Kirsten Ohlwein and Judith Seuma met Clarence Öfwerman before the show in Munich on Saturday. In the following interview you will find information about the Night of the Proms, Clarence’s musical roots and family and much more..
Kirsten: So we heard the Olympia Halle is not standing anymore since yesterday.
C: Hm. Maybe not haha! It was fantastic.
J: Even better than Frankfurt?
C: Maybe the same, but the crowd was a bit wilder yesterday. Second and third in Frankfurt were excellent too. The first wasn’t that good. Stuttgart was the best so far, and the 2nd in Munich.
K: We are going to top it today. The balloons are ready to be used.
C: Balloons! We saw some of them yesterday as well, it’s great you are doing this.
J: It’s actually just 1 week left of NOTP, how do you feel about that?
C: Yeah, Dortmund next Sunday is the last one. It’s kind of sad, we’d like to go on forever.
K: Christoffer mentioned last week it’s quite long time away from your families.
C: Yes, that’s true, but at least we had the family come down to us a couple of times in between, so I think it’s ok. All in all it’s great, when you get into it it’s wonderful to be on tour.
J: What are you going to do through Christmas?
C: I will be home with my family and Santa Clause..
K/J: ..and Kalle Anka..
C: Yeah! Do you know that? Haha! Well yeah, it’s typical Swedish. Specially if you have kids.
K: How did you start making music, playing instruments? Your family is quite musical, too?
C: My father did kind of the same things that I do, he played piano, jazz, and got into producing Swedish artists and later from all around the world. He always said to me “don’t become a musician, it’s very difficult to make a living on it”, he thought I should study economy, because he actually wanted to do that but never succeeded. He once produced an album with Toots Thielemans and he came down to Rotterdam and they hung out one night together, which was great!
But I started to play in bands when I was a teenager anyway. I started playing guitar, then I met a guy who was a lot better than me playing guitar, so I switched to piano. I think that was around 73, 74. You weren’t even born then I think!
Then I started to play with different people in Sweden, as a session musician in the studio, later I started to produce some albums. Then I met Per in 86, and from then on it’s been Roxette all the way.
J: How did you meet Per?
C: I met him once a couple of years earlier, when I played with Ulf Lundell on his tour. We were in Halmstad and Ulf gave a birthday party after the show, the Gyllene Tider guys joined us, and then we were introduced. Anders and Göran and I became friends.
The idea to produce Per’s third solo came actually from Kjell Andersson at EMI. He told Per “Why not try Clarence”, because I did some productions before for EMI, like 2 or 3 albums, so I was the new guy around.
I actually didn’t like his previous solo albums, I hadn’t listened to them very much. I liked the early Gyllene Tider, and Marie. Marie was involved in the first song, “Neverending Love”, so we did that one just to try and see what happens. It was actually Pelle who told me to go for it and take this production job, because I wasn’t much into this Per Gessle type of music.
J: And you brought Jonas and Tommy along.
C: Yes, I had known them for a long time, so I always wanted to have them as a band in the album. So I told Per, I wanted Pelle, Jonas and Tommy. Per himself wanted Tommy as well, but he preferred other guys on drums and guitar. So we reached a compromise, and we kept Tommy to record “Neverending love”, which was a success. Then for the album Jonas and Pelle joined, as well as Alar Suurna as engineer.
J: Were you also oin tour with Rock Runt Riket?
C: Yes, in 87, with Ratata and Eva Dahlgren. Each of us, Jonas, Pelle and myself played with two bands each. I played with Roxette and Ratata. Pelle with Roxette and Eva Dahlgren. Jonas with Ratata and Eva Dahlgren. Jonas couldn’t play with three bands, and since Roxette was the newest band for him, he went for the other two bands.
J: What can you tell us about this tour?
C: Each artist played a bit longer than one hour. We also had a support act, Orup, who became successful after that. Then Eva Dahlgren, Ratata and Roxette played. It was about ten minutes break between the acts, so after Ratata I had to go and change my clothes and make me ready for Roxette. It was kind of strange.
J: The pictures from that time are also kind of…
C: Strange? Yeah, that’s true. 80ies. Specially Per and Marie looked strange. Eva looked very different to now.
K: It’s interesting you’ve all been in the same band for such a long time.
C: Yes, it’s very unusual. But it’s very good as well not to have new people coming and going. Christoffer joined in 96, so it’s also a very long time. The band changed a lot when he joined, to the better, of course. He is an amazing guy, he can play anything.
K: When you say it changed to the better, what do you mean?
C: It all became fun again. He was there for “The world according to Gessle” and “Have a nice day”, but more as a musician. With “Mazarin” it was like “wow, it is fun to be in the studio again”. And has been since.
J: Normally there is only one producer, how is it to have two producers plus Per, who does production as well.
C: Yes, it’s even more fun. Per has always been very much involved in the albums. Even though, he wasn’t in the studio the whole time in the early days. It was me and Anders or Alar who sat there the whole time, with the musicians. Per and Marie went out of the studio, did some shopping, you know, some time off, then came back.
K: It’s very hard to then say who has done what, or?
C: Yes, but it doesn’t matter. It’s just team work. It’s easier with many people, of course, if they are easy to work with. If you struggle all the time then it gets complicated.
And we have kind of the same ideas, me and Christoffer have the same roots, even if he is younger. We both like prog rock, which Per hates. So we agree in many things, we try different directions but then don’t always tell Per what it sounds like, even though we both know, because then he would scrap the idea immediately.
J: What were your influences when you were younger?
C: Beatles to start with. We actually had a Beatles night yesterday, we listened to three albums in between the sets. I actually saw the Beatles live in the stadium in the sixties, when I was six. I however don’t remember anything, except all the girls screaming. You couldn’t hear the band, they only had small guitar amplifiers back then.
J: Well that’s why they stopped playing live or?
C: Yeah, they couldn’t hear themselves, so they stopped I think in 65. But yeah, everybody in this band grew up with the Beatles.
J: Do you still play guitar now?
C: No, I only help my daughter to learn some chords. That’s about it.
J: What about your projects besides Roxette? Do you produce other artists?
C: Well, we had this band, The Passengers, with Pelle and Tommy. Mats Persson did the vocals. We did three albums in Swedish and one in English, but that’s long time ago. The last album was out in 91 if I remember correctly. Some tracks are good, but some aren’t.
But I don’t do any other productions. I kind of became member of this band, so people don’t call anymore because I’m busy with other things, and now there are new producers around. Nah, it’s a long time since I produced something else. We always have something going on with Per, it was the Party Crasher album and tour, then NOTP, and now we go in the studio again. That’s enough. I like it like that.
J: You have also composed music for TV and films?
C: Yes, I did some music for series and ads. And last year I did music for a Swedish movie, some kind of Star Wars, space anti-hero.
J: This blond guy, Kenny?
C: Do you know that one?
J: Well, I haven’t seen it, but I have read about it because Eva Dahlgren has a role on it.
C: Yes, right. She plays on it! So I made the music for this film, with a big orchestra. You know, big Hollywood feeling.
K: And we read you also did something with a Christmas program?
C: Yes, that’s right. “Julkalendern”. It’s a program which runs daily for 24 days, from first of December, and it’s about about 15 minutes long. I made a theme for this show in 2003. I enjoy making music and film and TV.
K: What can you tell us about “View from a bridge”?
C: Yes, I did this one with Per and Christoffer. It’s good, at least the demo is good. We didn’t like the result. We wrote it and made it as we wanted it to sound. But the Danish people changed it. Christoffer and I went down to Denmark for the rehearsals with the orchestra and were like “what’s this? We didn’t write this?”. Everything had been changed, it was still nice, but the arrangements were messed up. We had a meeting and called Per and told him “we don’t think you want to have your name on this”. They had added drums, we only had orchestra and percussion.
The conductor, he was British, didn’t want to speak to us, he never joined the meetings. We released their version in the end. It was kind of strange, it was the first time we had done something like that, so we didn’t know what to expect. But, of course, this doesn’t mean we don’t want to do this again. I actually think Per should record this one in the proper way, as we created it, and release it.
K: Or at least share the demo..
C: Yeah, we should put it somewhere. Or we could do it with “Il Novecento”, for example. You know, just put the notes on the stage and let them play during NOTP.
K: Well, there are always jokes in the last show of the Proms, so why not.
C: Haha yeah! I am not sure if they would like it though. But they always make jokes. In Frankfurt, during Heaven 17 there is a lot of smoke on the stage, one of the violin guys from the orchestra, had a gas mask on stage, just for the fun. He’s crazy. One day he played with the violin on his back.
J: We also saw some with rabbit ears.
C: Yeah, they always do stuff like that. Patrick is also fun, he’s been doing this from the beginning, he has done about 700 concerts. He is also good getting the audience to participate.
J: Is it different to compose normal pop rock songs to orchestra themes?
C: Well I don’t know, I just put the notes together. I have never studied anything about classic music. In some of my early works as a producer I just tried it out, and I learnt a lot from that. I still don’t know how to do that properly, but it works. Now Christoffer and I do it together, none of us is really educated in this direction, so we only trust our ears.
K: The arrangements for NOTP are incredible.
C: Thanks. Actually, I added the original “Wish I Could Fly” arrangements to the song for NOTP. Then we added some trumpets and stuff.
K: I don’t like trumpets..
C: Haha! Well, there are some things in “Listen to your heart” which were added by NOTP guys. We did about 90-95% of the arrangements. The Proms guys added the rest, which are mostly wind instruments.
K: Are there any songs you are tired to play live?
C: Not really. We never get tired. Don’t you get tired? Haha! It must be worse standing there and listening to it again and again.
K: Well, we were looking forward to it for so long, it doesn’t matter now if we hear Joyride 15 times.
C: It’s nice to get the response of the audience. It’s wonderful with Marie, she’s stronger and stronger. I think from the 4th or 5th concert it’s just going up. Marie surprised us all being this good, it’s fantastic.
K: After one of the shows in Antwerp Per said “see you tomorrow, same songs, different lyrics”.
C: Haha! Well, that’s Per. Well, it’s just the way it is, some surprises in the lyrics. Marie also added “Hey Jude”. It’s actually an old thing, Marie used to add this sometimes in some concerts too. It’s fun she does this again. She fell into it again. One line in “Place your love” is also a bit similar to “Hey Jude”, a small homage.
K: We love this improvising anyway.
C: Yeah, that’s what great artists do. It’s difficult to do something every night, but sometimes it just works. It’s also not good to try every night to do something new, because it doesn’t always work. You just have to wait for and feel the moment.
J: What did you expect from NOTP?
C: Well, I thought it would be worse with all this waiting, and also the concept, which isn’t much Roxette. And I wasn’t sure about the audience. But I think it’s great. We do our thing, and then we have some time for ourselves. We listened to the other artists a couple of times, but not every night. I would love to do this again, with different songs.
We actually wrote arrangements for “Crash! Boom! Bang” together with “Anyone”, and back to “Crash!Boom!Bang”. It was similar to the “Room Service” tour, but with these arrangements we went back to “C!B!B” again in the end. So it was a bit different. We also did “Dressed for Success”.
K: Wow! That would be interesting to listen to!
C: Well, not sure you’d like it, we had lots of trumpets on that one.
K: Haha! Ok, maybe not.
C: But I think lots of songs would fit this concept. “Queen of rain”, with Per and Marie singing the chorus together.
K: “Fading like a flower”
C: Yeah, that one too, but you’d need trumpets here, sorry.
K: Haha, I think it’s worse with a saxophone solo.
C: Yeah that’s worse. Except when Christoffer plays it. There is one saxo solo on “I was so lucky” which I think is too perfect, not too fond of that one. But on “Thai with a twist” Christoffer plays it, that’s better, because he’s a lousy player, so it’s fun. But he is great, he played oboe on “Son of a plumber”, and clarinet on “En händig man”. He just learns how to play these instruments in the morning, you know, before we start to record in the studio. For “I like it like that” we talked about having an oboe, so when we went to the studio the next morning, there he was, making weird noises, practising oboe. After a few hours it was very good. I don’t even get a sound out of these things, it is actually kind of difficult, so he is fantastic.
J: You now mentioned work in the studio, what would you choose if you had to?
C: Difficult question. Both are fun in different ways. It’s nice to be in the studio and do new songs, but it’s also to play them live, of course, if you don’t tour forever. Work in studio has also changed a lot, even if we got back to the old way of recording with Christoffer’s studio, he has tape recorders, for example, there are lots of things we do with the help of computers.
And music in general is nowadays done in computers only, you can do anything with the right software yourself, home. But then the quality is not that good, everything sounds the same, there is no difference in the guitar sound or drums.
We try the old way a bit, mixing it with the new. “Party crasher” is more modern recording, but we spent enough time to make it good and make it sound unique. I think it sounds good. We always try to reinvent ourselves, try new things. It’s fun and creative. You cannot do the same album over and over, you get bored with yourself. So let’s see what happens with the next one.
J: How are the recordings going?
C: We did something yesterday again. We will record again in Bremen and in Cologne. We are just trying out things, keys, who shall sing what part and this kind of stuff. We have some songs with Marie’s vocals, guide vocals, something we can work with, and then we’ll have Marie come to the studio to sing the final vocals.
J: Christoffer said you’d go down to his studio beginning of the year. How is it to work in it? How do you organize it?
C: Yes, we love that studio. In the beginning we used to stay there for like 11 days, now it’s usually three days, we go down on Monday morning and leave on Thursday. So we work three long days, till three in the morning. It’s very intense. It’s impossible to work like that in Stockholm, since you then go home in the evening, or people come in the studio, from the record company, or for interviews. Nobody goes to Christoffer’s, it’s too far away from everything. So we usually go down 10-12 times, about 3-4 days each, and then mix the stuff somewhere else, Stockholm most of the times.
J: Do you have a studio on your own?
C: I used to, but I don’t anymore. Now I only have my keyboards and computer to write the movie music I do, then I take it somewhere else to record it, with the orchestra. I write with “fake” orchestras in the computer.
J: Would you like to release your music someday?
C: Yeah it would actually be nice. You know, all these tracks I did for movies and TV. Maybe I could make an album with it, but I have to check if it’s enough, because it’s normally short pieces, and then some of them go together with the pictures, video. But I thought about it, maybe an EP for download.
K: You have to commit to it now. Everybody has told us about their side projects coming out next year, you know.
C: Haha! Ok. So here’s the exclusive, my movie music will be released in … the near future. And I’ll post on Facebook, and force everyone to follow the link and buy it. Joking aside, I think Facebook is a great tool to communicate. I now got my computer, and every night, I sit and chat with different people. People waking up in Chile or Argentina, they all say hi and ask when we will tour over there.
J: How come you all joined Facebook?
C: I think the first one was Jonas, then I came along. Christoffer joined I think 6 months after me, and Per just joined now. I guess since they heard us talk about it, they found it interesting. But Per always talks about Twitter, I have no clue how that works. I anyway think it’s great to have contact with people. I confirm everyone, in the beginning I was kind of scared, but I realized everyone is kind of normal. Or do you know anybody I should be careful with? I heard about what happened on the chat side on Dailyroxette.
J: Well, yeah, we had some issues with some people who couldn’t behave. It took too much time for us to moderate, block users, but they kept coming back, so we decided to spend our time doing other things.
C: That’s sad. What were they fighting about? Roxette? If Helena should be there or not?
K: Different stuff. People have different opinions about things, albums, but some few people had a hard time understanding that there actually are different opinions. “How can you say that?” “You are no real fan, you have to like that”.
C: So you know which fans are the worst.
J: Yes, there are a couple of them on our “black list”.
C: Interesting, maybe you should let me know if they are on Facebook. Maybe I have even accepted them, would like to be informed.
J: Sure. Talking about different opinions, what’s the album you are the most proud of?
C: I think from the last ones it must be “Mazarin”. “En händig man” was kind of a follow-up, but wasn’t that good. It’s still fun to listen to “Mazarin”.
J: Do you listen to albums once they have been released? Like some years afterwards?
C: Not really, sometimes, but it’s mostly because my kids listen to them. I don’t usually listen to them myself. I am not that fond of the songs on the EP, but there was a reason why they didn’t make it on the album.
J: What is your opinion about demos?
C: I think everything became better when Per finished recording demos. Like “Son of a plumber” and “Party Crasher”, it’s more fun to just start everything with his guitar, when he presents us the song, and then we just go from there. In the past, specially for “CBB”, Have a nice day, Room service, he did very complete demos with MP, then you are kind of locked into the arrangements you have heard on the demo. Often you don’t get many new ideas, it’s easier if you just have the chords and go on from there, so things can happen. Of course, if he knows exactly what he wants, we stick to it.
K: Did you do some demos for the new Roxette songs?
C: Not really, we only have the guitar and vocals. The idea of the songs, but it’s very basic. But I understand that you like demos so much, I would also like to listen to the Beatles demos, for example.
J: Talking about Beatles again, did you run to the stores to buy the remastered albums?
C: I heard some of them, but I still have mixed feelings. I don’t think it’s better when you start to hear things which weren’t there. Christoffer played them in the dressing room, and we both reacted on the same things like “that piano shouldn’t be that loud”, we both found the same spots which didn’t sound right to us. I will stick to the remasters from this Japanese guy, he remastered the songs directly from the vinyl, which is as close to the originals as it can get. And those are fantastic. I haven’t listened to the mono box yet. People say that those are better. But I listen to a lot of mp3s currently, the quality isn’t that good as on vinyl, but as long as the music is good, it’s fine. I like to have all songs in one place, which I can take with me.
J: Yeah, much better than going around with tapes and walkman.
C: Exactly, and suddenly you were out of batteries very soon. And if you want to move to a song you have to press the fast forward, and wait. But we actually recorded a lot on tape for “Son of a plumber”, basically drums, which tends to sound better when you record on tape and then you transfer to the computer, it’s gets a little bit of warmth from the tape, a bit of tape distortion. But we record vocals and other instruments directly to the computer, that’s easier. You can also save a lot of recordings and then pick up what you think is best, and mix it.
J: Who is the tech guy?
C: Definetely not me. Christoffer is mostly taking care of it, he just sits and finds out how things work. I only do it home, I sit with the instructions and see what happens. You always find a solution, but I hate it, especially when you want to work and you sit there, not able to work due to a technical issue.
J: Do you have a big collection of keyboards?
C: No, since I don’t have the studio anymore, the keyboards are in the garage. I have two of these red ones, they are Swedish. These are the ones I take on tour, too.
J: What do you do besides music?
C: Raising kids! Haha! I have three of them, the youngest is three years old. The others are 10 and 12, three girls. They’ve been here sometimes and seen some shows. They go to a music school, where they have lots of singing. It’s a normal school but they have extra hours dedicated to singing.
J: From outside one gets the impression there a lots of bands in Sweden, or musicians.
C: Yeah, and I actually always thought that’s strange, we aren’t that musical. There are no clubs like the ones we played at in Spring, so it’s very difficult for small bands to go and tour. When I grew up we used to play in schools, during the school hours. We also used to play in youth centers, so you could book a whole tour through schools, and maybe a rock club on Saturdays, but you can’t do that anymore, nobody plays in schools or youth centers anymore. Germany has a big tradition for rock clubs, people can tour in Germany for ever in front of 500-1000 people.
K: Maybe the difference is that Swedish bands sing in English, while local bands here [Germany] or in Spain sing in their language.
C: Yeah, that could be the reason why you see a lot of Swedish bands in the charts. I don’t know many German bands, I produced an album with a German band, Throw that beat. They are from Nurnberg. They didn’t sell many records, didn’t hit the charts. Some indy underground stuff. I heard about Tokio Hotel, I never listened to them, only heard about them.
K: They are OK, they play and compose their own music, but the fans around are a bit like “Take That”.
J: What do you think about this “Idol” programme on tv?
C: I hate them. I can’t watch them. My kids used to like it. It was the final yesterday – in Sweden. But I haven’t followed it this year but my kids tend to lose interest in it now. I think it’s very strange when they try to make them sound like people who already exist, imitate people and also force them so sing different styles, because nobody can. Like that – Per would never have made it to “Idol” (laughs), because he can’t sing in a Michael Jackson-style.
K: Did you see this version of “The Look” from Christina Stürmer?
C: Yeah. That was some Idol thing? She’s Austrian?
J: Yes, she was part of the first season.
C: I think it’s on for seven or eight years in Sweden. And nothing happens to the people who win. The next year they are forgotten.
K: I think, the only guy who made it in Germany was the one who sticked to Dieter Bohlen. With sticking to him he sold millions of records.
C: Dieter Bohlen? Modern Talking?
J: Do you know them?
C: I remember Modern Talking, I hated it.
K: Well, who didn’t..
C: I think they were in the charts at the same time as Roxette, in the same year.
K: It’s amazing. Whatever song Bohlen writes – it hits the charts, although every song sounds similar. You can tell it’s Bohlen.
C: Per writes kind of the same songs all the time, too.. in different arrangements, but the chords are basically the same. Sometimes there are new chords, but he has his own style. And I like that style, so that’s cool.
J: But it always sounds different..
C: Yes, but when he presents a new song, it’s like, usually I know the next chord before he takes it.
K: Have to think about some strange thing about “Om du kommer ihåg”, which reminds me of a German television advert for a cake. Everytime I listen to that song I have to think of that advert (which is basically the melody from some Ernie & Bert stuff from Sesame Street, editors note)
C: But that’s probably one of the best songs of the album – “Om du kommer ihåg”. Maybe he saw that advert in Germany and stole it, haha.
J: It must be difficult to write “new” songs all the time without copying, even if you don’t do it on purpose…
C: Yes, it is. You mostly stick to your harmonies. But Per doesn’t copy other stuff, he copies himself sometimes. Sometimes I have to say to him “You already wrote that one” and he says “No” and I say “Well, yes, you did”. Sometimes he rewrites if I can convince him. That’s a good feature with him, that he doesn’t notice he copies. He just writes and writes and writes.
J: How is it normally, does he come up with the music first and adds the text?
C: When he presents the songs to us he usually has everything, so I don’t know. We don’t change the text. No, Christoffer and I don’t do anything with the lyrics, that’s up to him, maybe only when it sounds wrong, like the wrong English or something. But he’s better in English than we are. But the meanings of the lyrics stay his.
K: Yes, it’s bad when you have to change your style or music to please people.
C: So, how many shows have you seen of this tour?
K: Including the shows next week : 14.
C: Hmm.. and do you enjoy the rest of the show, too?
K: I think, the line-up was better in Belgium/The Netherlands. But I like Alan Parsons, but I also liked Sharon den Adel. I got tired of Toots Thielemans in the end.
C: Really long numbers, that’s right. But he’s a great a musician. And it was more show: with the fire and the different stage. I miss that. Per misses the catwalk, too (laughs). It took a few shows, but then he liked it.
J: Actually, we planned only two shows, but now we added two more and tonight, too. It’s really good- Alan Parsons.
K: I expected it to be more boring, to be honest..
C: I liked OMD. When he was out on the catwalk doing the silly moves – that was fantastic. My kids thought he was a clown.
K: And I liked the Dutch host, although I didn’t understand much of what he said.
C: Well, the German host of the Munich shows invited us to a football game today (1860 München – FC Augsburg, 2nd German Bundesliga). He’s nice. So you like football?
C: Who will win?
K: Munich. Just because my nephew is a big fan of 1860.
J: So, all of you are going?
C: No, it’s just Christoffer, Pelle and me.
J: I like Barcelona..
C: Yeah, Zlatan..
J: We call him “Ibra” in Spain.
C: He’s great but he doesn’t want to play in the Swedish team anymore. But maybe that’s better, because he’s such a big star and everybody’s looking what he is doing all the time. Not good for the team. He is too big for a team.
Having talked for too long, Pelle and Christoffer show up to pick up Clarence for the game. We thank Clarence for taking the time to talk with us.