Europe : Interview with Joey Tempest

Photo by Michael Johansson

Have we mentioned that if you only know Europe from THAT song you’re missing out ? Well Jono caught up with Joey Tempest for the latest on Europe 2012.

So, how about we talk about the album, are you fed up talking about it yet ?

No, It’s still exciting. I mean it’s not even out yet so it’s very fresh for us as well, the whole process went quite quickly and we finished the mixed in Feburary so it’s still fresh.

You’ve been doing a lot of promotion work over the past couple of weeks haven’t you ?

Absolutely, but it’s still exciting to talk about.

The single is doing really quite well over here ?

Yeah, it’s picking up some airplay, rock radio stations are beginning to play it, and it’s quite exciting as we didn’t have any plans of getting radio play or air play on this record. This is a down to earth classic rock record you know, most songs are probably over 4 minutes but it’s exciting that Not Supposed To Sing The Blues is being so well received

It seems to be a slight change in direction, I know you hinted at the blues theme on Last Look At Eden, there was a couple of bluesy tracks on there. Has the new album gone further in that direction ?

Definitely. We touched upon it in a few tracks, like Catch That Plane maybe, and a few songs like Only Young Twice maybe. We started to feel it and now, for the first time in our career, we’ve done it. We’ve done that rock album we’ve always wanted to make.

It only comes through experience, it only comes through gigging a lot and writing a lot and here we are, we think we’ve made a decent rock record and songs that can really work well live.

Photo by Michael Johansson

I’ve seen a couple of the press releases, and in one of them you said that you were ready to do some damage ?

Yeah, I actually said that before we recorded the album and I have to say that yeah, some of the songs really stir things up a bit. I mean the opening track, Riches To Rags, is amazing and I think Firebox is, you know, kicking some butt. There’s some interesting stuff and then some dynamics too, we bring it down with an instrumental piece called Requiem, we finish off with the closing song of all closing songs, Bring It All Home.

It’s quite a dynamic record.

You played Doghouse on your tour last year ?

Indeed, we did play that on quite a few gigs actually, so that was the first song we brought to Kevin Shirley and the first song we recorded with him.

What was it like working with Kevin ? I mean, he’s just such a great producer, he’s got fingers everywhere at the moment.

Yeah, he’s good at handling bands where every member is important and he really made us all feel like a family, and involved. We were probably 80% prepared when we met him and we had a month to record 10 or 11 songs and we did it, and we had a lot of fun doing it in an old studio with only old gear. It was 60s and 70s gear which we all felt that this album would benefit from, that warm classic rock sound.

Kevin does have a habit of getting the best out of everyone he works with I think ?

Absolutely, but on this occasion it was something that sparked him a bit as well. He came to me after 2 or 3 days in the studio and said “are you guys writing this stuff, this is good stuff” and I saw in his eyes that he was getting excited about the project. He put a lot of work into it with us and also in his own studio where he mixed it, and he really put effort into it and you can hear it.

When Kevin Shirley puts effort in something it turns out really cool, like that Joe Bonamassa track The Ballad Of John Henry. When I heard that for the first time I was like “whoa, this is fantastic”. Not only is the song great, but so is the production and that’s when we got the idea to call him.

We wanted to work with Kevin because he had the same plan, a sort of straightforward rock album with a hint of blues in it and that’s basically what he does.

Photo by Patric Ullaeus

Joe Bonamassa even guested on the album as well, didn’t he ?

Yeah, that was great. He actually guest appeared on one of our live gigs on the song Doghouse in 2011 he came up and played with John a little solo part, that was great. So we got to know him and he’s really a great guy, so it was easy to ask him to play on our record, but Kevin did it for us and Joe was delighted. He did it in New York, so he did that part after the song was done.

So you put it all together afterwards ?

Yeah, I think the idea of using him came during the process, and then you have to pin him down, and to pin Joe Bonamassa down is not easy. He travels more than light itself

You’re not wrong, one of the hardest working people around I think ?

Yeah, at the moment, absolutely.

You’re doing a tour of the UK at the end of the year aren’t you ?

Yes we are, November. We’re doing a festival, Download, in the summer to get some excitement for the Bag Of Bones tour in November. We’re doing a nationwide tour, we can not wait to get back here.

Will it be the first time you’ve played Donington ? I know you played Sonisphere a couple of years ago didn’t you  ?

Yeah, that was the first time we played Knebworth and this is the first time we played Donington. It’s amazing. I mean I’ve gone there to see gigs but I’ve never been on the stage in that surrounding and everything, it’s going to be great.

Any plans to record any of the tour this year ? You did the Live Look At Eden live at Shepherds Bush DVD. Any plans to go out and do that again ?

We record everything. We have our own recording equipment with us. Sometimes, like on the iTunes festival and Sonisphere there are people there already that we can use but we always bring our own stuff so, yes, we will record stuff.

Photo by Patric Ullaeus

To anyone who has not heard the album, how would you describe it to them ? It is quite different to your other stuff isn’t it ?

Yeah, if you introduce it to a Europe fan that would be true, if you introduced it to just anybody you’d say “if you want to hear a good straightforward classic rock album with a 2012 punch check out the Europe album”. To a Europe fan, you’d just say “hang on, there’s a new ride coming up, let’s get going on this train”.

It’s interesting with bands like us, we want to challenge ourselves on every record so they’re going to be slightly different but the fans sometimes react first, then they come along and the bond becomes even stronger. You can see that with bands who change the path a lot during their career, they have such a strong bond with their fans, so it’s important to challenge your listener too.

I’ve seen the reaction on the forum already and the fans who have heard the samples really seem to love them so, i think it’s going to go well. I hope so anyway.

I think this is it, isn’t it, when a band decides to do something that they really want to and maybe go off in a little bit of a different direction it does kind of split the fan base a little bit doesn’t it ?

Yeah, it becomes a discussion immediately, but I like that. It creates a reaction, it makes people think and listen again maybe and come on board later if you like. Some of them understand immediately, “Oh yeah, I’m on this ride with them”. But yeah, it creates a buzz and I like it

With regards to everyone else, was everyone in the band more involved in putting into this record ?

Kevin made sure of that because he said “Let’s record this the old way, let’s record it song by song”, which means you more or less finish each song before you move on to the next. That means that each song gets a special treatment, special sound, and you might change it for the next one. It also means that all the band members are there from day 1 to the very last day coming in with ideas and playing, so it becomes like a team effort and that’s really nice. So all the songs are done song by song, I really liked that.

Sounds a bit like a big jam session for a month or so ?

It is in a way because Kevin wants to do 4 or 5 takes and that’s it. Then you’re done with the song. Then he sits by himself in the control room listening through the different takes, maybe borrow stuff from one take to put in the other take and then we’ll maybe do a few more overdubs and that’s it.

Usually what a band does, you go into the studio, you do Bass and Drums the first week, and then they go home, the Bass player and the Drummer, and then you do all your overdubs. And you do the overdubs so they sound the same on each song, pretty much, which is slightly boring. So when you do it this way every song gets it’s own treatment. We will never go back to the old way again

Photo by Michael Johansson

So each song tells it’s own story then ?

Yeah, it does because you get into that frame of mind, “What’s the lyric about ?”, “what’s the song about ?” and you treat the song that way and then you move on. “oh, new song, let’s rethink, and reset our amps… and what sound would be perfect for this one ?” so all the songs are slightly different, which is really refreshing.

I can tell that you’re really, really excited about the whole thing ?

Absolutely

So the album comes out on the 30th of April in the UK doesn’t it ?

That’s right, 30th of April then we start touring and playing festivals. I think the first one we do is the 1st of May in Poland and then we keep going. We do Download then back in in November for the UK

And is there anything you’d like to say to the fans ?

Well, the UK fans, the bond is getting stronger and stronger for each record and you guys live in the cradle of rock, and we love coming here to play and it’s amazing support we’re getting from the UK. UK, Sweden, there’s a few other countries that are catching on and liking our new stuff, and other countries are beginning to follow now. It’s quite nice for us in the band that people are listening to our new album as well as the old ones.

But then again, quite often people discover your old stuff after listening to your new, so it’s all good isn’t it ?

If you keep at it, like we’ve decided to do, and think long term you can do it.

Exactly, Last Look At Eden was one of your biggest albums to date wasn’t it ?

It was, it opened things up it brought in a new crowd. We saw younger people in the audience again and it really broadened Europe again, the first comeback album if you like. That was an important record but I think Bag Of Bones is more interesting and, maybe, has better songs than Last Look At Eden. Whereas Last Look At Eden had a few really strong songs and the sound was really punchy but overall I like Bag Of Bones better, but we’ll see.