Per Gessle – „A Bigger Bag Of Trix?” – RoxBlog interview

When there are 60(!!!) songs released by your favourite artist and band almost at the same time, questions are just popping up on your mind, one after another. The list is neverending. So I thought I shoot those Qs at the one who obviously has the answers to them. You could see it’s a very busy period for Mr. G, rushing from TV to radio then back to the studio, but fortunately, he found the time to get back to me with his thoughts on both Gammal kärlek rostar aldrig and Bag of Trix – Music from the Roxette Vaults. Much appreciated!

Patrícia Peres: – Hej Per! You definitely saved 2020 with your current releases. Both your solo album, „Gammal kärlek rostar aldrig” and „Bag of Trix – Music from the Roxette Vaults” are based on digging deep in the vaults. How should we imagine when you start a project like this? Do you know exactly what you’re looking for or you’re just checking all your drawers and hope to bump into something interesting?

Per Gessle: – Hey Patricia! Like most things I do…. they just happen. I wasn’t out to make a four volume Roxette-box, I spent an afternoon looking through drawers + boxes and just found more and more Rox-stuff that somehow got „lost” over the years for different reasons. Lots of songs „disappeared” when CD’s became streaming. It’s nice to make them available for Planet Earth again.
When I released my own demo-box in 2014 I didn’t use any Rox-demos sung by Marie so I knew there were a few of those around. And Marie’s own demos, of course. And then the Spanish stuff popped up. And the Abbey Road sessions from 1995. And the „Good Karma” outtakes. Just the other day I found even more from the „Have A Nice Day” sessions. And there are live recordings around, of course. Time will tell what’s gonna happen to it all. A Bigger Bag Of Trix?
When I started the „GKRA”-project I didn’t feel like writing a brand new Swedish album since I wanted to put all my songwriting-efforts into the upcoming English one. To create an entire album you need a lot of space + time. To get twelve proper songs you have to write twenty!
I decided instead to listen to my older material and picked up my guitar and started to recall them. Some 80’s songs felt surprisingly cool even after all these years. I think I tried around 50 songs. Most of them, however, were difficult to grasp. I couldn’t get into them at all. But, hey, that’s pretty normal. They’re quite old after all and things (and I) have changed. I also found some unreleased songs/demos I made for „En händig man” as well as for the Nashville albums. I removed my hand from the chocolate box when I had about twelve tracks that I really liked.


PP: – The fab photo on the sleeve of „Gammal kärlek rostar aldrig” is taken by Bruno Ehrs. How did you choose him for this project?

PG: – Our art gallery at Hotel Tylösand (Tres Hombres Art) is representing Bruno since earlier this year, so when I knew he was gonna visit Tylösand I asked him if wanted to take some pics of me. I’m a big fan of his work so I was, of course, delighted when he agreed. We found a farm/barn not too far away and spent a couple of hours there. It was a sunny day, we had a picknick in the garden, there were lots of strange animals everywhere. Felt like home.

PP: – Who picked the scene for the photo session and who styled the rooster and the chicks?

PG: – Well, the first round of barncheckin’ was made by good ole Lars Nordin from the gallery. He’s even older than me + knows everybody + has plenty of time driving around in his vintage French voiture looking at roosters. He’s a good guy. When he’s asleep. (Just kidding, of course….) When he found three or four proper locations he brought Bruno along. When Bruno was happy with lights and everything I joined the rooster party as well.

PP: – Besides T&A, you recorded GKRA at a new studio, Sweetspot in Harplinge. How did it come into sight and how different was it to work there vs. T&A or AGM?

PG: – I recorded the BOT interviews with Sven Lindström at Sweetspot and also did the „Mamma” + „Pappa” live videos with Helena there. It’s a cozy place. Staffan Karlsson who works at Sweetspot is an old friend of mine so I’m in good hands when I’m there. It’s very different from T&A, much bigger. We actually used it as a rehearsal studio for a tour a couple of years ago. I can’t remember if it was Rox or something on my own. Aerosol Grey Machine is quite similar (both Sweetspot and AGM are old barns) but there are more incense in the air at AGM. Chris likes the scent of Tibetian old socks for some reason. He’s the Syd Barrett of Vallarum.

PP: – Christoffer was involved in the recording of only one song on GKRA. That’s very unusual, looking back on the past two decades. What happened?

PG: – My original plan with GKRA was to play EVERYTHING myself. I did that on the „Mamma” + „Pappa”-single. But, as expected, after four or five recorded songs I realized I needed a better bass player as well as a decent drummer. I called up some local guys, Gicken Johansson (bass + lap steel) + Per Thornberg (tenor sax), and they helped me out together with the hipster bearded Jens Jansson from Brainpool. Remember him from the „Mazarin” Tour?
The reason Chris became involved with „Du kommer så nära (du blir alldeles suddig)” was because I had run out of ideas on that one. I sent Chris what we had recorded at T&A and he listened to it. He put on some guitar licks + the moog synthesizer intro. That was enough. It made me realize the song didn’t really need that much more. He helped me getting the big picture. Not the first time. He’s one of a kind.

PP: – You played most of the instruments yourself on the album. Hats off! Which was the instrument you never played before and which was the trickiest to play to get the sound you wanted?

PG: – Well, I’m certainly not a groovy bass player or a flashy drummer, I tell you that. I fool around with anything with strings on, like a hi-string acoustic guitar („Viskar” + „Tända en sticka till”) + dulcimer („I din hand”). I played the ukulele + mandolin on a few tracks but we never used any of it. I love to try out any instrument and I only give it up when I reach the point where my talents cease to exist. I’m sorry to say it happens quite quickly.

PP: – How was your cooperation with Per Thornberg and Fredrik „Gicken” Johansson? And how was it to work with Jens Jansson again?

PG: – Next to MP + Helena I must say that Gicken became the most important factor in this project. I never played with him before so I didn’t know what to expect but he was amazing. A super guy. He was supposed to play on only a few tracks but he eventually played on almost everything.
Per Tee got some backing tracks so he could prepare on his own and he came in + played the solo + coda (outro) on „Kom ut till stranden”. Plus, of course, he played the 50’s style brass-section on the instrumental parts of „Nypon och ljung”.
Jens has always been one of my favourite drummers and I had a gut feeling that this project should fit him perfectly. He doesn’t BANG the drums, he PLAYS the drums. I love that.

PP: – You dedicated this album to Uppa. Can we get to know who Uppa is?

PG: – Uppa was a personal friend to me + my family who died from cancer earlier this year. We miss him every day.

PP: – Sorry for your loss, Per. So sad. The first time I heard „Nypon och ljung” I had the very same feeling as when „Crash! Boom! Bang!” came out. In case of CBB I was prepared for a crashing song and I got a goosebumps ballad. With NOL I was prepared for an acoustic, melancholic, slow song based on how you described the album in the press release and the title of the song suggested it as well, then I got a midtempo, happy song. I know with CBB that was intentional from your side, but was it the case with NOL?

PG: – Well, obviously I knew most of the songs on this album were „small” (=more or less acoustic) so I was really thrilled when NOL came out jolly + funny + contagious. It’s always hard to present a new project with something fragile like „Segla på ett moln” or „Viskar” or „I din hand”. If you want to get most people interested early on you should tease them with something more mainstream. I tried to do that with NOL without losing the album’s identity or concept.

PP: – What songs made you feel the same way in your life? That you expected an absolutely different sound and then… bang!

PG: – I don’t know. I don’t know if that has ever happened to me. I don’t expect much hahaha.

PP: – Back to „Nypon och ljung”, the intro is very similar to Amy MacDonald’s „This Is The Life”. Is that just a coincidence?

PG: – I read that on Facebook. I hadn’t heard of Amy MacDonald so I checked her out. She’s good but I don’t find the songs similar at all. Mind games.

PP: – „I din hand” you wrote together with Åsa in 1986 and then added music to it in 1993. You gave it to Svante Thuresson then and his version always made me curious how yours would sound. How do you remember the time when you wrote it? Does today’s recording sound like how you back then imagined it should?

PG: – Just the other day I actually found two very old (1986) „I din hand”-demos with totally different music to more or less the same lyrics. One was sung by me, the other one by Milla from Millas Mirakel who sometimes helped me making demos in the 80’s + 90’s.
I had totally forgot about this song, I don’t even think the 1993-demo (with the new music) is on „The Per Gessle Archives”, is it? It’s actually pretty good and quite similar to the GKRA version but without the dulcimer + the piano melody. It’s got an accordion on it instead, played by MP.
Can’t remember writing the lyrics but I’m sure Åsa + I had a splendid time creating them. It must have been in the 80’s, not the 90’s though.

PP: – The demo to „Du kommer så nära (du blir alldeles suddig)” demo was released on the bonus EP of „En händig man” in 2007. Now it’s a duet with Uno Svenningsson. Why did you decide it should be a duet and how was it working together with Uno?

PG: – The idea came up the moment Uno called me up asking me if we could meet + have dinner. We usually meet up once or twice a year when he’s passing by Halmstad. It seems like he’s always touring.
I asked him if he wanted to sing with me, he said yeehaa and I sent him my old demo of „Du kommer så nära”. He liked it so I re-recorded my backing track so it fit both him and me keywise. Maybe you’ve noticed there’s a modulation just before he starts to sing? He’s certainly a fab singer and I love what he (and Helena) did to the song. And the dinner was good.

PP: – „Hjärta utan hem” is one of two Gyllene Tider songs on GKRA. You say it’s one of your best songs. Why you never played it live? You did play a song on the last GT tour that was never played live before, „Vandrar i ett sommarregn”. Was „Hjärta utan hem” a candidate too?

PG: – Well, there’s never been lots of space for songs like that on modern GT tours really. Every time we tour we present more or less a Greatest Hits show for obvious reasons. Sometimes there’s room for something „odd” and midtempo, like „Honung och guld” or „Vandrar i ett sommarregn” but you can’t have too many of those. I guess „Hjärta utan hem” would fit my own solo concerts better than GT’s.

PP: – „Segla på ett moln” was originally released by Anne-Lie Rydé in 1983. Your wonderful 1982 demo with Marie came out in 1992 and you released it under Mono Mind in English, „Shelter from the Storm” as well. What made you come back to this song again?

PG: – I like to sing it. Helena and I did it GKRA-style on a tour way back, can’t remember which. It’s wonderful to sing and I still like the lyrics. And it’s got simple chords.

PP: – „Ömhet” was written in 2002. That was the time when you first worked together with Helena. How was it to record this song with her 18 years later?

PG: – Well, the version from 2002 had totally different music. If I remember things right I wrote it just after the „Mazarin”-sessions but I never really liked the music that much.
I wrote new music just in time for Gyllene Tider’s „Dags att tänka på refrängen”-sessions but we never worked on it. Then I did yet another demo just before I went to Nashville. But we didn’t try it there either. Now was the time. It was written in the stars.
I wanted to do a „proper” duet with Helena on this album and this seemed to be the obvious choice. She did an amazing job as always. MP came up with the harpsichord parts and played the 12-string Rickenbacker. I played my red Gretsch Bo Diddley guitar.

PP: – This is the only track on GKRA that’s not mixed by MP and you, but Ronny Lahti. Why did you think it should be him mixing this song? Weren’t you afraid that it might break the style of the album?

PG: – „Ömhet” was the first song to get a proper mix. My original plan was to have Ronny mix the whole album. However, I realized I liked MP’s and my rough mixes so much that we should stick to them. We did our own mix of „Ömhet” as well but Ronny’s version was the best. He’s an amazing mixing engineer, just listen to Rox’ „Let Your Heart Dance With Me” or the Spanish version of „You Don’t Understand Me”. Outstanding work.

PP: – When I now hear „Viskar”, I realize that old love never dies indeed. You wrote this in 1984 after you met Åsa and released it on „Scener”. There you even wrote ”Viskar is Åsa’s song”. How was it to meet this ballad now 36 years later?

PG: – Oh, it was a beautiful song. Still is. I don’t think I’ve played it live at all except one time at Hotel Tylösand when Marie and I played it for Åsa at one of her birthday parties. I love to sing it but it’s really a delicate one so it’s hard to do it in front of thousands of people. I’m glad I recorded it the way it sounds now. It fits the song and the message.

PP: – „Lycklig en stund”, yet another song from „Scener”. I must say the GKRA version sounds far much better. The arrangement fits the song’s image very well. I can see you recorded it live at T&A already in April 2018. What project was on your mind when you did that?

PG: – It was just another live demo at T&A I did for fun. Sometimes I just go into the studio just to sing and play guitar at the same time. Live session is da shit! I love that. Doesn’t have to be a reason behind it.
When the GKRA-project came up I instantly wanted to revisit LES but realized I’d done it 2018 so I kept that live version and did some overdubs instead. Drums + bass + organ. It’s nothing special + won’t change the world but it makes me happy everytime I hear it. Good enough for me.

PP: – „Tända en sticka till” was the most important song on your first solo album. It sounded wonderful already back then as a duet with Marie, but your 2020 version is so much more emotional and Helena’s vocals add one level more to this. Is that friend Marie who you are singing about? I know you think of her a lot, we all do, but was she on your mind when now you were recording this track?

PG: – Well, it was written during a period in the early 80’s when Marie and I spent a lot of time together. So yes, Marie is always there when I think about this one.

PP: – „Som regn på en akvarell” is the second GT song on GKRA. How did it draw your attention for this project? Was it the most suitable for a mouth harp intro?

PG: – I wrote a long list of instruments I wanted to use on this album. Dulcimer + sitar + harmonica + lap steel + ukulele + mandolin + cello etc. And the jew’s harp (as we call it when we try to go global) was also on the list. I’ve been using it before. The most famous occasion is probably in the intro of „I Remember You” from „Joyride”. It’s always a tricky one to play but nowadays, with a little help from the computer, you can tune it properly.
I’ve always liked „Som regn på en akvarell” for some reason. It’s a song MP and I wrote for GT’s „Puls”-album in 1982. It’s got a country flair to it which was unusual for us at the time.   I wanted to try it out with Helena singing harmony, starting with the very first line. It’s a classic trick, like Everly Brothers or something Simon & Garfunkel would do, but I never really arrange my songs like this. Now was the time and it sounded great. Me = happy.

PP: – „Mamma” and „Pappa” were recorded in May this year and got warm welcome from the fans. What do you think your Mom and Dad would have thought about these two songs?

PG: – Well, that’s a tricky one. I don’t know.

PP: – „Kom ut till stranden” we heard as a 1986 demo before. This is the song that went through the biggest change lyric-wise. Is it just me or has it become a Marie & Per story this way?

PG: – Some songs I chose for GKRA had a bit of a „clumsy” lyrics here and there so I felt I had to re-write parts of them. The new first verse of „Kom ut till stranden” made the essence of the song much stronger. Sometimes you try to express something in a lyric but you screw things up by using the wrong words. Or you just complicate things. That’s the biggest mistake you make.
I’ve always loved „Kom ut till stranden”. It was the only song from my (never recorded nor released) third solo-album that wasn’t translated into English to become the first Roxette album. But at the same time I’ve never felt comfortable with some of the lyrics. Now I spent some hours trying to make sense. To better express what I meant in the first place.


PP: – Regarding „Bag of Trix”, the box set, how did you decide which tracks to put on which volume, how to mix the different eras?

PG: – I didn’t spend too much time doing that. I split the singles + Spanish tracks up so they wouldn’t interfere with each other. That’s basically it.

PP: – Vol. 1 starts with a cover song. „Help!”, after 55 years still sounds amazing, even if John Lennon told in an interview that he regrets a bit that it became too fast, because they tried to make the song more commercial. What do you think his opinion would have been about the Roxette version?

PG: – I think he would have loved it. It’s always amazing to hear a great female singer interpreting one of your songs.

PP: – „Let Your Heart Dance With Me” is such an amazing song and together with the video is so emotional. Many are curious if you’ve changed anything in its lyric for this „Bag of Trix” recording.

PG: – No no, it’s exactly how it was recorded. We haven’t done any overdubs or anything since the „Good Karma”-sessions. It’s just a brand new mix (by Ronny Lahti). He made it slightly heavier + faster + more up-to-date.

PP: – How did you decide whom to give LYHDWM for mixing? Why Ronny Lahti?

PG: – He’s my favourite mixing engineer. He’s done so much amazing stuff with my music over the years. „Room Service” + Mono Mind + solo stuff.

PP: – If you had the chance to turn back time, which era would you go back to, to see Marie smile again?

PG: – Any day would do.

PP: – Marie’s song, „Waiting For The Rain” ended up on „Have A Nice Day”. Do you remember why the final version became one verse less on HAND vs. the demo?

PG: – No, I don’t. I actually didn’t remember Marie’s demo at all when I found it. We probably felt it was too long. We almost always edit songs, shorten the intros or solos or codas. That’s pretty normal.

PP: – When you are talking about the Brian Malouf US single mix of „Joyride”, you seem to have mixed feelings. How big was your frustration when you got to know the US doesn’t play YOUR version of the song?

PG: – Both Marie and I liked his mix. It’s just that we preferred our own. Simple as that. To the main audience it never really mattered so it didn’t matter to us either. It’s the same song.

PP: – Brian Malouf also did „The bigger, the better mix” for „The Big L.”. Would you work with him these days?

PG: – I don’t know. I never met him. He did some great work.

PP: – How did „Like Lovers Do” change from Marie singing the song in the demo to a duet on the album version?

PG: – I think that was Clarence idea. He wanted me to sing more. I wanted to sing as little as possible.

PP: – You said it was a rush to record the Roxette debut album and we can see the Montezuma demos were recorded in 2 days, 25-26 July 1986. How do you remember those 2 days at the studio?

PG: – Hectic. It was basically just some hours to sort out the keys to the songs, who’s gonna sing what + where etc. Some songs didn’t even have English lyrics at the time so we recorded them in Swedish („Surrender” + „So Far Away”).

PP: – It was so hard to realize that Marie’s jazzy demo, „Pocketful of Rain” is actually the same song as your synth demo, „Reaching High”. So different versions. Why did you give it to Marie and why it never made it to a Roxette album in some form?

PG: – We couldn’t agree on it. My original music to POR eventually became a Swedish song for Anne-Lie Rydé called „Ta mig hem”. And I felt Marie’s new music to the POR-lyrics didn’t fit Roxette at the time. It was never a big issue, we had lots of songs.

PP: – The intimate concert on the US promo tour in 2000 had an audience of appr. 200 people in Seattle. How do you remember that event?

PG: – It was a very strange promo tour. We played some small theatres as well as places like the Virgin Megastore in NYC. We had a new US record label and we hadn’t worked the American market for many years so this was…. hmmmm…. weird.

PP: – „Wish I Could Fly” was the opening song on the setlist if I’m right. Why did you pick WICF for „Bag of Trix” from the songs you played there live? „Church of Your Heart”, for example, was added to the setlist especially for that venue (Sky Church at Experience Music Project) if I remember well.

PG: – I have the complete Seattle-tapes but didn’t want too many live recordings on the „Bag Of Trix”. So I kept it short.

PP: – The neverending drum loop is too cool and the story-telling lyric is wonderful together with sing la-di-dah in „Happy Together”. How come it has never made it to „Have A Nice Day”? Or another Roxette album later?

PG: – Too many songs floating around at the time. I’ve always loved „Happy Together” but I was the only one! The version on BOT is actually my demo with Marie’s voice added on later at some point. The guitar part in the outro is amazing. And I really like the lyrics as well. I don’t like the drum-loop, though. Sorry PP.

PP: – Haha. Never mind… „Beautiful Boy” was a great song already when it was „Beautiful Girl”. Just by changing one word in the lyrics and of course, the way Marie sings it and the music she wrote to it makes it so different to your demo. She recorded it almost one year after your T&A demo. On „The Per Gessle Archives” you said you didn’t really like your version. What was your problem with it? Does it make more sense in Marie’s interpretation for you?

PG: – Yea, I never liked my version of it that much. Marie’s version is much better. But we felt we didn’t need it at the time.

PP: – „You Don’t Understand Me” you wrote together with Desmond Child. The demo sung by Marie is very close to the final version, still a bit different with its exploring mode. Is there a demo with your vocals? Maybe a Per + Desmond demo?

PG: – No, Marie was in Halmstad and came over to my apartment just to say hello to Desmond. She heard our new born baby and suggested she could sing on the demo. We loved that (of course) and it sounded amazing. It wasn’t intended to be a Roxette recording. We wrote it for someone else in the States, can’t remember who.

PP: – „Hotblooded” is an absolute killer and most fans I talked to about this release were blown away by this demo. Marie’s vocals are so sexy, you can call her miss! And your voices blend so well. Perfect match, already then. „Things Will Never Be The Same” on Vol. 4 was recorded on the very same day. What was in the air that day?

PG: – Hahaha yea, it’s really cool. I don’t know. There’s an even earlier demo of „Hotblooded” with guitars + bass + drums somewhere recorded at the time when it was written. So this must be an acoustic session we did for some reason.

PP: – Since you mentioned it in your „Songs, Sketches & Reflections” book in 2014, we’ve been waiting for „Piece of Cake” to see the light of day. We’ll hear it on „Bag of Trix” Vol 3. The title is so simple, yet so exciting. You say it’s a typical song of your English songwriting. It all starts with the antennas out, but what do you see are the main elements of your English songwriting and what’s the difference between that and your Swedish songwriting technique?

PG: – Obviously you have „control” of your native tongue in a different manner than in any other language. Nowadays I don’t feel the difference being that big. It used to be. But I have grown. Or shrunk.

PP: – There are two songs that appear in different versions on „Bag of Trix”. „Wish I Could Fly” twice and „You Don’t Understand Me” in 3 versions. How special are these songs to you that they „took the chance away” from at least 3 other songs to be released on BOT?

PG: – Just coincidence. You think too much, Patricia.

PP: – Haha, that’s what my friends use to tell me… You have just released the Spanish version of „You Don’t Understand Me”, „Tú no me comprendes”. Are there any Spanish tracks left that we haven’t heard so far?

PG: – No, this is it. The last one. „Tu No Me Comprendes” was left out from the „Baladas En Espanol”-album for some reason. Maybe we felt the album became too long? Earlier this spring Ronny Lahti mixed it and it actually sounds better than the English version in my boombox.

PP: – We can find 10 T&A demos from 5 years on BOT. None of them had been released before, except for „Happy Together”. There must be hundreds, if not thousands of T&A demos. Do you remember all your demos? I mean, do you remember which versions of your demos were special for some reason or which years to check when you want to go back to a song?

PG: – Yes, there are lots of demos. I will most likely release some of them as time goes by.  I have a pretty decent archive these days but some demos and various recordings are still on reel-to-reel tapes + cassettes + strange digital formats.

PP: – Marie’s 1998 demo of „Always The Last To Know” will be on Vol. 2. This song really has so many lives. Your demos remained demos, Marie wrote new music to it and then she released it in Swedish with newly written lyrics („Det som var nu”). You said on TPGA that it wasn’t released on „Have A Nice Day”, because Clarence and Marie didn’t approve of it. What was Marie’s opinion about this song?

PG: – I don’t know. I always felt my music had the qualities to become a big ballad in a „classic” Rox style. Especially with those lyrics. But we had big ballads on HAND anyway, like „Salvation” so maybe the timing was wrong?

PP: – 6 Studio Vinden demos found their way to „Bag of Trix”. How much did you involve Micke Bolyos? Did you discuss it with him which ones to release?

PG: – Yes, when it came to Marie’s demos I wanted him to have a say. He was the producer of those recordings.

PP: – Will Micke comment only on these Studio Vinden demos in the booklet or are there any comments by him on other songs as well?

PG: – No, I don’t think so.

PP: – Which track do you consider the biggest find in the vaults on the „Bag of Trix”?

PG: – „Let Your Heart Dance With Me” + Tom Lord-Alge’s mix of „Soul Deep”. Amazing.

PP: – Thank you so much for your time, Per! Looking very much forward to the remaining 2 volumes of „Bag of Trix”! And I keep „Gammal kärlek rostar aldrig” on repeat!

PG: – Thanx Patricia. Merry X (it’s sooner than you think) + stay safe and sound!

Still is from the Bag of Trix video comments, recorded by Anders Roos.

Per Gessle on P4 Extra

Per Gessle was a guest on P4 Extra, Swedish Radio last Friday. Host Erik Blix asked him about his new solo album, Gyllene Tider, Marie Fredriksson, Roxette and his new project.

Erik asks Per what the album title, Gammal kärlek rostar aldrig means to him. Mr. G says it means to him more or less what it says. He realized that this album is an old love that’s still there. One can say it’s a pandemic album, because he started recording it while he was isolated in Halmstad. Erik says it’s Per and Paul McCartney (who did the same). Per laughs and says there are more who did the same. Per had the idea to record acoustic songs and play as many instruments as possible himself. He didn’t have any material for that, so he thought he should dig deep into his archives from the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s. There are a lot of songs he thinks didn’t come out of their shadow before. He says it was exciting.

They play Ömhet here. Erik says Per sings together with Helena Josefsson. Mr. G tells Helena is fantastic and it would have been difficult to record this song without her. She is awesome. Ömhet was written right after Mazarin was recorded in 2002. The text remained the same, but he wrote new music to it for Gyllene Tider’s Dags att tänka på refrängen album, but they never recorded it. Then it was lying in the drawer until now. Erik asks how many songs Per has in the drawer. Per reacts: ”You don’t want to know!” And laughs. He himself doesn’t know it exactly either. There are tons of sketches. Before he starts a new project, he is listening to some of his old stuff to get inspiration. He has been writing songs for such a long time and he felt that slowly but surely his style is changing a bit. Erik asks if it can happen that a sketch matures, that earlier Per thought nah, it’s not good for anything, but now it seems to work. Mr. G says it can happen, for example that the text in a verse has a good idea, but it doesn’t reach the goal or you couldn’t make it in 1986, but maybe now you can get your teeth into it. On GKRA it happened that Per corrected verses he thought were clumsy. And there is also the fact that if you write a song when you are 25 and sing it when you are 61, it gets a different meaning. Erik asks if it was the case with Ömhet. PG says not really, because there the lyric is straightforward, but Tända en sticka till is a good example. It was released on Per’s first solo LP in 1983, he wrote it in 1982, so when he sings it today, there is a sentimental, nostalgic feel to it. It changes the text’s angle.

Per tells he works together with Helena since Mazarin. She came to sing backing vocals on 1 song and ended up singing on 10. He knew he wanted a female voice and they did a little audition at the studio in Skåne. Helena was the first he heard on the audition and he said he doesn’t want to listen to the others. She was the one he wanted.

Erik asks Per why he decided to make this album an acoustic one. Mr. G says he wanted to make it personal and organic and he wanted to play as many instrument as possible himself. There is mainly piano and acoustic guitar. He also tried playing bass and drums, but he realized his limits. Erik adds Paul McCartney plays all instruments himself. Per says he knows it. He is very curious about Paul’s new album. He is amazed that at his age, Paul is so sharp and he is doing this recording in his home studio alone.

Erik asks Per if he rewrote any of the lyrics for the album. Per tells he rewrote certain verses. There are songs in the drawer that have a text Per was not satisfied with, but now he has the capacity to make them relevant.

Mr. G tells now he is making an English album and he’s got a kick doing it. Erik asks when it will be released. Per says when it’s ready. They laugh. Erik says it sounds like a good startegy.

They play Du kommer så nära (du blir alldeles suddig) here. It’s a duet with Uno Svenningsson. Erik asks Per when he wrote this song and what it is about. He wrote it for En händig man in 2006. First it was mostly just an observation that sometimes things get so close that they get really blurred and you can’t really take it in. Per tells he didn’t know Uno too well. He called Per in summer and asked if they could meet and have dinner together. Per said sure, just he has to sing on one of his songs first. Then Per quickly changed the key in the song so that it suits Uno’s and Per’s voice. Mr. G thinks Uno is a lovely person and he has a fantastic voice.

Erik tells Per is more acoustic during these recent years and his music is softer. He asks if Per became softer over the years. Mr. G laughs and says he doesn’t know. It’s hard for him to answer this question because he thinks he is the same as he has always been. PG says he is lucky that he has a big tree with a lot of branches: Gyllene Tider, Roxette, solo in English and in Swedish, Mono Mind. Many different things. His classic singer songwriter side is reflected in this new album.

Erik asks Mr. G about Gyllene Tider and says he opened the door to a comeback. Per smiles and says: ”That I can never keep quiet…” They did their last tour last year, but who knows. There is nothing planned. He loves the guys in GT and he loves playing with them. When the five of them play together, the outcome is always something very special.

The guys start talking about Roxette. Erik asks Per to describe his friendship with Marie. Per says it’s hard to describe it shortly, but they got to know each other when they were teens, at the end of the 70’s. They shared a rehearsal studio in Sperlingsholm, outside Halmtad. Per was in Gyllene Tider and Marie was in Strul. So they have been friends since then. That friendship became a musical partnership in which they could develop their good sides. The basic idea with Roxette was that Per writes the songs and Marie sings. Marie could sing fantastically and Per could write OK songs. Sometimes it felt like 1 and 1 makes 3. Per says he is incredibly proud of the journey they were on together and feels honoured to have worked together with Marie over so many years. Erik tells Roxette started out as a game with a friend. Per tells they had the ambition and dream to succeed outside Sweden. They loved pop and rock music and they liked the same bands and artists, David Bowie, Joni Mitchell, The Beatles. When they were sitting and chatting in Per’s apartment in Halmstad, they were talking about Germany, Norway, Denmark or Belgium. To succeed in the US and play there and in South America and Roxette being global surpassed their dreams. They had their heydays between 1988 and 1995. Then Marie had her second child and wanted to have a break, so they had a break after the Crash! Boom! Bang! tour. During those 8 years they were together 24 hours a day and worked. Erik adds they travelled around the world, but probably didn’t see anything. Something like that, Per confirms. They were constantly travelling to another city, another country or were locked in their hotel rooms, spent their times at airports.

Erik asks Per how much he misses Marie. Per says it’s difficult to talk about it. It’s almost a year ago that she passed away. There is emptiness. When you lose someone very close or your family member, there is emptiness. It’s difficult to deal with it. Even in Marie’s case when they were kind of prepared, because she was sick for a long time. But still, when it happens, you know that you can’t get prepared for that. Erik asks if Per misses the partnership as well, to work together with someone the way they worked together. Mr. G says of course he misses it, however, the last albums they recorded in a different way than they recorded before Marie’s illness. It wasn’t such an intensive cooperation as during the years before her illness. But there is something special when you are working together with someone or with a band like GT. There are things that only they can share, something only Marie and Per could discuss, Roxette’s success, since it’s them who achieved it with a lot of people’s support around them. There was an enormous tightness between them, so of course he is missing it. He misses calling her and chat and fight and joke around. Erik asks if they did that often. Per says maybe not as often as they should have, but one thinks about it only now. After Marie got ill in 2002, she of course became much more private and he respected it.

Erik asks Per about his musical partnerships, how those work. Per says he is much of a lone wolf, mainly in the creative part of his work. He writes alone and he doesn’t take orders easily if someone wants to tell him how this or that should be. It’s hard for him to write music for someone else. It’s difficult to keep the balance. But then he of course needs other musicians and other singers and other producers who help him on the way.

As an end to the conversation, Erik asks Per to pick a Roxette song to play. Mr. G chooses Let Your Heart Dance With Me that was released recently. A leftover song from their last recordings. He says it’s so nice to hear Marie on it again.

Per Gessle on Musikplats

Per Gessle visited Swedish Radio P4’s studio in Stockholm last Friday and was a guest on Musikplats. Host Fredrik Eliasson tells Per had big success this autumn on the program. 3 of his songs were ”song of the week” on Musikplats which is exceptional, it never happened before during one season and it’s the 30th season. The 3 songs were:

20-09-18 Per Gessle – Nypon och ljung
20-10-02 Roxette – Let Your Heart Dance With Me
20-10-30 Per Gessle & Helena Josefsson – Ömhet

Per is very happy about it. Fredrik thinks Per is in constant harmony with the audience and asks if it was always like that. Per smiles and says not always, but the finest rating one can get is that people appreciate what he is doing.

The guys talk about Per’s new solo album, Gammal kärlek rostar aldrig. Per says it’s a result of the pandemic. He was isolated and spent a lot of time in Halmstad and thought he would record something. He went to the studio and wanted to try and play as many instruments as possible himself. He didn’t really have new material to record though, so he started digging in his archives. It was exciting. He went through maybe 60-70-80 songs from the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s. He got stuck with appr. 10 which he thought are still relevant, but maybe had a lousy recording earlier, so he gave them a new chance now.

Fredrik asks how Per can decide whether a song is relevant or not. Mr. G says when he wrote the songs in the 80’s, he was a young guy. When you sing or read the lyrics of those today, you see them from another perspective. Tända en sticka till was for example released on his first solo album in 1983. It has a warm text, but it gets another meaning when you are 61 and you sing it today. There is the feeling of nostalgia, sentimentality, looking back on the time passed. That gives another angle. Fredrik agrees that this can change a song. Per tells when he wrote songs for Roxette, he wrote them for Marie and when a girl sings the song it has another meaning when it’s a guy singing it.

Fredrik mentions there is Segla på ett moln on the new album, a hit first released by Anne-Lie Rydé in 1983 and there is also a duet with Uno Svenningsson. Per says Uno came to Halmstad in summer and called him if they could have dinner together. Mr. G said of course, but first he has to sing on a song on Per’s new album. Uno accepted the request and in a rush, Per changed the keys to match Uno’s and Per’s voices. Mr. G adds Uno is a lovely person. When Fredrik asks which song it is, Per wants to tell the title, Du kommer så nära (du blir alldeles suddig), but the part in brackets doesn’t come out correctly. Haha. He says he can’t remember and Fredrik says it’s an old song. They both laugh and then they play the song.

After that, Fredrik adds that Helena Josefsson is also singing on DKSN, she is doing vocals on the whole album. Per tells his voice blends quite well with female voices and it sounds fine.

Fredrik congratulates Per on his Billboard record. On the list published a week ago there are 18 sole songwriters who have more than two Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 songs. Per says it was a shock to the system. When he read the article about it, it felt very flattering to be on the same list as Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson, Paul Simon, Lionel Richie. A tough list. Today songwriting doesn’t work like before. Now almost everyone works in a team and writes songs in a team. Per has always been a lone wolf. He is extremely proud to be on the list.

The guys are talking about Let Your Heart Dance With Me. Fredrik says it has an emotional story, Marie and Per recorded it at the end of the Roxette era. Per says it was the very last song they recorded together. It didn’t make it to their last album, Good Karma. It was a difficult album to record because of Marie’s health problems, so when they had finished the album, they didn’t do any more recordings. They had some songs left, but they were never recorded properly or mixed. Let Your Heart Dance With Me is one of them. Per had forgotten about it, but he found a raw mix of it last spring. Then they mixed it properly. They speeded up the tempo a bit to make it sound more fresh. He thinks it sounds damn good. It will be released in a compilation box, Bag of Trix that will have 4 volumes of so far unreleased songs, demos, acoustic sessions, etc. There are still a lot of old live concert recordings in the drawers. It was a lovely journey for Per to dig in those drawers. He won’t ever stop being impressed by Marie’s capacity. She is a fantastic artist and singer. They are listening to the song here. Fredrik highlights the whistling. Per tells it wasn’t planned. They just wanted to keep the melody and present it in a fun way and whistling turned out to be quite good. Mr. G also tells that if the song key is right, you can whistle properly. They laugh.

Regarding the music industry and pandemic Per says it’s very sad what happens now. All the people (not only in the music business, but film industry) are affected by the situation. He has a lot of technician and musician friends and it’s very difficult for them now. The longer it lasts the more difficult it is. Fredrik asks Per about his experience how difficult it is to get back on track if someone loses the grip. Per thinks one has to keep on working on it. The same things happen now in most of the countries, it’s not a unique Swedish probelm. It’s a special time we live in, a lot is happening. There is the US elections, terrorism in Europe, it’s a strange time.

Fredrik asks what’s next. Per says there won’t be a tour of course. He is doing some TV these days and then goes back to the crypt and keeps on working in the studio.

Regarding Gyllene Tider the guys discuss it was a big party last year. They decided to close that chapter, but Per personally thinks that it’s fantastic to play in a pop band of Gyllene Tider’s caliber. There are no plans, but cool things are happening when the 5 of them meet and have instruments close to them. Let’s see what happens.

Fredrik thanks Per for coming to the show and they play Kom ut till stranden.

They started the whole program with Nypon och ljung and they also played Ömhet before Per was on air. So all in all 5 PG songs were played on Musikplats on Friday. Nice.

Per Gessle on Nyhetsmorgon

Per Gessle appeared on Nyhetsmorgon, TV4 this morning. You can watch the program HERE! He talked about his success on Billboard, his new solo album, as well as Marie and Bag of Trix.

Program leader Anna Brolin welcomes Per and introduces him as one of the biggest hitmakers of all time. She asks Per how he is doing. Mr. G says he is fine, a bit croaky, but it’s not the program leader’s fault, he jokes.

Anna asks Per if he follows the elections in the US since he has many friends and colleagues there. They shortly discuss a lot is going on in the US now and the corona situation is worrying. Anna mentions that Per got on a unique list in the US. He is one of 18 sole songwriters who had more than two No. 1 songs on Billboard Hot 100. They check the list of all the great songwriters on the screen and Anna is surprised that the number next to Per’s name is 3, because they had four No. 1 songs. Per tells Listen To Your Heart was also No. 1, but there he wasn’t a sole songwriter. He wrote it together with Mats MP Persson. Per is impressed that Anna can enumerate the other 3 songs. They laugh. Anna asks Mr. G which is his favourite from these 3 No. 1 hits. Per picks The Look, because it’s a crazy pop song that is still special and unique in a way. The song’s construction and half nonsense text is contagious in some way. But he loves It Must Have Been Love too, of course. It’s a magnificent song thanks to Marie and she turned it into a firework of film music with her voice. They watch a part of the IMHBL video and Anna says it’s a big song and it’s special to see Marie. She asks Per how it is for him. Mr. G says it’s almost a year ago that Marie passed away. There is emptiness. They had a very long friendship, they met at the end of the 70’s. They played in separate bands, but they shared the rehearsal studio outside Halmstad. Then they lived ”together” during whole their adult life. They had an awesome journey together.

They get back to the list of 18 and Anna asks if there is anyone on the list who inspires Per. Mr. G says all others are rubbish on the list. They laugh and of course he jokes. He says just look at those names: Paul Simon (Jesus Christ!), Paul McCartney (he grew up with The Beatles), Michael Jackson… It’s a fantastic list. Per says the one who inspired him and Gyllene Tider the most was Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Tom Petty’s songwriting style and his band made them want to be Halmstad’s Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. They’ve been trying for 40 years, he laughs. He was very much inspired by The Beatles as well and by singer songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and Paul Simon. He likes their music too.

Then Anna asks Per about his new album. Mr. G says it’s a Swedish solo album, Gammal kärlek rostar aldrig. It came to life due to the pandemic. He was isolated in Halmstad this summer and thought he would go to the studio and record something. He had the ambition to play most of the instruments himself. Anna asks if it went fine. PG says it was OK, but he realized he needs some help, so he invited some local musicians to help him with bass, drums and saxophone. It became a cool album. The material on it is his old songs. He went back to the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s and found many Swedish songs he never recorded before or gave them to other artists. Songs he still felt are relevant. Per mentions Tända en sticka till which was released on his first solo album and says it has a warm love text, but he was 23-24 years old when he wrote it. Now that he sings it at the age of 61 it gives another angle to the text. One looks back at that young age and becomes melancholic and sentimental, which is not there in the 1983 version. And some songs change their identity while time goes by.

They watch a short part of the lyric video to Du kommer så nära (du blir alldeles suddig), a duet with Uno Svenningsson. Per says Helena Josefsson also sings on this one, as well as on other songs. She often sings with Per and that’s very lovely. Per thinks Uno has a fantastic voice. Anna asks why he chose Uno and Per says because he is a lovely person. He called Per this summer and asked if they could meet and have dinner together. Per said of course, but first he should come and sing on a song in the studio. He did it and it turned out to be very nice. Uno greets Per via a video message shown on the screen. He sends sunny greetings from the West coast. He thanks Per for the cooperation and says it was cool to be at MP’s studio in Halmstad and sing a little on one of Per’s nice songs. He says he is looking very much forward to Per’s new album and wishes him god luck and that he takes care of himself. Uno has a very special voice and Per says he has a special voice too, so it’s a little strange when they are singing together.

Per tells he started writing songs at the age of 15-16, so of course there are a lot of songs in his archives, the tree is growing. He doesn’t know how many songs he wrote, but someone said it’s 800 or 900 of them are registered at STIM.

Anna asks Per about the Roxette release as well. Mr. G tells he started digging in the vaults in spring and found many Roxette songs that disappeared because they were released e.g. only on CD or maybe on LP as well. Now in the times of streaming services they are not there anymore. He also found acoustic songs, a lot of demos from the 80’s when Marie and he started working on their first Roxette album. He also found unreleased songs from different albums and a Spanish song that wasn’t released before. Per says they were very big in South America and Spain.

Anna asks Per what is on his agenda. Per says artists can’t play concerts like before and technicians and crews are also affected by this. It’s a very strange time in the music business. Mr. G shares that he is working on a new English album and says he always tries to have an ongoing project.

Stills are from Nyhetsmorgon.

Per Gessle interview in Aftonbladet – ”Writing songs is my way of existing and taking care of myself”

The interview for Aftonbladet was done by Håkan Steen in October in Live Nation’s office in Stockholm. Håkan tells Per is sipping on coffee which doesn’t seem to be the first one during the day. Per informs him that in the past he was able to do 15 interviews a day, now he is done after three.

Per talks about his new album, Gammal kärlek rostar aldrig which consists of newly recorded songs from his archive. He says it’s a kind of result of the pandemic. He had started working on an English record when suddenly the song Pappa popped up this spring. This led to another song, Mamma and a double A side single was released on Mother’s Day. Then came the idea of making an entire record while he was staying at home in Halmstad and playing almost all instruments himself.

Per tells Aftonbladet:

I didn’t want to write new music, because I wanted to focus my songwriting on the English record. So I realized that I have a lot of songs that would be great fun to record again.

So he started digging in his archives and found a little Gyllene Tider, some solo songs from the 80’s, some others that he gave away to other artists. Ömhet was also found in the drawer:

It was written a week too late to be included on “Mazarin”. Now that I had recorded it, it first felt a little too commercial, too much pop song for this record. There is always such a song that you hesitate over a bit. But then it’s always the one that gets the most streams in the end.

Per tells Håkan that then he actually wrote two more songs, even though they were very much Gyllene Tider. They are really fast, playful songs. So he thought he would save them for something else.

Regarding Gyllene Tider, Per says he has mixed feelings about their farewell last year. It was Micke Syd’s idea to close this chapter while everyone is still healthy and in good shape and they all agreed to that. But Per thinks it’s a shame too. Because GT is a great band. They have grown up together and have the same love for the same kind of music. Gyllene Tider is a kind of homemade beer in a way, he says.

We’ll see if we live in four, five, six years, what can come out of that.

Besides Per’s new solo album, last week the first of four volumes of Roxette rarities was released on streaming services. Demos, songs in Spanish, odd single tracks and remixes. Bag of Trix is the name of the project, which will also be released physically as a box, just in time for Christmas.

Håkan asks Per if it was difficult to go through the Roxette archives after Marie’s passing. Per says:

It was. There are several professionally recorded Roxette concerts that have never been released and it’s awesome to listen to them. You are struck by what an amazing singer Marie was.

Håkan supposed it was a difficult period for Mr. G last winter when both Marie and his mother-in-law passed away almost at the same time.

It was hard. Marie had been ill for so long, so one had in a way prepared for it to happen sooner or later. But you can never really be prepared. There is enormous emptiness. In the end, Marie and I often talked about the past, the amazing journey we had been on. And it’s really something that only the two of us can share. A lot of moments. Like when we were playing in a giant arena somewhere and looked at each other and I knew we were both thinking “is this really true?”. It’s clear that you miss that. But that’s life.

Håkan asks Per about Around The Corner (The Comfort Song). If songwriting is therapeutical for Per.

Yes, that’s probably what makes you do this. Writing songs is my way of existing, somehow. My way of expressing myself and taking care of myself. “Around The Corner” I didn’t write to Marie, but when it was finished I felt that it must be a song about this situation. And then I added “The Comfort Song” in the title, because it became a kind of consolation song for me.

Håkan realized that Per’s songs became more personal during the past years and he asks if it has to do with what happened around him. Per tells:

Could be. I also think it’s an age thing. It’s not possible to write “Dansar inte lika bra som sjömän” and that kind of lyrics now. At the same time, it’s a very good question, because sometimes I think why should it always be so fucking serious just because you get older? That’s a bit why I want to make this English record now, a kind of uptempo pop record, because no one of my age makes classical pop music anymore.

Per hopes the album can be released next spring.

Mr. G says when they formed Gyllene Tider and then Roxette, he always wanted them to be the biggest and make the best records, the best videos and win win win. But he doesn’t feel like that today. There are other things that trigger his creativity today. Per explains that nowadays he is mainly driven by restlessness and the desire to realize ideas. That’s why first he is jumping in an electronic project with Mono Mind then into Nashville-country.

At the same time, I think it would be incredibly fun to have a new hit. But I don’t know how to make it, because today’s music rarely has anything to do with the music I really like.

Per also comments on 5 photos from the Aftonbladet archives.

  1. Aftonbladet interview with Gyllene Tider 1980: “Look at this, damn, how cool. ‘MP’ has his little mustache, he looks really tough. And there I am, my God. A little spotty (laughs). And then a TV of course, because we had just released ‘Flickorna på TV2’. This was in the very beginning. Later, we tried to learn how to look like in order to have good pictures.”
  2. The “Joyride” hairdo 1991: “This is my lovely ’91 hairdo. A completely obvious hairstyle at the time. Damn, how young I was. And a little dumpy too. In fact, I have never seen this picture before.”
  3. Recording of the video for “June afternoon” 1995: “Jonas Åkerlund made that video, wonderful. Marie had a little wig party. The song was actually written for the album ‘The World According to Gessle’, but when we released our first compilation with Roxette, it ended up there. We did the ‘Återtåget’ tour with Gyllene Tider then too, so it’s actually Gyllene Tider playing on that song.”
  4. Per and Marie on the Great Wall of China 1995: “It was great to play in China. And very strange. We calculated that it was 17 meters to the front row of the audience. As soon as someone stood up in the crowd during the concert, the room was lit. You did not get that. When we played “It Must Have Been Love” the whole arena lined up. The guards could do nothing. In addition, banners appeared with the text “one world, one unity”. Afterwards we went out to the dressing room and all cried.”
  5. Press photo for the album “Mazarin” 2003: “An Anton Corbijn picture taken down in Italy. I met Anton when he was going to make the video for ‘Stars’ with Roxette in 1999 and we still have contact. When we were in Nashville recording my country records, he called, ‘I’m in New Orleans shooting Arcade Fire, shall I come by and take the next album cover?’ (laughs) He is a fantastic photographer who manages to do a lot with simple means. He has been here and took photos of my family several times as well.”

Check out the 5 photos in the original article HERE!