Wot - No screaming girlies?

By: Matthias Penzel            From: Metal Hammer - 1989

Joey fights back!
Typical - you're given the chance to interview the Swedish stars who took the world by storm during 1986, and give 'em some stick, when it suddenly dawns on you: What accusations can you throw at them? Can you criticize their music, from the "The Final Countdown" to their subsequent massive success? How about the fact that they became more rock orientated on "Out of This World", or feel sorry for them, because of the lack of hysterically screeching girlies at their concerts when they toured earlier this year? Instead of being aggressive and rude and instead of asking for the umteenth time how the boys became friendly with Benny (of ABBA fame), we had a casual and friendly chat with the sun-tanned EUROPE spokesmen Joey Tempest and Kee Marcello, during their German tour.

"Hopefully we're appealing to more rock fans with our new LP 'Out of This World'. We know these fans like the music, and not just the way we look. That's great," was what Joey Tempest had to say, when I mentioned that "Out of This World" was a bit of a flop compared to "The Final Countdown"; "Out of This World" sold only a third of the number of copies of its predecessor. You can't change facts; there are just different ways of interpreting them.

"We sold around a million copies of 'Out of This World'. And we're happy with that. We've just released a new single in the USA - 'Let the Good Times Rock', is the third single release from the album. After 'The Final Countdown', things got pretty hysterical. They're not so bad now. Most of the people who come to our concerts these days are rock fans."

"Out of This World" has turned out quite heavy again, similar to the boys' second album "Wings of Tomorrow" back in 1984.

"I wouldn't say that 'Wings of Tomorrow' has turned out heavier than 'The Final Countdown'. If you listen to the whole of 'The Final Countdown' LP, you'd notice that it's really a pretty hard album."

Yeah, but with those watery keyboard parts...

"Yes, it's more keyboard orientated. We used all those solid kinda sounds. But we've become more blues rock orientated on 'Out of This World'. The next album will be heavier again. If you see us play live, you can see how heavy we are! That's the sound we'll be trying to recapture on our next album."

Kee continues: "We're gonna try and record the next album live in the studio."

You were going to do the same on "Out of This World", at least it was promised.

"Yes, but we didn't go far enough. We want to record things live next time, and leave out all the overdubs. Which was how people recorded in the Seventies: Record the guitars first, then add vocal, bass, and keyboards, then mix the whole lot."

Yeah, bluesy. "Back to the Roots," that's what everyone's claiming these days. But wait; Those of you who think Willie Dixon is a car manufacturer and B.B. King was a boxing champ in the Fifties, might accept statements like that. Okay, so the twelve tracks off "Out of This World" aren't exactly in the same category as computer-pop music. But to immediately ramble on about blues influences, just because they've swapped their satin pants for shredded denim and the keyboarder has started posing in a knee length Rory Gallager-esque shirt, seems a bit exaggerated.

"On 'Superstitious' I sing: 'mmmm... there's a reason,'" Joey hums, and Kee claims rationally: "The angle from which we approached the whole album was just more bluesy, that's how I'd describe it."

And Joey continues in a husky voice: "Kee added a pretty bluesy feeling with his guitar as well..."

I doubt whether EUROPE will surprise us with an album full of blues rock; but we can still assume that the compositions will be different from their previous recordings, because "we've started writing while we're touring. Most of the material we used to release had been written at home. That's why the songs turned out the way they did; because you sit down and just think too much about the music. Now we write a lot together and everyone chips in. So it's gonna be great," Joey, who used to write most of the songs all by himself, explained.

So that means you'll be writing as a group:

"Especially me and Kee. Mic contributes a few ideas too. I get everyone to sit down for the arrangements. We've got a load of equipment in our dressing room: Drum-pads, keyboards, everything."

And Kee: "Guitar amplifier, bass amplifier; we'd rather go back to the stage we were in when we started. That's the way things were when we went for rehearsals, and just started playing together. The way it used to be, when a band just jammed together. The way it used to be, when a band just jammed together. We all used to play in different bands in those days, but when we compose and write songs these days, it's with that feeling in mind. It's a case of going 'back to our roots.'"

The compositions also suffered because the arrangements were so predictable. They were always written to the same structure of vocal part, chorus, vocal part, chorus, solo (with a vocal part as backing), chorus...

"That's right. We felt the same way, which is why we've started improvising live a lot more. Next time things won't be as predictable as they have been."

"We're planning to release a mini live album, so as to appeal to more rock fans. We've already talked to our company, and this mini LP with its six tracks will be released by the end of the summer. It's our little 'thank-you' to our fans. Perhaps we'll include an acoustic track, recorded in the tour bus, we'll see. That'll be our first live LP."

And Kee added: "It'll be a really honest live album, without any overdubs."

"Yes, we want to capture the feeling of a live concert," promises Joey.

And in the same way live LP's belong to rock 'n' roll, other criteria are attributed to hard rock - rebellion, aggression; Were any of you here when Jimi Hendrix smashed up that hotel room in Sweden? No? Neither was I. What about rebellion and aggression, then?

"That's how we started; and we've still got parts of that in us. It's coming back, because we're doing exactly what we want to do. I mean the media have done so many things with us, that we've just given up sometimes: 'The sweetie boys', 'nice boys from next door'. It's just not true. We became really aware of what was going on, when we saw the back of some old photo back and we said: 'What the fuck is going on?'"

And Kee continued: That "Lots of things were being done behind our backs; without us knowing. We didn't have things under control what the media was releasing. We only realized later some of the rubbish that had been said. We were still so inexperienced in coping with success; it was the first time any of us had had any degree of success," Kee Marcello said, who in fact only joined the band after "The Final Countdown" had sold really well.

Joey thinks back fondly to this time: "I think it was one of the biggest hard rock hits ever. It was Number One in 27 countries; it was incredible."

Being so high in the charts was one of the reasons that EUROPE were rejected by all the true fans of hard rock.

"I know. But things are getting better. We've started getting a real rock audience again, which is brilliant."

The band seem really chuffed about their newly rediscovered rock audiences. But what about the other tasks needing attention; makeup, photo sessions, interviews...

"We're trying to be a lot more natural these days. We don't get especially dolled up for the teenies. It's nice now, the way we can just play."

Kee seemed to cope with his duties on a more diplomatic level: "I think some of the things only indirectly associated with music can be a good laugh as well; for example it's still fun to give interviews now and again. It's a different matter with photo sessions; there are always better and less nice things that can be done in association with promotion. Photo-sessions are a real pain, everyone hates them."

Kee suddenly realizes that he might come across as hating everything!

Joey adds how much work there was to do around the time of "The Final Countdown": "Beforehand we just used to play plain rock 'n' roll and things took off and then we had the reactions to 'The Final Countdown', something no-one had been expecting. Initially it was just another title for the album. It wasn't written with the aim of being a commercial success. We then became so popular," he leaned back and laughed, "that we didn't know any more what was happening around us, but now we're happier than ever before, with the rock fans on our side."

Yes, talking about "Happiness"; it's nice that EUROPE could convince that rock fans so completely, but does Joey experience any other kinds of feelings? Maybe not morbid horror visions like Tom G. Warrior's, but moods that should be expressed in their songs?

"Yes. Even I go through phases of feeling good and of feeling bad. I've got lots of feeling I express in ballads; just general ups and downs. No-one knows how happy or how sad I really am backstage. And I don't think it's anyone's business either. On stage we always have such a laugh together; It's great fun playing live."

Joey Tempest has always enjoyed playing live. Some of the most impressive such occasions were those festivals when he saw bands like Thin Lizzy and UFO. Maybe it wasn't just the music, but also the connected success that animated him.

"No, I thought it would be really cool. The money and things like that never really interested me. It was always more the playing of music that interested me. I mean I've been writing songs since the age of seven; I didn't earn any money for years. I just enjoyed playing the music."

Despite all the enjoyment playing the music, it took quite a while for the band to start earning any money. On top of that there were other factors, not just coincidences; otherwise things could have worked out with Easy Action.

This was the the point when Kee came out with this main reason: "It's important to be really together; When I left Easy Action I had the feeling that all five of us musicians weren't really working in the same direction. But EUROPE developed so that all five musicians moved in the same direction. That's very important."

But then all of a sudden one member couldn't be bothered to pull along. It was this sad circumstance that got Kee his job in the band.

"Yes, that's what I meant; after John Norum left," Kee retorted. And Joey reckoned, that EUROPE "is a band", whatever that means these days.

EUROPE's success started before John left and Kee joined the band; Kee's explanation for the success isn't that believable.

Joey claims that he and John played together since 1980: "Me, John and John. We were friends for years and we always will be. But he wanted to do this solo thing for ages; he was always a guitarist like Gary Moore or Michael Schenker. In a band situation, he had real difficulties expressing his ideas."

The guys in EUROPE at the moment are all in the band because they wanted to join and aren't interested in solo excursions. I still can't imagine anyone in the audience being devastated if for example the drummer was swapped.

"The guitarist is the key figure," Joey decided, "as much as the singer."

But as with Judas Priest, hardly anyone looks at EUROPE's bass player or drummer.

"But the band want to stick together, and that's one of the keys to success; to work together and to contribute to the whole. You need five persons who move together and in the right direction. If only one of them moves in the other direction there's chaos. That's important. Lots of bands fight and work, but they lack the mutual attitude."

There's no doubt that EUROPE will be continuing in the same direction for many a year to come; It's great that they know what they want and they're bound to get it!

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