Face to face with Marie Dimberg. Pt. 1: “It’s very frustrating”
The former headquarters of Roxette’s management in Stockholm
STOCKHOLM – She is one of the most respected persons of the Roxette camp: Marie Dimberg, the manager of the band. At the same time, she is one of the most feared ones. The opinions we hear about her range from “top professional” to “be careful, she is dangerous”. Well, okay. We’re on a holiday trip, why not have some fun and meet “Dimman”, (“the fog” as her nick translates to English)? Actually, I gave my interview request not very high chances. I became even more surprised when Marie answered in a very welcoming tone that she would be ready to see us.
The deal is: 30 minutes of talking, and we may take some photos. Good! More than I expected. At this moment, we could not know that we would stay more than one hour with her and really would enjoy the time!
It’s Wednesday afternoon in one of Stockholm’s longest shopping streets, Drottninggatan. We’re counting down the minutes; we neither want to ring the bell too early nor too late. Not helpful in this moment is the fact that we know we’re standing exactly in the spot where only one and a half years ago, a suicide bomber blew himself up in the middle of the Stockholm X-mas shopping turmoil, the pictures of that incident ran around the world. We’re waiting at a white door next to a clothes shop. The list of tenants on the door is long. One line says, “dnd management” – that’s our aim for today. The time is up, we push the button, a friendly voice answers and opens the door. We go into a building with an old-fashioned hallway, the elevator brings us one floor up and through a door you enter a backyard that looks like an Italian street scene. A young blonde lady approaches us; it’s Malin, the new worker in the office. She leads the way, passing by lots of cardboard moving boxes standing still folded against a wall. They are going to move the office to Södermalm the next few days, a place where the artists reside.
We take place in their meeting room, a medium sized room with an oval table in the middle and big windows to the street. On the left side, you see three pictures: Peter Jöback photographed by Jonas Åkerlund (both are clients of d&d), an aerial photograph of the famous Göteborg performance of Gyllene Tider in the sold out Ullevi stadium, and an original photograph by Anton Corbijn (copy 4 out of 20) showing Per and Marie. Must be from the HAND era. The other wall features a hand drawn picture by Marie Fredriksson. We wait a few minutes, get offered tea and coffee. On the table is a small plate with Swiss chocolate. (Turns out that Marie eats bits of them while talking.) Good idea, I’ll be doing the same in my office when I come home. We have to wait a few minutes, check a few music magazines which can be found on a chair in the corner. Then she enters the room: Marie Dimberg, the woman everyone talks about but nobody really knows. She is taller than I remember her, but I had seen her only once before. She smiles, and she seems nice. She shows us her office which is really small. Even more surprising that she shares it with her two colleagues, Dita and Malin. One desk for the boss, the workers sit face to face next to her. The room is filled with CDs, awards and photos. On the window sill are a photo of Dimberg with Pope John Paul II and greetings cards by the Swedish Royal Family. No glamor, instead it’s an atmosphere of concentrated working. All three monitors show long lists of emails that want to be answered. We return to the meeting room, sit down and start the talk. It’s the day after Roxette performed exclusively for a cosmetics company in Stockholm and just a few days before the whole band and their manager would lift off for the North American leg of their world tour. Tough times. Let’s get to the point…
Part 1: “It’s very frustrating”
Kai: Yesterday, you were at the Oriflame concert. It ran well?
Dimberg: Yeah, it was a good show, it was crazy.
K: In what way crazy?
D: It was a corporate event, it was a good show, it took 45 minutes, they were in good shape.
K: They are always in good shape! In a few days, the USA and Canada leg of the world tour is starting. What is left to do, what’s left to organize for you there?
D: Media and meet & greets.
K: How is the response from the American media regarding Roxette, is there a big interest?
D: The difficulty with the US is that the songs are much bigger there than the name Roxette. So if you ask anybody on the street and sing a little bit of IMHBL… I remember I came to Immigration once and they ask you what you do and I said I was a manager for bands and he asked me which band. And I said, “Roxette”, and he said, “Hmm, no?”- “But you probably know ‘It must have been love…’” and he answered, “…but it’s over now!” So they know the songs. In Canada, it’s different, they are known as a band there. So the US is really the only place where the songs are bigger than the names.
K: How did you manage to get your foot in the door then, I remember it has been a long fight for you?
D: Well, it was also a decision of ours, whether we want to finish in the summer or do we want to go on? It’s been a year and a half, so it took some time to decide.
K: This means it was a decision on your side?
D: Yes, Canada was the main goal, and then we were happy to add four dates in the US.
Justyna: I suppose, it was a hard decision for Marie Fredriksson to go on a tour and so far away now. Roxette came back with a really huge world tour, it’s really amazing!
K: What is the task sharing between your office and Live Nation [the tour organizers]?
D: Live Nation are doing the bookings. They are organizing the concerts and then we decide together when it’s a good period, how to do it. And then we work together with the creative things and media things. But the actual bookings they do.
K: So they propose you the dates and you agree or disagree?
D: Yeah. It’s a good partnership between us. It has always been so with Roxette even when I was still at EMI. It’s always been a kind of management by group. Then it was me, Rolf [Nygren] who was the CEO in EMI, Thomas [Johansson], Jan Beime [Desert AB] in Örebro. So it’s always been more or less the same group… now Rolf is unfortunately gone. We’re quite comfortable in each other’s roles. Ultimately it’s Per and Marie who decide. We’re all Swedish and it’s been a good way for us!
K: I heard that in Sweden you like to get along well with each other. It helps a lot…
D: Yeah, it’s like you do what you do best and you do what you do best and I do what I do best, and hopefully one plus one plus one becomes six instead of just three.
K: Wow, if it works like this, congratulations!
D: Well, that’s what we aim for. It doesn’t work all the time and also sometimes it is good when not everybody agrees. Sometimes it’s good to have arguments and discussions. That leads to something better and it makes you think in a different direction. We try to make best use of our different skills.
K: You left EMI in 1997, do you still have good connections to EMI today or have the personalities changed a lot there?
D: They’ve gone through very many changes since I left 15 years ago. There are maybe two or three people left from the time when I was there. We still have a license agreement with them, so yes, I try to keep in touch with them, but it’s on a different level than it used to be.
K: In the fan base, they think that EMI is the weak part of the whole organization around Roxette. They know they have a strong band and a strong management, they just think that the music company is not supportive at all. What’s your opinion?
D: I agree but unfortunately I think it would be the same with every music company that you are with. First of all, the music industry has gone through a massive change and it’s always extremely difficult when you’ve been successful for such a long time as Roxette and then you take a break of ten years. When coming back, none of the people that were there in their heydays are there anymore. When I was at EMI, it was the same with other international bands. It’s like a cycle. This is not a defense but it’s a fact in life! It’s the same with Swedish media. They rather write about Lykke Li doing a club gig in New York than Roxette being back playing for 100,000 people in Australia because they feel it’s more up to date with Lykke Li than Roxette. I don’t think that the Rolling Stones sell a lot of records. They sell a lot of concerts. I don’t know what the next U2 album is gonna be. I think it’s a natural evolution and it’s very frustrating.
K: Did it help you that Roxette is actually selling their concerts very well?
D: What do you mean?
K: Let’s say, you are starting a series of concerts and you can show the media that people are interested in this. Does that help you to keep media interested in Roxette?
D: There is a lot of media interested in Roxette in the territories that we play. Do you mean something specific?
K: You said before that Roxette is hard to sell in the media…
D: No. I said Swedish media. I think there is an interest from the media. But what I was saying was that it’s always the next big thing that creates more interest than something that has been around for a long time.
K: So basically we’re living in a world of one-hit wonders at the moment?
D: Not really. Some of them are one-hit wonders, but some of them will last and probably they will be passed by “the next big thing” in the future… But on the other hand, Roxette is almost the only band from the ‘90s that still exist and do their things which is an achievement in itself. We don’t waste our time or energy worrying about it.
K: Right. You’re doing your job…
D: And it’s going well…
J: You’re doing very well, most of the concerts are sold out.
D: Yeah! We are absolutely overwhelmed by the response!
Read tomorrow: Face to face with Marie Dimberg: pt.2: “You have to reach the girls and the gays”
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