Roxette pops back for a new joyride

PER Gessle deliberately evaded the past. "I stopped writing Roxette records," Gessle says. "I avoided it to become myself again."

Roxette, the Swedish pop duo of Gessle and singer Marie Fredriksson, dominated for a decade with hits including The Look, It Must Have Been Love, Listen To Your Heart and Joyride, before illness halted them.

In 2002, Fredriksson was diagnosed with a brain tumour. After surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments, she won her fight against cancer three years later.

Meanwhile, Gessle and Fredriksson released solo records.

Two years ago, during a solo show, Gessle asked Fredriksson to join him on stage to sing The Look and It Must Have Been Love.

"To be honest, she was nervous and didn't have that self-confidence," Gessle says. "But the reception she got was amazing. People were cheering and crying. They knew it was special."

Roxette had reformed.

A few days later, Fredriksson called Gessle, imploring him to do the very thing he had shunned for seven years.

"Will you write a new Roxette record?" she asked him. "I'm ready to go."

Gessle wrote a new album titled Charm School. Songs including No One Makes it on Her Own and Sitting on Top of the World are about Fredriksson's battle and triumph.

"With Roxette, the challenge has always been to write lyrics that Marie can make her own. That's quite tricky," Gessle says.

"Firstly, she's a woman. Secondly, we are so different as people. I try to get into her mind and imagine how she thinks."

Gessle and Fredriksson usually workshop a song to decide which voice best connects with a lyric.

Initially, Gessle was to sing Listen To Your Heart. Instead, it became a classic torchsong in Fredriksson's hands.

But Gessle needs no advice for pop hooks.

"I'm a melody guy," he says. "I've tried to experiment with beats and grooves and basslines, but at the end of the day, I don't feel comfortable with it. It's just in my nature."

Gessle is proud of their hitmaking run from 1988 to 1994. Better still, Roxette did it their way. Gessle says: "What pleases me the most is everything was done on our terms. They are my songs and we worked with the same Swedish producers, musicians and recording engineers on every album. In that sense, we were never part of the international music scene. We delivered our goods to the music business."

US success came with the usual strings.

"They said we should move to LA or New York and start working with Americans," Gessle says. "We refused. When you do that, you lose your soul and sound.

"ABBA were the same. They did it on their own terms -- in Sweden."

Indeed, Sweden is the home of pop masters like Gessle, Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, of ABBA, and Max Martin, hired hitmaker to Britney Spears and Pink.

Gessle says the country's strong pop sensibilities has deep roots.

"The musical legacy we have here in Scandinavia, particularly in Sweden, is very much folk music," he says.

"It is a very clear style of music that has been going on for centuries -- very beautiful, with strong melodies, and sad.

"You can hear it so much in the songs of Benny from ABBA. There is a lot of Swedish folk music in what he does."

Gessle says Martin's true talent is weathering the changing tides of pop.

"He wrote these fantastic hits 10 years ago for Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears, then the backlash came because he was so big.

"Max went away after the backlash and came back to write for the next generation of pop stars. That's unique."

But their approach to pop is different. Gessle writes on his own. Martin has a team.

"Max has different people to do the lyrics, the bassline, and the programming. I don't know what he does exactly," Gessle says with a laugh.

"Max directs the hits."

Today, 25 years after their first single was released, Roxette are overseeing a few hits of their own. They are on a world tour that will play to one million people and reaches Australia in February.

"I never thought Roxette would perform again," Gessle says. "When Marie got sick, it was devastating. We were told only one in 20 survive what she went through. There was a 5 per cent chance of survival.

"Now we are in far off places I never knew existed."

Fredriksson's illness and treatment had physical costs. She received some permanent damage to her brain, losing the ability to read and count, the vision in her right eye and loss of movement in her right side.

"I think Marie needed to do Roxette to prove she can do it," Gessle says. "She is a survivor and this is a big victory for her. I see every week of this tour how she grows and gets more confident.

"She really had to start again," Gessle says.

"She learned to read again, she learned to walk again and she learned to be in Roxette again."

Source: Herald Sun - Australia - see the original article here