Joey Tem­pest

He’s the Bri­tish-based singer from Swe­den who wrote his band Europe’s sig­na­ture song that topped the chart in 25 coun­tries in the mid-80s. The man born Rolf Lars­son gives us his take on life.

Classic Rock - - Contents - In­ter­view: Dave Ling

Gold discs are for show-offs. The world is get­ting scar­rier. Beer and wine are good, drugs are bad. Be kind to your fans… The man born Rolf Lars­son gives us his take on life.

Joey Tem­pest was still in his teens when he came up with the riff that pow­ered the song that a few years later gave his band Europe a mas­sive world­wide hit, and for which they and he will be best re­mem­bered.

Af­ter the band went on hia­tus in 1992, he en­joyed a solo ca­reer, re­leas­ing three al­bums be­fore Europe re­con­vened in 2003. Dur­ing this sec­ond spell they have re­leased six stu­dio al­bums, in­clud­ing the brand new Walk The Earth. “Ev­ery­thing is run­ning smoothly for Europe right now,” says the singer, “and the end [for Europe] is nowhere in sight.”

DON’T CALL ME ROLF!

My given name is Rolf Mag­nus Joakim Lars­son, and my old school­mates would call me Jocke. To some of my fam­ily mem­bers I’m Joakim, but to ev­ery­body else I’ve been Joey Tem­pest since 1983. I changed it when we started work­ing on our first al­bum, but even in school I would scrib­ble it be­cause I loved the way David Bowie, El­ton John and Bob Dy­lan created a stage per­sona. I’d met John No­rum [Europe gui­tarist] and we were sit­ting at the back of the class dream­ing about all that stuff.

I FEEL QUITE BRI­TISH

I’ve lived abroad for about twenty-five or thirty years. I’m mar­ried to an English woman and have been set­tled in Lon­don since 2001, so I feel less and less Swedish. It took a long time for me to stop wak­ing up in the mid­dle of the night with bouts of home­sick­ness. The UK is my home now. I don’t have a Bri­tish pass­port but I’m think­ing of get­ting one. I love the English sense of hu­mour, and it’s won­der­ful to live in the cra­dle of rock – The Who, Led Zep­pelin, The Bea­tles… just about all of the real greats.

MY PRI­VATE LIFE IS STAY­ING PRI­VATE

I’m not com­fort­able shar­ing de­tails of my fam­ily life, so I don’t have a per­sonal Face­book page. How­ever, I’ve al­ways been very in­ter­ested in so­cial me­dia and I’m ex­tremely in­volved with Europe’s Face­book pres­ence. I reg­u­larly check in to read what the fans are say­ing. It’s an amaz­ing change from the eight­ies and nineties when we would be told: “Come into the of­fice, there are thou­sands of let­ters for you to re­ply to.” Now it’s so in­stant and much more per­sonal.

HOB­BIES ARE A WASTE OF TIME

I tried the whole golf thing but would al­ways be think­ing about be­ing in the stu­dio. Run­ning Europe is pretty time-con­sum­ing. Every­one in the band helps out but a lot of [the re­spon­si­bil­ity] ends up on my plate. To re­lax, I’ve started col­lect­ing vinyl again. I’ve also col­lected wine, but it’s much more fun to drink than col­lect.

GOLD DISCS ARE FOR SHOW-OFFS

Al­though Europe have won so many of those, you won’t find them on the wall at my house – it’s for fam­ily. The only awards on dis­play are the one we won from Clas­sic Rock [the Come­back award at the 2015 Roll Of Hon­our] and an­other of the re­cent ones from Swe­den. Those two mean a lot to me.

PRAYER CAN WORK

I sup­pose that I’m a lit­tle re­li­gious in my own way. There have been times when I’ve felt the need to pray for cer­tain things, in­clud­ing the safety of my fam­ily. It would be an aw­fully lonely ex­is­tence if there was noth­ing [guid­ing us]. At this point in my life I’m lean­ing to­wards the be­lief that there prob­a­bly is.

THE MID­DLE GROUND IS BEST IN POL­I­TICS

Grow­ing up, pol­i­tics was a very big thing in my house­hold. My dad was, to use an English term, a Tory and my mum came from the left, and be­lieve me, they were very keen on dis­cussing it. So I have a good view of both sides. I think of my­self as an ob­server, but I re­ally like my mum’s view­point be­cause she be­lieves that every­one de­serves a chance.

THE WORLD IS GET­TING SCARIER BY THE DAY

As a dad I do fear for the fu­tures of my two sons. That’s why the lyrics of our new sin­gle Walk The Earth talk about be­ing ‘caught in the mid­dle of a light­ning strike’. The song asks the ques­tion of who’s shout­ing out for all of us. We need our lead­ers to bring us to­gether, and right now we have the op­po­site of that. All of us should feel wel­come.

RE­AL­ITY TV COM­PE­TI­TIONS? IT’S A ‘NO’ FROM ME

Europe won our first record deal [with Hot Records in 1982] by en­ter­ing a tal­ent con­test called Rock-SM. We were a rock band up against two thou­sand oth­ers, mostly pop bands. I was pretty sur­prised that we won. It was quite dif­fer­ent to The X Fac­tor and Pop Idol be­cause we wrote our own songs. I’d be much hap­pier if there were more shows like that – where [the par­tic­i­pants] ac­tu­ally created some­thing, as op­posed to just show­ing up and look­ing good. Also, I don’t like the way that dreams are so ruth­lessly crushed. That’s cruel.

IN A PAR­AL­LEL LIFE I’D BE WEAR­ING A CRASH HEL­MET

He’s eighty-six now but my dad has al­ways been very in­ter­ested in motorsports. Even now we still watch For­mula One to­gether. Be­tween the ages of eight and twelve I com­peted in go-cart rac­ing. My dad was my me­chanic and we won lots of com­pe­ti­tions. But mu­sic took over, and when I met John No­rum, that was it – there was only one path for me.

“To re­lax, I col­lected wine, but it’s much more fun to drink than col­lect.”

THE GRUNGE YEARS WEREN’T SO BAD

Europe went on hia­tus in 1992, and look­ing back at it now the tim­ing was pretty good. I had started lis­ten­ing to other styles of mu­sic. Spend­ing time in LA, I be­gan to ap­pre­ci­ate the Ea­gles, Randy New­man, Boz Scaggs and Jack­son Browne. I felt as though hard rock had run its course and de­vel­oped into a pro­duc­tion line. I needed to re­fuel with some­thing that was dif­fer­ent. It was a bit­ter­sweet time but it [the grunge rev­o­lu­tion] had to hap­pen.

As a solo artist I won a Swedish Grammy [for A Place To Call Home, 1995] but it was still pretty hard to es­cape the shadow of Europe. It was a whole dif­fer­ent jour­ney, but I kept in con­tact with John [No­rum], who sent me his solo al­bums and I felt that one day it would hap­pen again.

Ian [Haug­land, drums] was very in­stru­men­tal in the reunion. He’s an amaz­ing guy to be in a band with, so pos­i­tive and brighter than sun­shine. Af­ter the mil­len­nium reunion show, we had a meet­ing at the flat of Mic [Michaeli, key­boards]. I had to apol­o­gise for some things. But we’d all be­come much bet­ter as writ­ers and since we got back to­gether, every­one has had songs on the al­bums. The bot­tom line was that we com­mit­ted to do this long term, al­most as a brand new ca­reer. And six al­bums on, that’s what we’re still do­ing.

REACH­ING 50 YEARS OLD IS NOTH­ING SPE­CIAL

Some peo­ple get hung up over it be­cause it’s quite a mile­stone, but it didn’t bother me. Mine was four years ago now. My wife Lisa had a party for me in Swe­den, just close friends and fam­ily. We would have been mak­ing Bag Of Bones [Europe’s ninth al­bum] at that point – Lisa al­ways says that my life is mea­sured in my al­bums. That was an in­ter­est­ing time for the band be­cause the pre­vi­ous al­bum, Last Look At Eden [on which they adopted a more clas­sic rock-style di­rec­tion] re­ally turned things around for us. Mak­ing good art and work­ing with my friends was far more im­por­tant than look­ing at the cal­en­dar. My sons are three and nine years old and some­times that makes me re­alise that I’m well into the sec­ond half of my life. I love them so much and don’t want to leave them. It makes me think that I must take bet­ter care of my­self.

BEER AND WINE ARE GOOD, DRUGS ARE BAD

Peo­ple are al­ways ask­ing us to write a book that spills the beans on that stuff, or to do a movie, but we haven’t and it’s un­likely that we ever will. I know that

Kee [Mar­cello, gui­tarist 1986’92] wrote some stuff in the vein of [Möt­ley Crüe’s] The Dirt, but I haven’t read it. We are beer

“As a solo artist it was pretty hard to es­cape from the shadow of Europe.”

drinkers. I can’t say that we haven’t tried drugs, be­cause that would be silly. But a glass of red is great. We party down a lit­tle bit if we’ve done three shows in a row and there’s a day off. Beer is our thing, and we can hold our own in that re­gard, but we never got into heavy drugs.

BE KIND TO YOUR FANS – THEY’RE YOUR FU­TURE

At the age of six­teen or seven­teen I was lucky enough to meet Phil Lynott, one of my all-time heroes, and he was very warm and friendly to me. I’d heard about artists that are rude or ar­ro­gant, but Phil was such a great guy, he filled me with hope. Partly be­cause of that, I do my best to re­spect every­one that re­quests a selfie or a few min­utes of my time.

THERE’S STILL LIFE IN ROCK’N’ROLL

Gene Simmons is quite right in his crit­i­cisms of the busi­ness model, and we re­ally need to or­gan­ise the rules around streaming be­cause artists re­quire in­cen­tive or why on earth would they bother be­com­ing mu­si­cians? But bands like Ri­val Sons and King King, also our coun­try­men H.e.a.t, all make it very clear that the well is not go­ing to run dry.

SOME PEO­PLE STILL CALL EUROPE A ONE-HIT WON­DER. BUT WHAT A HIT!

The Fi­nal Count­down topped the charts in so many coun­tries, it’s amaz­ing. I was so young when I wrote it. Nowa­days it’s a tex­ture thing for us – it brings an ad­di­tional di­men­sion to the show.

I COULD STILL BE SINGING ‘THAT SONG’ WHEN I’M SIXTY

And I most prob­a­bly will. Ev­ery­thing is run­ning smoothly for Europe right now and the end is nowhere in sight. It’s pretty in­cred­i­ble that in Novem­ber we will be tour­ing with Deep Pur­ple, who are still show­ing the rest of us how to do it.

Walk The Earth is out now via Hell And Back Record­ings.

Europe toast the suc­cess of The

in ’86: (l-r) John Levén, Kee Mar­cello, Mic Michaeli,

Joey Tem­pest, Ian Haug­land.

Joey Tem­pest with Europe at Son­i­sphere Festival on July 30,

2010 at Kneb­worth House.

Fi­nal Count­down

Europe 2017: (l-r) John Levén, Mic Michaeli, Joey Tem­pest, John No­rum, Ian Haug­land.

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