Face to face with Clarence Öfwerman. Pt. 2: “I never talked to Per about it”
K: When was the point you started producing music?
C: I think it was during those years when we recorded in the studio with different people. I was interested in getting involved in songs, telling them about my ideas, like I would do it like this and take this chord and take away this instead. Yeah, I thought it was like that and people thought that I’m good at this. So Py Bäckman wanted to record her first solo album after “Raj Montana” had split… Dan and Py went their own ways then… she asked me if I would like to produce and I said, “Yeah why not?”. It was kind of the same thing that I had always done before, but I didn’t call myself producer nor did I get the credits for this. It was like that, I guess. I did maybe two, maybe three records before Roxette. I did one together with Dan Hylander as well. He produced a guy from Malmö called Niels Jensen and he asked me if I want to co-produce the album.
K: And those became your references for Roxette then. I heard that EMI called you because you were the new guy in the producer scene…
C: Yeah, they wanted somebody new, I don’t think I was on top of their list even…
K: They were looking for a new sound…
C: Yes, they did. Per wanted some new collaboration. He had worked with Lasse Lindbom for years for GT and his solo albums. He wanted something new. I’m not sure, I think I was even a bit down on the list. I never talked to Per about it.
K: You better not ask him…
C: No, I haven’t asked him.
K: I also heard that you were not very keen on this job because you didn’t like the style of Roxette…
C: Yes, that is true. I didn’t like Per’s solo albums that much. As I said before, I liked GT’s first album, the second was okay. And then I thought it was… not getting better.
J: Too soft…
C: I don’t know, too cheesy. Then I heard some of his solo albums and Teaser Japanese and I thought, “That’s crap!”.
J: I liked them!
C: Yeah, they are okay… but at that time, the feeling was not… he was very good at the start of GT. I was like, “Wow what a guy, strange voice, singing very high, this screaming, sort of singing with no control”… He still doesn’t have control! But I like that pretty much now.
K: Didn’t you feel like there is a lot to do for you then?
C: Not in the beginning because when they asked me, I hadn’t heard anything yet. I heard his solo albums and GT. But what they asked for was Per’s third solo album, it was not Roxette. The album that became “Pearls of Passion” in the end. So Per asked for a solo album but I think he had Roxette in mind from the start. He wanted to start out with just one track which was Neverending Love and he wanted to do a duet with Marie and there I thought, “Yeah, Marie, that’s good!” I thought, she was a really good singer and on the way up. Per was on his way down at this time. That was everybody’s thought.
K: You also had different musical roots…
C: We came from different areas. I had more musical things in common with Marie than with Per. Marie also was into prog rock, liked Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel, but still all of us came from the same field, from The Beatles, the ’60s… But Per went into punk and modern wave more than I did. I didn’t understand punk when it came up, I was more into “Yes” and “Genesis” and 20 minutes songs, you know? Anyway, when I got the demo of Neverendig Love, me and Pelle were in Kitzbühl [Austria] for a ski holiday and I brought the demo and I said I was skeptical. But Pelle said, “You better do it, it’s just one song, maybe it will lead to something else”. So it was Pelle who persuaded me, actually.
K: I wonder, if the producer was skeptical, the singers did not want their faces on the single… who actually believed in the project?
C: Well, when we started recording it, I liked it of course. I thought, it was okay. It wasn’t very good but it was okay. But then people loved it.
K: They loved it since this music was something new?
C: I really don’t know if this was something new. The bass line is very much Billie Jean by Michael Jackson.
J: That was very, very ’80s, I would say.
C: It had a little flavor of ABBA as well, this song.
K: Can be it was an attempt to conquer the international market…
C: Yeah… but I don’t think it worked on the international market. We tried, but…
J: Why the change from Swedish to English lyrics? The original version was Swedish…
K: Svarta glas…
C: But that was never recorded, not with Per anyway. Maybe a demo only. He tried to sell it, but I don’t think anyone recorded it. And I never heard the swedish version.
J: So you switched to English to follow ABBA’s success?
C: I don’t know if Per had an idea for an international career, we never talked about that. This was just a project together with Marie. And I also think that everybody said “No” to “Pearls of Passion”, nobody at EMI wanted to release that album. And nobody wanted to release “Look Sharp!” either. Everybody said, “No thanks. It’s okay but no thanks.” Until it hit in the USA. Then everybody wanted it!
K: Per had been with EMI for a few years already. You had worked with Ulf Lundell then, was he the one who brought you together?
C: Nah, I was only on tour with Ulf Lundell. I never recorded with him. I worked with all the record companies, I was a freelancer.
K: Okay. So EMI picked you…
C: I think, I was picked by Per, not by EMI. I don’t think so… but I don’t know. I think, Per was involved anyway. Maybe Per discussed with Kjell Andersson different producers and Kjell came up with some names. Because the first meeting was with Per and Kjell at Café Opera. But I don’t remember anything about this.
K: Then there was a guy named Alar Suurna, was he there before you?
C: No, I brought him in. Before, there was an EMI guy first, Björn Boström, who recorded all the GT albums and Per solo and Marie. But I thought, they never sounded any good. In the beginning, GT was nice. The EMI sound in the ’80s was not so good. The first mix of Neverending Love was done by Björn Boström, but it was not that good. So I asked Kjell if I could mix it again with Alar who I knew a little bit, I had worked with him once before. So Alar came in and now it sounded much better. And also the people who were involved playing… Per and I had different options concerning them. I wanted Pelle on the drums, I wanted Jonas and I wanted Tommy Cassemar on the bass. But Per wanted Werner Modiggård on drums who is on Neverending Love, he wanted MP [Mats Persson of GT] on guitar and he also wanted Tommy Cassemar on the bass. We agreed on the bass player and he got his two other guys. The song turned into a hit and then we had to record an album. And I wanted Alar, I wanted Pelle and I wanted Jonas. [knocks his finger hard on the table with every name]
K: Was that a lot of fight about this?
C: No, he said, “Okay, okay.”… So, that was the band. We knew each other, they were my friends and we knew what we could do and they knew me and we did good things together. Especially Jonas did a lot of contributions to Roxette like guitar riffs for The Look and others. Many of those licks was him just playing around and Per or me said: Hold it! What’s that? That was good!
K: Before you joined in, Per had worked with Mats most of the time who certainly had different working methods than you. Have you had the chance to change things your way?
C: I have no idea what they had done before. I did it like I used to do it.
K: You didn’t get responses from the team about things that were different before?
C: Yeah. I think Per was disappointed because I wanted a real band and he wanted to work with machines only. I wanted to have my band and maybe mix it with sequencers and computers,which we did. But Per always wanted to do a completely computerized album.
J: Maybe it was modern at this time…
C: Yeah, it was. Everything has its time, you have to get comfortable with it. Then came the second album, that’s where Alar broke his leg just when we started recording, so we had to bring in another engineer which happened to be Anders Herrlin from GT. And he was a machine guy, he worked at a music store, so he brought things from that shop, and we tested it all out.
K: It was the times when electronic stuff entered the music business, you were happy to try out things…
C: Exactly. It was all new to me. Everything was fantastic, to work with the computer and everything. Anders helped sorting out everything; he’s a very technical guy. We chose sounds together, I was very fond of that, we were very creative. That album was the best regarding our creativity, I think. Things just happened all the time…
K: You talk about “Look Sharp!” now?
C: Yeah. When things went wrong, we still used them. For instance, we programmed a hi-hat, then instead of the hi-hat came some choir pattern with voices going wo-wo-wo-wo. Which is still in The Look, very soft somewhere to the left. So we kept many things because it was just fun. We didn’t take anything serious, just laughed and played around, and even “Joyride” is a bit like that. But then it got more and more serious and more and more like “Hmmm what shall we do here?,” not so playful anymore…
Tomorrow on TDR: Face to face with Clarence Öfwerman. Pt. 3: “It’s Possible? I don’t like this song!”
Neverending love between Clarence and Roxette:
Technical errors may occur.