Per revolts in a glade in Skåne

MALMÖ – Nature’s freedom and tasteless bass marks the new album.

He has played in arenas in Latin America, has had mega-hits in USA and Russia, has been played on MTV and has filled Stockholm’s Olympic stadium with sing-along fans. What else did Per Gessle have left to accomplish?

  A whole lot. He hadn’t recorded a solo album in the middle of a forest outside Vollsjö before. But now he has. “I did it on my own responsability. I decided to not to contact the record company before everything would already be finished,” Per explains to Sydsvenska Dagbladet (SD). “I started by writing down thoughts about the album. It should be about small town thoughts, but with big feelings.”

  Small town as in Halmstad? Well sure, but most of it was recorded in a substantially smaller place: Vollsjö in the middle of the province Skåne. Here the musician and producer Christoffer Lundqvist has his studio, twenty meters from his house. We’re talking seriously in the provinces here.

  “Clarence Öfwerman and I got rooms at the local bed & breakfast, a single room each. No families, no kids, just the two of us and Christoffer. We started our days by watching music movies, and finished them by playing disco. A lot of things we did imprinted on the album. If you would grind the three of us and everything we like it would sound just like the album,” Per Gessle says.

  “Christoffer has played a lot of guitar, he proved to be quite good. I play the bass, because I don’t know how to – so it gets to be charming. A guitarist doesn’t play the way a real bass player would. You do those sexy things you hear a bass player do, the fast climbs along the neck, but you do it at the wrong places. And maybe a bit too often. You get tasteless and totally ruthless. It’s fun when you can’t play for real, you get happy.”

  Everything breathes freedom in a way that Per Gessle most likely couldn’t have allowed himself in Roxette or Gyllene Tider – at least not without taking rather big risks.

  “If you’ve worked internationally as long as I have you naturally have to compromise. Those are the rules that Robbie Williams and Madonna play by as well, and in a way I can be attracted to that game. But this album has come to life as an emotional insurrection against all that. We have made the album without any involvement from record companies, no deadline. Just done fun things,” Per says in SD.

  “Recordings with Roxette can be enormously finical and stretch out over a long period, with many different studios involved. This time the three of us have worked really intensive, which gives the album a very clear identity. Roxette’s albums are more… I would say anonymous, if the word didn’t have such a bad ring to it. Totally different. Just the reverse.”

  Shiny powerballads with Roxette or teeny pop in Swedish – Gessle’s music has a pervading personal impression.

  “All quality pop is built on this. Me myself has such a terrible voice that stands out, so it’s easy for me.”

  “Top 40 has become so standardized since everyone uses the same kind of equipment and the same samplings, while someone who manages to get a personal expression you notice immediately – bands like U2, Kent. But there’s a paradox. The great thing is to be able to renew oneself. The paradox is that you have to renew to stay up there, to let go of your identity and yet manage to keep it.”

  In the lastest guise of Per Gessle’s identity building are the pictures taken by the internationally known photographer Anton Corbijn included.

  “The pictures were more expensive than the recordings,” Per Gessle admits.

  “They are very typical Anton, but they also enhance the at-home-feeling the album has.”

  If nothing else, the pictures mediate the image of Per Gessle the artist himself wants to see. Taking pictures of him while interviewing is out of the question; the alternative is to take pictures a day back home in Halmstad, when his make-up artist is around.

  Is it more important to look right when you’re a bit over 40 than when you’re 25 and fresh?

  “No, definitely not. It was much more troublesome then. As a 25-year old I was rather insecure, didn’t know how to act. With Roxette I came straight into battle, so to speak, but that didn’t enhance my self esteem. I had no clue; I guessed my way ahead all the time.”
  “But today I don’t have to prove anything to myself any longer. The calmness that that gives lies as a foundation. Maybe that’s why I dare being personal on the new album, I can open up and be myself.”

This article was written for an earlier version of The Daily Roxette.
Technical errors may occur.

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June 6th, 2003

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