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Europe are all over the UK
It has been 24 years since hard rock Swedish band, Europe, had a number one hit with The Final Countdown. And yet the instantly recognisable electronic keyboard riff with the anthemic chorus has had us hooked ever since.
The band still have a hectic touring schedule and will be performing two massive gigs in the UK: at the itunes Festival in The Roundhouse, Camden, on Sunday, July 25, and at Sonisphere Festival, Knebworth House, Hertfordshire on Friday, July 30.
Talking to lead singer Joey Tempest, ahead of these UK gigs, he feels that 2010 is becoming the best year in the band's career!
"A lot of it is thanks to our latest album,Last Look At Eden the fans seem to have discovered it and will not let it go. Especially here in the UK... it seems to be fuelling the fire."
Joey adds: I don't know if it's just a good period but with this album, all good things are coming together."
Joey has been dubbed "an absolute pleasure to work with" by the poor press officer who had to deal with my endless, excitable phonecalls as to whether "Joey has managed to answer my emailed questions?".
The wait was worth it though as "this nice man of rock'n'roll revealed in his answers to this newspaper.
JOEY TEMPEST ON THE ROCK SEAT
Q Who inspired you to become a musician?
JT It started with Elvis. And, then I got hooked on British hard rock, like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. I guess David Bowie, Mott The Hoople and Elton John got me going too.
Q How long did it take you to master your voice?
JT When John Norum [Europe guitarist] and I first started playing local gigs with the band Force we were around 15-16 years old.
I wasn't belting it out at all, it was more like talk-singing. Mind you, at that time, John only had a 30 watt Peavey combo amplifier! When he traded up to a 100 watts Marshall, I had to start screaming to get heard in rehearsal. There was no turning back. The future was loud!
Q Were you taught to play music?
JT In general I supposed I had a good "ear". I heard Bowie or Elton on the radio and tried to copy them figuring out the songs on guitar and piano, singing as I went along.
The only lessons I ever took were on the trumpet. At an early age I was into Satchmo [Louis Armstrong]. I think I was around ten years old.
The teacher soon kicked me out...I was improvising too much and not sticking to the song sheet.
Q Who really inspired you in the beginning?
JT There was this music substitute teacher when I was around 13 years old. He did not stick to the standard curriculum at all. We listened to music and he played guitar for us during the lessons. His name was Magnus Lindberg and he made his own albums. He was very inspirational and supportive. I suppose he was impressed with me playing guitar and piano and asked me if I wanted to go on tour with his band, but It never materialized. Perhaps that was a good thing. Leaving school and touring at 13 may have thrown me off my future path.
Q How do you look after your voice?
JT I just go with the flow. Avoiding alcohol before a gig is a good philosophy. I have some vocal exercises I can do if my voice is in trouble on a long tour. And if I'm completely f****d, there is always cortisone spray.
Q How many guitars do you own?
JT I think it's around ten at the moment. A few years ago I got rid of the guitars I wasn't using and I kept the ones that were special to me.
Q Tell me about your favourite guitar and why is it so important to you?
JT Favorites include: my Martin D-35 from '68. I've written a lot of songs on that guitar, both Europe songs and solo stuff. It's solid, reliable and the old wood makes it sing beautifully. I bought it from 'Fat Rick' in London in the 90s, that was a period when I started collecting some guitars...
My Gibson (dark sunburst) J-45 from '76 is in my view the most beautiful acoustic guitar ever made. It's comfortable to play, it sounds great. It's the guitar I'm playing most at the moment.
I'm also fond of my Sunburst Fender '63 Strat and my F-hole Tele from the same time period. They are both very individual sounding and record well. I used them on my solo albums.
I love my Gibson 335 (Sunburst) from the '70s. It sounds great in the studio and we've used it on a few Europe tracks.
Q What makes a good rock song?
JT When you write a rock song it’s very important that you imagine yourself in a live situation. Make sure that the rhythm, riffs, melody and lyrics will translate well the stage.
Rock music speaks to the whole body, it's primal and it's spiritual. Don't over think the small stuff. Make it direct and simple.
Q How do you write your songs?
JT The spark for a song can come from a lyric line, guitar or a keyboard riff. I collect lyric ideas all the time, usually on my mobile. I also collect and record fractions of guitar riffs, verse and chorus for later use. The best songs are just picked from the air. They get beamed into your head from some universal source and move through your body and out through your fingers to your guitar or keyboard. When the spark is there you just have to feed it by playing it over and over and perhaps mix it up with stuff you already have in your head. It's coloured by the emotional state you're in at the time. Eventually it will turn into a flame and then a raging fire.
Q What’s your current favourite Europe song you like to perform live?
JT Last Look At Eden ... moves me every time. It has found a solid place in our set list.
Q Can you tell me about Last Look At Eden; what direction are you taking your fans?
JT The album started to take shape on the Secret Society Tour so it has that spontaneous rock feel about it. The whole process turned into a love affair with classic hard rock. Big guitar riffs and choruses. We're not shying away from early influences on this one. What is perhaps a new development is the slight incorporation of a blues-style in my vocals and in John’s playing. At the same time I feel that it has a certain urgency and is a very modern, punchy sound.
Q What have you learnt most about being a musician?
JT It's a good place to be. It helps me find a balance in my life.
Q Can you tell me about any low points?
JT It seemed like the Swedish music establishment were not ready for us back when we were young. We had long hair! We only listened to British rock! We sang in English! We had loud guitars! We kept getting turned down by record labels and had to move from place to place to find somewhere to rehearse - after constantly being thrown out. But the crazy thing was. We didn't care!
We knew we had something going on.
Q When you were starting out what kind of job did you have to do to make ends meet?
JT I had a part-time cleaning job at a printing factory outside Stockholm where I was scrubbing the floors and emptying the trash. After work, I would go home to write music. The irony was the factory was printing a music magazine among other things. One day there was a feature on Europe's first album in the magazine. The people working there started bugging me, as I hadn't let on anything about my music So, after that day I was out of there.
Q Tell me about the weirdest commercial request you have had for the use of The Final Countdown?
JT I think it has been used for weddings, which is quite interesting. The lyrics actually refer to the end of the world as we know it.
Q Tell me about your fans, what are they like?
JT They are very stubborn and strong. There was a time in the '90s when it wasn't so cool to say you were into '80s rock bands! They stood their ground. They are also good at making themselves heard; when the internet started they made sure we knew they were still out there - waiting to see what Europe would be up to next.
Q Do you have any bizarre fan moments you can share?
JT When I lived in County Wicklow, just south of Dublin, there was a fan who travelled all the way from Southern Europe, broke into my neighbour’s house and was caught with their head in the fridge. The fan thought it was my house. He got taken care of by the local police. And me and the missus took in a hotel the following night - it was kind of weird.
Q Are European audiences better than American audiences?
JT Of course, both audiences are great to play for. When someone in America has bought a ticket to a show, they are ready to 'party' from the get go. In Europe you sometimes have to work a little harder to get everyone off the ground. Festival season is different though. Then people in Europe are in a very receptive mood.
Q How do you deal with nerves before a performance?
JT I like to be in everyone’s face and get them slightly irritated - wake them up. I think it's actually a way of getting myself mentally ready. Me and John Leven (Europe's bass player) can sometimes get very nervous. We can look at each other and say. "What the hell are we doing. Let's get the f**k out of here!”
Q Any embarrassing moments on stage you wish to share with our readers?
JT I've had loads! Introducing the wrong song; suddenly falling on a slippery stage and disappearing into the pit; ripping my leather pants in a certain place only to realise I had tiny white underwear on - instantly giving the game away - my list of embrassments goes on...
Q How long have you been on tour and when do you hope to take a break?
JT It's been pretty much non-stop touring on our latest album, Last Look At Eden. And there’s no end in sight. Perhaps there will be a few months off this winter. As well as writing and recording our next album. Next year we're touring as well.
Q Can you tell me about your home town?
JT I grew up in Upplands Väsby, a suburb north of Stockholm, Sweden, with a population around 35,000. Other artists who have originated or have lived there is Candlemass, Yngwie Malmsteen, H.E.A.T
Q What music was playing in your household when you were growing up?
JT My parents did not themselves play or write music, but their brothers and sisters did. There is a history of folk music on both my parent’s sides.
Q What do you like about the UK?
JT It's been good to me. Ever since I came to London as young teenager I've been hooked. It has a great energy and is very inspirational.
Q How would your friends describe you?
JT Possibly slightly annoying! Always having some far-fetched plan on the go!
Q What was the first rock album you ever bought?
JT David Bowie's Space Oddity.
Q Who’s your favorite rock musician?
JT Right now, it's Joe Bonamassa. He may have saved the future of the blues and rock guitar player.
Q What’s on Europe’s rider?
JT A couple of bottles of Absinthe and a Van Gough Poster. That's it!
Q What’s the most excessive rock n roll thing you’ve done?
JT We used to buy second-hand TV-sets and then throw them out of hotel room windows. It was cheaper that way!
Q What’s the best ever gig you’ve ever attended?
JT As a teenager, me and a friend travelled from Sweden to England by boat to see Thin Lizzy at Hammersmith, It took us 24 hours! But it was worth it just to see that glitterball lit up, and Phil singing Cowboy Song.
Q Who’s the most famous person on your phone?
JT None of your business! The most important though is John Norum...
Q What one item could you not live without?
JT Passport. I travel more than light itself.
Q Have you any guilty pleasures?
JT Eton Mess!
Q What’s been your biggest fashion disaster?
JT Once I wore clogs through a whole winter. In Sweden.
Q What car would you like to be driving?
JT A New York Checkered Cab of 2263 Manhattan. Like in the movie Fifth Element.
Q What did you learn at school outside the classroom?
JT Oh dear! All the naughty stuff.
Q What song do you like to sing in the shower?
JT Never understood it... I just get water in my mouth and the whole thing is ruined!
Q Describe a perfect day for you?
JT Kicking a ball with my son Jamie.
Q What’s next for Europe?
JT We can't seem to stop touring on Last Look At Eden. This album has really turned things around for us. After the I-Tunes Festival and Sonisphere Festival there will more touring this year. And apart from planning to come back to the UK in 2011 we will be writing and recording the follow up album