'90s - Europe (2010)
'Open Your Hearts: The Kings Have Returned!'
Europe is a Swedish hard rock band formed in Upplands Väsby in 1979 under the name Force by vocalist Joey Tempest and guitarist John Norum. Since its formation, Europe has released eight studio albums, three live albums, three compilations and eight videos.
Europe rose to international fame in the 1980s with its third album The Final Countdown (1986), which became a substantial commercial success and sold over three million copies in the United States.
Europe was one of the most successful rock acts of the 80s and sold over four million albums in the United States alone and over 10 million albums worldwide.
The band has achieved two top 20 albums on the Billboard 200 chart (The Final Countdown and Out of This World) and two top 10 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart ('The Final Countdown' and 'Carrie').
Europe went on hiatus in 1992, but announced an official reunion in 2003. Since then Europe has released three albums, Start from the Dark (2004), Secret Society (2006) and Last Look at Eden, which was released just last year.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with lead singer Joey Tempest about the days of Force, the original title of 'Final Countdown,' his working relationship with John Norum, and about The Rolling Stones!
Taking it from the top, and back in 1979, the first incarnation of the band was named Force. What can you remember most fondly about those days back then, learning your instruments, and playing cover songs? "PARTYING! SOMETIMES EVEN PRACTICING OUR INSTRUMENTS, MUCH LIKE TODAY REALLY!"
Is it true that around that time, after having sent in several demos to record companies, you were told that to get published you had to cut your hair and sing in Swedish? "YEAH! I DON'T THINK SWEDISH RECORD COMPANIES WERE QUITE READY FOR US. WE WERE BROUGHT UP ON BRITISH AND AMERICAN HEAVY ROCK AND EXPRESSING OURSELVES THAT WAY PROBABLY SCARED THEM!"
Indeed, after a few band member changes, come 1982 and having entered a Swedish rock talent contest ROCK-SM, you won - the reward being a record deal with Hot Records. Legend has it that DURING the contest Force changed it's name to Europe. Is that true - and if so, who came up with Europe as a name, and why DURING the contest? "A SHORT TIME BEFORE THIS CONTEST WE CHANGED THE NAME TO 'EUROPE'. WE WANTED SOMETHING BIGGER. I REMEMBER I HAD TO GET THE GUYS IN THE BAND REALLY DRUNK BEFORE SUGGESTING THE NEW NAME. I THINK I GOT THE NAME FROM 'MADE IN EUROPE' BY DEEP PURPLE. AT THE TIME THERE WAS ALSO ANOTHER LOCAL BAND CALLED RISING FORCE (Yngwie Malmsteens band). SO IT WAS TIME FOR A CHANGE."
The self-titled album was released the following year, and sold well, charting at #8 in your home country. The second album, Wings of Tomorrow came out in 1984, and you were quickly offered an international contract by CBS Records. In reflection, was everything running smoothly for you, as a band, or was this quick fame climb already starting to take its toll? "THIRD ALBUM ... ALWAYS THE IMPORTANT ONE.
WE WERE ON A CRAZY JOURNEY! CBS/SONY IN NEW YORK WANTED TO SIGN US AND KEVIN ELSON (Journey, Mr Big) WAS GOING TO PRODUCE OUR ALBUM. THERE WE WERE!! FIVE YOUNG PUNKS FROM THE SUBURBS OF STOCKHOLM TAKING ON MANHATTAN ; ) YOU CAN'T MAKE THIS STUFF UP!"
Things changed for Europe on a massive scale when come 1986, Final Countdown was released and gave the band its international breakthrough. Indeed, the same-named single peaked at #1 in 25 countries! What was it like to be a member of Europe around that time? "A WILD TIME INDEED. IT WAS LIKE A GIANT CIRCUS. BEING IN OF THE BIGGEST ROCK BAND IN THE WORLD AT THE TIME GAVE US THE OPPORTUNITY TO TOUR THE U.K. AND THE U.S!!! WE WERE ALWAYS ON THE ROAD AND EVERYTHING WAS FOR THE TAKING. AT THE SAME TIME WE ALWAYS PUT THE MUSIC FIRST AND KEPT OUR FEET ON THE GROUND. THAT'S PROBABLY THE MAIN REASON WE'RE STILL HERE TODAY. WE DIDN'T LOSE OUR HEADS. AT LEAST, NOT COMPLETELY ; )"
Knowing that Europe will always be associated with that huge song - a song that now I've mentioned it, I cannot get out of my head ... thanx! - how did it's creation actually come about? "WE WERE VERY MUCH A GUITAR BASED ROCKBAND BUT I WAS SORT OF INTERESTED IN MIXING IN SOME KEYBOARDS. STILL IN COLLEGE I EXPERIMENTED WITH A KORG POLY-SIX (keyboard). LATE ONE NIGHT IN THE BASEMENT I CAME UP WITH THE MAIN THEME TO THE 'FINAL COUNTDOWN.' I FELT REALLY GOOD PLAYING IT. DIDN'T HAVE A CLUE WHAT DO WITH IT UNTIL WORKING ON OUR THIRD ALBUM. WE WANTED A "SHOW OPENER," SOMETHING TO MAKE PEOPLE SIT UP AND GET EXITED."
Other hit singles poured out from that album - 'Carrie,' 'Cherokee' and a re-recorded 'Rock the Night' - and it soon became certified as Triple-Platinum in the USA. Can you reveal any behind-the-scenes nuggets of gossip about the making of the album that, perhaps, until now, you haven't ever spoken about? "I DON'T KNOW ...MOST THINGS HAVE BEEN SAID I GUESS. RECORDING THE FINAL COUNTDOWN ALBUM WE ALL LIVED IN ROOMS CONNECTED TO THE STUDIO (powerplay studios) IN A SMALL TOWN OUTSIDE ZURICH SWITZERLAND."
"THEY PUT US THERE BECAUSE THERE WERE NO DISTRACTIONS FOR A YOUNG BAND, ONLY A LOCAL RESTAURANT WE CALLED 'THE FISHTANK'. IT WAS OUR FIRST SESSION WITH IAN HAUGLAND ON DRUMS ... ALL OF A SUDDEN HE STARTED PLAYING DRUMS NAKED!! WE DIDNT REALLY KNOW WHAT TO THINK. THAT DRUMSTOOL DID NOT MAKE IT BACK ON TOUR!!"
"I REMEMBER 'THE FINAL COUNTDOWN' WAS CALLED 'THE FINAL BREAKDOWN' FOR A WHILE. FOR A FEW DAYS WE GOT FRUSTRATED TRYING DIFFERENT GROOVES FOR IT. AS YOU KNOW, THE SONG ENDED UP WITH THIS REALLY SLOW, BLUESY, GROOVY FEEL!!..... ; )"
Come late 1986 and John Norum left Europe, citing that he 'didn't like the direction the band was going.' How did this initially affect the band? "IT WAS A STRANGE PERIOD FOR THE BAND. EVERYTHING WAS GOING GREAT, BUT ME AND NORUM - WHOM I STARTED THE BAND WITH - HAD STOPPED TALKING TO EACH OTHER. COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN. WE WERE OCCASIONALLY SENDING MESSAGES TO EACH OTHER THROUGH OUR TOUR MANAGER."
"I THINK THIS WAS THE MAIN REASON FOR US GOING SEPARATE WAYS. THE GUITARS WERE ALSO MIXED QUITE LOW ON THAT PARTICULAR ALBUM AND THAT DIDN'T HELP. THESE DAYS WE TRY AND TALK ABOUT EVERYTHING IN THE BAND. IT'S THE ONLY WAY."
In 1988, the follow-up was released, Out of This World and although it was certified Platinum in the US, it's singles - such as 'Superstitious,' 'Open Your Heart,' and 'Let the Good Times Rock' - didn't chart as high as their predecessors. Two years later, the album Prisoners in Paradise was released, but received limited media attention also. Were any conversations had within the band at this time that suggested a new, harder, less (as Norum once put it) 'poodle-rock' musical direction, perhaps? "IT'S ALL ABOUT SONGS AND MUSICIANSHIP. I THINK OOTW AND PIP ARE GREAT ROCK ALBUMS IN THAT RESPECT. PERHAPS SOMETIMES WE PUT TOURING BEFORE WRITING, BUT THAT'S IN THE NATURE OF THIS BAND."
Then, after ten years of living, recording, and touring together, Europe decided to call it quits at the end of your 1992 tour. Did you know going into that tour that the end was coming for Europe - that the, shall we say, final countdown had begun?! "IT WAS ONLY DURING THE LAST FEW WEEKS OF THE PIP WORLD TOUR WE TALKED ABOUT TAKING A BREAK. SOME OF US COULDN'T EVEN WORK A DISHWASHING MACHINE! WE'VE BEEN ON THE ROAD OR IN A STUDIO SINCE WE WERE 18 YEARS OLD. WE WERE READY FOR A BREAK, BUT IN THE BACK OF OUR MINDS WE KNEW WE WOULD START UP THE CIRCUS AGAIN ONE DAY."
What did you yourself do - both musically and hobby wise - during this break from the band? Did you discover a new talent within you, perhaps? "I WANTED TO LEARN. MORE ABOUT SONGWRITING SO I STUDIED ARTISTS LIKE NEIL YOUNG, VAN MORRISON, JACKSON BROWN AND BOB DYLAN, AMONGST OTHERS. I SPENT ALL MY TIME DOING THIS. GOING TO GIGS, HANGING OUT IN RECORD SHOPS AND WRITING NEW SONGS REFLECTING THIS PERIOD IN MY LIFE. THIS LED UP TO WRITING MY FIRST SOLO ALBUM 'A PLACE TO CALL HOME'."
OK, here's a fun one, looking at the cover artwork for these three (3) albums, please describe what was going through your mind at that time - 'The Final Countdown,' 'Prisoners in Paradise,' and'Secret Society'? "WHAT ARE YOU INSINUATING??? THESE COVERS ARE GROUNDBREAKING TIMELESS MASTERPIECES THAT CHANGED THE WHOLE ART-WORLD FOREVER!!!
HEY! WHAT CAN I SAY, WE JUST FOLLOW THE MOMENT WITH EACH ALBUM ARTWORK ... AND SOME ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS!!!"
"HOWEVER, ALL OF US IN THE BAND ARE INTO ARTISTS LIKE STORM THORGERSON ... AND THE WORK HE DID FOR US ON SECRET SOCIETY IS PRETTY INTERESTING."
Europe - Reborn:
Europe's first 'reunion' came on New Year's Eve 1999 in Stockholm, but it didn't actually stick - was that show always just meant to be a one-off? "ME AND NORUM WERE BOTH OBLIGATED TO FINISH OTHER RECORDING CONTRACTS. I HAD ONE MORE SOLO ALBUM TO DO AND JOHN WAS FINISHING OFF WITH DOKKEN, THAT WAS THE MAIN REASON WE WAITED."
But then come 2003, it was made official that Europe had rebanded. Switching back to the Final Countdown line-up, with Norum as the only lead guitarist, it then took nearly two years to record the new album, Start from the Dark. Why did it take so long to record and how did it feel to now be playing a more modern sound - compared to your previous albums? "START FROM THE DARK TOOK ONLY AROUND 4-5 MONTHS TO WRITE AND RECORD ONCE WE GOT STARTED. IT'S RAW DIAMOND AND IT SOUNDS VERY MUCH LIKE A DEBUT ALBUM TO ME. IT WAS GREAT TO PLAY WITH NORUM AGAIN. HE HAD BEEN AWAY FROM THE BAND FOR TWO ALBUMS AND THE "FIRE" WAS BACK."
Since then, you have released Secret Society (2006), Almost Unplugged (2008), and your latest album, last years Last Look at Eden. And, as word has it that 2010 could see a new Europe album, and as we're not called Exclusive Magazine for nothing, has it got a working title yet, perhaps? "UNFORTUNATELY WE ARE BACK TO OUR OLD HABITS. EXTENSIVE TOURING DUE TO THE GREAT INTEREST IN OUR NEW CD 'LAST LOOK AT EDEN' MEANS WE WILL BE ON THE ROAD MOST OF 2010 AND PARTS OF 2011. THE NEW EUROPE ALBUM WILL BE RECORDED 2011 AND RELEASED END OF 2011 OR BEGINNING OF 2012."
How is playing and being a part of Europe different today than back some (can you believe it!) 25 years years ago? "WE'RE SO PRIVILEGED. WE'VE BEEN FRIENDS SINCE TEENAGE YEARS AND WE'RE STILL CREATING NEW MUSIC TOGETHER. AND ON TOP OF THAT GETTING PRETTY GOOD AT PLAYING LIVE!!!"
Fun Three - OK, it's now time to fire off some quick questions - to allow those that think they know Europe to perhaps think again!
a) If you could take one (1) CD/album (not yours!), one (1) book, and one (1) DVD/movie with you on a relaxing weekend getaway, which would they all be - and why? "RIGHT NOW I'M ON THIS STONES TRIP....SO IT WOULD HAVE TO BE 'EXILE ON MAIN STREET' CD, DVD AND BOOK!"
b) Do you have a recurring nightmare or dream - and if so, how does it usually end? "TOM JONES STANDING IN THE CROWD THROWING HIS UNDERWEAR UP ON STAGE WITH EXCITEMENT ... WHAT THE XXXX!!!!"
c) What is your sweetest, guiltiest pleasure (food wise!) late at night? "EATING A FULL ENGLISH BREAKFAST AT NIGHT! THIS ALSO SAVES TIME IN THE MORNING!!!"
Getting To Know You:
Casting your mind back to September 1989, and under the pseudonym Le Baron Boys, Europe played a gig at the Whisky a Go Go club in West Hollywood, CA. Who's idea was it to do this, where did that band name originate, and will that now much-circulated bootleg of that night ever be released legally?! "WHEN WE WERE LIVING IN OAKWOOD APARTMENTS IN L.A. WRITING SONGS WE WERE RENTING A COUPLE OF LE BARON CARS. HENCE THE NAME."
"IT WAS A GREAT GIG. JUST PLAYING THE WHISKEY WAS A PLEASURE. THERE WERE MUSIC BUSINESS PEOPLE THERE AND RECORD PRODUCERS. WE ALSO WANTED TO TRY SOME BRAND NEW MATERIAL OUT. FIRST TIME SOME OF THESE TRACKS WERE EVER PLAYED. DON'T THINK IT WILL GET AN OFFICIAL RELEASE. IT'S COOL AS A BOOTLEG."
Will the US ever get to see Europe on tour over here? Whether it be on one of those Here & Now, Rewind, or Regeneration '80s tours, we'd love to see you play here. If there's a chance, can we help in any way, perhaps? "WE'RE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR AN OPPORTUNITY TO TOUR THE U.S. WE WOULD LOVE TO COME BACK. MAYBE JOIN FORCES AND TOUR WITH ANOTHER BAND. WE PRIDE OURSELVES FOR DOING OUR OWN THING. IN THE U.K. FOR INSTANCE, WE HAVE ACHIEVED NEW RESPECT BY GOING OUR OWN WAY AND BUILDING THINGS UP SLOWLY AGAIN."
Interviewed by: Russell A. Trunk