Europe are arguably one of the biggest rock bands of the past few decades. Amongst their vast repertoire of hits lies ‘The Final Countdown’, one of the biggest songs of the ‘80s, having reached number 1 in 25 countries worldwide. With their latest album ‘War of Kings’ completing their impressive collection of ten studio albums, they continue their quest for anthemic rock. GIGsoup’s Bethan Brace was lucky enough to speak to band members Mic Michaeli (keyboards) and Ian Haugland (drums) behind the scenes at Gibraltar Music Festival.
Firstly it’s lovely to meet you! Is this your first ever visit to Gibraltar?
Ian: Yes, it’s my first time.
Mic: Mine too.
How are you finding it?
Mic: Yeah, it’s amazing. And so so warm! Interesting runway too, that’s the first time I’ve had to cross a runway to get to a town before.
Your new album ‘War of Kings’ is great. To me, it feels a bit darker, a bit more serious than some of your earlier work. Do you feel your style has changed over the years at all?
Ian: Well, our music has had to change and sort of progress. I guess we see ourselves as being on a musical journey. Every album has sort of developed its own life as we’ve made them. We don’t have any preconceptions of what it’ll be like until it’s actually done, so it’s always a nice surprise to see how it comes out. I mean, a couple of albums back it was a different approach, and this represents where we are now. The songs on this album are sort of a homage to our influences from the 70s: Rainbow, Deep Purple… Stuff like that. I guess that it shows quite clearly on some of the songs.
Mic: Yeah. I agree. Got nothing more to add to that!
You’ve been in the business for a long time, it was around 30 years ago that you found international fame with ‘The Final Countdown’. Has the industry changed in that time?
Mic: Well, there’s pros and cons to how the industry’s changed. Obviously you don’t sell as many records as you used to back in the day. On the other hand, you’re not as dependent on the record companies as you used to be. You used to have to have a record company, but no you can pretty much make your own albums and CDs. Not even CDs, you can just make music and make it available for downloading and streaming. But I mean the industry is always going to change, but our love and passion will always be there, and that’s the most important thing in my opinion.
Ian: I think that also, today it’s a lot more important to be able to go out on tour and put on a great show. To really win over an audience with your performance. In the 80s it wasn’t quite as important in my opinion. Back then it was mainly about selling albums and I don’t personally think that the live music scene was as important. So, basically that’s good in a way because all the shitty bands basically can’t do it, because a live audience can tell if you’re actually talented or not!
Do you feel that there’s been pressure for you to change your musical style over the years at all?
Ian: I think, especially in the last 12 years, we’ve always done what we’ve felt like doing without trying to fit in. There was one record that we made when the record company interfered and told us what songs to have on, and to take off the album. That was one of the things that made us want to take a break from the industry for a while. Since coming back into the industry (12 years ago), we’ve made sure that we have a lot more creative control. Today there’s no real boundaries, so we’ve definitely got a lot more freedom.
Mic: I also think that with age you get a lot more self-confidence. We make the music that we want to make, and have no issue making sure that we are making the music that makes us happy in a way.
After so long in the industry, do you feel the same before a live performance as you did when you first started out?
Mic: We definitely still get excited. It’s basically why we started playing when we were teens. Standing up and performing on stage is what we always wanted to do. It’s always going to be the ultimate thrill. It’s cool and fun to record albums, but playing live is always going to be the best thing.
Finally, many bands see several changes in personnel over the years, how have you managed to keep the same members?
Ian: Well, (chuckling), I guess it’s that we make sure to all sit together, have a beer and a chat after every gig. Just sort of unwind and debrief together. It’s important to keep that bond, and remember that we’re doing this with each other because we’re mates at the end of the day.
Mic: Plus, when we’re not recording or touring we keep our distance so we don’t get bored or annoyed with each other!
‘War of Kings’ is out now via UDR Records
This Europe article was written by Bethan Brace, a GIGsoup contributor