Swedish stars holding Aces

JANE STEVENSON -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 4:07 PM ET

There's a lot more to Ace Of Base than their Swedish good looks, polished, reggae-influenced dance sound and multi-million selling debut The Sign.

  That's the impression you get after a half-hour with chatty, fair-haired singer Linn Berggren on the phone from the industrial Swedish town of Gothenburg.

  Linn seems to have much more in common with gloomy Swedish director Ingmar Bergman than '70s pop predecessors ABBA - to whom Ace Of Base is so often compared - as she obsesses on the slave-like record industry, disappointing meetings with drug-taking music idols and drugs in general.

  "I don't have a certain quest or goal with just Ace Of Base," said Linn.

  "I feel like I could sing in a bathtub because it's a physical thing. You do it to feel well. And I like meeting journalists. But performing, going on a real tour, a huge one and being out for months, I don't think we'll ever do that because it takes a lot of energy and maybe drugs."

  So touring any time soon isn't a likely possibility despite the band's followup record The Bridge, which has already spawned a Top 20 Billboard single Beautiful Life.

  Not if Linn, who is joined by siblings Jenny and Jonas "Joker" and family friend Ulf "Buddha" Ekberg in the band, has any say.

  "This business, I don't want to be in it for too long. I've seen a lot of suffering people. Pop stars often suffer, because they are under hard contracts, deals with the record companies, and they can put them under any pressure at all; they don't look upon them as human beings."

  Instead, Linn sees herself "making music" at home and producing other Swedish bands, like for instance fledgling local punkers Fireside. "The singer is very, very good with lousy lyrics," she says cheerfully.

  Linn is a big fan of punk, particularly The Clash, and classical music, and hopes Ace Of Base's next album will have a rougher, messier sound.

  "I'd like to be much more instrumental the next time. If I get another chance to make my own music again, I would do it in a much more experimental way," she says.

  "Our special sound, me and Jenny, we sing with quite tiny Scandinavian voices. I mean, we are not big, black American singers who can sing anything."

  Ace Of Base became a phenomenon when The Sign exploded in Europe in 1992 and was released in North America two years later. It ended up selling 20 million worldwide and made the group the best-selling debut artists EVER.

  The band also successfully weathered a media storm about Buddha's past as a drug and alcohol-abusing teenager, when he was a member of a neo-Nazi skinhead gang.

  "We have this Christian way of living to understand people and say `Okay, you've got a problem here, let's take care of it.' Instead of turning your back on somebody," says Linn.

  She's also not bothered by the endless comparisons to ABBA, but feels Ace Of Base have a long way to go before reaching similar heights.

  "They were pioneers and we're not. They are the pop group. They are THE group. I think in a 100 years people are going to remember ABBA. We're really not up to that level."


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