Interview with Christoffer Lundquist: “When you have the chance to work with such great people it’s very hard to say no”

Chris1We met Christoffer Lundquist in Göteborg before Marie’s concert in this city. The last time we met Christoffer was June 2011 in Prague and a lot has happened since then, so we thought it was about time again to sit down and chat about all the Rox-related projects he has been involved in as well as his solo and Brainpool projects.


Judith: Thank you for your time! It’s been a long time, we met in 2011 last… You’ve been very busy since then!

Christoffer: Sure, a pleasure as always. And yes, lots of things going on.

Let’s start with Marie’s album. How did you get involved with it?

Micke and Marie started working on some of the songs a long time ago, some of them even 10 years ago. They asked during Roxette’s tour if I wanted to be part of recording the vocals because we did that with Roxette and we had lots of fun and it worked out very well. So that’s how it started, and then I got more and more involved. We recorded about half of the album in my studio, for the other half we used mainly what Marie and Micke had recorded themselves and built on those.

So how did you arrange the recordings? Did all the musicians come to your studio in Skåne?
Micke and Marie spent about 10 days in my studio the first time. Then they came to the studio a second time for five days. We also had Jens for a few days recording drums for some tracks. And then the rest we worked out together the three of us.

In an interview Micke told us that there are demos for most of the songs, but that we wouldn’t want to hear those, haha! Did they change a lot from demos to final?
Haha! Oscar is singing in some of them, actually. And I can’t really remember how much we changed. We built on some of the demos so the original kind of ended up on the album, but other songs were done from scratch in the studio, I don’t remember the demos to those. In that case we just heard the demo maybe once or twice and then we did the rest more or less on the fly. In some cases there were ideas on the demos that we wanted to keep, on other cases we started from scratch.

Marie and Micke worked with other song writers, were they involved in the recordings too?
Not really. They were not involved in the recording but more in the background and working with Marie on the lyrics. That was the most difficult part because lyrics are a huge part of Marie’s career and now that she doesn’t write many songs herself, she really needs lyrics that she can feel as if she had written them. That’s really tricky; it’s very personal, especially for Marie because she’s such an emotional singer. She cannot just sing something; she always sings texts that really mean something. So there were lots of attempts that didn’t work, we had new lyrics coming in all the time and every now and then we were like “Yes! This works!” It’s a tricky process because all of the song writers are very great writers; it’s hard to turn them down, someone writes a great text and you have to say “no sorry”, not because it’s not good enough, but because it doesn’t feel right for Marie, and you don’t want to hurt people… But Micke and Marie handled all that, it was their friends and colleagues, I was just standing by.

Did you use many new or interesting instruments this time, besides the sitar?
That was Micke’s or Marie’s idea, I cannot remember. They had that line on the demo “dididididi” (imitating the sound of the sitar at the beginning of the song) done with a cimbalo or something like that, but they wanted to find something more unique. It’s funny because that kind of guitar is used in a Swedish hit called “Jag vill ha en egen måne” by Ted Gärdestad. It was a huge 70ies hit and the artist is great, so it is also a bit of a hint to that song too. We used many of the other instruments as always, we just tried them out and used what we felt worked out. Micke played the church organ as well on “Jag undrar vad du tänker på”.

This album is very different to the other Marie albums, you can hear a lot of country and other styles that Marie hadn’t touched before. Did Marie and Micke already come with this in mind? How much of it is your influence?
Yes, that was not my influence, actually. The second track, “Det bästa som nånsin kan hända”, was almost finished when I heard it, for example. I hardly added anything to that one, one or two guitars maybe. That has the most country flavor I think. I just realised this when I listened to Marie’s previous albums to prepare for this tour that there are such different styles in the other albums, almost every album has its own style. And that is very much Marie, whatever the feeling at the moment is. So how do you like the album and the current style?

I think it’s great. Marie loves guitars… and you can hear that on the album. This album is one of her best. I had always wished she would do something like this.
Oh, great to hear. And yes, she loves electric guitars! We also had Staffan Astner on the album, he has this flashy style and Marie loves that. Whenever he goes crazy with the guitar she is like “Yes! Perfect!”

You could see that on Äntligen tour and on the current tour when she looks at you or Jokke and completely enjoys the solos!
Haha! It’s great to play that too.

So let’s move to another of the projects, mixing of Roxette live album/DVD/Blu-ray.
Yes, and it finally came out! Believe it or not, haha!

What happened there? It took almost a year between the TV broadcast and the release…
It was the editing of all the video material that too so long. It was a very long process and took a long time to get a result that everybody was happy with. Per was really involved in it and driving it. The end result is actually mostly what he wanted, all the fast cuts and stuff.

Really? And we thought all the time that it was the guys who shot it…
Yes! I know! People think it was the film makers but it was actually him telling them “more cuts, more cuts!”

Haha! And they make all of us dizzy!
I know, I heard about that. People getting epileptic fits from that, haha! My guess is that after all those Roxette concerts, the energy and everything was so intense, Per wanted it to be how HE feels when he plays all those songs from his point of view. The feeling is so frantic and hectic, but it’s hard to transmit this on a video. It was also Per’s idea to mix the professional recordings with iPhone shots. I think that’s a great idea!

Yes, there are some cool things on the recording, also when they put the camera on the guitar! What I specially miss on the video is to see your faces. It either moves too fast that you cannot see the emotions or the camera is focused on some lights or microphone or the screen simply goes black… I think it’s a pity, we love to see you smile and happy and your emotions and there is too less of it.
I also noticed that, I am not really into pictures and images and all this, but I noticed that there are lots of shots of hands, us playing the guitar or piano close-ups of the hands. But at least the names of the cities were removed, it didn’t feel right to see the audience of a European concert for example labeled as something “happening” in South America or South Africa. That was lame, so they cut it out. You cannot trick people like that.

You did the audio mixing, that is a pleasure to listen to. How do you do that?
I did that pretty much on my own, we had live recordings from many shows so I mixed it and sent it in, waited for feedback, did some more changes, even though this time we didn’t change many things. It’s a different thing mixing a live sound, you want to keep the energy and the rawness of it but it needs to be clear at the same time; it’s painful for the ears if you keep all the live noise and energy, so it’s about finding the right balance.

How many hours do you spend mixing one song?
Oh, it’s more like I first do the whole concert and then I go back and forth and listen to one song for an hour, then work on it until it feels right, then go to the next song. It’s hard to describe. The basic concert was Santiago de Chile but we then took songs from other places too, but not too many. Also because the most of the video is from Santiago.

And now you are mixing another live album, for Gyllene Tider?
That’s already mixed, months ago haha! Just waiting for feedback and then for it to be released…

I am looking forward to that one too. The tour was great, I think you went to one of the concerts, what did you think?
Yes, I went to Halmstad. It was great! They are always good, but I think they were playing better than ever. What do you think?

I also think so, had just seen them live once before but of course there are the DVDs and live CDs and I can hear that they had much more fun this time around. It was a great mix of songs and an amazing good vibe all the time.
Yes, that’s right. I think it’s about realizing what a big gift this is to be able to go on a GT tour again. Also the recording of the album felt like that.

Right! You were also involved in the recording of the album! Which I think is one of the best GT albums, it feels like very straight forward, basic, like 5 friends meeting up and just playing and having fun.
That’s the idea behind it, in fact. We just wanted to have GT the band and that’s all. They were all at my studio for about two weeks, we did some additional recordings of one or the other instrument but most of it was recorded having the 5 of them in the studio and playing ahead. I think it turned out one of the best GT albums, in fact, a lot better than “Finn 5 fel”, that one was much more produced.

Me too, it sounds a bit more like the 80ies and 90ies, with lots of energy, very much defined and clear instruments and great drum beats, very real.
Glad to hear that. That’s what we wanted to achieve. I also think there are some brilliant songs in it, like the title track, it’s just beautiful. When I heard the demo I was like wow!

The lyrics are very good as well.
Yes! They have all the GT trademarks, all the playing with the words, but they are at the same time not silly teenager stuff but relevant lyrics for them NOW. It’s brilliant.Chris2

With this album or the latest Roxette or solo albums you realise how good Per is at writing lyrics.
He is a great craftsman; it’s all those details that you only realise when you listen carefully. He has great sensibility with words, he hears words really intensely I think, the sound and the way they go together, it’s a whole universe that I am slightly outside of, haha!

He even does that while writing on Facebook, you will hardly ever find a “normal” sentence, every word has its place and always with that humour…
That’s true. He’s very creative with language all the time.

So now you have worked with Marie, Per, Gyllene Tider, Roxette, what would you say is the biggest difference?
Oh, tough one! Of course, Marie’s stuff is the most different because it doesn’t involve Per. Marie’s music is a totally different thing, not only in the studio but also during the rehearsals and now the tour. You have to switch your mindset a 180 degrees and remind yourself that this is something totally different. And also treat it differently. The rehearsals were very much of that and fun, discovering how to interpret her music NOW. She is also a great band leader, she gives us in the band a lot of freedom to play what we want, but she drives it all and she knows exactly what she likes and what she doesn’t.

We were talking about this this morning. We realised in the last few concerts how Marie really is the leader, contrary to what many may think… her looks and subtle signs to you or the others in the band…
Yeah, yeah, I know that many may not realise or think that it’s like this, but she is in total control. And also, we follow her all the time. She is such a powerhouse emotional singer, so whenever she does something, sings something differently we need to follow her. She also likes to improvise so she changes the structure of the songs at times, comes in at different places or sings some things longer or adds this “nanana” here or there. So then we just follow. In Roxette you don’t improvise – ever – but this is her thing and the way she wants to do it.

And you are just a great band to be able to just jump in and actually adapt to these changes… this is one of the special things about this tour.
It’s great to hear, I agree! It’s a lot of fun. Also the rehearsals were like that. Not saying much as long as she was happy with the sound, but telling you when something was not so right “what are you playing there?” haha! Sometimes she gave us instructions how to play this or that part, faster, slower or not at all. She is really in charge. And I really want to stress that because I have the feeling some people assume she is not. And that is SO wrong. It was the same with the album, she had the final say on everything, there is not a single note in there that she doesn’t love. She decides pretty much everything, even though Micke and I did the producing and played the instruments, she was like the chief of it all, really present in all decisions. Also things like the bass sound, telling us if it was too loud or if it could be more of it. She is really into the minute details of the music.

Talking about rehearsals, how long did you rehearse?
Two times five days getting the music together and arrangements and all and then five days production rehearsals, that’s when you are on the stage with the lighting and everything. So all in all 15 days.

How did you come up with those arrangements? I think they are great, very fresh and fit Marie a lot.
All the arrangements were done more or less on the fly, we tried and saw what worked and didn’t work. It was very smooth and easy to find the sound we wanted to play and we were happy with. And we did changes here and there, like with the first song, first we tried the version that’s on the album, but maybe this band isn’t that good at playing this slightly funky soulish style that Marie has on some of her records, so it felt a bit weird when we played it.

I wouldn’t say you are that bad, Så länge det lyser sounds amazing and makes you just want to dance!
Haha, I really agree on that one, we got that one together! And we love the reception to that song, but that was the hardest one for us to play well. Pelle and I have no soul or funky in us at all, so well, it took a while. And now it feels great. And I think that we did the right thing with Så stilla, I think it works very well as a quiet song instead, that’s what the lyrics are about, slow and quiet.

I think it’s very brave to start a concert like that! Usually you start with something fast…
Yeah! She is simply so cool! It’s true, normally you start with something powerful because you run over the audience and kind of show your power. And this is the opposite. OK, we have no power, this is totally naked, that’s us. Also the way Marie talks in between songs, it’s the same. People around her were telling maybe she should have somebody to write her some texts and stuff to say, but she said no, no, no, I am going to do what I feel is right. It’s gonna be me, it’s gonna be real. And if I don’t feel like saying anything then ok, that’s it. I think this is simply wonderful, she sounds like she is talking at home in her couch. This is personal for real. And it’s also her humour, she says silly things sometimes, she laughs…

And she loves to say “jävla”!
Haha yes, she likes that word. And yesterday, when she said that the song was dedicated to her father (“Om du såg mig nu”) and nobody reacted, she was just like “Ok, NÄÄÄSTA!” That was great, it’s so much her! Also before the tour started somebody suggested her to have a note stand with the lyrics so she could look them up here and there, but she said no way. She wants to be there, with her audience, at the present moment, and not miss the vibe because of reading.

What do you think about the tour so far? Did you expect it to be like this?
I had no expectations at all. We are having a GREAT time, it’s like being with your family, it’s a lot slower compared to a Roxette tour. The concerts are a bit like jazz concerts at times, it’s sometimes very quiet, and there are applauses after some solos. The acoustic bits are my favourite, just a couple of instruments and her voice. Just perfect. Så skimrande is simply out of this world. She also does these songs differently every night, maybe the audience won’t notice that much as we do, but from a musical point of view they are totally different. There is no rhythm in it, she just sings the next line when she FEELS the next line, it could be slow, fast, a long break.

And your slide guitar fits just great… It’s simply very special to hear all those low notes you are playing…
Thanks! I try to do it so that it’s just those little sounds and nothing to take away from the voice or to compete. And the solo is just a few notes, slowly. It’s almost a little scary to play music that is so quiet and in front of an audience that is so quiet. On Roxette concerts even during slow songs people are talking but here you could hear a needle drop. Everybody is in the moment, right now, it’s ahhhh! I don’t want to screw up! haha!

It would be really great to at least capture it all on a CD. The arrangements, the vibe, the feelings, energy are just amazing…
I agree. We are recording all the concerts to possibly do something with them, we will see what happens. But there are no plans for filming. It feels like the songs have ended up in the now, it’s still her classic songs, but it’s 2014. Also the lyrics have a different meaning now I think. The last tour she did was very different musically speaking, so it’s great to do something different now.

The locations and the lighting are also a perfect choice. I had always longed to see Marie in this setup…
I agree. The lights are very nice, I saw it on Youtube the other day, it’s just right for Marie. It shouldn’t be like a show like in Äntligen, Marie was running around and keeping the audience entertained, but this is just us singing and playing, just a nice concert, pure music.

It’s also very nice to see the connection between all of you in the band evolving from show to show. Do you feel like that too?
Yes. When you rehearse you can only get to a certain point, even if you rehearse more and more it doesn’t get any better. You need the real shows in front of the audience, after a few shows something should start happening, this connection should start to work, start changing things etc. Jokke and I have totally different styles but I think it’s magic.

We love this kind of “guitar duel”, we could enjoy that for hours.
I love to do that, it’s nice to do it WITH Marie. It’s like we go up to her and playing for her, she is still the center and she is the director of it all. So for me it feels like I am playing for her, ‘Do you like it?’ It’s very nice. When I play a solo in a Roxette concert I play that mainly for the audience. It makes a huge difference.

Well, she does look very happy and proud of you.
Yes, I think so too. I hope so!

We also realized a huge change between the first 5 shows and Växjö…
It was great when she got rid of the shoes, it was the best decision ever, just standing there barefoot, totally confident. It’s just so great.

So you mentioned that it’s more relaxed that touring with Roxette, you have breaks in between… but we realised that you are actually working during these breaks, for what we could read on Per’s updates on FB… What are you working on right now?
Right! haha! I am working with Per and producing albums for other artists. And I am also trying to finalise my second solo album, last time I did something was in January, I am about 60-70% through recording it. I hope to get it finished until the next Roxette tour…

… and I guess you cannot tell us exactly WHEN?
Haha! Oops! No!

Well everybody is talking about a Roxette tour very soon, let’s hope it’s announced on time. You know, people have flights to book, holidays to plan, plan how to save money; flights get expensive the closer to the date you want to buy them…This tour is for instance great. Most of the concerts are on weekend so we don’t need to take that many days off, even though it’s a lot of flights, it also lets us combine it with our jobs and families better. It was also announced quite early so we had time to plan everything.
I know, I realised that somewhen. You guys need to plan your life and if you want to go to many concerts you need to know in advance. It makes a lot of difference if you know such things early enough. Besides that you all have jobs, you need to arrange holidays, and kids and families and all so it’s a lot of planning on your side too!

Going back to your solo album. We talked about it in the last interview that you would like to have Hanna Ekström sing more in the album…
Yes, this time Hanna is singing even more, more like duets; it’s been fun to do it. Normally nowadays even if there are many people singing in an album, they are recorded separately, people are not even in the studio at the same time, it’s then edited on the computer to put it together. But we did it very old school, standing in the studio with one microphone each and working together on the song, finding an arrangement, and in 4-5 hours we record one song live. That’s just great and very creative. The funny thing is that she is not really interested in becoming an artist, she’s studied something related to environment and she went to South America for three months working somewhere out in the bushes.

And you collaborated with Michael Saxell again for the lyrics?
Yes, I am still not a lyrics guy. I think I told you the last time already, it’s a concept album; all lyrics have a true background. He picked up historic events and wrote something related to one of the characters involved in the events. Sometimes you can tell what it is about, but sometimes you can’t unless you know the background story. There are lots of great stories. You will see when it’s out.

And some more about your projects. Brainpool released a single last year… that was a nice surprise! How’s the album going?
That is even slower than my solo album! Haha! We managed to finish one song and that’s the one we released. We wrote the music for the whole album but not much is recorded yet. But we have a very clear picture in our heads how the album should be like, which is already something! The other 2 guys Jens and David have their normal jobs, working Monday to Friday, so we can only record on weekends, and I work so much during the week that I want to have some weekends off with my family, so it’s difficult to find time slots.

I really liked the song so looking forward to the album. Have you also talked about touring?
Great to hear. We were so happy we finished it that we thought, let’s get it out there! It felt very nice to have a song with the name “Brainpool” on it. It was fun. We talked about doing some concerts last summer and do a reunion with Janne, and make some kind of nostalgia thing, but he wasn’t interested so it came to nothing. But I am sure we will do some concerts in the future.

Chris3Last time you also told us about the musical in Broadway…?
Ah, yeah! That’s also alive and well. We spent 10 days in New York in November working with the director and the actors on the story, since it wasn’t good enough for Broadway, it needs to be developed and changed so we started that process together with the guys in NY. And those 10 days were amazing. Professional Americans that are at the top of their game are the most professional people you can work with. They are crazy about what they are doing, and no time is ever wasted, they are spot on. So we started at 9 sharp and one thing after the other. The actors take care of their own parts and characters to make the story believable. So they were all discussing how things should be for their character at this scene or the other, talking about every detail of the human psyche to make it believable theater. So we were sitting there making changes to the music to fit these developments. The actors are coming to Sweden in August to record a Broadway cast album, so we will record music for Junk again in the new arrangements and keys that fit these actors, and we are planning to have one concert in Malmö. Brainpool will be backing up the Broadway cast, let’s see if it works out.

Hearing all this I really wonder… how long is your day? 48 hours?
Haha! Something like this. It is a bit crazy at times, but when you have the chance to work with what you are passionate about and work with such great people all the time, it’s very hard to say no. This could end any day, next year I could be out of work, that’s what happens to musicians all the time. So I am taking all the opportunities I can and enjoying it. But I have calmed down a bit; if I would have gone on working like I did 2-3 years ago I would have hit the wall. Now it’s still busy but it’s fine.

It doesn’t feel like that when one reads Per’s updates… no break between concerts.
Haha! I have an anecdote about that. I came back home from the premiere in Helsingborg at around 11am, Per was sitting outside in his car reading the newspaper, waiting to start working. The day after the premiere! But it’s great.

How do you plan your time? Per seems to have a lot of new ideas all the time, so how do you fit this in and combine with the other projects?
Normally, I try to track what Per is up to next and try to plan what I am doing with other artists accordingly so that there will be space for it. I am not shifting the other musicians or plans around though; I would only do that if it’s a real emergency. It’s not always easy, but I learnt to be flexible, it may be that he comes up with some new project and then everything changes. That’s how he is, he is very creative and when an idea is fresh he wants to do THAT.

You mentioned you are producing albums for other artists, what other bands are you working with?
I am now working with a band from southern Sweden called Hooffoot. They are playing progressive rock, the music I was listening to when I was a teen a lot, 20-minute long songs with very complicated music, I despised songs that were less than 10 minutes long haha! I thought that was commercial and beloooow me. I never worked with music like that until now, they are very good and they do it the way that I like, it’s just about enjoying the music, not showing how good you are, it is organic breathing emotional music. Then I am mixing a record for Lotta Wenglén, she is part of the Dolly Parton documentary Helena (Josefsson) was in.

Are you actually touring with other bands?
Not really, I toured with some friends from the Norwegian band CC Cowboys but that’s all and more than enough, I also want to spend some time home and in the studio…

It seems we will all be on the road again sooner than we think after Marie’s tour. Like we mentioned before, let’s hope it’s reveled soon.
It’s always this secrecy… I think sometimes it’s not necessary, but that’s the way it is in this business. The thing is that I never got the reason for this secrecy. Maybe in the old days it made sense, not to be seen at all for a while and suddenly big news! New album and tour! But it doesn’t work like that nowadays anymore, no one notices a release of anything, it’s more like artist are in constant contact with their fans and constantly present. It all runs on all these social media, it is important that the artists have a good Facebook page and website and all. And also a big part of that is the work that you guys are doing on RoxetteBlog, for example, keeping everybody informed and it all alive, finding everything out…

Exactly, we find everything out anyway, you cannot hide from us, haha!
Haha! I have noticed! Sometimes we are really like WHAT! How did they find THIS out!

Well, that is OUR secret.
Haha! I also think it’s great that Marie has her own FB page now, I think maintaining a good FB page at the moment is much better PR than ads on TV or hanging out posters. You just need dedicated and passionate people or fans to run the pages. It’s this direct contact with the fans that is most important nowadays.

I also think so. We cannot complain actually, Per keeps us informed and for the rest of the info we always find a way. Most of the artists I like have realized that, luckily, and are not keeping themselves hidden in a cave, that would be a major mistake. I think we could go on talking about this for hours… but there is a sound check you should attend if we want to enjoy a concert tonight…
Oh! Right, it’s just around the corner but I should get going. It’s always a pleasure talking to you. You should bring your earplugs tonight! It’s known for very hard acoustics. So see you tonight!

We will bring earplugs and a great mood with us.
Perfect, see you later!

All pictures taken by Judith at various Marie Fredriksson concerts February-April 2014.