Face to face with Pelle Alsing. Pt. 1: “I’ve been walking the dog two times and now I’m here”
Pelle Alsing face to face with Justyna Bereza
Contemplating appointments with Pelle Alsing is easy. I sent out interview requests to every band member, explaining in short words that I’d like to talk with them and I would come up with further details of the project if they are interested. Pelle’s answer came promptly: “When and where will we meet?”. That sounded like an easy job. The not so easy part was finding facts about Pelle. Family? Education? Bands? Rather little info to be found about him. Wikipedia has a list of his former collaborations. There is a band, The Moosters, he was part of. Other than that? Tough one!
It’s the day after we met Roxette’s manager, Marie Dimberg. We are sitting on a bench in a park, near a small outside restaurant by the water in Stockholm. The meeting is scheduled for three o’clock in the afternoon. Exactly one minute before the clock strikes, he comes around the corner: Per-Gunnar Alsing, sitting on a mountain bike, blue jean jacket, dark Ray-Ban shades and a used-to-be-green cap on the head. Just like we know him. He is relaxed and starts the usual small-talk. Together, we enter the restaurant, Pelle pays the drinks for all the three of us, says he knows the owner personally. We find a rather silent table with a great view on yachts passing by. The sun is shining, the weather is surprisingly good. Let’s start!
Kai: Pelle, we see you play for Roxette and then you disappear. What are you doing when you’re doing something else?
Pelle: Today, I woke up at ten o’clock and I’ve been walking the dog two times and now I’m here.
K: What’s it like to be a musician? Do you have stable jobs or is it like working the whole week through and then doing one week of nothing?
P: Yeah… I’m taking it easy. You see, we’ve been working so much now with Roxette, it’s almost two years now. I don’t have the stress to do something else ‘cos all the other things are put on ice. I just spoke to Lasse Lindbom, he still has his band. Now it’s Micke Syd [of Gyllene Tider] who plays the drums. But now I come back, probably, to do some gigs in Stockholm and all over Sweden.
K: When you’re on tour with Roxette, you have been away now for almost two years, does it make it harder for you to return to your normal working life, to your other projects?
P: Yes, of course!
K: Or does it make you even bigger in the Swedish music scene?
P: It was tougher twenty years ago. We were on world tour, everybody knows it in Stockholm and Sweden. And then, all of a sudden, you’re back in Stockholm, and people come up to you say, “Ohhh, you’re back”, and I say, “Yes, I’m back”… Could be tough. But I mean, I don’t need to do anything right now. I take it easy, do my own projects, The Moosters and the other band, OK Wire.
K: OK Wire. Okay! I read that The Moosters are a blues band…
P: Yeah, it’s more like a blues… rocky blues band. And the other band is more like Americano style, kind of singer-songwriter style.
K: More acoustic then?
P: Yeah, more acoustic. No blues, no hard rock, it’s quite soft. A little Neil Young, WILCO, The Jayhawks, influences like that… and Bob Dylan!
K: Is there a record out already?
P: Well, we’re still recording, and hopefully next year, it will be released.
Justyna: You worked in the gaps between the Roxette concerts… ?
P: Yeah, I got to do something. It used to be Jonas [Isacsson] on guitar, but he quit actually. But the bass player of the first Roxette album “Pearls of Passion”, Tommy Cassemar, is there now. We’re still working on that, we have so many songs! Just have to put it together, mix it, release it…
K: Do you really have time for this?
P: Yeah, we’ve been working on it only in small steps because the bass player, Tommy, is still working with other Swedish artists and is touring a lot. And the guy who runs the studio, who is also our keyboard player, he got bookings in the studio doing recordings. So he takes all the spare time in the studio for us. So everybody has to be kinda free from work when we work together.
K: How did you actually start your musical career? There was not so much to read about you on the Internet when we prepared the meeting with you. We found information about the “Raj Montana Band”, “The Moosters”. Then there is a list of albums on Wikipedia you worked on…
P: This list is by far not complete…
K: Anyway, you basically don’t happen on the Internet…
P: Yeah, I don’t like Facebook, it’s not my kind of thing. Neither LinkedIn, or whatever it’s called. I don’t have an official homepage although I should have one. Maybe in the future. But.. I don’t know if you know it, I’ve been working for 30 years with different artists in Sweden and Scandinavia…
K: With the biggest artists even, Ulf Lundell…
P: Yes, Ulf Lundell, besides Roxette the biggest one. He used to be bigger at the time I worked with him, but that’s 30 years ago.
K: He is still famous in Sweden.
P: Yes, he’s still doing a lot, going on tour. But he’s playing for four hours every night, so I hope he won’t call me, actually. [laughs]
K: If we rewind your history even further…
P: Okay, the history is, I grew up in the Southern part of Stockholm, not very far from here, not far from where Globen is now.
K: You’re a city guy then.
P: Yeah, together with Clarence, we are the only ones in the band born and raised here in Stockholm. Well, Clarence is from the Northern part of town. I have an elder brother, he’s four years older than me. He started to play the drums when I was eight, nine years old. And I played the guitar, and it was boring I thought, so I played his drums instead and then I played and played and played. And then I went to this music high school.
K: So you really have a music education?
P: Yes. But it’s long ago. I did a lot of session music, you know, lots of records, a lot of crap actually you don’t want to hear about. All the other things like Ulf Lundell or Raj Montana Band, they were more like real bands, we worked together. But the crap things… you will never hear the songs again, hopefully. I quit that, actually. They didn’t wanna have me. The first big thing was Raj Montana Band…
K: …that was with Dan Hylander…
P: Yes, I was 19 years old when I met these guys. They moved up from Skåne, from Malmö.
K: That was also where you met Clarence and Jonas…
P: Yeah, but that came later. I recommended Clarence to that band.
K: How did you get to know him?
P: How I got to know Clarence? That’s a strange story. In the middle of the city, at Drottninggatan, there was a music store called Hagström and there where was this board where a band looked for a drummer and a bass player. The band was called Overture. That was Clarence’ band together with two other guys.
K: Ahhh, I seeee…
P: And I took their telephone number and gave it to my brother who was four years older. Clarence is three years older than me, so… My brother was the better drummer… those days. So I gave this number to my brother and he called Clarence and they met up. They started the band together and they played a lot in the Stockholm area and on a tour in Sweden. When they played in Stockholm, I was kind of a roadie for them, I helped them with technical stuff. And then more and more Clarence and I became friends, and now it’s a story that lasts 30 years… So, I recommended Clarence around four years later to the Raj Montana Band with Dan and Py and that became very big. There was also the guitar player from Clarence’s band Overture and two other guys. But we decided to quit the band when it was as big as it could be, and that was ’84. And then I toured with different artists like Eva Dahlgren, also did a record with her. I toured a lot with Sanne Salomonsen, a Danish artist, and her ex-husband, Mats Ronander, we had a band together, The Low Budget Blues Band. Both Mats Ronander and the other guitar player, Lasse Wellander, are from the ABBA band, and that was in the beginning of the ’90s. I toured with them a lot and we released two records. Then I was touring with Björn Afzelius. We toured in Norway, he was number one and Roxette was number two on the album charts. I was touring with Björn in the beginning of the 90s, when Roxette took a tour break. With Roxette, we did a lot of TV shows in 95/96, when Don’t Bore Us Get To The Chorus was released. After that, there was nothing with Roxette until 2001. And then we were supposed to do the Night Of The Proms 2002… It started for me in 2009 again.
K: In the meantime you played with other artists?
P: Yeah, with other artists or I did my own projects.
K: Do you have a manager, somebody who makes the contacts for you? Or are people calling you?
P: People call me, I’m alone. I’m quite famous in this country, I think, as a drummer. But you know, I’m not young anymore. There are always young guys, fantastic guys coming from schools and bands and everywhere…
See The Moosters with Pelle Alsing performing live:
Tomorrow on TDR: Face to face with Pelle Alsing. Pt. 2: “I’m in Hong Kong… but where am I in the song?”
Men at work
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