I’m pretty sure the first record I ever owned was Europe’s “The Final Countdown” when I was six years old. Joey Tempest was certainly my first rock hero. I wanted to be that guy in the worst way. I vaguely remember lip syncing into ketchup bottles and trying to reenact “The Final Countdown” video in my basement. I still have that record. I’ve been seeking out Europe for a couple of albums now but they haven’t really released anything in the US officially for a while.
Now they have this new album coming out called “War of Kings” that is just flat out phenomenal. It reminds me Deep Purple with a touch of Rival Sons. It’s heavy it’s not pop at all. It grooves, it rocks it’s just a really good album. I think people in the US are going to be quite shocked to know this is the same Europe from the 80’s. I got the chance to talk to my first rock hero Joey Tempest about the new album “War of Kings” and why now was the right time to come back to America.
If you’d like to listen to the uncut interview you can do so here:
Bob Zerull (BZ): I listened to the new album “War of Kings” and I absolutely love it. It sounds a lot different than the Europe I grew up with. At this stage in your career when you go in to make a new album do you have a sound in mind or does the sound just develop organically?
Joey Tempest (JT): It happens organically depending on the studio we use, the gear, the vintage gear, and producer. We like to keep things fresh and let things happen in the studio. We do prepare, we had eleven songs and before we went into the studio. We wrote one in the studio. Everything just happens really. If people hear “War of Kings” now but haven’t heard any of the newer albums then it’s kind of a strange thing. It must be kind of amazing. If you follow the band in the UK and some countries over here since the reunion we’ve done five albums. We’ve been on a journey musically. We really wanted to do something special, write good music, be the original line up and create a new future and relationship with the fans and the media. Hopefully we can do the same in America, so we’re coming over and we’re gonna start this bonding thing and hopefully it’ll work out.
BZ: What made you decide to come back to America? It’s been awhile since you’ve been here. As an American I’ve been vocal about my disappointment with the rock landscape over here. Why is now the time to give it a shot?
JT: Yeah it’s changed a lot over there. Obviously I’ve been visiting over the years but we haven’t played in about 10 years over there. We have American management now located in LA. It’s an English guy but he lives over there. That was a conscious decision for us. We actually wanted to start thinking about America again. We love being over there, we love both the UK and the US for the rock n roll heritage and it feels special to be there in everyway. We want to do it right. This first stint is going to be the house of blues and a few festivals just to reacquaint ourselves with the fans and maybe some new people as well and spread the word about five new albums which is gonna be a bit of work to introduce the new stuff.
BZ: When you come over here are you going to play a lot of “War of Kings” and the old stuff or are you going to sprinkle in some of the last five albums as well?
JT: We’re gonna mix it up. We love playing a few of the songs from the 80’s, “Rock the Night” and “Final Countdown” are great to play live. “Superstitious” we’ve been playing live too. There are also a couple of new songs that have become favorites already. I’m sure a few songs off of “War of Kings” will become staples. But we will play three, four, five new tracks…maybe more and then mix it up with at least four or five older ones. It’ll be an explosive mixture.
BZ: The sound on “War of Kings” is very live. I feel like I’m at a show and it makes me appreciate your music that much more. Another band that does that is Rival Sons and you hooked up with their producer. How did you find Dave Cobb?
JT: He’s a great hand and he’s really friendly. We didn’t know him. We had been listening to the Rival Sons backstage for years to get in the mood for the gig. We never thought about contacting their producer. Last year when we heard their latest record we were just like, ‘let’s call him.’ He’s doing great stuff with Rival Sons and I checked out some of the other stuff he’s done and I liked it so we called him and it was kind of cool. He said, ‘I know you guys, I use to play drums to some of your records when I was a kid.’ He said he’d love to produce us. He likes to work in a certain way. He doesn’t mic the drums with too many microphones; it’s a very live room. With us we were on the same wavelength, we wanted to rent a lot of vintage gear and effects. We were in a brand new studio so we wanted to warm the sound up to make it more classic rock. He’s a lot like us; he’s a bit of a nerd when it comes to recording drums, guitars and bass. We’ve been on a new journey these last five albums and we’ve learned a lot about recording and writing. We just want to keep everything fresh. Dave was amazing because he’s a writer. In the end he co wrote four tracks. He was very much like a band member for those two weeks.
BZ: Are you afraid that America’s attitude towards rock music is going to travel abroad or do you think the attitude from the UK, Japan etc etc is going to come back to America?
JT: I think we’re going to help. I think a band like Europe or Black Star Riders could help. I would hope bands like Rival Sons and White Denim are already helping and will get more recognition in the states as well. I feel a movement starting again. Vinyl is coming back, people in big rock bands who said they’d never record an album again are recording albums again and doing videos. I think it’s going to come back. We definitely believe that we should support this rock business and we should build it up again because it has taken a tumble. You can tell by the live shows that its quite vibrant, you just have to find the outlets that play new rock music. I understand that if we get played on US rock stations it’s going to be our 80’s stuff because we haven’t been there much. We have a lot of new stuff to offer. We’re going to come over and start introducing the new stuff and hopefully it’ll stick.
BZ: Do you feel like now is the more rewarding part of your career? You had the massive success back in the 80’s but now I’d imagine you have more control.
JT: Yeah we do. We have our own company. We run things, we own our music and we license it to people that love to work with us. We plan our tours; we’re involved in our merchandise. You have to be business savvy these days because the record business is down and the live performance is important. But we’re also very keen on doing good albums and videos. We work really had on social media. It’s amazing to have fans so close by. Back in the 80’s we missed a lot of fans.
BZ: Did you have a chance to enjoy your success or do you have to look back at it now and enjoy it?
JT: Of course we had some wild times and some fun stuff. For a while there we were one of the biggest bands in the world doing the circuits, hotels, bodyguards and private jets and all that stuff. It was fun to have gone through it but we weren’t comfortable being in that pop world. As musicians we didn’t enjoy it, but we had a lot of fun and it was fast. It’s easier to enjoy it now because we have more experience and control.
BZ: When you play those old songs now are you doing something different? I’ve watched several live videos on You Tube of “The Final Countdown” and “Rock the Night” etc and they almost sound like new songs that would fit perfectly on “War of Kings?”
JT: Yeah there are some obvious things. Some of the songs we de tune half a step to get a fatter sound on the guitar and bass. Some songs work really well when you do that. For some reason some of them sound a bit more modern and they groove and gel a bit. We groove a bit more, we’re more experienced, even “Final Countdown” feels a bit heavier. It almost gets to your body and heart more now. They work really well with the new songs.