"The interest is getting greater and greater in Australia so we're very happy," gushed Joey Tempest, founding member, and vocalist for Sweden's Europe.
"We're meeting up in Stockholm tomorrow to rehearse with the crew and the band and we're going to be designing a special show, a longer show - over two hours - and trying to add some instrumental features as well. We're going to do the big songs of course, but we're also wanting to do some new stuff because we're having a good run over here at the moment. We just won a Grammy in Sweden for Walk the Earth. We got some great reviews and other awards over the last few years and we're on a new journey over here. We also realize we haven't been to Australia before and we, of course, wanna play the big songs and connect that way, but we also wanna introduce a lot of new stuff there and maybe even go back and play some crazy stuff from the first two albums."
In a first for the band, Europe will be splitting the performance into two sets, partly to preserve their aging bodies, but mostly to allow the material from over four decades to digest with the fans.
"We wanted to make it longer and we wanted it to have a start and an ending, so that means we can do an hour to start with and then re-set and have a little break and then do another hour and maybe a bit more," Tempest explained. "We wanna make a span of our whole career by mixing the big songs up with some we haven't played for some time. It will be a special, defined show for Australia."
Europe started way back in 1979, in an era that was still finding it's way musically. It was a period of change and Tempest says that Europe were more than happy to be a part of that revolution.
"We used to go and see shows together back then," he recalled. "We'd have a couple of beers and then we'd take the train into Stockholm and see Thin Lizzy and early Whitesnake and Rainbow and Deep Purple. To see Richy Blackmore play was amazing in those days. We were always going to concerts and then straight to rehearsal and that was a good job. We were all dedicated musicians and we wanted to have that job so we had to practice. Today it's the same five guys who started then so we still have that bond from going to shows together. It's a strong bond and it keeps us together as well."
"It wasn't really happening mainstream yet at all," he continued. "When we were very young there was a radio program once a week that played some hard rock music and it was a small station. Several record companies said no when we came knocking with our heavier demos so it was... it had started in England hadn't it? It started with Iron Maiden and Def Leppard was getting something and Scorpions were getting some action on radio and radio programs but in Sweden, there was not much happening so by chance we entered this rock competition - we played two of our own songs - and that was before we recorded our first album. We won that competition and the prize was to record an album and when we recorded it the kids just woke up in Sweden. There was a rock band with long hair and there was loud guitars and progressive hard rock music and it really opened the doors a lot. Then we did 'Wings of Tomorrow' and we started to get airplay with 'Open Your Heart' and songs like that. We also got a deal in America on the back of 'Wings of Tomorrow' and 'Scream of Anger' and then our third album got us signed and it was a breakthrough album."
That album, and the title track from it, was to catapult Europe into the upper echelon of rock bands. The song was to become one of the biggest selling hits of the year and to this day is one of the most requested and played songs on several stations the world over. That song, of course, is 'The Final Countdown'.
"It's okay, we love playing it live," Tempest smiled when asked if the song's success was a blessing or a curse. "Whether it's a heavy metal festival or a smaller rock festival people come together with that song because they have grown up with it but we have a different relationship to it. It's an album track for us. It's one of our songs from our eleven albums we made and we see it differently. We love playing it live but we don't listen to it or rehearse it at home so it's just a song for us. But it obviously brings a lot of people together and a lot of people like it and it has gained a life of its own."
In 1992 the unthinkable for fans happened. Europe decided to call it a day and although Tempest put out solo material and the other members pursued their own musical endeavors, things just weren't the same.
"We'd gone pretty much straight from our childhood and then done ten years straight on the road," he mused. "I felt like I wanted to dig a bit deeper and have a break and do solo albums and the other guys wanted to keep touring. They toured with Glen Hughes and other bands and they wrote and recorded other albums while I did three solo albums. I think the feeling was - for me personally - I wanted to find another dimension. I think in the beginning of the 1990's everything was pushed to its limits as far as production and lyrics and videos... they were something else and I think bands like Stone Temple Pilots and Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine and Nirvana tapped into that. They reached towards it and by the end of the 80's it was becoming formulated and one-dimensional. I wanted to learn more so I took the long road. I studied Neil Young, Van Morrison, Jackson Browne and Bob Dylan and I bought every CD I could from those guys and I just wanted to learn about songwriting on a deeper level and myself and the other guys brought a lot of that experience back with them when we started again in 2004. I think the break was good for the band. It felt like a natural thing to do. The business was changing in '91, '92 and we felt like a break and maybe come back later. I think people misunderstood that we packed it up but we didn't really. We took a break and I said I wanna do some solo albums and the other guys said we wanna do other stuff so that's what happened."
Since reforming in 2004, Europe have released more albums (6) than before the split, and are currently riding the wave of success on the back of last years album Walk the Earth. While Tempest admits that time has taken its toll on the band, he is also of the opinion that their best still lay in front of them, a point backed up further when you consider this.
"You've gotta keep doing it," he said of the secret to sustained success. "A writer needs to write and a guitar player needs to open the guitar case and pick up the guitar every day. If you keep doing it and keep pushing it and keep going it will come automatically. But if you stop writing and stop playing, that's dangerous. The fact that we keep going and keep everything rolling certainly helps. We write together and it's amazing what everyone contributes and it becomes a teamwork thing and really helps."
Tour The Earth
Wednesday, May 16: Concert Hall, Perth
Friday, May 18: Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide
Saturday, May 19: Palais Theatre, Melbourne
Tuesday, May 22: Enmore Theatre, Sydney **
Wednesday, May 23: The Tivoli, Brisbane
Pre Sale starts Monday, November 6 via ticketmaster.com.au
**Sydney tickets available from ticketek.com.au