL COUNTDOWN.”
Joey Tempest: How are you doing mate?
Sleaze Roxx: Very, very good! I really have to start by saying I’m a huge fan. It’s such an honor to talk to you!
Joey Tempest: Alright, cool! Thank you. Where are you?
Sleaze Roxx: I’m in Minneapolis, Minnesota [USA].
Joey Tempest: Alright!
Sleaze Roxx: Where are you at?
Joey Tempest: I’m in London. I’ve been living here for many, many years.
Sleaze Roxx: Nice! I picked up your new album and I’m really impressed with it. It’s a great album.
Joey Tempest: OK. Great! Thank you! We’re on this sort of journey now and trying to explore and get some new expressions and stuff, yeah! We’re happy with it too.
Sleaze Roxx: When you made the album ‘War Of Kings’; is this type of album for the fans, for you or for both? What went into it?
Joey Tempest: Naw, it’s always for us I’m afraid. We’re a bit selfish like that. We just sort of — we write — we usually take four or five months to write and we record fast these days. Three weeks, all the basics, everything. We just sort of write what comes up. Everybody contributes with ideas these days and we just meet in rehearsal and just knock it out and then we meet the producer. In this case, we met Dave Cobb and he wanted to become more of a band member. He was co-writing on four or five tracks and getting very involved. But everything happens very fast for us when we’re in the studio. The only thing we want to do is make it honest, raw and organic. We rent a lot of old gear to warm things up. We want it to be a classic sound. We think drums, guitar and so forth can only be recorded one way — really great — which was [what was] done at the end of the ’70s, early ’80s and then everything went sort of crazy. But, we sort of, we’re digging deeper in that sort of thing — classic, a little bit of classic rock, a little bit of emotion, a little bit of soul and blues and that comes after all these years of touring I guess.
Sleaze Roxx: Sure! Speaking of the album and things of that nature, a couple of songs really stick out for me. First of all, I really love the song “Day Of Rock ‘N’ Roll.” I was wondering what the background of that song is?
Joey Tempest: That’s the only idea that’s kind of from way back. It was actually a song that was meant to come after ‘The Final Countdown’ album but it was written completely different. I wrote the song on the keyboard. That hook [sings a couple bars] was done on keyboards and it never really worked. A few years ago, I started playing it on the guitar as a ballad and John Leven heard me playing it and he loved the melody. We just redid the shuffle and made it into a straight forward rock song with a great hook. Lyrically you know, it’s just ours. I’m just interested in everybody’s comments about rock n’ roll is dead and we’ve just been circling for ten years and it was just a reflection on that. But that’s just one. It’s just a kind of an up tempo fun track on the album I suppose.
Sleaze Roxx: I love that song! The other song that really stuck out to me was “Angel With a Broken Heart.” What went into that song?
Joey Tempest: That one’s completely different! But that’s the latest one [that was] written. So you picked the first and the latest one written. The procedure there was kind of unique for us. Dave Cobb said he heard John Norum in the studio as we were recording the album. He heard John play that riff [sings a couple bars] and went “Hey! That sounds great! Why don’t we write a song around that?” All of us, five of us, and Dave Cobb walked into the studio around the organ and acoustic guitars and we wrote the song on the spot that night. During the song, we found out that Jack Bruce [Cream bassist] had passed away, it was a text that Ian got and he told us and we were like “Oh!” That’s a sort of strange thing to throw in the mix. Then lyrically, it just went that way, about dearly departed and that kind of stuff. Heaven and earth, dearly departed kind of lyric just because that happened. That was in just about two, three hours we wrote that song with Dave Cobb so that was kind of cool.
Sleaze Roxx: Wow! What song on the album really sticks out to you?
Joey Tempest: Well It sort of changes but I agree with you. I always sort of go back to” Days Of Rock ‘N’ Roll.” It’s kind of uplifting stuff. But I really like “War Of Kings” because we went a little bit left field on some of the notes and riffs and stuff. Half tones, half notes that Europe has never done before and that was kind of cool. When we just finished it and listened back to it, we all looked at each other and said, “This is great! We feel proud of this! This is a cool track!” It’s heavy. It’s got swagger. It’s got a vibe with a mellotron going through it and it’s a unique track. It’s one of my favorites on the album. I know that all of us in the band, when we play live, we like “Nothin’ To Ya.” We just started playing that live and “The Second Day.” I do love the expression in “Angels With A Broken Heart” and “Praise You” which is a deeper expression that we’ve never really done before. I’m proud of the band doing these and being able to do all that.
Sleaze Roxx: One of the things I’ve noticed about this too, with people not really buying the actual CD anymore, a lot of people are purchasing downloads these days. I personally still need to tangibly have a CD in my hands, that’s what I like. You really made a nice little booklet for a CD case. It’s actually like a hard cover book. I really thought that was unique and I’m really impressed! What went into the design of that?
Joey Tempest: Thank you! We worked with a great designer and the cover was made by an English guy here. We wanted to put some work into it. We still love booklets and CDs. Although a lot of us are downloading these days, we still love getting a CD in our hands. We try to make it a good product because at the end of the day, people are going to part with their money. If they’re going to come to your show, you need to give as much as you can in every step.
Sleaze Roxx: The Geico Commercial! Have you noticed a younger fan base because of it? The reason I ask is my eight year old son started watching that commercial and because of that commercial, he absolutely fell in love with Europe. I cannot buy enough Europe CDs to keep him happy! He’s always hungry for more! I was just wondering, is it kind of like a phenomenon here or have you noticed a younger fan base pop up because of that?
Joey Tempest: [Laughs] Ah! Well, it’s a bit early still actually because it’s a US commercial so we can’t really judge it until we get to America. It’s not broadcasted over here. But it’s been spreading on the internet and people in other countries and over here in the UK have seen it. And yes, you’re right. The families and the younger kids are getting into it. But we’ve noticed over the years, because we’ve been working hard over here for the last eleven years, we’re getting a younger fan base at the shows now. Maybe that song is helping it in many ways and other songs too and people are getting introduced to the new albums because of that song.
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Sleaze Roxx: Did you ever think the song “The Final Countdown” would be a hit single when you finished it. Were you surprised by how big it got?
Joey Tempest: Yeah, we were surprised and I was too. I wrote it when I was still in college and that was only a small part of it — the riff, the main theme. When we did our third album which we called ‘The Final Countdown’, we thought it was special though and we wanted to open the album with it. We wanted to open the show with it. We knew it was special as it stuck out. It was different. It was even different from what we did. Yeah, we knew it was special but we never had an idea that it would have a life of its own and there and still be played so much around the world. No, we didn’t know that. But of course, it’s flattering and it brings people into the band and people get curious about more songs so that’s cool.
Sleaze Roxx: Sweet! Here’s kind of an off the wall question. If you could create your own music festival, what would your line-up consist of?
Joey Tempest: Oh! That’s a good question. I mean there are so many bands out there. There’s a part of me that loves bands like Whitesnake and Def Leppard and stuff like that. It’s kind of fun. When we play with them, we played with them in Spain a couple years ago, it was Def Leppard, Whitesnake and Europe. Four or five shows I think we did and that was a great line-up. It’s kind of cool hard rock with great songs and stuff. An evening like that I don’t mind. Then I wouldn’t mind mixing it up with cool bands like Rival Sons to put them in the mix and put new bands like Blues Pills. There are new bands out there that are, that can sit, that are young and really hungry and that’s going to help us save rock and roll in a way. So you can really mix it up a bit.
Sleaze Roxx: Sure! What are your top five albums that you’ve recorded?
Joey Tempest: With Europe, or?
Sleaze Roxx: Yeah! Well, or anything that you’ve done. What are your top five albums that you’ve recorded?
Joey Tempest: Yeah, that’s kind of a difficult. I’ve done three solo albums but they’re quite different. They’re more singer-songwriter sort of things. But it’s really difficult when it comes to Europe for me! Well, maybe ‘Wings of Tomorrow’ and ‘The Final Countdown’ — those two from the first period and then from the last period, the three last albums. So that would be ‘Last Look At Eden’, ‘Bag Of Bones’ and ‘War Of Kings.’ So those five albums are my favorite.
Sleaze Roxx: If you could choose from any album out there, what would you say your top five are?
Joey Tempest: Oh, if we could go from everything, it’s probably… Well, we were very, very influenced by live albums in the ’70s and ’80s when we played in bars and stuff. From the ’70s I guess, my top five list would consist of live albums like ‘Made In Japan’ by Deep Purple, which is the Bible I think. Then ‘Strangers In The Night’ with UFO, Thin Lizzy’s ‘Live And Dangerous’, Scorpions’ ‘Tokyo Tapes’ — that’s four live albums! Because they were well made! They got great producers. Of course, we’ve learned now, afterwards, that they’ve actually fixed a lot of those live albums. They actually re-sung it, they re-played it. But we didn’t care and I don’t care still. They put a lot of love and care in those live albums and they sounded great. Those live albums became their greatest hits, because when these bands were out playing, they were playing their greatest songs. That’s four albums. I don’t know what’s after that? Maybe just throw something weird in the mix?
Sleaze Roxx: Speaking of live shows, what does Europe’s live show look like today compared to the live shows of the ’80s and ’90s?
Joey Tempest: Well, it’s a more experienced band in a way? We groove a bit, we put a bit more soul and blues in it. We’ve toured maybe a thousand shows now. It’s kind of evident that the band, the musicianship, it’s kind of top notch these days. It’s kind of cool! In those days, it was more full-on and you played one way. Now, it’s sort of more a feel thing. We try to change things around if stuff happens. It’s very powerful. It’s a classic rock show and we’re very keen on playing five or six new songs that we really, really love in the band. So it’s usually “Last Look At Eden”, the song, and songs like “Firebox” from ‘Bag Of Bones’ and from the new album of course; “War Of Kings” and “Days Of Rock ‘N’ Roll” and stuff. So those are the new classics that we play. We have a lighted sign that’s been with us since ’84. You know, it’s in great shape. It’s loud. We use a lot of guitar. We’re really children of the Deep Purple school you know. Musicianship first, then a bit of show, a bit of excitement and it’s loud and some good lights. It’s that kind of thing you know.
Sleaze Roxx: When you talk about your shows, how do you decide what goes on your set list? How do you decide your staple songs and where do you place them and in what order?
Joey Tempest: That comes kind of organically actually after we’ve toured so much. We’re not that good at switching our setlist. Were comfortable with a certain way of doing it so songs are sort of in a similar order or same place. They might move a little bit, but we decide together. Sometimes, I would write down suggestions and people would come and change it and write down their suggestions. But it also has to do with guitar tuning. It has to do with keyboard intros and how many drum intros are in songs. Some songs cannot be next to each other. There are rules that makes you choose certain orders. But, we usually agree we have a set of songs that we all love playing, and then we have to sort of compromise sometimes and tell maybe one or two members “You’re going to have to play this song in this country here. They love it.” Sometimes, we do things to please others but, mostly it’s for us.
Sleaze Roxx: Sweet! How do we get you to Minnesota?
Joey Tempest: Oh man! I’m sure that’s going to come on the cards! I mean we just started with American based management now and we did a small east coast run early last year and we are starting on the west coast now and doing the south and doing that. It’s such a huge country — America — so we’re just starting to feel our way really. So hopefully, we’ll make our way there soon.
Sleaze Roxx: I’m hoping so! You’ve got some fans here, I’ll tell you that much!
Joey Tempest: Oh great! That’s fantastic!
Sleaze Roxx: Hopefully it’s an all ages show so I can bring my son!
Joey Tempest: Yeah! That’d be great! How old is your son?
Sleaze Roxx: Eight years old and he…
Joey Tempest: The same as my son! My son is eight years old too. My oldest… I have a younger one too. I have a one and a half year old son. I have two boys. The eight year old is listening to lots of music as well so that’s cool.
Sleaze Roxx: My son started playing the drums so he really gets involved in different bands that have a good drum beat.
Joey Tempest: That’s cool, that’s neat! My son is actually taking drum lessons at the moment so he likes drums as well.
Sleaze Roxx: What a coincidence! Over the years, I’ve noticed that there’s been a change in Europe’s sound. What goes into the differences in sound that you’ve accommodated over the years?
Joey Tempest: It’s like an organic natural progression in a way because we get tired of certain sounds and we move on. We dig deeper and find other ways of doing it. We don’t want to repeat any records. So they’re slightly different — all of our records. On the last record, for instance, we introduced the mellotron which is an old keyboard and we just vibed on a new version of it. It sounds really amazing. We used Hammond a bit more than normal keyboards. We use organic sounding keyboards, not synthesizers, which has been a natural progression for us. It sounds better, and it sounds better in our music on the radio. So that’s it, a natural thing for us. We did pan keyboard and guitar more left and right on this record like they used to do more in the ’60s and ’70s so small changes like that make us evolve and make us do different things. David Cobb was very instrumental too in finding a vibe for the record that you could listen back on in a couple years and you know that album has got the sound.
Sleaze Roxx: With bands like Mötley Crüe, for example, calling it quits and going out publicly. What keeps a band like Europe going together and if you ever decided on a final tour would you announce it like that? How does that look for you?
Joey Tempest: Now, we’ve sort of been joking about that a little bit because there are so many bands that have said they’ve done the final tour for twenty years now. We’ve said were never going to say we’re doing the final tour. We’re going to keep going as long as we feel like it’s fun. I doubt if we’re ever going to do something like that. But you never know! If we do it, it will be the final tour because we don’t believe in saying something and then doing something else. I understand some bands — they think they’re going to do their final tour and then they feel like “Oh no. We can’t stop.” And there’s a lot of fans coming to see you and they change their minds. I mean that’s OK too. I don’t want to do it to trick people or anything like that. That’s ridiculous.
Sleaze Roxx: I’m a big fan but I just haven’t had the opportunity of seeing you guys live. That’s something I’m thoroughly interested in. I know you had a leg in the United States. Unfortunately, it wasn’t near me.
Joey Tempest: OK. Well, have you checked the new ‘War Of Kings’ with the DVD in it? Have you managed to get a hold of that?
Sleaze Roxx: No! Actually…
Joey Tempest: Yeah. We’ve released it again and the record company wanted to put something special on it. ‘War Of Kings’ the same but it has a bonus DVD of 17 songs live in Germany’s Wacken which is a huge festival and me and the band put a lot of effort in to making it sound great and making it look great. So it’s kind of interesting. So that’s the latest DVD if you want…
Sleaze Roxx: Oh, I’ll definitely look for that. You know, the hard thing is, there really isn’t a lot of places to buy actual CDs anymore! I’ve got literally one place I can go to now, you know?
Joey Tempest: Yeah! I know what you mean. It is a different world. You can order on Amazon or just do digital downloads.
Sleaze Roxx: It’s not that I don’t do digital downloads but when its bands that I love, like Europe, I’d rather have the CD.
Joey Tempest: I agree! It’s good to have the booklet and stuff. I like that too.
Sleaze Roxx: I still am really surprised by the booklet too. I wasn’t expecting that. I really think that’s awesome. I really like that.
Joey Tempest: Well good! That’s what we wanted. We wanted people to react like that so we put some work in. So that’s really nice.
Sleaze Roxx: Any big things coming up musically?
Joey Tempest: No. We’re going to tour this year and then go into the studio in September, October. We’re also going to be doing a couple shows in Europe to mark the 30th anniversary of ‘The Final Countdown.’ And recording a new album so next year, the new album will be out the beginning of 2017.
Sleaze Roxx: I will say out of everything that Europe’s done, “Superstitious” is probably my favorite song.
Joey Tempest: Yeah. That’s a great track. It’s got that old British, little bit of blues rock feel in it — pretty cool.
Sleaze Roxx: Definitely. Well, that was all the questions I actually had for you so thank you for your time!
Joey Tempest: Oh man yeah! Some good questions and hopefully we can get to your town and you can see us properly live.
Sleaze Roxx: Sweet. So do you get a lot of American rock bands that you meet up with over there?
Joey Tempest: Yeah, usually Whitesnake. I consider them an American band because it’s only David Coverdale who is English. Twisted Sister — we’ve bumped into many bands over the years. Queensrÿche is one I remember. Black Stone Cherry,… The festivals in Europe, a lot of American bands come over so it’s kinda cool.
Sleaze Roxx: Sweet!