Q&A with Per Gessle in Classic Pop magazine

In the Jan/Feb 2021 issue of Classic Pop magazine (UK) there is a Q&A with Per Gessle about Roxette’s Bag Of Trix release.

Steve O’Brien asks Per to tell how this boxset came into existence. Mr. G tells he was looking around for live stuff and found so much material that he had forgotten about. There are a couple of leftover tracks from the Good Karma album that were never finished. He explains that during the recordings Marie had good days and bad days, so as soon as they had enough material for an album, they just stopped. Then he found songs from their Abbey Road session from the 90’s and some old demos too. Per explains there was a lot of material that had got lost (e.g. bonus tracks on CD singles) when they moved from CD into streaming.

Steve is curious how the name Bag Of Trix came about. Mr. G tells he has a list of titles and phrases in his computer and those could be song titles or album titles. When this compilation came into sight he started thinking and he thought of Bag Of Tricks.

Then I changed the ’Tricks’ to ’Trix’ so it reminds you of Roxette. It’s the marketing guy in me, I suppose.

Steve asks Per about the process, how he found all these songs. Mr. G tells he has a big archive of cassettes, CDs, CD-Rs and DAT tapes, all going back to the 70’s. Over the past 10 years he’s been transferring everything to his computer.

Only the other day, I found five cassettes that I’d forgotten about, from the early 80’s before Roxette. I wish I was more organized, though – I’m a seven out of 10.

Steve wants to know if Per rediscovered any songs that he wished, in retrospect, that they had included on an album. Per says on every album they had 8-10 leftovers, because they always had so much material. He thinks most of the time they made the right choices.

There are a couple of tracks off every album which I don’t really rate, like ’Physical Fascination’ off ’Joyride’, I think that’s a crap song.

Steve asks which songs from Bag Of Trix Per is most excited about sharing with fans. Mr. G thinks the live version of Wish I Could Fly is great and the Tom Lord-Alge mix of Soul Deep is really good, too.

Regarding what to include and what not to include, Per tells Classic Pop magazine that the original idea was to see if they can make one album with leftovers and then it just grew. Then someone reminded him about the Spanish tracks and that they weren’t available anymore, so it just went on and on.

To Steve’s question about how it felt revisiting the songs Mr. G replied that it was a very positive thing. He remembers Roxette very fondly, they had an amazing journey together.

It’s terrible when I think about Marie, she was only 44 years old when she got ill. But I listen to it and it’s all coming back. I just love to hear her voice still.

Per tells he is currently releasing a Swedish acoustic album [so the interview must have been done end of October / beginning of November 2020 /PP] and he is also writing a new album in English.

I’ve recorded eight tracks for that so far. Hopefully, that’ll be done by next spring. And one of these years, I’ll go out and do another tour. I miss touring.

The magazine published a Bag Of Trix review as well which is rather based on comparing this release to The RoxBox (Roxette 86-06). One sentence I had to laugh at: ”It’s hard to criticise the motives behind Bag Of Trix, as the collector gene means we all want every cough and spit from the vaults.” Haha. So true. The coughs and spits on those later found five cassettes would just be perfect for a next release from the vaults.

Per Gessle interview on Radio ZET, Poland

Magdalena Barczyk did an interview with Per Gessle for Radio ZET in Poland.

Magdalena’s first question is about Bag of Trix. Per tells her he started digging in the archives in spring and found a lot of materials, e.g. the Abbey Road sessions from 1995, as well as their first demos that served as the basis for their debut album in the 80’s, or leftovers from their Good Karma album. This compilation is kind of a mishmash of everything. He didn’t expect to find that much, so it was a bit overwhelming.

Magdalena is curious if there is still something unreleased left in the drawers. Per laughs and tells there is more. After completing this compilation, he came across even more recordings. It seems to be some kind of infinity. It’s been a really long career. He also found a lot of live tapes from the Joyride and Crash! Boom! Bang! tours. Maybe one day he will release them, we’ll see. He says they sound pretty good.

Magdalena tells Marie passed away a year ago and asks Per how this year was for Mr. G without Marie. Per tells it’s been a crazy year because of the pandemic. He thinks it’s been a special year for everyone in a way. Marie was ill for 17 years and everyone was slowly preparing for the worst, because she wasn’t in good shape. But when the time came, he felt like he couldn’t really prepare for it. He thinks everyone who lost a family member or a close friend understands it. He tries to think positively about what they went through together, their relationship lasted a very long time. She has always been and will always be one of Per’s closest friend. They met when they were teenagers and the adventure they experienced as Roxette is still amazing and difficult for some to understand. He feels lucky that he had a friend like that and a partner like that in his music.

Magdalena asks Per how he sees contemporary music and if anything surprises or annoys him in it. Mr. G tells he noticed that as you get older, you realize how much you are stuck with the music you grew up with. He started listening to pop and rock when he was 6 or 7 years old. So he can say that pop of the 60’s and 70’s is his DNA. Therefore, in his work he has always tried to come back to it. He just likes that style and he likes the way the songs were written. Looking back, pop is a reflection of the era in which it’s been made. In the 60’s it referred to societies, now we live in the times of social media, computers and laptops. You can hear it in music, it’s done on computers, it’s done differently. If you turn on 40 of the most popular radios, you will notice that all the songs are in a similar style. It’s hard to tell these songs apart. He doesn’t say pop music today is better or worse, it’s just different. It’s reflecting its own time.

Magdalena tells now there is a noticeable trend of musical return to the 80’s and is curious how Per likes it. Mr. G tells it puts a smile on his face. Those were his times and he immediately recognize the synthesizer or even the drum sounds. He can hear the sound that young people try to imitate and the way they arrange their songs. It’s cool, he likes it and thinks that The Weeknd captured it sensationally in the song Blinding Lights. He thinks it’s a nice trend.

Magdalena is curious which contemporary artist Per finds interesting and if he likes specific songs. Per says it’s a good question. He likes a lot of artists, but if he is listening to e.g. Billie Eilish for too long, it’s too much for him. The same applies to The Weeknd, even if they make very good pop. Per has always been a fan of creating concept albums where he would write 12, 14 or 16 songs. However, these days people only listen to one song. Album format is dead.

Magdalena mentions that Per is not only a musician, but also a businessman. Mr. G says he doesn’t consider himself a businessman. He has a hotel, which he bought 25 years ago. It’s in his hometown on the Swedish West coast. But he is not managing it, his wife is doing that. Per drives there and checks out everything from time to time. Sometimes he signs autographs and takes selfies there. Haha.

Magdalena asks Per how this strange year was for him personally. Mr. G says it’s been a crazy year. None of us have experienced anything like this before and he doesn’t even know what to say about it. He spent his time in isolation with his family in their house on the coast, although now he is back in Stockholm. He misses travelling the most, because he has always lived out of suitcase. He would like to meet his friends from all over the world in real life, not only via Zoom, Skype or FaceTime. He just misses the socialization that doesn’t exist today. Besides that, they can’t tour. Many of his fellow musicians and technicians barely make ends meet because they have no jobs. It’s a tough year for this business. He hopes next year will be better.

Magdalena tells the word „Poland” and asks for associations. Per says there has always been great concerts there. He always tells that he has travelled the whole world and saw nothing. This is how it is on the road. You come to a country or a particular city, you go to a hotel, then you have to do a soundcheck, you play a concert and you leave. But he knows that every concert in Poland is a great pleasure. They have a lot of fans there who are still supporting them and he appreciates it. If it weren’t for them, he probably wouldn’t be here talking today. It’s the fans who make the band big.

Magdalena asks what Per wishes for himself and Radio ZET listeners for the upcoming holidays. Per thinks the previous months were a nightmare for all of us. It’s depressing for everyone working in hospitals, for children not going to schools and for teachers working in difficult conditions. That’s why he thinks that during this holiday, the most important thing for everyone is that we return to a somewhat normal lifestyle.

Magdalena thanks Per for the interview and Mr. G thanks for it too.

The radio also recorded Per telling their slogan: ”Hi! This is Per Gessle from Roxette. You are listening to Radio ZET – Si?a muzyki.” (= The power of music). With Per Gessle’s Polish accent. Lovely, haha.

Thanks for the technical support, Tomasz Wysocki!

Per Gessle interview for German media – “Marie will always be a legend”

Spot on news agency in Germany did an interview with Per Gessle related to the Bag of Trix release. Vol. 3 is out today!

On “Bag of Trix” you release rediscovered Roxette songs. What can the fans expect?

PG: “Bag of Trix” is a compilation of previously unreleased songs, most of them from the 80’s.
There are also alternative versions of published songs and songs that were simply lost when switching to streaming. But the songs are definitely worth listening to, I am really satisfied with this album!

Have you found any songs that you would no longer stand behind?

PG: Regarding some songs I think to myself: they weren’t that good. But there isn’t a song that I regret because they were all fun to make. When I listen to Roxette songs from the 80’s, I sometimes think that some of the lyrics were not the best. But I was still young then and not yet able to express what I wanted. And besides that, as soon as Marie started to sing, it almost didn’t matter what she sang.

How does it feel for you to release new albums by Roxette without Marie?

PG: Even if I’m releasing the album without her, she’s still part of it. She’s part of every song. I try to think positively and not let my grief drag me down, because then I wouldn’t be able to continue working on our joint projects. She was seriously ill for so many years – since 2002 – and at some point you get used to the idea that one day she will no longer be with us. It is now almost a year since she passed away and I am trying to look ahead. It didn’t deter me from going through our collection. To hear the songs that I recorded with Marie makes me proud in a special way. A lot of the songs are incredibly good and Marie was a great singer. She was just magical. She made my songs a lot better than they actually were. I think that while listening. We worked together for so many decades which is why I wrote most of my songs especially for her. For me as a songwriter, the way she performed was the greatest gift. When I hear her sing, I always have a smile on my face.

How do you deal with being asked repeatedly about Marie Fredriksson?

PG: She was part of my life since I was 19 and was like a sister to me. That’s why she’s always there and I remember her all the time, for example when I hear a Roxette song. She means so much to so many people and that’s why I like to talk about her. She deserves it, she was a wonderful person. She will always remain a legend and inspire many young people.
I have a lot of contact with her family. I know her husband Mikael very well. We keep in touch and see each other regularly.

You have been a successful musician on stage for several decades. Are you taking it easy now?

PG: I like to be busy. I still write songs, I write all the time. My wife says I work all the time. In Sweden I regularly publish music – including songs in Swedish. But I’m still working on English songs. I’m in the studio several days a week and if it weren’t for the pandemic I would definitely go on tour.

Could you imagine going on tour alone under the name Roxette, if it’s possible to tour again after the pandemic?

PG: I would never revive Roxette with a new female singer. But of course I like to play the songs at gigs, which is why I want to work with female singers in the future. That would of course not be Roxette, but after all I wrote the songs and thirty years of my life consisted of Roxette.

Per Gessle – „A Bigger Bag Of Trix?” – RoxBlog interview

When there are 60(!!!) songs released by your favourite artist and band almost at the same time, questions are just popping up on your mind, one after another. The list is neverending. So I thought I shoot those Qs at the one who obviously has the answers to them. You could see it’s a very busy period for Mr. G, rushing from TV to radio then back to the studio, but fortunately, he found the time to get back to me with his thoughts on both Gammal kärlek rostar aldrig and Bag of Trix – Music from the Roxette Vaults. Much appreciated!

Patrícia Peres: – Hej Per! You definitely saved 2020 with your current releases. Both your solo album, „Gammal kärlek rostar aldrig” and „Bag of Trix – Music from the Roxette Vaults” are based on digging deep in the vaults. How should we imagine when you start a project like this? Do you know exactly what you’re looking for or you’re just checking all your drawers and hope to bump into something interesting?

Per Gessle: – Hey Patricia! Like most things I do…. they just happen. I wasn’t out to make a four volume Roxette-box, I spent an afternoon looking through drawers + boxes and just found more and more Rox-stuff that somehow got „lost” over the years for different reasons. Lots of songs „disappeared” when CD’s became streaming. It’s nice to make them available for Planet Earth again.
When I released my own demo-box in 2014 I didn’t use any Rox-demos sung by Marie so I knew there were a few of those around. And Marie’s own demos, of course. And then the Spanish stuff popped up. And the Abbey Road sessions from 1995. And the „Good Karma” outtakes. Just the other day I found even more from the „Have A Nice Day” sessions. And there are live recordings around, of course. Time will tell what’s gonna happen to it all. A Bigger Bag Of Trix?
When I started the „GKRA”-project I didn’t feel like writing a brand new Swedish album since I wanted to put all my songwriting-efforts into the upcoming English one. To create an entire album you need a lot of space + time. To get twelve proper songs you have to write twenty!
I decided instead to listen to my older material and picked up my guitar and started to recall them. Some 80’s songs felt surprisingly cool even after all these years. I think I tried around 50 songs. Most of them, however, were difficult to grasp. I couldn’t get into them at all. But, hey, that’s pretty normal. They’re quite old after all and things (and I) have changed. I also found some unreleased songs/demos I made for „En händig man” as well as for the Nashville albums. I removed my hand from the chocolate box when I had about twelve tracks that I really liked.


PP: – The fab photo on the sleeve of „Gammal kärlek rostar aldrig” is taken by Bruno Ehrs. How did you choose him for this project?

PG: – Our art gallery at Hotel Tylösand (Tres Hombres Art) is representing Bruno since earlier this year, so when I knew he was gonna visit Tylösand I asked him if wanted to take some pics of me. I’m a big fan of his work so I was, of course, delighted when he agreed. We found a farm/barn not too far away and spent a couple of hours there. It was a sunny day, we had a picknick in the garden, there were lots of strange animals everywhere. Felt like home.

PP: – Who picked the scene for the photo session and who styled the rooster and the chicks?

PG: – Well, the first round of barncheckin’ was made by good ole Lars Nordin from the gallery. He’s even older than me + knows everybody + has plenty of time driving around in his vintage French voiture looking at roosters. He’s a good guy. When he’s asleep. (Just kidding, of course….) When he found three or four proper locations he brought Bruno along. When Bruno was happy with lights and everything I joined the rooster party as well.

PP: – Besides T&A, you recorded GKRA at a new studio, Sweetspot in Harplinge. How did it come into sight and how different was it to work there vs. T&A or AGM?

PG: – I recorded the BOT interviews with Sven Lindström at Sweetspot and also did the „Mamma” + „Pappa” live videos with Helena there. It’s a cozy place. Staffan Karlsson who works at Sweetspot is an old friend of mine so I’m in good hands when I’m there. It’s very different from T&A, much bigger. We actually used it as a rehearsal studio for a tour a couple of years ago. I can’t remember if it was Rox or something on my own. Aerosol Grey Machine is quite similar (both Sweetspot and AGM are old barns) but there are more incense in the air at AGM. Chris likes the scent of Tibetian old socks for some reason. He’s the Syd Barrett of Vallarum.

PP: – Christoffer was involved in the recording of only one song on GKRA. That’s very unusual, looking back on the past two decades. What happened?

PG: – My original plan with GKRA was to play EVERYTHING myself. I did that on the „Mamma” + „Pappa”-single. But, as expected, after four or five recorded songs I realized I needed a better bass player as well as a decent drummer. I called up some local guys, Gicken Johansson (bass + lap steel) + Per Thornberg (tenor sax), and they helped me out together with the hipster bearded Jens Jansson from Brainpool. Remember him from the „Mazarin” Tour?
The reason Chris became involved with „Du kommer så nära (du blir alldeles suddig)” was because I had run out of ideas on that one. I sent Chris what we had recorded at T&A and he listened to it. He put on some guitar licks + the moog synthesizer intro. That was enough. It made me realize the song didn’t really need that much more. He helped me getting the big picture. Not the first time. He’s one of a kind.

PP: – You played most of the instruments yourself on the album. Hats off! Which was the instrument you never played before and which was the trickiest to play to get the sound you wanted?

PG: – Well, I’m certainly not a groovy bass player or a flashy drummer, I tell you that. I fool around with anything with strings on, like a hi-string acoustic guitar („Viskar” + „Tända en sticka till”) + dulcimer („I din hand”). I played the ukulele + mandolin on a few tracks but we never used any of it. I love to try out any instrument and I only give it up when I reach the point where my talents cease to exist. I’m sorry to say it happens quite quickly.

PP: – How was your cooperation with Per Thornberg and Fredrik „Gicken” Johansson? And how was it to work with Jens Jansson again?

PG: – Next to MP + Helena I must say that Gicken became the most important factor in this project. I never played with him before so I didn’t know what to expect but he was amazing. A super guy. He was supposed to play on only a few tracks but he eventually played on almost everything.
Per Tee got some backing tracks so he could prepare on his own and he came in + played the solo + coda (outro) on „Kom ut till stranden”. Plus, of course, he played the 50’s style brass-section on the instrumental parts of „Nypon och ljung”.
Jens has always been one of my favourite drummers and I had a gut feeling that this project should fit him perfectly. He doesn’t BANG the drums, he PLAYS the drums. I love that.

PP: – You dedicated this album to Uppa. Can we get to know who Uppa is?

PG: – Uppa was a personal friend to me + my family who died from cancer earlier this year. We miss him every day.

PP: – Sorry for your loss, Per. So sad. The first time I heard „Nypon och ljung” I had the very same feeling as when „Crash! Boom! Bang!” came out. In case of CBB I was prepared for a crashing song and I got a goosebumps ballad. With NOL I was prepared for an acoustic, melancholic, slow song based on how you described the album in the press release and the title of the song suggested it as well, then I got a midtempo, happy song. I know with CBB that was intentional from your side, but was it the case with NOL?

PG: – Well, obviously I knew most of the songs on this album were „small” (=more or less acoustic) so I was really thrilled when NOL came out jolly + funny + contagious. It’s always hard to present a new project with something fragile like „Segla på ett moln” or „Viskar” or „I din hand”. If you want to get most people interested early on you should tease them with something more mainstream. I tried to do that with NOL without losing the album’s identity or concept.

PP: – What songs made you feel the same way in your life? That you expected an absolutely different sound and then… bang!

PG: – I don’t know. I don’t know if that has ever happened to me. I don’t expect much hahaha.

PP: – Back to „Nypon och ljung”, the intro is very similar to Amy MacDonald’s „This Is The Life”. Is that just a coincidence?

PG: – I read that on Facebook. I hadn’t heard of Amy MacDonald so I checked her out. She’s good but I don’t find the songs similar at all. Mind games.

PP: – „I din hand” you wrote together with Åsa in 1986 and then added music to it in 1993. You gave it to Svante Thuresson then and his version always made me curious how yours would sound. How do you remember the time when you wrote it? Does today’s recording sound like how you back then imagined it should?

PG: – Just the other day I actually found two very old (1986) „I din hand”-demos with totally different music to more or less the same lyrics. One was sung by me, the other one by Milla from Millas Mirakel who sometimes helped me making demos in the 80’s + 90’s.
I had totally forgot about this song, I don’t even think the 1993-demo (with the new music) is on „The Per Gessle Archives”, is it? It’s actually pretty good and quite similar to the GKRA version but without the dulcimer + the piano melody. It’s got an accordion on it instead, played by MP.
Can’t remember writing the lyrics but I’m sure Åsa + I had a splendid time creating them. It must have been in the 80’s, not the 90’s though.

PP: – The demo to „Du kommer så nära (du blir alldeles suddig)” demo was released on the bonus EP of „En händig man” in 2007. Now it’s a duet with Uno Svenningsson. Why did you decide it should be a duet and how was it working together with Uno?

PG: – The idea came up the moment Uno called me up asking me if we could meet + have dinner. We usually meet up once or twice a year when he’s passing by Halmstad. It seems like he’s always touring.
I asked him if he wanted to sing with me, he said yeehaa and I sent him my old demo of „Du kommer så nära”. He liked it so I re-recorded my backing track so it fit both him and me keywise. Maybe you’ve noticed there’s a modulation just before he starts to sing? He’s certainly a fab singer and I love what he (and Helena) did to the song. And the dinner was good.

PP: – „Hjärta utan hem” is one of two Gyllene Tider songs on GKRA. You say it’s one of your best songs. Why you never played it live? You did play a song on the last GT tour that was never played live before, „Vandrar i ett sommarregn”. Was „Hjärta utan hem” a candidate too?

PG: – Well, there’s never been lots of space for songs like that on modern GT tours really. Every time we tour we present more or less a Greatest Hits show for obvious reasons. Sometimes there’s room for something „odd” and midtempo, like „Honung och guld” or „Vandrar i ett sommarregn” but you can’t have too many of those. I guess „Hjärta utan hem” would fit my own solo concerts better than GT’s.

PP: – „Segla på ett moln” was originally released by Anne-Lie Rydé in 1983. Your wonderful 1982 demo with Marie came out in 1992 and you released it under Mono Mind in English, „Shelter from the Storm” as well. What made you come back to this song again?

PG: – I like to sing it. Helena and I did it GKRA-style on a tour way back, can’t remember which. It’s wonderful to sing and I still like the lyrics. And it’s got simple chords.

PP: – „Ömhet” was written in 2002. That was the time when you first worked together with Helena. How was it to record this song with her 18 years later?

PG: – Well, the version from 2002 had totally different music. If I remember things right I wrote it just after the „Mazarin”-sessions but I never really liked the music that much.
I wrote new music just in time for Gyllene Tider’s „Dags att tänka på refrängen”-sessions but we never worked on it. Then I did yet another demo just before I went to Nashville. But we didn’t try it there either. Now was the time. It was written in the stars.
I wanted to do a „proper” duet with Helena on this album and this seemed to be the obvious choice. She did an amazing job as always. MP came up with the harpsichord parts and played the 12-string Rickenbacker. I played my red Gretsch Bo Diddley guitar.

PP: – This is the only track on GKRA that’s not mixed by MP and you, but Ronny Lahti. Why did you think it should be him mixing this song? Weren’t you afraid that it might break the style of the album?

PG: – „Ömhet” was the first song to get a proper mix. My original plan was to have Ronny mix the whole album. However, I realized I liked MP’s and my rough mixes so much that we should stick to them. We did our own mix of „Ömhet” as well but Ronny’s version was the best. He’s an amazing mixing engineer, just listen to Rox’ „Let Your Heart Dance With Me” or the Spanish version of „You Don’t Understand Me”. Outstanding work.

PP: – When I now hear „Viskar”, I realize that old love never dies indeed. You wrote this in 1984 after you met Åsa and released it on „Scener”. There you even wrote ”Viskar is Åsa’s song”. How was it to meet this ballad now 36 years later?

PG: – Oh, it was a beautiful song. Still is. I don’t think I’ve played it live at all except one time at Hotel Tylösand when Marie and I played it for Åsa at one of her birthday parties. I love to sing it but it’s really a delicate one so it’s hard to do it in front of thousands of people. I’m glad I recorded it the way it sounds now. It fits the song and the message.

PP: – „Lycklig en stund”, yet another song from „Scener”. I must say the GKRA version sounds far much better. The arrangement fits the song’s image very well. I can see you recorded it live at T&A already in April 2018. What project was on your mind when you did that?

PG: – It was just another live demo at T&A I did for fun. Sometimes I just go into the studio just to sing and play guitar at the same time. Live session is da shit! I love that. Doesn’t have to be a reason behind it.
When the GKRA-project came up I instantly wanted to revisit LES but realized I’d done it 2018 so I kept that live version and did some overdubs instead. Drums + bass + organ. It’s nothing special + won’t change the world but it makes me happy everytime I hear it. Good enough for me.

PP: – „Tända en sticka till” was the most important song on your first solo album. It sounded wonderful already back then as a duet with Marie, but your 2020 version is so much more emotional and Helena’s vocals add one level more to this. Is that friend Marie who you are singing about? I know you think of her a lot, we all do, but was she on your mind when now you were recording this track?

PG: – Well, it was written during a period in the early 80’s when Marie and I spent a lot of time together. So yes, Marie is always there when I think about this one.

PP: – „Som regn på en akvarell” is the second GT song on GKRA. How did it draw your attention for this project? Was it the most suitable for a mouth harp intro?

PG: – I wrote a long list of instruments I wanted to use on this album. Dulcimer + sitar + harmonica + lap steel + ukulele + mandolin + cello etc. And the jew’s harp (as we call it when we try to go global) was also on the list. I’ve been using it before. The most famous occasion is probably in the intro of „I Remember You” from „Joyride”. It’s always a tricky one to play but nowadays, with a little help from the computer, you can tune it properly.
I’ve always liked „Som regn på en akvarell” for some reason. It’s a song MP and I wrote for GT’s „Puls”-album in 1982. It’s got a country flair to it which was unusual for us at the time.   I wanted to try it out with Helena singing harmony, starting with the very first line. It’s a classic trick, like Everly Brothers or something Simon & Garfunkel would do, but I never really arrange my songs like this. Now was the time and it sounded great. Me = happy.

PP: – „Mamma” and „Pappa” were recorded in May this year and got warm welcome from the fans. What do you think your Mom and Dad would have thought about these two songs?

PG: – Well, that’s a tricky one. I don’t know.

PP: – „Kom ut till stranden” we heard as a 1986 demo before. This is the song that went through the biggest change lyric-wise. Is it just me or has it become a Marie & Per story this way?

PG: – Some songs I chose for GKRA had a bit of a „clumsy” lyrics here and there so I felt I had to re-write parts of them. The new first verse of „Kom ut till stranden” made the essence of the song much stronger. Sometimes you try to express something in a lyric but you screw things up by using the wrong words. Or you just complicate things. That’s the biggest mistake you make.
I’ve always loved „Kom ut till stranden”. It was the only song from my (never recorded nor released) third solo-album that wasn’t translated into English to become the first Roxette album. But at the same time I’ve never felt comfortable with some of the lyrics. Now I spent some hours trying to make sense. To better express what I meant in the first place.


PP: – Regarding „Bag of Trix”, the box set, how did you decide which tracks to put on which volume, how to mix the different eras?

PG: – I didn’t spend too much time doing that. I split the singles + Spanish tracks up so they wouldn’t interfere with each other. That’s basically it.

PP: – Vol. 1 starts with a cover song. „Help!”, after 55 years still sounds amazing, even if John Lennon told in an interview that he regrets a bit that it became too fast, because they tried to make the song more commercial. What do you think his opinion would have been about the Roxette version?

PG: – I think he would have loved it. It’s always amazing to hear a great female singer interpreting one of your songs.

PP: – „Let Your Heart Dance With Me” is such an amazing song and together with the video is so emotional. Many are curious if you’ve changed anything in its lyric for this „Bag of Trix” recording.

PG: – No no, it’s exactly how it was recorded. We haven’t done any overdubs or anything since the „Good Karma”-sessions. It’s just a brand new mix (by Ronny Lahti). He made it slightly heavier + faster + more up-to-date.

PP: – How did you decide whom to give LYHDWM for mixing? Why Ronny Lahti?

PG: – He’s my favourite mixing engineer. He’s done so much amazing stuff with my music over the years. „Room Service” + Mono Mind + solo stuff.

PP: – If you had the chance to turn back time, which era would you go back to, to see Marie smile again?

PG: – Any day would do.

PP: – Marie’s song, „Waiting For The Rain” ended up on „Have A Nice Day”. Do you remember why the final version became one verse less on HAND vs. the demo?

PG: – No, I don’t. I actually didn’t remember Marie’s demo at all when I found it. We probably felt it was too long. We almost always edit songs, shorten the intros or solos or codas. That’s pretty normal.

PP: – When you are talking about the Brian Malouf US single mix of „Joyride”, you seem to have mixed feelings. How big was your frustration when you got to know the US doesn’t play YOUR version of the song?

PG: – Both Marie and I liked his mix. It’s just that we preferred our own. Simple as that. To the main audience it never really mattered so it didn’t matter to us either. It’s the same song.

PP: – Brian Malouf also did „The bigger, the better mix” for „The Big L.”. Would you work with him these days?

PG: – I don’t know. I never met him. He did some great work.

PP: – How did „Like Lovers Do” change from Marie singing the song in the demo to a duet on the album version?

PG: – I think that was Clarence idea. He wanted me to sing more. I wanted to sing as little as possible.

PP: – You said it was a rush to record the Roxette debut album and we can see the Montezuma demos were recorded in 2 days, 25-26 July 1986. How do you remember those 2 days at the studio?

PG: – Hectic. It was basically just some hours to sort out the keys to the songs, who’s gonna sing what + where etc. Some songs didn’t even have English lyrics at the time so we recorded them in Swedish („Surrender” + „So Far Away”).

PP: – It was so hard to realize that Marie’s jazzy demo, „Pocketful of Rain” is actually the same song as your synth demo, „Reaching High”. So different versions. Why did you give it to Marie and why it never made it to a Roxette album in some form?

PG: – We couldn’t agree on it. My original music to POR eventually became a Swedish song for Anne-Lie Rydé called „Ta mig hem”. And I felt Marie’s new music to the POR-lyrics didn’t fit Roxette at the time. It was never a big issue, we had lots of songs.

PP: – The intimate concert on the US promo tour in 2000 had an audience of appr. 200 people in Seattle. How do you remember that event?

PG: – It was a very strange promo tour. We played some small theatres as well as places like the Virgin Megastore in NYC. We had a new US record label and we hadn’t worked the American market for many years so this was…. hmmmm…. weird.

PP: – „Wish I Could Fly” was the opening song on the setlist if I’m right. Why did you pick WICF for „Bag of Trix” from the songs you played there live? „Church of Your Heart”, for example, was added to the setlist especially for that venue (Sky Church at Experience Music Project) if I remember well.

PG: – I have the complete Seattle-tapes but didn’t want too many live recordings on the „Bag Of Trix”. So I kept it short.

PP: – The neverending drum loop is too cool and the story-telling lyric is wonderful together with sing la-di-dah in „Happy Together”. How come it has never made it to „Have A Nice Day”? Or another Roxette album later?

PG: – Too many songs floating around at the time. I’ve always loved „Happy Together” but I was the only one! The version on BOT is actually my demo with Marie’s voice added on later at some point. The guitar part in the outro is amazing. And I really like the lyrics as well. I don’t like the drum-loop, though. Sorry PP.

PP: – Haha. Never mind… „Beautiful Boy” was a great song already when it was „Beautiful Girl”. Just by changing one word in the lyrics and of course, the way Marie sings it and the music she wrote to it makes it so different to your demo. She recorded it almost one year after your T&A demo. On „The Per Gessle Archives” you said you didn’t really like your version. What was your problem with it? Does it make more sense in Marie’s interpretation for you?

PG: – Yea, I never liked my version of it that much. Marie’s version is much better. But we felt we didn’t need it at the time.

PP: – „You Don’t Understand Me” you wrote together with Desmond Child. The demo sung by Marie is very close to the final version, still a bit different with its exploring mode. Is there a demo with your vocals? Maybe a Per + Desmond demo?

PG: – No, Marie was in Halmstad and came over to my apartment just to say hello to Desmond. She heard our new born baby and suggested she could sing on the demo. We loved that (of course) and it sounded amazing. It wasn’t intended to be a Roxette recording. We wrote it for someone else in the States, can’t remember who.

PP: – „Hotblooded” is an absolute killer and most fans I talked to about this release were blown away by this demo. Marie’s vocals are so sexy, you can call her miss! And your voices blend so well. Perfect match, already then. „Things Will Never Be The Same” on Vol. 4 was recorded on the very same day. What was in the air that day?

PG: – Hahaha yea, it’s really cool. I don’t know. There’s an even earlier demo of „Hotblooded” with guitars + bass + drums somewhere recorded at the time when it was written. So this must be an acoustic session we did for some reason.

PP: – Since you mentioned it in your „Songs, Sketches & Reflections” book in 2014, we’ve been waiting for „Piece of Cake” to see the light of day. We’ll hear it on „Bag of Trix” Vol 3. The title is so simple, yet so exciting. You say it’s a typical song of your English songwriting. It all starts with the antennas out, but what do you see are the main elements of your English songwriting and what’s the difference between that and your Swedish songwriting technique?

PG: – Obviously you have „control” of your native tongue in a different manner than in any other language. Nowadays I don’t feel the difference being that big. It used to be. But I have grown. Or shrunk.

PP: – There are two songs that appear in different versions on „Bag of Trix”. „Wish I Could Fly” twice and „You Don’t Understand Me” in 3 versions. How special are these songs to you that they „took the chance away” from at least 3 other songs to be released on BOT?

PG: – Just coincidence. You think too much, Patricia.

PP: – Haha, that’s what my friends use to tell me… You have just released the Spanish version of „You Don’t Understand Me”, „Tú no me comprendes”. Are there any Spanish tracks left that we haven’t heard so far?

PG: – No, this is it. The last one. „Tu No Me Comprendes” was left out from the „Baladas En Espanol”-album for some reason. Maybe we felt the album became too long? Earlier this spring Ronny Lahti mixed it and it actually sounds better than the English version in my boombox.

PP: – We can find 10 T&A demos from 5 years on BOT. None of them had been released before, except for „Happy Together”. There must be hundreds, if not thousands of T&A demos. Do you remember all your demos? I mean, do you remember which versions of your demos were special for some reason or which years to check when you want to go back to a song?

PG: – Yes, there are lots of demos. I will most likely release some of them as time goes by.  I have a pretty decent archive these days but some demos and various recordings are still on reel-to-reel tapes + cassettes + strange digital formats.

PP: – Marie’s 1998 demo of „Always The Last To Know” will be on Vol. 2. This song really has so many lives. Your demos remained demos, Marie wrote new music to it and then she released it in Swedish with newly written lyrics („Det som var nu”). You said on TPGA that it wasn’t released on „Have A Nice Day”, because Clarence and Marie didn’t approve of it. What was Marie’s opinion about this song?

PG: – I don’t know. I always felt my music had the qualities to become a big ballad in a „classic” Rox style. Especially with those lyrics. But we had big ballads on HAND anyway, like „Salvation” so maybe the timing was wrong?

PP: – 6 Studio Vinden demos found their way to „Bag of Trix”. How much did you involve Micke Bolyos? Did you discuss it with him which ones to release?

PG: – Yes, when it came to Marie’s demos I wanted him to have a say. He was the producer of those recordings.

PP: – Will Micke comment only on these Studio Vinden demos in the booklet or are there any comments by him on other songs as well?

PG: – No, I don’t think so.

PP: – Which track do you consider the biggest find in the vaults on the „Bag of Trix”?

PG: – „Let Your Heart Dance With Me” + Tom Lord-Alge’s mix of „Soul Deep”. Amazing.

PP: – Thank you so much for your time, Per! Looking very much forward to the remaining 2 volumes of „Bag of Trix”! And I keep „Gammal kärlek rostar aldrig” on repeat!

PG: – Thanx Patricia. Merry X (it’s sooner than you think) + stay safe and sound!

Still is from the Bag of Trix video comments, recorded by Anders Roos.

Per Gessle on P4 Extra

Per Gessle was a guest on P4 Extra, Swedish Radio last Friday. Host Erik Blix asked him about his new solo album, Gyllene Tider, Marie Fredriksson, Roxette and his new project.

Erik asks Per what the album title, Gammal kärlek rostar aldrig means to him. Mr. G says it means to him more or less what it says. He realized that this album is an old love that’s still there. One can say it’s a pandemic album, because he started recording it while he was isolated in Halmstad. Erik says it’s Per and Paul McCartney (who did the same). Per laughs and says there are more who did the same. Per had the idea to record acoustic songs and play as many instruments as possible himself. He didn’t have any material for that, so he thought he should dig deep into his archives from the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s. There are a lot of songs he thinks didn’t come out of their shadow before. He says it was exciting.

They play Ömhet here. Erik says Per sings together with Helena Josefsson. Mr. G tells Helena is fantastic and it would have been difficult to record this song without her. She is awesome. Ömhet was written right after Mazarin was recorded in 2002. The text remained the same, but he wrote new music to it for Gyllene Tider’s Dags att tänka på refrängen album, but they never recorded it. Then it was lying in the drawer until now. Erik asks how many songs Per has in the drawer. Per reacts: ”You don’t want to know!” And laughs. He himself doesn’t know it exactly either. There are tons of sketches. Before he starts a new project, he is listening to some of his old stuff to get inspiration. He has been writing songs for such a long time and he felt that slowly but surely his style is changing a bit. Erik asks if it can happen that a sketch matures, that earlier Per thought nah, it’s not good for anything, but now it seems to work. Mr. G says it can happen, for example that the text in a verse has a good idea, but it doesn’t reach the goal or you couldn’t make it in 1986, but maybe now you can get your teeth into it. On GKRA it happened that Per corrected verses he thought were clumsy. And there is also the fact that if you write a song when you are 25 and sing it when you are 61, it gets a different meaning. Erik asks if it was the case with Ömhet. PG says not really, because there the lyric is straightforward, but Tända en sticka till is a good example. It was released on Per’s first solo LP in 1983, he wrote it in 1982, so when he sings it today, there is a sentimental, nostalgic feel to it. It changes the text’s angle.

Per tells he works together with Helena since Mazarin. She came to sing backing vocals on 1 song and ended up singing on 10. He knew he wanted a female voice and they did a little audition at the studio in Skåne. Helena was the first he heard on the audition and he said he doesn’t want to listen to the others. She was the one he wanted.

Erik asks Per why he decided to make this album an acoustic one. Mr. G says he wanted to make it personal and organic and he wanted to play as many instrument as possible himself. There is mainly piano and acoustic guitar. He also tried playing bass and drums, but he realized his limits. Erik adds Paul McCartney plays all instruments himself. Per says he knows it. He is very curious about Paul’s new album. He is amazed that at his age, Paul is so sharp and he is doing this recording in his home studio alone.

Erik asks Per if he rewrote any of the lyrics for the album. Per tells he rewrote certain verses. There are songs in the drawer that have a text Per was not satisfied with, but now he has the capacity to make them relevant.

Mr. G tells now he is making an English album and he’s got a kick doing it. Erik asks when it will be released. Per says when it’s ready. They laugh. Erik says it sounds like a good startegy.

They play Du kommer så nära (du blir alldeles suddig) here. It’s a duet with Uno Svenningsson. Erik asks Per when he wrote this song and what it is about. He wrote it for En händig man in 2006. First it was mostly just an observation that sometimes things get so close that they get really blurred and you can’t really take it in. Per tells he didn’t know Uno too well. He called Per in summer and asked if they could meet and have dinner together. Per said sure, just he has to sing on one of his songs first. Then Per quickly changed the key in the song so that it suits Uno’s and Per’s voice. Mr. G thinks Uno is a lovely person and he has a fantastic voice.

Erik tells Per is more acoustic during these recent years and his music is softer. He asks if Per became softer over the years. Mr. G laughs and says he doesn’t know. It’s hard for him to answer this question because he thinks he is the same as he has always been. PG says he is lucky that he has a big tree with a lot of branches: Gyllene Tider, Roxette, solo in English and in Swedish, Mono Mind. Many different things. His classic singer songwriter side is reflected in this new album.

Erik asks Mr. G about Gyllene Tider and says he opened the door to a comeback. Per smiles and says: ”That I can never keep quiet…” They did their last tour last year, but who knows. There is nothing planned. He loves the guys in GT and he loves playing with them. When the five of them play together, the outcome is always something very special.

The guys start talking about Roxette. Erik asks Per to describe his friendship with Marie. Per says it’s hard to describe it shortly, but they got to know each other when they were teens, at the end of the 70’s. They shared a rehearsal studio in Sperlingsholm, outside Halmtad. Per was in Gyllene Tider and Marie was in Strul. So they have been friends since then. That friendship became a musical partnership in which they could develop their good sides. The basic idea with Roxette was that Per writes the songs and Marie sings. Marie could sing fantastically and Per could write OK songs. Sometimes it felt like 1 and 1 makes 3. Per says he is incredibly proud of the journey they were on together and feels honoured to have worked together with Marie over so many years. Erik tells Roxette started out as a game with a friend. Per tells they had the ambition and dream to succeed outside Sweden. They loved pop and rock music and they liked the same bands and artists, David Bowie, Joni Mitchell, The Beatles. When they were sitting and chatting in Per’s apartment in Halmstad, they were talking about Germany, Norway, Denmark or Belgium. To succeed in the US and play there and in South America and Roxette being global surpassed their dreams. They had their heydays between 1988 and 1995. Then Marie had her second child and wanted to have a break, so they had a break after the Crash! Boom! Bang! tour. During those 8 years they were together 24 hours a day and worked. Erik adds they travelled around the world, but probably didn’t see anything. Something like that, Per confirms. They were constantly travelling to another city, another country or were locked in their hotel rooms, spent their times at airports.

Erik asks Per how much he misses Marie. Per says it’s difficult to talk about it. It’s almost a year ago that she passed away. There is emptiness. When you lose someone very close or your family member, there is emptiness. It’s difficult to deal with it. Even in Marie’s case when they were kind of prepared, because she was sick for a long time. But still, when it happens, you know that you can’t get prepared for that. Erik asks if Per misses the partnership as well, to work together with someone the way they worked together. Mr. G says of course he misses it, however, the last albums they recorded in a different way than they recorded before Marie’s illness. It wasn’t such an intensive cooperation as during the years before her illness. But there is something special when you are working together with someone or with a band like GT. There are things that only they can share, something only Marie and Per could discuss, Roxette’s success, since it’s them who achieved it with a lot of people’s support around them. There was an enormous tightness between them, so of course he is missing it. He misses calling her and chat and fight and joke around. Erik asks if they did that often. Per says maybe not as often as they should have, but one thinks about it only now. After Marie got ill in 2002, she of course became much more private and he respected it.

Erik asks Per about his musical partnerships, how those work. Per says he is much of a lone wolf, mainly in the creative part of his work. He writes alone and he doesn’t take orders easily if someone wants to tell him how this or that should be. It’s hard for him to write music for someone else. It’s difficult to keep the balance. But then he of course needs other musicians and other singers and other producers who help him on the way.

As an end to the conversation, Erik asks Per to pick a Roxette song to play. Mr. G chooses Let Your Heart Dance With Me that was released recently. A leftover song from their last recordings. He says it’s so nice to hear Marie on it again.