Svjetlana Pastuhovic did an interview with Per Gessle on Swedish Radio on 2nd June. PG was guest of the day on P4 Extra and he talked about PG Roxette, the debut single, Marie, Roxette, the Roxette musical, Gyllene Tider and songwriting. The interview starts at 28:39 into the program. Listen HERE!
Svjetlana welcomes Per and introduces him as a small town guy who showed great interest in music at a very early age. His nerdiness led him to success and worldwide fame. Now he returns to one of his biggest successes, Svjetlana says. Per thanks for having him on the show. Svjetlana is uncertain, maybe „return” is not the right word when it comes to PG Roxette. Per tells one can say it’s a new chapter in Roxette’s history.
PG can be pronounced the Swedish way or if you want to make it sound cool, the English way, Per says. He laughs. Svjetlana asks Per how HE pronounces it. PG then pronounces the initials the Swedish way. The debut single is out the next day (3rd June), but Swedish Radio got the chance to play it for the first time on radio and they are very happy about it. Svjetlana asks Per how he feels about it. Per tells the whole PG Roxette project is a new chapter, as he already mentioned and it’s based on him and the old Roxette band. He brought in several people who helped him e.g. with the singing and production. It took about a year to record the album and it was much fun. He looks very much forward to release it. Per got very good response from those around the world whom he already showed the songs. It feels great.
Here they premiere the The Loneliest Girl In The World. Svjetlana tells she becomes happy when she hears this song. Per says it’s nice to hear. He tells it’s an ear candy. The album comes out in September. Mr. G tells he tried to write an uptempo album and it’s a challenge to write such pop songs. Especially when you are getting older, because it’s something that you do very easily when you are 20. It becomes harder when you get older, because you have written so much and you become too sophisticated in your writing when you know all the tricks. Svjetlana is curious what Per means by this, if it means you get more serious when you get older. PG tells pop music builds very much on instant energy and it’s just there when you are younger. When you have written hundreds of songs, you learned all the crafts very well and it’s hard to write these 3-chord pop songs when you get a bit older. Per thinks Svjetlana probably has also noticed it regarding other artists that the finest and fastest songs they wrote in their twenties. Svjetlana asks PG if he was struggling with this a bit. Per tells he had the idea that he would make a sibling to Roxette’s albums they recorded at the end of the 80’s, beginning of the 90’s, so he tried to think about how he was working back then. Then he sat down and spent time with writing. Actually, it went very well. The Loneliest Girl In The World was the third or fourth song he has written that immediately felt it had a great chorus.
Svjetlana wants to know if it was an obvious choice to go on as PG Roxette. Per tells it wasn’t obvious at all, because it was really tough when Marie passed away in 2019, so he didn’t really know what to do with Roxette. He knew there is the legacy of Roxette that someone has to take care of. Also, he devoted 30 years of his life to Roxette and he has written almost all the Roxette songs and it would have felt weird not to go on with Roxette in a way. He has the ambition to take PG Roxette on tour and play the old Roxette songs. There is a huge amount of people around the world who still like those songs.
Svjetlana tells Marie was ill for many years and she is curious if Marie and Per talked about the future of Roxette. Per asks if Svjetlana means about the future without Marie. Svjetlana says yes, because Marie was ill for a long time, however, when she got better, they went on tour together again. Per tells Marie was ill for 17 years before she passed away. She never really got better, but despite the doctors’ advice, she went on tour between 2010 and 2016. It was fantastic that she did that. In 2018 Per went on a European tour that was called Per Gessle’s Roxette and Marie had no problem with that. She thought like Per, that someone has to take good care of the legacy. If you look at other artists who kept their audience, they worked actively, e.g. Queen with the Bohemian Rhapsody movie or ABBA with the Mamma Mia! musical and movies and now also with the Abbatars in London. Per thinks you have to work actively to keep the legacy alive. You just have to let it go on and who else could take better care of the legacy than Per himself. It’s not about replacing Marie with another singer – even if Per worked together with several female singers on this record. Dea Norberg and Helena Josefsson appear the most on this album. Both of them worked with Roxette as backing vocalists on tours. But there are other female singers as well, so it has Per and his songs in focus.
Svjetlana asks how it was to look back on the 80’s and 90’s, those crazy times when they were touring so much with Roxette. Mr. G says it was crazy indeed. They had their peak for 8 years between 1988 and 1995. They were touring all around the world, they had 4 US No. 1s and they were the most played artists for 3 years in a row. It was a fantastic period. Svjetlana asks how they could cope with their success. PG tells when you are in the middle of it, you don’t think about that. You are working, you go on. He was anyway triggered by it back then. When they toured with and promoted Look Sharp! he wrote Joyride, when they toured with Joyride he wrote their next album, Crash! Boom! Bang!, etc. Svjetlana notices that Per wanted to do more and more. She asks how he felt about it back in the days. PG says he travelled all around the world, but didn’t really see much. He was mainly in hotel rooms and at the concerts. When you are in such busy period, you just can’t make it. After the pandemic it’s fun to travel to cities he knows he had been to before, but doesn’t remember much. When you wanted to keep everything at the same high level as they did their things, you had to work 24 hours a day and stay focused and keep yourself in top shape. It’s like what sportsmen do. They enjoyed being up on stage every night and perform to tons of people who loved what they were doing. That’s the best reward ever. It’s a fantastic job Per has, he says. Even if it was tough at times, it only has positive sides.
Svjetlana says it’s almost unreal what happened with Roxette abroad, all their success. She asks if there is melancholy besides pride when Per thinks back at those times and if such thing can happen again. Per says it can’t happen again, because we live in different times now. It’s 30 years of his life he has devoted to Roxette and he is very proud of Roxette. As he already said, when you are thirty, you are at a certain stage in your life, now that he is 63, he is at another stage. He of course hopes that the new album works well, but it’s not the most important, it’s not why he made it. He made it because he wanted to have fun and he tries to follow his way as a songwriter and artist. He is doing several things at the same time. He has just finished an acoustic tour in Sweden with 31 gigs, they had a Gyllene Tider tour earlier, many other things.
Here Svjetlana plays What’s She Like?, which she knows is a special song for Per. After playing it, she tells how wonderfully Marie sings. Per agrees, she sings fantastically. Svjetlana asks if this song will appear in the Roxette musical. Per laughs and says it’s a very exciting project. There is a very nice script that the musical will be built on, a book written by Jane Fallon. Per thinks that Roxette’s music matches very well in such a conetxt. There are so many nuances in the Roxette song catalogue, one could use really many of them. It’s gonna be tricky to match the songs to the story though. What’s She Like? could be one of the songs used, they both think.
Svjetlana tells Roxette sold more than 80 million records, they had an international career, there are millions of Swedish crowns on their bank account. She is curious what is Per’s driving force still. PG tells it’s about finding your place in life. He is super grateful that he could work with music fulltime, writing songs and playing them since he was in his teens. It’s not just a way he is following all the time, it’s not like he has plans that in 5 years he has to reach this or that. He has a lot of ideas and tries to implement them as well as he can. Svjetlana says, so it’s not fame, not money, not such things. Per says it mattered when he was young, e.g. when they started Gyllene Tider. When they played at schools, they dreamed about playing in Stockholm or Gothenburg, when an album became gold, they wanted a platinum, when they had a platinum, they wanted to have a double platinum. That’s how people work. It was the same with Roxette. The idea at the beginning was that they wanted to go abroad, because he himself felt he covered Sweden with Gyllene Tider’s success. But when Marie and Per talked about abroad, they meant Belgium, Germany or the Netherlands. Or maybe playing in Copenhagen. Svjetlana laughs and asks „no South America or China in your thoughts?” Per laughs and says no and also not the success that they had in the US.
Regarding keeping the legacy alive, Svjetlana asks Per if he is doing it because he thinks Roxette would be forgotten. Per says he knows there is a fantastic power in Roxette’s music. Also in his Swedish music. It’s not that he thinks that „oh, maybe in 30 years we would be forgotten”. He wants to experience it again, to be standing on stage, singing his songs and feel the communication with his audience. It’s the most awesome feeling. The acoustic tour he did was one of the most amazing things he did so far. It was so intimate in those small theatres in an acoustic arrangement. Sometimes it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. In certain songs he played only one string at a time, because it was so quiet. It was awesome that people were sitting there and listening. It was also fantastic that he played some old Gyllene Tider songs in a totally new arrangement. Lyrics of songs like Ljudet av ett annat hjärta that he wrote when he was 22, had a totally different meaning, both for him and for everyone else, now that he sang it as a 63-year-old. There is another thing in there what wasn’t there in Gyllene Tider in 1981. There is a different energy as well, but the core of the song changes. And it also feels good for Per as a songwriter that the time goes by and the lyric becomes a different thing. It’s the same with What’s She Like? When he wrote it, he wrote it for Marie, because he knew that when Marie sings it, it will have a totally different meaning when he sings it. If he sang it, it would have been What’s He Like? That’s awesome in music. You can change it all the time.
Svjetlana tells she asked people about Per and most of them said he is an ordinary guy. She asks Per if that’s correct. Per says he doesn’t know what „ordinary guy” means and it’s hard for him to judge, but he is happy that people think so, because he doesn’t think he is an unusual guy, even if he has had an unusual life. He had much luck in many ways, but he is also very ambitious. His family and friends often say that he is working too much, but that’s in his personality and he knows you have to work much to get to where you want to be. He is not talking only about commercial success, but also about his writing. He wants to do his best all the time, otherwise he can’t sleep well at night. He laughs. Svjetlana notices Per has high expectations of himself. Per agrees. Svjetlana says the other thing people mentioned was they were wondering how Per keeps himself in shape. PG says he tries to pay attention to what he eats. When he was a kid, he looked quite like a meatball at school. That was always his Achilles heel, but especially during the past few years he tried to shape up. Svjetlana asks if Per is training. He quickly reacts he isn’t at all. He is rather walking and listening to things he is working with or tries to hatch an idea and to find answers to all the weird and stupid questions about his projects. So he sticks to his headphones, he is antisocial and he is in his own bubble then.
As a last question, Svjetlana asks Per about Gyllene Tider. PG says it’s a nice little band. Svjetlana thinks it’s a damn good band. Per says it’s also something he is very proud of. He is very proud of them being good friends and that they have fun when they meet. He can’t promise anything, but he hopes that there will be more Gyllene Tider in the future. But he doesn’t know anything yet.
Svjetlana thanks Per for coming to the show, PG also thanks for having him.