EUROPE on tour

By: Stefan Johansson            From: OKEJ - No. 14, 1984            Translated by: Suzy

EUROPE for the world. Hold on a minute. First it's about Brunnbäck's festive place and the folk park in Hallstahammar. This is where the band grows together and setbacks are turned into useful experience. OKEJ followed EUROPE on tour.

Rock 'n' roll tour. The world has a magic tone to it. Many years of hard work and begging for gigs has now changed to promoters begging them to come and play. EUROPE are there now – And they're loving it.

The guitar was glowing
When John Norum, the 20 year old guitarist in EUROPE, sits down to catch his breath after the concert in Hallstahammar, where the whole folk park was rocking and singing along to the songs, he says, "Tonight I got that feeling again. During the last three songs I was thinking, 'This is what I wanna do for the rest of my life.'"

At times like that John Norum doesn't think about the new record contract in the USA or the money from the gigs. It's all about something else. He and his guitar make magic together and the immediate response from the audience makes John Norum happy.

Hit in Japan
After two LPs and a number of gigs, EUROPE are an established hard rock band in Sweden. But the truth is that the launch has also given other results. They've had a single-hit in Japan with "Dreamer" and the two LPs have sold 60 000 copies in Japan. This spring, EUROPE and their manager Thomas Erdtman signed a contract with the American record label Epic, for five LPs. Epic's first move is to release "Open Your Heart" as a single in August. In September, their second album "Wings of Tomorrow" will be released in a remixed version.

"Epic says we will be 'the new Def Leppard'. But they don't demand us to sound like them, otherwise we wouldn't have signed."

We've got the chance
Joey Tempest, who will be 21 in August, is the frontman of EUROPE and one of the best singers in Sweden. Between Avesta and Hallstahammar he opens a can of King Lion beer inside EUROPE's worn down tour bus and tries to analyze: "All that has happened is damn fun, but we shouldn't get our hopes up too much. We know that we have the chance, and we're gonna take it…."

OKEJ followed EUROPE on tour to Avesta and Hallstahammar. The tour starts on a Friday with a double booking. "It's crazy," Joey Tempest sighs behind the stage at Sollentunavallen, just north of Stockholm, where EUROPE have just done a festival gig. They played with borrowed equipment and straight after the gig they threw themselves into two cars for a quick transportation to Avesta. A quick stop for meatballs with mashed potatoes at a fast-food stand outside of Avesta where EUROPE are to play at a large graduation party.

"Wow… What is this place," Joey says as he gets backstage at Brunnsbäck's festive place. "There is not enough electric power," one of the roadies yells and runs across the dance floor, adding, "Half of the PA will go down." And so it does. But Joey Tempest, John Norum, bassist John Levén, drummer Tony Reno (21) and temporary keyboardist Gunnar Michaeli (21) work their sweat off. Both to make a great show, but also to keep the mosquitoes (which are as big as milking stools) away.

Best and worst
The day after, in the tour bus between Avesta and Hallstahammar, when I ask Joey Tempest about what is best and worst about touring, his answer comes rapidly about the worst: "A gig like the one in that festive place where we couldn't use all the lighting and the PA doesn't work because of lack of electricity." Does Joey Tempest sound like a whining, self-absorbed rock star? No. When he says this, he does it for a reason. "Our fans pay 30-40 Kronor (4-5 US Dollars) to see us and that gives them the right to get a good show. How can we give them that if we can't use all our equipment?"

For Joey the best thing about touring is to get away from home, to go away for a while. "But it's just as good to get back home."

Love to tour
Without Joey saying so, I understand that EUROPE love to tour. It's clearly visible when they play, when they sign autographs, eat pizza backstage or watch videos at the hotels. When OKEJ joins them on their summer tour, there are only some gigs left. After Avesta and Hallstahammar, only Näs and Oskarshamn are still to come. Five rock musicians have worked hard, sweated, had stomach aches, had hundreds of grilled sausages and traveled thousands of kilometers. But five musicians have also made fine hard rock, loved the audience and been happy.

Throughout the tour they have had four roadies: Q-lan who works side by side with the band. Tour manager and sound engineer Micke Nilsson. Tåbbe and Bozze who are doing the back line. Without them - no EUROPE live! "Disaster is the mother of all inventions," Q-lan says as he stops the bus to temporarily fix the windshield wipers.

Pop star
Somewhere between Avesta and Hallstahammar, Joey and I discuss EUROPE's current situation and the fact that he more and more appears to be a pop star. "I know," he says, "We have a lot of little girls at our concerts. But that's what happens when you have a song ("Open Your Heart") in 'the hot pile' on 'Poporama' (Swedish top 20 radio show), and when the papers print 'cute' pictures." Joey however claims that the real hard rock fans are still out there. Proof of that, if nothing else, is the gig at the Hallstahammar Folk Park, where hard rockers in jeans and metal belts are in the crowd together with girls singing along to all songs. "I check out the girls in the front row if I forget the lyrics," Joey says with a smile.

Joey likes the attention from the teenage girls and is happy to write autographs. He sometimes thinks about it, though, and then he says, "One can wonder why they come to our gigs. Is it to see if I'm cute or is it the music? But we do sound great live. And the show has worked fine. The radical, cool things have been there."

Joey already knows the tricks. His microphone stand is made in the "David Coverdale style" and his moves on stage are controlled but still challenging. Like after "Open Your Heart" at Brunnsbäck's festive place, when he flicks his guitar pick and makes eye contact with someone in the first row. Or at the Hallstahammar Folk Park, when he makes the audience sing at his command. "We didn't have much time to work on the choreography for this tour. But if we are to go anywhere internationally, we have to work on that part," he says.

The four knights
EUROPE are definitely a band heading for an international career. Right now they are negotiating to go as a support act on the "Monsters of Rock" festival that tours the European continent at the end of the summer. As a stage in the Japan launch there are also discussions about playing at a Japanese rock festival. A while ago, when Joey met journalists and business people in Tokyo, the response was enormous. "They call us 'The four knights' and see us as gentlemen from Europe. I think they see us as an exotic band over there."

EUROPE have begun to plan their third LP and are planning to go in the studio in the beginning of next year. Many producers have been suggested and on top of the list is Robert John "Mutt" Lange, who produced Def Leppard's "Pyromania". You can hear on "Wings of Tomorrow" that EUROPE are going for an American sound. "Hard rock is basically quite American. I heard that when we did the remix of 'Wings of Tomorrow' for the American market," Joey says.

Joey, who writes all the songs for EUROPE, now has four, maybe five songs on tape. It's obvious that the touring and gigs have changed his ways of writing songs. "I write more straight on. More to the beat. At the same time I wanna stay with the EUROPE tradition. I want melodies and good choruses." He laughs and looks out at the Västmanlandish landscape before he adds, "I have a new 'Open Your Heart' going. Right now I'm writing a really good ballad. Just as catchy as 'Open Your Heart'."

Lyrically Joey is also closing in on a simpler way of expression. The deep lyrics from the first LP are gone. Today it's mostly about love. "I juggle with words. I want to find as nice words as possible. I want the words to be sensitive." Joey Tempest usually concentrates his songwriting to his apartment in Upplands-Väsby. He has a hard time writing while on tour. "When we are out playing, I get the ideas, but I write when I get home. I sometimes get pissed off at myself. I can keep working on a song forever and never be satisfied. I would like to be able to write one song per day."

Joey Tempest on tour is not the one to crash hotel rooms, drink beer for breakfast or have his room full of girls. "The voice can't handle too much partying," he says. The old Postal bus gives a cough and we are at the Hotel in Västerås, 20 kilometers from Hallstahammar. EUROPE spends the three hours before sound check by sleeping what they haven't slept.

Hard and fast
A few minutes before 11 o'clock at night, EUROPE get going on stage. "Scream of Anger", "Farewell" and "Stormwind" turn the folk park upside down until it's time to catch the breath with "Open Your Heart". The show is built around the fast and hard songs. EUROPE know that this works in front of a live audience. "This is just how it's supposed to be," Joey says when he comes backstage after the last encore, "Memories". "A four," he says when I ask him to rank the gig on a scale of one to five.

"Borlänge," John Levén says when the discussion starts about what was the best gig this summer.

90% was good
John Norum is very quiet and mumbles something about 90% being good this night. "Well yeah," he says. "I'm satisfied. The last three songs were fantastic." When a girl comes backstage and says, "You are twice as good live" before she asks for an autograph, John says that he doesn't want to be compared to modern guitarists like John Sykes or Jake E. Lee. "They are so boring. They just wanna play fast. Ask them to play blues and I promise you they can't do it."

EUROPE live is first and foremost two persons: Joey Tempest as the absolute central person with John Norum by his side. Since I heard him the first time about two years ago, he has developed enormously. He's strong in the solo parts. Fast and technical, but also driven when it comes to the rhythm guitar. "We have had some discussions, Joey and I. I'm a bit more heavy than he is. I want more guitars. Right now I'm so damn tired of 'Open Your Heart'."

Goals are moved forward
For John, as well as the other guys in the band, the success has meant that their own rock dream has been fulfilled. But the dreams are still there. The difference is that the goals have been moved forward with their success. "I dream about having a cruel guitar sound on the next album. You know how I am. Stubborn as hell. I won't be happy until it's just right."

EUROPE for the world. For the four knights from Upplands Väsby, nothing is impossible!

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