For a band that first found success with a song called The Final Countdown, the hard rockers of Europe have proved to be remarkably persistent in extending their career far beyond that of most of their ’80s peers. The group released their 10th studio album War Of Kings late last year, and will be playing in Anaheim tonight, and then at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills on Friday. I recently spoke with drummer Ian Haugland to talk about Europe’s new music, touring, and if anyone in the band was sick of The Final Countdown yet.
Elliot Levin: Europe is going to be playing two shows in Los Angeles this coming week. Wednesday is at The Grove in Anaheim and Friday night is at the Saban Theater. When’s the last time you played here in LA?
Ian Haugland: As far as i can remember it was 11 years ago! 2005 at the House Of Blues on Sunset. I remember that it was a great show and a cool venue.
EL: Europe put out the first record over 30 years ago, but you’ve released 5 new albums in the past 10 years alone, including last year’s War Of Kings, which is great by the way. What gave you guys this drive to record all this new music?
IH: When we decided to reunite back in 2003, we said that the main reason to do it was to create new music, and not only live off past glory. It’s great to have a past with songs like The Final Countdown and so on, and we still love playing these songs, but we feel that we still have a lot of music in us, and we have a strong urge to record and play new music as well.
EL: The new albums are so much heavier than the material from the ’80s, do you consider yourselves a heavy metal band?
IH: Europe has never been a heavy metal band, we have our roots in the blues-based hard rock from the 70’s. Bands like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy and UFO paved the way for us. I think our last album War Of Kings is a great display of our hard rock roots.
EL: I know this is not a simple question, but can you explain some of the ways the music industry has changed in the past 10 or 15 years, especially in terms of recording and touring?
IH: The music industry has gone through big changes in the last decade. Artists don’t sell as many albums today as they did in the past, meaning that if you want to make a living from music you have to be able to perform and put on a great show that people are willing to pay for. When it comes recording it’s so much easier to make an album today. You can basically make it on your laptop. The possibility of sending sound files over the internet has also made it much easier and quicker to make demos.
EL: This past summer the band appeared in a Geico commercial playing The Final Countdown, and got that riff stuck in everyone’s heads again. Did you see a resurgence of interest when that came out?
IH: Absolutely, The Final Countdown went up to No.1 on iTunes download chart! There are also a lot of “non-rockers” out there that have discovered us through the GEICO commercial. It’s almost like a second coming!
EL: Do you or anyone else in the band ever get sick of playing that song?
IH: It’s not like we listen to it at home between tours, ha, but I never get tired of playing it. Every night is a new audience and the energy rush you get from them makes it feel like it’s the first time you’re playing it, a truly fantastic feeling!
EL: There must be hundreds of covers of The Final Countdown, are there any that you ever liked?
IH: Yeah I’ve heard a couple of interesting versions of it. London Symphonic Orchestra made a very bombastic version of it that’s awesome. I also like a version made by the industrial band Laibach that is very different but cool!
EL: I looked at some recent setlists the band is playing, and wondered how you can possibly fit 10 albums of songs into a 10 song concert. How do you pick what to play?
IH: It’s always a bit of a struggle to pick the setlist. On one hand you want to play the songs from the latest album but at the same time you got to play the older songs that people love to hear. What we try to do is to change maybe 1 or 2 songs between shows in order to keep the setlist fresh for us and the audience.
EL: Tell me about the fans who comes to your shows. Are they mostly older fans, or do you see many younger kids coming too?
IH: We are blessed to have both old and young fans in the audience. I think Europe got a lot of new fans since YouTube and Facebook came around.
EL: When looking at your setlists, I noticed that you were on a European tour in November and in fact played in France just a week after the terror attacks in Paris. You were a few hundred kilometers away from Paris, but was it scary or challenging to continue playing after what happened?
IH: It was a tragic thing that happened and it did effect both artists and fans. Many bands cancelled their tours after the event, but i think we did the right thing by continuing touring and not give in to the evil forces of terrorism. That tour was very emotional!
EL: Europe has played pretty much every major city and festival on the planet. Is there any concert you’ve always wanted to play but still haven’t had a chance to?
IH: There are so many cool venues around the world that I would like to play, like the Hollywood Bowl in L.A or the Royal Albert Hall in London. I’m sure we will one day!
Tickets for both Los Angeles concerts are still available through Livenation.com