Interview By Robert Cavuoto
Live Photos by: Robert Sutton
If Europe’s 2015 album War of King was the album that made the rock world realize what a formidable act Europe had become, then the band’s newest CD, Walk the Earth due out on October 20th, will establish the band as one of the most exciting contemporary rock acts of our time. Joey Tempest (vocals), John Norum (guitars), Mic Michaeli (keyboards), John Levén (bass), and Ian Haugland (drums) together with producer, Dave Cobb, have delivered a musical masterpiece with Walk the Earth.
From the epic and powerful opening track, “Walk the Earth” to closer, “Turn to Dust” the CD is rich in tone and texture offering pounding riffs, big melodies, and fueled with Joey Tempest’s aching vocals. Possibly due in part to being recorded at the legendary Abby Road Studios. Walk the Earth is the album that should see Europe rightly acclaimed as a band at the height of their musical career.
I caught up with the singer, Joey Tempest, to talking about Europe’s awe-inspiring new CD, working with producer Dave Cobb in Abbey Road Studios, and the promise of a US tour in 2018.
Robert Cavuoto: I understand that your last album, War of Kings was recorded using vintage gear, did you repeat or change the process for Walk the Earth?
Joey Tempest: We were a little forced to do with War of Kings because we were in a brand new studio. We felt like we had to warm things up. We learned that a while ago from producer Kevin Shirley during the making of Bag of Bones to always warm things properly with vintage equipment before hitting the digital domain. The studio we used for War of Kings had no vintage gear at all, so we had to bring it all in. With Walk the Earth it was recorded in Abby Road studios, and we were like kids in a candy store because in the basement they had the deck that The Beatles and Pink Floyd used. They had the compressors that John Lennon used. We were very interested in trying them out because we were in that vibe. Also, Abbey Road is also very modern as it has everything; it’s one of the top-notch studios in the world.
Robert Cavuoto: I imagine that it was quite a magical being in that studio where The Beatles and Pink Floyd recorded.
Joey Tempest: It was! You sometimes got stuck thinking this is where The Beatles and Pink Floyd were writing around the piano, singing, and recording. We only had two weeks, so it was pretty intense as there were a lot of musicians being creative. It was a great atmosphere, and Dave Cobb was very pleased working with us.
Robert Cavuoto: I felt this new album was a little darker or moodier than the last two; was that a conscious decision or was it due to the vibe in the studio?
Joey Tempest: There is nothing conscious really. It was the five members and our extra member Dave Cobb organically making it happen. We had ten songs before we went into the studio and Dave lifted them even higher. He did a great job. These albums just happened; you can call it a miracle album as it comes out of nowhere. No conscious decisions expect maybe to veer away and not repeat anything we have done. We like every album to be a reaction against the last one.
Robert Cavuoto: That leads me to my next question. Europe has never made the same album twice, tell me about the courage to experiment to make different albums?
Joey Tempest: Once you start that process it’s not so hard. Some bands try it on one album and then realize that they may have upset fans by straying too much from their past. With us, we started doing that with the albums Start from the Dark and the Secret Society. We want to be adventurous with every record. Bands like Rush have done that their entire career. Deep Purple did it when Tommy Bolan and Glen Hughes were in the band with Come Taste the Band as it had a funky and groovy vibe. It keeps us on our toes and interested in our work. That is why we want every album to be different.
Robert Cavuoto: Are you better songwriters and collaborators now?
Joey Tempest: Yes absolutely, when we started up again in 2004 we wrote more songs together. Before that, I used to write a lot more. It’s a privilege now as the other guys have become such great writers. I was interested in songwriting when I was 10 or 11 years old. It was something I was interested in as a kid where these guys were instrumentalists, practicing their instrument to become amazing players. Now they have become great writers. It’s a privilege to get ideas from them, and I usually finish them by putting the melodies on them. I have a vision on how we can finish a song if I get a good riff. Everyone contributes, and that’s different from the early days.
Robert Cavuoto: I’ve noticed that you like to incorporate history topics into your lyrics, is history a passion of yours?
Joey Tempest: Not really, it happened a little bit on War of Kings and more now on Walk the Earth. I actually met a professor in history, and I did some research, but that was more because of the times we live in. Everything is pulling in different ways socially and politically – it’s in the air. That is why we worked on songs like “Election Day,” “The Siege,” and “Kingdom United” which is rooted in the search for democracy. “The Siege” is a postcard from the French Revolution; it was an important moment in European history. Also, the Magna Carta in the UK that was signed to create the democracy profile going forward here in the UK. Those two songs touch upon that a little bit, we are merely observers and not really making statements or being political. We are entertainers, but it’s kind of impossible for the times we live in not to bring it into the lyrics. It’s my own interests, and I want to add content to the lyrics. I started that on the Last Look at Eden, Bag of Bones, and War of Kings. There should be an expression in the music, but it should be a deeper expression in the lyrics. I feel there is more for me personally when I listen back to the Europe tracks. I think it is just part of my personality.
Robert Cavuoto: I thought the title track “Walk the Earth” and the last track “Turn to Dust” are nice bookends; putting a clear beginning and end to the album with life and death. Was that intentional?
Joey Tempest: There were many discussions like that which happened at Abbey Road including the cover art, lyrics, and music. So yes, of course, we had discussions about “Walk the Earth” and “Turn to Dust.” We also thought that it was a great way to open and close the album. That happened as far back as in rehearsals. We had ten songs rehearsed and went into the studio with those same ten songs. In the back of our heads “Turn to Dust” was a closer on the album and “Walk the Earth” could be the opener. During the recording, we worked quite hard to get “Walk the Earth” right because we felt it had something special. When that song started to take shape, we realized it was amazing and should open the album.
Robert Cavuoto: What is at the end of “Turn to Dust” after the brief break? It sounds like a jazz band.
Joey Tempest: It’s there maybe to show that we don’t take ourselves too seriously. Actually, it was just a jam with Mic on the Mellotron. The Mellotron has a lot of musical samples and band samples. If you hit a key, you can hear different musical styles or in this case a weird piano jazz band. He just did it for fun at the end of the day, and it wasn’t supposed to even be on the album. Then we discussed it and thought it would be great to have it hidden at the end to take the edge off everything. It was just goofing around. I think the idea of cutting songs off was done on 60’s albums. It was something that fit.
Robert Cavuoto: Do you think Joey Tempest of 30 years ago would be proud of his career?
Joey Tempest: I think he would be very proud, and certainly astonished that we would still be here 30 years later. We just took one year at a time. It means we have longevity like bands such as Deep Purple and Rush who have been creative and managed to stay afloat.
Robert Cavuoto: In the United States back in the day, there were a lot of comparisons drawn between you and Jon Bon Jovi. Did you see that in the European press?
Joey Tempest: I met Bon Jovi for the first time in 1987 as we were both on the charts with “Final Countdown” and “Living on a Prayer.” We were probably the same age and listened to the same bands. For us, it was never a problem. I have met him several times through the years and have always chatted and got along. We both came up at the same time when radio opened over up here in Europe. Def Leppard probably opened it up prior
Robert Cavuoto: Are there plans to come to the US to do a tour?
Joey Tempest: Yeah we would love to, but it probably won’t be until 2018. We are starting to plan everything right now so let’s hope it all comes together. In November we are starting an arena tour with Deep Purple in the UK. Then we will do our own shows here as well. It sounds like the reaction to the album is really good, so it should bring us to all corners of the world next year.
Robert Cavuoto: Europe is such a great band how come you didn’t spend more time in the US for example on a package tour or opening for bands like the Scorpions and Def Leppard?
Joey Tempest: We are trying to build it up and get to that stage again. We did a tour with Def Leppard in 1988 when they went #1 with “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” We had so many commitments here in Europe and Asia as we do extremely well in those parts of the world. It was hard to juggle everything, and America deserves a lot of time. Whatever we can do now to make up for that now would be great.