Three years after the death of singer Marie Fredriksson, Per Gessle returns with the band PG Roxette. In an interview, the musician reveals how much he suffered from the loss – and why he still continues to make music.
By Alexander Neb
Mr. Gessle, December 9th is the third anniversary of the death of Marie Fredriksson, who was not only your musical partner but also a very close friend. In which moments do you miss Marie the most today?
It’s particularly bad when I happen to hear her voice on the radio. To this day there is hardly a day that I don’t think of Marie. But today, thankfully, it’s finally a little easier for me to live with the thought that she’s gone. The first year after her death was extremely hard for me. My heart was broken and at times I felt disoriented.
Was it at least a little help for you that Marie had to fight cancer many years before?
Naturally! Marie had been ill for 17 long years before she died. It was a time of rollercoaster rides between hope and fear. That’s why I, too, had to get used to the thought that every single month, every single additional year with her is a great blessing for all of us. And that we were infinitely lucky that she’s still here. But when she died, it still completely knocked the rug out from under me. You just can’t prepare for something like this.
Has there ever been a point in the past few years where you considered closing the Roxette chapter forever?
The band is such a defining part of my life and my story. And that’s why it just didn’t feel right for me to draw a line after Marie’s death. But I admit: When our drummer Pelle died unexpectedly a year later and the Corona crisis also put the entire music scene worldwide in a kind of shock, I actually had my doubts for a moment.
What made you decide to continue after all?
I still get letters and digital messages from fans to this day, telling me how much they love Roxette’s music, how excited they are to hear new songs from me and the band; and that Marie would certainly have wanted it that way. That was enough to reignite the fire. Also, writing music is the only thing I’m really good at. And start again with a completely new project? I think that would be too tiring for me.
What was the biggest challenge for you in the production of the new album?
I wanted to create songs that have the typical Roxette style of the late 80’s and early 90’s, but still sound modern and fresh. “Pop Up Dynamo!” should by no means come off as a retro record. Or like a collection of older compositions that didn’t make it onto an earlier album. Of course, that’s a fine line to walk – and whether I’ve actually managed to do it, others will have to decide…
How long did it take you to find the new female voices for the band in Helena Josefsson and Dea Norberg?
After Roxette’s official dissolution six years ago, I didn’t really know what to do with the great legacy at first. It was impossible to replace Marie after her death. And that’s why, in my opinion, it was the wisest step to look within the Roxette family: Helena and Dea have been an important part of the new sound of PG Roxette since 2010 for us backround singers.
Roxette stood and stands for pure pop. How do you see the state of pop music in autumn 2022?
Pop music has always been a mirror of its time. And today it’s a very strange world out there: Everything is now computerized and almost everything is in the hands of a few giant global corporations. An algorithm has long been found that can write pop songs exactly according to the pattern that makes it up the charts today. It feels like 100,000 new songs come out on the streaming services every day and, on the surface, some of them sound ok because everyone works with laptops, plug-ins or tuning modules these days. Basically, almost anyone can make music these days.
Being able to play an instrument and read sheet music is no longer a requirement?
No, you don’t need that anymore! The digital music programs are just too perfect for that. Regardless, I’m missing another important thing today.
Good tunes! They are the core of timelessly good pop. Of course, there are now and then, but far too rarely. But maybe I’m just an older gentleman who mourns the old days and missed the boat. Kids like the current sounds – and they are the main target group of pop music. Spotify certainly wasn’t invented for me.
pictures of her life
She became world famous with Roxette – the career of Marie Fredriksson
Is there a current superstar that you personally think is great?
Adele and Ed Sheeran maybe. But actually the two don’t really fit as an answer, because the two with their music style don’t really represent today’s time. Otherwise, to be honest, I can’t think of much. A lot has changed for the worse as DJs like David Guetta have become the new superstars. That took a lot of wind out of the sails of classical artists, because DJs started hiring anonymous singers for their records. And so you suddenly had all these big hits, but you didn’t really know who was actually singing.
You are 63 years old today. What is the biggest challenge of getting older for you personally?
Physically, I’m very fortunate that nature has obviously been kind to me, so I’ve had very little to contend with the typical signs of wear and tear on my body, and I’ve also managed to hold my own visually. But it makes me extremely angry that I keep losing people who mean something to me in my life. Close family members, good friends – more and more people are dying. It’s a situation I just can’t handle.
Who is your best friend or best friend?
Without any ifs and buts, that is my wife Asa, with whom I have been living for 37 years and will be married for 30 years next year. We trust each other blindly, give each other the necessary freedom in our relationship and haven’t tried to change the other for a long time. The perfect recipe for happiness!
Her son Gabriel is now 25 years old. Did he inherit the musical streak from his dad?
At least enough that he plays the keyboard very well and occasionally tinkers with ambient music tracks in his small private studio. Not on a professional level, just for the fun of it. Professionally, it takes him in a completely different direction: He recently completed his computer science studies and now he would like to start his own business in the IT sector. I’m incredibly proud of him – and it’s totally fine with me that he doesn’t follow in my footsteps.
Given your life experience today, what good advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
Always follow your gut feeling! I only internalized this credo over the years and used to listen far too often to the opinions of other people when making essential decisions – whether private or professional. Developing the ability to trust yourself and your gut is one of life’s most important challenges. And I envy anyone who can do that at a young age.