Interview with Joey Tempest (Europe)

Europe band

Europe are due over for an extensive UK tour with Foreigner and FM. Mick Burgess caught up with lead singer Joey Tempest to chat about the tour and Europe’s 30th anniversary celebrations.

On 1st April you start your latest UK tour in Belfast. Are you looking forward to playing over here again?

We can’t wait to get back over to play in the UK. We’ll be doing four gigs first in our native country and then to Spain but the big tour and the main event is the Europe and Foreigner tour and it looks like it’ll be sold out. We’re all getting ready for it now.

Since Europe reunited back in 2003 you’ve played over here a fair few times. You seem to really enjoy yourself over here?

Every time we get a request to play in the UK I call the guys and they always want to come and play over here. We grew up listening to British music, it’s one of the Rock’n’Roll countries and to tour in the UK is amazing. You have a lot of knowledge through the generations that’s been taught to kids and everyone that comes to the shows knows about Rock’n’Roll. It’s such an amazing place to play.

You actually live over here now. Why did you decide to move here from your native Sweden?

I married an English woman and I’ve lived in London for many years now with my wife. London is a country in itself but I still love going up North as well where they still play Rock on the radio. My wife is from up North so it’s always nice to go and visit up there.

What do you miss most about home?

I’ve actually lived abroad now more years than I have lived in Sweden so in a way when I come to Sweden these days I actually miss England. I do like to visit Sweden though and my parents who are old now live there so it’s always great to see them and my family. We also rehearse and record all our albums in Sweden so I am over there all the time.

Now that you’re an adopted Englishman, which football team do you support?

I do follow it a bit but I don’t have a particular team. I used to live close to Wapping a while ago and I went to a few West Ham games. When I was a kid I remember liking Liverpool as they were such a grand team and they were on TV all the time.

You’re playing nine shows with Foreigner and FM. What did you think when the package was first mentioned to you?

We had an offer to play with Foreigner and we thought that would be great as we have seen them live and we know what they are all about. I remember Mick Jones and the Foreigner guys checked us out on stage and we checked them out too and we realised what a great Rock band they were. Kelly Hansen has a fantastic voice and Mick Jones is such a legend. We said yes immediately. It’ll be a great package.

You won’t have a new album to promote this time. Will it be a little strange not playing new songs on this tour?

A little bit but we are also in the year where we’ll highlight Wings of Tomorrow a little bit more and I think we might dig out one or two from our second album and we still love playing songs from our last two albums Bag of Bones and Last Look At Eden so we have plenty of songs to keep things fresh for us.

What songs do you plan to play on this tour?

I think the crowd on this tour will be geared more towards the bigger songs. We’ll do “Rock The Night”, “Superstitious” and “The Final Countdown” of course and those songs will go down well together with songs from right across our career.

How long will you get to play each night?

It hasn’t been finally confirmed yet but I assume it’ll be between an hour and an hour and a half. If we get that time it’ll be more explosive and we’ll play the biggest songs. Sometimes it’s good to play that length of time as you can really make an impact

On 4th April you play at the Newcastle City Hall. This is a sort of homecoming for you as your wife is from this region. Where did you originally meet?

We actually met in London but she is originally from up North. We’ve played at the City Hall a couple of times and I remember it is such a beautiful place and it is such a Rock’n’Roll venue and to be able to play there is like a homecoming in itself. I used to look up to places like the City Hall when I was growing up as all of the great bands played there.

The last few times you’ve played up here you’ve been at the O2 Academy. Can you recall the last time you were in the City Hall?

We’ve played there a few times back in 1987 and 1988 and again in the early ’90’s I think. We’ve been playing the Academy circuit for a few years now so to play at the City Hall in Newcastle and Hammersmith is a step up for us and we’re going to really enjoy it.

We’re all going through a period of austerity at the moment and the economy is in a bad way. The City Hall has been threatened with closure to save money. What would you say to those people who could make that decision?

It’s so important to keep venues like these. We should keep these places for people to come to and have a good time. They have such an incredible history and it would be such a shame to lose a venue like this. We need to have great venues to play in so we have to fight for places like the City Hall.

A couple of years back you headlined the Bloodstock Festival in Derbyshire. That was a real heavy duty bill including Cradle of Filth, Candlemass and Kreator. Did you think the promoter was mad when they offered you that?

We did a little but we were up for it. We did Hellfest a couple of months earlier and that went well. It seems as though Metal crowds have some sort of connection with Europe and maybe they knew us from our earlier albums before “The Final Countdown”. I think we were a little nervous beforehand as we didn’t quite know what to expect but that show actually really helped to bring us back to the UK as there was a lot of media there. We got such an incredible reaction from the crowd and we made a lot of new friends from that of people who wouldn’t have normally listened to us. We made a lot of ripples with that show.

Last year was your 30th anniversary. Do you feel like it’s been three decades since you started?

It doesn’t really feel like that long at all. It’s been an amazing journey for us and we’re so fortunate to still be doing it after 30 years and still loving it too.

You played a special anniversary show headlining Sweden Rock last June. How did that go for you?

We were so lucky with that gig. You can imagine the pressure we were under with 28 songs, two special guest appearances and 14 cameras rolling. It just had to be right. It was a long, long show and I remember talking to our agent afterwards and he said it went so well. We knew we were going to be playing songs we hadn’t done in a long time and “Prisoners in Paradise” was a song that we’ve never done with John Norum in the band. We knew all the media were going to be there. We were headlining one night and Rush were headlining one night, it was a huge show. It was a huge honour to do it. We recorded the show for a DVD and live album and that is such a great documentation of our career and we’re so proud of that. It shows a lot of sides to our music across all those songs and it was a great gig too. We’re very pleased to have captured that show. It’s the ultimate package for a Europe fan.

How did you decide which songs to play to celebrate your anniversary?

It took a couple of months and we all sent lists to each other. There were songs we all had on the lists but there were lots of other songs that we had to decide whether or not to play. We had one week of rehearsals in Stockholm where we ironed everything out. We got everyone to play a variety of songs and we had a lot of discussions before choosing the songs to play and I certainly think we made the right choice and it worked out great.

You had special guest appearances by Scott Gorham and Michael Schenker. You’re a big fan of both Lizzy and UFO so that must have been a real thrill for you?

That was a dream come true for us and one of those moments in your career that will stay with us forever. Listening to all those UFO, MSG and Thin Lizzy albums when we were kids really inspired us and then to see them walk on stage with us, you just can’t make it up. We never knew anything like that would happen all those years ago listening to those records. It was amazing.

When you first started did you think music would become your career?

I heard music on the radio from a really early age and I loved it. I wanted to emulate it. My sister had a guitar at home and a stand up piano that my parents gave to her, she’s 4 years older than me. I started copying David Bowie and Elton John songs on the piano and started writing my own songs even though I was very young. At 7 or 8 my father’s friend taught me 3 chords on the guitar and I locked myself in my room trying to learn how to play it. It was there all along and I knew even then that this is what I wanted to do with my life. I started my first band when I was 10 or 11 and it was called Made in Hong Kong and the big turnaround was when I was 14, seeing John Norum play in a band. He had also seen me in a band and we decided to form a band together and that’s how Force, our first band, came about and that’s how it all started.

When did you first realise that this dream could become a reality?

I think it was probably when I was in Force. We started rehearsing quite a lot then and I’d found like-minded people in the band and I knew that this was what I wanted to do especially after I’d just taken a trip to Hammersmith Odeon to see Thin Lizzy. Around this time we also won a competition to record an album in 1982 which cemented everything. Labels had wanted us to sing in Swedish and wanted us to have less guitars in the mix which was something we didn’t want to do. When we won the competition we recorded the album how we wanted and the kids really loved it.

Were you parents supportive or did they want you to get a proper job?

They were very supportive and very relaxed so I could make a lot of noise at home. I started seeing my Dad at local shows checking us out from the back but they started to realise this is what I wanted. It was more the teachers at school that were more concerned as I was always rehearsing instead of doing my homework. I wrote “The Final Countdown” at school instead of doing homework so it all turned out well in the end.

Your music has more in common with Deep Purple Mk III, UFO and Thin Lizzy than the Pop Metal that some associate you with. Do you think people are sometimes surprised when they actually hear what you are like now?

We knew it would take a long time but now we’ve done four albums since we got the band back together and the UK, Sweden and Japan in particular have really been into it. I think they compare us more to a Hard Rock band or a Blues based Classic Rock band rather than the Pop act some people think we are. Some people may have only heard our singles on the radio and that’s not really a true representation of what we are about. I think some people may be surprised and think it’s great but some might think we are too heavy, but the melodies are still there. Last Look At Eden really opened the door up for us and Bag of Bones cemented things for us. We’ve been really pleased with the reaction we’ve been getting.

Your current line-up has been together on and off since 1984. What is it about you as individuals that have worked so well when so many other bands have fallen apart?

I think maybe it’s because we met when we were teenagers, we went to the same parties and went to gigs together. I think those roots were helpful. Some bands don’t have that and get thrown together so we have a little advantage there but I don’t know maybe we’re lucky and just get on well together. I certainly hope we can keep on doing this for a t least another 10 years or more and I think we will as we’re having such a good time at the moment.

Bag of Bones your latest album was released in 2012. Have you started writing the follow up yet?

It’s at a very early stage. We like to find a thread and soul if you like for the next project. Last time we were listening to Joe Bonamassa and early Blues based Whitesnake so we were exploring that side of Europe for that album but I think next time we’ll move away from that a little but not too much. We’ll find a new angle for the band when we meet up and do shows and hang out backstage. That’s when we write the album when we talk about ideas and what sort of direction or sound we’ll take. I’ll go home and write some ideas based on that and so will the other guys. This summer we’ll be writing and we’ll go into the studio in the autumn. We’ve never repeated the same album twice and we always try to do something different with each album. I followed Rush throughout their career and they always do different sounding albums and it sometimes shocks their fans but they stay loyal and follow them strongly.

What are your plans for 2014 once this tour is over?

We’ll be doing some festivals in the summer which we’ll announce shortly. We’ll be touring a lot throughout the year, doing some writing and then go in to record the new album in the autumn.

Europe’s UK Tour with Foreigner and FM starts at Waterfront Hall, Belfast on 1st April and ends at The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton on 15th April. Tickets are on sale now priced £38.50 regionally and £39.50 in London.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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