Face to face with Clarence Öfwerman. Pt. 3: “It’s Possible? I don’t like this song”
K: Were you running out of ideas?
C: I don’t know really. I think, it came with success. Now we were up there and we had to stay there.
K: Did the music company push you?
C: No, they didn’t really push us. But there was pressure, I guess, we felt it. They never pushed me, at least. They were not involved like coming to the studio and saying, “That’s not good” or “Choose this track instead”. And it was almost always us that decided what the single would be.
K: Is this usual in the business?
C: No! And now we don’t do this anymore. Now the record company does it. Now it’s more like, “We don’t know, we recorded an album, what’s the single? No idea!”. So it’s usually the record company that choses the single. And it was also them who chose She’s Got Nothing On… from “Charm School” as first single. Maybe that’s right, I don’t know, I had another choice.
K: It was very “surprising”…
C: Aha ja!
J: It was like, “What’s this?”
C: It’s okay, not the best song on the album, in my opinion. Good live song, though.
J: Perfect to have it in the car while driving and on parties.
K: The video killed it.
C: The video? Yes, it’s terrible.
J: It was a strange idea. But the song itself got a huge response among the kids.
K: Guess they chose it to catch a new audience.
C: Yes, guess it’s right. My choice was No One Makes It On Her Own. It’s a ballad…
J: …and it’s with Marie!
C: Yes, it’s very much Marie and the lyrics sounds like they are about Marie, too.
K: I just assume, the radio would not play this kind of song so often.
C: No, the radio doesn’t play soft songs and ballads, it got to be up-tempo. And then I thought, Way Out was a good single.
K: Yes, that would have been my choice.
C: Yeah, but it was the second single, wasn’t it? You never know if it should have worked out better or not. She’s Got Nothing On… did the job, anyway, I guess. Which one was the first single from “Travelling”? I already forgot. It was not my choice either…
J: It’s Possible!
C: Yeah yeah. I don’t like this song.
K: That surprises me. It’s Possible, She’s Got Nothing On, even One Wish…
C: [turns his thumb down while I mention OW, you can see traces of physical pain in his face]
K: … have all been produced by you. I mean, when you’re the producer and you are not happy with the song, how could that happen?
C: Well, you try to make it as good as possible. When you work with it, you get used to it and you start to like it during the process. You cannot work with it for a week and hate it. You try to make it as good as possible and you grow into it. And then, three months later, you watch it from another angle and you see it didn’t work out quite well.
K: Wouldn’t it be better to produce a song, hide it for three months and then finish it?
C: You never have time for that. One Wish was very stressful, we had to get it out, it was very difficult back then. Per hadn’t written anything for Roxette for a long time, so I guess he was happy he could write anything at all. We tried to make the best out of it…
J: Who has the last word about such decisions?
C: I guess it’s Per.
J: So when he says, “It has to stay like this”, that’s it?
C: Nja. It doesn’t really work like that. We all agree when a song is done.
J: Who makes the decision about the general sound of a particular song? You? Per?
C: It’s all three of us. Christoffer especially, because he is mixing it all. He’s doing that “up with this, down with that”. And then, Per and I sit in Stockholm and listen to it and we’re saying “up with this, down with that” and then we discuss on the telephone if that’s the final mix. During the work, it’s all three of us coming up with ideas, we try different things, try to make it as good as possible from our point of view.
J: Before you start recording a song, do you already know in which direction that song will go?
C: No. Well, maybe we have a direction for an album before we start recording: “This should be more organic, with light drums, or this should be with more machines, made in the computer.” That’s about it. And then we start working and things are just happening by themselves and we let them happen or don’t let them happen. Like not bringing a live drummer to the studio. Like “Party Crasher”, it was mainly made in the computer. It was decided before, and the songs were written like that. Per wanted it like that. We’ve never done that, the three of us, only working with the computer. “SOAP” was the opposite. More live, less computer.
J: It was the best album!
C: Yeah, I think so, too. More organic and playing and everything. And “Mazarin” and “En händig man” were also more organic. “Mazarin” was brilliant. “EHM” was almost like “Mazarin” but not as good. Didn’t have the right songs…
K: Do you get feedback from the studio musicians? So if Pelle says, “Good old friend, I have a better idea”…
C: Yeah, we could do it like that. But all the recordings took place at Christoffer’s place with his drummer from Brainpool, Jens Jansson, and we started from that point. Pelle was involved in “Travelling”, that’s the first album he’s been on since “CrashBoomBang!”.
K: Good decision, I like Pelle’s drumming much better!
C: Jens is more playing all the time like this [waves his hands all around the head]. Pelle is more keeping the beat. He brings his personal style with him. I think, Pelle is a lot better with Roxette and playing the old songs. But Jens was good for “Mazarin”, he plays more lively and playfully. We needed that kind of drummer back then. Jens was in the band until “Party Crasher”, after the “Party Crasher” tour, he was going to the Cardigans singer Nina Persson. That was very lucky for Pelle because then we called Pelle and since then it’s Pelle. And Jens is out. It’s the way it goes.
J: Pelle was part of the family.
C: Yeah, he is. He really is. He’s one of the family, really.
K: It’s mostly Per who brings the idea of a song, sometimes Marie, but it’s getting less and less…
C: Yeah, that’s true. Per usually has the idea in his head about what kind of song it is, how it should sound, which direction it should take…
K: But don’t you sometimes feel like you want to write a song yourself?
C: For Roxette?
C: I thought of it before, but not now anymore.
K: At least something instrumental?
C: Well, I have. The intro to Listen To Your Heart is mine, the middle section of Crash!BoomBang!, other middle sections and solos. The piano solo of It Must Have Been Love. Bits and pieces here and there. It goes with arranging and producing. I don’t have to get credits for that or so.
K: When Per presents you a new song in the studio, do you get your inspiration instantly or do you first go home and come back two days later with the head full of ideas?
C: No, we do it from scratch in the studio. Per says something and we start to play. Depending on what kind of song it is, we start to program the drums, Christoffer grabs a guitar and I play the piano. Or Christoffer grabs the bass and Per takes the guitar and plays a simple beat to the drums. We just go for it, so we find the lines and we find the stuff during the way. It’s not so much thinking, it’s more feeling and intuition.
K: Is it a very concentrated kind of working, do you set yourselves deadlines like “This song has to be done in one week”?
C: Not in the beginning. But when we get towards the end, it’s like “This song has to be ready by nighttime” or “We give it two more days”. Like the song Charm School… and then it didn’t even appear on the album. Or seven days even, but in three different versions. It turned out on “Travelling” then, but under another name.
J: It’s a good song…
C: It’s okay. It’s like She’s Got Nothing On, same kind of song. Every song takes the time that it needs, but we cannot go on forever, we have to stop at some point.
K: Perfectionism needs to be limited…
C: Yeah. We’re not into perfectionism anymore. We used to be more, before.
J: Not every detail has to be checked to the end…
C: No. You don’t have patience for that anymore. Christoffer brought in that kind of change on “Mazarin”. It has not to be exactly on the beat, the guitar hasn’t to be perfectly in tune. Per and I came from a studio work where everything had to be like this: If you need a tambourine in the song, you called a percussion player to the studio. Now instead we’re going ahead and play the tambourine ourselves. It’s okay, we’re not professional tambourine players, but it works. Before, the guitar had to be perfectly in tune. But now Christoffer says, “It’s cool, sounds good!”, then he puts on a Beatles track and says, “Listen to this guitar, is this in tune?” – “No, never thought about that!” and it’s like that. It’s a much better way to approach music…
K: Christoffer is more an organic guy?
C: Yes, but he is into computers as well. It doesn’t have to be like that. But in the old days, when we started with “Look Sharp!”, for instance, that’s very much me and Anders sitting at the computer for days. Per was never there because he couldn’t even switch it on… And we worked like nine days on one song just moving the cymbals a little more left and that one a little more right, then the hi-hats beats, moving the velocity from 87 to 73, adding a special 16th note on the 2nd verse… crazy! But that was important back then.
Tomorrow on TDR: Face to face with Clarence Öfwerman. Pt. 4: “That’s why I started wearing hats”
Video killed the radio song: Roxette with “She’s Got Nothing On (But The Radio)”. Live. Better than the official video clip:
What would we do without this intro? Clarence wrote it. Just listen to your heart:
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