A drink with Jonas Isacsson

Bild 169When I decided to meet Jonas Isacsson, my story about him was already written – in my head. Back then I didn’t know that it would take me another seven months to finish this text. Why? Just because some bad things happened, I didn’t have spare time to write it, my iPhone crashed and didn’t let me play the recording of the interview – and most of all I wanted to do it right, it was meant to be perfect. But in the meantime I realized that there’s no way to write a perfect article about a guy who deserves it. The more I try, the less it works. I am, however, happy now that I finally made it. Please be gentle about my English. I did it all alone, I am not a native speaker and tried my best.

My wish to meet Jonas again and write a story about him came two years ago. When I finally got the chance to really meet and talk to him, I was more than happy. Finally, I would make it to Stockholm and could go for a beer with him. Why I wanted to meet Jonas? When we – Judith and I – interviewed him for Roxetteblog the very first time (November 2009, during Night Of The Proms), I had the feeling he has a lot of stories to tell, a lot of experiences to share. When we had met for the interview, we sat more than 2 hours talking to him and we could have gone another 2 hours if he had had the time. I, however, thought that not the complete story has been told. Some months and years later I really missed him during the Roxette tour, although Christoffer Lundquist did a tremendous job. When I saw Christoffer running across the stage, hitting his guitar and making people in the audience go crazy with his acting and watching, I thought about Jonas again and the feeling I had. I thought that he is just a compeletely different guy on stage. Calm, quiet, shy, withdrawn – whatever you may call it. It fascinated me that a guy can be so lost (in a positive way) in playing the guitar on stage that you can even hear it. Every tone sounds like you feel what he wants to tell with it, every break he makes means exactly that: to be silent for a very short moment.

So, after our first interview I was really eager to talk to him again; just to hear what else he has to tell.
We meet in August 2013 again. It is a sunny day in Stockholm. It is the day of the “Tack för musiken” recording with Marie Fredriksson and it feels like a perfect day to talk about his career, life and thoughts about this and that. It is warm enough to sit outside and drink a beer – and so we do. I wanted Jonas to choose the location and he came up with a small diner in Södermalm. I ask him why he chose this location. “Because it’s so lovely and a nice location to sit outside. Many of my friends live here or around the corner.” I have a look around and notice he chose a vegetarian diner. Asked about that he says that he himself isn’t a vegetarian, but many of his friends are, but that he still loves the food. “I don’t eat that much meat actually, more fish and seafood. But this here is good food. You should try it. Although, I think they are a bit modest with spice. You should bring your own spice.” He thinks a lot before he speaks, he seems a bit nervous but still happy that we meet.

When I had passed the diner earlier I noticed a lot of drug addicts. “It’s nice anyway”, Jonas says about Södermalm after I mentioned the drug thing. “More people are around, it’s not that snobby here.” Of course, I want to know where in Stockholm it is snobby. “Östermalm. Old ladies with dogs out there and so on.” He laughs. We look around and think about Södermalm again. I read somehwere that Södermalm is the one place in Stockholm, where everyone wants to live and work. “It wasn’t like that 20 years ago”, Jonas says. He thinks again. “Pelle lives here. Pelle Alsing. I haven’t seen him in a while. I miss him.” I don’t know what to say in this moment and try to switch the topic.

“I have read our interview again from 2009 to be prepared for today”, I say. Jonas laughs. “I was quite nervous back then.” I nod, but say “really?”. On the one hand I remember that he was nervous, on the other hand I remember almost every word he said and I can’t remember many other interviews that went so smooth.  So I add “Because of the show?” and a second later I know that it’s nonsense. “No, because of the interview and talking in English.” I reply that my English isn’t perfect either, but that it doesn’t matter. “You need to speak English all the time to get through”, he says and adds that he has been speaking a lot of English the past days, because he had a guest, a native speaker. And yes, he looks happy when he says that. He is in love. We  don’t speak for a while and he asks: “So, it’s Marie tonight?” “Yes”, I say. “Well”, he says, “I read on Facebook what’s happening actually. That’s life.”

I remember that when we talked in 2009, Jonas said that when he posts something on Facebook, he posts it, because he wants his friends to read it, not the fans. And back then, when he read a comment of a fan he was rather surprised and thinking: “Well, that wasn’t meant for you.” I ask him if it is still like that and he says: “Well, there are not many fans anymore, since I am not in the band anymore. But it is still happening, of course. But I don’t care. People are nice. Most of them. I remember one girl, a fan. When I wrote something to my friends on my wall, in Swedish, because it was meant for them, she commented “please write in English”. After a while I sent a personal message to her that she has to respect this, these are my friends in Sweden and she should use Google Translate. But nowadays, it doesn’t happen very often. I know there is a guy from South America, who posts old pictures on my wall.” Jonas laughs. “Sometimes it’s embarrassing, sometimes it’s fun.”

We remain quiet again and I ask about his days. What is he doing every day? “I have been on a long walk now. I take my early morning walk around town or the park. One hour, fifteen minutes. I need this to get some fresh air before I sit at the computer and compose.” He does that every morning. “It’s quite nice. I need it. I am getting older and fatter, you know.” He laughs. I actually think that he has lost weight since I last saw him. Must be the walks. “I looked at old pictures from 1991 or 1992, I think. Per was quite big and I was quite small. Now I got his kilos.” We laugh again.

I remember that Jonas sent me two new songs before our meeting. “They are totally different”, he says, “I wrote one (work title “Darling”) a long time ago, it’s quite old, I wrote it maybe 5 or 6 six years ago. But I have never done anything with it. But I kind of like that song, it’s like… I think it sounds like a Swedish folk song or something, it’s kind of nice. There are a couple of more. My old record company which did “Evergreen”, they want to do an album on the net, to be released on the internet, Spotify, not as vinyl or a CD. That’s why I am working hard. I want my music to be heard and I can tell that it won’t be as jazzy as “Evergreen”.” I ask if “Evergreen” sold well and he shakes his head. I say that it’s easier to release stuff on the internet nowadays and he agrees, but also says that he wants the whole package – with pictures, lyrics and other texts. “When it’s done, it will look like an album, I promise.” He laughs again. “I am nearly there.” I remember that we had talked about an album in 2009 and ask about it. He says that not many songs are left from that time and that he rerecorded “Darling”, because it sounded outdated. A lot of songs will have a lot of guitars in it. “I know I can play the guitar and I need to show it to the people. Maybe for some people this is boring, but I love guitarbased music and I would love play e.g. German jazz clubs.”

I imagine Jonas sitting at home, playing the guitar, recording new songs and dare to ask the question what he does for a living nowadays. He says that he gets by economically. “And I had some money in my company. But it’s too little, I think. The band which he had – Pelle was in it – I quit, because nothing happened. Pelle is still in the band. The singer is working as a manager for a restaurant, he is never free, never has spare time. And I thought we have to do a showcase, play live and tell the people “Here we are”, but they didn’t really want it. They just wanted to record songs. It’s a pity and I would have loved it to work.” While he goes I wonder that he can still make a living from the Roxette times.  I realize – once again – how big they were and how many records they sold and how often their songs are still on the radio. But: “I have to do something sooner or later”, he says.

He works four to five hours a day, “because my appartment gets very hot during the summertime and my equipment is getting too hot as well. Then I go out. I turn it on again during the evening and work some hours in the night. And I love to work in the morning, because your mind is free then, the time before you had your first coffee. And sometimes the outcome is great.”  I ask if he has aims for the day. “Sometimes, yes. If I have an aim, like I want to do the bass on that day and I start to play and listen to it, I really want to finish it then.”

We talk about his parents who live in Northern Sweden and that he is going to visit them for a long while soon. “I have to be with them a while, stay with them. There are two musicians up there who I am going to meet. Let’s see what happens.” We talk about the North and his parents, nature and travelling.

I want to know how he felt when the fans started the campaign to bring him back in the Roxette band. “At first it was like, “well, thanks, that is great”, but it just took off and became too much. You see, this is the band now. I was really honored that so many fans wanted me back, but after a while I felt like “accept it, this is what it is. Ask Per.”, so it was a bit of both.” I tell him that I was rather surprised that he had reacted at all. “I just got tired of it. I really didn’t want to unfriend a lot of people, because they really mean good, but suddenly all on Facebook was about Roxette and it was too much. I was like “please leave me alone with this now”.

I tell him why I wanted to meet him again. That for me it’s so fascinating that he is just a totally different guitar player, playing because of the music, of every note he can create to make a song sound perfect. “It’s true”, he says, “I have little contact with people in the front, only with a few. If you are there, I see you, but it’s not many fans. I am not that outgoing. Christoffer is much more outgoing” We laugh. No harm meant here, we are joking, nothing else.  “When we played the Night of the Proms, Jan Vereecke (founder of the NOTP), came to Christoffer and said “Can you please stand still sometimes and can you play a little lesser, please?”, but he went further on and got totally crazy. But he is a great guy, lots of humour. When I play I get the music, I can look at the people in the band and play. Maybe it’s boring, but that’s the way I am.” I tell him about the local tune Christoffer played as the Joyride intro during the Roxette tour. “I read about that. It’s maybe better than wearing a football shirt, because you reach everyone. Everybody knows a tune from his hometown, but not everyone is a football fan. I would have done that, too. And it keeps you on alert to learn a new tune every day, it’s a good thing.”

We talk about the house band of the Strömstedt show at “Tack för musiken” and the guitar player there, Ola Gustavsson. “He is a great gut and a great guitar player.” I remember that we had met Judith before and talked about the Stockholm music community and that someone should write a book about the connections between everyone.  Jonas agrees, but says: “It kind of split up in the 90’s when people got famous, but we were really friends. We had “Tuesday club” where we met. Every tuesday, me and Pelle and Tommy Cassemar and Clarence and lots of other people met. We had a band, it was called “The Pearls of Passion” band. Ulf Lundell, Py Bäckman and so many other people also came on tuesdays. Oh, it’s Tuesday today.” Jonas laughs again. I remember a Sheryl Crow album title and say “The Tuesday Night Music Club”. “Well, it was rather beer than music”, Jonas says. “Fun times. But that’s a good idea. You should write a book about it.”

Jonas wants to know if I meet other guys in Stockholm as well. I say “No” and he says that I should meet Anders (Herrlin), because he is a great guy. “Did you see Gyllene Tider?”, he asks and I say “No” again. I tell him that I am actually a fan of Marie. “Yes, she’s charismatic. She’s a lovely woman.” I think about the long tours in the early 90’s and ask him how he survived those long journeys. “We were a team”, he says. “We were good friends. It was another band. And I had a trick. Sometimes I had my earphones on – even without music, just to be on my own and people thought I was listening but I didn’t want to talk. But everyone did that, I think. Sometimes there were quarrels, of course, when you are together all the time. But it happened especially during soundchecks. People were getting crazy at each other. Pelle and me had a couple of quarrels then. But after a 10-minutes-row everything was fine again.” We talk about his person again and Jonas adds that he never liked the big crowds or the loud parties, I am very like,…well, I want my integrity.” I know exactly what he is talking about and we blame it on being Gemini. “Well, Pelle and Marie also Gemini and we are quite alike sometimes.” We talk about being suspicious and how hard it is for us to make friends. “I may have three really really good friends”, Jonas says. His ex-girlfriend is one of them. “Maybe we should have stayed friends from the beginning. I think it was meant to be like that.” You can see that she still means much to him when he talks about her.

We come to speak about Per again. “He knows so much about music, old records and stuff. We used to play pop quizzes back then. I miss him sometimes, I really do.” I remember that Per once said they don’t play the old songs because they sound too much like Jonas. Songs like Sleeping Single for example. I wonder if it’s meant as a compliment or not, but who knows. I don’t dare to ask. But Jonas is the optimistic guy anyway: “I heard they started to play the old riff on “The Look” again.  Yeah, the new Roxette band should play my old Roxette riffs, I am so proud of my guitar riffs and they are bloody good.”

After 90 minutes we finish our beer (we are modest!) and our talk (we have talked about many things). Once more I am sad that this great guy is not in the band we all love anymore. On the other hand I am certain that he is the one who went on and doesn’t look back too much. We say goodbye and I promise to write my article soon. If I had known it would have taken me seven months to get it done – I maybe would have never asked in first place. Just because a guy like Jonas deserves the best.

When I am finally done with my text I send it to Jonas, feeling bad, because it took so long. And, to my surprise, he has positive things to tell. It’s funny because we talked about a book that has to be written about the Stockholm music scene and now, seven months later, Jonas is writing a chapter for a book called “Musikerminnen” (Memories of musicians). A bunch of Swedisch musicians write why they became a musician. It’s not the same idea we had in mind, but however.. it seemed that somebody listened to us.

He also lets me know that he will go out on a tour with 10 gigs with British rocker Steve Gibbons in May! Hooray! Congratulations, Jonas! AND: His own guitarbased stuff (which we had talked about as well) will come out on a special website this year. So many good news that I almost can’t believe there is even more good news: “The fans on the Roxette blog need to know who I am in March 2014, a happy guy in love who hopes the best for the future of Roxette.” What a perfect last sentence to this neverending story (also literally speaking!). So, let’s keep that one the last sentence:

“The fans on the Roxette blog need to know who I am in March 2014, a happy guy in love who hopes the best for the future of Roxette.”

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