This interview was conducted to mark the 300th issue of Classic Rock magazine, which launched in 1998. The anniversary issue is available to purchase online (opens in new tab), and also features interviews with Gene Simmons, Def Leppard, Alice Cooper, Geddy Lee, Justin Hawkins, Rick Nielsen, Slash and many more.
Europe’s rebirth as one of the world’s finest hard rock bands has dovetailed nicely with Classic Rock’s growth.
Those who might have dismissed the band as pop-metal poodles have had their preconceptions blown away by a string of superior albums showcasing a gifted unit who can be placed in the classic lineage of Thin Lizzy, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath.
Frontman Joey Tempest has only positive memories as he looks back on the band’s second act, which kicked off aboard a Stockholm barge as the band left their mark on Sweden's 2000 millennium celebrations.
"Rehearsing for that was the first time we’d all been in a room together for eight or nine years," Joey says. "And it felt like we’d just been on a coffee break"
Europe were on hiatus when Classic Rock launched. What was going on in your life at the time?
I was living in Ireland, in County Wicklow, where I spent the latter part of the nineties, and I was working on songs for my third solo album [Joey Tempest], which came out in 2002.
I’d started talking again to [Europe drummer] Ian Haughland and [guitarist] John Norum, because we were feeling like we missed each other, and the next thing that happened was our big reunion show on millennium eve, playing Rock The Night and The Final Countdown on a huge barge in the middle of Stockholm, in minus-20 degrees, just before midnight, which was mayhem.
Rehearsing for that was the first time we’d all been in a room together for eight or nine years, and it felt like we’d just been on a coffee break.
There’s a sizable gap between that show and the next Europe album, 2004’s Start From The Dark.
Yeah. I had to release that solo album, and John Norum had to finish up some stuff in Los Angeles with Dokken, so we’d said: “Let’s meet up at Mic’s [Michaeli, keyboard player] place in Stockholm in 2002!”
And that’s what we did, and we decided to get back together and do this our way. I remember we all bonded over the first Audioslave album, which we thought was brilliant, classic rock for the new millennium. An inspiring record.
When you returned, was there a sense that Europe could now be viewed as a classic rock band?
I think that happens gradually, without you even knowing it! When we got back together we knew that it’d take maybe years to shake off the imprint of us being seen just as ‘The Final Countdown guys’. And Classic Rock magazine played a big part in helping us re-establish ourselves. I might be wrong, but I think [2006’s] Secret Society had a favourable review, and certainly when we were invited to headline the Bloodstock festival in 2009, that felt like a real turning point.
We started appearing more and more in the magazine after the release of [2009’s] Last Look At Eden. I remember we did an interview with your now-Editor, Siân, on the roof of the Sanctum hotel, and she was so welcoming and friendly. Being in the magazine meant so much to us, because it’s a magazine we all love.
Headlining Bloodstock must have been quite daunting at the time, given its positioning as a really heavy festival.
Yeah. I remember we were laughing reading the forums beforehand, because everyone was like: “What are Europe doing here?” [Laughs] But I think we did a good job. And I remember that a lot of the Scandinavian metal bands on the bill came to us and were like: “Woah, that was great!” I think a lot of those bands liked our first two albums; I know that the guys from Opeth and Ghost are fans.
It seems like Europe are in a really good place right now, genuinely on a roll.
It feels like that for us, over the past three albums, really. We did Bag Of Bones  with Kevin Shirley, and I actually kept the review from Classic Rock because it was so amazing. It ended: “Forget what you think you know, Europe are one of the greatest rock bands on the planet right now, and Bag Of Bones is an outright joy.” We were so happy about that!
Recording the last album, Walk The Earth, with Dave Cobb at Abbey Road studios, was amazing, and we landed a Swedish Grammy for that. We’ve been very lucky.
So what’s next for Europe?
We’ve been writing a lot and we’re getting ready to meet up again and throw some ideas around. The pandemic gave me a chance to reset my writing, and I’m really excited about getting back together with everyone. I’m not sure that we’d get a record out this year, but we’re working hard.
Maybe that will give the band a shot at the cover of the magazine.
Oh, that would be amazing. I know a Swedish rock band isn’t the easiest sell, but that would be awesome. I’ll hang on to that thought as a dream!