A fab interview with Per Gessle was done by Elisabeth Elle Sandberg on 9th February 1985. Elisabeth, who was 18 when she did the interview at Per’s apartment in Halmstad, decided to make it available online after 31 years. Great decision, I must say. What an interesting reading after all these years knowing what Per achieved in his solo career and with Gyllene Tider, as well as with Marie in Roxette. Awesome! Thanks a lot, Elisabeth!
Elisabeth starts the article with placing the interview in a time perspective. In 1983 Per released his first solo album, Per Gessle. The following year, in February, 1984 came Gyllene Tider’s English album, The Heartland Café, which did not sell particularly well. During this interview in 1985 Per started working on his second solo album, Scener. Gyllene Tider broke up about a month after this interview and Per and Marie formed Roxette in 1986.
On the day of the interview Per was in the process of looking for images that would illustrate the lyrics of his second solo album. He says it’s really hard. The only image he found good was a picture of his mother. Elisabeth asks if there were no pictures of himself and Per said he wouldn’t dare using them.
Elisabeth asks Mr. G why he is doing a solo album when he is fine with the band, Gyllene Tider. Per says he doesn’t have a good answer to the question, but it’s good to change the environment sometimes. However, there is less reason to make a solo album now than before, because Gyllene Tider’s music is closer to him than it was before. But after doing The Heartland Café album he decided that the next one should be a solo album.
Elisabeth asks if the next GT album will be more full of hits and Per replies that the main difference is that it will be in Swedish again. Another difference will be that he won’t write more than 1/3 of the album and gets the others write too. He thinks that if there is a reason for them to continue to play together, they must move on and everyone should contribute to the creative side, so it doesn’t become 12 Per Gessle tunes. There would of course be songs similar to Sommartider, but he hasn’t written so much yet. The idea is to make it a more danceable up-tempo album.
Elisabeth asks if Per thinks the fans will come back and Per says he hopes so, but he sounds a bit uncertain. Per says they are probably the oldest band at this level in Sweden and the audience they had in 1980-81 are four years older now. At that age musical taste changes quite a lot. According to Mr. G, each artist is just as big as their last song (The Heartland Café album sold 30 000 copies). They have, after all, a fairly large audience still and if they make a good album, he thinks they can be huge again. Per was surprised that The Heartland Café was selling so much anyway, because many people didn’t have a clue that the album was released, but that’s only because it was in English.
Per says Teaser Japanese sold quite well as a single, but he thinks it was totally wrong, a stupid thing. Mr. G says it was his fault that they did an English LP. He just wanted them to invest in Europe, but one shouldn’t throw out 300 000 SEK on an LP that no one wants to buy. Instead, one should record a single and test it. If it doesn’t work, one should make another single. Now he thinks the whole year they worked on The Heartland Café was a waste of time.
Mr. G says the fans bought the album Puls in autumn of 1982 and it is much to ask that they wait for a new Gyllene Tider album. They will release a new single after his solo album. It’s a bit useless to compete with himself. He says a song is finished and its title is “30 skäl” [this is the song Anna recorded in 1986 – PP]. Per says it’s very danceable and is possibly out sometime in July-August.
Per says his songwriting is changing all the time. The biggest change was in 1982 when he bought a piano. Elisabeth asks if it was hard to bring the piano up the stairs (since there were a lot of stairs to reach Per’s apartment) and Per laughs and says “they said” it was. The piano was built exactly in 1900 and he found it in a shop in Falkenberg. Since he bought it, he started to write music using the piano and it allowed him to write differently.
Per thinks it’s great to read his old lyrics. He doesn’t write the same way anymore. He doesn’t know why. Today it would be really hard to write a song like (Dansar inte lika bra som) Sjömän. Blå December was an attempt to write a short story, a narrated story in pictures.
Per says he started writing English lyrics when he was 13-14. He couldn’t play any instruments, so he just wrote the lyrics. He started playing the guitar in 1976.
To Elisabeth’s question regarding what Per thinks about Swedish music he replied that it’s exactly the same today as when Gyllene Tider had their breakthrough. There are great artists like Ulf Lundell, Dan Hylander, Eva Dahlgren and others who survive, but nothing new appears. He believes that a new generation of 17-18-year-olds will do great things soon. The record companies working with them will be great. Today the record companies are run by older people. The record company Stranded woke up now with bands like Ratata.
Per says many people wonder how he can write songs for Herreys och Pinks, but after all, those are the most-selling artists in Sweden and Per makes a living from writing music.
Elisabeth asks Per which producer he would choose for his next solo album or Gyllene Tider’s next album. Per thinks Gyllene Tider needs a producer more than himself. His solo albums are much clearer than Gyllene Tider’s. He thinks there are tons of good producers, but perhaps above all two. One of them is Trevor Horn, who is a tech pro. He produced Owner of a Lonely Heart by Yes. He is fantastic. The other is a guy called Robert “Mutt” Lange, who did The Cars’ latest LP. Per was stunned when he heard The Cars’ latest LP. That’s exactly what they should have done long ago, but they don’t have the resources.
Per says it’s so ridiculous that the record company still wants to have a new album in English. But they can’t spend more time on it, because then it will be the same thing again. Abroad they are competing for airplay time with all other Capitol artists such as John Waite, Tina Turner and David Bowie. And it is impossible.
To the question if he is interested in writing soundtracks or musicals, Per replies that he would like to do soundtracks and also instrumental music, it would be fun, but about musicals he thinks they are so boring.
Elisabeth asks Per if he remembers the first time he was standing in front of an audience. Mr. G says he was always singing Staffan Stalledräng. He and a guy called Peter Nilsson worked as troubadours and were singing at hospitals. There he learned how to sit with a guitar and sing for people. He says it was useful and helped when they played with Gyllene Tider. But he thinks he is still nervous. But that’s just because people have other requirements today in any context. Per says if you are at a family party, people always want you to sit down at the piano, sing and play. Stuff he hates, because he can’t. He can barely play the piano.
To the question which concert he was fascinated by, Per replies that there are several. Bruce Springsteen when he was in Sweden last. It was an incredible concert. He is just like an artist should be. He captivates his audience. Then Joni Mitchell when she was in Sweden. Per says he saw David Bowie on his recent tour in France. Randy Newman alone with a grand piano is the best there is. Staffan Scheja and Björn J:son Lindh are also beautiful. Per says there are so many ways to experience a concert, however, actually he doesn’t like to go to concerts. It’s rare that he goes to one and almost never at Scandinavium, because it’s so boring.
He is asked if he goes out to dance and his reply is he does. If he likes dancing? He says it depends. He thinks it’s fun to dance sometimes, it depends on what mood you are in. He tends to go out in Halmstad, but he doesn’t go out to dance only, but to eat.
Regarding what he produced so far Per says Rita & The Rip-Off. He would really love to produce more, but it’s hard when you work with yourself. This new album he is doing he produces it together with Lasse Lindbom. He thinks it’s good for all bands, no matter how much experience they have, to have a producer. You need an objective person all the time. If you work for a long time with your material, you become snowed in what you are doing. Producing other artists would be fun. Per thinks he is pretty good at it and he laughs. Then he goes off and gets more coffee saying he always drinks so much coffee. It’s part of his plans to produce more. The problem is that he likes working in Halmstad. He finds it boring to stay at a hotel in Stockholm.
Elisabeth asks Per what he would like to be able to do what he still can’t do. Per says he would like to be a better musician than he is. He would also like to be able to read music. No one he knows can do that. When one is working with other musicians, often older musicians, it’s an incredible advantage to be able to write and read music. When Per hears or knows what he wants in a song, he is humming it out. He thinks it’s a handicap. He would also like to be able to sing better, to have a larger vocal range. He went and took singing lessons four times, but he says he is not one of those who can do it, for example, every Tuesday. It’s rare that he is home. Mr. G says he had season ticket for Drott’s matches, but he saw only one game during the season, because he wasn’t home. He says it’s useless this way and he can’t have anything definite.
Elisabeth asks Per if he plays football and Per says they play soccer every Monday in the summer, he and some neighbors. He says it’s funny. He played football when he was little and he always found ball sports fun. He is also playing badminton quite often.
The interview ends with a question about what Per is doing now and he replies he is trying to get an agent in Los Angeles, and it goes pretty well.