EUROPE - Interview with John Norum

23. September 2015


EUROPE - Interview with John Norum

eclipsed: A few months ago an album called "War Of Kings" was released, which was met with excellent to euphoric reviews and enthusiastic fans. Isn't that every musician's dream?

John Norum: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. I don't typically have to explain why and why "War Of Kings" is our best album. The press and our fans are already doing that for us. With so much praise, sometimes you have to pinch yourself.

eclipsed: Is it really your best album, as not only eclipsed magazine wrote? How do you watch War Of Kings a few months apart?

Norum: I think it's the album where Europe are closest to what we've always wanted to do. The way we sounded on the last albums, I always wished we would sound. I think "War Of Kings" is the end point of a development that nobody would have believed us to have. And to be honest, I'm totally happy that we could improve so much as a band. When we started at the end of the seventies, we weren't yet so musically versed to record such albums. And before we could get closer to what was in our heads with our first two albums until the middle of the eighties, the spirit of the times was overtaking us: Europe were suddenly in the middle of the business of teen magazines and TV playback shows; we were no longer the band we should and wanted to be. That changed after the 2003 reunion, we have been able to increase from album to album almost continuously since then, which is by no means a matter of course. Because unfortunately you as a musician often shot your powder after the first three albums. But we're in the fortunate position of gaining weight. This is also noticeable live, we do not only have to create our program with great deeds from the past. We just drag "The Final Countdown", "Rock The Night" or "Carrie" and some other songs with us and play without make-up what we and our fans like. If I'm honest, I can't wait to get back on tour. Every new Europe tour gives me even more pleasure.

eclipsed: Flashback: At the height of the "Final Countdown" hysteria, you quit ..

Norum: At that time it was only about the outer appearance and no longer about the music. I hated it so much, I quit. What a farce, you're with your buddies who all love the same bands as you, and instead of talking about this music, you make up and backcomb your hair to look nice in some teen magazine. After the success of "The Final Countdown" I felt like I was with the New Kids On The Block. But I wanted to be a musician, to develop myself as a guitarist and songwriter. I still remember a TV show in Spain or France. I was sitting in the dressing room and I really didn't know why I was still doing all this. And that's when I decided - up to here and no further!

eclipsed: When you talk about the music that was important for you and Europe in the beginning, then you mean ...?

Norum: That I'm a crazy Gary Moore fan I probably don't have to tie on anyone's nose anymore. But I also inhaled a lot of Thin Lizzy, Frank Marino and Michael Schenker during UFO times. But my absolute favorite album is and remains "Tokyo Tapes" by the Scorpions. Uli Roth plays on it divinely.

eclipsed: That sounds like your taste in music hasn't changed since the seventies?

NORUM: What you call Classic Rock or Classic Hardrock today is and always has been my thing. Over the years the focus has shifted towards blues rock again and again. But Schenker, Thin Lizzy or Uli Roth always go. I also like newer bands that move on this basis.

eclipsed: Back to War Of Kings again. With the penultimate album "Bag Of Bones" (2012) you had already presented a great work. What is the decisive difference between the two albums for you?

Norum: "Bag Of Bones" was a great experience. We recorded the album with Kevin Shirley (among others Joe Bonamassa, Iron Maiden, Mr. Big), and we wanted to record it as live as possible. That's basically what we did, but Kevin is a perfectionist who lets you record your stuff as a band in one piece, but until it's that far everything has to be right - technically speaking. Nothing against Kevin and Bag Of Bones. I can well imagine recording with him again, but the difference to Dave (Cobb, "Rival Sons" and "War Of Kings" producer) is that he's just a very different guy. He also brought us together in one room and recorded us as a complete band. But Dave's a hippie. He makes sure everyone is in a good mood, and he makes you try things you haven't thought about before. In this sense "Bag Of Bones" is the best possible implementation of our ideas and also the best possible selection of our song ideas of the year 2012. But Dave has challenged us even more. And he got so much more out of us and our songs. Without our musical skills and our songs the album couldn't have been so good, but Dave probably made the difference.

eclipsed: What's the difference when you're on tour now - in contrast to the first Europe phase?

Norum: This is completely different. Especially more relaxed and without all this hype.

eclipsed: Joey (Tempest, singer of Europe) told me that Europe used to be the total party band. So highlife and drugs, that shakes our view of the world?

Norum: We were never the drug band, but there were parties with plenty of alcohol every night in the eighties. It's gonna give me a headache. I had a hangover every day for months. You can't do a very good concert there.

eclipsed: Or do you have to take drugs after all?

Norum: So you don't realize how badly you're playing. (laughs). No, it's never been our thing.

eclipsed: And how is it today on tour?

Norum: We don't live abstinent now, but we only get hit if we have a day-off afterwards.

eclipsed: A perpetual theme is "The Final Countdown". There are classic rock fans who hate the song so much that they didn't even listen to the last good Europe albums. Can you understand that?

Norum: I think the song was more useful to us than harmful - and I'm still the first to admit that the studio version of the song sounds very "cheesy". That's how it was in the eighties, when a song was pasted with sound technology. But when those people you're talking about hear the song played live by us today, they'll realize what a good title it is. It's groovy, and we play it a lot harder than on the original album. When we started Europe again in 2003, it was also "The Final Countdown" that got the promoters to book us for concerts. So the song was on the one hand the beginning of the end for Europe in the first phase, but later also our starting capital.

eclipsed: What is your personal favourite Europe song?

Norum: "Last Look At Eden" (title track of the 2009 album - note). I can't get enough of this song.

eclipsed: You play a particularly good solo there too.

Norum: I can't explain exactly why I like this song so much. He is catchy and yet heavy and for me a timeless classic. Just our best song.

eclipsed: As a European you spent some years in California ..

Norum: I now live with my new wife Camilla (Wåhlander) and the children in Stockholm. And even though I liked the California sun, I feel much more at home here than anywhere else in the world.

eclipsed: But the death of your ex-wife Michelle (Meldrum-Norum, guitarist and the melodic metalist Phantom Blue - note) in 2008 has accelerated the retreat, right?

Norum: It's nice that the people who knew them, even if only fleetingly, like you, remember them in a positive way. What a great person - what a loss.

eclipsed: You shared the same fondness for Schenker and Uli Roth, didn't you?

Norum: My soulmate. I'll tell you the rest when the official part of the interview is over.

eclipsed: Of course I do. Now all Europeans are back in Europe. Joey in London and the rest in Sweden. Has this further strengthened cohesion?

Norum: Yes. Sweden and England are also the countries where we are most successful. That fits.

eclipsed: Besides Europe you have participated in various albums. Is there a project or album that was or is particularly important to you?

Norum: I still like "Up From The Ashes" (1990 solo album by Don Dokken). Maybe it's not the best album I've been on, but I remember it very well. Apart from me, Mikkey Dee (ex-King-Diamond and now Motörhead drummer - note) is another Swede playing along.

eclipsed: Which of your solo albums can you recommend?

Norum: "Face It Live" (1997). I still think this live record we recorded in Japan is very successful.

eclipsed: Your last album "Play Yard Blues" was released five years ago. Is there anything new in the pipeline?

Norum: I'm about to produce a sequel. But without any pressure or deadline. I'm already pretty far away and it's going to be a mixture of instrumentals and some sung songs. Most of it in the hard blues rock style of "Play Yard Blues" again. But I can't really say when it'll be ready yet.

Interview: Michael Lorant

Europe: discography (studio albums)
1. Europe (1983)
2. Wings Of Tomorrow (1984)
3. The Final Countdown (1986)
4. Out Of This World (1988) - without John Norum
5. Prisoners In Paradise (1991) - without John Norum
6. Start From The Dark (2004)
7. Secret Society (2006)
8. Last Look At Eden (2009)
9. Bag Of Bones (2012)
10. War Of Kings (2015)

More information: