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Interview: Joey Tempest from rock band Europe

PRIME-TIME teatime television, mainstream radio airplay and sold-out venues across the UK ...

Europe play at the O2 Academy, Newcastle this weekend
Europe play at the O2 Academy, Newcastle this weekend

PRIME-TIME teatime television, mainstream radio airplay and sold-out venues across the UK ... it’s almost like the last 25 years didn’t happen as chart-toppers Europe continue to regain lost ground and rediscover their traditional fan base.

However, these days it’s not so much about the big hair, private jets, teen adulation and that media-fuelled rivalry with Bon Jovi.

Today Europe are remodelled as blues rock troubadours, favouring substance over style and enjoying life as a hard-gigging, hard-rocking band.

Frontman Joey Tempest can barely hide his delight at the band’s second bite of the cherry but fame hasn’t come easy this time around.

Bag Of Bones is the band’s fourth album since reforming more than a decade ago and it’s only now that long overdue credibility and critical acclaim is coming their way.

“We’re still re-establishing ourselves after our success in the 80s,” said Tempest.

“We’re on a long hard road – we’ve put out four new albums since getting back together and Bag Of Bones is starting to turn a few heads.

“I’m not quite sure why people have been so complimentary about the new album. As musicians we like to keep ourselves on our toes and maybe that appeals to other people too.

“We like big choruses and always have done. But we like to express ourselves in a different way now that we can.”

He adds: “I like bands such as Rush. They always used to keep their fans guessing and Rush fans have always argued about whether this or that direction was the best one for them.

“Maybe that’s a strength ... to spark a debate and to get people talking. But those fans almost always get behind a new Rush album. Six months down the line and that’s still what seems to be happening with Bag Of Bones.”

Earlier this month Tempest appeared on BBC1’s The One Show, sparking waves of nostalgia across social networking sites. Tracks from Bag Of Bones have been played everywhere from Radio 2 to Planet Rock and this month sees Europe headlining yet another sold out UK tour.

However, the ageless frontman with a voice that continues to evoke memories of North East heroes David Coverdale and Paul Rodgers at their bluesy best, insists nothing is ever as rosy as it seems – and never was.

“My mum told me very early on in life that things are never as they seem,” he added. “She told me that what my school friends would say wasn’t always the true picture.

“Don’t get me wrong – the Joey Tempest you see is a very lucky guy. I’m lucky that I have a happy and healthy five-year-old son and I’m lucky that I’ve been together with my wife for a very long time now. But balancing the life I have in Europe with my home life isn’t easy.

“You might only see me in magazines or on The One Show but it’s not really as it seems. I have to try to balance the demands of my band, family, business interests, image and everything else.

“It’s difficult but on the whole I have a job that I like and I get to work with people who I’ve known for many years and who I like and trust.”

That sense of trust and harmony is writ large all over Bag Of Bones ... a blues rock beast of a record more akin to Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple than the cheesy 80s anthems for which Europe are renowned. “There’s a track on the new record called Not Supposed To Sing The Blues,” added Tempest. “It is tongue in cheek to an extent but the song incorporates a lot of stuff about us growing up.

“People have always raised an eyebrow when it comes to a band from Scandinavia managing to write decent rock music! It also reaffirms where we’ve come from geographically and musically and it’s like we’re talking to ourselves: ‘Hang on a minute, we’re from Sweden ... we’re not supposed to sing the blues!’.

“Maybe we weren’t. But we managed to express ourselves this way. We actually battled ourselves by doing Bag Of Bones. I don’t think we were ever supposed to make it but we did. And right now I can’t put my finger on where this band is from!”

Europe are, to an extent, still from the 80s. But in 2012 they’re from a place where old meets new and rock’s generations come together as one.

Europe play Newcastle O2 Academy on Sunday. Visit www.o2academynewcastle.co.uk

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