Per Gessle interview in Aftonbladet – ”Writing songs is my way of existing and taking care of myself”

The interview for Aftonbladet was done by Håkan Steen in October in Live Nation’s office in Stockholm. Håkan tells Per is sipping on coffee which doesn’t seem to be the first one during the day. Per informs him that in the past he was able to do 15 interviews a day, now he is done after three.

Per talks about his new album, Gammal kärlek rostar aldrig which consists of newly recorded songs from his archive. He says it’s a kind of result of the pandemic. He had started working on an English record when suddenly the song Pappa popped up this spring. This led to another song, Mamma and a double A side single was released on Mother’s Day. Then came the idea of making an entire record while he was staying at home in Halmstad and playing almost all instruments himself.

Per tells Aftonbladet:

I didn’t want to write new music, because I wanted to focus my songwriting on the English record. So I realized that I have a lot of songs that would be great fun to record again.

So he started digging in his archives and found a little Gyllene Tider, some solo songs from the 80’s, some others that he gave away to other artists. Ömhet was also found in the drawer:

It was written a week too late to be included on “Mazarin”. Now that I had recorded it, it first felt a little too commercial, too much pop song for this record. There is always such a song that you hesitate over a bit. But then it’s always the one that gets the most streams in the end.

Per tells Håkan that then he actually wrote two more songs, even though they were very much Gyllene Tider. They are really fast, playful songs. So he thought he would save them for something else.

Regarding Gyllene Tider, Per says he has mixed feelings about their farewell last year. It was Micke Syd’s idea to close this chapter while everyone is still healthy and in good shape and they all agreed to that. But Per thinks it’s a shame too. Because GT is a great band. They have grown up together and have the same love for the same kind of music. Gyllene Tider is a kind of homemade beer in a way, he says.

We’ll see if we live in four, five, six years, what can come out of that.

Besides Per’s new solo album, last week the first of four volumes of Roxette rarities was released on streaming services. Demos, songs in Spanish, odd single tracks and remixes. Bag of Trix is the name of the project, which will also be released physically as a box, just in time for Christmas.

Håkan asks Per if it was difficult to go through the Roxette archives after Marie’s passing. Per says:

It was. There are several professionally recorded Roxette concerts that have never been released and it’s awesome to listen to them. You are struck by what an amazing singer Marie was.

Håkan supposed it was a difficult period for Mr. G last winter when both Marie and his mother-in-law passed away almost at the same time.

It was hard. Marie had been ill for so long, so one had in a way prepared for it to happen sooner or later. But you can never really be prepared. There is enormous emptiness. In the end, Marie and I often talked about the past, the amazing journey we had been on. And it’s really something that only the two of us can share. A lot of moments. Like when we were playing in a giant arena somewhere and looked at each other and I knew we were both thinking “is this really true?”. It’s clear that you miss that. But that’s life.

Håkan asks Per about Around The Corner (The Comfort Song). If songwriting is therapeutical for Per.

Yes, that’s probably what makes you do this. Writing songs is my way of existing, somehow. My way of expressing myself and taking care of myself. “Around The Corner” I didn’t write to Marie, but when it was finished I felt that it must be a song about this situation. And then I added “The Comfort Song” in the title, because it became a kind of consolation song for me.

Håkan realized that Per’s songs became more personal during the past years and he asks if it has to do with what happened around him. Per tells:

Could be. I also think it’s an age thing. It’s not possible to write “Dansar inte lika bra som sjömän” and that kind of lyrics now. At the same time, it’s a very good question, because sometimes I think why should it always be so fucking serious just because you get older? That’s a bit why I want to make this English record now, a kind of uptempo pop record, because no one of my age makes classical pop music anymore.

Per hopes the album can be released next spring.

Mr. G says when they formed Gyllene Tider and then Roxette, he always wanted them to be the biggest and make the best records, the best videos and win win win. But he doesn’t feel like that today. There are other things that trigger his creativity today. Per explains that nowadays he is mainly driven by restlessness and the desire to realize ideas. That’s why first he is jumping in an electronic project with Mono Mind then into Nashville-country.

At the same time, I think it would be incredibly fun to have a new hit. But I don’t know how to make it, because today’s music rarely has anything to do with the music I really like.

Per also comments on 5 photos from the Aftonbladet archives.

  1. Aftonbladet interview with Gyllene Tider 1980: “Look at this, damn, how cool. ‘MP’ has his little mustache, he looks really tough. And there I am, my God. A little spotty (laughs). And then a TV of course, because we had just released ‘Flickorna på TV2’. This was in the very beginning. Later, we tried to learn how to look like in order to have good pictures.”
  2. The “Joyride” hairdo 1991: “This is my lovely ’91 hairdo. A completely obvious hairstyle at the time. Damn, how young I was. And a little dumpy too. In fact, I have never seen this picture before.”
  3. Recording of the video for “June afternoon” 1995: “Jonas Åkerlund made that video, wonderful. Marie had a little wig party. The song was actually written for the album ‘The World According to Gessle’, but when we released our first compilation with Roxette, it ended up there. We did the ‘Återtåget’ tour with Gyllene Tider then too, so it’s actually Gyllene Tider playing on that song.”
  4. Per and Marie on the Great Wall of China 1995: “It was great to play in China. And very strange. We calculated that it was 17 meters to the front row of the audience. As soon as someone stood up in the crowd during the concert, the room was lit. You did not get that. When we played “It Must Have Been Love” the whole arena lined up. The guards could do nothing. In addition, banners appeared with the text “one world, one unity”. Afterwards we went out to the dressing room and all cried.”
  5. Press photo for the album “Mazarin” 2003: “An Anton Corbijn picture taken down in Italy. I met Anton when he was going to make the video for ‘Stars’ with Roxette in 1999 and we still have contact. When we were in Nashville recording my country records, he called, ‘I’m in New Orleans shooting Arcade Fire, shall I come by and take the next album cover?’ (laughs) He is a fantastic photographer who manages to do a lot with simple means. He has been here and took photos of my family several times as well.”

Check out the 5 photos in the original article HERE!