Interview with Joey Tempest (Europe)

Europe 2015

Europe are on on the road in the UK with the Black Star Riders promoting their forthcoming album, War of Kings. Mick Burgess spent some time with Joey Tempest talking about the tour and the album.

You’ll be touring the UK in March. Are you looking forward to playing across the country again?

This is really special for us. It’s a big tour and we’re going out with the Black Star Riders who we’ve got to know really well over the last few years so there’s two bands playing some classic tracks and some new tracks. Both bands have new albums out that we’re excited about playing and the UK is such a great country for Hard Rock so we can’t wait to come and play again.

As a band Europe have toured over in the UK fairly frequently over the last decade or so. Do you feel that hard work has paid off in re-establishing you since you put the band back together?

It has certainly worked for us. It is hard work but it’s also a lot of fun to play. Every time fans and journalists come to see us word of mouth gets around that we’re a really good live band so it is working. It has been building back up for us again gradually so we are very pleased.

This is a big tour with lots of shows across the country. Do you want to get out and play to as many people as possible?

There’s a lot of planning involved in putting on a big tour but we want to go and play to as many people as we can. The tour starts in Dublin and we haven’t been there in over 20 years and we’ll be playing in Belfast too so that ‘s going to be exciting playing at places we haven’t been to in such a long time. Our new album comes out on the first night of the tour so there’ll be a lot of things happening then.

Do you still get that buzz from playing live as when you first started?

Yes we do because we are still creative in the studio. If we were one of those bands that kept repeating themselves and going through the motions then we’d soon get bored. Having new material to play is such a thrill and it’s that that keeps this exciting. We mix the new songs in with Rock The Night, Final Countdown and Superstitious, and it keeps it fresh and interesting for us and the fans. So we still get that buzz from playing live.

Do you hope to do some songs that you haven’t done in a while?

It’s a co-headlining tour so we won’t get as much time, maybe one and a half hours, so that’ll prohibit us a little in diving too deeply into the really old stuff but our set will include the old classics that people want to hear and Firebox and Last Look At Eden from our newer records that are becoming new classics now. We’ll do two or three, maybe four from the new album so there’ll be a good mix for everyone. We’ll probably do The Beast too. That’s been in our set for ages and it’s great to play so I think we’ll do it on this tour too. It’s going to be really explosive.

Playing with Black Star Riders which was formed from the final touring version of Thin Lizzy makes a great bill. Who suggested this to you?

We got asked and as we’d met them a few times we thought it sounded like a great idea. Black Star Riders are doing it in a current way but are carrying a link between them and Thin Lizzy and we need bands like that.

Scott Gorham from Thin Lizzy appeared on stage with you at your 30th anniversary show at Sweden Rock a while back. As a big Thin Lizzy fans that must have meant a lot to you?

It was amazing. We used to go and see Thin Lizzy every time they came to Stockholm and they came often. We had our fists in the air in the fifth row and we loved them. Just to hang out with Scott is great and getting to know him too, it’s surreal and really cool. It’s incredible.

Will you be making any guest appearances during each other’s sets on the upcoming tour?

There’s no plans for that and there’s been no mention of it so I doubt it.

You play in Newcastle on 7th March. With your wife is from this region does this make a show in Newcastle all the more special?

Absolutely. It’s always special to play in Newcastle. I love the area so much and always enjoy visiting. There’s not many of her family left up here now except her brother. There’s a lot of musicians from the area that we respect. Newcastle is always special to me.

How does a lass from the North of England end up married to a Swedish Rock star?

Ha! We met by chance in 1992 and married in 2000 and we’ve been together a long time and have two boys and we live in London. It’s just one of those things that happened. My life has always been like that and I go with the flow. I couldn’t be happier.

What about football? Do you follow any of our teams?

I don’t really follow football but I do have a good friend who’s a Sunderland supporter so I actually check them out to see how they’re doing but I’m not really a football fanatic. It’s an amazing sport and it’s huge in this country but that’s about as far as it goes for me. As a kid I quite liked AIK Stockholm and IFK Goteborg who did really well in the European competitions but other than that it’s always been more about the music for me.

Your current tour is to help promote your new album War of Kings. You’ve now done as many albums since you got back together in 2003 as you did the first time around. Is it important to you to continue to make new music rather than just tour on the back of your old albums?

We decided that when we got back together again that we needed to re-establish ourselves with the Rock community, the fans, journalists and the world. We knew it would take time. We’ve now done five albums which is as many as we did in our first period and we’ve had fun with them. We’ve learned so much more about instrumentation, mixing, studios and sounds. We’ve learned about everything. We want to grow as musicians and get better. We want to change producers and studios and learn from everybody to keep it interesting. That’s why we are surviving and having fun.

Not only do you continue to record new music but each album is different, you just don’t make the same album twice. Bag of Bones had a real dirty Blues feel. How would you say War of Kings is a progression from that?

I think we have so much more depth now. There’s been so much over produced stuff over the years that we need to get the essence of Rock back. Black Star Riders have it and Rival Sons too and I think we have on our last few records but especially on our latest one. We took the vibe of Bag of Bones and played it live but spent more time on the instrumentation and on the writing. Bag of Bones was a more straightforward Rock and Roll album. This one has more elements and interesting twists and effects. The guitar playing from John is absolutely amazing. John is playing with more emotion than ever and there’s a real depth to the band on this record.

What about the writing for the album. When did you start the writing process?

It took about four months to write and we started last summer. Days of Rock and Roll was an old idea that we first had around the time of The Final Countdown but everything else was new and we started sending each other ideas and then we met up and recorded in three weeks and mixed it in two weeks so it was all done in five weeks so it was more exciting to record in that sort of tempo.

Days of Rock and Roll has a touch of a Magnum feel to it.

Yes, there’s a few of our influences coming out on that one. I love side one of On A Story Teller’s Night by Magnum. They were a big influence on us in terms of melody. Every song on that particular side is just brilliant.

There’s a bonus track Vasastan on the digipack version. What does that mean?

That’s a district of Stockholm where the studio is. John and Mic wrote the song and they named it, so it’s their fault.

That is a beautiful instrumental that really shows John Norum’s class as a guitarist. How do you compare John to other guitarists in the business?

He’s amazing, he’s one of the best of his generation. People are starting to come around to that way of thinking. He’s not big on self-promotion and tends to be low key and doesn’t really get onto covers of music magazines as he doesn’t really like doing that sort of stuff. He is the player I always wanted to play with. The first time I saw him, he was 14 and I was 15. I just couldn’t believe someone like this could live in my neighbourhood. I’m just so lucky to have had him by my side for most of my career. There were only two albums when Kee Marcello was in the band and he did a great job as well but John is more like my brother. He has a lovely tone like Gary Moore, Michael Schenker and Uli Jon Roth.

Dave Cobb produced the album and he’s done some great records with Rival Sons. Why did you choose him this time?

We wanted to get away from the overproduced sound to a more organic one to get back to the essence of Rock and Roll. What really caught our attention was his drum sound on Pressure and Time by Rival Sons. We knew there was a guy who could handle live drums as we knew Rival Sons recorded live. He was amazing at capturing that, Kevin Shirley is too but Dave was able to capture it perfectly. Dave is a great musician too and he co-wrote 3 or 4 tracks with us and he’s fearless. There was no pussy footing around, he is the real deal.

Just a couple of random questions to round off. When you first got back together to play a special show at the Millennium, both John Norum and Kee Marcello played together. Did you record that show and will you release it one day?

I don’t think it was recorded on a multi-track. The TV was there so there is a stereo track and you can see it on YouTube. It might be worth checking out though as we could maybe use them as bonus tracks one day.

The current line-up first got together over 30 years ago. You’ve been through a lot together in a very tough industry. What is it about each other that has kept you so close over the years?

Me, John Norum and John Levin used to go to gigs together when we were kids. We’d go and see Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake and we saw Deep Purple on the Perfect Strangers tour. We’d go back and rehearse after seeing those shows and we’d dream harder and we were the same age, loved the same music, went to the same parties and I think that has kept us together. Both Mic and Ian come from the same area and we knew them as well. We have that bond going back years as friends and that is one of the main reasons I think we are still together today. We also drop everything for Europe. If there’s a tour or recording we all drop everything for each other so that’s really cool. Europe is our priority. Everybody is writing too and they are getting better and better so that’s something else that is keeping us together. We still share a dressing room and the bus to the gig unlike some bands that all travel separately and stay away from each other. We’re all great friends.

What have you got planned once the UK shows are finished?

We’ll have a short Easter break with our families. Then we’ll go to The States and we haven’t been there for over 10 years. We’ll do a House of Blues tour and some festivals. It’ll take some time for us to reintroduce ourselves to America again but we’ll see how it goes. After that we’ll do some festivals in Europe then some European dates including 6 shows with the Scorpions. That’ll take us up to Christmas so we’re working for the whole year.

Europe are co-headlining a UK tour with the Black Star Riders see for details

Europe’s new album War of Kings is out on 2nd March


  • 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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