Gomorron Sverige! - Guest of the day: Per Gessle - May 2011

After a story career with 4 songs No1 in the USA, among others, as well as a lot of tickets sold for the shows, it has happened what was worse in Roxette: Marie has been discovered to have a brain tumor. All thought that it was the end of the story, but this spring Roxette have succeeded to gather thousands of people on the arenas in Russia, South America and they get higher up in the charts. For the moment there is a break in their tour, before flying to the South Africa, that is why we have Per Gessle as a guest, we will talk about this life power that exists in Roxette, because they used to talk about a safe future already at the beginning of the group, in spite of all obstacles.  

Watch the original interview in Swedish, on SVT: part 1 - HERE

Watch the original interview in Swedish, on SVT: part 2 - HERE

Translation for PART 1

 Rep: Now we have a piece of news from the USA where they announce that 2 of the best young Swedish artists have reached the top of the charts. Roxette is made of Marie Fredriksson and Per Gessle and there are only ABBA and Björn Skifs that have succeeded to have the same career so far.

Champagne, kisses and camera lights, as well as few words from a specialist: Björn Skifs: ”To conquer the American tops means something special.”  


Rep: Welcome, Per Gessle!

Per: Thank you very much!

Rep: Which is your relation with Björn Skifs?

Per: (laughs) He is a fantastic person and an extraordinary artist.

Rep: And of course a great colleague.

Per: Indeed.

Rep: So, as I said few minutes ago, you have a little break in your tour that has started in Russia, then near the Baltic Sea till South America. How did it feel?

Per: Absolutely fantastic. We have waited so much and now the tour becomes longer and longer and it is really great.

Rep: You have also taken some pictures and films in South America, as well as everywhere, as for example when you get off a car in a parking place, very carefully so that nothing bad could happen...

Per: Yes, this film must be from somewhere in Brazil. It’s a bit strange, but this is it. When you land somewhere, there are 200 - 300 people who shout and…TV teams…and police… Exactly as when you are a pop star, correct?  

Rep: That’s right. Already from the beginning, in the 90s, when Roxette were the greatest, there was the biggest craziness in South America. And it seems that something has happened, let’s see the images… it is like Beatles had been there, sometimes.

Per: Yes, it is incredible. I think this is somewhere in... I don’t know exactly where it is…

Rep: How does it feel now, to be together with Marie on tour again?  

Per: It is... you know... after my Party Crasher tour in 2009..when she came to the show in Amsterdam to say Hello and I asked her if she could come on stage with me. That time she sang The Look and It Must Have Been Love and she was very nervous and she told me, after that, that she didn’t have any self confidence, anything, but she has got a fantastic feedback from the audience, it has been a really magical evening. After a few weeks she called me and she asked me if I wanted to write a new Roxette album. Of course I wanted! Then we started very carefully, we went to Night of the Proms in the autumn of 2009, we wanted to see how much Marie resisted. And she succeeded to sing 5 songs. And the longer the tour became, the better it was. Then we could have 7 – 8 concerts last year. And that mini tour has become a world tour this year.

Rep: There is not only South America that knows about Marie’s disease, but also the whole world. And of course that all these years, people have wondered how she felt.  

Per: She feels well and this depends a lot on the love and the positive energy that she gets from her fans, this is the best way of rehabilitation in the world. This is because I notice how she behaves, at the beginning she used to stay on the stage in only one place and she concentrated a lot, now she moves more and she is a part of the audience. We have had 17 – 18 concerts so far and we still have 70 left, I think. So there will happen a lot for sure.  

Rep: But how do you feel, in fact, today, when you finally can go on tour with Marie again?  

Per: Now, of course, there is the feeling that Roxette is like a baby, it is much more difficult than it was in 2002. Especially because there has been such a long break. We have a list of singles, we have about 50 hits, so of course there are old hits that we can play during 2 hours and we go on with these few songs that the world recognizes. I know that the world needs these concerts as much as we need them, too. All are there, all sing with us. It has happened that the audience interrupts the concert at Spending My Time, It Must Have Been Love and they sang the songs for us. It is really fantastic.

Rep: Anyway, the new album is on the first place in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and it seems that it has reached no 7 in World Chart Top 40, so the radio stations in the world.

Per: Yes, there is a list that exists in Los Angeles and there the single She’s Got Nothing On  is on the 7th place. So it is one of the first 7 songs played in the whole world.  

Rep: In the whole world...

Per: Yes, it’s great.

Rep: Let’s listen to it!  

Rep: What the name of that guy?

Per: Which of them?? Jerry… 

Rep: (laughs) We are talking here, we are thinking about history, the songs that you wrote the latest year. Tell us about it!

Per: Aaaa, I think that one of the secrets is that we maintain in the frames on the classical music from America and England. We have written our songs by ourselves and we have worked with Swedish artists who also live outside Stockholm, Clarence has produced everything, he has been doing this since ’86.

Rep: How can you maintain?

Per: We hope that it will be ok, as long as on the radio we listen to music that sounds almost the same, they have the same technique… as if they had had the same producer, the radio stations broadcast the same type of music. When I was young, they used to broadcast different types of music, you could listen to Beatles, followed by a song with Led Zeppelin or Harry Belafonte on the radio - P3. And it was great. I don’t understand how people today accept the same type of music on the radio, it is like you see like a horse, only one way. And a colourless image is created, an image that I have never seen.  

Rep: So they are almost the same.

Per: I think they don’t have the possibility to create a new sound, I think that the old groups keep their sound. I don’t know which the reason is…

Rep: Who do you think that kept their sound, excepting Roxette?

Per: There are many, regarding me, I have never been so negative. There is a group called Hurts, from the ’80s, they sound very classically, traditionally, that makes you feel fresh.

Rep: Let’s come back to Roxette’s history. Let’s remember that Roxette was born because Pernilla Wahlgren had refused a song that you had written to her, is that right?

Per: Absolutely, Pernilla Wahlgren said that she had signed a contract with a records studio called Alfa Records. She had done this in secret. She had met another producer that had written something for her, then I went home and I wrote Svarta Glas, but nothing happened, I didn’t get any answer. After 3 - 5 years somebody came to me and said that I should send this song to Pernilla, but I had already spoken to Marie to make a duo with her. I had already known her for a long time, there was already  ’85 – ’86, so I wrote an English text for Svarta Glas, Neverending Love, which became the first Roxette hit.

Rep: And the rest is history. Another very well known story is with the American student, Dean Cushman and, before the SVT news, I would like us to listen a bit to what he has taken with him to America, after a few years of studying in Sweden. (…) I think that you haven’t thought about this song, The Look, to crash the tops in the SUA, probably you used to hope somehow, but he has taken the disk with him to the radio station in Minneapolis and asked them to broadcast the songs. This Dean Cushman has got a golden disk from the records company, I have a picture with him, for his contribution.  

Per: Yes, but I met him and I want to say that there is a programme where you could play by yourself what records you wanted, you could choose the song. Then, after he had listened to The Look, the boss was also interested in the rest of the songs, because there was a newspaper on the disk cover. The first song, The Look, hasn’t been a single in Sweden, but Listen To Your Heart and Dressed for Success…so The Look – the boss thought that it was fantastic, then the people started to call and say that they wanted to listen to The Look again and again. But of course, when I met Dean Cushman I talked a lot to him.  

Rep: Do you think that other artists have had the same beginning?

Per: I have heard that also The Police had a similar start, anyway, for us it was something wonderful.  

Rep: Soon we will talk about how it had been if this hadn’t started. It becomes exciting! And we will also talk about how Per has received the news that Marie was ill. What kind of influence this thing had on him and a few things about the Gyllene Tider guys, all these after the news.



Translation for PART 2

Rep: We are still here at “Godmorgon Sverige” with Per Gessle who comes back from a trip in South America, where he has started the big tour, and on Sunday you have a show at Grand Arena in Carpe town in South Africa.

Per: Yes, Sir!

Rep: How is the star life at the age of 50?

Per: It is quite good, in fact… it is very quiet. Today we have a show, then the second day we travel, then we have a show again, we always try or almost always try to have a free day between the shows.

Rep: So you don't make changes, something, to give up a concert or something else...

Per: No, we try to keep all of them. 

Rep: We said we would talk about how it would have been if Roxette hadn't had such a success and hadn't been popular in the USA, here their career started. But I have read that you have achieved another guitar, you had had another one before.


Per: Well, I was quite poor in ’84 – ’85, I didn't have a very good economic situation, me and my girlfriend, nobody was interested in my music, I had been successful before, but not that time. In fact, the first Roxette album that came in 1986, ”Pearls of Passion”, was my 3rd CD in Swedish that had been refused, or the most of the songs from the album, then I translated them into English. Most of the songs, like “Soul Deep” and “So Far Away”, exist in Swedish, too. But this is it, sometimes it goes well in the music life, other times it goes bad. 


Rep: Already in ’89, at 3 years after the first album had appeared, Roxette had already sold many albums, and you were considered the richest Swede who was 30 years old. Did it happen quickly?


Per: Yes, if you listen to the newspapers...


Rep: Many wonder which influence this has on life, the fact of being rich... Can you say something about that?


Per: Aa, it is difficult to say. For me it was easy because I could do what I wanted, I could have the job that I liked. Important is to like what you do, I think it is also that fact that I don't have to think too much how to save money to be enough till the end of the month. I can spend my time how I want. This is the only thing, in fact. 


Rep: It is a real big thing to spend your time how you want. 


Per: It's true. It is important to do what you want every month.


Rep: You and Marie Fredriksson have started a new tour. There were not too many that believed that this would happen. Marie got sick, what influence has it had on you? 


Per: It is difficult to say because it was incredibly hard, of course, but the most difficult it has been for her family and for herself... Both she and her family were very touched by this. I don't know how to explain… my father had also cancer in the ’70 and it was very difficult for us, as well. But in this case it is difficult to understand what had happened to her, Marie has felt quite bad, she had 1 of 20 chances to survive, so it was very difficult for her. If you had asked me 5 – 6 years ago if Roxette would start to play again, my answer would have been ”no, I don't think so”. But her recover has happened quite slowly and it happened that Roxette came back on stage. And this happened in Amsterdam 2009, when she came to the concert.


Rep: But now you have suceeded to gather tens of thousands people, do you think about how it would have been 5 years ago? 


Per: It happens and it would have always happened for Roxette, when me and Marie play on  afootball stadium somewhere like in Uruguay in front of 50,000 – 60,000 people, then we look at each other and we think the same, we wonder: is it real that we are here in front of such a huge audience? The litthe hobby band from Halmstad… I can say that nowadays we don't make music to fight to come into Top 10 or something, or to make the best CD in the world or to do that and that, we play for an audience that wants to listen to us and who likes us as a group, we don't feel such a big pressure, like climbing up into charts… we just play for fun. It is wonderful to get rid of this competition feeling or carieer feeling, these things are not the same now, especially when you are 50, anyway, not for me. 


Rep: So now you are not fighting to be number one on the list, as the other groups do...  


Per: I think this is the idea, and it is even a blast that we can play again to entertain the people. 


Rep: How long will the tour last?


Per: (laughs) I don't know exactly how long the tour will be, probabily until next year, we will see how old we feel (laughs).


Rep: When do you play in Sweden?


Per: 24th of July in Göteborg, 3rd of November at Globen and 4th of November at Malmö Arena. Not bad, right?


Rep: It is fantastic how much you can remember at your age!


Per: Thanks for that J 


Rep: You have lived the artist life already since the age of 20. Gyllene Tider appeared over night. 1979 came out the first hit, didn't it? December ’79? January ’80?


Per: Yes, somewhere there.


Rep: It was something that sounded like that: (Flickorna på tv2) I remember I was in the 8th class at school and all teen-age girls fell deeply in love with Gyllene Tider and this was not really funny for us, the boys, as we liked them... J



Per: Yes, it was a nice period of time, we had had 6 hits before we got number 1, anyway it was super! Every day was an adventure, every recording was fantastic, of course. You can learn a lot and we were a quite good pop band. I was the worst musician in the band and I still am that, I think. We were a quite competent pop band and most of the songs were quiet simple. 


Rep: What did you feel when you got 18 and suddenly, a star? 


Per: You learn and you get used to the situation, I was living alone, with my mother..at the beginning of the '80s, and when she put wet clothes outside in the garden to get dry, mine used to disappear, the fans took them, as well as the car antenna, the car numbers, the letters disappeared, too, like this it happened 10 years in a row. We had to think about that and this has formed me when I was 20. 


Rep: What can you say about …ufff, now we've got rid of that!


Per: Well, as we said before, I have concentrated a lot on music, this has always been the most important for me, to write and record albums, I have spent my time with that. The rest is on the 3rd place, somewhere. So this didn't mean so much for me. 


Rep: Are you kidding? 


Per: It really didn't mean… And I didn't try to make myself well-known through my music, I just tried to write better and better songs, already since Gyllene Tider time.


Rep: When you were 10 years old, you had already had a collection of 100 albums, so a pop nerd…


Per: Yes, I can say…


Rep: So this is you, a pop nerd...


Per: My son, who is 14, is crazy about computers and he sits hours after hours and plays games, with his headphones on his ears, exactly as I used to stay when I was like him, but I was listening to music and I was analysing all the artists of that time – Kings, David Bowie, I grew up alone when I was a child, just me and my records.


Rep: Do you remember how you reacted when you heard this song for the first time? (The Monkeys – I’m a Believer)


Per: Yes, super music!


Rep: Yes, it is true, but how important is this song for you?


Per: Yes, I remember when all songs were very different and all day long you could listen to McKings with “Strawberry Fields” and there were many others that meant a lot, even this one …


Rep: It is The Monkeys with “I’m a Believer”. I wanted to ask you what way you follow when you write, which is the source?


Per: I don't know that, it is difficult to explain, I cannot say that exactly this song means a lot, but the style is very much like my style, it is my way to develop myself in my career, I can say that my heart is full of music from the ’60s – ’70s. In time I have started to write different types of songs as they were needed. And finally, in fact, the melody is the most important for me, to have a good refrain, a good intro, something to attract you.


Rep: So you feel very confortable, you feel in your world with a song like this one we have already listened to. 


Per: Absolutely.


Rep: When you have got a success with Gyllene Tider… I have here an interview since 1981 where you said that you knew everything, charts and everything regarding music, as you used to read that magazine... NME (New Musical Express) and you were thinking how to do to enter a list (charts). 


Per: Exactly.


Rep: Did you think how it would have been to be in a chart?


Per But before we came on a list, I had sent a letter to this English magazine, I think I have written in Swedish...something like this: why don't you write anything about the wonderful Swedish band, Gyllene Tider?


Rep: And nobody knew who you were!


Per: Yes! And they have published what I had written. And at "comments" they wrote that I was an idiot from Sweden who couldn't write a message in English. But anyway, I was in the newspaper. It was fantastic, anyway, to appear on these charts later. In principle, it is exciting to be in Daily Music Industry together with David Bowie or Ray Davies, who I met at one show, artists whose fan I was…


Rep: So you are still a fan of some artists…tell us which of them appeared in New Music Express and if there is any of them that you kept in touch with.


Per: No, nobody didn't have any contact with me, but I met many of them many times. But I didn't write e-mails to any of them. 


Rep: But probably it will happen, as your career never ends. On Sunday you will play in South Africa, then many others in different locations. How does it feel?


Per: Very good, incredibly, as I said. It is great when so much people come all the time and the songs are great, the audience is very loud. We have a great band that has a lot of positive energy.


Rep: Thank you for being here today.


Per: Thank you, too. It's always a pleasure. 


See the original interview in Swedish, on SVT: part 1 - HERE


See the original interview in Swedish, on SVT: part 2 - HERE