Hundåren – podcast interview with Per Gessle by Tomas Andersson Wij

Tomas Andersson Wij had Per Gessle as a premiere guest in his new podcast, Hundåren. Hundåren means years of hard work and difficult conditions. So the guys were talking about the tough periods in Per’s career. It’s not the first time Tomas did an interview with Mr. G. You could already read a great one in Per’s book, Texter, klotter & funderingar.

During this podcast recording, the guys are sitting in Per’s office in Stockholm. He bought it in the 90’s and for a while it was a complete recording studio. Per shows to Tomas where the mixing board was and tells there they recorded e.g. Belinda Carlisle’s Always Breaking My Heart. Then he realized he was too bad at technical stuff, so he was anyway in the hands of technicians and this way he didn’t need that mixing board. Now he plays the piano and his guitars there. Tomas says there is art on the walls: Andy Warhol, Mick Jagger, Joni Mitchell, Anton Corbijn. He adds Per’s wife sits in a room opposite Mr. G’s. Per tells Åsa is into design, she creates lamps and deals with pots and welds and sketches. They are not there at the same time too often. They live in the same building on Strandvägen, one floor under the office. They have a great view on Djurgården.

Tomas starts asking Per about 1983. By then they had 3 successful years with Gyllene Tider. They sold 170.000 copies of their debut album, 370.000 of Moderna Tider and 185.000 of Puls. There was a GT fever in Sweden during those years. Per says everything went so fast and it was a very intense period. They had long tours and they managed to surpass the sales of their debut album with Moderna Tider. När vi två blir en was released as a single in autumn 1980 and the album came out in spring 1981. Before recording the third album, they decided they should do something different. In autumn 1981 Anders Herrlin and Per left the country, they ended up in Westwood, Woodstock, USA. There they lived even at John Sebastian from The Lovin’ Spoonful for a couple of days. They came back and recorded the third album. It was a bit more grown-up, more mature with all the ballads on it. They went on the Sommartider tour in 1982 and it was a big success, but then the band members had to join the military service. Tomas tells he read Elvis Presley’s story that he also had to join the military service at the peak of his career. Per tells green didn’t suit him, so he escaped. Tomas asks how, but Per doesn’t want to share details. All he can tell is that there were 3 guys who didn’t want to do the military service, but all others in the band wanted to. So the 3 guys, including Per found a way to escape, which wasn’t too difficult at the time. Tomas asks if they simulated mental illness. Per says sort of.

Then Per started making his first solo album that came out in 1983. Per says it was a natural progress and it was cheered by Kjell Andersson at EMI, who signed Gyllene Tider earlier. He thought Per has a kind of singer songwriter quality that didn’t really come out on GT’s albums. Except in Honung och guld or in Flickan i en Cole Porter-sång maybe. It felt good for Per to write more lyric-based music. He always liked pop with a little country touch. He also wanted to get rid of his teenage voice, so he sang all tones and his voice became darker. Tomas asks Mr. G if he had a complex with his voice. Per says it wasn’t really a complex, but he thought his voice was very much associated with Gyllene Tider and was limited and that often blocked the songs as well. That was one thing why he wanted to start Roxette. He didn’t want to sing at all.

Tomas asks if Mr. G had the feeling that he wanted to get rid of the teenage idol Per. Per says he doesn’t know, he just needed to express himself differently. He loved playing pop songs with GT, but recording his solo album was different. He doesn’t say it was better, it was just different. Mr. G says people liked them, but they didn’t have good or strong reputation in the music business. In Stockholm they felt like outsiders, hillbillies. It was a bit like that with Roxette too in Sweden. Per sees it during all his life that it doesn’t matter how much success you achieve, you don’t really get the reputation in the music industry. But that’s not the case with the people you are working together with.

In 1983 the guys in GT didn’t know which way to go in music. They decided for making an English album, The Heartland Café. They tried to break through with it abroad. That was released in the US under the name Roxette in 1984. Teaser Japanese was the first single and they had an expensive video shot to it. The guys felt they couldn’t top what they had achieved in Sweden and they felt they should do something different. At the same time, digitalization and synth pop became popular, but the guys were still in the Tom Petty and the Heartbrakers mood. They started listening to a lot of synth pop music, mainly through Anders Herrlin, but it was difficult to merge with their music. One can hear there is a little synth trial on The Heartland Café and Per’s next solo album. None of them really had the capacity for synth music. They all came from another generation and they felt their sound was a bit too off, but at the same time, that was the GT sound. The Heartland Café was produced by Lasse Lindbom, who also produced the first three GT albums and he wasn’t too interested in the synth world. When you want to change something, you certainly have to change the producer, here to someone who is familiar with synth music, so it was a strange decision to keep Lasse as the producer.

Tomas says earlier GT had an ocean of people in the audience, then only 800-900 people in the crowd. How did that feel to be a frontman and see that? Per says he can’t really remember, but those were tough times. They were very young and when you’re young, it’s hard to feel if things go downhill. You are confused and desperate even if it’s still working. You are thinking about what to do and how to do it to be back on the right track again. That was their first tour that wasn’t sold out. They had Janne Bark with them as an extra guitarist and Marie Fredriksson and Ulrika Uhlin as backing vocalists. Back then Per thought it was a good decision to strengthen the band with Janne and the girls, later he thought it was totally stupid, because Gyllene Tider is them 5 and this way it became something totally different. They were probably inspired by Robbie Robertson joining Tom Petty. Tomas adds they wanted to play their English songs, but the crowd wanted to hear their Swedish hits. Per says back then they were quite convinced what they did was good. Those were tough times. Also, when you expand the band that’s a proof of not being sure about your thing.

Tomas says the guys were also convinced they should break through in the US. What happened that they didn’t manage? Per says they were thrilled to sell albums abroad and they were happy that EMI invested so much money in the Teaser Japanese video. They had a meeting at the hotel in Halmstad to discuss their plans about how to go on. Then during that dinner Anders said he didn’t want to continue with the band. The guys were shocked. Tomas asks what arguments Anders had. Per says he wanted to move to Stockholm, he got a job at a music store. He wanted to start a new life. So, he moved to Stockholm, worked at a music store and became a synth nerd. Some years later he was programming Roxette’s albums.

Tomas asks if there was tension, if Anders thought Per was the driving force and he should just do his own stuff. Per says everyone thought so. Per says he had a love and hate relationship with the band. He loves Gyllene Tider and he loves the guys and even now when they became older, it’s fantastic to play together or just talk. But when you are twenty something, there is always a lot of fight. Who should be standing in the front, one thinks this, the other thinks that. The one who shouts louder wins. It was Per who was singing and he wrote most of the music and all the lyrics and he was the most interested in the music business. Anders and Mats were more interested in technical stuff. Anders, Micke Syd and MP had a totally different quality in making music vs. Per and Göran. Göran was a quite OK keyboard guy, but Anders, Micke and Mats were fantastically talented musicians. That was a weird recipe that worked out incredibly fine.

Tomas asks if Per remembers how he wrote the to-do list before that meeting with the band. Mr. G says he remembers it well. It was even published in one of the GT books. There were things like ”we should do a Swedish album”, ”we should find a producer”. They talked about Tomas Ledin as producer, as well as Anders Glenmark. They still had the support from their record label. He thought to write more songs and make demos, but it didn’t happen. The last thing they recorded, Galning ended up on Per’s next solo album. That would have been a GT song on a new GT album.

When Per looks back on his career, he of course thinks about Gyllene Tider, but he thinks about Roxette above all and all the decisions they made. They brought Marie on tour and she was singing on Vandrar i ett sommarregn on TV and she was there on Per’s first solo album. It all led to Roxette. That’s the big picture.

Tomas gets back to 1984. Per still lived in Halmstad and Tomas is interested in how people looked at Per in Halmstad when GT started to fade. Per felt quite isolated there. When GT broke through in 1980 / 1981, there were so many bands in Halmstad. More than 100. Per didn’t have contact with anyone except Marie. Once there was a voting in Hallandsposten about the most popular band in Halmstad and another band won it, even if GT was the biggest. So he didn’t really feel the appreciation back then. At the age of 24-25 it’s a hard feeling to deal with. Tomas asks how it affected Per. He says it pulled him away even more from socializing. He didn’t go to the disco or to clubs, he rather met people at home.

Anne-Lie Rydé played Per’s song, Segla på ett moln in Halmstad in 1984. And when she said it was written by Per Gessle, there was booing in the crowd. Tomas asks whether it was because no one is a prophet in their own land or there was aggression because of the huge success Per had, coming from such a little town in Sweden. Per doesn’t know what they got really angry about. He says there are cute myths that people got so angry they ”closed” the ways with speed bumps in the surroundings where Per lived to make it more difficult for him to get home by car. He laughs. Per says all his life he spent a lot of time alone. When he was a kid, he didn’t have friends at school and he lived in his own bubble until the age of 16-17 when he met his friend, Peter. Peter played in a band where MP was the drummer. Then MP and Per became best friends. They started Gyllene Tider. Then everything went so fast. They had only 6 concerts when they became No. 1 with Flickorna på TV2. So between being an isolated zero and becoming Sweden’s biggest pop star it was appr. 5 years. Regarding the booing, Per says he didn’t feel it being destructive. He always felt he is good at what he is doing and that doesn’t mean he needed commercial success for that.

Tomas asks whether Per had a basic self-esteem or he doubted himself during the years after Gyllene Tider. Mr. G says he rather doubted what he should do. After his solo album in 1985 didn’t sell good (maybe 20.000 copies) he didn’t hear of his record label for almost a year. He wrote songs for a new album, but he didn’t have a record label behind him. Then he started writing songs for other artists. He got into contact with Torgny Söderberg and they wrote together Kärleken är evig, Lena Philipsson’s Melodifestivalen song in 1986. Then Per started writing songs for Lena and other bands from The Pinks to Shakin’ Fredrik. Tomas adds Per got orders from Bert Karlsson and his gang too. Per mentions Lili & Sussie, too. He says he felt that it’s not what he is good at, he is not a good team player in this sense. He can’t write a song that will come out differently vs. how he thinks it would be good. So he felt very uncomfortable in that situation. Per remembers he was sitting for hours over a verse for some Lena Philipsson song and one verse was worse than the other. He knew that it wasn’t what he wanted to do.

Tomas starts talking about Per’s first solo album. He says in GT lyrics there were a lot of references to people (e.g. Paul McCartney, Buddy Holly) and the lyrics were playful, while on his first solo album he went black and white on the cover and he looks serious there, he sings about autumn and deserted beach. Per felt he wanted to change the style, but he wasn’t sure he could do that. He felt it wasn’t really his ”language”, even if now when he looks back, he thinks Tända en sticka till has a very nice lyric. Back then it wasn’t really his thing. He wasn’t ready for being a singer songwriter. Tomas adds Per was also very young at the time. Per agrees and says he thought there were more adult people who should write and perform such songs. It felt strange to release such songs under the same record label as Ulf Lundell and have the same producer as him, with the same band he recorded with. Per wasn’t really comfortable with that. It was never a plan to continue doing that. The second solo album had that singer songwriter element, but that was more pop style. Then the third solo album was never recorded. It became Roxette’s first album after Per tarnslated the lyrics to English. He always felt he was better at making pop music, so his style, his spontaneous ”language” wasn’t really his first solo album. Tomas tells Per’s debut album sold 60.000 copies which is a fantastic number even today, but once he sold almost 400.000 copies from an album with GT a year before, it must have felt a steep fall for him. Mr. G says it was another type of music and another type of audience. He was very proud that it became a gold album, but he still didn’t feel really comfortable with the record itself. It was too early for him. It was more Kjell Andersson’s album who Per thinks felt very comfortable with the Lundell union. Tomas adds the album sounds very Lundell-ish. Per agrees and he says he liked that era of Lundell. It was magically good, he had his very own style back then. Tomas asks Per if he knows Lundell was sick of GT’s success. Per laughs and says he knows, but who wasn’t sick of that. He adds when he released his first solo album, it came out the same week as David Bowie’s Let’s Dance under the same record label and he felt totally excluded, because everyone was working on David Bowie. But that was David Bowie. Tomas tells Ulf Lundell released a compilation album with the title Innan jag anfölls av indianerna (Before I was attacked by the Indians). Per smiles and says rumor has it the Indians were Gyllene Tider. It was never confirmed, but that’s what they say.

Tomas tells Per wasn’t in a very good economic situation at the time. He earned appr. 1.000 crowns per week. Tomas is curious how it affected Per. Per laughs and says when you don’t do anything that doesn’t cost a thing. He lived cheaply and was driving a Golf. Tomas says one would think that all the hits they did with GT generated so much money they could live on. Per says they lived good on that for a while, but back then you didn’t earn too much money on concerts. It wasn’t about the bad contracts only, but the fact that there wasn’t too much money in that business. One toured to promote their album and you earned money on selling your album and from the copyright after radio plays. Tomas asks Per how he wanted to propose to his wife and if he was forced to ask for more money, for example to buy rings. Per laughs and says despite it all, it was a lovely period. Now looking back, it’s great to see how all the endings led to something good with all the coincidences and luck or a meeting with someone at the right time during Per’s career.

Tomas asks what the key happenings were at the time. In 1985 Per had a call from Benny Hedlund who established Alpha Records together with Sanji Tandan. Per met Benny at Café Opera and Benny told him they signed Pernilla Wahlgren, but that was a secret and he shouldn’t tell anyone. Pernilla just broke through and Benny asked Per to write her a song. Per came up with Svarta glas, a dance song inspired by Michael Jackson. Mr. G thought it became cool and he sent it to Benny, but he never got back to Per. The demo however reached the boss, Roffe Nygren at EMI. He liked it a lot and told Per he should translate it into English and record it with Marie, so they have the song they always talked about with Marie to do something together.

Tomas says Per and Marie had been friends since a long time, but Marie had her own successful solo career at the time. She was working together with Lasse Lindbom who produced the old GT albums. Tomas says Lasse didn’t think Marie should do anything together with Per. They guys laugh. It was a big thing that Marie wanted to sing with Mr. G. Tomas asks if Per looked at Marie as a star back then. Per says he thought Marie had all the qualities he didn’t have. She sang well, she wasn’t as good on stage as she became later, but she had all the qualities Per liked and so he was super happy that she wanted to sing on Neverending Love that was released in summer 1986. Lasse Lindbom and Kjell Andersson didn’t want to risk Marie’s solo career, so that’s why Marie and Per didn’t appear on the single cover, in case it would be a flop. But it became a huge hit, so they decided to record a whole album. Per translated the songs he wrote for his third solo album into English. The only song he wrote especially for Roxette’s debut album was Secrets That She Keeps and there was a song written by Marie, Voices. Roxette was a hobby project for quite a long time. Even then when they went on the Badrock tour with Björn Skifs in 1987.

Tomas asks Per if he did any solo gigs to promote his solo albums. Mr. G says he didn’t. However, he, Marie, Mats MP Persson and Lasse Lindbom had an acoustic hobby band that played in small clubs on the West coast. They played everything from Love The One You’re With through Marie’s Ännu doftar kärlek to Per’s Tända en sticka till and maybe some GT songs. Tomas asks why Per didn’t do any solo concerts. Mr. G says he probably thoght it wouldn’t be too big and he couldn’t have sold many tickets. Tomas says Per was not the kind of person who wanted to play at all costs. He wanted to reach some level. Per says nowadays it’s cool to play at all levels, but back in the days he thought each step he should take higher and higher. And it was hard to top Gyllene Tider, of course. Per didn’t want to play KB in Malmö, he wanted to play Scandinavium. When he was looking for his identity, he asked himself whether he was an artist or a songwriter. After Roxette happened, he realized there is a much better singer and a fantastic front figure and he can just support her, while he can still sing or come to the front as well. That was a much more comfortable role for his artistry those times. So it’s about finding yourself, who you are.

Tomas asks Per about how self-confident he was at the beginning of the 80’s. Per thinks he had quite weak self-confidence then. Gyllene Tider helped him in a way, but he was so young and he was looking for his identity. One thinks that someone’s personality comes through the lyrics at that young age. He always says that his lyrics are mostly fiction. It can start with a personal thing, but lead to something totally different in verse 2. Tomas asks whom Per talked to when he lost his self-confidence. Before Per met his wife, it was Janne Beime, his business man who has always been a great support to Mr. G. He always told Per he would succeed with this or that. And he was right. He became kind of a father substitute for Per. Mr. G’s father died in 1978 and Janne came into Per’s life in 1980. He is 15 years older than Per or so and helped him a lot. Not on the creative side, but e.g. when he bought Hotel Tylösand or in other businesses.

Tomas says Per’s father never saw Per’s success and that they broke through with GT. He asks Mr. G how it felt. Per tells he had a strange relationship with his father. There was a radio program in the 70’s, Bandet går. You could send in your own songs and they played them. If your songs were really good, you could get a half-an-hour program for your own, Bandet går vidare. They had this chance with Gyllene Tider, but before that, they were played maybe 3-4 times on Bandet går. One of the songs the radio played was En av dem där which was a kind of punk song. Per’s father heard it and he told Per he didn’t sing really well. That was him. But Per says his mother was very supportive. She bought Per’s first guitar in 1975 or 1976. It was a Bjärton that cost maybe 1.500-2.000 crowns. That was a lot of money for someone who couldn’t play the guitar. It sounded fantastic and was easy to tune. Its string height was good too, so he could avoid having bleeding fingertips. That was the time when Per started writing songs. He wrote e.g. När alla vännerna gått hem and Billy on that guitar. After high school, Per and his friend, Peter became troubadours employed by the city council. They got a contract for 3 months twice, so for 6 months they were playing at nursing homes for old people. It was scary, but great at the same time. Peter playd guitar and flute and Per played guitar and sang. There are a lot of stories. They got a schedule when to go where. One of the places was the long-term care at the hospital in Halmstad. They had never been there and when they got in, there was no one there. So they just entered a hall where there were two patients on the two sides so they put two chairs in the middle, sat down and started playing. Suddenly a nurse came in and wondered what they were doing there. Just then, one of the two guys woke up, it was a young guy who had an accident and had been in coma. So they woke him up with their song. Maybe they played something he recognized. Then many doctors came in and stood around the guy’s bed and the staff asked Per and Peter to get out. Then it turned out they shouldn’t have played there, there was something wrong in the schedule. So that was also a coincidence that they woke someone up from coma.

Another story is when at a lunch there were 6 old ladies and gentlemen sitting around the table, eating their soup. Per had a capo for the guitar. 96-year-old Eskil was sitting there and had it in his mouth. He had dipped it in the soup, because he probably thought it was cracking bread or something. Those were fun times. There is a photo that was published in Hallandsposten where Peter and Per are playing at a nursing home. On Per’s bachelor party, before he got married in 1993, they forced Per to go back to a nursing home to play Drömmen om Elin for the patients. That was much fun.

Per says the hardest thing is to play in front of only a few people. It’s easier to play at Ullevi or Scandinavium or Globen, because there you can ”hide” behind the huge production, there are a lot of tricks and techniques and lights, but you are sitting ”naked” in front of 5 people, so that was a good practice.

All pics in the article are from Tomas Andersson Wij’s Instagram. Listen to Hundåren HERE!

Per Gessle interview on Sverige! on SVT

An interview with Per Gessle is to be broadcast on SVT tomorrow at 19:00, but it’s already available online on SVT Play. Program leader of Sverige!, Fredrik Önnevall talked to Per last week in Malmö. The program starts with a few seconds teaser, then the real deal is 7:22 into. Watch HERE!

Fredrik introduces Per’s career summary, showing footage from the past and tells Mr. G is releasing a new album where he looks back on his 44 years of songwriting career. Then the interview starts.

Fredrik asks Per how come he spent his summer with looking back on his music archives. Per says these days you spend a lot of time at home, there is no travelling. Somewhere around Easter he started to get eager to play, so he thought he records something acoustic and tries to play as many instruments as possible himself. Then he thought, shit, he doesn’t have any songs, but then he realized there are a lot of songs from back in time. So he went through his archives, songs he wrote since the early 80’s. He found many songs he still likes and were clumsily recorded or songs he wrote for others, e.g. Segla på ett moln for Anne-Lie Rydé or I din hand for Svante Thuresson. Those he never recorded and so he tested a lot of them. It became some quite nice months in the studio.

Fredrik asks if the songs were available on old reels. Per says they were mainly on cassettes. Mr. G realized that he has been writing songs since 44 years and that’s a long time. Fredrik says Per recorded a lot of songs in the beginning of the 80’s, when he was 20+ years old. Now he is 60+ and Fredrik is interested in how it is to sing those songs now, if Per still approves of the lyrics. Per says he rewrote some of them, because the expressions were a bit clumsy and it’s also important that the texts must be relevant still. Certain old songs have the feeling that feels good, so it was just about to make them maybe a bit more simple. The album is acoustic based, so he tried to make it as minimalist as possible.

Fredrik says it’s not only music from the past, but there are newly written songs. In May Per wrote Mamma and Pappa. Per’s father died when he was 19, in 1978. The day he died, Gyllene Tider broke through. That was the day when the first article about GT was written in Expressen by Mats Olsson. It was a strange feeling. The end of something and the beginning of something else.

Fredrik says many in Per’s surroundings, in his family passed away during the past years: his mother, his brother, his sister. Per says those were hard times and you’ll probably never understand that. It’s always difficult when something ends. It was the same with Marie when she passed away in December last year. She was sick for such a long time and you would think you kind of prepared for that, but when it happens, it’s still very hard to deal with it. Fredrik asks in what way Per reacted differently than he thought. Per says it’s mainly the feeling that Maire is not there anymore. You can’t call her or meet her. It’s an emptiness that changes you. Maybe not overnight, but it becomes a different life.

Fredrik asks what Per misses the most about Marie. He misses their relationship, their friendship and all they went through. They did a fantastic journey together. He misses to talk about that with her and to plan new things with her. So he misses her as a good friend. He knew Marie since 1978-79 when they shared rehearsal studio, Marie with her own band, Per with Gyllene Tider. So it’s a very long friendship that suddenly ended. It’s tough.

Fredrik asks what Per thinks was about the chemistry between them why it worked so well. Per says it’s many things. They both came from small towns and they were pretty much similar. Both of them were ambitious and had the same type of humor. At the same time, they were quite different. They were good at different things. And that made 1+1 = 3. Marie sang much better than Per, Per was more interested in music industry and how it worked. Marie could make the songs immensely much better than they actually were, because she made them her own. It Must Have Been Love, Listen To Your Heart or Queen Of Rain for example. She made them her own, you believed her and it’s a great quality to have as an artist.

Fredrik mentions Roxette also releases new music and is curious about how it is possible. Per says they release a collection, Bag Of Trix which consists of unreleased songs, bonus tracks that were released on e.g. a CD single in Japan or a strange mix from the US. For example, Joyride became No. 1 in the US, but the radios play a different version in the US than what was released in Sweden and that US version was never released in Sweden.

Fredrik says there is a new video to one of the new songs. Per says his wife recorded most of what can bee seen in the video. Those days you had a real camera with you, nowadays it’s much easier. It’s much fun to see those recordings. They were travelling around the world for appr. 8 years. That was the golden era in Roxette’s history between 1988 and 1995. Fredrik asks how far it feels for Per now. Mr. G says it feels like it was a long time ago, but at the same time, it doesn’t feel like another person. He is still in that and is still touring all the time. He is reminded of Roxette all the time, many fans are still there. Fredrik asks if Per remembers all the happenings in the video. Mr. G says no, but he remembers when they had that giant fence and gave autographs through it. It was crazy. They had police escort and they had to run all the time. They were there around the whole world, but they didn’t see anything, because they were at the concert, then locked in the hotel room, then at the airport and off to another country. Fredrik asks if there is anything Per misses from those days. Per says he misses it all, it was a fantastic journey. He wouldn’t want to undo that. He would love to do that again, but in a different way.

Fredrik says Per always had the same people around him during his career and asks why is that. Mr. G says he likes long relationships. He says he’s been married since two thousand years, it feels like that now. Haha. He still works with Clarence Öfwerman, Roxette’s first producer, Marie since the 70’s, Gyllene Tider is also an old band.

Per’s home is still in Halmstad. He says you breathe in a different way in Halmstad. He is a small town guy. Fredrik asks how it is when Per Gessle goes out in Halmstad. Per says that’s fine, but of course he is more alert in Halmstad than in any other place. Sometimes it’s like a small event when he fuels his car or shops at ICA or goes to the pharmacy. People are very nice, there is never anything negative. Mr. G says people praise you the whole time and that gives an ego boost. Sometimes he just sits in the car and drives around Halmstad and look how things have changed. He drives around his old area where he grew up near Folkparken, his old schools, Örjans vall. It’s probably a sign of getting old, but he also often collects ideas for his texts. He wants to go back to that, write about it and color it for himself.

Fredrik asks what the word ”safety” means to Per. Mr. G says he needs substance all the time. He doesn’t like to jump around, he is a little ”late blooomer” in everything. He digs deep into things and that’s how he becomes good at them. He can do a very few things, but what he can do, he is pretty good at. It’s typically him.

Fredrik asks how many songs are lying around on old demo tapes. Per says there is a lot of unreleased stuff, but there is also crap stuff. The other day he found an old folder of texts and text ideas from the late 70’s. It’s from the time when GT’s first album was written. It was depressingly lousy. Haha.

Fredrik thanks for the interview.

 

 

Stills are from the program.

Marie Fredriksson and Per Gessle in the John Holm documentary

When I saw there is a documentary about John Holm, I wanted to watch it right away. Det finns så många vägar – en film om John Holm was recorded between 1980 and 2017. I was interested in it to get to know more about the artist who was a great inspiration to both Marie and Per.

I expected Mr. G to appear in the docu, but never thought Marie would be there talking too. Oh my God! 1:24 into the program and the first artist who is talking about John Holm is Marie Fredriksson. My heart skipped a beat. So amazing to see her! She tells John meant so much to her and to so many people in Sweden. Marie says he was kind of divine. Right after Ms. Effe, Per tells John wrote terribly good songs and he thinks there is no one else in Sweden who wrote so many good songs for one album as John for Sordin.

At 16:20 Per tells in a 1999 SVT archive report that John’s first 2 albums are the best 2 Swedish albums of all time. They meant a lot to Per. Those and Lundell’s early albums made him start writing songs.

At 44:38 you can hear Marie singing backing vocals for John on Verklighetens afton (1988). She says John Holm was an icon for her and she always loved his lyrics. Then meeting him in real life and singing with him was enormously awesome.

At 1:04:42 you can see Per attending his first ever John Holm gig in 2016. And we all know the story didn’t end there. Per and John recorded a duet, Det är vi tillsammans in 2017 for Per’s En vacker dag album.

In the documentary there are other artists, old friends, John’s son, journalists and producers, as well as John Holm himself talking. It’s a docu that is worth watching not only for his fans. A piece of music history about one of Sweden’s biggest artists, his ups and downs, his life, his music.

At the end there is written: In memory of Marie Fredriksson and Arne Arvidsson. So nice, yet so heartbreaking.

 

Stills are from the documentary. Unfortunately, it can only be watched in Sweden.

Grunden Media Podcast interview with Per Gessle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13-year-old Gry Forssell interviews Marie Fredriksson in 1987

Gry Forssell was the speaker on Swedish Radio’s Sommar & Vinter i P1 program today. Gry is one of Sweden’s most popular program leaders. Among many other things, she talked about her great experience related to Marie Fredriksson. LISTEN to the program from 34:28 to 36:40 to hear it.

Marie was on a Club tour when her Efter stormen album came out in 1987 and she also visited Luleå where Gry grew up. There was a program called Himalaya on Swedish Radio. Gry’s mom worked there and her friend was the producer. Gry was there in the radio a lot of times with her mom. She was 13 when one day the producer asked if she wanted to interview Marie Fredriksson. Of course she wanted!

After Gry welcomed Marie to Luleå and she thanked for it and said it was nice to be there, Gry asked her how old she was when she decided to be a singer, an artist. Marie replied:

I was 6 years old. I already knew it at 6 or 7 that I wanted to be a singer or an actress. And I’ve been fighting for that since then actually.

Gry also asked how one can become a famous singer and whether it has to do anything with luck or you also have to be good. Marie told:

Of course you have to be able to sing, but you also have to have self confidence. The best you can do is that you sing as much as possible. Sing in front of your friends. When I was a child, I was singing a lot in front of the mirror. I was miming and acted as if I was on a popular TV program or in a big movie. I was fantasizing a lot about that.

Gry smiles and says Marie replied so patiently to her silly questions. Lovely!

Still is from Jacobs stege 1987.