Face to face with Clarence Öfwerman. Pt. 5: “I’m a nobody here. That’s nice.”
Clarence Öfwerman: “We all behave very well. Most of the time.”
J: I would like to ask you something about the Roxette song book.
K: Do you know this one?
C: Yeah, I think I have one copy… but I have not really looked into it. It’s not me who wrote it.
J: Yes, exactly. That’s what I wanted to ask. It was written by somebody else, why not you?
C: I don’t know, nobody asked me. I’m not good at this anymore, but I used to work as a note writer. I wrote down Swedish albums in the ’80s, before and during “Overture”.
K: Another side job?
C: Yeah, exactly. But a boring job.
K: Is the rumor true that Per cannot read notes?
C: Yeah, Per cannot read notes, no.
J: So how does he write a song?
C: Well, none of us can read notes, really. I read a little bit. I write better than I can read them. Even Christoffer cannot read them.
K: How do you make songs then??
C: We just play and remember. The Beatles couldn’t write notes either. I don’t know any musician that can. Pelle and I didn’t write or read notes when we did the session work in the ’80s. It was always like the artist playing on the acoustic guitar, he presented the demo or just wrote the chords. That’s enough. I can read chords, like A minor. But if you write the line exactly like I should play, that would take me a couple of days to go through it. I cannot read it at first sight.
K: Do you easily remember melodies that you hear?
C: Yes. If it’s good. Otherwise, I forget it.
K: Topic change. We feel that you are very much a family guy. You seem very relaxed, you like living, you like living well because you can live well, and you’re not at all a business guy. Is this impression correct?
C: That’s true, yes.
K: You like travelling, bringing your family with you… ?
C: If it’s possible, I love to bring them. Not all the time, maybe. Like we did now, I brought them to South America last year. I brought them to Australia this year. That’s perfect. We take two weeks off from school for the big girls. It’s not possible to take more off from school. It was perfect to bring them so they can see what I do. It’s difficult to be out of the room for half a year and come back and tell them, “Oh, I’ve been in Sydney and Melbourne” and they didn’t see anything of it. That would be strange, I think.
K: What do your daughters think about your position? Do they walk to school with their noses up?
C: No, no, no, not at all. Roxette is not big in that way in Sweden.
K: Ha, ha, you should say this when Marie Dimberg is around. She was of the totally opposite opinion.
C: Well, my daughters like Roxette but they don’t listen to Roxette. They listen to new stuff. That’s good, that’s the way it should be.
K: Do you get influences when you listen to their music?
C: No. not yet. It could happen, but no. I don’t like the new modern pop songs.
K: And where do you get your inspirations from? You’re surely not stuck in the same world since the ’80s?
C: It was the ’60s, ’70s in that case. These are the roots. And Per is the one who gets us inspired. When we are recording, he always brings his iPod with stuff from the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s.
K: Yes, but you’re the producer, you are the one who gives a certain sound to a song…
C: We all do…
K: … but your sound has changed during the years. So somehow you must have changed your way of thinking…
C: [long break] I don’t know how it works, really. It’s not intentional. The most changes in the sound actually came with Christoffer. He is the engineer, he is the sound guy.
K: Aha. And what’s your part then?
C: I’m more the arranger. I’ve never been an engineer. Christoffer is both a musician and engineer and everything.
K: Okay. For me who has never worked in a music studio really, please tell me in simple words what you are doing and what Christoffer is doing.
C: [gasps]… well, we’re doing the same thing basically. But he’s doing more. Because he’s the engineer as well, so when he’s mixing all the albums, I don’t have to be there. When he’s mastering, I don’t have to be there and Per doesn’t have to be there either. But in the beginning, we did it all together, the three of us coming up with ideas and making the song from a common point of view. So it’s difficult to say what he does and I do and Per does. We just do what is needed for a song and it doesn’t matter who plays what. If Christoffer or I play the synth, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have to be me just because I’m the keyboard player.
J: Is it like this that all the three of you meet in the studio, everyone contributes his ideas and then Christoffer stays alone in the studio and starts working on it?
C: No, we work together until the song is done. Christoffer doesn’t do anything by himself except for mixing and mastering. We are doing everything together. So when we leave, Christoffer shuts down the computer and turns to another project. He doesn’t do anything without me and Per.
K: Okay. Last couple of questions… Do you already know what you will do next summer?
C: I don’t know. Really. I hope for another film project. Except that…no.
K: Is it nice to take a break?
C: This time it is, yeah. For a while. I don’t know how long it will be.
K: Are you getting nervous when you don’t have to do anything?
C: I don’t know. I think I miss the other family, the Roxette family, after just a few weeks.
J: Understandable. You’ve been together now since 2009, the NOTP times.
C: Yeah, this was yet another family because this was with Jonas still. With this family now, we’ve been constantly together for one and a half year and still it’s very great to meet each other. We were in Norway last week and had been away from each other for two weeks and it was like “Wow, good to see you!”. That’s not usual after one and a half year.
K: Yeah, it’s a band without any scandals.
C: Yes, fortunately! We all behave very well. Most of the time.
K: What does your passport look like? It must be full of visa stamps.
C: Ha, ha, we have double passports. One passport is always at some embassy to get visas for the next leg of the tour, so we have two of them. It’s strange. They are both quite full of visas, not so many stamps. And the most difficult country to get visa for are the United States. It takes you like one and a half day to get a visa. You need to fill in forms with ten pages.
K: Right, you don’t apply for a normal tourist visa but for you it’s a business trip, so the rules are different.
C: Yes. You have to walk to the embassy yourself, they interview you, take your fingerprints. You tell them that you’re not involved in terrorist organizations, you never worked with explosives, you’re not a communist…
K: You don’t have any bonus as a famous artist?
C: [laughs] You cannot even make jokes with them. So strange! But we got our visas now, so I think we’re going there. It’s easier to go to North Korea. I recently read about a book about some guys travelling there.
We start taking some photos for the article. Of course, we keep talking…
J: At home, do you have a studio?
C: Well, not a studio…just a computer and my two keyboards. The ones I have on stage. So like now when they are out on tour, I don’t have anything there. Only the computer.
J: When you go somewhere to work in the studio, do you bring your own stuff along?
C: No, I go there and use whatever they have there. Christoffer for instance has a wide choice of instruments, mostly older ones. We simply use those. We try whatever is needed for the song. Usually it’s piano or organ piano or clarinet. I don’t really like my instruments in the studio. They are good for the tour because they’re reliable and always in tune, they seem to work all the time. The old synths always interfered with the lighting, started making funny noises, stuff like that. But mine are reliable and always work and that’s the most important thing when you’re on tour. They don’t have those surprises as guitar amps have. Christoffer has many problems with them. Interferences with the light or the band electricity. Sounds like pzzzzzzzzzz…
J: What instruments do you have at home?
C: I have a grand piano, an upright piano and when I’m not on tour, I have those Nord synths. Usually at home, I only work when I have a project like a TV series. I don’t work all the time. I need something to compose from time to time. I would like to put some more time into writing.
K: Men stuff: Are you into cars?
C: Cars? No, not at all. I do have a car but I’m not interested in cars. Per is the only one in this band who is interested in cars.
K: I read on Facebook that you prefer the warm countries for holiday? Do you tend to visit the same spots regularly?
C: The last years we’ve been returning to Spain. Mallorca, Palma. We rented an apartment, it has been the same apartment for four years. We went there even this summer. And in France, my father has a house in a small village. So that’s also a spot that we return to because of that. And apart from that, I would like to go to some new place. But it’s difficult, so many places to choose from. And then you have the tour where you get everywhere.
K: Do you get recognized on the street often?
C: You mean here in Sweden? No. In Stockholm, no. Nobody knows who I am. At least I don’t see that somebody recognizes me. I don’t have to write autographs. Never. Sometimes in Germany. Or South America when we’re on tour. But I’ve never been there without being on tour, I don’t know. But in Stockholm, I am a nobody here. That’s nice!
K: Okay, I was just about to ask you if you like more attention…
C: No, no, no. But I love the attention when we go on tour and have this little bit of fame. Like going out in Buenos Aires. Per and Marie cannot go out there. But we others always go out for 15, 20 minutes with the fans. That’s great, that’s perfect.
J: Some fans can be unpredictable sometimes. Have you ever felt threatened by being among fan crowds?
C: No. There seem to be only kind people everywhere. But you never know. I’ve never been afraid of them. Well, some of them are quite a little over the top but still friendly. Maybe it’s more scary for Per and Marie.
J: You don’t have any bodyguards, right? There are only Bojo and Tumppi.
C: Yeah, BoJo is enough. He’s like an army. If he needs to be. But Roxette fans are not that crazy. Well, crazy they are, but in a good way…
Photos are shot, questions are asked. We’ve been sitting together now for two hours. Time to let Clarence go back home, maybe? Well, it’s hard because we enjoyed the talk with him. But we have to start driving now, as well. Christoffer is expecting us in his AGM studio down in Scania. That’s something you really don’t wanna miss.
Tomorrow on TDR: Face to face with Christoffer Lundquist. Pt. 1: “You turn up the volume, ha ha!” and an extended tour through the AGM studio
Roxette: one big crazy family:
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