With the end of the year nearing, Europe’s “The Final Countdown” has gained popularity, not only as we are counting down the last of 2015, but also because of the popular commercial that can be seen on television regularly. For those who have been counting down the days to see the band, the Concert Courtyard at Fergs in St. Petersburg, FL, will host Europe on February 3rd. Jan Hakan “Ian” Haughland, drummer of Europe, discusses the band, music and the weather.
Author Marisa Williams: You were born in Norway, but grew up in Sweden, is that right? Where do you call home, and when you’re on tour, is there anything you miss that you can only get at home?
Ian Haughland, drummer of Europe: I was born in the northern part of Norway, and grew up in the area around Stockholm, but I’ve basically rounded my home, to quote somebody, wherever I lay my hat is home. I feel at home wherever I am. Obviously, I’ve got my own bed at home, but it’s not a big thing for me.
Marisa: What to you is the biggest difference between your home country and the United States?
Europe: Biggest difference is America is probably bit more multicultural than Sweden. People are, in general, kind of more liberated in the States I think. In Sweden, it’s like they’re holding back a little, don’t want to be seen or heard. They try to be average, don’t stick out or anything, so that’s one of the biggest differences of people in general, but you can say the same about playing a show in America. There’s more of a party vibe than in Sweden. In Sweden, they’re more listeners, more serious than the average American rock show.
Marisa: Coming to Florida, is there anything that you’re looking forward to while you’ll be here?
Europe: Yea, the sun. Sweden is a gloomy country. January and February are pokier than pits; it’s cold and snowy, gets dark in the afternoon, not a country fit for beings in the winter. Coming to Florida, I’m looking forward to the sunshine, taking a dip in the ocean, enjoying the warm weather and happy faces.
Marisa: How did you get started in music? Did you come from a musical family? What were your biggest musical influences?
Europe: I think we, all of the guys in Europe, are self-taught. None of us had any parents in particular that were very musical. My father used to strum a couple chords on the guitar when he was drunk, sing in the bathroom, but that’s about it. The reason we started playing on stage, we heard bands like Thin Lizzy, Rainbow, and Led Zeppelin. That fired us to have a go to play instruments. That was the driving force behind all of us, purely the love of music and inspiration those bands gave us.
Marisa: What instruments do you play, and how old were you when you learned to play them?
Europe: I started when I was 13; that was the year when I went to see my first rock concert, Rainbow. They had a drummer, Cozy Powell, who played with flashes and smoke machines. I was so impressed with that drum solo, I thought that’s what I want to do as well. Personally, I play little guitar and keyboard, but I wouldn’t go on stage doing it, because I would make a fool out of myself.
Marisa: What was the first album you purchased?
Europe: The first album I bought with my own money, Ensuite, my band; they had a hit “Sweet Sammy Adams” in the 70s. I think they were bigger in Europe than the States. You will find them on Youtube.
Marisa: How do you go about writing music? What comes first for you: drums, guitars, vocals or something else? Has the process of writing changed for you over the years at all?
Europe: Definitely, back in the day, Joey was the main song writer; he had a demo studio at home with drum machines. Back in the 80s, we basically got finished demos with all the musical parts already in there, so we pretty much knew from the beginning what to play. Since the internet, sending music files between us, it’s more of an open process. Joey might have a guitar riff that he will send to me, so I can lay down drums, then I will send it to the bass player. What is the most fun part is when get together a few weeks before tour and jam on new ideas. It can be a keyboard part that starts it, a vocal thing, or guitar riff, but compared to 80s, with internet thing, we send files between us.
Marisa: What is your favorite musical technique?
Europe: I think we basically let me music make itself. We let the music take its own direction when we make new songs, so no techniques, but music always becomes dynamic and emotional, so I think it’s more like that. We just set the musical song free and let whatever happens happen, so we don’t have any sort of technique that we use. We all love playing live in the studio. We discovered that on “Bag of Bones” and “War of Kings.” We set up gear in studio and record the song together at the same time, instead of layering.
Marisa: Looking back on your musical career, would you have expected to have such a long career in music? Were there any moments that you thought about giving up, or where you needed to take a break? If so, what motivated you to keep going or come back to the music?
Europe: To start with, when we started as teenagers, we just wanted to go out play music, party, go on stage, and send our music to an audience. We didn’t really think how long it would be going on for, but we had a break in the early 90s, in the grunge era, which killed 80s music. We stayed away from each other for basically ten years, a little more, but I have to say that there wasn’t one day passing by without someone telling how much Europe’s music had meant to them in one way or another. “Me and my girlfriend made out to your music,” or whatever. It had a goal in so many people’s upbringing, during their formative years in their teens. It never felt like the band was going to be… it always felt like we were going to have a second go, so it gave us a time to be way from each other, the music industry, and to find new inspirations. When we got back together, the first thing did, we played the millennium night in Stockholm, which was a very special concert. Prior to that show, we rehearsed Tuesday. That was the first day we had played together. Not even five minutes went by, and we felt that chemistry between the members was still there. I thought how great it was to have this band and the chemistry between us.
Marisa: Do you think having Europe as part of a popular television commercial has expanded your fan base at all?
Europe: Definitely. We have seen a big upswing, a lot of people telling us they see that commercial every day. I’m not sure how many times, but it’s a big difference. It helped us gain a new audience, success and popularity. I’m kind of amazed by the success of it.
Marisa: You came into the band after the name change, but I was curious what inspired the band to change their name from Force to Europe, and do you ever wonder if things would have been different using the other name?
Europe: I think the reason was around the time, in the early 80s, there were three or four bands that had either the name Force within it or as part of the band name, so we needed to find something else that sticks out more. Joey came up with the name and to rename it. I think he bought Deep Purple “Made in Europe.” He said, “what do you think, call it Europe?” Thinking back, at the success of the “Final Countdown,” a lot of people connected the name with the sound of music in Europe. Compared to Warrant, Bon Jovi and hair metal bands, the fact we were called Europe helped us stick out from hair metal bands.
Marisa: Do you have any other projects that you’re working on?
Europe: For me personally, I work as a radio DJ in Stockholm. It’s basically my everyday work, so I don’t really have any other projects. I like doing jam sessions, getting together with other musicians, have fun playing, but no projects going. Europe is taking up more time now than before; seems like we will be very busy for the next couple of years.
Marisa: Is there anyone you have collaborated with that sticks out in your mind for any particular reason?
Europe: In the 90s, when Europe was not touring, the keyboardist, bass player and I played with Glenn Hughes from Deep Purple. We did a couple tours with him, playing together with our teenage idol, playing on stage with an original member of Deep Purple. That was humbling, honoring and a good thing for us to do. A lot of fellow musicians realized the guys in Europe can actually play their music. It’s not just all spandex and hairspray.
Marisa: What is the least glamorous part about being on the road?
Europe: The least glamorous part is to wait around in airports, or sit on tour bus traveling a whole day between countries. There’s a lot of hauling and waiting around; that is the most boring part of being on tour. I mean, obviously, if you kick yourself in the ass and find something to do, you have a lot of time. You could learn a different language or do something useful, but you get into zombie mode, become like a zombie. The waiting around is the least glamorous.
Marisa: Are there any tours, or moments on tour, that stand out more than others?
Europe: Basically, any tour has high or low points, but I can remember a couple of huge gigs like the show on Millennium Eve, which was outdoors in Sweden. We were playing in 25 minus, playing outdoors. We’ve done so many tours with many of our own idols from the past like White Snake. We played with Scorpions a couple weeks ago here in Europe. Just the fact that we can do that, be on the same stage as our own idols, it’s hard to understand. Coming from the suburbs of Stockholm in Sweden, all those moments are really overwhelming. I still can’t really wrap my head around it. What can I say? We are all very grateful can do this.
Marisa: What's your favorite way to travel and why?
Europe: Favorite way, in a way, I like the tour bus. You have your own bunk, a bed, and when you wake up in next city, you go into the arena, do your routine, but can be a little… We usually travel with the whole band and crew, and it can be claustrophobic at times. If one guy catches a cold, then the whole crew catches a cold; we’re all sharing the same bugs. That’s the down point of travel by bus, but I like traveling by train. You have a lot of space, it’s fairly fast, and you can enjoy the views. You see the views in a different way than flying, which is the fastest but most boring way to travel.
Marisa: What's your favorite place to travel to, and is there anywhere you have not been to that you would like to go to?
Europe: Definitely. In the 80s, when it was the real peak, people wanted us to play everywhere, but we missed out on New Zealand and Australia. I know we all loved touring in the States, because there’s a certain feeling on tour in the States. It’s surreal in a way. America has always been a magic land for rock bands like Led Zeppelin, and it shaped the rock and roll business. There’s certain vibe in America. I loved California and Florida, everywhere where the sun shines. Coming from the cold and darkness, to seeing the sun, putting on shorts, it’s very nice. We love touring in the States. We also played in Chile and South America; Chile is very nice as well.
Marisa: What's your biggest musical fantasy?
Europe: Well, would have been great to put a band together with Phil Lynott from Thin Lizzy, Ronnie James Dio of Rainbow, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Jon Lord, who played keyboards from Deep Purple. They’re all in musical heaven, or musical hell, whatever you believe. It would have been a great thing to jam with some of the masters, inspirations we grew up with. Playing a drum solo with John Bonham would have been nice.
Marisa: I have three personality questions that I ask everyone. They might sound a little weird, but I promise, there is a psychological basis behind them. First, if you were an unicorn, and you could be any color but white, what color would you be and would you have any special powers?
Europe: Well, I’d be black. For some reason, I always tend to dress in black clothes - it’s my favorite color - and my special power would be to be the fastest drummer in the world.
Marisa: This next question, feel free to be creative, as this does not have to be a traditional flavor, but if you were a yogurt, what flavor would you be, and how would you be served?
Europe: I mean, I would hope to not be a yogurt, because I am a vegan and do not consume dairy, but I could be soy yogurt, vanilla cinnamon, and I would be served in a bathtub; fill it up to the brink, jump in, and consume it with the whole of your body.
Marisa: Describe yourself as either a dog, a cat or a cartoon.
Europe: I’m kind of like a cartoon bear of some kind. I’m kind of big, but very friendly. I look more like, well, people think I’m a biker, but I’m actually the other way around, so I would say a cartoon bear.
Marisa: Do you collect anything?
Europe: Yea, I’m a big vinyl record collector, big sleeves, nice pictures, every vinyl has like a personality to me; it’s different from CD or cassette tape, an entity of itself, a personality.
Marisa: What's your biggest guilty pleasure?
Europe: Sitting in the darkness and doing nothing, not even listening to any music. I love just being in a dark, quiet room, to relax and recharge.
Marisa: Do you have any hidden talents or special skills?
Europe: I’m a pretty good carpenter. I rebuild houses, refurbish rooms, put up wallpapers. I like to do that. It’s recreational to be a carpenter. To do carpentry, you have to focus on what you’re doing; you can’t let your mind drift off.
Marisa: What's the most important thing to remember?
Europe: I’m pretty bad at keeping time, like if have to be at work at a certain time, so I have to focus myself on being on time, keeping schedule, which goes to musical like being a drummer, have to keep time.
Marisa: What was your most influential moment?
Europe: I would say that first concert with Rainbow in Stockholm when saw that drum solo was first day of the rest of my life, realizing this is what I want to do.
Marisa: If you were not doing music, what would you be doing?
Europe: Well, maybe be a carpenter or gardener, not sure. I like cooking as well, so maybe a chef.
Marisa: What are three things you must have with you when you are on the road?
Europe: My computer or my iPhone, as well as my joggers to the bus. I hate walking around in tight jeans all day, so I can be a little sloppy. Let’s say also something to listen to music, to be able to listen to music.
Marisa: Any advice for musicians starting out?
Europe: Definitely, believe in yourself, be influenced by your idols, work a lot, rehearse a lot, take a lot of time to learn your trade, don’t be rushed, and don’t be disillusioned if you don’t make it at first. As they say, “it’s a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll.” Today, thanks to all these American Idol, and other music programs, in a way, those programs ruin many young musicians, making them think that the only have one shot, and if they don’t get it right out the door, that’s it. But that’s most important, take time to learn your trade, believe in what you’re doing, don’t be disillusioned by the media or those around you.
Marisa: Closing thoughts and additional comments?
Europe: Just looking forward to coming to Florida, to play in the sun and for the happy people of Florida.
For more information, visit www.europetheband.com, www.facebook.com/europetheband, www.myspace.com/europe, www.twitter.com/europetheband.
The author of more than 100 books, Marisa Williams earned her Master's in Writing from the Johns Hopkins University; for more on Marisa, visit www.lulu.com/spotlight/thorisaz and www.twitter.com/booksnbling.