The interview was released in may 2018, by the Australian press, when EUROPE toured for the first time in this country.
When I hear the name Europe I immediately think of their string of fine recent releases this millennium, especially the last four albums – the classic hard rock of ‘Last Look At Eden’ (2009), the bluesy ‘Bag of Bones’ (2012), the epic ‘War of Kings’ (2015) and maybe the best of all, their latest and harder hitting ‘Walk the Earth’ (2017). Europe since they ‘found the Blues’ working with producers like Kevin Shirley and Dave Cobb have been a revelation.
For many though Europe was one of the most memorable Rock Bands of the late eighties and ‘that’ song (‘The Final Countdown’) rocked a million teenage dreams back in 1986 and has made radio it’s home ever since. It’s a wonderful thing for a band to have such a huge hit, and as Joey tells us in the interview it “opened many doors.” If you think that Europe are just about that song though and the huge ballads like ‘Carrie’ then you really are missing the best bit. Europe are in the form of their lives and producing some of the best rock out there at the moment and if you don’t believe me then 35 years into an amazing career they are making their way to Australia for the very first time.
We caught up with Joey a couple of weeks out from their first dates down-under!
Mark: Hi Joey how are you?
Joey: I’m good thank you. Where in Australia are you?
Mark: We’re based in the West, in Perth so we’ll be seeing your first ever date down-under!
Joey: Oh fantastic! Our debut! (laughs)
Mark: That’s right (laughs) you might just get some good first night reviews from us! I know it’s the first time for many of us down here but I was lucky enough to see you back in 2015 on the Monsters of Rock Cruise when our live show blew me away, but before that, and I’m searching for the date would have been back in the day when you supported Bon Jovi in the UK, what a show that was too!
Joey: Wow, that was in I think 1989 in August and it was Skid Row, Vixen, Europe and Bon Jovi! I’m pretty sure it was ‘89.
Mark: I think you’re right, what a line-up that was. As far the music of Europe goes I’m very much a recent-era man and I just can’t at the moment choose between ‘War of Kings’ or ‘Walk the Earth’ as my favourite album.
Joey: Yeah I know!
Mark: How do you reconcile the two eras of Europe – before and after the hiatus, do you see it as one long progression or is it the ‘new’ Europe and the Europe of old?
Joey: I think it’s a bit of both, it is a progression I suppose, there were tendencies on some songs in the early period that were more ‘alternative’ or if you like slightly more progressive, particularly on ‘Prisoners’ I think, ‘Prisoners’ was meant to be more organic, more leading into what we’re doing now. We were meant to record that album completely live but we ended up living in L.A. and recording it in the sort of standard way that you did then. But in the second period we started from scratch, just being organic, dynamic and just following our hearts, never listening to anyone outside the band, and trying to find our own way in the studio, finding great engineers, finding great studios and learn about the craft and recording, taking control, owning our music, licensing it out to people: so it was a new start in a sense. We took complete control and then went on an adventure sonically exploring the musical universe in our heads. And it’s culminated, yeah I think, with ‘War of Kings’ where it really started and then with ‘Walk the Earth’ we took even more steps into the unknown with songs like ‘Turn to Dust’ or even ‘Election Day’ maybe. Kind of pushing it further, I mean ‘Wolves’ we never would have done anything like that. It’s interesting, it’s a progression but in the new period we have just disregarded anything else and we are just following our instincts and learning our craft.
Mark: It must be great to have that freedom, and I guess that a lot of that freedom must stem from the worldwide hit ‘that’ particular song was, is that how you view that song at least in retrospect? The song that opened things up for you?
Joey: Of course, ‘The Final Countdown’ was on our third album and it opened a lot of doors obviously. We got to tour around the world and we became what we wanted to be – like Deep Purple and Thin Lizzy a successful band touring around the world. ‘The Final Countdown’ helped us get out of Scandinavia and Japan which we’d toured before. So yes it helped us but it doesn’t have so much to do with the new period. Sure we love playing ‘Final Countdown’ a lot but musically, yeah, it’s kind of an avant-garde song. It’s kind of different, and in that way it’s similar to what we do today but melodic-wise and the way it’s written we don’t express ourselves that way anymore, but we love playing it live.
Mark: I’ve listened to a lot of your music over the years and one of my favourite records I think was that self-titled solo record you put out just before Europe reformed.
Joey: Oh thank you yes.
Mark: I know that as a band you’re firing on all cylinders now and producing some of your very best material to my ears at least so I imagine it’s far from your mind but do you think there is another solo record in you and would you do anything differently next time?
Joey: I don’t think about that now, but it’s not impossible. We’re having a lot of fun now, we’re getting a lot of good reviews and it’s great touring, so I don’t see solo thing right now but I don’t think I can rule it out completely, it’s the ultimate freedom, you can go wherever you want and you have fun with that, but we have so much freedom in the way we write with Europe now that I don’t feel the need right now.
Mark: There are rumours of a huge treat for fans down-under – the entire new album plus a second set whee we walk through the ages from the first album to date?
Joey: Well, that rumour has been circulating but we’re meeting for rehearsals in a couple of days and what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna mix everything up. We’re gonna do a span of the whole Europe catalogue, so we’ll definitely play the big songs that the people know in Australia but we’ll also introduce the band, the band members, do some features. Introduce a legend like John Norum on guitar I mean what a treat for Australian fans just to see him play, I could just stand and watch him play!
Joey: Just him coming to Australia is a huge thing! (laughs) But no we really want to do a fan thing, feature the band members, play a lot of songs and maybe three or four from the new album. There won’t be more than that as we have so much to play, we have other albums as well as the new album and we’re also going to go back to the first two albums and do a couple of songs from the. So it’s going to be something for the fans, a big party and a lot of music!
Mark: It certainly will be. Talking of those songs, when you first started to write and how you write now: has the creation process changed a lot over time? And what still excites you about that whole process of creation?
Joey: Well it has changed in a very simple and fundamental way in that I write with the others now. In the very early days of Europe and since a very young age I was always interested in writing songs, so I was a little ahead of the guys. They were practicing their instruments but I was already interested in song-writing, and I started very young when I was nine or ten my mum said I would scribble down words and I had chords, so that was my love and I’ve always had that. But during the years the other guys have caught up and they’re such great writers. So basically today I write with Jon Leven – he sends me riffs and stuff, Mic sends me stuff and John Norum always comes up with a couple of rockers, and Ian in the studio always has a lot of great ideas so it’s taken the pressure off a little bit too, it’s a team effort and everybody’s soul is in there and so it’s very different today as everyone writes together whereas in the early days I wrote pretty much everything.
Mark: Are you someone who sets aside time to write or someone who is constantly scribbling down notes, lyrics and chord progressions?
Joey: Yeah, I have two young boys so it’s hard to find time sometimes but I do try to sneak out to the studio and I do write down words and if I hear anything or have a melody line I’ll record it on my mobile. But then I will take time to write and I will do a fits generation demo really, really rough before I take it to the next stage and then I’ll call the other guys and say if you have ideas send them to me and then I start putting melodies on their ideas and that’s an ongoing thing, it’s like a cycle between every record.
Mark: I guess technology has made to so easy now, but do you think it takes anything away from the process? I know that you recorded the album in a room together – you seem to have found a great balance?
Joey: Yeah, yeah we were in Abbey Road and we recorded it in the ‘old style’ that’s why we used Dave Cobb, Dave has produced our last two records and he wants us to record completely live using room mics, just like The Stones recorded – he does it the right way – the way that you should record Rock and Roll and that’s why these records sound warmer and so organic and they also have a bit of a punch as we use young engineers to give it that ‘punch.’ So we record the old fashioned way but with some new tape technology involved. That’s very important to us a lot of bands make the mistake of using a lot of stuff on the computer, plug-ins and stuff, but we don’t do that we only use out board gear, and that was great because at Abbey Road we could find the console that Pink Floyd has used, we could find pre-amps and compressors that John Lennon had used and The Beatles and they were still working, and that’s what is so good about Abbey Road – they keep things working. So we used a lot of stuff that we’d heard on records we’d grown up with and we combined it with modern technology. We’ve very geeky and very nerdy and we want to work with great engineers in great studios and stuff.
Mark: I think you can hear that in the records, especially the last few, and warmth is a great way to describe it. What music moves you as an artist and has it changed over the years? I get a lot more Blues in ‘new’ Europe as well as a heap of other things
Joey: Yeah I mean if there’s one artist that we picked up on in our new phase that had to be Audioslave, they really kicked off the new millennium with ‘Cochise’ they started it right the way they recorded. We bring that album into every engineer and every studio we work with and say this is the benchmark, this is how we want to sound, and then when Rivals Sons came with ‘Pressure and Time’ that blew our minds and that was when we realised that we needed to get a producer like that, who produced that record! And it was Dave Cobb so we called him and thankfully he wanted to work with us. And also Joe Bonamassa has done some good stuff with Keven Shirley, and these people they record in the right way, fresh with the right console and the right methods and that is very important to us – so that inspires us.
Mark: Take it all the way back for us, you mentioned that you were writing when you were very young but what was it that made you realise that music was going to be your life? Was there a defining moment or a gradual realisation? When did you know that music would be your life?
Joey: I think it was very early on, I was so excited by music. Even when I was ten, eleven, at twelve I had my first band and it was just kids from school and we were just goofing around but it was so exciting to me that even then I thought “I can’t not be doing this.” And then I was always in a band and writing for that band, all through my early teenage years and then I met John Norum when I was about fourteen, he was thirteen or fourteen –I saw him pay with his band and I thought “Oh my goodness, I need to play with this guy”, and he’d seen me play too with my band too and we knew we needed to form a band. So we just met one evening and decided to put a band together and that’s when we started ‘Force’ and that’s how it began.
Mark: And that’s when you knew in that first I guess serious band that you knew there was no turning back?
Joey: There was no turning back after I met John Norum and I was then about fourteen or fifteen. A sixteen we started playing some shows around where we lived, we sort of organised it ourselves and the a few years later, I was nineteen, John was eighteen we entered this Rock competition and we won it, we wrote our own songs and we recorded our first album – that was the prize. That was ’83.
Mark: After Australia it’s back to a big European Summer with some Festival dates and a European and UK Tour, and I see a date at my old stomping ground of Nottingham Rock City!
Joey: Yeah we tend to go back there we kinda like it, it’s a cool place to play.
Mark: tell us about the Rock Festival scene in Europe, it seems so rich these days, we just got Download Festival down here last year after an absence of Rock Festivals for a few years, but Europe has always embraced those big days. What’s it like to play that circuit?
Joey: It’s quite a cool scene, a lot of those Festivals have been around a while now but even the newer ones have been around the years or so now, it’s a great atmosphere and it’s a great way of meeting other bands and also other bands audiences, it’s a great day out and we get to headline quite often or we get second or third on the bill with the big bands so it’s really good for us, we get to spread the word and play some new songs. And of course it’s cool to hang out backstage and meet the other artists.
Mark: If you could have been a fly on the wall for the creation of any great album just to see how the magic happened what would it be and why? What’s the album that still resonates with you?
Joey: (laughs) Wow there’s a lot of them! A lot of albums but an early one that I would have lied to have seen would have been ‘Space Oddity’ with David Bowie, that song in particular sounds so fresh and it was so well written and orchestrated and the guitar and the drums they used sound perfect, so yeah, that would have been amazing to see and I would have learned so much and that was the first singe I ever got so it really mesmerized me and the lyrics stayed with me and when I wrote ‘The Final Countdown’ lyrics I remember having that as an idea of leaving Earth and floating in space and I remember ‘Space Oddity’ was a big influence on the lyric of ‘Final Countdown.’ But that record still is amazing and there’s a remastered version now, well it’s been around for a while now and that sounds great. So a great record, a magic recording, magical.
Mark: Back to the tour now! For an artist with a back catalogue as rich as yours, and as a band who in 2018 are making such great new music how on earth do you pick a set-list? How hard is it?
Joey: It is crazy. A few years ago we did a handful of shows celebrating ‘The Final Countdown’ so what we did was play ‘War of Kings’ in its entirety as the first part and then we played the ‘Final Countdown’ in its entirety for the second part, and it was the most strange and amazing gig we’ve done because we got to play where we were ‘right now’ how we felt, how we were writing and that made us feel so cool, that made it all worthwhile and then you had a nostalgia kick with ‘Final Countdown’ so it is difficult but that was an easy way of satisfying self-indulgence you know. But there are a lot of e-mails going around and we’re meeting up in a couple of days for rehearsals and there is a lot of back and forth, there are some songs that some members refuse to play, there are some songs that three of us want to play and we compromise, but there is a ’red thread’ if you like, there are selective songs that over the years we agree on and those are the ones in the setlist. And to be honest we are not the greatest band at changing setlists too much over the years, but it is nice to put a bit of variety in there and change things from night to night sometimes. We’re getting better! (laughs)
Mark: Just one final easy question – what is the meaning of life?
Joey: (laughs) the meaning of life is just two things – good family and a good rock band! That’s it.
Mark: I think I’d agree with you there!
Mark: Thank you so much for taking the time my friend, all of Australia is waiting to see you, have a safe trip.
Joey: Looking forward to seeing you Mark, thanks, bye-bye.
Source: The Rockpit