Micke Syd Andersson on Made in Halmstad

Christian Albinsson did a podcast interview with Micke Syd for Made in Halmstad. Listen to it HERE!

Micke talks about his name that it’s really Micke Syd Andersson. Syd was his nickname, because there was another musician, guitarist Micke „Nord” Andersson and it was confusing that they had the same name. Micke says the fun thing is that they both had hairdressers called Maria. Micke Nord is from Dalarna in the North and Syd is from Halmstad in the South, so that’s how they got their nicknames.

It turns out that Micke Syd loves driving. He was driving the tour bus on the GT tour and Christian tells it’s hard to imagine a band doing it nowadays. Micke says they are from another generation, they learned everything themselves. In Gyllene Tider all of them had different qualities. MP and Micke Syd were always the ones who fixed and controlled everything themselves. Their fundamental personalities haven’t changed much. The band brought the instruments themselves to the concerts and set up things for the gigs. They did 150 concerts in 1980, if he remembers right. They had Anders Herrlin’s brother as lighting technician and a friend from Gullbrandstorp as the sound technician.

Micke is 59 years old now and was grown up in Harplinge.

Christian asks Micke about his salary. Syd says when they broke through with GT they had Janne Beime to help them with the financial things. Janne was 35 years old then and they were 18-19. Janne still works together with Per. Micke Syd says he has never had a steady job and never really knew what he would earn money on in the next year. He has what he needs, he is not interested in cars or any other things that cost a lot of money. He has a Plug-in Hybrid Ford Kuga.

Christian asks Micke what he is interested in. Syd says „life, music, my family, my wife”.

Christian is curious if Micke has always been positive. Syd says he is not always positive, but he tries to be. He has been working a lot on it. He is the type who sees the opportunities and thinks how he feels on the inside can be seen on the outside. At the age of 35 you realize that you are not as hot as you were at the age of 20 or 30 and you start managing your life differently. Then he had kids, he divorced. Micke says he is tender on the inside. He says he e.g never drank alcohol or used other stuff. Looking back he thinks he took the right decision, how he has lived his life. He says life is tough anyway, sometimes even for him.

Christian says GT broke through when they were very young and there must have been many parties. Micke says Halmstad was very lively back then and there were indeed a lot of parties and alcohol and he doesn’t know why, but he ignored it. He was driving the tour bus, MP also did that during the first year.

Christian asks what Micke thinks when he says the word Halmstad. Syd says it’s home. He says it’s very strange, because he has been living in Stockholm now for 35 years, so for more years than in Halmstad, but home is still Halmstad. His parents still live there. Stockholm will never become home. Micke says all of them in the band are hillbillies, Halmstad characterized them and how they dealt with their career. They had those un-popidolish pop idol genes and even if they were so different personalities and they still are, they made awesome pop together. There is something very special about them.

Micke Syd is a HBK fan when it comes to soccer. He talks about his favourite players and tells he always had a dream to play in HBK, but he stopped playing football when he was 17. He thinks there is a similarity how you pick your instrument and your position in a football team. Micke was a goalkeeper and says drummers are usually goalkeepers. If you look at it from a psychological point of view, the goalkeeper is a quite exposed position and if he makes a mistake, it’s seen immediately. That’s the case with the drummer too. If he doesn’t do his job well, then the whole band won’t be so good. Micke likes that challenge. He says he has always been a team player and loves teams.

Christian mentions QBTQ (four brave bulls in Spanish), Adam Alsing’s house band on his talk show. Micke Syd was a member of the band in the 90’s for 5 years. Micke tells a story when an adult film actress was on the show and after the program the band went to the swingers club with her where she met other adult film people and partied with them. That was surreal, Micke says.

Christian asks Micke about Halmstad. Micke says summer is Halmstad. He tells that when they had the rehearsals before their last tour with GT, he lived in a house in Frösakull with his wife, Helena for almost a month. It was near Prins Bertils stig and it was magical that each morning he could walk through the woods, along the beach and up to Hotel Tylösand. Christian says he heard the guys rehearsing, but didn’t dare to disturb them. Micke says they tried old songs they never played. One of them was Sista gången jag såg Annie from their debut album. Christian thinks that was their best album. Micke Syd explains when you are young and you just want to make music and your creativity is on a high, it can be heard. For the second album they thought much more about how they should sound, how they should play, etc.

Christian asks about the lyrics that they sound different when a 20-year-old sings them vs. when you sing them now at the age of 60. He means Flickorna på TV2. Micke thinks that the songs belong to those who they play them for. These songs still have their audiences and they associate these songs with happenings and experiences in their lives, so when they play them to the crowds, there is a contact between the band and the audience. He tells these are timeless songs and carry the summer feeling. The songs they play are the ones people want to hear. He remembers he saw Tom Petty live once and he expected to hear the songs he was listening to when Tom was the God for them in GT and he got disappointed, because Tom played his new songs from the new album. Syd says Per wrote so friendly texts that they are still working with teens nowadays. They sing along När vi två blir en, for example. Even if life has changed a lot, people still experience these feelings in life and music is their soundtrack to it. Different bands mean different things for different audiences. On the last tour GT played new songs too, which the guys liked, but still they played the old songs and then you could see a different crowd reaction, when they realized it’s this or that song they knew and associated an experience with it.

Micke says he and Helena went to Halmstad’s city entre and it felt totally dead. He says it’s the same with many other city centres, but it’s sad how fun it was back then and how it is now.

Christian asks Micke when he feels the best. Syd says when he is with his family and when he is playing. They have grown-up children now and they don’t meet very often, but when they meet, he sees and thinks they did a good job. Both Helena and him. They don’t have kids together, but their children are like syblings. So it’s lovely when they are together.

Christian is curious when Micke feels the worst. He says at 3 in the morning. Haha. Syd says he is a sensitive person. He is Pisces and Pisces are sensitive. He is thinking a lot about things. He thinks many things are not managed well in the music branch now and it feels that those who should make it better don’t do their job. He thinks it’s the same in the whole world, but since he lives in Sweden, he talks about that.

To the question how he develops himself Micke replies that everyone has their better and worse sides and he is still learning a lot. He learned a lot about life. There is peace that everyone is looking for. You have to be good to yourself and then it will be visible on the outside as well. Positivity comes through and it motivates him. He says you always have the possibility to change yourself.

Christian asks how Micke is as a lover. He answers Christian should ask Helena. But he thinks he is like when he plays the drums: he recognizes, he listens and feels and he wants to please.

Christian says he heard Micke increase the pace in a song when he gets excited. Micke says everyone has their own tricks. Christian realized it when they 5 play together in GT, it’s so much different to when they play the songs in other constellations. Micke tells a story when in 2013 they played (Dansar inte lika bra som) Sjömän, there was a background screen with different images during the verses and the choruses. The lighting technician came to Micke when they had the final rehearsal in Halmstad Arena and said he couldn’t tune it right for the chorus. It worked for the verses, but not for the chorus. Then Micke asked for a little screen in front of him and played in the pace according to that, so that the film came in the right pace as well. Then when the guys listened to the song they liked it, but they thought something felt strange. Everyone was doing what they had been doing for more than 30 years except for Micke, because he was checking the screen and played according to that. He felt like a restrained horse.

Christina asks Micke how he was at school. He says he was nice except towards one guy. He has never been in a fight except for with that one guy at school and Micke’s brother. He tells he has always been fair.

Regarding the band, Christian tells Per and Micke take different positions, but with the same determination, while Anders, Göran and MP are more in the background. Syd says it has to do with their personalities as well. Per and him are different, but they want the same thing, to do something good. And that’s been like that since the beginning. Christian says Micke mentioned earlier he is a team player and on stage they are indeed a team, but he is curious if they are a team off stage as well. Micke says in the band they all have different musical qualities, but the differences were refined over the years, not only musically. All of them developed and they have fun together when they meet. When they recorded their last album in France, Micke was driving to there with a friend and driving back with Helena. It was practical, because there was stuff they couldn’t have brought there on a flight and he also thought that it was the cheapest option for him. Christian asks if you really think about that when you record an album. Micke says the music industry has changed a lot. These days you don’t earn money when people are listening to music digitally. But the creative process, the recordings cost a lot. You can earn on tour then. But ask people if they want to work gratis. Spotify earns millions, but you get nothing. Micke can’t understand that. It’s not OK. So, recordings cost much and you get a little contribution from the record label, but otherwise, the rest is paid by you.

Regarding who is driven to what extent Micke says MP is not that driven, he is more silent, but his musicality is great. He is cautious, he has always been. It’s so nice to see that they got this far in their career and in a way they are still the same. Micke tells a fun story. When they took the press photos in France, everyone was dressed up, then they checked the photos and saw that MP was wearing his slippers. It didn’t really feel like a pop idol, so they had to photoshop the picture and put jeans on him. [Haha. Yeah, one could realize it already back then, when they shared the picture on GT’s Facebook page. See photos: MP in slippers; photoshopped press photo. /PP] No one really thought about that or cared much. There is something charming in that. When they are on stage, they create something cool, but they are still the guys from Harplinge and Åled and so.

Christian mentions words and asks Micke te react on them in one word. To Halmia he reacts Gessle, to Per Gessle he reacts Halmia, to Harplinge he reacts home. Regarding Hallandian dialects he says there are at least 5 and he loves that.

Christian is curious if Micke will get fat again. Syd says he won’t. Christian asks what was it that wasn’t so good in being fat. For Micke the change was about being healthy and of course also being on stage in top shape. He lost 18 kg in 4 months, he gained 5 kg back though, but he still keeps himself fit. It was a good challenge for him.

Christian asks Micke how he ended up in Gyllene Tider. Syd says Per and MP asked him. He played the drums and Janne Carlsson was the bassist. Then Anders became the bassist and Göran joined them. Then there was the Farfisa. Micke says there were many coincidences in their history or they weren’t coincidences at all.

Christian is curious how it was to break through when they were so young. Syd says such things he can’t remember much. They were 18-19 years old and suddenly people started screaming after them. They called his mom’s hairdresser salon or were lying in the ditch in front of it waiting for Micke to come home. People stole washed clothes from Per’s garden. Such things happened. They all lived with their parents at the time. They were the non-smoker generation, however, Göran and MP smoked. But they advertised jeans and soft drink. They were who they were and he thinks that was their key to success. If you watch Parkliv, you can see what outfit they had. Nothing special. Christian asks when they met other artists who they maybe thought were cooler, maybe Europe, what Micke thinks they thought about Gyllene Tider. Doesn’t he think they thought they were frumpish? Micke thinks they rather thought about their platinum albums. Haha.

Regarding the recordings in France, Micke says it was much fun. They decided that it would be their last album. It was Micke’s idea. The others thought it was a good idea when he told them why he thought so. They had a unique career and all of them 5 are still there. They decided to record the album in a totally different way at a different place than ever before. If they travelled only to Stockholm, it wouldn’t have been the same. They had to go further and be in that Gyllene Tider vibe. Christoffer Lundquist was there with them. They didn’t listen to the demos, they decided just to play and see what happens. Per did the demos with MP, so he knew them, but not the others. They had a big space where the studio was, it was very nice. It was just them and 2 French technicians. There were cooks who prepared meals for them, so they could just concentrate on their work. They created the songs from scratch and it was a very creative process. The surroundings were magical. Micke says he is a lonely guy, so they weren’t hanging out together after work. He likes to contemplate and look at things. There was a gym, they could go out in the garden, so they didn’t have to be together all the time. They all loved it and they loved the result of their work as well. It became a very good album. What they created during their career they could do it only together, them 5. And to know that what they did meant a lot for people and also that they did something good in their lives is great. When they were 20 they just wanted to be pop idols, but 40 years later they still had fun making music together.

Christian asks if they sat down to discuss the problems they had before. Micke says not really. You can only sort things out if you are interested in it and it has to come from both sides. The problem stays there until you solve it. Sometimes it would just be about opening that door and talk about it, but sometimes it’s hard to open the door.

Christian asks Micke about money. Micke says it doesn’t mean much to him. It’s important until the point he can live his own life. It was important for him to raise his kids and live where he wanted to live.

Micke knows a lot of people spend a lot of money to see them on tour and it feels nice that they can give back something via their music. On the last tour they invited a group of policemen, firefighters and ambulance, as well as defense veterans to thank for their service. Anders Thornberg was also there. He is the National Police Commissioner and is also from Halmstad. He is the brother of Per Thornberg, great saxophonist. Many don’t know that Anders is also a great musician, he plays the drums. They shared their drumset in the 70’s when they played at the same rehearsal studio. Micke says at one concert Anders was at the mixing board and Micke started playing the wrong song at some point. Shit happens. There were 10 thousand people, he said they start again. It was fun. He says he later explained the rason was that he was nervous because of Anders Thornberg being there. [Haha. That happened in Eskilstuna. /PP] He says he also managed to get tickets for fans from South America. They flew in from South America, but they couldn’t get tickets, so of course he sorted it out.

Christian asks about the last song on the last concert, how it felt. Micke says it happened in Halmstad and it was very special. The song was När alla vännerna gått hem and when he came to the front of stage he saw there were many people holding up a TACK sign. He is still touched by that. It was nice to close it all at home. A lot of people came who had been following them for more than 30 years and also people from several parts of the world to see them. He cried during the last song and you could see that all the others were so touched too.

Micke is contemplating what if they hadn’t told it was the last one, how would it have been. What would have happened then. He thinks it wouldn’t have been the same. Earlier they never said it was the last tour. They came back several times. They are still good at what they are doing. He says it’s different when he performs the songs separately from the band or when Per performs them on his solo tours. It’s never the same as when they 5 play together.

Micke says he likes meeting people. He likes to perform for smaller crowds and see people’s happy faces and he also likes to stand there at Ullevi. He mentions he took a selfie at Ullevi with 55 thousand people in 2019. That was cool.

Christian thanks Micke for the conversation and Micke says it’s his pleasure and he is thankful he could be on the podcast.

Q&A with Per Gessle in Classic Pop magazine

In the Jan/Feb 2021 issue of Classic Pop magazine (UK) there is a Q&A with Per Gessle about Roxette’s Bag Of Trix release.

Steve O’Brien asks Per to tell how this boxset came into existence. Mr. G tells he was looking around for live stuff and found so much material that he had forgotten about. There are a couple of leftover tracks from the Good Karma album that were never finished. He explains that during the recordings Marie had good days and bad days, so as soon as they had enough material for an album, they just stopped. Then he found songs from their Abbey Road session from the 90’s and some old demos too. Per explains there was a lot of material that had got lost (e.g. bonus tracks on CD singles) when they moved from CD into streaming.

Steve is curious how the name Bag Of Trix came about. Mr. G tells he has a list of titles and phrases in his computer and those could be song titles or album titles. When this compilation came into sight he started thinking and he thought of Bag Of Tricks.

Then I changed the ’Tricks’ to ’Trix’ so it reminds you of Roxette. It’s the marketing guy in me, I suppose.

Steve asks Per about the process, how he found all these songs. Mr. G tells he has a big archive of cassettes, CDs, CD-Rs and DAT tapes, all going back to the 70’s. Over the past 10 years he’s been transferring everything to his computer.

Only the other day, I found five cassettes that I’d forgotten about, from the early 80’s before Roxette. I wish I was more organized, though – I’m a seven out of 10.

Steve wants to know if Per rediscovered any songs that he wished, in retrospect, that they had included on an album. Per says on every album they had 8-10 leftovers, because they always had so much material. He thinks most of the time they made the right choices.

There are a couple of tracks off every album which I don’t really rate, like ’Physical Fascination’ off ’Joyride’, I think that’s a crap song.

Steve asks which songs from Bag Of Trix Per is most excited about sharing with fans. Mr. G thinks the live version of Wish I Could Fly is great and the Tom Lord-Alge mix of Soul Deep is really good, too.

Regarding what to include and what not to include, Per tells Classic Pop magazine that the original idea was to see if they can make one album with leftovers and then it just grew. Then someone reminded him about the Spanish tracks and that they weren’t available anymore, so it just went on and on.

To Steve’s question about how it felt revisiting the songs Mr. G replied that it was a very positive thing. He remembers Roxette very fondly, they had an amazing journey together.

It’s terrible when I think about Marie, she was only 44 years old when she got ill. But I listen to it and it’s all coming back. I just love to hear her voice still.

Per tells he is currently releasing a Swedish acoustic album [so the interview must have been done end of October / beginning of November 2020 /PP] and he is also writing a new album in English.

I’ve recorded eight tracks for that so far. Hopefully, that’ll be done by next spring. And one of these years, I’ll go out and do another tour. I miss touring.

The magazine published a Bag Of Trix review as well which is rather based on comparing this release to The RoxBox (Roxette 86-06). One sentence I had to laugh at: ”It’s hard to criticise the motives behind Bag Of Trix, as the collector gene means we all want every cough and spit from the vaults.” Haha. So true. The coughs and spits on those later found five cassettes would just be perfect for a next release from the vaults.

Interview with Per Gessle in QX magazine

In the January 2021 issue of QX magazine there is an interview with Per Gessle. You can read it HERE in Swedish and download it in pdf from HERE.

Anders Öhrman met Mr. G in Per’s office on Strandvägen in Stockholm to talk about Roxette. Anders loves Roxette since they released their first single, Neverending Love. He has the vinyl framed. He saw Roxette live, knows all their songs, followed them on all the charts in the world and managed to get both Marie and Per to participate in the QX Gala, but this is the first time he had the chance to interview the hit machine and pop star, Per Gessle.

Per welcomes Anders to Fort Knox with a big smile on his face at the elevator on the fifth floor. He tells they had to set up a gate on the stairs because Roxette fans sneaked in and slept there in the stairwell.

The interview is done almost the same day as Marie passed away a year ago. Anders says it’s obviously a huge loss. Per lost both a bandmate and a longtime friend. [Here there is a little misunderstanding regarding the dates I assume: the last recordings and the last show. /PP] Anders tells the last recording with Marie turned out to be on 8th February 2016 and says Per has written everything down in his diary from the recordings. [This date was the last Roxette concert’s date though. In Cape Town, South Africa. /PP] Anders mentions that Per flips through his diary and says Marie sang the song Good Karma. That was the last thing she did with Roxette.

The guys start talking about the beginning. The year is 1986 and Per Gessle is without a record contract, but with his third solo record written in Swedish. Per tells he had written a song ordered for Pernilla Wahlgren as well, it was called Svarta glas, but he didn’t get an answer. Roffe Nygren, who was head of Swedish EMI at the time, heard the song, liked it and said, “write an English text and record it with Marie Fredriksson”. Said and done. The song’s title became Neverending Love and Marie recorded it despite the fact that everyone was against it. Her solo career went straight up, she released the album Den sjunde vågen and had Ännu doftar kärlek as a hit, but Marie wanted to record with Per. Even producer Clarence Öfwerman didn’t want to produce Roxette’s single, but luckily, he was persuaded and since then Clarence has produced every single song of Roxette. Per tells QX magazine that there was a huge resistance in the beginning. There were just three people who believed in Roxette – Marie, Per and Roffe. On the cover of the single, there is a cartoon couple dancing. It’s because they thought if the song was a flop, it wouldn’t hurt Marie’s solo career.

Anders tells the song became a big hit in Sweden and an album was recorded. Per took the Swedish songs he wrote for his third solo album and translated them into English. Farväl till dig became Goodbye To You, Dansar nerför ditt stup i rekordfart became Soul Deep, En känsla av en kvinna became Call Of The Wild etc. Per tells the only song that wasn’t translated was a song called Kom ut till stranden, but it is actually on his latest solo album.

Roxette’s debut album’s title was Pearls of Passion and it sold 200,000 copies. Per started writing their next album, Look Sharp!, but before he did that, he also managed to write a Christmas song that the record company in Germany had wanted to get German radio to start playing them. The song was titled It Must Have Been Love (Christmas For The Broken Hearted). But the record company refused it and the song was only released in Sweden where it was a great success. When Look Sharp! was released, it was No. 1 in Sweden, but EMI in the US and the rest of the world didn’t want to release it, Anders says. Per tells QX magazine that they were completely uninterested in Roxette. Most people know the story of the exchange student from the USA who brought Look Sharp! home from Sweden. He sent it to a radio station at home in Minneapolis and asked them to listen to it, which they did [after a while]. The rest is history.

Per remembers sitting and eating lunch at Stureplan when a guy from another record company came to him and congratulated on their bubbling in the US. He read about it in Billboard magazine. Mr. G didn’t understand anything and was thinking what song could it be that they started playing in the US. First he thought it must have been Dressed For Success or Listen To Your Heart, but then he saw in the magazine that it was The Look and it rhymed so damn badly with his idea of Roxette where he was the songwriter and Marie the singer. Per laughs and says he thought it wouldn’t end happily.

QX magazine tells Per was wrong. The Look reached number one on Billboard in the US. Then Dressed For Success, Listen To Your Heart and Dangerous also charted. Being big in the US meant big in the rest of the world. Roxette topped the charts in 25 countries.

Anders himself was in college in the USA at the time and when one day in the spring of 1990 he heard It Must Have Been Love on the radio, as a Swedish Roxette fan he was wondering how it happened that they played that old Christmas song.

Per tells Anders they were offered to record a song for a Hollywood movie that would be called 3,000. Julia Roberts was not known then and Richard Gere was a bit passé. Per got the script from Los Angeles, but he remembers throwing it away already at the airport because it was so heavy to carry. He laughs. They didn’t have time to record a new song, so they changed the lyrics of It Must Have Been Love, Marie sang in a new version and so they sent it to them. Then it became a huge success and their biggest hit ever.

Anders is curious if Per remembers when he first saw Pretty Woman. Mr. G tells before the film went to the cinema they got a private screening in Burbank, California and in the middle of the screening there was an earthquake. The salon shook and the staff came rushing in and said that everything was OK, the house was earthquake safe.

Anders asks Per what he thought about the movie. Mr. G remembers that he thought it was a bit uninteresting or he didn’t think anything directly. But their song got a lot of space and today it is an iconic scene with Julia Roberts in the back seat of the limousine and their song being played. Per must admit that he actually bought back the script for the film afterwards, on a street in New York. He laughs.

Anders is curious if there is a Roxette song that Per thinks has not received the attention it deserves. According to Mr. G it’s Spending My Time. It could have been even bigger if it hadn’t been unlucky. It climbed sickly fast on Billboard when it was released as the third single from Joyride and it would be their fifth number one. But in the middle of the launch, EMI was bought up and 123 people who worked with Roxette were fired and 123 new people they never worked with were hired. Spending My Time stopped climbing the charts and stayed at No. 32. The record company was completely uninterested in Roxette. They opted for Wilson Phillips instead.

Regarding Crash! Boom! Bang! at McDonald’s in the US Per says it’s another example of how uninterested they were in Roxette. They released some sort of collection, Favorites from Crash! Boom! Bang! and probably sold a little over a million of it, but when the real album was then to be released, the record stores didn’t want to sell the record. But Roxette was so big in the rest of the world so then they didn’t care about the US anymore. Now he regrets it, but it felt right then.

Anders is curious if it’s true that Madonna saw Roxette in New York. Per confirms it. They were playing at the Beacon Theater and they knew she was coming, so Marie was very nervous. Marie was “hot shit” in the US at the time. People had an eye on her.

Anders tells Per that he has listened to a lot of Roxette demos and there are a lot of guitars on them, but not so much on the album. Per tells it’s because Clarence is a great man, but he doesn’t like guitars. He laughs. Per brought his demos and Clarence peeled away the guitars. He is a big part of the reason why Roxette sounds how it sounds. So Anders asks if Clarence was sick the day Sleeping In My Car was recorded. Haha. Per says Clarence never liked that song.

Anders asks Per about the gay audience. Mr. G tells they have had great support from the gay audience all over the world. He doesn’t know why, but there is some positivism and honesty in their music that finds a home.

Anders tells Jakub and Dawid from Poland are Roxette’s most famous gay fans. He asks what it was like to surprise them on stage at the QX Gala. Per says it was great fun to be part of the Gay Gala. Jakub and Dawid’s videos that they made for Roxette’s songs are so lovely. They are like cartoon characters, Per laughs. Mr. G says it’s great when people affirm something sincere and in this sense the gay community reminds him of their fans in Latin America. If they like something, they show it.

Anders asks Per in which country Roxette is the biggest. Mr. G tells Germany is their largest market, where they have sold 12-14 million albums. But they have probably meant the most in Argentina and Brazil, where there hasn’t been the same hysteria about any artist since they were there in 1992. They had the riot fence from the airport to their hotel, 50,000 people lined up in the streets and they played for 65,000 people in São Paulo.

Anders asks Per if he continues to write songs in the spirit of Roxette. Per tells it’s impossible musically, artistically and personally to replace Marie, it doesn’t work. But it also feels difficult for him who has written all their songs to just put the lid on. So right now he is actually working on an English language record which is an 80’s inspired uptempo pop record. A bit like Dangerous and very much in the spirit of Roxette. He hopes it will be ready by spring.

As a last question, Anders asks if it’s true that Per handed out the book Bög – så funkar det! (Gay – how it works!) to his dinner guests on a New Year’s Eve. Per laughs and says it’s true. He has a tradition of giving away New Year’s gifts that most people do not have or know about. It has often been a book and then a wide range between Calle Norlén’s literary fireworks and the Encyclopedia of unusual sex practices (Brenda Love) to Charlie Chaplin’s autobiography or an interview book with Tom Waits. The script for Fawlty Towers has also been handed out!

At the end of the article Per suggests a slightly unknown Roxette song. One of his favourites is a leftover song from Joyride called The Sweet Hello, The Sad Goodbye. They recorded a lot of songs for that album and several had to be left out. This one has a fairly typical production that feels a bit dated, but it’s a nice song that Marie sings in a way that only she could. You believe in her when you listen. Nice.

QX lists the 5 best “unknown” Roxette songs:

  1. Speak To Me: A song that didn’t reach a single list, except for an 18th place – in Finland! It would be worth a better fate. The chorus when Marie enters the song is one of the strongest Anders knows and a song he has become a little obsessed with – both the original from the album Charm School and the Bassflow remix where Marie gets even more space. Listen. Turn up the volume. Enjoy!
  2. Lover Lover Lover: The second song on Travelling from 2012 is a real road trip song that was released as a single for radio in Germany, but never became a real single. Lover Lover Lover would fit any Tom Petty record. Playful, melodic and fun!
  3. Shadow Of A Doubt: One of Anders’ absolute favourite Roxette songs and a mystery that it never got bigger. The song from Look Sharp! has such power and energy, and together with Marie’s slightly desperate singing, a killer chorus and a key increase from schlager-heaven, this becomes pop perfection!
  4. My World, My Love, My Life: A little gem from Room Service where Marie sings fantastically, there is a nice bridge where Per asks and Marie answers and the chorus is beautiful – and those who want will hear a little ABBA in the song.
  5. Piece Of Cake: The latest (and last?) single from Roxette. An uptempo song with a bit weird lyrics where Per sings that there is no hot water and he can’t find his comb… The song changes tempo in the chorus – and THAT is a chorus that can move mountains!

Photo of Per Gessle in the article is taken by Anders Roos.

Per Gessle podcast interview on Hemma hos Strage

On 24th December a new podcast interview with Per Gessle was published by Hemma hos Strage. Fredrik Strage is a Swedish journalist and author who writes about pop culture.

Per starts with introducing himself and wishing merry Christmas to all who are listening. He says he is sitting in beautiful Kungsholmen, Stockholm together with Fredrik. Fredrik welcomes Mr. G and asks him to imagine he celebrates Christmas there and asks him what he would wish for as a Christmas present. Per says if it has to be a gadget then he thinks it would be a new iPhone, because he skipped some generations of iPhones, so he thinks he would need an iPhone 12. Fredrik says he hopes Santa brings vaccine for Christmas. Per agrees. Fredrik also mentions a present he would like to have and it’s Anton Corbijn’s new Depeche Mode photo book. Fredrik tells it costs 700 bucks and is wondering if Per gets it gratis. Mr. G smiles and says it can happen. He tells it’s published by Taschen and they have so many fantastic books. Per has a big David Hockney book at home, published by them. Fredrik tells DM fans are quite upset because of the high price of the book. Mr. G says there will surely be a cheaper version of it.

The guys start talking about It Must Have Been Love that it started out as a Christmas song written for Germany. Per tells when they released their debut album, Pearls of Passion they were quite disappointed that EMI Germany didn’t do anything with that. Nothing happened. Then some boss there suggested they should release a Christmas song, because it might be easier to get airplay on German radio with that. Per thought it was a cool idea, so he wrote It Must Have Been Love. They recorded it and released it as a single in Sweden actually the same day as Triad released Tänd ett ljus under the same record label. IMHBL became a big hit, a platinum single in Sweden, but Germany didn’t want to release it, they didn’t like the song. So it felt it was all in vain. Marie then released a solo album and Per wrote songs for a new Roxette album that became Look Sharp! Fredrik points out that when Per wrote IMHBL he was thinking about Christmas. Mr. G says in the original text you can hear „it’s a hard Christmas day, I dream away” and later Christmas day was changed to winter’s day. He says he doesn’t want to go into details too much, but when they were big in the US there was a lunch in Los Angeles where Marie and him were sitting with EMI. The A&R guy told he bought the rights to a movie then called 3000, starring Richard Gere and a new actress, Julia Roberts. It was planned to be a low-budget film. So they bought the soundtrack rights and David Bowie, Natalie Cole were in. They thought Roxette could also be in, they should just write a song. Per said they had no time for that, they were travelling all the time, but he thought they had this Christmas song, he could rewrite the text and update the production. Some weeks later when they were back in Sweden, Marie sang certain parts of the song again, they made a new intro and it was mixed in the US by Humberto Gatica who was a hip mixing engineer at the time. The title of the movie was changed to Pretty Woman. IMHBL became a big hit and the movie even bigger.

Fredrik asks Per how his 2020 was. Mr. G says it was an OK year for him in a way. It’s been very calm and creative, but at the same time it’s tough to live in this world of pandemic. All travellings are cancelled, the music industry is put down. Not the production, but the live stuff. There are a lot of musicians and technicians who can’t do anything now. And it’s not only the music business, but also theatres and so on. It’s terrible.

Fredrik asks which was the last concert Per gave or attended. Per says he can’t remember. It must have been autumn or winter last year when he attended a concert and they had the big Gyllene Tider tour last summer.

Fredrik tells Per just released Gammal kärlek rostar aldrig where he revisits his old songs. According to Fredrik, Nypon och ljung sounds like a bit happier Emmylou Harris. There are some country vibes in it. Per says there are a lot of country vibes in his music and one can easily create it by singing in a certain key or e.g. using lap steel. When they recorded Nypon och ljung he actually thought of J.J. Cale and his drum box. It’s that playful pop he likes a lot. The idea behind GKRA was that Mr. G plays as many instruments himself as possible. At the beginning he thought he would play all of them, but then he realized he is not a good bassist or drummer. Fredrik says his favourite on the album is Viskar that was released on Per’s second solo album. That record wasn’t a big success back then in 1985. Fredrik asks if that was a difficult period for Per during the mid 80’s. Mr. G tells 1984-85 were tough years for him. His idea was to keep Gyllene Tider as his pop project and paralelly start a singer songwriter career as a solo artist. But suddenly, GT was over so he only had this singer songwriter thing that felt uncomfortable, because he wasn’t Ulf Lundell or Magnus Lindberg or others of that quality at the same record label. So he felt a bit lost. He then wrote songs in Swedish for a third solo album that had never been recorded because he didn’t have a recording contract. That later became Roxette’s debut album, for which Per translated the lyrics into English. There was only one song that wasn’t translated into English, Kom ut till stranden. That is now the closing song on GKRA. Back then it was too long and too difficult for Per to translate.

Fredrik mentions that on the album cover of Scener Per looks quite different to the colorful Per in Roxette. He looks more like a singer songwriter on that picture, it could be Leonard Cohen even. Per says there was a new focus, to go away from that Gyllene Tider look, from the pop star look. But that was no problem, because a big part of him is coming from that music style. He loves Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell. They have inspired him as much as T. Rex or the Ramones. Talking about Leonard Cohen, Mr. G picks Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye to be played in the podcast. He chose it because he learned fingerpicking on his nylon-string guitar thanks to this song. Per also sings the first line of Leonard Cohen’s Sisters of Mercy and tells when they are talking about Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell, these fantastically talented songwriters, they always get their credits as fantastic lyricists, but one shouldn’t forget that they are fantastic composers as well. They wrote fantastic music. Both their poetry and melodies are amazing. Leonard Cohen’s first 3-4-5 albums are full of fab songs. Then came Hallelujah, which is a quite hopeless song in his version, but it’s a fantastic song in many other versions. Bob Dylan wrote so many hits for other bands. Fredrik says when you listen to Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues by Bob Dylan, it’s not the nicest, but when you listen to it covered by Nina Simone, it is. Per adds Manfred Mann’s cover of Just Like a Woman, Don’t Think Twice (It’s Alright) by The Turtles and Mr. Tambourine Man by The Byrds.

Fredrik says singer songwriters often write depressive texts, but Per is not associated with that. However, there is a song, Billy. Fredrik asks Per if he tried to write more social realistic texts back then. Mr. G says he doesn’t think so. He wrote many texts like that for Gyllene Tider’s first album, but Billy came out already before that on a self-financed EP. När alla vännerna gått hem was also on it, written in 1977 when PG was 18 years old. He was also inspired by Patti Smith. Per says a good way to learn how to write songs was to translate the lyrics from English to Swedish. That’s what he did. He remembers translating Cygnet Committee by David Bowie, Helen of Troy by John Cale, Ain’t It Strange by Patti Smith. He also started writing those heavier type of texts and contemplating teenage lyrics. Per has a whole lot of texts in his archives that result in a blushing face when you read them now, but back then they were important. Fredrik asks if Billy was a real person. Per says not directly, but there was a Billy type in the gang. Fredrik tells: „who doesn’t live anymore”. Per says he doesn’t know. He disappeared.

Fredrik talks about Let Your Heart Dance With Me, the first postum Roxette song and the video to it that includes old footage. Per says they did 3 of such videos to 3 songs on Bag of Trix. All of them are home videos and it’s fantastic, but at the same time it’s also sad watching them. All who knew Marie and are close to them were touched by these videos, also the fans. Fredrik says there are a lot of videos from South America in there and he is curious why Roxette became so big there. Per says it’s owing to different things. In Argentina you didn’t have to be English or American, there was no difference for them between Madonna or Roxette in that sense. In Sweden everyone was convinced back then that pop and rock music must come from England or the US. Another thing is that they had a lot of airplays on radio, but when they went there to perform live it was the Gulf War era. All bands and artists (The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Guns N’ Roses, Michael Jackson) cancelled their shows in South America, because there was no money. Roxette were told they could go there, but they wouldn’t earn money on that. Marie and Per, coming from a small town in Sweden thought why to earn money on that when it’s fantastic itself to be playing in South America. The whole band and crew thought the same, so they went there. They were to play 5-6000 seaters, but when they started selling tickets, the venues were changed to football stadiums in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Chile. In Chile it was very turbulent politically and Roxette became some sorts of students’ band, a youth band and they still are, based on the communication coming from Chile.

Fredrik mentions that Wham! was the first band to play in China in 1985, then Roxette played there 10 years later. Fredrik asks if they had to change anything in the lyrics. Per says he had to rewrite the text of Sleeping In My Car in the chorus. You can’t make love in the car. Fredrik asks what it was changed to. Per can’t remember, maybe „make up”, „make out” or something like that. It was Marie who was singing, but she was singing the original text. But on paper it was rewritten and that was kind of approved by the authorities.

Another song Per picked for the podcast is I’m A Believer by The Monkees. It was one of Mr. G’s first singles and it’s incredibly good music. It was written by Neil Diamond who is a fantastic pop composer. The organ in it reminds Fredrik of Gyllene Tider. Per says Göran’s Farfisa organ became their trademark. It’s something they came up with in the studio. There was this pop tradition of Elvis Costello and the Attractions, they used a Vox organ. Göran had his Farfisa and the guys in GT thought it sounded cooler than others, because everyone else in Sweden was using Hammond organ.

Fredrik asks Per about synths, if they wanted Gyllene Tider to sound more like British bands during those times. Per says he liked synths and synth pop, but he thought GT wasn’t ready. He thinks that GT didn’t sound like how he wanted them to sound before Det är över nu. Then it was Michael Ilbert who produced them and GT started to sound like Per imagined they should sound. Fredrik asks if that was the conflict why Anders Herrlin decided to leave the band, because he liked new wave pop and synth very much. Per says there were other things that led to him leaving. Anders wanted to move to Stockholm. He had a girlfriend and they wanted to move on, while the others wanted to stay in Halmstad. Anders also thought that Per stayed with power pop, two guitars and the organ sound and that didn’t lead to anywhere. He wanted to try new ways. Which is good, Per thinks. In the end it was good for all of them. Anders became so good at synth and programming that they could use his talent later in Roxette, for example. He was programming Look Sharp! Fredrik mentions the programming on It Must Have Been Love was done on a Synclavier that must have cost a fortune. Per laughs and tells there was a studio in Stockholm, Audio Sweden that had a Synclavier, so they could use that for IMHBL.

When they recorded the first Roxette album, Per wanted to make a synth-based album, but Clarence Öfwerman, their producer didn’t want it. He thought that they were a damn good band, so they recorded with real musicians, Jonas Isacsson, Tommy Cassemar, Pelle Alsing. And that wasn’t a bad idea. Per was very satisfied and it was also awesome to work with Marie’s voice. But when they were to record their second album, Clarence thought they should go on with the same band, while Per didn’t think so. They actually recorded 3-4 songs with the band, but they didn’t use those. Then came Anders and they got a fresh sound.

Fredrik asks how many unreleased Roxette songs there are still after Bag of Trix. Per says he has much material, but it depends what Fredrik means by unreleased. On Bag of Trix there are a lot of demos. Earlier Per released many of his demos, but not the ones where Marie was singing, but now they are out too. There is for example a sketch of how Listen To Your Heart’s verse was written, 45 seconds of it or so, but there are no ready-made songs. Fredrik tells that on Bag of Trix one can hear how they „talked” before the band started playing and asks how it felt to hear these recordings. Mr. G says it was fun. He remembers some silly jokes or a foolish counting in.

Fredrik is curious how many boxes and deluxe editions Per bought himself. Mr. G says he got hold of Tom Petty’s latest stuff. He has a record player and he buys a lot of second-hand LPs. He buys physical copies for the sake of the album sleeves. Nowadays, when he listens to Kraftwerk for example, he has the album sleeve in his hands, but he listens to it on Spotify in his office. He reads the lyrics and looks at the pictures, like before. The boxes he also buys physically because there is a lot of information inside. In the Tom Petty box there are a lot of comments related to each song, Joni Mitchell released a CD box, Love Has Many Faces that includes a lot of her writing, which she doesn’t do often.

Tom Petty is one of Per’s absolute favourites, so he picked a song from him, Something Big, which is an awesome song from his Hard Promises album. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was the band that Gyllene Tider always wanted to be, but never really managed. Per laughs. He says there was something in Tom Petty and his band that all five of them liked.

Per met Tom Petty in 1989 in Amsterdam where Tom shouted from a balcony: „Hey man, I love your record!” The Look was No. 1 then. Marie and Per were doing a TV interview and when they looked up to see who was shouting it was fantastic to see that it was Tom Petty. Back in time Per met a journalist in Los Angeles who knew Mr. G was a big Tom Petty fan. After Tom Petty passed away, PG got mail from that Los Angeles guy and he told he interviewed Tom Petty in 1992. He went through his papers from that interview and found a signed Tom Petty photo where he wrote: „Dear Per, Hope to see you soon. Good luck with everything! Tom Petty” Now it’s framed in Per’s office.

Fredrik tells he heard another story about Tom Petty that once he appeared at a grill party with a Gyllene Tider record under his arm. Per says it was a Swedish girl who was there at the same party, but he doesn’t know if the story is true. However, he saw a YouTube clip in which Tom was asked which is the strangest cover he heard of a song of his. Tom says it’s a Swedish band he can’t pronounce the name of, their cover of I Need To Know. Vill ha ett svar by Gyllene Tider. Per thinks it’s fun.

Fredrik starts talking about Prince and his song U Got The Look from his album, Sign o’ the Times. He says he heard Prince wanted to sue Roxette because The Look was similar to his song, at least the expression in it. Per says he never heard of that. He knows which song Fredrik talks about, but they are not similar except for „the look” being in the title.

Fredrik also tells he met Johan Kinde some weeks ago and he told an old story. He was dating Marie Fredriksson in the early 90’s and he was hanging out with Roxette on tours. He said it felt a bit like being a giggolo, being able to meet Marie only in the suites. They laugh. So Johan told a story that once they were in London and Orup popped up and they were discussing Minneapolis funk and Prince and James Brown. Per was tired of the discussion and said the only black record he had was Kylie Minogue’s first album. Per laughs and says that was a joke. PG says he likes R&B of the 60’s. He bought Al Green’s music when he was young. Sha-La-La and stuff like that. But it was always silent during such discussions, Per laughs again. Fredrik says it must have been difficult for Orup to decide whether Per was so advanced that he knew Kylie had a black inspiration on her album. PG says he was an early Donald Trump. A manipulator. Haha.

Fredrik asks Per if he ever met Prince. PG says he didn’t, but he was at Paisley Park Studio and he met Prince’s assitant. Marie was there too so it must have been during Roxette times. The assitant showed them Prince’s house and Per remembers it had a removable glass roof, a giant bed, a giant white cage with a giant white bird and a dance hall with mirror on the walls. Fredrik asked if it inspired Per when he had his house built in Halmstad. Mr. G says he tried to skip purple color.

Fredrik mentions that Little Jinder once there was on his podcast and she picked Paint from Roxette, because she liked the sound of it, the lightness of the 80’s in it. That inspired the sound of one of her singles. She was tired of modern productions. Per says the whole Look Sharp! album is produced that way. Sleeping Single, Dance Away, there are almost no instruments on those songs. There are guitar phrases and synth-based grooves and effects, a little ear candy. And everything is based on Marie’s voice. Paint is the song that sounds the best on the album.

Regarding sound image, Per thinks there is a band that never sounded bad. They are The Kinks. The first album he bought was The Kink Kontroversy. The next song Per picked is Till the End of the Day which he always liked a lot. The guitar solo is played by Dave Davies and Per has been trying to play it since he was 6, but never managed.

Fredrik says he read Sven Lindström’s book about Roxette and found it interesting. Regarding the 4 US No.1 hits he says no other Swedish artist could achieve this success, but Roxette was neglected by EMI in the US despite this fact. Per tells they were never on speaking terms with EMI in the US. First they refused Roxette, but when Atlantic Records wanted to sign them, EMI popped up again and since they were at EMI in Sweden, they ended up at EMI in the US as well. When Joyride album was released in 1991, the first single, Joyride became No. 1, the second single, Fading Like A Flower became No. 2. The big song that should have kicked in before their US tour was Spending My Time. It was climbing on the Billboard charts like a rocket, but EMI was sold to SBK in the meantime, a record label formed by Martin Bandier and Charles Koppelman. 120 people got fired at EMI US overnight and the next day the SBK staff took over and since then nothing happened with Roxette in the US. Roxette felt it wouldn’t work in the US, so they focused on all other markets instead. Australia, Europe, South Africa, South America.

Fredrik mentions that in Sven’s book he read that in 2000 there was a gig in Omaha, USA for 20 people. At the same time, US radio still played Roxette songs a lot. So there was a huge difference between live and radio attention. Per tells in 2000 they released a compilation album under Edel Records. Then they did a little unplugged tour in the US. They played e.g. Virgin Megastore in New York. It wasn’t really a concert. They played like 4 songs to support radio stations would play their new single. Wish I Could Fly maybe.

Fredrik asks Per about his best memories of the last Roxette tours. Per says Marie got ill in autumn 2002 and it wasn’t in the plans that she would do a comeback. Per did a solo tour in 2009 with his Party Crasher album and when they played Amsterdam, Marie and her husband Micke came to see him. Per then asked Marie if she would like to come up on stage and they would play an old Roxette song. It was a club with maybe 1000 in the audience. Marie didn’t want to, she said she didn’t perform for so many years, but in the end Per talked her into it and said they could perform Listen To Your Heart or It Must Have Been Love. So Marie decided to come up on stage for the encore and Per presented her. The reactions were totally amazing. He could see all the fans were crying and he still gets goosebumps when he is talking about it. On stage they all got emotional as well. The response Marie got was incomparable. Per thinks it was Listen To Your Heart they played. [It was IMHBL.] Mr. G says Marie was thrilled after this experience of course and some weeks later she called Per if he could write songs for a new Roxette album. Per was of course happy about it and the album later became Charm School. Marie wanted to perform more and they discussed how to go on. The doctors advised her maybe it’s not the best idea to go on tour, but she wanted to. They got an offer for Night of the Proms where they played some songs with the support of a smyphonic orchestra. They were the headliners and they thought it wasn’t a bad idea to go on that tour, to start with that for Marie. It was superb for all of them in the band.

Fredrik tells he knows it was hard for Marie to learn new lyrics. He is curious how it worked in the studio when they were recording. Per says it became worse year by year. When they recorded the last album it was very difficult. She could sing one verse at a time, it was hard for Marie to remember things. But the old lyrics were much easier for her. It happened that she missed a line, but that happens to Per too. The old lyrics for her were like a prayer, but it was totally different with new stuff. Fredrik asks if she could use prompter on stage. Per says she couldn’t, because she lost the sight in one eye, so she wouldn’t be able to read. They tried with big letters and so, but it didn’t help her at all. On the last tour they didn’t play any new songs, only the old ones.

Fredrik says he saw a YouTube clip where Marie came up on stage and then fell over, but stood up like nothing happened, hi fived Per and she went ahead performing. What an incredible fighter she was. Per confirms she was a fighter all the time. It took some time for her to decide to sit during the concerts, because she had problems with her leg. It must have been something with the nerves, because sometimes that feeling or pain suddenly disappeared. But after she decided to sit, it became easier for her. It was of course terribly hard for her and for everyone around her, but she was so grateful that she could come back and meet all her fans, the wonderful Roxette people out there and she wanted to perform. It overshadowed all the difficulties.

Fredrik asks Per when they met for the last time. Mr. G says it was about a month before she passed away. Fredrik asks if they worked on something, but Per says no, they were just talking.

Fredrik tells he knows Per lost many in his surroundings over the past 10 years. His mother, sister and brother. He is curious if Per is a type of person who stays positive all the time and how he gets through the dark times. Mr. G says he is quite a positive person himself, but it’s difficult to absorb it when people close to you disappear. Marie was ill for 17 years and there is only one in twenty who survives this illness for 5 years, but she survived for 17 years. She was a fighter. She wanted to tour, so they toured for more than 5 years. It’s inconceivable if you think about it. It’s against all odds. Per’s mother was 88 and then you know the end would come, but it was different with his brother. He wasn’t old, but he had lung cancer. His sister also had cancer, she was a little older. You think that you are prepared for that, but you can’t really get prepared for that. There are questions all the time how he feels regarding Marie. He feels emptiness. He can’t call her up, they can’t chat, they can’t discuss ideas and thoughts. With Marie they kind of lived together for like 30 years and they experienced so much together that only them 2 experienced. Per can’t talk about this or that with his record company or other musicians, because it was their baby, Marie’s and Per’s baby.

Fredrik tells there are 2 songs on Gammal kärlek rostar aldrig: Mamma and Pappa and he is curious if this wonderful image in the lyrics of Pappa – Han la en sönderriven lapp i min hand / ”Vind och vatten, himmel och eld / Var snäll mot allt, var snäll mot dig själv” – is self-experienced. Per says what he writes in his lyrics did not necessarily happen, but he always tries to make them interesting. Regarding the image Fredrik asks about he says he likes this image, when someone leaves a note and „be kind to yourself” is written on it. He likes it because it’s so easy to blame ourselves all the time for many things in different situations and everyone would feel better if we wouldn’t blame ourselves in some situations. It’s a reflection he thought is very nice. When he wrote it he could identify with it very much, but he never got such a note from his father. Fredrik tells Per’s father died very early, in 1978. He was the fastest plumber in the West. Per tells his father’s father was a plumber as well. Per says he spent the 60’s in Frösakull and Tylösand with his father and grandfather, because that was their work territory. They had a little shed and Per was there often. Fredrik is curious if Per learned how the fix a leak. Per laughs and says no, he is lousy when it comes to such things, but he wishes he would be a handy man.

Per picks another song and tells one of the artists who meant the most to him is John Holm. He made 2 of the best Swedish albums: Sordin and Lagt kort ligger. Per could have chosen any of the songs on those two albums, but he picked Sommaräng, which he thinks is a masterpiece. The album is produced by Anders Burman and there is a lovely sound on it. It’s warm and there is a lovely burning fire. It’s like the early Pugh Rogefeldt albums, there is a wonderful analog feeling in those. Fredrik tells he often thinks of John Holm when he passes Sabbatsberg. John has a song called Ett enskilt rum på Sabbatsberg, the closing track on his first album. Per says that song also affected him very much when he grew up. He loved John Holm’s voice and his expression. Per started singing in Gyllene Tider because no one else wanted to. There were a lot of people commenting on his voice, because he has a special voice and a lot of people compared it to John Holm’s. Per never thought of himself as a great singer. He always thought John Holm’s special voice is magical. Over the years, Per’s voice also became some kind of trademark. He says he got self-confidence from John Holm’s voice when he started singing. Fredrik says John Holm still has a bright voice. It’s not as deep as Leonard Cohen or Ulf Lundell. Per says he himself can sing in different keys. In fast songs he picks the keys that are the most suitable for him, but he has a wide range. He can sing quite low. Not like Leonard Cohen though. Per says he always liked Cohen’s voice because it’s easy to add a female voice to his one or two octaves higher. Mr. G used it also with his voice during the past 20 years with Helena Josefsson, but even in Roxette they used it as well. E.g. in IMHBL it resulted in a very effective sound.

Fredrik tells a British author and well-known feminist, Caitlin Moran has the motto: ”Don’t bore us, get to the chorus.” Fredrik says that is how someone should live, as it is in the title of one of Roxette’s compilation albums. American manager Herbie Herbert told this to Roxette. Per can’t remember in what context Herbie told this to them. He thinks maybe he played a song to them and it had a too long intro. He was the manager of Journey and he was Roxette’s manager in the US for some years. Fredrik says Per has quite a strong pop focus and the chorus is very important there. Mr. G says he is listening to different types of music and he likes different types of music, but when he is writing, his home ground is melodic pop music. It’s about choruses, gimmicks, something that makes you interested.

Per says a good example of effective pop music is Ever Fallen in Love by Buzzcocks. He always loved it. It was released when they started with Gyllene Tider and they played it all the time, together with New Rose by The Damned.

Fredrik asks how important punk was for Per. Mr. G says it was very important. Punk came in several stages. When he was 17 in 1976 it was the Ramones, then there was Horses by Patti Smith, then came British punk, the Sex Pistols. That was what reached them in Sweden if one wasn’t a Television or a Talking Heads nerd. The most important what punk gave Per besides very good pop songs is that it was OK to play even if you weren’t especially good at playing. It suited Mr. G very well, because he wasn’t especially good. Gyllene Tider was a quite good band except for Göran’s and Per’s playing when they started. So the punk gave them some sort of justification. Those were exciting times. The whole decade in the 70’s was filled with so many fluctuations in music styles. There was commercial music and glam rock, disco, black music, progressive music, hard rock, you can think of Kraftwerk or David Bowie or Berlin. Everything happened in the same decade and there came punk, a lovely hybrid of noise and ingenious choruses. Buzzcocks is a good example for that. Fredrik says Gyllene Tider sounded more like Buzzcocks than Sex Pistols. Fredrik thinks GT’s most punkish song is Rembrandt, and he finds it fun that Per used Rembrandt for the most punkish song, while Bruce Springsteen used Rembrandt in his least punkish song, I Ain’t Got You (I got a house full of Rembrandt and priceless art / And all the little girls they want to tear me apart). Per tells he knows he listened a lot to Jonathan Richman and his song Pablo Picasso (by the Modern Lovers) was the inspiration to use Rembrandt. He can’t remember exactly, but it was kind of an insider joke to write something in Swedish about Rembrandt. Fredrik asks Per if he has any Rembrandt in his house. Mr. G says unfortunately, he doesn’t have any. He says he should call Bruce and laughs. But Fredrik tells Per has Warhol in his collection. Mr. G says no large originals, but some Polaroids and graphics.

Fredrik tells one of the first songs he heard from Per was Ska vi älska, så ska vi älska till Buddy Holly. He was 7 years old then and he remembers he thought Per was singing wrong, because he couldn’t get what „till” meant in the text [to make love to Buddy Holly]. Fredrik is now wondering why would someone make love to Buddy Holly, because it’s not really erotic music. Per says he doesn’t know. Sometimes he is wondering why the lyrics became how they are. On the first album there are songs like (Dansar inte lika bra som) Sjömän, Revolver upp about Tony and there was Billy. These are about some kind of persons. Unlike others he knew back then, Per always loved lyrics. He loved David Bowie’s lyrics. Bowie cut up the text with William Burroughs’ technique and rearranged the words to create a new text. Then it became e.g. Watch That Man. Per says he never tested this method himself, but you can test it in a simple way when you just write down things you come up with and then some days later you get back to that list and try to create a story based on those words. It’s a bit like Sjömän and Buddy Holly. Buddy Holly has a different logic than Sjömän though. It’s also a bit like how he tried to write The Look. The first verse is a text to help to remember the rhythm. Per tells „never was a quitter” comes from Nick Lowe’s Born Fighter. Later he read the text and listened to the rhythm and thought the text was not that bad. It doesn’t mean anything, but it’s like I Am The Walrus. So he continued this way of writing for the rest of the lyrics and made it a bit simpler in the choruses. Reading the second verse, Fredrik asks if a person has a T-bone at all. The guys are laughing and Per says he doesn’t know. He says he remembers that in the US he was told no American or English person could have written these lyrics and that’s why it was fun for them. Mr. G tells you don’t always need to be completely logical in the text, it’s pop music for God’s sake.

Per tells you can’t pick songs without picking a song from The Beatles. He chose a song that probably started all his pop romance, his love for pop music. It was the back side of the Yesterday single, Dizzy Miss Lizzy with the world’s best guitar riff and John Lennon in top shape at the mic in 1965. Per says the 60’s sound itself seems to be so far away, more than the 70’s sound. Strong tambourines and many crash cymbals, it’s pretty hard to listen to. Nowadays we are listening to music on computers or mobiles and it’s not really wise. CD quality or vinyl quality is not the same as listening to music on a fucking iPhone. Fredrik says indeed, nowadays you just hold up your smartphone and tell each other to listen to this or that song, it’s very good. Fredrik tells Motown Records, founded by Berry Gordy had a special sound. Their singles sounded effective on radio too. Per says if you are listening to good old mono mixes, they sound much better than old stereo mixes.

Fredrik tells he plays a scary song to Per, from a German industrial music group, Einstürzende Neubauten. Fredrik was listening to them a lot in the 90’s. Their singer is Blixa Bargeld who is most known for being guitarist in Nick Cave’s band. He is exactly the same age as Per, he was born the same day in the same year. Per says it’s fantastic. Fredrik says he always thought they are long-lost twins. Per laughs. Mr. G says he has never heard this music before, but it reminds him of David Bowie. It sounded like a Bowie-riff. He thinks it’s good.

Fredrik asks Per what his plans are after Christmas. Mr. G says he is recording a new English album. He had the idea to make an uptempo pop record he hasn’t done since long. He was a bit away from this way of making music. He wants to make it a bit synth-based. It became a quite lovely trip, but it’s not ready yet. Mr. G says it’s fun to make this album.

Fredrik tells the most successful Swedish pop composers besides Per are Benny and Björn from Abba and Max Martin. All 3 of them made musicals based on their music. He is curious if Per has ever thought about it, a big Roxette or Gessle musical. Per says absolutely and he thinks it will happen. There were some ideas, but most of them were rejected by Per mainly because they didn’t keep the standards in the script or the story. But he thinks it’s a natural way to go and both his solo music, but especially Roxette’s music would work very well in a musical. These are big songs that fit a musical quite well, from Crash! Boom! Bang! to Listen To Your Heart. It’s a long way to make a good musical on a proper level and in the right way.

Fredrik tells Per also mentioned lately that he wouldn’t mind having a Gyllene Tider comeback, which is quite soon after last year’s farewell tour. Per laughs and says everyone was asking if it’s really over and he said yes, they decided it was their last tour last year, but he personally thinks that it’s a pity that GT is over, because he thinks it’s a fantastically good pop band. When they decided to do the last tour, it was Micke Syd’s idea to close this chapter until all 5 of them are in good shape and are healthy. If it didn’t happen, normally they would come back in the next 6 or 7 years and then they are 6-7 years older and who knows if they are still alive then. So it’s better to end it and all of them thought it was a correct and sympathetic idea. But Per also knows when they did their last gig they looked at each other and thought „is it really the end?” Fredrik tells he remembers Per told earlier they decided to do less shows with Roxette, because they were not 50 anymore. Per laughs and says it’s a bit like that, but mainly during this time of pandemic, you miss playing in front of an audience and also playing together with the band you miss a lot. He tried to do different things, e.g. YouTube clips where he is playing live and sings, because it’s fun. When you are a touring artist, you feel like home on tour and you miss it.

Per tells David Bowie was an artist who inspired him very much and was always high up on his list. Bowie’s catalogue is awesome from 1969 to 1983. Until his Let’s Dance album – which Per thinks is underrated and that was the first record Fredrik bought. Per thinks almost no other artist had such a long period of making fantastic music. Per picked Drive-In Saturday, a forgotten song from the Aladdin Sane album. It was a single and Per likes how good Bowie was at the pastiche of the 50’s and 60’s. Absolute Beginners is also a good example of that.

Fredrik is curious if Per has ever met Bowie. Mr. G says he met him in a hurry on his Serious Moonlight tour in Lyon, France and only said hi. Per was there with EMA Telstar (Live Nation Sweden today). He says it was lovely to meet Bowie, but he was super shy. And there were no smartphones those days, so there is no picture of that meeting. Haha. Bowie was quite blonde and it was a fantastic concert.

Fredrik tells he heard it in a podcast that Nitzer Ebb, a British industrial band was asked to join Bowie on his 1987 tour as a support act, but they rejected. Per reacts: „What???” Fredrik says it sounds insane now, but how lead vocalist of Nitzer Ebb, Douglas McCarthy says, people tend to forget how low status Bowie had in the second half of the 80’s. He wasn’t appreciated anywhere. Per says that’s right. Mr. G says he actually stopped at Let’s Dance. Anything he released after that, Per was not interested in. However, Mr. G thinks Bowie made one of his best ever songs, Time Will Crawl well after Let’s Dance. The guys can’t remember whether it was on his Outside or Never Let Me Down or Heathen album. [Actually, Fredrik was right, it was released on Never Let Me Down (1987).] From the modern times, that’s the most played song at Per’s. It’s awesome. The end of the 80’s was a strange time in music anyway, he says. He laughs and says maybe that’s why they managed to break through with Roxette then.

Fredrik tells there is a fun story from the Legends of Rock tour where Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis performed together. They played in Malmö at the end of the 90’s and Little Richard went to the reception at the hotel and asked for the biggest suite, but he was told they have a nice suite, but the biggest was already occupied by Bowie. Little Richard asked the receptionist to show him to the suite and he told Bowie: „David, get the hell out of my room!” And Bowie moved out. Per laughs and says nice to hear it. One must love such stories.

While Nypon och ljung starts playing, Per says it was a fun conversation and wishes merry Christmas and a fantastic 2021 to all who listened. Fredrik wishes merry Christmas to Per and thanks him for all the music and he hopes Mr. G will also have a brilliant 2021 without pandemic and many concerts.

Picture from Hemma hos Strage

Per Gessle interview on Radio ZET, Poland

Magdalena Barczyk did an interview with Per Gessle for Radio ZET in Poland.

Magdalena’s first question is about Bag of Trix. Per tells her he started digging in the archives in spring and found a lot of materials, e.g. the Abbey Road sessions from 1995, as well as their first demos that served as the basis for their debut album in the 80’s, or leftovers from their Good Karma album. This compilation is kind of a mishmash of everything. He didn’t expect to find that much, so it was a bit overwhelming.

Magdalena is curious if there is still something unreleased left in the drawers. Per laughs and tells there is more. After completing this compilation, he came across even more recordings. It seems to be some kind of infinity. It’s been a really long career. He also found a lot of live tapes from the Joyride and Crash! Boom! Bang! tours. Maybe one day he will release them, we’ll see. He says they sound pretty good.

Magdalena tells Marie passed away a year ago and asks Per how this year was for Mr. G without Marie. Per tells it’s been a crazy year because of the pandemic. He thinks it’s been a special year for everyone in a way. Marie was ill for 17 years and everyone was slowly preparing for the worst, because she wasn’t in good shape. But when the time came, he felt like he couldn’t really prepare for it. He thinks everyone who lost a family member or a close friend understands it. He tries to think positively about what they went through together, their relationship lasted a very long time. She has always been and will always be one of Per’s closest friend. They met when they were teenagers and the adventure they experienced as Roxette is still amazing and difficult for some to understand. He feels lucky that he had a friend like that and a partner like that in his music.

Magdalena asks Per how he sees contemporary music and if anything surprises or annoys him in it. Mr. G tells he noticed that as you get older, you realize how much you are stuck with the music you grew up with. He started listening to pop and rock when he was 6 or 7 years old. So he can say that pop of the 60’s and 70’s is his DNA. Therefore, in his work he has always tried to come back to it. He just likes that style and he likes the way the songs were written. Looking back, pop is a reflection of the era in which it’s been made. In the 60’s it referred to societies, now we live in the times of social media, computers and laptops. You can hear it in music, it’s done on computers, it’s done differently. If you turn on 40 of the most popular radios, you will notice that all the songs are in a similar style. It’s hard to tell these songs apart. He doesn’t say pop music today is better or worse, it’s just different. It’s reflecting its own time.

Magdalena tells now there is a noticeable trend of musical return to the 80’s and is curious how Per likes it. Mr. G tells it puts a smile on his face. Those were his times and he immediately recognize the synthesizer or even the drum sounds. He can hear the sound that young people try to imitate and the way they arrange their songs. It’s cool, he likes it and thinks that The Weeknd captured it sensationally in the song Blinding Lights. He thinks it’s a nice trend.

Magdalena is curious which contemporary artist Per finds interesting and if he likes specific songs. Per says it’s a good question. He likes a lot of artists, but if he is listening to e.g. Billie Eilish for too long, it’s too much for him. The same applies to The Weeknd, even if they make very good pop. Per has always been a fan of creating concept albums where he would write 12, 14 or 16 songs. However, these days people only listen to one song. Album format is dead.

Magdalena mentions that Per is not only a musician, but also a businessman. Mr. G says he doesn’t consider himself a businessman. He has a hotel, which he bought 25 years ago. It’s in his hometown on the Swedish West coast. But he is not managing it, his wife is doing that. Per drives there and checks out everything from time to time. Sometimes he signs autographs and takes selfies there. Haha.

Magdalena asks Per how this strange year was for him personally. Mr. G says it’s been a crazy year. None of us have experienced anything like this before and he doesn’t even know what to say about it. He spent his time in isolation with his family in their house on the coast, although now he is back in Stockholm. He misses travelling the most, because he has always lived out of suitcase. He would like to meet his friends from all over the world in real life, not only via Zoom, Skype or FaceTime. He just misses the socialization that doesn’t exist today. Besides that, they can’t tour. Many of his fellow musicians and technicians barely make ends meet because they have no jobs. It’s a tough year for this business. He hopes next year will be better.

Magdalena tells the word „Poland” and asks for associations. Per says there has always been great concerts there. He always tells that he has travelled the whole world and saw nothing. This is how it is on the road. You come to a country or a particular city, you go to a hotel, then you have to do a soundcheck, you play a concert and you leave. But he knows that every concert in Poland is a great pleasure. They have a lot of fans there who are still supporting them and he appreciates it. If it weren’t for them, he probably wouldn’t be here talking today. It’s the fans who make the band big.

Magdalena asks what Per wishes for himself and Radio ZET listeners for the upcoming holidays. Per thinks the previous months were a nightmare for all of us. It’s depressing for everyone working in hospitals, for children not going to schools and for teachers working in difficult conditions. That’s why he thinks that during this holiday, the most important thing for everyone is that we return to a somewhat normal lifestyle.

Magdalena thanks Per for the interview and Mr. G thanks for it too.

The radio also recorded Per telling their slogan: ”Hi! This is Per Gessle from Roxette. You are listening to Radio ZET – Si?a muzyki.” (= The power of music). With Per Gessle’s Polish accent. Lovely, haha.

Thanks for the technical support, Tomasz Wysocki!