Interview: Europe Vocalist Talks David Bowie, Geico, and New Album

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Europe is a rock band hailing from Sweden and famous for their 1986 hit, “The Final Countdown”. Recently, they were featured in a Geico car insurance commercial in which they performed the song. Last year, they released a new album called ‘War of Kings’. I spoke with Joey Tempest about musical influences, the Geico commercial, their most recent tour and album, and of course, that famous thirty-year-old hit song.

What inspired the creation of the band and its name?

After playing in different local bands, me and the guitarist, John Norum, formed a band we called Force. We practiced a hell of a lot and were dreaming hard of becoming a touring band. When it started to get a bit more serious we changed our name to Europe. We listened a lot to Deep Purple in those days and our name came from one of their live albums, “Made in Europe”.

What were your early influences in music?

Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy, and UFO.

Being that “The Final Countdown” is your best-known work, what sparked the creation of the song and how does it feel for the song to continue to be successful nearly thirty years after its release?

We were a guitar band, but as a songwriter, I experienced a bit with keyboards and came up with the main theme for The Final Countdown when I was still a teenager. We recorded it some years later for our third album. Lyrically, it was inspired by the first single I ever bought, “Space Oddity” by David Bowie, and the feel and sort of galloping tempo, I guess, came from listening to British rock bands that often used this kind of feel in those days.

How did the commercial for Geico insurance come about?

They approached us quite a while ago and after seeing a similar commercial by Iggy Pop here in the U.K., where I live, we thought we give it a go. We didn’t want to take ourselves too seriously and liked their initial idea of a script. However, we said if we were to do this, we wanted to use a new version of the song and that we were in control of our appearance. Since we’ve been back for eleven years and recorded five new albums, it was just a matter of rolling into the film studio straight from the tour and cutting the thing in a few hours. We had checked out other GEICO commercials and thought they used great directors together with scripts that had a good sense of humour.

2015 saw the release of a new album for you. What were your influences in making ‘War of Kings’?

It’s just an ongoing process and adventure for us. ‘War Of Kings’ is the fifth record since we got together again in 2004. Together with producer Dave Cobb (Rival Sons), we wanted to just do an honest record with a nice vibe. It turned out sounding a bit like those warm classic hard rock records we grew up with, and it’s fast becoming one of our favourite Europe albums.

It seems that you spent most of 2015 on tour. What were some memorable shows/experiences while on tour?

Well, 2015 was a great year for us. We went around the world with our new record and played loads of great gigs. We received a “Classic Rock” award in London and a “People’s Choice” award in our native Sweden. One of those years that we will stick in our memories for sure.

Do you think there is a difference in popularity for the band between the United States and other parts of the world?

Over the last eleven years we have worked quite a lot over here in the U.K, Scandinavia, and Europe, and we have managed to establish the “new” Europe with our latest five albums. We have just recently started going back to the US and now with an American based management. We have a lot of work to do but we are very excited to reacquaint ourselves with American rock fans and media over the next coming years.

What is your favorite Rock/Metal album of all time?
Too many great ones to chose from, but the “rock bible” for us as young musicians and band members must have been “Live In Japan” with Deep Purple. To us, it’s the essence of great rock’n’roll and musicianship. For our generation that album was the beginning of everything!