Europe | Interview
By Chantelle Frampton
When people think of the band Europe they immediately remember the huge 1986 hit, The Final Countdown. However, they are so much more than one great song. With eleven albums under their belt, including their most recent release Walk the Earth, Europe have affirmed themselves as a staple of the music industry.
Three decades on the scene is not only a testament to their music, but also to their loyal fans. Ahead of their anticipated gig in Belfast’s Ulster Hall, Drummer Ian Huagland reveals the band’s musical influences from the 80s to the present; the process behind their latest album and the importance of treating your fans with respect.
Walk the Earth was a great album, especially the different themes and changes in tone throughout. What was the process behind recording it?
Most of the songs came together in the studio, more or less. The last two albums we recorded Dave Cobb was the producer. We basically had structures of songs ready before we went into the studio because Dave Cobb likes to work in that fashion. You do the final work in the studio after you are in the creative environment.
I know that Joey usually writes his lyrics along the recordings. You get a feeling for the type of theme the song is going to be about. For most of the songs, he came up with a different theme during the recording session. Maybe apart from Pictures and two more songs that I can’t remember, most of the songs actually happened in the studio in the spur of creation.
You guys have been round for many years. It’s speaks volumes for your music but also for your fans. What differences do you notice when playing to a crowd now compared to the 80s?
I think the main difference now is that you still see a lot of the old fans from the 80s and they’re bringing along their kids. The kids are standing closest to the stage at the crash barriers while the parents from the 80s are still there in the back. We’re sort of broadening our audience; we have a generation shift within the fans. I think that’s really cool because the youth is the future so if we can attract the kids of today then that’s a very good time for us.
You have said in the past that you’re influenced by bands such as Deep Purple, Rainbow and Led Zeppelin. Have the bands influences remained the same or has it changed over the years?
Yeah, I think so. I remember when we started off in 2004 again, John Norum had a lot of influence from Zack Wylde of Black Label Society. It was a lot more junior back in those days. There are certain artists that influence us like Joe Bonamassa, a blues guitar player. I remember we listened a lot to Soundgarden’s comeback album. Certain albums and certain bands give some new points of view and inspirations for us. The main influences are the same as it was in the 70s and it will always be like that. I think the biggest difference from the 80s is that today we are proud of our influences and we don’t pretend not to be. If someone comes up to us and says that this song sounds like an old Deep Purple song or it reminds me of Led Zeppelin, we take it as a compliment. I think that’s the way it works.
Also, there’s loads of new bands coming up like Greta Van Fleet and they bring back that 70s kind of vibe. I think that’s very cool and it gives you hope that the search for the true core and inspiration of that music is still around. The music from the 70s, at least for me, is that you can listen to new music every six or seven months and then you start lacking something. You know you need to go back and listen to like a Deep Purple album and then you’re calm again. It’s the foundation we stand upon and it’s very important I think.
I know that you’ve worked with Glenn Hughes back in the day. Is there anyone still on the list that you would have liked to work with?
Yeah, that’s right. Mic Michaeli, John Levén and I recorded with him in the mid-90s. There are many, many artists that would have liked to work with. Phil Lynott, for example, has been dead since 1986. He would have been one of the top artists. I was fortunate enough to play with the new Thin Lizzy one day at a show in Sweden a couple of years ago. I still got the chance to play under some of the originals like Scott Gorham and some of the other guys.
Ronnie James Dio would have been great to play with. I met him once in Japan and we talked for two hours; he was a great listener and he really showed me the way you should treat your fans. To take time, listen to the stories and let that be part of the success. I think that’s very important, why burn your energy on being negative. Be happy and positive and spread the good vibes instead.
You have a huge catalogue of songs, The Final Countdown undoubtedly being one of the most famous. Are there any tracks that you particularly enjoy playing live and why?
Personally, I love playing the old songs, the big hits like The Final Countdown. People ask me “aren’t you fed up with that song, you’ve played it thousands of times?” I’m like no, every time we play it, it’s like playing it for the first time. The kind of energy you get from the audience when you play The Final Countdown is just so overwhelming. It’s awesome. Also, when you play Rock the Night, Carrie or Cherokee, all those songs, it brings so much happiness to the audience. Their happiness bounces back on us on stage.
If I were to pick the new songs I would pick Firebox from Bag of Bones, I think that’s a great track. I like The Siege from Walk the Earth. They have a certain vibe to them and that appeals to me. I can’t really say why but they’re just great fun to play live.
It’s always great to see big bands adding Belfast to their tours and there are some great venues in Northern Ireland. Do you find the smaller venues as enjoyable as the big festivals or huge arenas that you play?
I think that playing in front of a huge audience like a festival is a great feeling. It’s unreal to play in front of 20-30 thousand people in front of you and it’s really great. They’re standing, listening to what I am doing on stage and it’s really rewarding. But, at the same time you miss the direct contact with people because they’re far away and it’s hard to really absorb that energy from the audience. It becomes more of a one-way energy flow from the stage to the audience. Also, when you play the festivals you always meet other bands backstage and you get to hangout, have a beer. It’s like a big beach party or something.
In a club in front of maybe 300 or 400 people it’s also very rewarding because you have the direct contact with the audience. You can look people in the eye, nod your head and it’s really great. I think the small venue and the sound that comes from it is so intense and so compact. It’s like a burst of dynamite when you start playing. It’s a different vibe and it’s hot and sweaty and it’s great fun as well. I think you need one thing in order to appreciate the other.
No doubt the Ulster Hall will be a great gig. Do you have any memories of playing here previously?
Isn’t Belfast Gary Moore’s hometown? I think he videoed a live video there in the 80s and then we played there a couple of years ago in the same venue. A good story there is that somewhere along the way John Norum got to buy the same guitar that Gary Moore had in that video and he brought it especially for that gig to Belfast. It was a sort of homecoming for that guitar.
Europe will be performing at the Ulster Hall, Belfast on Tuesday 11 September 2018.