Face to face with Christoffer Lundquist. Pt. 6: “You’re ruining my favorite song!”
Christoffer Lundquist and Kai of TDR
K: Okay. We are one step too much in the future already. You are already the producer of Roxette now. How did this happen: First, you got signed by Per, then you are the support act, then you played the bass guitar in Roxette and then you became the producer. I mean, they had a producer with Clarence. So how did you manage to come so far?
C: Oh, I think it was Clarence’s idea if I know the story right. Per was going to make a solo record when Marie got ill and because they had lost a bit of steam on Have A Nice Day and Room Service, it wasn’t as much fun anymore, there wasn’t the energy quite like it was. And I agree. I remember when I was coming to the Room Service session, it felt very sleepy. There wasn’t the ignition right. And Clarence who is never afraid of criticizing, he just says what he thinks, which is a fantastic thing to have for a guy like Per, someone he can trust to get the truth… so Clarence said, this is not fun anymore, we should do it in a different way, let’s go home to Christoffer and do it in his place and do something else. And they just tried that, basically.
K: Did they easily accept you or was it more of an experiment?
C: When we started with it, it was more like an experiment, I guess. In the beginning, it didn’t go well at all. This Mazarin project started really badly. I don’t know if you heard that story, Per tells it a lot of times. We started with his favorite song ever, “Tycker om när du tar på mej”, that was the first thing we’re going to record. My way of working is so different from the way they had worked before. They worked with drum machines and adding one instrument at a time, slowly and very carefully. And I am more like “Woaah, be fast, do this, try that, don’t tune the guitar, make it spontaneous“. So when we started working, for Per it was like “Wow, what’s going on now? hold the horses!“ We started really fast recording a version of “Tycker om när du tar på mej” of which I felt, “Oh, this is just right, let’s go on”. But Per really got stuck. He hated it. Totally “Woaaah“. He went away in the evening in a really bad mood. He didn’t stay here, he went to a hotel in Malmö which is really far away and he came back in the morning saying “You’re ruining my favorite song!“ Then Clarence and I tried to do new versions of this song because he didn’t like the first one. So let’s try a different approach. After a while, we totally lost our self-confidence because he hated everything. The computer was full of different versions of “Tycker om när du tar på mej” and after a while we lost confidence so much that we tried to mimic other peoples’ styles. “Okay, he doesn’t like anything; let’s try to make it like Phil Collins. So it’s called “Tycker om Phil Collins“. And then we have “Tycker om Lenny Kravitz“. They are crap, total crap. They are somewhere and they are just bad. After seven days of this, and I never spent seven days on one song in my life… they did but I never, of course the mood was like “This is not going to work either”. After seven days, we went back and listened to the first one. And all of a sudden, something happened with Per and he liked it. And from then on, it was us together.
J: And it was a very good decision. I personally felt that when you joined Roxette, I really enjoyed the music. Everything from Mazarin on was perfect for me. Son Of A Plumber was perfect!
C: That’s wonderful. Thank you!
J: It’s really really wonderful. It’s my favorite one and I’m so grateful that you are here and I think Per too because he said many times that you made his music really special. You really put emotions into every instrument that you used.
C: Thank you very much, I’m very happy to hear this. Actually, SOAP is my favorite record, too.
K: Nothing has been better since then.
C: I think so, too. Per often says it is the best record he ever made. I agree, for me it is a crazy record.
J: It’s so emotional. When you close your eyes, you even feel that you are here. There are the birds singing, you hear the echo of the rooms here. It’s amazing, it’s so dreamy, I love it!
C: Exactly. It was a very special time. And partly I think because when Per makes a record, he has so much weight on him, so much expectation. So when he makes a GT record, he has huge expectations for a certain thing. and then it’s Roxette, and then it’s solo. It’s big things to follow up. But with SOAP, that didn’t happen because it was a new name. So in his mind it was “Oh, everything is possible now“. Like for us with the opera, I think. I remember this as one of his most creative periods because we were recording in here and he was writing a new song in the kitchen and then he came running “Listen to this, let’s record that immediately!“ and he was so fast, new songs all the time were recorded and then next time we met he had written three new ones that were great and it was amazing! It’s really different from for example En händig man because then we had to follow up Mazarin. Mazarin was made a bit like SOAP, it was very open. His first solo record since the ’80s in Swedish. No pressure, just fun. Then, En händig man was the opposite. “Oh, we need to follow up this huge success“. And it affects you. It changes the way you behave. Per got a little bit more careful and a bit more afraid and we were more self-conscious. For me En händig man is the worst record we made. That’s the one that was not up to scratch. Just not good enough for me. But we needed to do it. That needed to happen as well. It’s impossible not to go through that.
J: I see that Per also changed a lot since he works with you. He sings better, he is also more sensible and he is not as strict as before anymore.
C: Yeah, I agree! He developed in a certain direction. Difficult for me to tell because I… There’s certainly a difference. I think he says that himself. But also when you say you like SOAP and Mazarin, of course for many really loyal Roxette fans, it’s the other way around. They like the old sound. And the new sound… for them, they lost something. Which is totally understandable. You love that old style and the new style is different and then you want more of the old.
J: I’m an emotional person, so I follow, as you said, the subconscious feelings. I like going into the music and SOAP is the perfect picture of these emotions.
K: SOAP has similar vibes as your solo album Through The Window. You feel to be on the country side, to be here in the forests, nature all around… it’s totally relaxed. It’s something you’re not used to when you follow Gessle’s productions over the last years. Before you, it got worse and worse. There was Have A Nice Day, then came Room Service and you thought “Gosh, what’s coming next?”
C: Ha ha ha!
K: And out of nothing, he came up with a totally relaxed album which nobody expected. The first ever solo concert I saw with Per was in Karlstad, and it was amazing. People treated it like a family happening. They went there with their picnic baskets, sitting on the grass. After the concert, everyone turned up Mazarin loud in their cars. It was a great thing!
C: Yes, it was, it was. And I think for all of us and for Per, the Mazarin tour was a discovery because he started out saying “Okay, we’re not going to do a summer hits pumping tour now, we’ll do it relaxed and play some music!“ Really easy going. And the tour was like that. Then we did the GT tour which was the biggest thing ever, you know, success success success! When we did the En händig man tour, of course we were following up GT now, so now the thinking was different, now we going to have the hits, going to have the program to make it effective. Different atmosphere in that tour.
K: What was it like to work with the GT boys? They had been your old idols…
C: More like fun friends coming into your home. Not really the feeling of “Oh wow!”. That goes away as soon as you meet anyone. I mean, if you put someone on a pedestal and you meet them, in the same second you realize there is no pedestal.
K: And for them? They were used to MP’s studio in Halmstad, they are coming to a new place, a new production process with new people. How was it for them?
C: I think it was fun making the record. It was a lot of fun. In the evenings, it was crazy fun! Drinking and recording and behaving really… They are flimsy stupid people, they don’t behave serious. It was a lot of laughing that I remember mostly.
J: I remember the “The making of Mazarin” videos, it was such a fun. You saw that everyone really enjoyed it here.
K: You’re not only producer for many bands, you are also a solo artist, at least from time to time. You had an EP out a few years ago already, called Major & Minor Songs…
C: Oh yeah yeah. It was because my childhood friend Rikard Svartvik approached me and said, “Shouldn’t we write songs?” He is a lyricist, so he wrote lyrics and I put music to that. We did that for a year or two, and then I recorded some of the songs of them…
K: You even sang yourself…
C: Yeah, it was the first time I tried to be a solo singer.
K: How did you like it?
C: Well, it was a little bit difficult because for me it is difficult to write music to existing lyrics. And it’s the only time I tried that. I feel that the songs are not good enough. That was my feeling when I recorded them, too. When you feel that, it’s difficult to get there. And also you very soon start to feel “Oh, I’m bad because the songs aren’t any good and I’m a horrible person and I shouldn’t do this and I better hide under some pillow“, so it was a little hard. After that I didn’t try that anymore and I did like I always did: I write music and then I try to find someone to write the lyrics for them.
K: …as it happened with Through The Window…
C: Yeah! It was made like that.
K: I heard the story that you wrote the songs for your latest albums always in the gaps between the productions you’re doing here…
C: A little bit like that. I tend to relax in the night when we stopped working, then I play some guitar and sometimes write something. But most of it I wrote in my summer house on Gotland, you know the island? I have a moped there, which I dreamt of since I was 15. I couldn’t have it because academics don’t have mopeds! So now I got a moped, yes! And I go out on the countryside with the guitar on my back and I take long walks in the countryside and I wrote the songs like that. That was also one of the so many incredibly lucky moments in life: I had decided that a French girl that I produced would write the lyrics because she wrote fantastic lyrics. And she agreed and she was enthusiastic and that was going to be the project. I wrote all the music, sent it to her, and the lyrics didn’t come. Then I asked her how is it going? – “Oh yeah, I loved the songs, soon I’m going to…“ and then we went back and forth for a long time. Suddenly she said, “Oh sorry, I can’t do this. No words are coming, nothing, sorry!” But I already had the recording plan and everything and I felt that this is falling apart now, I cannot write the lyrics myself. So that’s bad luck, that was my shot and then I wouldn’t have time, so bye-bye project. But I had a guy who’d been here wanting me to mix a record for him and we’d gotten to know each other just a little. He said that he was a songwriter. So I felt, “Okay I’ll send the songs to him, you never know.” So I sent four songs to him, out of the blue, I hadn’t talked to him since a year. He was in Canada on a holiday and I think six hours later came back four lyrics that were …perfect. Word… phrase… syllable by syllable they fit the music and they felt like my words! They felt like the words I would have wanted to write. It was totally incredible. And since then, it’s been like that. I write something and he just “Boom, here it comes back“. I don’t understand how he does it because when I listen to it, for me it sounds like music and words were composed by one person at the same time.
J: Yes, I was sure it was your lyrics because they were very much like your way of speaking.
C: Yes it is, it feels like it’s my lyrics. For me it’s such an incredible gift that happened.
K: Have you considered releasing the music without lyrics just in case you wouldn’t have found anyone?
C: No, because the songs were written as… songs. Then I would have to write instrumental music that has to be written as instrumental music, I think. I almost gave up, basically. But then the whole thing got a new energy. I’m already recording the next album. I have written songs and he had finished the lyrics a year ago. I just haven’t had time to record it yet.
Tomorrow on TDR: Face to face with Christoffer Lundquist. Pt. 7: “That was very, very unnatural for me”
Per Gessle – “Tycker om när du tar på mej” performed at the AGM studio. It certainly was not an easy start.
This organ came from Northern Sweden. Chris’ family put the pieces together again.
Technical errors may occur.