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Interview conducted December 6 2017
Interview published December 26 2017

"It's worse if you try to adapt and go out on a nostalgia trip and it all goes to hell, because then you don't have any dignity left either."

Metal Covenant was given some time with drummer Ian Haugland as the Swedish veterans in hard rock outfit Europe launched a gig in their old hometown of Stockholm on their tour for the new record Walk The Earth [October 20th].

"They are more back on square 1 regarding their life situation and I don't want to go home to someone who has a bunch of screaming kids running around you all the time."

Tobbe: Most of the material, which you of course are well aware of, since the comeback, is different from what you did in the '80s and the early '90s and is it kind of a nice situation to not try to recreate what you did back then?

Ian: Yes, I think so, definitely. It was, you know, what we decided to do when we restarted this operation in 2003. I mean, we have our history with the '80s and all the big hits and everything, but we felt that: to start with, we didn't want to become a nostalgia act who just go out and play the old stuff, but we were like "If we're gonna do this, we're gonna let the music be our driving force and the inspiration.".

You know, like you and I talked about earlier here about sponsors [Ian and I talked for some time before we sat down for the actual interview.]; in the '80's it was the record company that more or less took the decisions. They had the money, you know, and since we had a huge hit with The Final Countdown they started to interfere and wanted the next record to sell even more and they came with "good" advice.

Today, we don't have that situation and we can decide to do whatever the hell we want to, because we own our recordings, so we present, you know, a finished product to the record company, like "Are you interested in working with this?". So we own the whole situation in a whole different way and it's so much more fun and a conscious choice that we made in the beginning.

Tobbe: The new record, Walk The Earth, got fairly good reviews among critics, but at the same time, you know, the fans long back to the days of their youth in, often, the '80s and how do you handle this really when you're starting to write the songs and maybe when you start recording them for an album?

Ian: You know, we kind of don't have any intentions when we're writing songs, but it's more that someone begins with a riff and then the song finds its own life in a way. I absolutely don't have any thoughts about trying to make it sound like the '80s or not sound like the '80s. But the songs just become what they become. They grow and they get a Europe backbone in the music automatically, because the guys in Europe are making them, you know.

But we're never trying to adapt to expectations or what someone else wants or what someone else thinks we should do. We're on a, you know, musical journey and we can't write music for someone else and we write, you know, music for ourselves and if people think it's good, it's awesome. And if they don't and if it all goes to hell, we can at least go to hell with our flag held high, like "We did it our way.". It's worse if you try to adapt and go out on a nostalgia trip and it all goes to hell, because then you don't have any dignity left either.

Tobbe: But isn't it sometimes a little tempting to revisit the old sound? I mean, it's the paying audience that brings income to the band after all.

Ian: It is, definitely, but I don't experience so much negativity from the fans. Of course there are fans that are looking for nostalgia, but I experience that the majority of Europe's fans have understood the situation that we're not going back to the '80s. Of course we play those songs when we play live, but when we make music for new records it becomes what it becomes and it sounds like it sounds like today.

So, surely, there are certain people who whine and want us to make The Final Countdown Part 2 and last year we did a Final Countdown 30 year anniversary tour, so we do stuff like that when, you know, we go back fully on The Final Countdown, for example. It was just for a few shows actually, but possibly we will do more of them later.

Tobbe: The recording technique today is quite different from what it was 35 years ago and in what way do you guys make use of the positive stuff that comes with new techniques? You know, it's not all good and sometimes certain albums sound kind of too computerized.

Ian: Walk The Earth now, for example, we recorded, to begin with, in the old Abbey Road Studios; the old [The] Beatles studio. We used Beatles's old mixing console; a big gray fucking lump of steel that looks like it comes from some nuclear plant in Russia, you know. We used the same mixing console that Pink Floyd used when they recorded [The] Dark Side Of The Moon. All the mics used to mic up the drums and the guitars and everything went via the preamps in this old mixing console and then from there directly to Pro Tools. So we merged old, fine, warm analog stuff with absolute cutting-edge technology and therefore we got both the old and the benefits of the new, like editing.

We're always very keen on having warmth and an organic soul in our sound. The album that maybe is the furthest from, you know, the analog feeling was probably Secret Society [2006], where we worked more with modern technology and above all we had Stefan Glaumann, who mixes for instance Rammstein, and he's mixing very much digitally. So it came out with a modern sound, but also very cold and that wasn't our thing, you know. The journey we're on now, with War Of Kings [2015] and Walk The Earth, is a lot more, you know, Europe.

Tobbe: If we disregard the actual sound. In your opinion, which is the most anonymous record of the 6 "new" ones? Not forgotten, but a record people don't think about so much.

Ian: Well, it's probably Secret Society. There are some really great songs, but that record was released by the record company Sanctuary and that record company went bankrupt, like, one week later or something like that after the release of the record. So it kind of didn't get any promotion and unfortunately it disappeared a little bit. It was kind of forgotten by ourselves, and above all the public, criminally quickly, you know. So I guess it deserves some light and some of the songs stick out and are really good, I think.

Tobbe: You mentioned the mix between old and new and do you ever read a review where the new stuff isn't compared with the old stuff and where focus lies strictly in the now?

Ian: No, no, never completely. But I do experience that it's getting less and less actually and more and more that they write like "For you people who think The Final Countdown was the only thing this band ever accomplished; Wake up!" and that kind of attitude. So it's getting less and less.

But we will never get away from that, and all respect to that, because, you know, you don't mention Led Zeppelin without somewhere mentioning Stairway To Heaven, you don't mention Black Sabbath without somewhere mentioning Paranoid, you don't mention Deep Purple without somewhere mentioning Smoke On The Water, etc, etc. And having being part in the creation of a piece of music like Final Countdown, which we're synonymous with, I see that more as an incredible asset and more a blessing than a curse.

Tobbe: Besides it's maybe fun to be playing, what is the greatest driving force for Europe to keep going today?

Ian: Well, the driving force is what we set out to do when we restarted in 2003. It's creating music and being on a musical journey and broaden our perspective and allow ourselves to be inspired by the music and not being afraid of trying new stuff. The musical journey is what's most important; that you never stop and, you know, put your spandex on because someone else expects you to. But who knows? Maybe we'll do that just to be a pain in the ass to people, but then it's a whole different thing.

Tobbe: You've been active for 14 years since the reunion and that's actually a little bit longer than from start to finish the first time. So in comparison, 10 years in the '80s and 10 years at this point, is time just flying by now? I mean, 6 records.

Ian: Time definitely seems to run faster now. I still remember the first meeting we had in the kitchen at [Mic] Michaeli's [keyboards] place when we decided to start over again. You know, in 2003. Michaeli was serving bad red wine and we ate and we talked shit there. But, with aging, at least I think so, time seems to run faster and faster. One year just flashes by now, but in the '80s when we were younger, you know, a year was a long time in some way.

But at the same time I don't think of time in marked blocks either, but it flows together with events and things you did here and there and you don't remember if it was before or after this and that record. So it actually feels pretty timeless in a way, both backwards and in the present, and even forwards, you know. It's first when you sit down and think "Now these grumpy old fuckers are 50-55 years old." and realistically seen maybe we can go on for another 15 years, tops. The Deep Purple guys are just over 70 and they're starting to slow down now.

But on the other hand, [The] Rolling Stones, some of the guys are, you know, hell, almost 80 now. [Laughs] (In their mid 70s is closer to the truth.) But, you know, the older you get, the less you think about that the end is inevitable, but it's more that we feel that we'll continue this as long as it's fun to do and as long as people care, you know. The day we feel that we don't have anything more to bring, then we'll stop doing this and put the band to rest for good.

Tobbe: To be in a band is sometimes considered a job, even if some people think it's just something fun, so do you guys in the band ever meet outside music related stuff or have you passed that stage already long ago?

Ian: Not really. You know, I and Mic work a little bit beside each other on Rockklassiker radio station.

Tobbe: Yes, exactly. Music related…

Ian: Yes, it's music related, I know. But I and Mic are maybe the ones that meet the most in person and have most in common and maybe that's because our family situations are kind of similar, as both of us have grown up kids and more own time and the other guys are on round 2 with new kids and stuff. They are more back on square 1 regarding their life situation and I don't want to go home to someone who has a bunch of screaming kids running around you all the time.

Well, we mostly meet on tour, but somehow that seems to be enough too. We have so many old memories together and we always have something to talk about, but I don't think I could stand hanging out with the boys in the band every day when we're not on tour, you know. You get enough of each other anyway, and you grow up…

Tobbe: What does other bands say about the music you put out today? Without them trying to be flattering, of course. You know, everyone can be that.

Ian: It seems like most of them think that we're doing the right thing and follow our heart and musical soul. I think, maybe many of them are, I don't wanna say jealous, but they think it's courageous that we actually don't play it safe, but is doing our thing, you know. There are other bands from the same era that maybe stick more to the past, but as I said, we must follow our musical soul, you know. It's crucial for us.

Tobbe: You keep your integrity and dignity by doing what you're doing today, because there are many bands that are trying to recreate past times and they often come out pretty lame when they're trying to copy stuff or trying to get that long gone feeling of youth back.

Ian: And it often becomes tragic, because let's say a band that was big in the '80s and then they're trying to do something similar in 2017, but now they're old men and a little fat and they're going bald, but still they're trying to put those damn spandex on and make songs that almost sound similar to what they did before. It turns out a little tired and with an old man feeling to it. Unworthy, it feels like. Unnecessary.

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