Interview mit Ulf vom 18.08.03
Thanks to the Acer Swan for the transcript of the interview!
I was always curious and full of energy. I knew I was going to do something with my life. I didn't know what but I knew it was something.
My father was a math teacher, so he taught me all about X and Y and those functions before I went to school. I was very excited about starting school, because I couldn't wait to learn more. But it was a big disappointment for me. I already knew everything they taught us, reading, writing, maths, everything. I soon got tired of the whole thing. And I knew more than the teachers. The 1st grade teacher didn't know X and Y and fuctions, and I, a 6-year-old kid, did. So my relationship with the teachers was always very difficult.
When I was 9, we moved to Denmark. My dad started to coach a tennis team there. Danish ppl think Swedes are a bit cocky and don't really know anything about anything - well, maybe they're right (laughs) But I had it pretty hard, I was the only Swedish kid in my school. As I learned to speak Danish(speaks a bit of it - sounds funny), it got a bit better.
I was always interested in tennis. My dad was interviewed for an article in 1979, he had coached the tennis team for some cup and I think they won. I also played tennis, so they interviewed me too.
Education was always important in my family. And success, having a good career. The problem is that you don't meet your parents very much if they're so ambitious. My mother is a child psychologist and my father is a computer engineer.. and a math teacher.. and many other things. They often worked from 8 am til 9 pm, when I was in kindergarten. I probably knew my kindergarten teachers better than my own parents. My mom often worked weekends too, she had lots of court cases, like incest cases and such. It was a hard time for her, because Mom cares about everyone but herself. It was pretty depressing not having any contact with your parents. I used to be very bitter about that, but I understand them better now.
My parents taught me a lot. They gave me strength and warmth that I feel now. I sometimes remember something they told me when I was six, and I didn't understand what it meant then, but I do now. When you're young you think your parents don't know anything, so you're all.."I won't listen to you".. But ppl haven't changed much throughout human history. Society has become more fast paced, but humans are still the same, so parents know a lot about life.
Society is very commercial nowadays. I think it's much harder to be a kid now than when I was young, because so much is demanded of kids today. There are idols like Britney Spears. One day she's an innocent girl, the next day a woman talking about sex. Kids don't understand that change. The same goes for all the boy bands and girl bands. They want to sell lots of records, so they say things they don't mean. It's not their real opinions about things, it's whatever makes them sell more. It's very plastic. But kids think it's for real and it twists their values. I think we'll see the effects of this when the next generation grows up.
Music needs to speak to ppl, to touch them. It shouldn't be too superficial. Ace Of Base is not the most shallow band in the world. We play commercial music, but we write our own songs.. Of course you see the harsh reality on CNN or whatever... But we want to give people a reason to smile, to make them happy.
At some point we realised we had a big success. There was an article in Expressen about the coldest place in the wolrd. It was in Siberia somewhere. They had had -50 C. -50 C! In GBG it's -22 at most and that's hell of a cold weather. -50 is just terrible. But they actually lived a pretty normal life down there, the schools were closed when it reached -40 but other than that, it wasn't so different.. so when the crew got there, they were faced with -40 weather. they were disappointed because it was too warm, but they also knew the cameras might not work if it gets colder. They went to a local bar to warm up, and they played our music. In the only bar in the coldest place of Siberia, truly "middle of nowhere"(he says that part in English).
Interviewer: Ace of Base?
Yes, amazing isn't it? A contrasting example is that we got a call from the White House [a week ago], they asked if we could play for Clinton's campaign when he runs for the second year. So we would have been playing for the Democrats. That didn't work for political reasons, but it would have been great to do it.
The biggest you can be is number one in the US. We had number 2, number 3, number 2 again.. with ATSW, but it never hit number 1. And then TS, after being in the charts for a while, suddenly went to number one. We thought it was just.. another feather in our hats, we coudln't realise it, it was just too big. We were in a car to Newcastle. Jonas, Jenny and Malin were asleep and I woke them up with the news and we opened a can of beer and had some of that and .. then we went back to sleep. It was no party, we never celebrated it... We had no time for a party, we just thought of the next interview.
Some may think we became.. a little weird. Maybe it's true, someone working hard will become odd. We need to be demanding, for some ppl it might seem like small things but to me it's big things. If I ask for a luxury suite or a first class ticket, it's easy to think I'm arrogant. But I hate it when something is wrong, even if it's a small thing. For example, I need to have a bed in my dressing room. If I haven't slept on the plane on a 14 hour flight, I need to sleep for an hour before doing an interview. If I try to do it when I'm tired, I get pissed off more easily. And I travel 320 days a year. I only live in hotels. People think it's luxury to live in a suite, but it's only 40-100 m2, sometimes 20... It's not such a big space. The comfort of any home, no matter how small, is always more valuable than the rootlessness of living in a hotel. And a hotel is my home, I live there. In a plane I only have the tiny space of 4 m2. It's my only life, so I want some space for myself. And suites are impersonal. It's the down side of jetset life that it's hard to feel at home. To just be at home and not have to go anywhere.. I've had that happen 3 times in the last ten years, not having to go anywhere for a month.
Limousines, first class.. it's not luxury, it's my job. It seems arrogant, but I want to do my job well. Then you have to be demanding. We need to have the right lightning in the photo studio and so on, because we want to do this job right.
I lived like a rock star at some point, when I was 25 years old. That was great, but I don't want to live like that anymore. To be a rock star is many ppl's dream, and I made that dream come true. My 25th birthday party in New York, I had invited 750 guests. There were American celebrities and so on, I knew maybe one per cent of those people, but they were celebrities. I'm glad I had that party, but I wouldn't have that party today.
At least we got to live like rock stars. There's a lot of stars who never get to live like stars. We didn't smash hotel rooms, we behaved well.. and we had a great time!
Interviewer: Have you regretted that you became a public version of yourself?
Ulf(thinks for a while): No. You always regret something in life, but you need to weigh the good sides and the bad sides... I think there's always been more good sides. It's been very hard of course.. I've been threatened, my family has gotten murder threats... Jenny was attacked by a crazy fan and there have also been other things like that, things we haven't told the media. Sometimes I do wonder if it's worth it. After all, we just wanted to make ppl happy, to entertain them. The bad sides were a surprise to us. We've seen that it can go too far.
There's a big responsibility in being a star. You have to think of what you say, so that you don't offend anyone. If you say something when you're pissed off, it can be totally blown out of proportion. There can also be misunderstandings. Sometimes journalists take the things you say out of context and make a scandal out of nothing. You become suspicious: "How will I be quoted? Do I want the whole world to know what I think about some issue?" If I say something to a friend, someone he knows might leak it to the press. My mother is the only person I can talk to openly. I mean, I have my friends, and I can trust them, they mean a lot to me... But you become suspicious in this job, you're constantly worried.
I should be more mature now than when I was 9... Sometimes I'd still like to live in that naive little world where the biggest problem is not getting as much candy as you want. You get such a responsibility when you grow up and for a star it's even more... Sometimes I want to be that 9-year-old playing tennis in Denmark. That was a fun time in my life.