Face to face with Christoffer Lundquist. Pt. 4: “I would like to be able to write lyrics”
AGM is where creativity resides
K: How was your attitude to Roxette at this time? My impression is that in Sweden, Roxette is considered a mere business act…
C: Oh yeah yeah yeah! It is considered a business act and really superficial commercial stupid non-emotional.
K: So how was it for you to be booked by Per and be the support act for Roxette while you actually followed a totally different path?
C: The thing is that I liked Roxette a lot. The first ever concert I went was Gyllene Tider because my sister was in love with Per and had all his posters on her wall. She is three years older than me…
K: What does she say now?
C: Hehe, ohoho yeah! They met by now, of course. So I was a great fan of Gyllene Tider even though I kept it a little bit secret…
K: …because it was so embarrassing…
C: Yes, it was really embarrassing. I always liked complicated progressive rock so it had to stay a secret thing. When I worked at the retarded people home and I was twenty or something or… when did “Joyride” come out?
C: Oh yes, then I was twenty-one. So one of the guys who lived there got the tape from his mother and I was sweeping the floors and Joyride was playing, and I thought it was fantastic! I thought it was great! It was a supercharged, modern version and had so obvious Beatles influences that I liked and it wasn’t prestige at all and the voices were fantastic! I always felt that Per’s voice was fantastic. I remember hearing “När vi två blir en “for the first time, my sister played it, it was like “Wooho, so irrestable!“ And it was the voice!
J: The soul! In his voice, he can show emotions!
C: Yes. The song was great and everything. I didn’t understand the sexy lyrics because I was ten years old but that didn’t matter because it was the voice. It was the same when I heard “Joyride”, that hoarse voice. It was magic! And then Marie, of course even more in the combination! When “C!B!B!” came out, that was when Brainpool was sort of approaching a record contract, I bought it and I thought it was a fantastic record, too. Though not all of it but the best bits for me were magic and I listened to it in the tour bus and of course as you say, it was not allowed to like this, so I was teasing the others, “Oh, Roxette is the best band since Yes!“ and they were really like “You ought to be a hip indie person, shut up, you can’t tell anyone that you like that stuff!“ but I did, I really enjoyed it. I also remember, which maybe sounds presumptuous… When I heard “Joyride”, I heard it only in the home and then I got the LP and listened to it and I felt “Oh, I can do this, this is not impossible, it’s fantastic and I haven’t done this yet but I could do this somehow“. Not that I felt I could have done this record but “Oh, it’s within reach!” Not within reach in the real world because there was no chance that I would ever… of course. But musically, I remember that clearly, yeah!
J: “Joyride” was a great production. Jonas Isaccson was there and the guitar solos were fantastic.
C: Yeah, I think it’s Roxette’s best record by far for me. And for me, “C!B!B!” is a close second.
J: “Look Sharp!” was interesting too.
C: Yeah, sure! They are great. But there is something about “Joyride”, everything is just right! They got everything right.
J: They cared about every single detail, every single instrument.
C: Yes. It happens every now and then, a record where everything falls into place, the stars are right. And when you see this afterwards, and I do this too with my favorite bands, you think that “Oh, it’s because of this or that person, he was there and that’s why it’s like that!”. That, I have learned, is not so true. The sum of the parts is much greater than the parts. And they got it right then. It’s like a metaphysical thing for me because they were great but they don’t know how they did it. I’m sure they didn’t. That goes for any great record. They never understand what is so good about their own best record. Artists never do. Because it just happens. It’s beyond the control, it’s not something you can plan or dictate. You need to just let it happen.
K: It’s also about the other people who need to like it in the end. Who spread the word. I think there are many talents who do really great music but no one knows of them. So they do what they wanted but they are not big.
C: Of course, there are tons of records like that, for sure!
K: During Brainpool, you were the bass player. Now you play almost every kind of instrument, you are also a producer. How did you get into these directions?
C: Oh, it’s because the record for me was always the whole thing. Everything. I was into everything. So I when I listened to music in the headphones when I was really small, I clearly heard all the reverbs and all the sounds. I listened to only the bass on the ABBA records and stuff like that. I wanted to be able to do everything, that was always the ambition. I never cared about being good at playing an instrument; I never practiced to be able to play fast, to play a lot of chords or anything like that. It was the whole thing because I wanted to do the emotional bit. That was the only thing that mattered. And to get that, you need to be able to do everything. This was not a conscious thing, I only know it now when I look back, that’s what I did. I needed to learn everything, of course. I needed to learn to record, to write songs…
K: …to test yourself out…
C: Yeah, I tried everything, always. Singing was the worst part for me because I never sang a note before I was a teenager. And in my high school band, the progressive rock band, when we did a demo, I was eighteen or something, and we felt, okay, we need to sing… because we were all too shy, we couldn’t sing, and I didn’t think I could sing at all. But I decided, I must try, I must do this. It was horrible and a disaster and it sounded crap. But I had to try that. So I did that and it was… bad! I didn’t continue after that. But then in Brainpool, I discovered that I could do harmonies which I didn’t know, I never tried. Because they were into pop music and we did a demo, we said, “Oh, we should have some harmony singing”, and no one could do that. So I tried and I discovered “Oh I can do this, it’s easy”. I could do it any way I liked, basically. And then I started to dare to sing a bit more but even then singing was really, really scary. Recording your voice in the studio, hearing it back, other people listening… really difficult. It took a long time to get over that.
J: Can you sing by notes?
C: Oh no no. I don’t read music. If you give me a score with notes on it, I don’t… it’s zero. I don’t know it at all, so I never did it like that. I listen and I do what I hear in my head. I don’t try to read or write music like that.
K: When you went on tour with Roxette… what were your experiences as a successful local Swedish music band being the support act on an international scene? I remember that in the beginning, the audience wanted to boo you out, but then they thought, “Hey it’s not so bad actually”.
C: Ho ho! In the beginning, no one cared. But I remember it got better. And after a while, I guess parts of the loyal old time Roxette fans took to us as well and started to be loyal and help us out and listen to the records.
K: Actually, you had quite catchy pop tunes which for a Roxette fan were within reach to be likable.
C: No, it’s the same world of music. But I think also when we played live, our picture of ourselves was a punk band with poppy songs. Live it must have sounded really trashy and that was the idea: energy, really fast, crazy. That was probably not easy to get through in the big ice halls. It was clearly the wrong style of playing for the ice halls and that was probably part of the problem.
J: There’s one thing which I’m often disappointed of when I see Roxette concerts. Many people (of course not all of them) are not interested in the support acts, do not enjoy the music that is being played inbetween, they only come and want to see Roxette. This is really sad for me because I really enjoy the music from Per’s tape.
K: Actually you get a ’70s disco for free when you go there.
C: Yes, fantastic!
J: I want to get to know the acts playing, to learn something new…
C: Yes, trying to be open. But I agree, people are very set, and when you do that, you shut a lot of things out instead of being open. I agree very much.
K: I think, this a typical problem of pop music fans. They listen to mainstream music. If you look at listeners of jazz or blues, they already found the way away from the main stream, they are open already.
J: There simply are people who only like one kind of things.
C: Yes. And another part of that thinking is that people are convinced that the stuff they get a kick out of is the only good one and everything else is bad. It is very, very weird, indeed. You have all these people fighting about which is better or worse. That’s totally pointless. When people ask what music is, the answer would be that music is a subjective experience in your consciousness. That’s all that is. You cannot say that music is on the record or that the sound waves in the air is music or that the cello makes music. You construct the music in your consciousness with the help of all this stuff. And when you accept that, then you know that two peoples’ perception of the same piece of music… you can never know what the other guy’s perception is. So the only thing that ever matters is that if you like it then it’s good, if you don’t like it, forget it. It’s totally uninteresting to bash your head and say which is good or bad.
J: Some peoples’ consciousness seems blocked. They listen to music just because they like the singer, they never go deeper into the music. Some only like melodies…
C: That’s true. People listen to different things in music. That’s also true, very much true. They focus on different things. I was never a lyrics listener. Until recently. The last couple of years, I started to listen to the lyrics. Just to do something new. But before that, I never heard them. I noticed that when they sound bad or cheap, then I don’t like them. But if they sound good, for me that’s it. But of course, I miss a whole dimension. A huge dimension from a songwriter’s point of view, obviously. Because the songwriter puts music and words together to be this one thing. And I miss half of it!
J: That’s why you didn’t write the lyrics for your own album “Through the window“?
C: I can’t!
J: I heard that you tried it together with your wife?
C: Oh yeah, I tried it many times and I wrote lyrics for my own songs, for all the demos. And they are the worst lyrics ever written by anyone. Totally embarrassing. For me, this is kind of frustrating. I would like to be able to write lyrics but’s it’s just not that.
K: Hm, I was the same. I only listened to the sound of the music, to the rhythm. Only for a few years now, I have been interested in the history of songs. Because most great pop and rock songs have a story in the background that created the idea for that song. And from that point, I tried to understand the lyrics. Because then you not only see the lyrics themselves but also the meaning between the lines.
J: Another thought is, and I believe in this, that when you feel good, you enjoy the music. But if you feel sad, you understand the lyrics. Interesting is also that most of the good lyrics are about sad things.
C: It’s also a bit of a gender thing. I think, women tend to listen more to lyrics, actually. In my experience, it’s very much like that. Whereas guys don’t hear the lyrics at all, they listen to the music only.
Tomorrow on TDR: Face to face with Christoffer Lundquist. Pt. 5: “That was the best musical moment of my life”
“The first ever concert I went was Gyllene Tider.” A few years later, Christoffer sings with them. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rd9cbuRvvto
Guitar collection, part two
Technical errors may occur.