Per Gessle on Nordic Rox – November 2022 – PG Roxette special

Sven Lindström renamed Nordic Rox to Nordic PG Rox for the November episode. Haha.

The guys sit together to provide a taster of the brand new PG Roxette album on a great day in Stockholm. Per is excited to talk a little bit about the new PG Roxette songs. Sven is holding the vinyl record in his hands and he thinks it looks great. PG says he loves this format, because he loves the album sleeves. It’s so much part of the record, he thinks. Mr. G really misses the sleeves these days. The whole digital world we live in, the streaming services, it lacks something for him because he’s probably getting old. Sven assures Per he is not alone with this. He thinks their generation is the one that’s going to sit in retirement homes, pestering the young guys and girls about vinyl covers. Per agrees and they are laughing.

Sven says they are going through a great list of Scandinavian music at its best and also have a look into the new PG Roxette album, which is titled Pop-Up Dynamo! The first song on the show is Answer by Pauline Kamusewu. To Per it sounds like a hit. He thinks it’s a very good song and can’t understand why it hasn’t become a hit. Then comes Phantom Punch by Sondre Lerche, a Norwegian guy. Sven and Per try to pronounce his name correctly with a Norwegian twist. Per likes this song a lot. Sven thinks it’s a bit quirky. It’s the title track from Sondre’s fourth album. The third song is Worry Sick by the amazing Edith Backlund from the north of Sweden. The album is called Death By Honey and came out in 2008 as her second album.

The guys move on and play Magnetic City by Silverbullit from Gothenburg. Sven says they make you think a bit about the crazy guys from Manchester in the early ’90s. Great vibe to this song.

Here Comes The Night by Agnes is next. It’s one of Per’s favourites. He thinks Agnes is an amazing singer, one of the biggest artists they have in Sweden at the moment and she has been around for a couple of years now. She is making great singles and and she is really an astonishing singer. She had some international success with the song called Release Me a couple of years ago and she is still around and doing great.

Chris Craft No. 9 by The Shanes from the north of Sweden is played next. It’s from 1967 and Per thinks it’s a great song. He loved it when he was a kid. The band is fantastic and this song sounds terrific to Mr. G’s ears. It was recorded at the Abbey Road Studio in London. Sven adds that not many Swedish bands made that trip, but they did. PG says there was a producer, Anders Henriksson, Henkan who produced Tages, another Swedish band and some of The Shanes songs as well. Since he was part of the EMI organization, he had allowance to the Abbey Road Studio and he used it a lot. Tages recorded there as well. Per thinks Chris Craft No. 9 is really one of the best Swedish tracks from the ’60s. Sven agrees that it’s a great track, written by Kit Sundqvist in The Shanes. He played the organ. Sven says it was produced by the George Martin of the Swedish ’60s, Henkan.

Now it’s time to look at the Pop-Up Dynamo! album, which is a new Roxette album, a PG Roxette album. Per says he decided to continue the Roxette journey. It actually started out that he wanted to play the old Roxette songs live. All those songs that he wrote for Roxette are still with him and they are still popular around the world. But then the pandemic thing happened, so everything got postponed and he started writing new songs in the Roxette style instead and made an album with the old Roxette players. Jonas Isacsson on lead guitar and Clarence Öfwerman playing the keyboards. The two backing vocalists, the girls who toured with Roxette the last 6-7 years or so, Dea Norberg and Helena Josefsson. They stepped up a bit to do the female vocals and they did a great job on this record, so he is really proud of the whole package. Sven thinks it’s cool and he asks Per what he aimed for when he was writing these songs for this version of Roxette. PG says he decided early on that it’s not about replacing Marie, getting in another girl to take her place. It’s more about the songs. So basically, he just felt like going back to the style that he had in the late ’80s and early ’90s when he wrote Look Sharp!, Joyride, Tourism and Crash! Boom! Bang! So it’s basically an extension of that. It’s a little bit nostalgic for him. Even though you don’t really realize it yourself, you change with the years, your style is changing and developing all the time, so the evolution is going on. This was like going back to thinking in the same way that he was thinking in the ’80s. He hopes that we can hear that. Productionwise they picked sounds that were used in the ’80s as well, the old synthesizers and they also used the guitars. But at the same time, he thinks and hopes it sounds fresh and modern, because it shouldn’t be like a retro thing. He thinks one can recognize the Roxette gimmicks. According to Sven it sounds like a fun experience. PG says ot was fun and excellent to work with these people again. They had a blast in the studio and he had a good time writing. Sven tells they should listen to one of the tracks and asks Per which one to start with. Mr. G suggests Walking On Air, which is the first song of the album and it’s the current single as well. It’s a good example of how the album sounds.

Sven thinks it sounds really interesting, especially with the mix between Per’s voice and the female singers’ voices. Mr. G says it’s Dea Norberg and Helena Josefsson who are singing with him. They used to be the backing vocalists with Roxette when they were touring. Now they have stepped up a bit. What’s interesting with them, Per thinks, is that they have such different styles when they sing. So he tried to combine those two styles to create like a third person. It’s a little bit like ABBA. If you listen to the old ABBA records, for instance, it’s really hard to tell who is Frida, who is Agnetha because they are overdubbing themselves and doing harmonies, so it’s really hard to say. It creates like a third persona and Per likes that a lot. When people hear the new PG Roxette album it’s hard to pinpoint „that’s Helena and that’s Dea”, because when you combine them, they sound very, very different. Per thinks that’s really cool. Sven thinks it’s very interesting because both Helena and Dea have very characteristic voices. PG says it’s fun to work with them in the studio. When you tell them to add a little a bit of wailing or do something soulful, they just approach that sort of challenge totally differently and the outcome is so many different things. It’s really fun to work with them and to edit everything down together and take the best pieces of both of them and use it. It has been really exciting to do this.

The next song Per picks is the single that he released this summer, The Loneliest Girl In The World, which is a classic guitar-driven pop song. There are songs that are really timeless in his book. These type of songs are the hardest to write because he has written so many of them over the years. It’s like a classic 3-chord pop song basically. Sven laughs and tells that Per always complains about having trouble writing these kind of songs, but still he comes up with them time and time again. Per laughs too and says he is so happy when that happens, because it’s so hard to do. If he sits down by the piano or with a guitar, he starts to play something and it’s always like mid tempo and he has his favourite chord progressions and everything. But when he has to write a classic immediate pop song, it just happens and you can feel it immediately. „Hey, this is really cool. This is a really great melody line.” Per’s whole music, everything he does is based on melodies much more than the rhythms. So it has to have this really strong and very catchy melody to make it, to go to the next step in the writing process.

Sven remembers there is one trick Per uses and it’s that he buys a new guitar. Whenever he bought a new guitar and tried it, he wrote a new song. Per confirms. That’s because every guitar has got its own personality. And you put it into the amplifier and it sounds so cool. And if it’s something that you like, out pops this new song. Sven laughs and says it’s easier to store a song than the guitar. Per agrees and says you have to have a big wardrobe. They are laughing.

Sven is curious if the title, The Loneliest Girl In The World was something that’s been buzzing around in Per’s head for a while. Mr. G says he likes that title because it’s a little bit romantic and it sort of makes a vision in your mind. When he writes songs, if he finds a good title to begin with, it helps his stupid brain a lot. So he actually collects ideas, titles and phrases that he can use. It’s just a part of how he works. Sven likes the title, he likes pop titles. He can imagine that in the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, Per had a notebook, but he wants to know what he is using now. Per laughs and says he has a laptop. But Sven says a title could come when Per is out walking, when he is not carrying his laptop around. PG says it could come in a dream or it could come from a TV show, you can pick up something a taxi driver says and you just keep it. Per usually texts himself with ideas all the time. It’s the same thing with music. He can go in a department store or whatever and come up with a melody thing that he hears and he calls himself to tell himself [he laughs] about the chords he is hearing and then how the melody works. As soon as he gets back home, he tries to record it on a guitar or piano or whatever. You collect things, you have your antennas out all the time. That’s how Per works anyway. His iPhone is filled with short snippets of ideas. 10 seconds ideas. Sven laughs and says grocery stores must be filled with people saying „don’t look now, but I think it’s Per Gessle, humming into his telephone”. Per laughs too and says that has happened, actually. He is getting this weird look, „Jesus!”.

The third and final track in this sneak preview of the new album is Headphones On. Sven thinks this title sounds like a pop nerd title. You put your headphones on and just dive into some music. Per tells Sven it’s pretty interesting, because he wrote this lyric to another piece of music and he didn’t use it. For some reason he didn’t like the music that much, but he kept the lyric. He rearranged the lyrics a bit and he wrote something new to it. He loves this, because it’s got a great energy and a great sound. When they combine the voices of Helena, Dea and Per, it’s just really cool. Per is singing the falsetto parts here. Also of course, Per has this wonderful privilege to have Jonas Isacsson playing this amazing guitar solo. There is no guitar solos anymore in pop music, he says. This was actually the last song they recorded for the album and he told his co-producers that he has to write a song where they can put a guitar solo and so Jonas can show that he’s still got what it takes. He is just doing this magnificent guitar solo in the end of the song. It’s really cool. Per loves this track. Sven adds that Jonas Isacsson is the guy playing the fabulous guitar on Roxette’s breakthrough single, The Look. Per says he is the mastermind behind all those guitar licks in Roxette history, Dressed For Success, Listen To Your Heart. He is a great guy and it was so much fun recording this album. Per hopes it shines through when you listen to it.

After Headphones On, the guys play Not Too Young by Sabina Ddumba. Next track is Shimmy Shimmy Style by the Teddybears and then comes Poetic by Seinabo Sey.

Sven and Per thank you for listening and play Anita Lindblom’s Cigarettes as the closing song, as usual.

Still is from a 2017 teaser video for Swedish Radio.

Thanks for your support, Sven!