“Myth” gets revealed as TDR meets Per in Helsinki
HELSINKI – The Daily Roxette meets Per Gessle in the luxurious Hotel Kämp in the center of Helsinki on a sunny April afternoon. Per is full of energy – as always – even though he has already spent a day and a half talking with Finnish reporters and is yet to have his lunch. An iPod with a voice recorder attachment is saving our discussion.
“Oh, iPod, it’s a fantastic little machine,” says Per. He has a few of them himself. “I tend to have a few. And… I have lost a few, too,” he says laughing. I go on to ask the ever-so-common question about what’s playing on his iPod right now.
“The best record I’ve had this year is from this English guy called Merz. I don’t know anything about him. I tried to find something about him on the Internet, but couldn’t really find any. I know he made an album eight years ago and then something went wrong and it took him eight years to come up with a follow-up. It’s a beautiful record and I just love it,” Per says. His other purchases lately have been the latest albums from Arctic Monkeys and Rosie Thomas.
The “Son of a Plumber” album was already promoted in large scale last year, in Sweden. Per doesn’t feel it’s that difficult to get into the right mood for promoting the album again, now in other European countries. “It’s been fascinating. I’ve been travelling to several countries by now and the reception has been fantastic. I never ever get reception from the media in this way. I was just joking that this will probably be my least-selling record and the one I get most media attention for. But that’s fine, because this album was done very much for myself,” he says. “It is a tribute to my record collection, my childhood and my roots. We never talked like ‘we have to have three singles’ or anything. I actually let EMI pick the singles because I couldn’t. I was too close to the songs.”
Because “Son of a Plumber” is such an important album to Per, he feels extra happy and honored that EMI chose the album as a priority album for Europe. “However, I guess the problem which we will meet down the road is how to get the songs on the radio because they’re so old-fashioned.”
One reason for the good reception in the media Per finds in the fact that the journalists in their 30s and 40s recognize the influences Per had on this album. “This is an album that almost any artist wants to make once in their lives. I guess that shows. The journalists notice that it’s not made for the current radio format, it’s made for other reasons.”
Roxette’s music is often underestimated by the media because it’s made to be radio friendly. “I always have the same discussion with journalists. They say this music is so different from Roxette. But it isn’t really different. It’s different in that sense that it’s presented another way, it’s produced differently, arranged differently and it sounds different, but it’s just another branch of the same tree,” says Per. “Then you can ask why has it gone this far from the Roxette sound. I think I needed all these years, to dare to do an album like this. It all started with ‘Mazarin,’ which was like a door opener for this album.”
“‘Mazarin’ was made in the same studio with basically the same people, but it was much more produced. ‘Son of a Plumber’ is much more an ‘anything goes’ sort of thing; no demos, trying to surprise each other in every song,” Per explains. He was influenced by the double albums of the ’60s, like The Beatles’ “White Album” and “Blonde on Blonde” by Bob Dylan. “Suddenly there was space for the ‘drummer’s song’ and the instrumentals that would’ve been thrown away otherwise. I wanted that vibe to be on ‘Son of a Plumber’ as well.”
Per found new working methods for “Plumber”
“In the beginning, I didn’t know what to expect. When I started recording ‘Son of a Plumber’, I only had instrumental music,” says Per. “The first track we recorded was ‘I Never Quite Got Over The Fact The Beatles Broke Up’ which was an instrumental song in the beginning.” Per tells that it’s a song that means really much to him. “I was something like 10-11 years old when The Beatles broke up and I was devastated. It was like a divorce and it affected me for a very long time. Things like that can affect you even more than a death of a relative. It’s sad in a way, but that’s how this title came up.”
“I think it was after the first working day in the studio when I realized that I’m going to be very bored if we only have instrumental music and wrote the lyrics. So the project evolved meanwhile we recorded it,” says Per. “I didn’t want to make demos because I wanted us to be spontaneous. After many years making records you have to find ways to surprise yourself because otherwise you become a machine and make the same records all over again.”
As fans know, Per usually makes high quality demos of the songs before recording them to the album. This time he had to find new working methods. “If I’m not going to make a demo and just sit down in front of Christoffer [Lundquist] and Clarence [Öfwerman], it’d better be good. If I want them to record it, I can’t just show any song. I had to shape up and only deliver very good strong songs. And they weren’t able to be prepared, to take a demo, listen to it at home and come back next morning with an arrangement.”
Instead, the song started to evolve right away when the three of them shared ideas. “Clarence and Christoffer have been crucial to the whole project, because I trust them so much.”
“And actually Clarence was relieved that he wasn’t able to have all these demos,” says Per laughing. “He has always hated with Roxette the already produced demos. For example, ‘The Look’ demo sounds almost exactly like ‘The Look’ on the album, excluding the guitar intro. It was the same all through Roxette’s career and even ‘Mazarin.’ He hated it when I told him that the demo sounded much better and we should go back to it. Suddenly this thing was gone and he was very relieved.”
Promotion continues until May, Roxette to the studio in June
Per will continue promoting the album in April and May. He says they will have a big promotional campaign in Germany and the Netherlands in a couple of weeks. Next week he will visit Spain for Easter holiday with his family.
The next single release from the “Son of a Plumber” album, “I Like It Like That,” will be released in Sweden probably sometime in May. Its release depends on the chart success of “Hey Mr DJ.” A new single won’t be released as long as “DJ” is doing this strong on the charts. Per does however reveal that the b-side of the forthcoming single will be another 8-minute compilation of studio outtakes, “Plumber in Progress #2.”
In June, Marie will join Per in the studio.
“We will record one song, we haven’t really decided yet. But at least one song,” says Per. The greatest hits album with the new song will be out at the end of the year, maybe in October. The eagerly awaited RoxBox collector’s set will be out then as well.
“We don’t know yet,” Per discloses when TDR probes for new details on that project. “In the ideal world we would have ‘MTV Unplugged,’ but it’s owned by MTV and nothing’s been solved yet. Otherwise it will be a mix of Roxette’s material, excluding the hits,” describes Per. TDR asks if the accompanied demo album will have previously unheard songs. “Most of the demos will be from the well known songs, like ‘The Look,’ ‘Listen To Your Heart’ and ‘It Must Have Been Love.’ Famous songs that Marie is singing, I will be present in the demos. I want all the demos to be enjoyable, and not being there just for the sake of being there.”
Per does, however, reveal at least one mythical unheard Roxette song that will be included. “‘Myth’ will be on the album. It’s a great song,
Per certainly doesn’t have a shortage of demos to choose from. “We did eight, nine demos for the ‘Look Sharp!’ album. ‘Silver Blue’ was there, ‘One Is Such A Lonely Number’ was there. We have a couple of tracks from those sessions that are fantastic, like ‘Sleeping Single’ and ‘Dance Away.’ And there’s a demo for ‘Cry’ which is totally different from the album version. I want to have those demos on the album because they mean so much to me and they are enjoyable to listen to.”
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