Forgot about this. Per interviewing Gessle. What a splendid idea. What can go wrong? Everything! /P.
From the 1997 press release.
Roxette-man stands on own two feet. Records quintessential solo album. Stirs up media interest with own interview.
After four US #1’s, two US #2’s, over 100 gold and platinum records and more than 45.000.000 recorded units sold all over the world, you’d think Per Gessle of Roxette had heard just about every question in the fine art of pop interviewing. Not so. Recently he sat down with a tape recorder, a note book and a lot of irksome bloody questions about his upcoming solo venture from the real man in the know – himself. So, here it is.
Per vs. Gessle
One side of the coin walks a mile in its own shoes. Sort of.
Per: What’s up?
Gessle: A lot. I’ve just finished the record. Been mixing and mastering and retouching the album pictures. It’s been a lot of work.
Per: Retouching your pictures?
Gessle: Yeah….no…I mean, the songwriting, recording and mixing took some time too.
Per: But you’re not the cable kind of guy are you?
Gessle: No, I’m a lost case when it comes to technology. I’ve done some of the mixing together with the invaluable Michael Ilbert and Clarence …Öfwerman, who helped me produce the thing. As P.J. O’Rourke says; to them goes the credit – I’ll take the money. We’ve been recording in Benny Andersson’s superb studio in Stockholm.
Per: The Benny Andersson? Of ABBA fame?
Gessle: Yep. But the mastering was done by Michael Ilbert and George Marino in New York. I asked if I could contribute something and they said they’d phone me.
Per: Why a solo album now?
Gessle: I needed the money.
Per: Surely you must be joking.
Gessle: I’m deadly serious and don’t call me Shirley. Or was it to make a detour from the Roxette path? Yeah, that’s it. After the “Crash!” album and tour I started writing new material in this direction. You know, “Sleeping In My Car”, that was the last song recorded for “Crash!” and it became the first single. It was written in desperation more or less. I felt that we had perfected ourselves a bit too much, that the energy level was dropping with every month we spent in the studio polishing details in the sound picture. I’m a pop addict and I wasn’t getting enough.
Per: So that’s when you started thinking about making a pop album?
Gessle: Yeah, candy-coated, loud and un-bluesy.
Per: But it’s not the first time, is it?
Gessle: Well, I’ve done two Swedish solo albums before, in 1983 and 1985, and Marie has done five. So I figured it was about time to catch up.
Per: So how did you approach the whole thing?
Gessle: I wrote some songs and then got in the best pop band in Sweden – Brainpool – to help me kick some butt. Mine, that is. But I also used my former band Gyllene Tider. We were teenage heroes in Scandinavia shortly after the heydays of punk, but re-formed for Scandinavia’s biggest tour ever in the summer of 1996. And I figured it was a good idea to tap that well of energy and creativity right after the tour finished in August. So I’ve been lucky to record with two of my favourite bands.
Per: What did Marie say when you told her you were going solo?
Gessle: I guess she knew it was coming after the “Crash!” tour. We’d been working together almost non-stop since 1988 and had tremendous success. Sooner or later you have to do something else to get new inspiration, to avoid getting stuck in the rut. Marie never gave up her Swedish solo career, but I’ve always focused everything on Roxette. So I figured it was time to take some time off and just see what I could do on my own.
Per: Why do it in English?
Gessle: Stupid question coming from you. I wanna go world-wide of course. Wouldn’t you?
Per: If Roxette had released an album 1997, would it have sounded like “The World According To Gessle”?
Gessle: “The World According To Roxette”? I don’t know. This is how I want a pop record to sound today, anyway. Marie may have another vision. It takes more than one to tango, you know.
Per: Does it – we’re tangoing alone right now?
Gessle: Everything’s possible in pop interviewing. But Marie likes the record. She sings on one of the songs too.
Gessle: Because she’s the best.
Per: Speaking about pop. Do you listen to new stuff as much as you used to?
Gessle: As you might remember I started collecting pop records early. I had 100 LP’s when I as 10. A manic collector and chart-follower from day one, which must be when “I Feel Fine” was released. And so it went on until Roxette broke through. But five-six years ago, during the “Joyride”-days, so much time was spent on writing, touring, recording and promoting that I hardly had the time to listen to anything new at all. At the end of 1995 I started buying new records and today I’m reasonably hip again. But time passes, one gets older and gets new hobbies. I’ve built a beach house, got me a canary bird, discovered vintage port and bought a Ferrari. Spoiled brat, you know.
Per: How does success change a person? Do you change friends? Is there a club for millionaries? How can you keep up when you don’t have to?
Gessle: I’m surprised to hear such an intellligent question from you. Of course you change. Everything changes. The way you see things, the way other people see you. But pop music isn’t my job; it’s my life. You probably have to be that obsessed to survive in this business. Success and money is a kick, but the greatest reward is the boost your confidence gets. Success makes it easier to know what you want and to get things done the way you want it.
Per: Now, that’s what I call a good answer. But your music isn’t always pure pop. Looking back it seems you’ve been all over the place. And there are tendencies to that on your solo album as well, even if it’s a more…coherent noise. Why’s that?
Gessle: I listen to a lot. I like a lot. And so I do a lot. That may blur the overall identity, but f**k that. I’d rather have fun and skip the format-thinking. The unifying thing is probably that I generally write potential singles with distinct verses and choruses. I’ve never liked “album tracks”. Leave them to Pink Floyd.
Per: Yes, please. Did you hear that Monty Python will reform next year?
Gessle: Great. And in Las Vegas too. Brilliant. Must go there. But it probably collides with some Formula 1-race.
Per: (yawning): Tell us more about the songs on the album.
Gessle: Well, it kicks off with “Stupid”, which is the kind of song I write after a bucketful of red wine on a Friday night. I really love Friday nights. I also love red wine. And I do love those three chords. We went for a “home studio atmosphere” on this one and then Christoffer and Jens from Brainpool came on and helped me nail it. Isn’t it a gorgeous opener?
Per: Well, it’s good but I don’t know if gorgeous is the right wo…
Gessle:… and then there’s the first single, “Do You Wanna Be My Baby?”. I like the drum sound. Stolen from Jeff Lynne, probably. I like that. And I like the intro with only drums and vocals. And I really like the “double choruses”. Right after the chorus something else hits you. Learned that from Desmond Child when we wrote “You Don’t Understand Me”. An American trick. You always reach a point in your life where nothing but an American trick can help you out.
Per: Somebody at your record company said you were playing a lot of guitars on this album. But this can’t possibly be you, can it?
Gessle: What do you mean? Of course it can. But it’s Mats Persson getting low-down and funky.
Gessle: Sort of. “Saturday” is written around a drum loop I found in our demo studio in Halmstad. And it’s my guitars you hear gently weeping all over the track.
Per: Touching. Have you ever bent a note?
Gessle: I don’t believe in note-bending. I don’t believe in bending whatsoever. I do believe in “Bend It”, though.
Per: That’s Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich.
Gessle: What a great memory you’ve got. Almost too good. If you can remember the 60’s you weren’t there.
Per: Let’s move on. “Kix” is…
Gessle: …bringing some groove to the record. Every pop album needs a touch of Frankie Goes To Hollywood.
Per: Would you describe the song as dance-oriented?
Gessle: I don’t know, I gave up dancing in 1982. I’d be happy if people tap their fingers on the steering wheel.
Per: Someone said your mother liked “I Want You To Know”.
Gessle: Yeah, I said that. She does. We allowed ourselves to drift into a non-chemical haze with flutes and distored drums. The band, that is – not my mother and I. “Tomorrow Never Knows” meets “Itchycoo Park”, if you know what I mean.
Per: Au naturellement. You’ve got to have one red hot motherf***er of a record collection.
Gessle: It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, though. You’re more likely to find Doris Day than Luther Vandross there.
Per: Are you crazy? You don’t like soul? You don’t like the political commentary in rap? You don’t like tormented singers wailing their blues away? You like Doris Day? I bet you don’t buy magazines with the Gallagher brothers on the cover either.
Gessle: You’ve been reading my mail. I like Oasis though. Not every band gets sued by The Rutles, you know.
Per: Wait ’til you hear what the Gallagher brothers have to say about your solo album.
Gessle: If they have any idea of what Doris Day was all about, they’ll love it.
Per: How come Roxette never got acceptance from the more correct side of the British music press?
Gessle: I don’t know. Being Swedish didn’t help in the beginning. When we broke through there hadn’t been anything coming out of Sweden since ABBA, really. Today it’s almost the reverse situation. And besides, our music was always regarded as being too commercial to be credible. I never understood that. Benny in ABBA once said that he was happy that the whole world had the same musical taste as he had. It’s like that. You do your thing and hope for the best. And if you have a commercial element in your music, I see no sense in hiding it. Au contraire, as the French say. But we all love England here. Their football, their draught ale, their Dickens, their driving on the wrong side of the road, their MP’s with their kinky sex, their music and their art. I think we love all, come to think of it.
Per: As in “love all, serve all”.
Gessle: Something like that.
Per: Back to the record. Did you write the song “Reporter” in order to get a psychological advantage with the media?
Gessle:…”she’s such a good reporter, working for a magazine”…yeah, maybe. Did you notice the line coming after her getting access to British Royalty…”she wants the management to tell her where she can interview Marie and Per”?
Per: Yeah, I heard that. Why didn’t you put that backwards? It’s more fun that way. Hidden messages, you know.
Gessle: I did first, but then I realised you can’t play CD’s backwards.
Per: “B-Any-1-U-Wanna-B”. It’s got waves, it’s got the “Good Vibrations”-organ sound, it’s presented as a homage to Brian Wilson. Why?
Gessle: It was a fluffy pop song that I had on acoustic demo. I asked Brainpool to arrange it and Christoffer had a field day with all the toys he could possibly find. A zither and a mini-moog, for example.
Per: Let’s go on. “Wish You The Best” puts an end to the record’s inital hammering of guitars and distorted vocals. I think I like this one the best.
Gessle: I’m so glad you do. I do too. It could easily have been a fat power-ballad, but Brainpool have never listened to that kind of music, so it turned out to be more naked and passionate instead. I’m very proud of this one.
Per: OK. The next song is an old number by Wizzard…
Gessle: No, it’s close but…
Per: “No Cigar”? Haven’t heard that one. Whose song is it then?
Gessle: Mine, of course. I’ve changed all the facts to avoid any similarity with anything. I bought a book about Elvis after the song was written and it was actually a very gloomy day when Elvis came to Germany. It rained and stormed and there was no orchestra. My version is the way it should have been, though. I first liked the lyrics better than the music, but then the saxes came along and got the balance right.
Per: Astonishing. Is it true that Marie likes “T-T-T-Take It” and that Roxette almost recorded it for the “Don’t Bore Us – Get To The Chorus”-collection, but that you chose “June Afternoon” instead?
Gessle: It’s true.
Per: So that’s about it, then?
Gessle: No, there’s three more songs.
Per: I thought we were talking about a pop record, not a double album.
Gessle: I don’t believe in killing ones darlings. I’m a pacifist.
Per: Pacifiction won’t get you anywhere, boy. Anyway, Marie is making a guest appearance on “I’ll Be Alright”. Why?
Gessle: I’ve already told you that she’s the best. And who in his right mind would leave “There Is My Baby” to rot in the drawer? And could you possibly ask for a sweeter goodbye than “Lay Down Your Arms”? Or should I kill a song with a title like that?
Per: Easy now…don’t get excited…it just seemed a bit long, that’s all.
Gessle: It’s less than an hour. 52 minutes if you count it. I’ve spent my whole life listening to pop music. You mean you can’t spend 52 minutes listening to it? You’re that busy? You sleep with a mobile phone under the pillow? I’ve suffered for my art – now it’s your turn. Too long, my ass!
Per: Don’t get me wrong, I love the record. It’s clearly a step forward for you as a writer and performer. It reveals your personal roots as well as being firmly rooted in today’s music scene. And it’s got a lot of balls and…electric guitars.
Gessle: You really mean that?
Per: I honestly do. But what about Roxette?
Gessle: In October we’ll go into the studio to start work on a new album.
Per: Well, see you then.
Gessle: Don’t count on it. Too long, huh? Jävla grönsakshandlare.