Grunden Media Podcast interview with Per Gessle

Carl-Magnus Eriksson and Jakob Olsson from Grunden Media Podcast interviewed Per Gessle the other day. You can listen to the podcast in Swedish HERE.

The guys ask Per to introduce himself to the listeners. He says he is a guy from Halmstad and is making music since he was a teen, so he has been making music for over 40 years now with Gyllene Tider, Roxette and as a solo artist.

To the question how his working week looks like he replies it’s a bit different now. There are no concerts, so he is writing a lot and there is a studio where he is trying out different ideas. He explains he usually tours in blocks, so when he is on tour, then he is free for a half year or a year maybe until there is a next tour and then he is writing a lot.

Carl-Magnus and Jakob ask Per about his latest single, Mamma / Pappa. Per says he was dealing with another project, he was writing in English, but then suddenly he realized that it’s Mother’s Day soon, so maybe he should write a song about a mom. It started a bit with his own mom, but it’s also about someone else. Most of his songs are starting with his own feelings, then his imagination soars and it becomes something different in the end. Anyway, he finished the song and recorded it with Helena Josefsson. He thought it became a good song and he also thought he would write one about a dad to have a balance. He thinks it became even better. Others also thought they were damn good songs, so he released them in 2 weeks digitally, then also on vinyl.

The guys ask Per if his parents were role models to him when he was young, in the heydays of Gyllene Tider. Mr. G says his father died in 1978 before Gyllene Tider broke through. His mother always supported and encouraged him. She was the one who bought Per’s first guitar. He tells they had a piano at home and both his sister and brother played the piano. His mom passed away in 2013.

Talking about his first guitar, the guys mention that they know it from Niklas Strömstedt’s Gessle enligt Gessle documentary that it was a Bjärton nylon-string guitar. Per confirms it and says it was nice and very expensive. There was another guitar at home, but it was hard to tune it properly and press down the strings. So he thinks his mom thought she should buy something which can be played properly. He still has that guitar in Halmstad and also plays it once in a while. It still sounds fantastic. Per tells he has guitars on display at Hotel Tylösand, but he also has some at home in Halmstad and in Stockholm. There are guitars in a warehouse too and those are used when he is on tour. His guitar technician takes care of them. He doesn’t like to sell guitars, he rather keeps them and buys new ones too.

They guys ask Per if he misses playing with Gyllene Tider. Per says last year they recorded an album in France and went on a big tour. It was nice. He likes playing with Gyllene Tider and anyway he likes playing in a band. In a gang that plays the same song at the same time. Haha. They guys say Anders Herrlin and Micke Syd are among the best musicians in Swedish pop history. Per says Micke is a super-duper drummer and Anders is a fantastic bassist, but when they play together, 1+1 makes 3 or even 4. They are super tight. Anders was there in the heydays of Roxette and also toured with them in the ’90s. He played the bass in a different style vs. when he plays with Micke.

Per says one of the rewards of his job – both writing and playing music – is that you touch so many people. Many say that they feel like the song is about them, they recognize themsleves in a lyric maybe. Mr. G thinks it’s fantastic. He remembers when he got his first fan mail in the ’70s, in 1976 or 1977. There was a radio program called Bandet går where you could send in recordings and Per sent in a song, Ser du alla människor, which was 6 minutes long. It was quite horrible he thinks, but they played it on the radio. Then he got a mail from a girl who thought the song was fantastic, she recognized herself in the text. Per was totally shocked that something he did himself could touch another person so much. After all these years, one could easily say and think that you can take it for granted, but it’s not like that. He thinks he stilll has that fan mail. He lived at his mom back then and he has boxes with a lot of stuff from those times.

Carl-Magnus says he was born in 1975. He asks Per what he was doing before 1975. Per says in his childhood he spent a lot of time on his own. His family moved several times, so probably that was a reason for that. Already at an early age he was intrested in pop music. He was collecting records and listened to all chart shows on the radio. He learned English via English music magazines he bought, e.g. Melody Maker, Record Mirror. He was handing out newspapers at the weekends and was selling Christmas magazines, he earned his money with that to be able to buy the records. He tried to buy a single each week. The guys ask him which was his first record. Per says his first LP was a The Kinks album, The Kink Kontroversy. He bought it from his brother who needed money for cigarette.

The guys ask how the idea of Flickorna på TV2 came to him. Mr. G says he wrote the song together with Mats Persson. He can’t really remember. There was TV2 and there were those nice girls. He wrote it for GT’s first LP on which all the lyrics are a bit odd, e.g. (Dansar inte lika bra som) Sjömän, Fån telefon, Ska vi älska, så ska vi älska till Buddy Holly. Flickorna på TV2 was a song they changed the whole composition to in the studio, so they got a kind of groove in the song that wasn’t there in the beginning. There are rehearsal studio demos of it before they found the real sound to it. The guys ask about this part of the intro: “Master 17223, take 8”. Per says it’s from a recording that went wrong. They were at EMI Studios in Stockholm where they were also working with English stuff, so this snippet was from another record. They found it cool and kept it.

About Hotel Tylösand Per says he had no experience in the hotel business, except for living in hotels, but he thought it would be stupid not to buy it since it was so close to his hometown. It’s very unique with its nice beach. They bought it in 1995, rebuilt it, but it’s not him who is managing the hotel. It’s 100 years old this year and there is a nice video about it on YouTube.

To the question what he thinks when he sees old videos of himself he replies it’s fun. His generation got to be part of a wonderful era in pop music. ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, ‘00s was a golden era before everything became digitalized. The music industry became so big it also became a big business. It wasn’t like that when Per started. Back then, young people established record companies and dealt with exciting music, e.g. Stiff Records, Atlantic Records. When he thinks about the old video of himself in Måndagsbörsen in the ’80s, it was fun to be there.

The guys ask what he would be if not a musician. Per says he doesn’t really know. He ended up being a musician already at the age of 19-20. At high school he was at an architect office. He always liked architecture, so that could have been fun. Now he is just doodling in his notebooks when working in the studio. He is bad at constructing things.

The guys ask Per about The Beatles. He says The Beatles created everything they are doing now in different ways. Everything they did was new, how they were writing songs, producing and playing them, how they looked, their album covers. He never saw them perform live. They toured Sweden in the beginning of the ‘60s. But he saw Paul McCartney live of course.

About Ramones Per says the awesome thing about them is their lovely hybrid of punk and surf music. There is The Beach Boys style surf music that they played much faster in a way. It’s very simple pop music with a fantastic attitude and Per loves the whole Ramones concept including how they looked with the same hairdo and outfit. He also loves that era in pop music, the ‘70s. Before punk and new wave happened, everything felt so important in pop music and professional, then with the punk there was a revolution and anyone could start a band or play the bass or the guitar or sing. When they started with GT, they learned everything on the way. Progressive music in the ‘70s and ‘80s, Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Genesis had long songs, they were advanced and professional. The Ramones represented the opposite which Per liked a lot.

To the question how it was singing in Måndagsbörsen in 1981 Per replies he can barely remember, but it was fun. He remembers that Dag Vag had a hit song then, Pop opp i topp and they performed it together with Gyllene Tider. Thore Skogman joined them too. He then invited GT to his home somewhere near the Norwegian border and they had lunch there. Per says he was a very nice person.

The guys are talking about how it was working together with Nisse Hellberg. Mr. G says it was fun, he is a highly talented, great guy. It was an exciting cooperation. They did a soundtrack to Mats Olsson’s book, De ensamma pojkarna. They pretended to be a ‘60s band, The Lonely Boys.

Carl-Magnus and Jakob ask who Mr. G would work together with. He says it’s fun to work with other voices, because he often feels limited with his own voice. That’s how Roxette started. Marie could sing his songs much better than Per himself. He also works a lot with Helena Josefsson. If he can dream away, it would be cool to work together with Sia or Pink for example.

The guys ask if he misses Marie Fredriksson. Of course he misses her, she was one of his best friends for so many years. It’s terrible that she is not there anymore. It’s hard to accept and understand it. He thinks of her almost every day.

The guys are talking about the song Per released in February, Around The Corner and Carl-Magnus and Jakob are curious how it was to sing those lyrics. Per says when he wrote it, it wasn’t about Marie, however, when he finished it, he understood that it was in a way about Marie and about the feeling that you have to move on. He recorded a simple demo of it that felt so strong that he thought they should work on it a bit more. Helena came to the studio and was singing and then Per sent what they had done to Clarence and he added his keyboards to it. Then the song was produced and he released it. Per says he finished writing the song before he went to the studio. He is working quite fast so it took maybe an afternoon to write it. He always tries to catch the same temperature in the music and the text. When he writes the text, he likes it when it’s lying around for maybe a day or two before he gets back to it. Then he corrects it or changes things in it. When he is writing, things are just flowing out. When he is working on a song for too long, it means it’s not good.

Carl-Magnus and Jakob ask what Per’s favourite Marie Fredriksson song is. There are many, he says. She didn’t write so many songs, but they are very good ones. From her Swedish songs Per likes Den ständiga resan the most. It’s a fantastic song. From the Roxette songs she wrote, Watercolours In The Rain is fantastic. Per wrote the text to it, but Marie wrote the music.

Mr. G says it would be fun to make more soundtrack music. Making music to Small Apartments, a Jonas Åkerlund movie some years ago was an exciting project. It’s instrumental music, which is totally different to making songs with lyrics. Here the guys are talking about Uno Svenningsson and his son who makes ambient music. Per says he grew up in an era where real instruments were played, while today’s generation is different. But ambient music can also fit movies.

Regarding which song he is the most proud of, Mr. G says when he hears a song on the radio or in the department store, he thinks “shit, it’s a good song. Oh shit, it’s a Roxette song”. He thinks The Look became damn good, something you never heard before. Tycker om när du tar på mej has a very nice text. He likes the whole Mazarin album a lot, because that was the first time he worked together with Christoffer Lundquist in his studio and also the first time he worked with Helena Josefsson. The album became different vs. what he was doing before. He likes all the songs on it.

To the question which hairdo he thinks was his best over the times he replied he hopes the best is yet to come. Haha.

The guys ask Per what he is listening to on Spotify right now. He checks it while he is sitting in front of his computer. He is listening to songs people recommended to him, so now it’s old jazz, e.g. Art Pepper and old Van Morrison albums. He also likes The Chainsmokers as modern music, but he is listening to everything possible. He makes playlists. The more new music he listens to the more he feels eager to listen to old music. He usually finds something in new music he likes, but he thinks it was made more for him several years ago. If he is listening to Blinding Lights from The Weeknd for example, he thinks it sounds cool, but it also sounds like the ’80s, so he is eager to listen to some ’80s music after hearing it.

Regarding F1 and racing Per says he likes watching the race. Occasionally he is out on a racing track to drive and for that you need a standard driving license. He explains there is a bunch of technicians who tell you how to drive and what to do there. Every year he travels to see at least one F1 race live. It’s much fun. The guys tell they saw Per has many Ferraris. Per confirms and says it’s like with the guitars and laughs. He adds he likes the design of them. He doesn’t know the maximum speed of his cars, he never drives too fast.

To the question if he has ever thought about making a movie from his songs like Elton John or Queen did, he replied he thinks something like that is coming in the future. Maybe some kind of musical. It feels like a natural development of the hit catalogue he has. It would be fun and exciting, but it has to be good. It’s easier said than done. He thinks Bohemian Rhapsody is super good.

Carl-Magnus and Jakob ask what’s next. Per tells he plans to record more songs in autumn, so he is writing during summer. There is no tour booked. Of course he wants to tour, but he doesn’t know how and in what context.

The guys ask Per about Spännande ostar. It was Marie, Lasse Lindbom, Mats Persson and Per in 1983 or 1984 and they played acoustic songs.

Carl-Magnus and Jakob shoot some quick questions at the end of the interview.

  1. Vinyl or Spotify? Vinyl, because it smells good.
  2. Tour or studio? He loves both, so he can’t choose.
  3. Gyllene Tider or Sommartider? Gyllene Tider.
  4. Yellow Submarine or Come Together? Come Together.
  5. Min tjej och jag or Låt denna trumslagarpojke sjunga!? Min tjej och jag.
  6. Ferrari or black McLaren Senna? Ferrari.
  7. He can’t reply to the question what he would ask from Helena Josefsson, but tells he is to meet her next day.
Pic by Fredrik Etoall