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EUROPE - Mic Michaeli on War of Kings | FESTIVALPHOTO
 

EUROPE - Mic Michaeli on War of Kings

Review3952_Europe_WoK

EUROPE: Mic Michaeli on War of Kings ETC.

We all remember. EUROPE was for many a year the most major hard rock band Sweden had ever produced. They won the Swedish Rock Championship (Rock SM) in 1982, with the debut album as a trophy, and released “Wings of Tomorrow” in 1984. But all in all the need for a keyboard player was imminent by then. In the circle of friends from Upplands Väsby the band fetched Gunnar Mathias “Mic” Michaeli, a local celebrity of sorts, at the time residing in the band Universe. The stories of how he became a member may differ, but fact is that without the prominent keyboard parts, there might not have been a “Final Countdown”!

Hey presto! Off to present day and I´m on the phone with this softly spoken gentleman. We have the pleasure of discussing EUROPE´S latest album, their tenth. An album that opens with a heavy Viking anthem and moves along firmly ensconced in the five pals old heroes’ day and age. It is just about as far away from spandex and frizzy hair as you can get. So, time for a foray into the album, the band and the future - which looks bright!

STRICTLY ALBUM STUFF

Fph: Now Mic, the one thing that we could discuss all day, what’s the story on this album?

Mic: - We sure had a lot of material when we started out. I and John Levén sent Joey a whole lot of ideas, and what he liked and could supply the right vocals parts to was developed further. We´re really going back to our roots on this one, perhaps even more than was the case with our previous release “Bag of Bones”.

Fph: Speaking of which and your heritage as a singles band, which songs would in your opinion be slated for singles?

Mic – Singles really don´t mean a thing these days. If I was to mention a few songs that are our favourites I´d say the title track, which is the first single, Second Day, the probable live favourite that really builds steam, “Hole in My Pocket”. But if we were to pick a second single the band would probably go with “Days of Rock´n´Roll”.

Fph: Yeah, that one really lingers, and I can´t get “Rainbow Bridge” out of my head.

Mic –Funny you should mention that one. Me and Joey often convene in the studio to jam and test ideas. That particular song is one of those ideas that stuck with us.

Fph: I detect a lot of DEEP PURPLE, LED ZEPPELIN, and WHITESNAKE here, as well as some BLACK SABBATH and a few other giants of days gone by. Which of these influences do you adhere to?

Mic – In my case we´re talking DEEP PURPLE and LED ZEPPELIN, which is what I still listen to today. I used to listen to a lot of WHITESNAKE but that has changed.

SALES AND THE DEMON INTERNET

Fph: What do you expect in terms of sales these days?

Mic´s reply is at first shortly “Spotify”. It turns out that quite a few tracks have already leaked on the net.
Mic – To our advantage we have established ourselves as a solid rock band. We are not the hit band we used to be, and we all know that rock fans are the most devoted and loyal out there! Things have really fundamentally changed, in the eighties we toured to promote the album, today we do an album to be able to tour.

MIC´s ROLE AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF FOUR KIDS FROM SUBURBIA

Fph: I remember when you were introduced and peeked at the camera in...Expressen (Swedish daily rag) I believe. You seemed quite the guy who takes the backseat. But now you tell me how you, John and Joey seem to be pretty much at the centre of the songs. Do I detect that you have rose through the ranks?

Mic – Joey is always central in creating music. But he has changed his stance and is not the one in control any more. He seems to enjoy the fact that the rest of us contribute.

Fph: As a band you have been both on top of the world and chased by the I.R.S. How would you describe the five individuals that are the band?

Mic – We´re really the same people and we come from basically the same background which makes us similar in many ways. But we have all grown, both in e.g. the way we deal with different musical ideas within the band and opinions in general. The one who has really leaped forward in my opinion is John Levén. At 50 he has appeared as a songwriter! At first he was like “Ehh, I have some riffs here, could you help me with them?”. He mailed Joey, and released his potential that way. The best example of John this time around is probably the title track.

Fph: Let´s toy with the idea that you had been in the studio with Joey, feeling fab and all of a sudden you produce one of THOSE keyboard patterns that has a similar feeling toe the goosebumps of “Final Countdown”. Would you use it or lose it not being a hit band anymore?

Mic seems a bit intrigued with this question.

Mic - Well we would have taken it with us. We don´t really have that at the moment but we have some ballad ideas that we couldn´t use now, they wouldn´t fit this album. It is so important for an album to concatenate. We might come back to those later, but they were not possible on “War of Kings”. But on this album we have used some ideas that were originally conceived back in the 80-ies and 90-ies. The general rule for us is still that we are not a hit band though.
The live situation

Fph: The general feeling is that many bands don´t focus on Sweden anymore, they even speak of avoiding Sweden. Does that influence you musical decisions?

Mic: On the contrary. We do not avoid Sweden. We are always faced with the issue of playing a few large arenas or to tour a large number of smaller venues though. When we hit Sweden later this year we will play the most major cities. But that is this time around. To me Rock´n´Roll is better suited for small crowded places. But the catch is also that we want to give the audience a little extra when we are on tour and the size of our crew costs which can only be covered playing bigger crowds.

Fph: Does that mean that there might be a club tour later on?

Mic – There might be one later on. I have seen greats like THE ROLLING STONES and AEROSMITH live, in big venues, doing alright but in a small place with a lot of audience contact... As I said, I like Rock´n´Roll in crowded sweaty places.
EUROPE 2015...ehee, who´s in the driver´s seat?

Fph: This all seems very democratic, but you have been there with Thomas Erdtman at the helm. How is EUROPE governed in 2015?

Mic – We are all 50+ today, and we have learned that we must keep our family situations working. We all have the need to be ourselves in private. We have our own record company, we own our music etc. No one tells us what to do anymore, that was back in the day when we were young and impressionable. Everything was a ball back then.

IN THE FUTURE TO COME...

Fph: What is in the crystal ball for 2016 ff?

Mic – We´re planning on doing a new album quite soon. But we also have the 30th Anniversary of “Final Countdown” coming up. As much as we want to be vital and make an impact now we really can´t skip such a milestone.

Fph: That might cause some bad blood...

Mic – So in reality we are probably looking at a new album in 2017, as we are off to the UK on Monday to tour with BLACK STAR RIDERS. A great combo as I like bands that try new areas of music.

Fph: Those words are the perfect ending that sums up EUROPE 2015! Best of luck with the tour, and congratulations on a very tight album, which is really Swedish master class in 2015.

Writer: Mikael Johansson
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