Touching Gunther's Tra-La-La (The interview and the tale of the night I met the Pop Swede)

While I was a writer for the Fresno Bee, my co-worker, Joshua Tehee, would occasionally send me interesting tidbits, things he thought I would appreciate or needed to see, via email. One day, he sent me this video:

My jaw dropped. What had I just seen? The video was for "THE DING-DONG SONG"by Gunther and the Sunshine Girls. WHO? I watched the video over and over. Was it legit or a joke? It was too stupid and silly (and kind of low budget) to be real, but at the same time, it was well made (for its budget) and the song was catchy and fun. I was hooked and was soon seeking out other Gunther offerings and buying his CD. Wow!

Way back in 2007 (!?!) I got wind that Gunther and the Sunshine Girls would be coming to California and playing in San Francisco at a small club. Oh my STARS! I HAD to go and see them (of course). I had already become a huge fan. But seeing them perform wasn't enough. I also wanted to see if I could finagle my way backstage, using my Fresno Bee credentials, to meet the G man himself. After all, I had done that with David Cassidy earlier (You can read about that HERE). Why NOT Gunther, too? I have my ways (sometimes). It could work. Right?

Weeks before the concert, I tracked down Gunther's people. I explained I was doing an article. I received some publicity photos as well as a chance to interview Gunther (via email...better than nothing. Waaagh).  I also eventually got myself a pass to get backstage. Whoo hoo!

I DID write an article called "Touching Gunther's Tra-La-La" about Gunther, the Sunshine Girls, the fans and the concert. It was posted on The Fresno Bee's Fresno Famous website...but was forever lost when The Bee pulled the plug on FF. Dang! I LIKED that article (the same thing happened to the David Cassidy article I mentioned as well--and another on The B-52s. GRR!). Anyway, as I have been plugging away at cleaning out my email, I discovered the email interview with Gunther! Yippie. So below I am posting the interview. Below that, I'll post the tale of the evening of the concert and the unexpected drama that Erich and I had to endure AFTER the concert (Oh my stars! What a pain!). Below that, I'll post some more Gunther videos so you can see what Gunther and the Sunshine Girls are all about.

As I said, I had tracked down Gunther's people. Here is an email from Alexander Kutzner, whom I was told would be the person to talk to, to reach Gunther. After my initial email to him, he responded:

Fun! ;)

Of course. Send me the interview questions and I´ll see too it that Gunther gets them and answers them. I´ll also send you some of our press photos . I will get over our presskit to you as well.

If you want to interview Gunther on site, then you have to talk to Olof Ringsberg, mail him at ####### and he will help you out. It´s a pretty tight schedule, but Olof will know more.

If you got fun ideas, suggestions or some other crazy thoughts, just let me know!

Extensivemusic Sweden

I sent off the questions in a very gushy, positive email. I eventually got this response:

Hi Shawn!

I´m sending you the questions answered by Mr G 😊, See below in purple. I can get him to answer some more questions if you want later on. He´s back from Japan now and is available.

I´ll send some high-res pics in another mail today.

As too more background information, I´ll send you a little PR pdf we have.


I'm hoping these are truly Gunther's responses, I am skeptical though. If you noticed, Mr. Kutzner used an emoji happy face. In the interview, Gunther also uses emojis. He really could have written this -- and from the answers, I tend to believe he did--but the doubts linger.

Oh well, here's the interview:

Fun Questions:
So, how often has your tra-la-la been touched since the "Ding-Ding-Dong" song came out?
A gentleman never tells ;) You know… the respect part of my way of thinking.

What are your thoughts on all of the wanna-be Gunthers out there?
Just go for it! There´s plenty of room in the world. Of course, there can only be one. But everyone knows who that is. 😊 When I see people who dress up, acting like me OR trying something new based on the original… then I feel proud. Someone is trying to do something new. And we need that in times like this. More love, more fun and a waaay more relaxed attitude to each other.

I know your values are champagne, glamour, sex and respect.  If you were to add a 5th value, what would be the next important thing to you?
Love. Without a doubt.

At the end of the day when the paparazzi has left, the Sunshine Girls have gone home and you can unpucker your lips and relax, what does Gunther do to relax and unwind?
You mean when the Sunshine Girls go to bed and leave me alone in my livingroom? Well, I like to sit in front of the fire, listening to music and just taking it slow. Most of my best ideas comes in moments like that.

Routine questions:
What were/are your musical inspirations?
That´s actually pretty hard to say. There´s so many great artists today in Europe and US. I really don´t want to mention anyone particular since it would be unfair. Unless I can fill a A4 with names that is. 😊

How big are you (I'm talking MUSIC-wise, Mr. Ding Ding Dong) in Europe?
I´m humble to all my success. I have been number one a couple of times in different parts of Europe 😊 Most people can sing to my songs when I meet them. So, my MESSAGE is pretty well known. I´m just delivering.

Where do you see Gunther and the Sunshine girls in 5 or 10 years?
Aaah, we would have advanced with our message of lust. I would like to think that more people listen to us and that each time they hear our music, a big smile appears on their faces. There´s some plans for the future and time will tell what happens. I don’t have a goal in that sense, I´m just enjoying the ride. The road there is the goal, if you know what I mean.

Why do you think you have such an appeal?
Tough question. Don´t know really. But I think it´s because I have the focus on people should have fun, let go a bit and just be themselves. I´m myself. That´s what I think is working for me.

What are you looking forward to the most in playing in San Francisco?
As always, when I´m in the US, the people! All my concerts in US have been amazing! Americans have such passion and are open minded. Most react when I say this, but hey, maybe I just have been lucky. Also, for me to play in San Francisco is sort of a dream come true… come on… we are talking about SAN FRANCISCO!

More serious questions:
Your real name is Mats Soderlund...where did Gunther come from and does Gunther have a last name?
Of course Gunther has a last name. The Sunshine Girls. We are one.

Are the Sunshine Girls the same girls that have always been the Sunshine Girls or are they interchangeable?
It depends… I have my favourites but, you know, monogamy is too cool to rule ;) So, it can change in the future. Not right know, but maybe. They won´t be reading this, right?

When does the new album come out?  Will the "Christmas Song (Ding Dong)" be on it as well as "Sunstrip"?  "Obsession"? "My Boudoir"?
That´s not decided yet. It´s all in the works and I also have some other ideas that I need to try out. I´m sort of a perfectionist when  it comes to my music and I really want to give my fans a great experience.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the Gunther thing, but it's a campy tongue-in-cheek joke, right?  The mullet, the sunglasses, the thin moustache, the constantly puckered lips...where did the Gunther look come from?
Well, it´s working, right? The look just popped into place one day. What not-so-everyday-look could I use to make something that stands out? And… once again… just being myself helped a bit. 😊 The US got the idea. Look, listen, laugh, have fun and just enjoy yourself. With a little sparkle in the corner of the eye. A little serious… but not too much.

The head & shoulders "snake dance" pops up in all of your videos - hilarious.  Who's brilliant idea was it to add that as well as all of the other camp elements even though the whole Gunther thing is masterfully played straight, as if you really believed the whole "champagne, glamour, respect & sex" thing?
All those elements NEEDED to be there to complete the idea! The “snake dance” as you say, came to us early when we where just playing around on set when we did the “Ding Dong Song”. But let´s face it. If you take champagne, glamour, respect and sex (throw a little love in there as well) and that´s sure is a guide to a perfect night out.

How was the Gunther thing packaged and sold to the record company?
You know the video “Ding Dong Song”? Exactly like that. In a club somewhere in Europe. They threw themselves all over the concept right away! That, my friends, was a very good day.

Besides a flash of Gunther buns (gasp!) in "Ding Ding Dong" and "Sunstrip", there have been interesting hints of bisexual overtones in the videos such as the digitally obscured fully frontal male nudity in "Tutti-Frutti Summer Love" and the questionable spattering of suntan lotion on your face (and brief clip of three guys in a hot tub) in "Sunstrip".  What are you trying to imply or who are you winking at with these?
I´m open minded. I´m straight but have a lot of support in the gay community. Just thought I should say “Hello! I know you´re there!” with these little flashes 😊 That´s the least I can do. All people are beautiful if you know how to look for it.

Is there any message in the music or is simply out there to have fun with?
The message is to have fun. Just let yourself go for a second and see what happens. Sure, everyone can mess up at sometime, but – hey! – if we never try to let go, we will never get those natural highs as well. A part of the message would be to stop and look… I mean REALLY look at people, see that they are alright and tell them so. You never know what can happen! Appreciate life and live it to the fullest!

The concert was Sept. 22, 2007 in San Francisco at a place called The Factory. It was supposed to start at 8 pm, but didn't start until way later than that. The crowd was smaller than I had expected, but the venue was small itself. It was mostly young kids and Erich, who had gone with me, was feeling "old" and out of place, but there was at least one guy there who was older than he was. I was just thrilled to be there.

Gunther and the Sunshine Girls do the head and shoulders snake dance on stage.
 I must have sent a second list of questions because I distinctly remember asking if the rumors were true, that the shows were lip-synched and they really were not singing. Gunther responded by saying he "never turned the microphone off when he was on stage"---which doesn't exactly answer the question, but...

I was sure they were lyp-synching as all of the songs sounded like the versions on the CD and on YouTube. Even the "Touch Me" duet he did with Samantha Fox sounded just like Samantha Fox...and it was the Sunshine Girls "singing" the part. Whatever, I was thrilled.

The winner of the Gunther look-a-like contest dances on stage with the real thing.

I did make it backstage. Here are the pictures to prove it. Here are Gunther and I in the dressing room after the show. He's freakin' tall, too. I wasn't expecting that. I believe that Olof Ringsberg, the guy I was to contact to get backstage, is the guy who took this photo.

Gunther and Monster A GoGo
 I took the photo below. You can see one of the Sunshine Girls in the background getting herself fixed up after the show. The meeting happened a good while after the show, too. I didn't stay long because I didn't know what to say, really...and Erich was getting antsy about the late hour.

Gunther backstage after the show. 

 Although I still have all of the photos, I wish I still had the article or had some way to recreate it. I spoke with several people at the show beforehand to see what the appeal of Gunther was to them and why they wanted to see him. I took their pictures for inclusion in the article, but now I have no idea who these people were or what they were quoted as saying.

Two concert goers.
 Once I was done talking to Gunther, Erich and I headed back to BART. We missed a bus that would take us to Market Street, so we had to walk.

Mega-Gunther fans dressed as Gunther and a Sunshine Girl
We got to the BART station and an attendant told us to run, as the last train (What!?!) was about to leave. Oh crap, Erich and I bolted down the escalators...but it was too late. Who knew the BART lines stopped? We were stranded in San Francisco. How would we get back to San Leandro?

More cool fans. If I recall correctly, they came from Santa Cruz for the concert.
 We found out there was a late night bus that would take us to Oakland. We'd then have to wait and take a 2nd bus back to San Leandro. Oh my God. What an ordeal. It took forever to get home and Erich was none too happy. And it was scary---especially when we were out in the middle of Oakland someplace in the wee hours of the night waiting for that other bus. Yikes. We got home though, but it took HOURS to do so. As bad as the ordeal getting home was, I was ever so glad to have been able to see Gunther and The Sunshine Girls. Wow!

Here are a few more Gunther and the Sunshine Girls videos (and there are several others out there as well):



One of Gunther's (He is now minus the Sunshine Girls, apparently) newer songs, "NO PANTALONES"::



Mike O said…
I loved reading about this! Who knew I was missing out on Gunther and the Sunshine Girls all these years! Never heard of them before, but that first video is a classic and I’ll need to share it.

Very cool you got to meet them and write the article. Yes, too bad it’s give but you did a great job telling the story with this blog post. I think The Factory is where I saw The Lebowski Fest in 2008…or someplace by there. Great stuff, my friend!
Monster A Go-Go said…
Zowie! Thanks for reading the blog post--and bothering to comment on it. That really touches my tra-la-al! Ha!
Whaaaaat???? You had never heard of/experienced Gunther and the Sunshine Girls before? SHOCKING!!!! I loved them--still do. I keep waiting for that second album, but...\\Thanks for visiting and reading. CHEERS!