RoxBlog interview with Per Gessle – PART 2 – “Pop music shouldn’t be trailers all the time.”

Hello again! [Read PART 1 first!]

I continue the meeting with Per via Teams. After some technical hiccups on this app, we get back on track and go on talking about “Pop-Up Dynamo!”.

Patrícia Peres: – How many songs did you write for the album? You’ve mentioned that there were twelve, but you skipped one.

Per Gessle: – Well, I didn’t write that many. I needed more songs in the end, so I wrote “The Craziest Thing” and I wrote “Headphones On”. So there are no leftovers, except for those two songs that were crappy, that I made with Christoffer. There wasn’t like a big selection. I just recorded those songs that I felt were appropriate.

PP: – It’s very interesting what you said in the talks that “You Hurt The One You Love The Most” started out as a new “Listen To Your Heart” or something similar to that. It’s interesting, because what I can hear is “(Do You Get) Excited?”. How did that work with Giorgio and by the way, was that meeting in Amsterdam for Mono Mind or for this certain project?

PG: – No, we just talked about getting together, write something and see what happens. And I don’t normally do that, because I think it’s so difficult and I can’t really sit down and you know, let’s write a song together. It doesn’t really work like that for me. So, we didn’t really have an agenda or a reason or an artist in mind. Then Giorgio had this idea that we should do a “Listen To Your Heart” together. He is such a classically trained piano player. He is so amazing on piano, it’s a joy to hear him play. So I felt like we would have something going. Then when I went back home, I wrote the lyrics and I wrote the last part of the song, which wasn’t there at all. So maybe that’s the part that you think is close to “(Do You Get) Excited?”. It’s the coda, I think. Maybe, I don’t know. It’s also a typical Roxette thing that you have like an end section of a song that is totally different from everything else. We have the same thing in “Spending My Time”, for instance. It’s different chords and different vibe.

PP: – And what about the Eddie Jonsson song? Earlier this year you shared pictures of your old demo cassettes and on one of them there was a track called “Memories…”. You said that it was probably written by Eddie and you just oversaw the production.

PG: – Yeah, I mentioned in the talks that it was from the ’80s, but it’s not. It’s from 1990. So that was a mistake on my side. He wrote a lot of songs and I don’t know, I can’t remember why he wrote songs for me. I don’t know if he worked for Jimmy Fun, I can’t remember. It’s a long, long time ago. But he wrote some really great songs and I love this chorus, which he had. So when I got stuck with my song, I felt like shit, I could use a chorus like that. I called him up and asked if I could take his chorus and put it into my song. It’s fun. Then it’s perfect to collaborate, because you don’t meet. Hahaha.

PP: – Haha. When you wrote this song, did it have the music and was it similar to the style how it sounds now?

PG: – No, it was much more in the style of “Watch Me Come Undone”. It was a little bit more doomy. It just had a bass drum, boom, boom, boom, boom. Then when I played it for Magnus and Clarence, they turned it into like Pet Shop Boys. Which I thought was hilarious. First time I heard I was just laughing about it. Hahaha. But then I thought it was fun.

[Per’s phone starts ringing and he says it’s BoJo, but he will call him later. I tell him maybe he should pick it up. Maybe another GT show is sold out. Haha.]

PG: – Hahaha. Anyway, I thought it was funny, because in a way it reminded me of all those silly tracks we did in “Physical Fascination”, you know. There were always these really weird songs that we used on the albums. “View From A Hill” is a song like that as well. Or even in modern age, “Some Other Summer” is sort of like that disco style. I thought it was fun. And it sounded different from the other songs. I would never in my wildest imagination imagine that the song turned out like that. It’s all Magnus and Clarence.


PP: – Another song that sounds very different is “Jezebel”. Was it the title that came first or the lyrics? I mean, it’s kind of a biblical name.

PG: – Well, I don’t know. I can’t remember. I just liked the name. There is another song that I heard, which was called “Jezebel” and it’s an interesting name. When I wrote it, it was supposed to be like this guy and girl thing, you know, so it was written exactly how it sounds. The demo for it is very similar to the end result. And I can’t really remember why I wrote it. It’s a really beautiful song. As I said, it’s the oldest song from 2017. When Helena is singing songs like that, it just makes my heart melt. It’s just like how she was singing on “Varmt igen” or all this acoustic stuff. It just fits her so well.

PP: – Helena sings beautifully on “Walk Right In” as well. From the title’s point of view, it’s interesting that you wanted to end the album with this one, because the title suggests walk right into a new world, but as a last song, you are walking out of this new world the album has created. It’s also interesting that this is the only track you don’t sing on.

PG: – Yeah. And that is was one of the reasons why I wanted to put it as the last track. Because it would have become a little bit confusing to have a song like this as song number 4, for instance. A song which I don’t sing on. I like this song so much, because the style of it and the chord progression is so unlike me. That’s why I liked it a lot and also, when I played that to Magnus and Clarence, they really loved the song. They created this sort of Giorgio Moroder bass line to it. It sounded like “what?!, why did they think like that?”. For me it was just like a beautiful ballad that sounds like in the first verse. That’s how I imagined it to sound the whole song. But then they came up with this… [here Per demonstrates the sound] … Whatever.

PP: – Yeah, I hear a little Donna Summer in it, “I Feel Love”.

PG: – Yeah, “I Feel Love”, yes. But then of course, when we did all these overdubs with Helena, it sounded like a dream. It’s sort of a dream thing. I like this. I think those lyrics are really cool. I think it’s the best lyrics on the album and it’s a cool ending song for me. And of course, I can’t sing it. I tried to, but I can’t sing like that, because it’s all these long notes. It goes on forever. You have to have another style to do that.

PP: – And so there is no demo with you singing, just the instrumental?

PG: – No, hahaha, no demo with me singing. It’s a little bit like, if you remember “Love Is All” from “Crash! Boom! Bang!”, it’s the same style of singing. It was just amazing for Marie to do. [Here he sings “looove iiis aaall”.] All these very long notes, I can’t really do that. So in “Love Is All” I did the chorus instead, which is much more natural for me, but this one is really tough.

PP: – Which songs from the album do you think are the strongest in today’s music world?

PG: – I don’t know. I don’t really listen that much to new music anymore. It’s because I think it’s really hard to… I don’t know how I should say this… I think lots of it sounds the same to me and everyone is using the same sounds and the same styles. I met Nick Lowe the other night. He was playing here in Stockholm and he said that he basically gave up producing pop music, because he said that in the old days you could hear if a band was good or if they were terrible. Today there is like 100,000 releases on Spotify every day and almost every song sounds good, because everyone is using plugins and using the computers. You don’t have to be able to sing anymore, because you can always fix it in the computer. So he said “pretty good is the new rubbish”. Hahaha. That’s what he said and I thought that was brilliant, because everything is pretty good these days, except people don’t really know how to write songs anymore. The sound is great, production sounds good, it’s all fine. It’s just that there are no melodies. It’s very rare that you bump into something that makes you “what?!”.

PP: – What do you think, from this point of view about Generation Z or even Gen Alpha? I was 11 when I first heard Roxette and I think it’s important when it comes to music, what you hear as a kid and what you can stick to later. What do you think these new generations’ opinion is about pop music style of the ’80s and ’90s?

PG: – I think for lots of people it’s not strange, but it’s different. All the music from the ’80s are based on melodies. People seem to like those songs. I see songs that have like a billion streams on Spotify and I listen to them and I don’t understand why people listen to them. Because I don’t understand what is attractive about it. It’s a generation thing and it was probably the same what my parents felt when they heard Elvis Presley the first time. They couldn’t get it, because they were into Frank Sinatra. I just hope that the craftmanship of writing melodies and writing songs won’t disappear. Because you can’t really do that on the computer. You have to do that in your head first and then you can put it in the computer and refine it. But I don’t know, maybe I’m just getting old. Hahaha.

PP: – Haha. I don’t think so. Which is the best “don’t bore us, get to the chorus” style track on “Pop-Up Dynamo!”?

PG: – I think the most obvious chorus is “The Loneliest Girl In The World”. It’s a classic. It’s like a “She Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” or “Sleeping In My Car” style of chorus. But there are some strong choruses. “Walking On Air” has got a great chorus. I try to think of which songs are on the album. [He jumps up from his seat and brings the album while I’m laughing.] Hahaha. It’s a long time ago since I made this album. Let’s see. [He is checking the tracklist on the back of the vinyl sleeve.] “Headphones On”, yeah, it’s a pretty good chorus. “Watch Me Come Undone”. “Debris” has got a great chorus. I think that’s a great song as well. I like that sort of synthesizer sound that they created. It sounds like that TV show called “The Persuaders” with Roger Moore. It’s the same sort of style of the sound, which I liked. Oh, I don’t know, but to answer your question, the most obvious chorus is probably “The Loneliest Girl In The World”.


PP: – And which song do you think would be Marie’s favourite from the album?

PG:[He smiles.] Aaah. I think she would have loved “Walk Right In”. She would have loved to sing that, because it’s complicated. It’s really hard to sing and that would be a nice challenge for her. Also the chord progression is pretty unusual and I think she would love that. She always went for those crazy songs instead of the most obvious ones. A song like “You Hurt The One You Love The Most”, if Marie was going to sing that, I don’t think I would have made it a duet. I think she should have sung that on her own. It would have been really strong to have that sung by a girl, that lyric. Now it becomes different when I sing it, but then I try to mix it up with Dea and Helena. It’s a nice track. I think it’s also a little bit different from what I’ve done before.

PP: – I can see that a challenge started on TikTok. It’s very cool that you are using this channel at all.

PG:[He smiles.] Yeah, I don’t follow that myself, but we have this. The Warner people and also Liz, who is working for Marie Dimberg, she is very good at TikTok. We have so many short stories or whatever they are called. About the shoes and everything.

PP: – What do you think TikTok has as a role in the music industry today?

PG: – I think… people seem to listen to music in a different way than when I grew up. I was like sitting in my headphones and watching the record sleeves, reading the lyrics and getting into the music. Today, when I’m just watching my son when he listens to music, he just plays music all the time and he’s doing so many different things at the same time. Playing games or have the TV on or whatever it is. I never did that. When I listened to music when I grew up, I listened to music and the music became the main thing. I think TikTok is a sign of the times. People want sort of energy in 15 seconds and then 15 more seconds. It’s a very fast way of living. People are talking about making shorter and shorter songs, because people don’t have the capacity to stay focused too long. And I think it’s a shame. I think sometimes you need space and sometimes you need 7 minutes to present an idea. It’s terrible to skip a very good idea just because it’s supposed to be 30 seconds long. Pop music shouldn’t be trailers all the time. I think TikTok is basically doing that. On the other hand, doing all these snippets of stories or whatever you want to call it, it’s fun. If you use it as a marketing tool to get people interested, I think it’s really cool. It becomes like commercials, short commercials.

PP: – Short commercials, long videos. Can we expect more video clips for any other song?

PG: – Yeah, there is a video for this Christmas single that I made.

PP: – I wanted to ask about that too.

PG: – Yeah, it wasn’t supposed to be officially up until like in a couple of weeks, but then someone screwed that up. Anyway, we have done a video for that one, an animated video, which is really cool and I’m in it as well. Otherwise, I don’t know. Maybe we will do a video for that 12th track that I removed from the album. I know they are using “My Chosen One” with LÉON as a radio song as well. So maybe we’ll do something for that. I don’t know, I haven’t decided yet.

PP: – Regarding the album sleeve, I was surprised that there is this sticker which disappears when you get the album out of the foil. So there is no artist, no title stated on the front cover. I know there was such stuff in the past for Led Zeppelin and other artists, but why did you decide for that?

PG: – It was supposed to be exactly the same on the “Samma skrot och korn” sleeve with Gyllene Tider. You know there is a sticker on that one. But Cosmos screwed it up, so they put the sticker on the sleeve instead of on the plastic. So when you removed the plastic, the sticker was still on. And I hated that, because that wasn’t the idea. So for this one, I made sure that when you remove the sticker, you get a full, clean album sleeve, which I think is so cool, because the picture is so great.

PP: – I think so too. It’s a very cool pic! But then you shared a sleeve design with the artist and title on it on Twitter the other day. So is it for the digital release or …?

PG: – Yes, it’s different for digital. It’s because it’s easier to find it. When you already bought the LP, you might as well have the clean sleeve and I think that’s really nice. People did that in the old days, but nowadays everyone is so afraid. Can you see this? [He holds up the vinyl to show what he means.] In the old days, if they wanted to put the artist name here, on the lower part, you couldn’t do that, because they had all these records in this whatever it’s called… when you go through all the records in the store. You have to have the title up front, so it’s easy to see them. If you had the artist name here, you can’t see it. There were all these silly rules. I thought it was cool to break every rule and just do it like if it would have been done in 1973.

PP: – There are these amazing pictures by Fredrik Etoall. I really love his work with you and I like it when he is around, because he can catch your pop star essence extremely well. There is that picture on the “Walking On Air” sleeve, where you wear this jacket and you also wore it in the video. I just have to ask if it was a conscious choice of outfit or just an accidental pick from your wardrobe. Because Marie is wearing a similar one on the “Dressed For Success” single.

PG: – No, we didn’t think about that. The only thing I thought about was the last photo session we did for “Good Karma”, which is on the sleeve and also the “It Just Happens” video. I wear this leopard jacket and that was the first picture we released for this one, “The Loneliest Girl In The World”. You know what I’m talking about, this leopard jacket?

PP: – Yeah, of course I know. Haha.

PG: – So if you check the backside of the “Good Karma” album, I’m sitting there with my leopard jacket. And I’m using that again. I thought that was a cool idea to do this jump between the two, using the same jacket but in a different era, six years later. Fredrik always wants me to move around when we do these photo sessions. If you move around and you have these fringes what’s on the jacket, it just becomes great pictures. We took all these pictures in my apartment here in Stockholm. I have all my clothes here anyway, so Fredrik just picked out what he wanted and I put them on. He’s a great guy.

PP: – A great artist as well.

PG: – Yeah.

PP: – I know there won’t be a PG Roxette tour very soon, but which uptempo song do you think would be the coolest to be played in an acoustic arrangement one day?

PG: – In an acoustic arrangement? Hmm. [He is checking the tracklist on the vinyl again.] You mean apart from “Jezebel”, which is acoustic?

PP: – Yeah, I mean an uptempo song.

PG: – I don’t know if they have published it already, but when we were recording those short videos in the Warner office, I did an acoustic version of “Walking On Air”. I wasn’t supposed to, but I did. They had a guitar there, so I just did it. I started playing “Walking On Air” acoustically, and they filmed it and they’re using it. I don’t know if it’s published yet, but it’s gonna be out there. I’m singing terribly, but… Hahaha.

PP: – It’s not out yet, but I don’t think you sing terribly.

PG: – Hahaha. I didn’t know this song and I didn’t know the lyrics, because it’s such a long time ago, but anyway, it’s gonna be out there. That song sounded actually amazing to play acoustically. It’s a really good song and you can do a good vibe to it and a good groove to it. So it’s not a bad choice. Yeah. Otherwise I don’t know. “The Loneliest Girl In The World” is easy to play as well. “The Loneliest Girl In The World” you could arrange as a Gyllene Tider track, if you wanted to translate it into Swedish.

PP: – Can you share any information about the Christmas single or you want to wait until later?

PG: – I saw that Bengans had the titles out there. It’s one uptempo song and one ballad and I wrote the ballad first, eight years ago. It was called “Wishing On The Same Star” to begin with. It was written for a musical, but they didn’t use it. I liked the song and I thought maybe I should do a Christmas song. So I recorded a demo of it with a Christmas lyric. Then I didn’t use that either until now. Clarence and Magnus did the production and it sounded good, but it felt a little bit predictable to do this ballad Christmas thing. I felt like maybe I should write something really uptempo instead. So I wrote this really fast uptempo song. I did it in July this year. So the other song, “Wish You The Best For Xmas” is brand new. It’s produced by myself and Andreas Broberger, so it sounds a little different.

PP: – And it doesn’t have anything to do with “Wish You The Best”?

PG: – No, no, no, no. Not that song. The video to it is cool too, but it’s different. It’s made by this guy Mattias Gordon, who did the “Being With You” video. It’s different style, but it’s animated and it’s a lot of Christmas people in it. He’s got this great technique. He is taking films of people and then he draws on the film, then just keeps the drawings and gets rid of the films. I’m in there and I’m playing the keyboards, but I’m just like… it’s just pencil. It’s funny and it’s cool.

PP: – Good to have something more to look forward to until Christmas! Thank you very much for this opportunity, Per!

PG: – Excellente! And you saved me a week of work. Perfect! Hahaha.

PP: – Haha. I promise to send less questions next time!

PG: – No, that’s fine. Have a good evening!

PP: – Thank you, you too! And good luck with the album and the GT ticket sales and everything you are doing!

PG: – Thank you very much! Appreciate it.


With this, we both clicked the END button and our meeting was over. It was a real pleasure to talk to Per and hear so many details about PG Roxette and “Pop-Up Dynamo!”, as well as Gyllene Tider directly from him. His thoughts on songwriting and the music world then and now are also always more than welcome.

I hope you enjoyed the interview, which definitely became my most memorable Zoom meeting and most exciting Teams meeting ever. Haha.

Stills are from the Teams meeting, collages are from album sleeves.