Per Gessle about his tour: I’ll sail on. The water’s deep but exciting
A third of Per Gessle’s Roxette tour is over by now. Time for the “Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything”, you would think. No, instead we asked Per about the tour, of course.
TDR: Hej Per, first of all: congratulations for a great tour start, we’re getting overwhelming responses from the fans. Guess that makes you happy, too?
Per: Hey! Yes, I’m extremely pleased. It’s all coming together nicely. It’s a big challenge to kickstart a new chapter in the Roxette-book but the new players have been amazing and eager to participate with their various colourful talents. Me = happy.
The most pressing question for some fans is: How much Roxette is there in Per Gessle’s Roxette? What has changed, apart from Marie having retired?
The whole idea with this project is to cherish and keep the Roxette bucket of songs alive. Like I’ve said a million times, it’s sad Marie can’t be with me anymore but the show will and must go on. I want to play my music as long as possible.
With this band I’ve been able to adjust and arrange my songs in a different manner which, for me, is most interesting and challenging. Mind you, a song isn’t finished as soon as it’s recorded and released. It lives on and might get new meaning and substance as time goes by. That’s how I see it. But I’m a writer. I understand if people prefer the old versions they’re used to. Personally, I’ll sail on. The water’s deep but exciting.
Does Marie in some way follow your tour from her place? What does she think?
I’m sure she does. It’s part of her legacy too.
The current band setup shows a tremendous amount of power on stage, they blow everyone away. What’s in their food, if you’re allowed to reveal?
Well, it can’t be the food cos some of them eat really strange and ugly stuff since they’re vegans. However, it’s a very nice combo of personalities. We all love to hang out together, the chemistry is there. It’s very important. Also, they’re all world class players, extremely focused and professional in their attitude. They all want to learn more about their art and craftmanship just like I do. A wonderful band. I’m a lucky guy.
I’ve seen a few gigs now, Helena has in such short time really outgrown herself. The way she grabs the audience is stunning. How does she experience the feedback from the crowd? She must be very proud now…
Helena is a natural talent. A most gifted singer and performer as well as a wonderful and generous person. She obviously needs a little time to get used to being in the limelight singing the “classic” Rox-songs but, just as I expected, she’s doing it in style and have made all those songs “her own”. Amazing!
Malin-My, Ola and Andreas, they all have toured with you in Sweden already but travelling through Europe is another bowl of wax totally. How do they experience the international Roxette audience? Does it differ at all?
It’s quite a different bag of candy playing Roxette songs compared to playing my Swedish stuff. The Rox stuff is so well known and “sacred” for a lot of people. We have spent a lot of time thinking out of the box, updating and creating something fresh that fits this particular band.
Magnus, being “the ‘90s,” has now emerged into a full-fledged standup comedian of sorts. Have you ever thought about booking him as the opening act? Would certainly be fun.
Hahaha. Nah, won’t happen. He would steal the show!!
Will you ever convince Clarence to speak on stage?
No, I prefer him being as silent as possible.
We’re sometimes a bit afraid that Christoffer may cut his fingers so badly he might have to skip a date. You said your plan B is to call Mats MP Persson. While Mats is a great person and a blessed musician, I hardly see him head banging to “Doesn’t Make Sense”. Who would take over the visual part of the song, just in case? The Maestro himself, maybe?
Chris is the Aerosol Bruce Willis Machine so he won’t skip any gig unless a bulldozer runs him over. He’s certainly an amazing player and has developed this weird and wonderful stage personality. A tough act to follow, for sure.
Let’s talk about “DMS” for a moment, as this is the song that has caught the crowd the most. In the original Party Pleaser version, it ends abruptly and of course you had to translate it into a working live version somehow. But how exactly did it turn into this outburst? You couldn’t just have sat in Vallarum, drinking tea (read: wine) and then Christoffer suddenly raised his finger, asking “May I try something, please?”
That’s exactly what I’m talking about! Songs live on and will get new lives in different environments. The coda (end section) of DMS is very suggestive and almost hypnotic the way it’s written, and it just felt natural for Chris to go crazy with it on stage. We have slightly the same vibe at the end of “Silver Blue” which is the reason why we don’t play it when we play “DMS.” Same same but different.
Some of the Roxette songs have received new arrangements. Of course you had to change the songs because now Helena and Malin-My took over some of Marie’s part but the change went further than this. When did you get the idea to update the sound of the songs this way, has it been something that has been in your mind long before the tour already?
Yes, that was the whole plan. Nobody can replace Marie’s voice and stage personality so why bother trying to step in her shoes? This tour is all about the songs. How to make the material make sense and worth listening to in 2018.
During the PC tour in 2009 you took the lead vocals on “Queen of Rain” and “LTYH,” what motivated the change for Helena to be the lead singer on this tour?
“QOR” is written for a female to sing. The lyrics become much more powerful when sung by a woman. “LTYH” is kind of the same but I felt I could do a proper job myself with the first verse and chorus. It fits my voice. Then it becomes Helena’s bonanza and the way she delivers the middle-8 (“And there are voices…”) and the final choruses are quite remarkable.
You mentioned you culled a list of 70 odd songs down to 30 – can you share some of the titles that didn’t make the cut this time around?
“Vulnerable.” “Church Of Your Heart.” “Real Sugar.” “Wish I Could Fly.” “Sleeping In My Car.” “Love Is All.” “Stars.” “Some Other Summer.” “Hey Mr DJ.” “Perfect Day.” We tried them all. But you have to choose. I don’t want the show to be more than two hours max. And it’s so easy some songs turn out sounding similar to each other. I have my style of writing, you know. There are choices to be made. And then… kill your darlings.
Beside Roxette, you also perform less known solo songs in English. At least we here at TDR think that you also have great Swedish songs that are worth to be shown to a wider audience. We understand that Swedish is not an international language but why did you choose to stick to your English songs only?
There is plenty enough English material to digest. I don’t really see the point performing my Swedish stuff if people don’t understand the lyrics.
The setlist looks quite stable at the moment, you seem to feel safe with it. Still, knowing that you rarely change a winning concept, are you thinking about any changes?
I think we will pretty much stick to this setlist. It’s a very short tour, only 20 gigs, and it takes time for us to relax on stage and get into the songs properly. As I write this we’ve only done seven shows so we’re still trying out our various paths, how not to play too much and be in each other’s faces. It takes time to adjust to each individual players’ style.
I understand people want to hear different songs all the time but we’re more interested in getting them right. And getting the right flow in the set. And don’t forget we play EVERYTHING 100 % live so each show is different even though it’s based on the same setlist.
The mystery of the tour bus: You know, the casual non-musician always imagines that the band is constantly jamming in the bus while on the road and such. Please enlighten us, what’s really happening in there? Have you written new songs in it yet?
No, we don’t have that many bus rides on this tour. Only the crew. The band flies and go by train sometimes. We jam a bit backstage before the shows. Getting into the groove. I spend a lot of time with my other projects in the hotel room and in my dressing room. Time flies when you’re having fun.
While the tour dates we have seen so far last until November, there’s of course hope that some when, somewhere this tour might get extended. I realize you can’t reveal details today but may we expect another tour leg in the future?
Well, I certainly hope so. For me, this is not a one-off. I want Roxette to keep going.
Many fans have not had the chance to come to Europe. Do you consider releasing a live album, video, or book this time again?
Yes, we’re filming a couple of shows and recording all of them. And we brought along the mighty Malmö-hooligan Anders Roos to take pictures from impossible angles. A photo book combined with a DVD, anyone?
Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers about the tour? Here’s your chance.
Thank you. You’re very kind.
On a different note, the “Roxette DVD Boxette” has finally been released. Looking back, how do you feel about the release? Is it fair to finally say that the full Borgholm concert will never see the light of day?
Yes, all the footage that’s been in the vaults are now out in the open. Lots of stuff have disappeared over the years. Some footage is impossible to get hold of due to copyrights. But, then again, things turn up when you least expect it.
Last question: Do you promise you told us the full truth in this interview?
No, I never do. I learned that from Micke Syd.
Thanks for the talk, see you soon in another city!