Europe's Joey Tempest on Robert Plant, Deep Purple, Final Countdown and his love for the Midlands
They took their name from an iconic album by Deep Purple and desperately aspired to be like them having watched the band in concert as teenagers. Fast forward some 35 years or so, and Europe are now touring with their icons - with a show coming to Birmingham.
Frontman Joey Tempest, who is now 54, says he can’t wait to get to the Midlands, stating that Wolverhampton and Birmingham are ‘staples’ on their tours.
“It’s an honour to go on tour with Deep Purple. Our history goes back a long way - we listened to them when we were teenagers,” said Joey.
“Their Live In Japan album was really important for us. We got our name from their Made In Europe album.
“In 1984, when we were about 19 or 20, we went to see Deep Purple live when they released their Perfect Strangers album. That was the first time we’d seen them live.
See the video for Days of Rock 'N' Roll, recorded at Wolverhampton's Civic Hall, here:
“They were really inspirational - and still are.
“We started the band when we were still at school. We were first called Force.
“I remember being told by the teachers to spend more time on homework.
“We didn’t know what to expect when we set out. We just played schools and small venues, thinking we could go no further.
“But our dream was to be like Deep Purple, touring Europe.”
Joey also revealed Europe will not only be visiting the Midlands on their tour with Deep Purple on November 17 (coming to Arena Birmingham), but also on their own tour in 2018.
“We’ve got our own headline tour starting at the same time for Walk The Earth. So everything’s starting in November and December,” added Joey.
“Then the headline tour will continue in 2018 when we’ll be doing the UK. I’m pretty sure that will take us to the Midlands, as Wolverhampton and Birmingham are staples on our tours.
“The Wolverhampton Civic is a venue we really like. We even filmed a music video there a few years ago. We love that place - the crowd and the venue.
“We’ve also played various places in Birmingham and the audiences are great there too.
“UK fans and press have been amazing since we came back from our break in 2004. They really embraced us. Touring the UK is always a pleasure.
“I’m really looking forward to touring with Deep Purple and coming back for our solo tour next year. We can’t wait to get out on tour.”
Back in the day, Joey famously aspired to look like Wolverhampton rock legend Robert Plant, with his flowing curly locks and iconic vocals. Having very much made his own mark on the rock industry, Joey has been lucky enough to meet the Led Zeppelin frontman; which he says was ‘amazing’.
“We’ve met all sort of people across the world playing festivals,” explained Joey.
“I met Chris Cornell and Robert Plant in Greece at a festival just outside of Athens - that was great. We know Alice Cooper now and Black Star Riders are mates of ours.
“Meeting Robert Plant was amazing. I met him the once backstage in London where I signed an autograph for his son. I’ve always loved Robert Plant - his voice, Led Zeppelin. And when he went on to pursue a solo career, I thought he produced some very interesting stuff.
“I’ve met him a few times since then.
“Chris Cornell was very polite when I met him. He had his family with him, as I remember.
“He was there for a solo concert - and said he wished he’d come earlier as some of the members of his band did to see our set.”
Though they formed years before, Europe first burst on to the scene with 1986 album Final Countdown with roaring success - despite having been told back in Sweden to cut their hair and stop singing in English.
“In the early days, we just kept going. We were told to sing in Swedish and cut our hair. Later on, what we wanted to do came true,” said Joey.
“We released our first album in Sweden and Japan. After 1984, we began getting attention in the US and were signed to a label. And it all kind of happened for us from there.
“The world was introduced to us by the Final Countdown album, but by then we’d been going a while. But it was cool when the time came, because our dreams came true and all the doors opened.”
As is the case with most rock bands, Europe love to party - even after all these years. But when the group hit the big time with Final Countdown, Joey says they had to take great care not to get swept away in what has often been described as a whirlwind world of drugs and heavy liquor.
“If we have a few days off, we still have parties and we love drinking. We have a few beers,” added Joey.
“But when Final Countdown was such a success, we had to reign the partying in.
“We started touring between the ages of 14 and 16, so those were our party days - before we hit 20. Then we started getting more into recording.
“By the time we made it big, we were 23 or 24, and I was more concerned with trying to take care of this huge machine we’d started.
“We still like a party, but it’s just beer and wine now. We decided to take hard liquor off the rider about 10 years ago.
“We’re Scandi, so of course we love our beer.
“It’s important to think long term and learn your trade. It’s also important you find the right people to work with.
“We’ve met people backstage, who we knew had been living too rough - you can see when people aren’t doing too well. We could see from that as well that we needed to be careful.
“Also, early on in our careers, we could see people disappearing. Those like Phil Lynott.
“It was all around. Back then, there was a huge party scene in the US, so it was easy to be pulled in because everybody said yes.
“If you hang out with the wrong crowd, that too can destroy you. You have to be able to judge the right company to keep. We’ve been lucky in that way.”
Despite their successes, Europe went on hiatus back in 1992 during which time Joey concentrated on developing his songwriting, while other members continued to tour with fellow stars, such as Cannock’s Glenn Hughes.
“In 2000, we played together for the first time in more than eight years. It was a show in Stockholm. That was the catalyst to our reunion really,” said Joey.
“Some of the band wanted to continue touring, so did some shows with Glenn Hughes and some other artists.
“I wanted to find out more about songwriting and go a bit deeper. I listened and studied people like Neil Young and Van Morrison. I thought the eighties became a bit one-dimensional after a while.
“When we got together again in 2004, we brought new experiences with us. We thought ‘let’s do it our way’ and committed to it for the long term.
“We thought it may take a while to get people on board, but the last few albums have gone down very well.
“I also like the nostalgia of playing old stuff at live shows. I couldn’t even write like that any more if I tried.”
Though already a very accomplished songwriter, Joey says he is now able to express himself in English far better having developed the ability to think in the language, rather than his mother tongue of Swedish.
“It’s taken me quite a long time to be able to think in English. I’ve not lived in Sweden now for 25 years,” said Joey.
“Being able to think of songs in English means I can give a different perspective and it’s easier to have more words to choose from.
“In Europe initially, we would use words which sounded cool and fiddled with them afterwards. With more experience, we don’t do that anymore.
“Now, the meaning of the words are at the centre of the songs a lot of the time.
“Walk The Earth is a good example of that. I did a lot of research into the path of democracy at the time, so some of those songs ended up with that flowing through them.”
Joey’s increased skill in English also comes from the singer and his wife living in London since 2000 with their two sons.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in London, but we moved here permanently in 2000,” added Joey.
“I first came here when I was a kid with my parents who brought me to the UK when I was 12 or 13. I’ve always loved London, so after living in many different places, I decided I wanted to move to my favourite spot.
“I met my wife in London in 1992. She’s from up north, so it’s common ground for both of us.
“I love it all - from the street art, to museums and all the bands that come here to play.
“I also like it because it’s a big city which makes you anonymous. I like the food too - the chefs here are amazing these days.
“It’s great inspiration for writing music.”