Last time Per Gessle was on Hellenius hörna was almost exactly 3 years ago. That was a fun show and so I was looking very much forward to it this time again.
Yesterday’s program you can watch HERE, but only if you have Swedish access to it.
At the beginning of the program there is a teaser where Per is on the phone and imitates that he is talking to someone. His text is made up from his song titles. Host David Hellenius urges him to come, because they soon start, then goes out of Per’s dressing room and bumps into Laleh, the other guest ont he show. David asks her if she noticed anything strange with Per. She says no and her replies are made up from her song lyrics. Then Per appears with a fishing rod and tells them ”Jag går och fiskar!” (Gone fishing!). David runs after him.
Per is the first guest on the show. David introduces him as the one who put Swedish pop music on the world map with Roxette. He sold more than 100 million records and he is the only Swede who reached No. 1 on the US Billboard charts 4 times. There is footage from old shows where Per is playing with Gyllene Tider and Roxette, from his solo tours as well and we can also see award winning moments.
David welcomes Per and tells him it’s high time they celebrate Father’s Day together [it’s Father’s Day in Sweden on 8th November]. He asks Mr. G if he still gets present from his son. Per says no and he never got one. He thinks Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are for gathering the family. David understands one doesn’t have to give a lot of presents.
David tells Per released a new album recently, Gammal kärlek rostar aldrig. He is curious if it’s a self-experience record. Per tells he didn’t know what to do in summer, it was very quiet and he thought it would be fun to make an acoustic album on which he plays as many instruments as possible himself. He never did that before. Then he realized he doesn’t have songs. David says it’s difficult to make an album without songs. Per agrees, but says he realized that he has been writing songs for more than 40 years, so he got back to his songs from the 80’s and 90’s. David asks Per where he is keeping all his songs. Per laughs and says in a little drawer. He even demonstrates it. David asks what is written on the drawer. Per says: ”Ajajaj.” And they both laugh. David asks if Per sorted them out, but Per says on the contrary. These are songs that still mean a lot to him. David thinks one could say Per saved the best for last, but nah, he is not that old. Per says it’s a bit like that. Time flies and the songs he wrote in 1982-83 mean something different to him now than back then.
David asks Per about the songs Mamma and Pappa, if he wrote them a long time ago. Per says these two songs he actually wrote this year. He wrote Mamma for Mother’s Day and he thought he should write a father song too. He doesn’t know why, but that just happened. Then these two songs became the catalyst to the whole album. Mr. G says he did acoustic videos for his YouTube channel and he thought it was fun to play and sing. He played all the instruments except the difficult ones. David tells it’s smart and a good plan. He starts enumerating the instruments: guitar, bass, piano, but Per interrupts him and says bass is a difficult one. David says he thought it’s easy to play, there are only a few strings on a bass. Mr. G says a good bass is hard to play. He also doesn’t play the drums, but he plays almost everything else.
David tells Per has another special project he started in 2017, Mono Mind. At the beginning no one knew it was Per. He sounded like a robot. David asks him to explain it. Those who don’t know may think ”What happened to Per? Now he has stuck completely.” Per smiles and says it started earlier. In 2017 he reached No. 1 on the dance charts and stayed there for 6 weeks for everyone’s surprise. But he started that project in 2014. It was because he was tired of his own voice. They were sitting in the studio and tried to find effects. David asks if Per was tired of hearing himself. Mr. G says yes, because it was always the same. One intones in the same way. David says he understands it perfectly, that’s why he left ”Let’s Dance” [TV program]. He says he can’t say cha-cha-cha anymore. Mr. G says they started fiddling around on the computer and in the end he was singing one octave lower than usual. Then they fiddled with it. One can write the melody and add a little soul bounce to it. It was exciting and something he never did before. And it made him happy. They show a short part from the video to Save Me A Place. Then David informs Per called himself Dr. Robot. It’s almost like a children’s program, but it became mega huge. He asks Per how it felt to have a world hit without anyone knowing it was him. Per tells when someone is in the music business for as long as he is, it’s hard to enter the younger niche of pop music. There is a little age fascism in pop. David asks if Per feels it. He confirms he does. And since no one knew it was him behind Mono Mind, so he got in the fast lane. It was a little experiment. David says now it’s a little older man who is still there, everyone thought it’s a younger robot. David asks Per if he felt ”There you got it, all of you, who wanted to shoot us away”? Per says not really, but it was interesting. If he went out and said it’s a Per Gessle album, it would have been difficult to make it happen. This way he had American radio supporting him and it was a big hit in France too.
David says Per turned 60 last year and asks what he thinks about getting old. Whether he accepts it or tries to apply a brake. Per thinks it’s OK. You feel that you are getting older. David asks what’s good in it. Experience, Per replies. And that he doesn’t take his job as seriously anymore. He doesn’t need to do everything to become No. 1. David asks what is the worst in getting old. Grey hair and the body gets older, Per replies. David says Per is on stage a lot and that physically strains his body. He asks if Per feels any difference, if he can do the same things as before. Mr. G says he can and he even thinks he became better. David says ”Per Gessle, 60, more vigorous than ever”. David asks if he is training. Per says no, training is the most boring thing. David asks if he tried it. Per says he tried, but it doesn’t work for him. David starts asking if he tried yoga, Per continues pilates, personal trainer…, but it doesn’t work. He is rather walking.
David thinks when you are getting older, you can end up at a crossroads and one way is to become an angry man, the other is to become a cuddly man. He asks Mr. G if he had ever stood at that crossing and if so, which way he chose. He also asks if he gets slightly irritated by anything. Per says he recognized that. You get a little short-tempered as you get older. So he warns David that this is what is waiting for him. Haha. David says he would ask Per some questions and is curious what Per thinks about those things. Mr. G gets a sign which has ANGRY written on one side and GRUMPY on the other. He has to hold up the sign he finds relevant, so it will turn out if Per is an angry man who is purely pissed or a charming cuddly man who is just cursing a little. Per says he sets it to the ANGRY side immediately.
- Bad language and spacing between words – GRUMPY
- Electric scooter – ANGRY – Here Per’s facial expression says it all, but David asks why angry. He is angry about the fact that people leave it all around. One has to climb over them on the sidewalks in Stockholm. David is curious if Per is so angry that he told this to anyone. Mr. G says he was thinking about throwing one into Nybroviken. David says it’s nice, there wouldn’t be any headlines about it. David says Per could say ”it wasn’t me. It was Dr. Robot.” Per says he could also say ”it was David”. Haha.
- This one David heard that Per gets damn mad at: telephone queues – ANGRY – Per says the worst is when you call a company or authority and you have to push 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 and you eventually push 4 and they say that you are No. 31 in the queue. It feels like your whole life is on hold. David agrees, but he says if you are lucky, you can have a Per Gessle song playing in the background. He asks if it has ever happened. Mr. G says it never happened. David says: ”You are No. 127. Sommartider, hej hej… Then you get even happier.” Per tells they have such PG songs at Hotel Tylösand, so you can listen to Gå & fiska! for example. A bit awkward. David says it’s perfect, so one can just ring them if they want to listen to some songs.
- Tabloid headlines – ANGRY – Per says if he has to choose from these two options he picks ANGRY, because it’s bad journalism in a way. David asks if he bothers to click on them sometimes. Those headlines are for more clicks – e.g. ”Per Gessle – bathing-trunks disappered”. Per says he stopped reading them, because he gets irritated. It’s the decay of mankind. It’s so ridiculous.
The game ends with this and David says Per is rather a charming cuddly guy, he is not so dangerous.
Before the break, the live band plays Gå & fiska!, but with a rewritten text about the break.
After the break, a tough topic is coming. This part you can watch on YouTube. David tells it’s almost a year ago that Marie Fredriksson, Per’s close friend passed away. He asks Per how this past year was for him. Mr. G says it was terrbile what happened, but at the same time, they were prepared for that. Marie was sick for a long time, so it was more of an end in a way. David says they had known each other since more than 30 years. He asks what was that special thing about them. Per says he doesn’t know. He gets this question often. They both came from a small town, they shared the rehearsal studio in the 70’s, they came from the same roots and had this dream together and completed each other perfectly. She was a fantastic artist and singer and a leader in Roxette on stage, while Per was OK at writing songs. So there was a very good balance. He is missing that of course. David asks if they already had those big dreams when everything started and they stood there on the stage. Mr. G says they didn’t dream about what exactly happened, but when they started Roxette they wanted to succeed abroad. But back then they only thought it would be cool to go to the Netherlands, Germany or Denmark. Then it was actually the US where they broke through, so it became a bit bigger than they thought. David asks if there was a monent when they understood that now something happens, something that they couldn’t even dream about. Per says it was when they started talking about the fact that Roxette entered the US radio charts and then it went so fast with The Look. You can’t enter the Billboard Hot 100 if your song is not commercially released, but they were on a lot of radio charts, so they rush-released The Look as a single and sent it out to record shops. Then in 8 weeks they reached No. 1. It happened so fast.
David asks if Per has a best memory. He knows there are many, but he is curious if there is one special memory from those times. Per says there are tons of such memories, but he tells one. When they recorded Dressed For Success, Marie and Per quarreled for some reason. Per complained about Marie’s singing and Marie became so angry with Per that she went in to the studio and sang the song in one single take. From anger. Then he also thinks of the concerts. She was fantastic there. In all those huge football stadiums in the 90’s. A short clip is shown on the screen from Johannesburg. David says it’s incredible, what a career! Per adds: what a blonde hairdo! David asks Mr. G what he is missing the most when he sees this clip. Per says he is missing that part of his life when Roxette became big. All that romance that you have always lived with in pop culture. He lived in that since he was a kid. He misses those stages where there were 60.000 people in front of them. He misses being involved in it. He is still partly in it, but not in the same way. David asks Per if he is the kind of person who can enjoy things when they happen or rather only when he looks back at them. If he could understand it when they stood there in front of thousands of people. Per says he enjoyed the whole circus back then, but they worked a lot. It was tough during those 8 years. They toured, they recorded an album and then again, without a break. It’s a long time, so when you are in it, you don’t really realize what you are doing, but then there is a break and you look back and ask what happened. It was fun back then and it’s also fantastic to look back on it.
David asked Per if he still had his first guitar and Mr. G brought it to the studio. Per’s mother bought it for him in 1976 when Per was 17. David asks Mr. G whether he started playing it then or he took some guitar lessons before. Mr. G says he never went to a guitar school. He learned some piano playing for a week or so, but he learned to play the guitar by himself. David sees that something is hanging on the guitar. Per says it belongs to it. It’s a cat crocheted by his mother. David says how cute is that and it has held up well. A nice memory from Per’s mother. Mr. G says it’s cool that his mother bought the guitar. It’s a Swedish one, a Bjärton. It cost 1500-2000 SEK at the time. It’s a lot of money for a guitar for someone who can’t play it. David laughs but says it paid off. Per says once you give an instrument to someone, it has to be played. It was easy to tune and it has the right string distance as well. David asks Per if he remembers the time he started playing the guitar. Per says he was lucky because after school he was unemployed like anyone else at the time. Then he and another guy got a job as troubadours employed by the city council. They were playing at nursing homes for old people. David asks if they were payed for it. Per says they were. It was a temporary job for 3 months. They played Drömmen om Elin and Svarte Rudolf. It was a good school for him, to play in front of those few poeple. It was then when he started writing songs. He thinks he tested one of them on 108-year-olds at the nursing home. David asks how they reacted. Per says they never really reacted. They laugh and David says: ”Then you decided, I’ll be an artist!”. Haha. Per says the fun thing was that they got a schedule about when to go where. Once the schedule changed and they had to go to the long-term care at the hospital in Halmstad. They had never been there and when they got in, there was no one there. So they just entered a hall, put two chairs in the middle, sat down and started playing. It was quite a big hall with two beds and two patients on the two sides. Suddenly a nurse came in and wondered what they were doing there. They said that they were sent to play there. The nurse said there must be some misunderstanding and she threw them out. Just then, one of the two guys woke up. It was a young guy who had an accident and had been in coma. They played Proud Mary or something and so he woke up from the coma. Then many doctors and nurses rushed in. David jokes and tells: ”And you held up your hand and said it was me playing.” Per says they were sent out so he doesn’t know what happened after. David says he should try it again, to play and wake people up from coma.
David asks if there is any classic song Per wrote on this guitar. Per starts playing and says it was one of the first songs he wrote. It’s När alla vännerna gått hem. He is singing 2 verses and the audience cheers him. David says his mother is not there anymore, but it’s one hell of a luck that she bought this guitar and crocheted that cat.
Here the part with Per ends, but he stays in the studio until the next break. Laleh is the other guest on the show.
All stills are from Hellenius hörna.
Thanks for the technical support, János Tóth!