TDR meets Per Gessle – again
STOCKHOLM – It’s more winter than ever and snow is piling high when The Daily Roxette sits down with Per for our traditional Xmas interview. It’s Thomas who is addressed, but the questions come from Kai-Uwe and Justyna as well. I am freezing in the bitter cold. It’s -21 C (-6 F)… TDR is very happy that Per has taken some time for us in his busy (?) Xmas schedule.
How are you doing in the snow and cold, Per?
Hi Thomas, I’m doing swell. Hate the winter though. It’s so hard to dress up!!
Yeah I know, I can’t stand winter, who cares about fashion when the wind blows? 2012 has been a very busy year for you and Roxette, with the tour and new album and all. And it’s not over yet, is there anything else happening the last few weeks of the year? The Roxette live/docu DVD and Small Apartments soundtrack have been postponed? How does 2013 look, Rox-wise, Gessle-wise, Marie-wise, anything else-wise?
Oh, I wish there were more hours in a day! I’ve been busy writing new songs, both for myself and Rox and for other extremely secret projects…
Extremely secret projects…?
…I’ve been working on the Rox documentary and the Rox live-DVD as well. We’ve had a few problems but I think they’re all sorted out now. Chris went to India to look at his belly-button for a couple of weeks. He needed that but it also meant that the live mixes got delayed a bit!
Sounds like he got exhausted. What else have you been up to?
I went to London to watch Mick Jagger and that group of his and to buy a new coat. Marie is recording her own stuff at the moment. Sounds very exciting, don’t know when it will be done though. The Small Apartments-movie will be released through Sony Pictures early next year so hopefully we can release the SA-soundtrack at the same time. Also, I’m working on a couple of new wines coming out next year. The Per Gessle Selection is growing. Just like Pelle Alsing’s beard.
Yeah, these wines of yours have gotten raving reviews! How does that make you feel?
I’m so proud of that! We had a great time making them. Marilisa Allegrini sent Åsa and me loads of samples of different grape variations from various vintages and it was a tough task but a great pleasure to create our own blend. The basic idea was to make the wines exclusively for Hotel Tylösand but they became too good not to release commercially. Cheers.
Cheers! Fans have even managed to import the wine to some countries! If you could describe your wines as songs, which songs would they be?
“Kurt & Lisa” is a bit like “Queen of Rain”. Smooth, beautiful, an instant love affair. “Furet” is more like “Sleeping in My Car”. A little rawer and you immediately want to order another one.
I can’t wait to open mine. How well are your wines selling? You mentioned you already have started choosing wines for next year?
Yes, more will follow. They are selling really really well, “Kurt & Lisa” is a limited edition of only 2400 bottles and I think they will be sold out by Christmas. “Furet” is unlimited and we just made a new huge order from Allegrini in Italy. Quite a few fancy restaurants here in Stockholm sell them now. It feels good since I know how hard it is to crack that market too!!! The wine world is just as competitive as the music industry!
That is amazing! From nowhere to this… You have a wine cellar in your home in Halmstad, right? A cellar full of goodies. How many bottles of your own wine are there? And how many bottles of wine in general?
Yes, I’ve been collecting wines since the late ‘80s. How many? Well, I never counted but hey, we’ve never gone to bed thirsty!
Ha ha! You’ve also been in the studio this fall in order to make some music, no rest for the weary… When will the results from that be publicly available? How are the Gyllene 2013 tour plans going? There are indications that Gyllene will indeed tour. Pelle says that Micke Syd is busy this summer for instance.
Yea… well, Micke Syd is always busy every summer. We (GT) are in good shape and are always talking about doing something together one of these years. However, a couple of the band members are tied up with other projects (like normal jobs!) so it’s easier said than done. But… it could definitely happen. I still love Göran’s Farfisa-organ. And Anders is a great ping-pong player. And MP’s a tough one on the go-kart track. And Micke’s got a new tattoo.
Hmmm, a new tattoo? I will check that out. [Syd denies this.] But if you do decide to take Gyllene for a spin, it’s us you call first, OK?
You mentioned a possible Roxette remix album earlier this summer, are you and Peter Boström (Bassflow) still up for that?
No, we haven’t started that. I can’t make up my mind if I think it’s a good idea!
I’m a bit ambivalent myself, although I’m leaning towards “for.” Tell us a little about the last huge world tour, your best memories from it? It became quite a monster tour after those 6 “test gigs” in 2010…
Oh it has been such a long tour. You have to watch the Rox documentary to get all the answers. But… in short; we loved it! Hope we can do it again!
Yes, so when will Roxette release a Blu-ray with past concerts et cetera? Basically all Roxette video material released so far needs remastering and re-release. We are all waiting for it.
You’ll find the Rox documentary called “It All Begins Where It Ends” and live concert on various TV-channels all over the world, starting in Sweden Dec 26. They will also be released commercially early next year. We’re still deciding what extra goodies to put in the cake since the TV-versions are shorter. More songs? More interviews? Hopefully it will be out both on DVD and Blu-ray. The title is as you know “Travelling the World – Roxette Live 2012.”
Yes, you said on Facebook the other day. How is Sven Lindström’s Roxette book doing? When I talked to him, he said he’s writing so his pen is glowing?
He’s getting there I think. I haven’t read anything yet. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to do so before it’s released. But it’s Sven’s book, not ours. He’s the one in charge of this. I’m just a victim.
Aren’t we all? Sven’s other new book is due in January. Now, Christmas is getting closer. Are you prepared?
Yes. Always. 100 sit-ups a day. Porridge. Soft-boiled eggs. The smell of cinnamon in the kitchen. Phil Spector. Stuff like that.
Soft-boiled?? Yuk! How early do you start preparing your gifts?
I buy things when I see them. I never buy stuff in December. I have a cupboard full of gifts I can use. I run on instinct. Like a dog.
Ha ha, OK… What kind of gifts do you like to give?
A sort of survival kit statement is always what I’m looking for! Stuff you didn’t know you really needed. Like Japanese jeans.
Um yeah… Are there presents that still can make a millionaire like you happy?
Of course. Try me!
Hmm… How about a unique single of one of your favorite bands? It must be something unique that’s for sure. Is it easy to surprise you?
Yea, very easy. For instance I’m surprised every time Christoffer answers the phone.
What can I say? Does the Gessle family sing xmas carols next to the tree? Or do you prefer sitting alone in your studio writing songs for the next album?
Well, my family doesn’t really sing that much except in the shower. But we enjoy spending time with friends and relatives. Time feels like a luxury item these days, especially when you’ve been on the road for 19 months…
Have you ever been dressed up as Santa Claus?
Of course. You use the picture every year. I look extremely silly. But it’s fine. Have one on me.
And for real…?
Oh yea, it happened for a few years when Gabriel was young. Nowadays it’s only my wife who believes in Santa Claus.
Kudos to Åsa. Mauro Scocco was on TV the other day and outed Santa for his 5-year old daughter who was watching, but I think he saved it. Can the readers of TDR expect a small xmas gift from you this year?
I’ll do my best, sir. My gift is to thank everyone for making 2012 such a splendid year. We’re very proud of our fans, you are beautiful, good people with excellent taste. We hope we can satisfy your needs for many more years to come.
What in return do you wish from our readers?
Nothing really, we get so much from them all the time. Tell everyone to take care of themselves! It’s cold outside.
Is there a “julklapp” (xmas gift) in the Roxette camp? What do you give to each other?
I can’t tell you since it would spoil everything.
If you could ask Santa for something you cannot buy or get yourself, what would it be?
I dunno. Tough one. More peace of mind everywhere. It’s a pretty scary place out there.
What’s your favorite on the xmas table?
I like the Swedish pickled herring. I eat it only at xmas time so I never get tired of it. Otherwise I stay away from traditional xmas food.
Yes I don’t really care for xmas food either. Other artists make good money in this time of the year with xmas albums that get a lot of (annoying) airplay in the radio? This would be the chance for the ballad pop band Roxette, wouldn’t it?
Well, yea. Maybe the future for Roxette lies in putting out songs instead of albums. I kind of like that idea since I’m a singles-oriented person. But we didn’t have anything good enough this xmas. You have to remember we have released two albums in two years. Exhausting! And I’m not fifty anymore!
Ha ha! During the recent couple of interviews we could read with different members of the Roxette gang, some question arose. Maybe we can try and answer them step by step?
First of all: in which way is Marie F. involved in the early stages of an album production? Does she have influence on the flavor of the project? Is her role mainly that of a singer nowadays or does she want to have a say in the song production as well? We know she decides what songs she wants to sing, or you to sing, but apart from that?
It depends on what you mean. Since I’m the main songwriter I guess I automatically decide the direction of the album. Marie is not physically involved in the production in the studio, she’s only there when it’s time for her to sing. I send her songs all the time and she picks the one she likes and we go from there. It’s the normal scenario. Marie basically left the production in Clarence and my hands back in 1993-94 when we recorded C!B!B!. She was there a bit when we recorded HAND but not so much for Room Service. And it’s been like that ever since. She seems, for some unknown reason, to have faith in us.
Imagine that! OK, secondly: Christoffer reported that the working conditions in his studio and especially the accommodations are maybe not exactly up to your standards. Have things improved over the years or have you given up hope already?
True. I’ve spent almost one year out of the last ten years in Christoffers’ studio. Amazing, isn’t it? I’m lucky to still have a wife and son around!!! I don’t really like to lead that kind of hobo lifestyle, sleeping in a warm overcoat, but making records at the Aerosol Grey Machine is worth almost everything. It’s a unique place and it brings out so many good things in me when I’m working there. Maybe I should buy a decent house close by to live in? Or a camper. Or two.
So that makes you going back to Skåne again and again? What is so special to you there?
The whole vibe is very creative and Christoffer is a great guy to work with. Clarence and me got new energy working together when Christoffer joined. Everyone benefits from this. The work I’ve been doing since Mazarin is stuff I’ve wanted to do all my life but didn’t know how. Now I know. I’m very lucky to have those two guys in my garden.
If you could sum up the AGM in three words, what would they be?
Dirty. Smelly. Wonderful.
Another: Clarence said he is unhappy with a few songs you had produced together. Do you share his thoughts? Are YOU unhappy with songs you have recorded?
No, every song that gets recorded has support behind it. There’s a reason it exists. Sometimes it doesn’t work out the way we wanted but we’ve learned something along the way. I guess it’s different for Clarence since he doesn’t write the songs.
Do you mean to say he is less emotionally involved?
Could be. His job is to find the right tools to make it fab in the studio. My job is to create it from scratch. I’m the parent.
Most everyone agrees that SOAP was your most inspired album ever, even the band members were raving about it. Was that a one-off thing or do you think you can repeat such a project?
I think it’s impossible to repeat. It was a very special time in our lives. We had a wonderful year recording it, our collaboration was sensational, free from commercial aspects and demands and very inspiring. Helena was unbelievably good. The songs were great and it felt like God was dancing in the studio with us all the time. A tough one to follow for sure, but we’re gonna have another go one of these years!
And finally: Christoffer said recording rock songs with you is not fun. What’s the problem? Is it too cozy down at the AGM?
(Quote from Chris: “If Clarence and Per and I try to record a track that sounds rocky like that in the studio, we all hate it! Really, we don’t want to do that at all. It’s horrible. When we try to record rocky stuff like that, it really sounds like old men rocking away… like “Bleeeh“. That energy that you have on stage, you cannot capture it on a studio record. It’s impossible.”)
I don’t know what he means by that. Rock songs? Have we ever recorded rock songs? Maybe I was freezing at Gubbens Hus?
Christoffer is without a doubt a creative guitar player and rocker extraordinaire. But some still think that Jonas Isacsson could bring in more good influences. Will we see him back in one of your future projects?
I don’t know. I’m very happy dreaming up things with Chris and hopefully we can continue our work together for many more years to come.
Helena is on maternity leave at the moment. Will she return in a future project some day?
Oh yeah! She’s a Goddess!
Everybody we’ve asked agrees that Roxette (band, crew and management) is one big happy family. What do you think is the big secret of so much harmony? It hasn’t always been this way?
I think it has a lot to do with age. We’re older now, the egos have shrunk a bit. Also, there is a very sincere gratitude towards working together these days after Marie got ill. Nobody expected Roxette to return. We got a second chance. It’s very rare.
And on that subject, your record company, EMI/Capitol has been a problem child for a long time, how are things going there, with the mergers etc.? What will happen to you, Marie, Roxette and Gyllene, do you know?
We are free agents and don’t have any deals with anyone whatsoever these days. Our back catalogue is still with EMI so it would be best for all of us if we could continue our work within the EMI Group. But…no decisions are made yet. And there are many options for people with medals like us.
Would one option be Roxette going independent?
Independence is always an option but like I said, our back catalogue is so strong we have to treat it properly. And most of it belongs to EMI.
Tricky question indeed. Now, Marie Dimberg told us some basic information about how she as a manager tries to raise your fame. She said that in today’s world, it is hard for an “old” band to attract attention. Is this the reason why your singles sound younger and younger?
Do they? The singles are just songs like all the rest. We try to maximize them in the production just like we do with all songs. I can’t really hear the difference.
Do you actively follow a trend or is the new Roxette sound a consequence of all the influences you get every day?
No, I think I’m always going back to where I came from. I’m still trying to write a great melody. I’m still trying to create a great hook or a killer-chorus. I want it to sound like I want to buy it myself. It’s always been like that. It’s impossible for me to do anything else. You have to follow your gut feeling.
Let’s talk about musical influences. Privately, you listen to broad range of music styles from the Ramones to Leonard Cohen. People who follow your music idols can easily find many influences coming from them in your own projects. It’s all like a puzzle. It’s fascinating and exciting to discover these influences! So many of them from the ‘60s, ‘70s in your songs. Is it something which is your intention or do you not even think about it when you write your own song?
It’s in the general system. If you like something you carry it with you. I guess it’s the same when you’re writing a book or making a movie. That’s how you become you. Your personality and style is a creation of everything you like.
Is it easier for you to write a sad song or a happy song? I seem to recall you once said that it’s hard for you to write ballads. What makes it difficult?
It’s the opposite. It’s harder to write an uptempo-song. I guess it’s because melodies come so easy to me. An uptempo song must have other qualities as well. A great groove, hooks, a fab chorus, a catchy title. Ballads tend to be more personal and more “complicated”. It’s a safe lane to drive in when you’ve been doing this for almost forty years.
Which up-tempo song, for example, took you the most effort to write? Do you challenge yourself by writing up-tempo while you can write say three ballads during the same time?
All of the good up-tempo ones happened very quickly. If something takes a lot of time I get bored and restless and throw it away. It’s the same with any song actually, I try to finish it as fast as possible so I can start something new. Silly, isn’t it?
It’s silly really. Nah. The quicker the better I say. Usually. Roxette is on a “well deserved” break at this moment after almost 3 years of touring. But you never take a break. Would you describe yourself as a workaholic?
It depends on what you mean. I work a lot. I always have loads of projects going on. But I do it on my own terms. When I feel like watching a movie I do that. When I’m in the mood for writing a song I do that. I’m very lucky not to have to go to work 9 o’clock every morning and please someone else. Very lucky indeed.
Indeed you are lucky but it’s not only about luck. You have been working hard all your life to have what you have now. Sometimes sitting in an office from 9 to 5 can be an easier way to earn good money than being an active music star. If you really consider this you see that musicians have to work so much that the free time begins to be a luxury item as you said. It’s not only to learn to play three chords and all the rest will come all by itself. It’s not that easy!
You’re so wise!
I know that! Ha ha! When you are on holidays, what kind of activities do you do? Are you more active tourist or rather passive? Do you prefer just lying in the sun strumming your guitar or climbing mountains?
When I’m on holiday I take it very easy. Long walks, long drinks, long hair.
Yeah! You are infamous for your sense of humor. Do you joke around backstage, do you play pranks on others?
I don’t have to. Pelle is crazy enough for all of us.
And with those famous last words we leave Per be to do his glögg or whatever he’s up to today! Thank you for 2012 and Merry Christmas!
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December 24th, 2012
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