Face to face with Pelle Alsing. Pt. 2: “I’m in Hong Kong… but where am I in the song?”
Pelle Alsing talking with The Daily Roxette
K: When you work with somebody, how much influence do you have on the music you’re playing? So, in the studio, are you getting your notes and you play that or do you come up with your own ideas?
P: Yeah, I could do that, I could say I have better ideas. But sometimes when we recorded with Roxette we put the drums like the last thing we did, almost.
K: Shouldn’t it be different? In live sessions, the drummer is usually the one who sets the rhythm…
P: Yeah. Well… I mean, when they recorded “Look Sharp!”, I wasn’t in the studio that much. I think I played on four songs only. Or two, I can’t remember really. On the new travelling album, that’s a mix of live and everything. When we played the studio sessions in Christoffer’s studio, we played together, the whole band.
K: The reason why I ask is that I feel that you can hear when Pelle Alsing plays the drums on a record. Compared to for instance Jens Jansson, your kind of playing is catching me, so I wondered that if the team around, Clarence, Christoffer and Per, more or less stayed the same, it must be you then who makes the difference?
P: Hm, I try to put my profile on it, my trademark, sort of. Sometimes, they say, “Can you play something else?”. Per has ideas, and especially Christoffer, he is full of ideas. Do you know the first song… well, I think it’s the first song… from “Travelling”? [Each of us tries to remember the song title. After a little quizzing, Justyna comes up with the right answer: “Me & You & Terry & Julie”] There, the drums are mixed very low, kind of Keith Moon [drummer of The Who] all the time, so I’m playing like “Animal” in the “Muppets Show”! At least I tried to. And that wasn’t my idea, it was Christoffer’s. He said, “Come on Pelle, play more, more, more, more… ! This is it! Now more, more, more, more…!”. We kinda influence each other, actually it’s helping each other out. It’s a really good team to work with. I never experienced that. I mean, I’ve been touring with so many different mixes of musicians and artists, but this is like a family. We’re playing like 130 shows, and there is no arguing, no… nothing! No problem on the whole tour, everybody is happy all the time!
K: Amazing when you consider you have to live together more or less all the time…
P: And we’re calling each other and checking with each other: What are we gonna do today, we have a day off, I’m gonna go out and see a church and see… whatever… There’s always something going on. In the nice cities, we try to read a bit about them before we come there, Rio de Janeiro for instance or Buenos Aires or Munich or Berlin…
K: I heard you get guided by fans even?
K: How do they get in touch with you?
P: I think, Christoffer is the guy who has contact with the fans, mostly. He is a good guy to the fans. I mean, the fans are lovely. It’s great, it’s like we’re growing up together.
K: Do you enjoy being recognized on the street or do you prefer to remain private?
P: Sometimes, I can feel like I need my privacy. But the fans are so, so smooth, it’s no problem. I mean, 20 years ago, it was kind of a shock when we realized what fans were like in South America. But now, they are still a little crazy, but we love them!
K: Do you get recognized on the street?
P: Yeah, sometimes.
K: Well, you’re sitting “in the last row” on the stage, not many people see you…
P: That’s why I chose the drums! [laughs]
J: Do you have time to watch the audience from the stage or is all your concentration needed for the drumming?
P: Mostly, I’m concentrated on what I’m doing. I wanna do the best I can.
J: So it’s not like: Oh, I know all the song by heart, I can look around now…?
P: No, I know everything… backwards, I think. But you need concentration. Every show is different. We have a very high level on the shows. In my early days, we had bad shows and good shows, but today even the bad shows are very good, actually. When the audience is great, everything is going by itself, you don’t have to think then.
K: Do you improvise on stage?
P: Yeah, I do improvise. I never do exactly the same every evening. But in order for Per and Marie to feel safe, I don’t do many crazy things. Not that they fall on stage and break a leg. Once, I did a big mistake, the biggest I’ve ever done. It was in Hong Kong. I got this blackout, it was in “Sleeping In My Car”. You know, after the second chorus, there is this “the night is so pretty and so young…” and I went like… [Pelle hits air drums and makes noises with his mouth, gesticulating wildly]… and everybody was like, “What is he doing there?”. That took me like eight bars or so to figure out this is not right, where am I? I’m in Hong Kong… but where am I in the song? I was totally lost! It was a strange show anyway. Both of Christoffer’s amplifiers broke down. I tried to find a video of this on YouTube but I couldn’t. I still remember their faces when I did that. But well, everybody is doing mistakes. There was another funny thing that happened in Zürich now this summer, during the intro of “Big Love”, Christoffer’s guitar was out of tune. Something happened with the string and it sounded horrible and everybody in the band started to laugh and we laughed throughout the whole song! It was almost embarrassing but we had a good time! I think that shows how tight we are.
K: Yes! Roxette has evolved into a live band, it’s not as produced as it used to be…
P: When you go and see for instance Madonna or Britney Spears or whatever, it’s the same show every night. Nothing happens there. Maybe we really should have more songs to choose from… Bruce Springsteen has one and a half show, I think, so he can change all the time. He can play 30 songs but only plays 15 songs per evening, so he can change them every night. But that would be quite tough for Marie. I mean, Marie is better than ever. She’s not running around anymore and even if she wouldn’t have had that brain tumor, she’s 53 now anyway.
J: You can see how she loves it!
P: It was ten years between 2001 and 2011 when we started this tour. Per is also a much better artist now, I think. After his solo career, his solo tours and tours with GT.
J: Yes, he sings much better now!
K: You said you like being the last one on the stage, nobody sees you…
P: Yeah, I like that! Sometimes, Per comes up with his ideas, “Maybe you can come forward and play the tambourine?” and I say, “Do you really need a tambourine on that song? Is that good?”
J: Ah, this is in “Church Of Your Heart”! We have a video of you throwing the tambourine away at the end of the song and it still keeps rolling and playing to the rhythm of the song…
P: Yes. Marie Fredriksson’s husband complained that when I threw the tambourine on my drum podium, it sounds weird on the PA system, and after that I started throwing it backwards.
K: For a long time, you had this drum solo in “Way Out”…
P: …it was this Queen tribute…
K: …and Beatles…
K: Why did this one get kicked? It was special ‘cos you were in the center of the attention…
P: Yeah, it was special! I think it was Per’s idea, “What happens when you start the song?”. It was a good idea! But the song wasn’t that big, I think it was a kind of show off for the audience. Maybe it wasn’t such a strong song in the end…
K: Well, many people missed it when it was removed.
J: Same with “Silver Blue”!
P: I think there was kind of refreshing the set list or something to do something new. I think there is a trend that all the big artists and bands tend to play their old stuff, so 80-85 % of the show is old stuff. Seems like people don’t wanna hear the new songs. I mean, if I go and see Bruce Springsteen, of course I want to hear some new stuff. But actually, I want to hear the old stuff, of course! It’s like Paul McCartney coming to Cologne playing only his solo records, no Beatles songs… Marie is joking sometimes when we have to shorten our set list on festivals and we have to take away four songs or so, “Let’s take away LTYH, The Look, Joyride and IMHBL and see what happens!”
J: I would go there for sure, then!
P: Haha. So what shows have you seen on this tour?
K: Before I answer this, can you even tell the different places apart?
P: No, no, I remember most of them!
K: Okay, let me see… Berlin, Zitadelle, that was this castle…
P: Yes, this was really good, that was a nice place, something like a park…
K: Yes, one of the best band performances of those times!
P: And the audience was quite good too.
J: And exactly when Roxette came on stage, the rain stopped.
P: And Christoffer’s band mates from Brainpool were there. Jens and David.
K: Then NOTP, of course, in Berlin.
P: Okay, this was a strange thing but it worked.
K: I heard you were rather reluctant to this idea?
P: Yes, Clarence and Christoffer were there…together with Per, I think… maybe Marie. They thought, it was just strange. But just to get a start for Marie it was kinda perfect for her to do. We did five songs and she was singing two or three of them. So it was a perfect start for her to do the NOTP. So thanks to them… but everything started actually with the Party Crasher tour in 2009 when Marie went up on stage in Amsterdam. What she needed was just confidence, “I can do this!”, and all the plans have changed a lot since. When we started the tour, we did like ten shows in 2010. The plan was that Marie can go off stage during the show most of the time just to relax and then come back and do some songs. Now it’s the other way around: Marie is on stage all the time [laughs] and everybody else is going off the stage, having something to drink, Per is doing make up…
Pelle and Clarence in their younger years as members of Raj Montana Band:
Tomorrow on TDR: Face to face with Pelle Alsing. Pt.3: “I wanted to be like Ringo Starr”
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