Europe are one of Scandinavia’s most successful bands. Achieving worldwide success with the release of ‘The Final Countdown’ in 1986, the quintet weathered fame and the split of the band, reforming in 2003 and going on to release five critically acclaimed albums including 2015’s ‘War OF Kings’. Until now, there’s been no looking back, but with the 30th anniversary of ‘The Final Countdown’ being celebrated with a run of special shows, the band are ready to revisit their most well-known act. We caught up with bassist John Levén and keyboardist Mic Michaeli at Ramblin’ Man Fair to discuss the dates, as well plans for a new album. Heading for Venus: Eamon O’Neill.
Hi guys, the last time we chatted you were on tour with Black Star Riders. How did you enjoy those dates?
Mic Michaeli: That was great fun, it was a really, really great tour. They’re great guys to tour with and hang out. Really, we had a blast.
How does it feel to be sharing the stage with Thin Lizzy on their anniversary tour, given that Europe are massive fans of the band?
MM: Oh, it’s good fun, it’s great. I mean the band is like - they’ve got some good names in there too, so yeah it’s going to be fun. Actually, there’s one show in Sweden that Scott [Travis, Thin Lizzy drummer] is unable to do, and I don’t know if it’s because he’s doing something with Judas Priest or whatever, so actually Ian [Haugland], our drummer is joining and filling in for that. It’s just the one show.
That must be a gig of a lifetime for him.
MM: I think it is. I think at first he was like; [nervously] “no, no, I can’t do it!”, and then I think Joey [Tempest, Europe front man] said; “come on! You’ve got to go for it – come on, it’s once in a lifetime”.
John, you weren’t tempted to nudge Tom Hamilton out of the way so that you could have a go?
John Levén: Yeah, sure! I wouldn’t mind.
MM: That’s one of the things; playing together with Tom, that’s one of those things that you want to do.
This year sees you celebrating the 30th Anniversary of ‘The Final Countdown’ with some special shows. Are you looking forward to those dates?
MM: Oh yeah, definitely. We’re going to do something special with the whole thing, with the stage set, and we’re going to have some good stuff going on. We’re going to spend some money on making it a really good show.
Europe has made some great strides since getting back together in 2003. Is it strange stepping back to that time, given all you’ve achieved since?
MM: In a way it’s strange, because we really want to be, we want to make sure that people know that we’re a current band, a contemporary band. But on the other hand, we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for that album.
JL: It’s going to be great to play those songs.
MM: Also, it’s kind of fun, because some of those songs we haven’t played in years and years, and they’re probably songs that we never will play again.
Is it challenging to play those old tracks again?
JL: Lyrically, it’s going to be – there are some strange things going on there; ‘On The Loose’ – “so young, so tough, so wild”. I don’t feel so young, so tough, so wild anymore!
Are there any songs that you haven’t ever played from that album?
MM: I think we’ve covered them all.
JL: Yeah I think so.
Back on the original tour in 1986, you both opened and closed the shows with ‘The Final Countdown’. Will you be bringing that back for the anniversary dates?
MM: We might do the same again, or similar in a way.
JL: Something similar, definitely.
1986 was an incredible year for the band; was that kind of explosion of popularity hard to take in?
JL: I don’t think we really did take it in back then because everything just happened so fast, and there was so much of it. But it was hard to see it from the outside because we were tight in that kind if bubble. So, I’m not sure we really did take it in; we were extremely busy.
I’m guessing that there might be mixed emotions looking back as obviously John Norum felt uncomfortable left the band during that period.
MM: We were all uncomfortable. *laughing*
JL: One thing was, all of a sudden we had to do a lot of [pre-recorded] playback shows in Spain, or in France, and lots of press, but doing the playback thing was not really our cup of tea.
MM: It was a pain in the ass, and I think John, especially, I think he suffered more than we did from it. We suffered, but we sort of pulled through.
JL: There was some really strange TV shows we ended up in. Success for us was; we sell a lot of records maybe, but also being able to tour, and it felt like we did all kinds of TV shows and stuff, and that’s not rock and roll, is it?
Moving on, and since getting back together, the band have released five strong albums. Is it better this time around?
JL: We’ve more control, that’s for sure. I think it’s better now. We’re wiser, we know more what we’re doing when we enter a studio to record. Yeah, I think it’s better now.
It’s been a year and a half since ‘War Of Kings’ was released. Have you any plans in place to work on the follow-up?
JL: Yeah, we’re actually doing it with the same producer Dave Cobb, but you never know what’s going to happen. I mean, rather than ‘follow up’ we’re just going to try to do our best again.
Have you any idea of what sort of direction it might take, given that your last two releases were quite blues based?
JL: We just started writing for the album so it’s kind of too soon to tell, really.
MM: It’s not that we decide - we don’t decide; well now we’re going to do a blues album, we’re now going to do a ‘modern’ album or whatever – it’s more like where the songs take us. Since we’re working with Dave Cobb again for this album, it’s probably going to be a little bit rootsy. I mean, the way he thinks is very organic; he likes to record things live and keep the whole thing together, and it’s a very good vibe. So, probably it’s going to be more or less in the same vein as the ‘War Of Kings’ album, I’d guess.
Back to the live shows, and on stage Joey Tempest is quite animated; do you find yourself having to duck that mic stand when he swings it?
JL: He wants to actually hit my bass. *laughing* No, no, no, but it’s scary sometimes seeing that mic stand coming flying.
You’re only doing a handful of dates on the 2016 anniversary run. Are there any plans to add any additional dates, in America or otherwise?
MM: It will be ten or twelve shows and that’s it I think. As of right now it’s a one off thing that we’re doing. But I don’t know, if we get some requests from the U.S., you know we might do it, but as it looks right now, this is what we have.
Finally, for added authenticity, have you thought about donning some 80s’ wigs for the shows; getting Ian into a blond peroxide number perhaps?
MM: *laughing* That would be fun. We should do that [to Ian]. For me though, no thanks!
JL: *laughing* Err… no!
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Europe's 'The Final Countdown 30th Anniversary Tour 2016' kicks off in Stockholm on 8th November. The band play London's Roundhouse on 12th November.