After finishing the 'Out of This World' tour, EUROPE restarted on
the US West Coast to get back from the 'fiasco'.
"In the beginning everything was very positive," says Haugland. "Our idea was to make a more 'live' inspired album. But with Beau Hill as a producer it became more a producer's album and we fell back into old sins."
"We lived in Los Angeles and worked during a few months on jamming out ideas, instead of the old way when Joey showed up with the demos. 'Prisoners...' was something we built ourselves. We weren't led by the record company and we picked the songs together with the producer and we had the path marked out. But moving to L.A wasn't the right decision," says Levén. "We should have stuck to our roots because we are a Scandinavian band. Moving to L.A and picking up those vibes...no, we shouldn't have made an American album."
"I think the album is a little in all directions," adds Michaeli. "We had a lot of ideas and in the end we lost focus on what we wanted to do. We wanted to do a more basic album without so many overdubs, more dirt in the corner. But that didn't happen."
"During the recording there was a restructuring in management at CBS," continues Haugland. "Everyone involved in EUROPE were gone over one night and replaced with new people who had their key projects. We went from being a priority band to an inherited project. The new people didn't like what they heard when we played them new material. 'We don't hear any hits - write more,' they said and Joey went away to write eight new songs! That was the verdict. That's when we lost a lot of the fire. We were being ass-fucked by the record company that used to back us up."
At the time of release three other albums were released at the same time: BAD ENGLISH, 'Painkiller' by JUDAS PRIEST and 'Hey Stoopid' by Alice Cooper. They just threw all the albums against a wall to see which ones would stick. And it wasn't EUROPE's album that stuck.
In the beginning of 1992 they went out on what would be their last European tour (touring in the US was out of the question). In January 1989 they packed Scandinavium in Gothenburg with 12 000 people, three years later came 2000 people...
During the good years - 1987-1992 - they had for tax reasons been living at a small "farm" with a pool on the island Turks and Caicos in the West Indies. Looking back that's an experience they could have done without. "It was crazy! What's a rock band doing on an island in the West Indies," says Levén, blaming their 'great financial advisors'.
"At first I refused to move," says Michaeli. "I contacted Janne Beime (Roxette's financial advisor) telling him I didn't want to move and asked if he could help me. He went through the papers and said 'I'd love to help you but this looks too bad....' The island was ok, thinking back on it now, there was some fantastic water for diving. That was the best thing. But at the same time it was so isolated. Music store? Forget it! There was a hut on the way to the airport that sold reggae and calypso music. Phone and fax was the only way to communicate with the outside world," says Michaeli about the time before computers and Internet had become everyone's possession. "My family moved there but left after a year. It was too hard on my son going to swim school and not understand a word. And it was hard on my girl when I was away for long periods at the time."
"You could talk about this for hours but it's easy to sum up. Bad management, bad advisors and naivety," says Haugland. "Our management were going amok. You have to move they said or you'll be in trouble with the tax authorities. There are other depths that one can dig into about all this, but today I would have never moved abroad. As a place for vacation Turks and Caicos was brilliant in many ways 'but to live there'? No way! After a hectic life on tour, sit down on an islet where people eat cannabis for breakfast, lunch and dinner was nothing to like," thinks Haugland.
Were you the one who had the hardest time living there?
"All of us thought that it was just as hard. The first two weeks you were still up in the tour spinning, but already during the third week you were bored of counting grains of sand and eating bananas. It was absolutely uninspiring."
With a world success turned into its opposite, financial troubles, the strain of being on the road for almost ten years, five albums, loads of shows and the change in music altogether, Joey made the decision to put the band on hold. No one argued.
"I saw that this was the breaking point," remembers Joey. "We were in Tokyo with Guns N' Roses while they were touring on the 'Appetite for Destruction' album. We were still doing the large stage show while they were just rocking like crazy. And something happened with the 'Nevermind' album by Nirvana. I was personally almost burned out from all the touring. We all needed some peace and quiet in our lives. I had to do something completely different or I would have gone nuts. So I think it was the most sensible thing we could do, to take a break."
Did it have to be as long as 12 years?
"We needed a long break. We needed time to reassess."
A reassessment not only of their career but also their financial situation. After all you can't tell the story of EUROPE without getting into the subject of their old manager Thomas Erdtman and the management Hot Management. A lot of people see EUROPE as a band who made very little money compared to what Erdtman made. Erdtman's high-profile lifestyle once earned him the nickname 'Too-Much' Erdtman. It's not an easy thing to find out though. No one in the band really knows everything from the past plus the fact that Erdtman was the one taking them to the top.
"He was a fucking great salesman. He could sell sand in the Sahara and ice on Greenland. He was the best in selling us to the record company but had his limitations when it came to planning ahead. He should have had a good accountant. I don't think he understood how big this would be," says Haugland, adding the fact that he hasn't met the man since the end of the 90s but "he shows up in a nightmare every now and then."
"Many of us saw him as a slippery person but if we were gonna go against him we had to be united," says Michaeli who last met Erdtman at a Magnus Uggla concert in 1990. "This took us several years and we weren't that united until the time of the tour with DEF LEPPARD in 1988."
"Somewhere along the way I think he realized, 'hey I can do this and the guys won't know'," continues Haugland. "He was an amazing speaker, like a politician, convincing without really answering the question. He made you feel like an idiot for not understanding. I've heard of other bands with about the same sales like ours and they seemed to have a lot more money than we did. But we were never really short on money. We never had a feeling that something was not quite right. So it wasn't really until the 'Prisoners...' tour we realized that we should have had more money."
Haugland admits that the contracts they signed probably were accurate and legal but maybe wrong in a moral sense and therefore should have had a possibility for renegotiating them.
"We signed our first big contract right here in this studio in 1985 at the age of 22. It was 50-100 pages long and similar to other world contracts but it locked us in for too long. Today we have a better way of handling our business. We have found a way that still keeps the music in focus," says Tempest and adds that they now are working with Petri H. Lunden and Talent Trust.
John Levén tells us he hasn't met Erdtman since Joey's 30th birthday and that it wasn't a sweet reunion. Probably because of an event occurring not long before that. "I moved back to Sweden and after two weeks I got a bill from the tax authorities with the sum of $240 000 dollars to be paid within 10 days. It was absurd, the next day a draft notice came and then a bill from the hospital where my American girlfriend had given birth to our first son Daniel. 'Welcome home to Sweden!'"
Have you felt any bitterness?
"Of course there's been times when I've been low on cash thinking 'that fucking bastard', but you can't give in to those feelings or you will end up a grumpy old man."
Norum goes one step further calling Erdtman a crook, even if it is with a smile. "He stole a lot of money from us. We were only 18 when we signed with him. The sales money from the albums have probably been pretty accurate but money from touring went straight into his pockets. We were driving VW beetles and he had a big fucking boat, a BMW and two Mercedes. It made you think. I once begged him for a 100 dollars but he just pointed to the stage lightning and said there was no money. I'm sure Thomas' version of everything is different though," says Norum who last met him at a club in 1999. "I used to say he had a heart of gold, but a head of wood. He meant well but it came out wrong."
Since the split from EUROPE, Thomas Erdtman has been working on a new edition of Rock SM and also managed some bands but none with the success of EUROPE. He's been living in Norway and in the USA but where he is now no one seems to know. Sweden Rock Magazine has tried to find him through his son to comment on this but we've had no luck.
Tempest has spent these years releasing three solo albums that all differ from EUROPE. He's currently living in London and is married. Norum lives in the USA for a long time making solo albums and touring with Dokken. Levén has participated in many projects including an album and a tour with Glenn Hughes. He's living in Stockholm, divorced with two kids. Michaeli has also been involved in many different projects and produced an album with Paulo Mendonca. Living in Stockholm he's divorced and has three kids. Haugland has also been working as a musician but is also known for being a DJ at 106.7 Rockklassiker. He lives in Sigtuna with his family. Kee Marcello is running Gem Publishing and Einstein/Marcello Management, and has a solo album out. This is where the story of EUROPE could end but it doesn't.
After the release of Nevermind and throughout the 90's the heavy music industry was dominated by grunge bands like Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam and of course Nirvana. Alternative rock was now a big seller. Metallica showed with their black album that a trash band could go from being a million-selling band to a multimillion selling with the right production. There was no more room for more melodic bands such as EUROPE.
"Grunge executed the 80's," as Haugland puts it. But the memory and the interest for older music is growing and with that the interest for traditional hard rock and heavy metal. The younger generation is discovering more and more older music. And looking at what kind of acts that fills concert halls today we see bans like the Rolling Stones, David Bowie and even Rush who 25 years after their last visit to Sweden sells out the Globe later this year. This hasn't gone unnoticed by EUROPE.
"Since we stopped touring in '92 there hasn't been a day without someone asking me about a reunion," says Haugland. "And when my kids who are between 10 and 14 years old comes home and wants to listen to 'The Final Countdown' because their friends say it's good then there's definitely something cooking."
"There has been some weird situations," continues Levén. "Since I didn't go to high school I decided to go back to school and a physics teacher held a lecture about sound waves. To prove his point he played 'The Final Countdown'. I still wonder if he knew who I was when he picked that song."
"It's good to hear that there are still people interested in us," says Michaeli. "At the recent signings 400-500 people showed up. At each place. And judging by their age it seems we attract people who weren't even born when we started out."
"EUROPE's music never disappeared," Haugland adds. "It's been played on so many different places and occasions. The most bizarre thing happened to a friend of mine at a Safari in Africa. In a tent far away from everything a small radio was hanging. All of a sudden my friend heard 'di-do-di-dooo'. Fuck it's sick hearing 'The Final Countdown' in the jungle."
Have you ever gotten a big money offer to reunite?
"Yes a gig here and there, maybe a small tour in some part of the world," says Michaeli. "But we have always declined because EUROPE is so dear to us we feel that if we're gonna do it, we're gonna do it right."
Over the years they also discovered that EUROPE has a soul. "There is definitely a soul!" says Haugland. "But when you're in the middle of it you couldn't see what it was. You needed to take a distance from it.
What's in that soul?
"'Brotherhood'. It sounds silly, my feeling is that we belong together and take each others sides. This is a fucking great band of brothers! But I feel that much more now than in the 80's. I can see the potential and creativity that's in this band. 'Let's get them!' and we're doing it our way. It's definitely a 'get back' and the knowledge that the five of us can pull it off."