Interview: Per Gessle (Roxette)7 min read
As one half of iconic Swedish pop heavyweights Roxette, there’s not much that Per Gessle, songwriter behind some of pops most treasured hits like It Must Have Been Love, Joyride, Spending My Time, Dangerous, Listen to your Heart and Fading Like a Flower, hasn’t achieved in his career. When singer Marie Fredriksson passed away after a long battle with cancer on December 9th 2019, Roxette fans the world over mourned not just the passing of an idol but the end to one of the most successful and true masters of pop music the world has ever seen.
Not content at hanging up his guitar strings, Gessle – always busy with solo releases and side projects – took another trip down memory lane and put together a brand new Roxette package – Bag of Trix: Songs from the Roxette Vaults. Containing demo’s and previously unheard versions of some of the bands biggest hits and unreleased gems, along with two brand new singles in the form of Let Your Heart Dance With Me and the 80’s infused Piece of Cake, one of the last recordings Marie made with Per, the 4 disc/vinyl collection was released as a beautiful homage to one of music’s most celebrated acts and Renowned For Sound Editor and life-long Roxer, Brendon, got to catch up with Per to talk about the collection, the legacy of Marie and the future of Roxette. Here’s what he had to tell us….
Brendon Veevers: First of all – Happy belated Birthday Per. We realise things can’t be celebrated in the usual ways at the moment with Covid still being around but what did you get up to on the special day?
Per Gessle: Hi Brendon. Thanks. Yep, getting older bit by bit… Spent the day and evening with the family and a few friends. Nothing fancy or worth putting on Instagram, though.
BV: You have dug into the Roxette vaults recently and delivered an amazing new collection with Bag of Trix: Music from the Roxette Vaults in the leadup to Christmas. The fans clearly love the release but how powerful was the nostalgia element for you of putting this collection together?
PG: It was fun. I didn’t expect to find so much stuff. I knew there were songs from the Abbey Road-sessions lying around + some old demos Marie and I did together in the past.
I knew there were a couple of finished but unmixed tracks from the Good Karma-recordings. That album was pretty hard to do because of Marie’s health issues. As soon as we had a “full” album we basically stopped working on it.
Then I realized there were many songs that got lost in the shuffle when CD’s became streaming. Lots of CD-single bonus tracks that’s never been available on Spotify and Apple Music etc. And some odd mixes of various songs. And Spanish tracks. I put together everything that made me smile.
BV: While we love the record it does scare us Roxers a little bit because you can’t help but wonder if this is the last of Roxette we will see being released. Are there any other projects like Bag of Trix that fans can hope for in the future or has the Roxette well been well and truly drained?
PG: Well, there are more stuff in the vaults. I actually found some songs AFTER I put together Bag Of Trix. An unreleased track from the Have A Nice Day-sessions for instance. But mostly it’s live stuff. We have some superb recordings from the Joyride tour that we should mix down the road. I’ve listened to some of the tapes and parts of it are really amazing.
BV: Having this time to reflect on the Roxette years as you put together Bag of Trix, what album AND what song would you most like to be remembered for and why?
PG: I think Roxette’s strength was that we had so many different shades. We made classic pop singles with The Look + How Do You Do! + Joyride + Sleeping In My Car. We made arena anthems with Listen To Your Heart + Fading Like A Flower + It Must Have Been Love. We had pretty sophisticated songs and arrangements in (Do You Get) Excited? + Queen Of Rain + You Don’t Understand Me + Wish I Could Fly. Songs like Watercolours In The Rain + Never Is A Long Time + The Heart Shaped Sea are basically singer/songwriter-tracks. Stars + Some Other Summer + Centre Of The Heart are more dance-oriented.
I think all this has to do with where we came from. We were almost 30 years old when we had our international breakthrough and both Marie and I had done so many different things over the years prior to Roxette. Marie did progressive rock and was singing in a jazz combo. I was fooling around with my Swedish power pop band and did pretty lyric-oriented low-key solo albums. And I had played folk music. The basic idea with Roxette was to combine my songwriting with Marie’s amazing voice. Not necessarily to focus on just one style of music.
So….It’s hard to pick just one track from The Roxette History but if you hold a gun to my head I’ll go for The Look. It sounded wonderful and weird from the very first idea up until the mixing.
BV: With the horrible loss of Marie in Dec 2019 and more recently the loss of of Pelle Alsing who was a long-time drummer of the Roxette band, its been a heart-breaking time for Roxette. Firstly, outside of the music she has left behind for us, what would you will miss the most about Marie and what would you say Marie should be most remembered for?
PG: Marie was an amazing person. One of the kindest, down to earth and most talented one I’ve ever met. We became friends in the late 70’s playing in different bands sharing a rehearsal studio in Halmstad on the Swedish west coast.
I admire her for the capacity to bring a melody and a lyric to life but also for her ambitions to become a superb performer and a great role model for people to look up to. I miss her a lot every day. I miss all the jokes and the crazy journey we did with Roxette. The travelling, the backstage pep talk, the studio sessions, shopping for stage clothes. Silly stuff. The list goes on and on.
BV: And the same question to you for Pelle. What would you say you will most miss about Pelle and what do you think Pelle should be most remembered for?
PG: Pelle was also an amazing person just like Marie. Really humble, really funny. Honest, warm-hearted and a true music lover. Always with a smile on his face. Always saying what he thought. Always with an opinion. And, of course, he was a great drummer with an amazing ear to the overall picture. Pelle didn’t beat the drums, he played the drums.
BV: Looking back on your videos, I think my personal favourite is Anyone. I must have watched that video over 1000 times. What would you say is your favourite Roxette video?
PG: I think I like Crash! Boom! Bang! the most. That one had to be shot twice due to technical problems. Second time around it became really cool for its time. It really fits the song visually.
BV: You are still a very active with your own solo releases and projects. One of the most exciting projects that you have done was Mono Mind which was a very side-stepping project from what you usual release. Are there any plans to release any more Mono Mind records in the future or was that a one-off? Or any other projects in the pipe-line from the Per Gessle camp?
PG: Yes and yes. There are some more Mono Mind music in the can. I’m currently looking for a record label that fits my idea and ideals. And there are new songs in English being created as I write this. It all sounds good to me. I’d like to stay curious and will try to improve my writing and my production skills as much as I can before I go to sleep.
BV: With all the anniversary tour and releases to celebrate these milestone moments, are there any plans to release anything around the big upcoming anniversaries like Joyride which turns 30 next year or Room Service which turns 20 next year?
PG: Yes, we’re talking about a colourful Joyride-release this summer. I’ve found lots of goodies in the vaults for that one too!! Someone, please stop me!
BV: Can you tell us about any live shows on the horizon – obviously pending the Covid situation?
PG: Yes, there will be more live shows in the future. I will continue to perform Roxette-stuff internationally. I don’t feel I’m done yet.
Roxette’s latest collection Bag of Trix: Music from the Roxette Vaults is out now.
::: RenownedForSound.com’s Editor and Founder –
Interviewing and reviewing the best in new music and globally recognized artists is his passion.
Over the years he has been lucky enough to review thousands of music releases and concerts and interview artists ranging from top selling superstars like 27-time Grammy Award winner Alison Krauss, Boyz II Men, Roxette, Cyndi Lauper, Lisa Loeb and iconic Eagles front man/songwriter, Glenn Frey through to more recent successes including Newton Faulkner, Janelle Monae and Caro Emerald.
Brendon manages and coordinates the amazing team of writers on RenownedForSound.com who are based in the UK, the U.S and Australia.