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Interview: Roxette

8 min read

Roxette have long been a powerful force and staple in pop music. Emerging in the mid eighties, the band, made up of striking front-woman Marie Fredriksson and songwriter, multi-talented and multi-instrumental powerhouse Per Gessle, cemented their place in pop music’s history books following a string of hits including It Must Have Been Love, Listen To Your Heart, Joyride, Dangerous, Dressed For Success, Fading Like A Flower and The Look among the dozens of hit singles the duo have released over the course of a hugely successful recording career together. Their attributions have won over millions of fans all over the world and have placed them within Sweden’s most successful exports and the position of second most successful musical act after ABBA.

After a lengthy hiatus, Roxette made a welcomed return to the world stage in 2011, performing to over a million fans on a tour that took the pair around the world twice over a busy 2 years and delivered 2 new records in the shape of Charm School and Travelling. Not content in slowing down anytime soon, a decision us ‘Roxers’ are very happy about, Roxette are preparing to hit the road once again to deliver their iconic back catalogue, and some new songs as we found out, to their fans around the globe.

With Australian dates penciled in at the start of the upcoming tour for early 2015, we caught up with Per to talk about the new run of shows, what new recordings are in the works and some questions about the bands journey as one of musics most cherished and successful acts. Here is what he had to tell us….

Brendon Veevers: How are you Per and where in the world does our interview for you?

Per Gessle: Hello. I’m sitting in my small studio/office close to the water in our summer house on the Swedish west coast. It’s very hot outside. Crayfish party tonight.

BV: You have recently announced that you will be taking to the road for another world tour. How are you, Marie and the band feeling knowing that you will be back out in front of your fans again at the end of the year?

PG: We certainly look forward to it. It was a great surprise to us all that so many people came to see us during the last tour. After all we have been away, due to Marie’s illness, for a number of years. We didn’t know what to expect. But we’ve always been a live band, I’m sure the new tour will be terrific.

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BV: There have been rumours of a full length album or perhaps an EP on the horizon to coincide with the tour. Is there anything you can tell us about this?

PG: We haven’t decided yet. But yes, we’ll hit the studio early September with a bunch of new songs. Hopefully something interesting will pop up!

BV: With having toured the globe in 2011 and 2012, are there any cities or towns that you will be visiting this time around that you didn’t get a chance to play in the last time?

PG: Loads of them. Several Russian cities we don’t even know how to spell, Auckland in NZ and more. It’s always nice to visit new places and greet new faces.

BV: With the last tour consisting of a greatest hits set and a few new numbers, what can fans expect from the new tour in terms of the songs you will be playing? Will it be a greatest hits show or will you be pulling out some of the unreleased songs from the bands career for this latest run of dates?

PG: Well, the foundation will be our big hits but we’re not going to do a replica of the last tour. We’ll try some new stuff as well as some forgotten gems from the past.

BV: Will Christopher, Clarence and the rest of the gang be rejoining you on the road this time around?

PG: Yep, same band, new underwear.

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BV: When we first spoke with you in 2011 you were about to head out on tour and we asked the question “what were your favourite songs to perform live”. Marie told us her favourites were the big ballads and you said yours was 7Twenty7 and The Look. After completing the big comeback tour and starting to think about the next tours set list, has your answers changed or are these track still the big winners in your opinion?

PG: Yea, I love to play the uptempo guitar-driven songs while Marie loves to do the soulful ballads. It’s always been like that.

BV: When you record songs for your albums I guess there are some tracks that are more suited to the recording studio as opposed to being performed live due to various reasons such as the general structure or makeup of a song. Are there any particular album songs that you haven’t been able to deliver on stage that you would love to include on the road?

PG: You’re right. It’s two totally different things playing a song live vs recording it in the studio. Almost all of my songs are written for the studio since I love spending time developing them during the recording process. And many of them are really hard to transform into a live situation.

In the old days we used a lot of computerized stuff (like sequensed bass, backing vocals and sound effects) but we’ve decided to play EVERYTHING 100% live nowadays. So Pelle The Drummer doesn’t have to bother with a clicktrack! This means that some heavily “produced” songs like “Wish I Could Fly”, “Stars” or “Centre Of The Heart” gets a totally new feel in concert. In the end of the day we prefer that cos it makes every show unique and it feels like you’re playing in a band and not following a pre-programmed routine. I guess we’re pretty old-fashioned.

BV: Your international breakthrough album Look Sharp turned 25 recently. Did you do anything to celebrate the milestone?

PG: Yep, Warner/EMI Sweden baked a cake for us! We had a great evening with old pals from the band. management and the record company. And even some fans.

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BV: Roxette cracked the U.S market back in the mid-eighties thanks to a U.S exchange student sending in a cassette of Look Sharp to a radio station in Minneapolis and things really took off for you from that point internationally. Have you ever made any contact with this person or is the identity of him unknown?

PG: Yes of course. We’ve met him a dozen times over the years. He’s a great guy with an exquisite taste in music!

BV: You were recently one of the first artists to be inducted into the Swedish Hall of Fame for your contribution and success in music. How did that accomplishment feel and what does the accolade mean to you and Marie?

PG: I don’t know. Sweden is such a small country so there are not that many options when it comes to pick artists… But, of course, it’s nice that people at home appreciate what we’re doing.

BV: Thinking back to the early days of the band, did you ever think that Roxette would become such an iconic staple in popular music?

PG: No, not at all. We would have settled for some rainy tours in Germany and Norway!

BV: You seem to be very busy this year, not just with the announcement of the tour but also with the release of the Per Gessle Archives and a pair of books. Can you tell us a little about these projects and will Australia be able to get our hands on these items?

PG: Well, I guess all the music will be on iTunes and Spotify etc everywhere. The physical version is a pretty massive 10 CD’s + 1 LP + 1 booklet in a golden heavenly box that I’m sure can be imported from Amazon or similar. It includes about 180 demos of mine, songs written for Roxette and for my Swedish career. Personally I think it’s pretty interesting to listen to demos. To get to know how the song started out and to hear the original version before the “real” production takes place. You’ll find the first versions of all the Rox hits here.

Same week two books will be released, both are based on my lyrics, sketches and drawings and stuff. One is in English, the other in Swedish. You have to own both if you want to call yourself a true Roxer! Of course.

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BV: You and Marie have had a very strong relationship since before Roxette began and that relationship has continued to grow over the last 30 years. What would you say has been the key to your relationship being so strong for so many years?

PG: We’re very different but complete in each other in so many ways. Marie has always been one of my best friends and I’m very proud our special friendship continues to this day.

BV: As it currently stands only Australia, New Zealand and a select number of dates in Russian and Scandinavia have been confirmed for the tour. Are you planning on taking the tour to any other countries like the U.S, South America and the UK where you have quite large fanbases?

PG: Yep, the tour will continue way into 2016. We will play everywhere. It will be fab!

BV: Aside from the tour, the release of your books and the Per Gessle Archives, are there any other projects in the 2014 pipeline that fans can look forward to?

PG: Yes, I’ve had a very busy year working with other artists and writers as well. I can’t mention any names just yet but I’m sure you’ll find out before long. I’m a very lucky person being able to work with what I like the most, music. It’s a blessing.

BV: Thanks for your time Per – good luck with the tour and releases and see you down under very soon.

PG: My pleasure, look forward to visit your beautiful country once more. /P.

Roxette will be performing the following dates as part of the bands Australian tour in 2015:

Brisbane Entertainment Centre – Tuesday Feb 10
Perth Arena – Saturday February 14
Adelaide Entertainment Centre – Tuesday Feb 17
Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne – Friday Feb 20
WIN Entertainment Centre, Wollongong – Monday Feb 23
Qantas Credit Union Arena, Sydney – Friday Feb 27

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