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JOEY TEMPEST (EUROPE): “The kudos we get from Rock fans means so much to us”

Europe are back with their 11th album Walk The Earth, an album that may well be their best over a career stretching over three decades. Mick Burgess called up lead singer Joey Tempest to talk about the album and the forthcoming UK tour.

You`re back over in the UK very soon for a 9 date UK tour.  How do you feel ahead of the tour?

 We`re looking forward to the tour very much.  It`s always amazing for us when we play in the UK and Ireland.  It`s always special for me to be over here.

 You`re actually married to a Northern lass too. That must make your show in Newcastle on 17th September a special one for you?

 Yes, it does. Hopefully there`ll be lots of friends and family at the show.  I love it up North, people are very open and friendly and they love their Hard Rock up there. I love playing in Newcastle.

 You`ll be playing at the Royal Albert Hall too.  Is this the first time you`ve played there?

 It is.  I was there the other day doing some promo and it`s just incredible.  I was talking to the guys and we were all saying how special it will be to play there.  We grew up seeing that Deep Purple had played there with an orchestra and a lot of other people have played there like Eric Clapton, as well as all of the classical concerts so it has a great history.  We will be recording the show but won`t be releasing anything soon as we already have our live shows well covered with live albums but we will be documenting it for the future.

 You have 11 albums to choose from including your latest, Walk The Earth.  What sort of setlist are you putting together for this tour?

 We want add a few tracks we haven`t played on this tour so far from Walk The Earth and some others too so we`re very conscious to put together a great setlist. We`re thinking of doing a rotating setlist so one night we do some songs and another night we do different songs.  We`ll also be doing some from Bag of Bones as we really like that album.  We`ll look at the earlier albums as well as there`s some songs there that we could rotate in.  Kingdom United is my personal favourite from the new album and we`ve been rehearsing that so hopefully it`ll creep in in time for the tour.

 Of course, there`ll always be space for The Final Countdown and Rock The Night.  Does it surprise you how these songs have taken on a life of their own over the years?

 I had no idea it`d take off like that.  We were onto our third album and The Final Countdown was written as a show opener. I had the riff from my school days but I was only able enough to write a song around it later. We thought it was too long and that we couldn`t put it out as a single but I felt it was special; quite different and unique. We always enjoy playing live but I didn`t have a clue that it`d take on a life of its own. We just thought of it as another song in our set. It`s just crazy.

 Do you think that those people who only know you through your hits would be surprised if they investigated your music further?

 I think it serves as an introduction in a way. Maybe the songs spread so when people hear them on TV or the radio people check us out.  I think it introduces us to a new generation and they check us out and come and see us live which is really cool.  Some of our songs are for a broader audience but I`d say that most are for a more Rock orientated audience and we feel more comfortable with that. We enjoyed having the hits in the Pop charts but we do appreciate the kudos we`ve got from the Rock fans for our last few albums. That means a lot to us.

 If you were going to tempt someone in to discover life beyond the hits, which 5 songs would you pick to get them hooked?

 That`s quite difficult as the last three albums in particular mean a lot to us but I`d probably say Last Look At Eden, Firebox, Walk The Earth, War of Kings and Not Supposed To Sing The Blues.  Those songs mean a lot to mean and have a pure organic feel with strong melodies and great playing.

 You have a new album out a short while ago, Walk The Earth.  Are you pleased with the reaction it`s received?

 Yes, it`s been amazing.  We wrote it quite quickly and wrote a lot of it on the road.  We think it`s one of our best albums so the reaction we received made us feel great.  We even won a Grammy in Sweden and we`ve never won one of those before.  Classic Rock Magazine hinted that it might be our best album yet so that meant a lot to us, especially as we made something spontaneously and followed our instincts.  I think the title track is one of our best songs and Kingdom United too.  Turn To Dust is another one I really like.  There`s some great stuff on the album.  We need to take chances and we need to challenge ourselves and try ideas we wouldn`t have tried 10 years ago.  That`s very important to us.

Do you feel that you are all contributing more as writers than in the early days?

 It`s very different now.  A song can come from anywhere and I`ll feel them out and see if I can come up with a melody and as a songwriter, I really enjoy putting stuff together but we all contribute and all come up with ideas that we work on together.  It`s great team work.

 You even worked with Chris Difford from Squeeze.  How did that collaboration come about?

 I`ve known Chris for many years and we worked together on a couple of my solo albums.  We got to know each other and he had a studio in Devon and I was there doing some stuff and we met there.  He is such a fantastic lyricist and sometimes when I`m working of specific lyrics in a song I think that it`d be great to have Chris on board so there were a couple of songs where I knew he`d be great to work with him and we co-wrote The Siege and Kingdom United Together.

 The Siege has a link to the French Revolution and Kingdom United refers to the Magna Carta and the fight for democracy.  Those are pretty weighty subjects for a Rock album? 

 I just wanted to write about those subjects as they are of interest to me.  I was thinking about a concept album but didn`t really want to do that so that`s why there`s songs like GTO on there to move away from the more serious themes to give the album more balance and I realise that we are entertainers too so I didn`t want to get too deep into the serious stuff.  I think you can touch upon those serious political matters but didn`t want the whole album to be that serious.

 You recorded the album at Abbey Road Studios.  Did you feel the historical vibes in the studio while you were there?

 You can`t help not to.  We worked in No.3 studio where Pink Floyd recorded Dark Side Of The Moon and managed to get the desk that they used up in the studio and also there was some stuff used by The Beatles so we combined the old world with the new world. I think helped us to create a punchy, warm organic album and that was done by being in a very inspirational atmosphere and that was one of the things that inspired us to use the mellotron on Kingdom United.

 You worked again with Dave Cobb as producer.  What does he bring to Europe in the studio?

 He is like the sixth member of Europe.  He made some great suggestions with the songs and arrangements. Dave is a musician and can play guitar and drums and he`s toured in the past so he feels the music and is not just sitting in a studio all of the time. When you get an extra musician and writer in the band with so much knowledge who learned his craft with Brendan O`Brien it has such a huge impact on the creation of the record.

 Last year you got to tour with Deep Purple.  That must have been a dream tour for you?

 It was as I`m a huge Deep Purple fan.  I`ve got some great pictures of us together backstage that I may use in the future for a book.  It was an honour to play with them. Deep Purple are still showing people the way and they are playing great. Right from Made In Japan through Perfect Strangers and now through to Infinite they have been there showing us all how to do it.  Amazing heritage, amazing band.

 How do you feel that UFO, another band you grew up with, are calling it a day next year after 50 years in the business?

 Strangers in the Night is one of my favourite albums.  UFO were very important to me. They way they wrote shaped my writing and I know John Norum was influenced by them a lot. When I first heard UFO and Thin Lizzy I started playing guitar more myself as well.  They were an incredible band and it`s a shame that it`s time for them to call it a day but the musical will still remain.

Next year will also mark 40 years since you and John Norum first put Europe together.  Are you planning on marking that occasion in any way?

 I`m not sure if it`s quite 40 years yet but it`s getting close.  It`s certainly around 40 years since me and John first met each other.  The 40th anniversary of Europe will of course be a big thing for us so we`ll have to see how we decide to celebrate it.

 Your tour finishes in the UK on 24th in Brighton.  Where do you head next?

 We head over to Europe and will do Italy and Spain and play all over for a month.  We go home for Christmas and next year we`ll do more touring as Walk The Earth still has legs and we want to play that for more people.  We`ll also write next year and will start recording our next album in 2020 and then do more touring to support that.

 Europe`s UK tour starts on 11th September at the Ulster Hall in Belfast.  See www.europetheband.com for more details

Interview By Mick Burgess

 

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