Classic Rock

Joey Tempest


The trouble with being in a band called Europe, sighs Joey Tempest, is that you get an awful lot of questions about Brexit. The 55-year-old singer might not have much to say on the subject of hard borders, but when it comes to the modern hard-rock scene there’s no stopping him. “If rock‘n’roll is played, recorded and produced the right way,” he says, “then it can still touch people.”

Has 2018 been a good year for Europe?

It’s a haze right now [laughs]. We’ve been touring Walk The Earth all year. We went to Australia for the first time and they were up for it. People seem keen to come out and check out the new songs. We’ve been playing Walk The Earth, The Siege, Pictures, Turn To Dust, Election Day. It’s a miracle album for us, Walk The Earth. We won a Grammy in Sweden – and we’ve never won anything like that, anywhere.

What’s the best thing you’ve heard in rock’n’roll this year?

Greta Van Fleet have blown me away. The way the songs are played, the sound of the guitars, the way they’ve produced it – it’s honest. It sounds a bit like some of the bands from the seventies, but these guys are twenty years old and they’re doing it for real. Judas Priest were really awesome and surprised me at a festival gig this summer. I hadn’t seen them in ages, and it really feels like they have a new-found power, energy and momentum.

Did you mind that England beat Sweden in the World Cup?

That’s a tough one for me. Because I have an English wife, and I’ve lived here since the mid-nineties, if England win I get a bit chuffed.

Do you think it’s been a good year for humankind?

I think the reaction to what’s been going on the last few years is kicking in. Maybe crazy world events are meant to happen, so we start sitting up, talking about it and sorting it out. People are waking up. I think young people are engaging now. Politics can keep me up at night sometimes. I grew up with politics. My mum and dad were polarised – one was Labour, one was Tory, using English terms. I thought it was boring when I was a kid, but it’s stuck with me.

It’s been twenty years since the first issue of Classic Rock. How were you and Europe doing in 1998?

I was living in Ireland at the time. We were all doing solo albums, playing with studio musicians, touring. But I was missing the boys.

Europe frontman Joey Tempest on football, politics and his band’s hard road to credibilit­y.

For us, 1998 was one of those turning-point years. Ian [Haugland, drums] and Mic [Michaeli, keyboards] came over to visit, and John Norum [guitar] started to call me. It was like: we’re all feeling it, we gotta do something. So 1998 was the time we started talking properly again. It ended up with a few beers, some laughter and memories. That’s the thing about Europe, we go back to teenage years – going to Stockholm together, seeing Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake. Having some beers, just kids on the fifth row with our hands in the air. David Coverdale’s microphone-stand moves – I was soaking all that up.

The reunited Europe’s sound was very different from the early years. We’ve found a new path. When Audioslave came out with their first album, that really triggered us. We had that album with us when we did Start From The Dark [2004]. Over the years we’ve worked with Kevin Shirley, because we heard Joe Bonamassa’s The Ballad Of John Henry and were blown away. Then we heard Pressure & Time by Rival Sons, and Dave Cobb has been producing us for a couple of albums now. We’re exploring and digging deeper.

How was it with Europe coming back in the post-millennium?

It wasn’t always plain sailing. After we came back with Start From The Dark there was a curiosity about us, and we did shake things up with that raw new beginning. When it came to following it up with Secret Society [2006], we had to fight for what we believed in. We’d lost some of our eighties followers and we just needed to push through.

The UK press started to embrace us on that record. And on Bag Of Bones [2012], which was more bluesy and gutsy, Classic Rock really stood behind us. That album was us saying goodbye to anything eighties. A lot of people who liked the big albums from that era got their feathers ruffled. But that Classic Rock review was part of setting this band up in the UK and elsewhere.

Do you feel that Europe belongs in 2018, not 1986?

Yeah. We were young in the eighties. We did the best we could. But there was some depth lacking. And that was our mission as well, because we’d see early clips of Deep Purple or Zeppelin, and they already have it – the groove, the expression. It took us maybe to Bag Of Bones – and thousands of shows – to get to where they were. But as long as you get there it doesn’t matter.

 ?? Words: Henry Yates ?? Life after the 80s: the new, rockier Europe.
Words: Henry Yates Life after the 80s: the new, rockier Europe.

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