Interview: Ace of Base
Over the past few decades there have been many acts from Scandinavia that have made a successful mark on the international stage. ABBA, Roxette and more recent acts like Robyn and Say Lou Lou have helped shape Sweden as one of the most successful territories for pop music. Ask anyone about Swedish exports and Ace of Base will most likely also come up in the conversation at some point. The band made a huge impact on the international pop scene in the early nineties with their debut album Happy Nation (aka The Sign) and the mammoth singles that were released from the 25+ million selling record including The Sign, All That She Wants and Don’t Turn Around.
Over several years the band, which was made up of siblings Jonas, Jenny and Linn Berggren and Ulf Ekberg, dominated the mainstream pop charts and released a handful of hugely successful records before calling it a day in 2002 as an original four piece. Over the last decade we have seen a short-lived reformation of the band and now Jonas and Ulf, the only remaining members of the band left to carry the torch for Ace of Base, have put together a new collection of previously unreleased tracks that have been plucked from the vaults of the band’s lucrative pop career – the appropriately titled, Hidden Gems.
Following the release of the compilation, we caught up with founding Ace of Base member Jonas Berggren to discuss the new collection, the band’s iconic career and the future of Ace of Base. Here is what he had to tell us…
Brendon Veevers: How are you and where does our interview find the band today?
Jonas Berggren: Hi there!! Jonas here from my house in Gothenburg!
BV: Congratulations on the release of the new collection – Hidden Gems. Its been a while since a collection of tracks from the original four members has been released. Why did you decide to release this collection after all these years?
JB: Thank you for your pleasant words! About releasing this album you can say it is “fan driven” – many people have for a long time asked me why we haven’t released an album with the songs from Ace Thursdays. Ray and I let fans hear songs and versions from us from back in the days every Thursday – Ace Thursdays. These were put together with many other unreleased tracks that we had been sitting on for the Hidden Gems album – it’s always been about the fans. Many songs and versions of our work were on the net but in terrible quality. Some were hard to find all together. I met with Playground (Records) and we thought it was a good idea to release an old/new album. We picked songs from different times that sounded great. I am pleased with the album. Jenny said she liked it as well the other day.
BV: Were there any songs that didn’t make the cut? Any tracks out there from the Ace of Base early years that are yet to be heard?
JB: Yes there are many more songs that haven’t been heard, or properly heard. A song called Sunshine for example – that was the first reggae song we ever wrote and recorded. We had previously produced a track from some guys. It was called Passage Way and they said we produced it in a “China Reggae style” I don’t know what that means ha ha. But they looked happy anyway. Sunshine is a poppy song with nice brass and with Linn rapping. How about that! It’s the rap from Technotronic with MC Eric. Good times. We have to clear the rights before releasing such tracks.
Peepshow is another interesting track among others…
BV: Are there any tracks that stand out for you personally within the new collection and for what reason?
JB: The tracks that stands out on Hidden Gems are; Sunset In Southern California, Into The Night Of Blue and Go Go Go. These are my fave’s for the moment anyway. It changes from time to time.
BV: Fans are getting very excited as many see the release as a sign that a possible comeback might be on the horizon. Is there any truth to that?
JB: I talked to Jenny briefly recently and she is very focused on her solo career. She has an interesting Swedish TV project this summer but I am not allowed to tell what it is yet…. Cryptic? Yes! Anyway I think it would have to take a total change of heart for Linn concerning the band. She has taken 9 steps back, not one, from this music business so that would not be easy. A dream would be if Linn wanted to sing some of my new songs, just sing, and we could release it without any photos or videos. I have so many good songs lying around now…
Composing is like a drug to me and I still write at least one song a week in general.
BV: The band has been quite open over the years about the difficulties that you faced together at the height of your career. What would you say was the tipping point for the band to call it a day?
JB: The tipping point, for Linn anyway, was when she was forced to sing a track about “getting wet” that Jenny already had sung but they (the American label) only wanted 100% Linn on the track. Linn said to me once that it was the worst thing for her. It made it even more difficult between Jenny and Linn – Jenny felt bad-neglected. Linn felt terrible-forced to sing a lyric she didn’t like and at the same time push Jenny away. Impossible situation around Everytime It Rains. I don’t like that track one bit, it killed us so to say – The tipping point anyway.
BV: Do you think the relationships between all four band members can be mended in order to bring you all together again to record a new album or for another tour?
JB: No plans for tours or new recordings.
BV: Ace of Base have long been regarded as a very influential collective in pop music and you are one of the most successful groups to come out of Scandinavia and make it on the international stage. How does it feel to be regarded as icons in the pop music world?
JB: We are grateful that so many people like what we have done in the music industry. It is very nice to hear such comments.
BV: Not many acts in the world can claim they truly conquered the global music world and also retain such a large fan base after so many years. What do you think is was about Ace of Base that made the world pay attention?
JB: Swedish mid-summer night melancholy together with Linn’s voice, my melodies and Denniz Pop’s productions made us to what we became. Luck, Timing and Talent – in that order was the key to our success. Ulf’s “drive” and the others good looks of course were also a big thing.
BV: You have achieved such a vast amount of success over the years. What would you say is the band’s most proudest moment as part of Ace of Base? Anything that stands out above others?
JB: Perhaps the proudest moment was when we sang outdoors in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin at the MTV Europe Awards. We sang live and I also played the guitar live. The other band’s were just faking – being outside haha. There that night many people gave us credit for being the only live act there haha. Many people were impressed over what we did- it was COLD outside. Happy memories.
BV: You have released many songs over the years as part of Ace of Base. What would you say is the greatest Ace of Base song and why?
JB: My favorite track from Ace Of Base is Life is a Flower. I think that song shows the pure essence of what we are as a band; summer vibes, twisted happy lyrics, poppy melodies, nice beats and a choir in the end. Perfect!
BV: Many acts strive to achieve global, mainstream success but this eventually leads to their demise. Was international stardom something that Ace of Base as a band adapted to fairly well or was it a challenge?
JB: We had no idea the band should have such a success and we surely didn’t plan for it.
BV: Happy Nation/The Sign celebrated a phenomenal 25 million copies sold and is listed in Top 100 Best-selling Albums of All Time list. What was it like to celebrate such a milestone achievement like this?
JB: Thanks! Happy Nation/The Sign suffered hard from pirate copies almost all over the world. Anyway in 1995 it had sold 23.5 million already. Now many years later we have reached 25 million. It feels amazing of course! We feel honored that so many people like the album (still). Talking about sales figures there are always many old figures flying around in books and papers. “Club sales” and orders / sold, confuses everybody haha. Talking about sales I heard that an album sold in the 70’s (80’s?) counted as 6 albums and a single as one album! (In Sweden anyway) How about that! Then it is easy to get high numbers I guess.
BV: What are your fondest memories of those years, when you were releasing such enormous singles like All That She Wants and The Sign?
JB: My dearest memory from our early career is from when Linn, Ulf and I listened to All That She Wants in Denniz Pop’s car stereo standing in a parking lot in the middle of nowhere blasting the song in the Swedish summer night over and over again. It was magic and we knew we had recorded something that was amazing!
BV: What future do you see for Ace of Base? What other plans are in place to keep the fire burning for the band?
JB: It would be nice to release a Hidden Gems 2. Perhaps work a bit on the songs, add a “twist” here and there. Lets see, it’s up to Lars and Jonas at Playground records anyway.
BV: Thanks for your time Jonas
JB: Thanks for the interview Brendon! – Jonas- Ace Of Base
Ace of Base’s new collection Hidden Gems is out now!