EUROPE Frontman: 'It's Important For Rock Bands To Push The Limits'

Sanctuary Records recently conducted an interview with EUROPE members Joey Tempest (vocals) and John Norum (guitar) about the group's new album, "Secret Society". A few excerpts from the chat follow:

Q: Let's get back in time for a moment. When you released "The Final Countdown" no one could knew that it would become such a big hit. Which memories do you have on those times?

Joey: Well, I remember doing "The Final Countdown". It was just such a big circus. I put up some walls, you know. I remember putting up walls and didn't really speak to many people. I was just thinking about the next album. And you put up some walls. And people think you are very arrogant because you just closing yourself in a little bit. But you're shy and so many people wanna have a piece of you. Everybody wants a piece of you. So, you say: "I'm not gonna do this." And then you look like you're arrogant. It's kind of weird. We had to deal with it. The thing is "Final Countdown" was our third album. So, we had a little bit of taste from our two first albums with a bid of success in Scandinavia and Japan. So, we were a little bit prepared. But, I mean, it was huge. We weren't prepared for the whole big circus. But we managed to get through. And I think the break that we had with John, nowadays when we look at it, we think, maybe it was good actually because if we woud've continued we could've driven it to the ground. So, now we're lookin' at it: Yeah, it's great. We're havin' fun. We're still creative. Like some other bands from the our time they may not taken risks like we do. I mean, "Secret Society", what band would take a risk like that?! So, I think it's important for rock bands to do that, push the limits and see if the fans wanna follow, you know. (laughs)

Q: I guess it took some serious discussions on your side if and you are gonna go together…

Joey: Yeah, we had some serious meetings because we wanted to do it right. We wanted to do new music, new sounds and not be so much stock in the '80s. To create new music and to sound more modern, you know, that was the plan that we wanted to do.

Q: Did you feel any kind of pressure when you worked on your comeback album "Start From The Dark"?

John: I never thought of that. I mean, I don't think like that. I just think that we have a special chemistry when we're together and I know we can make a great album and go out and play. And I wasn't thinking how many people would show up at our shows or anything like that. I just go out and enjoy myself and play the guitar as good as I can. And I knew we got a special thing going with the songwriting and all the guys in the band and all that stuff. So, I just never thought of it that way.

Joey: No. We're just really lucky and happy that we back together. Friends from the teenage years and we just wanted to make some noise, really. We didn't put any pressure on ourselves what are people gonna expect and what does the record company gonna say. We didn't give a shit about anything. So, therefore "Start From The Dark" is quite unique. It's just from the band's perspective, nothing else's perspective but us in the rehearsal: This is what we wanna sound like. So, it's a very raw album. I think, on "Secret Society" we have taken it a step further. It's still raw and heavy but we also have more dinamics, maybe in the lyrics. There's also some blues licks from John and starting to get show a little bit broader, it's a broader album, I think. It also goes back further maybe to our influences from way back. With "Secret Society" it could be a LED ZEPPELIN riff or something. It sounds modern but… Or "Devil Sings The Blues" is very classic rock. And then we have the modern songs like "Always The Pretenders" and "Wish I Could Believe" that sounds like from a band from today. So, it's a broader album.

Q: Before you started to work on the new CD you were on tour in Europe and released a live DVD of you concert in London. What was that like?

Joey: Well, that tour was special because we tried to make the old songs fit with the new songs. We had to do a few small tricks to do that we had to slow a few old songs down, maybe detune the guitars a little bit and just make them fit with the new tracks 'cause the tracks from "Start From The Dark" they were very sort of detuned and heavy. But it worked really well and I think that gig in London was also a very good gig for us. We were just happy that it worked out and the fans were excited and that the new songs worked with the old songs, you know. I mean, I live in London. So, it was a special gig, you know, it was Hammersmith! When I was a teenager I took a boat trip from Sweden to see THIN LIZZY there, very early. It's just a magic place to play. So, we wanted to record that or do the DVD there. And hopefully we can do a DVD on the next tour as well.

Q: Is it fair to say that playing live was and still is a major part of your wirk?

Joey: We started out having a dream to be a live band, a rock band, a working band, a touring band. We used to listen to .. our favourite albums were really live albums: "Made in Europe" with DEEP PURPLE or "Made in Japan", "Live and Dangerous" with THIN LIZZY or UFO's "Strangers In The Night". I don't know why, but we liked the live albums when we grew up, not the pop albums. So, our first dream was to play live. So, I think, we are back to that situation now. We want to be a working band we want to play live. Because that's how we found stronghold in the world. If you have a period when you start tryin' hits and things you lose a little bit of the core of the band and you try something else. So, we're trying to be a working band. I think, on the scene, I think we're be a touring rock band that people, hopefully, will like to see pplay live. With the records we try to show to the people that our music is modern. We want to be contemporary, we want to be there. Hopefully, we we can find a place. But it's not easy to get all the media attention when we've been away so long. So, we have to work, work hard at it.

Q: How do started to write new songs? Do you have some of a routine for that?

John: I usually come up with a buch of riffs and I just kind of put them together and then I send them to Joey. And (he says:) "Well, I'm not too excited about that particular one, but the other one is a great one." Because I don't really do the arrangements. Joey does the arrangements. So, he start to arranging it and he's an amazing arranger. And then he sends it back to me put some vocal stuff on there. And I listen to it and usually I'm totally blown away 'cause he's really good with melodies and arranging the songs. And the way he arrange songs is very like up to date, it's like now, you know, what's going on right now which is really cool.

Q: Generally speaking the sound of the new album is quite compact but not over produeced. Was that you aprroach?

Joey: We don't wanna put too much circus on there, too many pretty things. (laughs) We basically play it live in the rehearsal and then we don't add so many things to recordings anymore, anyway. There's some keyboards on there but in the end this album turned out to be a guitar album again. (laughs) It's like "Start From The Dark" it's very much a guitar-oriented album. Mic plays more keyboards but there are in the mix.

Q: Joey, for you as a singer it's a little bit different when the band is playing live. How do you prepare yourself for a gig?

Joey: I want us to convey something. I tried to study some of the good live people, you know. Watching Bruce Springsteen, Bono or Michael Stipe and see how they communicate with the audience because somebody has to communicate with the audience. They don't wanna come there and feel like we don't like them. So, I think it's important to get a good warm relationship going and together with the heavy music and the melodies. So I tried to figure out new ways what to say between songs and stuff like that. It's important as well.

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