Per Gessle interview in Dagens industri

Dagens industri magazine met Per Gessle at Hotel Tylösand and while Lars Jansson was taking some fabulous photos of Per, Göran Jonsson interviewed him about his career, successes, collections (vinyl, guitars and cars), as well as business.

Göran thinks that selling a few hundred thousand concert tickets for another Gyllene Tider reunion tour is a measure of success. Displaying your collection of Ferrari cars at your own Hotel Tylösand is another. The real success is based on the hit songs written by Per Gessle, a song catalogue that is not for sale.

Göran starts the article with some information about and description of Hotel Tylösand. Per bought it together with former TV4 manager Björn Nordstrand in 1995. Göran saw Marie’s portrait photo next to the reception. It was taken by photographer Mattias Edwall and it’s part of the Per & Åsa Gessle Collection.

Per invites Göran into The Look suite at the hotel. There they start talking. Per points out that the cover photo for his first solo album 40 years ago was taken at Tylösand beach, which they can see from the panoramic window of the suite. PG explains that his first two solo records were considered a flop and he didn’t get a new record contract. Gyllene Tider had ended by then and he felt a little lost. It took 18 years before he again released an album under his own name with Swedish lyrics, Mazarin (2003).

Per says:

I got a lot of requests to write songs for other artists, especially lyrics, including „Kärleken är evig” for Lena Philipsson. From that I learned that it suits me very badly. I have a hard time adapting when someone says ‘change that line’. Then I realized that it wasn’t my thing to write songs on order for others.

I was able to develop as a songwriter thanks to having Marie. Songs like „Listen To Your Heart” and „Queen Of Rain”, they were all written for her. When I think back, it feels like „Look Sharp!”, the „Joyride” era and „Tourism”… There are some songs on „Tourism”, „Queen Of Rain” for example, that I still think are very good. In this way, I was a bit of a ‘late bloomer’ compared to many others, who peak when they are around 25 years old. When Roxette broke through, I turned 30 and Marie was 31. And since then it’s been rolling.

Göran is curious if it is slower to write songs now and if it is harder to find inspiration.

No, not really. I have just finished a brand new Swedish solo record that will be released next year.

Göran is surprised, because he knows that a new Gyllene Tider album has just been released. Mr. G explains it was recorded last summer. When they reunite, he has to write a new record so they can hang out a bit, because they never meet otherwise. Then they get to hang out a bit, feel each other’s pulse, play together and be creative. It’s the best there is, he says to Dagens industri. It’s wonderful when they meet.

Göran wants to know if Per knows how many records he has sold during his career. He has no idea. He knows that Roxette has sold appr. 80 million albums, but there are a lot of streamings. He has no clue about how many albums GT sold, but he remembers that Mazarin sold 400,000-450,000 albums.

How much money he has earned, PG doesn’t know. His greatest asset is his extensive song catalogue. He has 862 works registered with the copyright organization Stim. For a long time, a single song was teasingly missing for the catalogue to be complete. Per wrote the music and Ingela “Pling” Forsman wrote the text for Skepp utan roder, which was submitted as a contribution to Melodifestivalen in 1986, but was not accepted. It was the only one Per Gessle wrote that he did not own the rights to. Later, Per became friends with a manager at Universal Music, which owned Skepp utan roder. PEr told him his story, that there was a single song that he didn’t own the rights to. Then all of a sudden one day, when Per celebrated his birthday, Universal’s Swedish manager came and rang the doorbell with a vinyl single that they had pressed with this particular song. Then PG got the rights back.

The real gems are of course all the hit songs he wrote for Roxette and for which there is an international market. Many great artists sold rights to their music for billions in recent years, e.g. Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Tina Turner, Paul Simon, Sting. Per Gessle’s songs are owned by his own music publisher Jimmy Fun, which in recent years has had a steady turnover of between SEK 16 and 19 million and has reported a profit after net financials of SEK 12-13 million annually. Per has no plans to “cash in” and sell his song catalogue.

I can understand that you do it if you are Springsteen, he is 73 years old, and Dylan who is over 80. I’m a little too young for that. It’s like selling your babies and I’m not ready for that. I’m not quite done yet. But there are a lot of people who want to buy the rights. There are props almost every week, or at least every other week, from different places. But I don’t want that now. Maybe one day.

Göran from Dagens industri says that those who invest in song catalogues speculate on the longevity of the songs, that they will get back what they invested and more through ongoing copyright payments. The question is how long the lifespan of Per Gessle’s songs is.

I don’t have a crystal ball, but the big hit songs will certainly work for a few more generations.

PG says that music is made in a different way these days. You hear a lot of old music in commercials, in HBO films, Netflix series and so on, because no such music is written anymore.

I understand that rights are worth their weight in gold, because suddenly a song appears in a TV series and then it rattles.

Göran writes about Pretty Woman and It Must Have Been Love, the song from 1987 that got a second life and became number one in the US in 1990.

Göran Jonsson shares some financial details about Hotel Tylösand too. It turned out to be a successful investment, he thinks. The turnover increased in 2021 to SEK 199 million with a result after net financial items of SEK 46 million. Per owns 50 percent of the shares in the hotel through his company Elevator Entertainment, which last year received SEK 20 million in share dividends.

It has gone very well for the hotel. Björn and I were, at least during the first ten years, not particularly dependent on the hotel’s income, so we reinvested the profits.

To Göran’s question regarding how involved he is in management, Per replies that he sits on the board and in the past ten years he has taken up more space than in the beginning, when he was very much the ‘silent partner’.

Göran Jonsson says that the hotel walls are covered in art, mostly photographs. Some are for sale through the gallery Tres Hombres Art, of which Per Gessle is a co-owner, but many belong to the Per & Åsa Gessle Collection. Not even Per can tell exactly which works of art are the family’s and which are the gallery’s.

During the interview, the guys are sitting in front of the photo that is on the cover of David Bowie’s album Pin Ups (1973). Per has a few prints of it, even a huge one at home in Halmstad. David Bowie is undoubtedly one of his favourites. To Göran’s question regarding which was the best concert he had been to, Gessle replies it’s impossible to answer, but he remembers being completely enchanted by the Station to Station tour with David Bowie at Scandinavium in Gothenburg in 1976. It was absolutely magical to see him. Everyone in the audience came in platform shoes, but he himself suddenly looked like Frank Sinatra.

The Beatles are at least as strong and it was photos of John Lennon’s psychedelic painted Rolls-Royce that sparked Per’s interest in cars. It was the 1960s and in his room in Halmstad there were toy cars from Corgi Toys and a car track from Scalextrix.

Now Per has collected his cars in The Joyride Car Collection: twelve Ferraris, a McLaren and two Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Most are on display at Hotel Tylösand. The exhibition hall with glass walls in all directions is located on the ground floor of a newly built hotel part with 39 rooms and a conference room that was inaugurated in May.

It was my and my wife Åsa’s idea to build a garage there. It was actually only intended for six to seven cars, but there was room for eleven and now there are ten there, nine of which are Ferraris.

The idea is that I will rotate them. They must be serviced once a year and must therefore come in and out here. Then maybe I’ll take one home and put another one here.

Göran is curious what the car collection is worth. Per says he doesn’t know, Göran should google it. Göran has done that. It said SEK 100 million on some site. PG thinks it’s probably a very low estimation. There are some real gems here. The Ferrari LaFerrari Aperta is one that cannot be bought, there are none for sale. One was sold at some charity auction and it went for SEK 80 million. So such a car is worth maybe SEK 40-50 million.

Göran says that the exhibition catalogue has the info that together the cars on display are driven less than 100 miles per year. He wants to know if the collection is to be considered an investment in the first place. Per finds it difficult to call his interests investments. It doesn’t sound much fun.

I played at Ferrari’s 50th anniversary party in 1997 in Italy and got to know them and their representatives in Sweden. That was before it became a hysterical business of collector cars like this. It is only in the last 5-10 years that it has become so.

First he just liked the cars. But in 2001 he had the opportunity to buy a limited edition car, a 550 Barchetta Pininfarina, of which 448 were produced. It’s a car that Per has home. After that things got tougher.

The Joyride Car Collection

Ferrari 250 GTE 2+2 (1962)
Ferrari Dino 246 GT (1971)
Ferrari 550 Barchetta Pininfarina (2001)
Ferrari 430 Scuderia (2007)
Ferrari 599 GTO (2010)
Ferrari 458 Speciale Aperta (2015)
Ferrari F12 TDF (2016)
Ferrari LaFerrari Aperta (2017)
McLaren Senna (2018)
Ferrari 488 Pista Spider (2020)
Ferrari Monza SP2 (2020)
Ferrari Daytona SP3 (2023)
Ferrari 812 Competizione Aperta (2023)
Harley-Davidson XLH 1200 Sportster (1992)
Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail Nostalgia (1993)

Göran thinks Per must have made a good deal, since he started buying Ferraris before the real boom took off.

Yes, but you don’t make money until you sell.

Göran refers to the stock exchange. Per says shares are greedy and he thinks it’s super boring. He is totally uninterested in that kind of investment. But these cars are fun and really beautiful.

It’s the same with art and photography. I bought a lot of amazing photographs in the 1990s. It cost nothing then compared to now – Terry O’Neill, Ansel Adams, Irving Penn, Robert Mapplethorpe – just because I liked it. I have got to know many photographers. Anton Corbijn is a very good friend of ours in the family. I have worked with him since 1999. When Gabriel, our son, was little, Anton was at our house every year and took family photos of us. We have lots of photos from Gabriel’s upbringing. It’s really fun. I love his work and he is a damn nice guy.

Göran asks Per if he has a record collection.

Yes, of course I have a record collection. Otherwise you are naked. I’ve purged stuff that I got for free from record companies over the years and never listened to, but I still have the records that have followed me through life, about 2,000 LPs.

He also has a guitar collection of a little over 100 guitars. As rarities he has some old Martins, acoustic guitars from the 1930s and ’40s. And Rickenbackers. Per points out that the retro logo for The Joyride Car Collection is a Rickenbacker attached to a gas pump.

So-called memorabilia from his career adorns Leif’s Lounge, one of the restaurants at Hotel Tylösand. There hang, for example, six framed rejection letters, addressed to Hamiltons väg 8 in Halmstad before Per moved away from home. Among those who had a demo cassette with Gyllene Tider’s music sent to them, but who declined and returned it, were Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson at Polar Music. The rejection letter from Electra is signed by Ingela Forsman, with whom Per Gessle later came to write a song together, the one that was missing from his catalogue for a long time.

Göran writes that Per is a big music fan and has encyclopedic knowledge of rock and pop music. He has always loved the aesthetics of music. For him, it was important that Gyllene Tider’s records came out on EMI’s Parlophone label, the same one on which The Beatles’ music was released.

He misses album covers, pictures, magazines and everything else around music itself, which is anonymized when practically all music is streamed.

I’ve got used to it like everyone else, but I think it’s super boring. When I was growing up, there was an absolutely huge pop culture, which was teen-affirming. The role of pop music has completely changed since then, but our whole society has changed, so it’s not so strange.

Per thinks album covers make the music so much clearer. He looks up at David Bowie’s Pin Ups on the wall where they are sitting. That record is the album cover, after all. The Abbey Road record of The Beatles is the crossing point. Dark Side of the Moon, Sticky Fingers and all the others. Per thinks that without those covers and that song order, these albums would have meant something else. He thinks it’s hard to explain if you haven’t been there then.

When I sit and talk to my 25-year-old son about this, he just thinks I’m weird. He doesn’t understand anything. And he is absolutely right about that. And I can’t understand how music can mean so little. If you talk about today’s pop music, I don’t understand the purpose of it. It seems like everyone is trying to make the same songs that everyone else is making. Everything follows the same formula. Everyone works with the same plugins and the same type of sound. Everything sounds very good, but it also sounds very boring.

Göran says there are many indications that we are at the end of the era that began in the mid 1950s with the breakthrough of rock music. The golden age of that music style is definitely over. In an interview in the New York Times last fall, Jann S. Wenner, founder of the influential music magazine Rolling Stone, said this about rock and pop music: “I’m sorry to see it go, it’s not coming back, it’ll end up like jazz.”

Per thinks he is right.

There will soon be no more rock music. Being able to play and sing has lost its value a little because you can do everything with computers. That was knocked off when the EDM music thing happened. Rock music as we know it will only become a small niche. Once upon a time starting a band was fantastic!

The article on Dagnes industri is for subscriers only. It includes some fab photos of Per and a video reportage. The video can be watched without subscription HERE.