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The international Breach

Successful in Scandinavia - so far so good. But even an outsider can tell, that this is not enough: The markets in Northern Europe are simply too small for a popband, the main focus is in Central Europe and in the USA. Although Ace of Base have always been aware of that, they didn't want to force the international break-through with might and main. They thought that a cautious conquest of the different charts is the best solution. And it actually was. Today, Jonas Berggren confesses: " Thank God everything developed step by step. Our success reached one country after the other so that we were able to start on bit by bit. On the one hand it took us longer to become successful around the world, but on the other hand we were able to learn how to deal with the Press, how it is to be in front of the camera and so on in smaller countries like Denmark and Norway. We could do our mistakes there."

hose mistakes stayed within limits, eventough Ulf Ekberg was confronted with his past in a brutal way by the local media in February 1993. Different from the Christian raised Berggrens, the today quiet and reserved Ulf was hip in his youth. By the age of 13 he already knew the effect of alcohol. He also consumed marihuana and hash. Following was the typical "career" of the street: robbery, thefts and rabbling belonged to the daily life of the young Ulf. To make things worse, he joined a skinhead group when he was 16. In the following years, Ulf Ekberg was active in right-wing extreme actions, he bawled slogans which were hostile to foreigners and he spread racist leaflets. He was on his best way to go astray. By the age of 18 he had already been to court ten times and was punished with fines five times, among other things illegal possession of arms.

However, when a friend of him was killed in a knife-battle in 1988, Ulf came to his senses and finally had the strength to get loose from his old friends and to start a new life. Luckily enough for him and all pop fans, he met Jonas Berggren during that time. Needless to say that Ulf changed completely. "I keep distance from my sins of my youth" he told the Youth Magazine BRAVO in April 1993, when his past was discovered. "I'm very ashamed, but I can't undo it. When I was with the skins, politics was all the same to me, and the opinions of the people didn't interest me. Yes, I screamed 'Sieg Heil' because we could provoke the others. That was all we wanted. I behaved like a pig. Unfortunately, I'm not able to live my life again. The only thing I can try to do, is to help others to have a better life."

The people around him have already forgiven him, Jenny, Malin and Jonas anyhow. Fortunately, the blunders of Ulf's youth didn't hinder the worldwide success. Also after it became known, Ace of Base were successful wherever there were charts. Logical - who can get away from those catchy tunes of the Gothenburg hitfactory? A reason for their popularity is also the fact, that the four stayed normal despite their enormous success. There aren't any airs and graces at Ace of Base. Jonas for example doesn't see a reason why there should be any: "There hasn't changed much. I'm just not as poor anymore. We are just a little bit afraid that our private life will suffer someday. But actually everything is going pretty good."

Of course, the musicians had to deal with the fact first, that everywhere they appear a big fuss is made. "We have learned to deal with the situation. We are better organised and have gotten used to the role of a pop star. I mean, the success came all of a sudden, and we had to get used to stand in the publicity. By now it belongs to our everyday life. In the beginning everything was so hectic, but now I like it", Jonas says content.

But Malin, Jenny, Jonas and Ulf also have to cope with the dark sides of their career. Not everything they used to take for granted can now be done without any problems. "I'm missing just to meet one of my girlfriends for a coffee. That doesn't work because we are in a totally different city. Or when you have the flu you can't just stay in bed. You have to go to the show and sing", tells Jenny. Being a very social girl, she suffers very much from the cuts she has to make in her private life. For not being totally cut off from the normal life, she realized: "You can work until you collapse, if you want. But you need to learn to say no. That's why we include some weeks of freetime once in a while. Because if the enormous success doesn't allow us some spare time anymore, we won't be successful in the near future anymore. We won't have friends anymore if we don't care about them. And to exist as a band, we also need time for us and for our friends."

For brother Jonas, however, job and hobby are the same. Music and playing the pinball machine are the activities he likes to do most in his spare time. The 27 year old thoroughbred musician also likes to visit concerts of other artists. "U2 in the Wembley-Stadium - that's what I watched". Jenny on the contrary doesn't miss to see Whitney Houston, whenever there is the possiblity: "Because of our record company we have the chance to see concerts of other artists once in a while. That is important. We also saw the show of magician David Copperfield."

Ace of Base appreciate the sunny side of their success. Instead of showing off, they just enjoy it. "Of course you change a little bit because of the success", confesses Jonas. "A few years ago I would have never stayed in such elegant hotels, which is common for us now". He restricts himself right away though: "But if we can't accomplish the expectations everyone has with our next album, we will be gone. We will just start over again. Actually, it's more the people around us who changed. They suddenly think you are a star, and somehow they have problems with having a pop star as a friend."

All the musicians are reserved to new casual acquaintances. Jenny doesn't belive in the peace: "You never know if you still have those friends when you are not successful anymore."

* Click on the pix to enlarge them