Friday, 2 January 2009

Veronica, 1983: Agnetha: the volcano under the ice

The Heat Is On… Agnetha has finally introduced herself as a solo artist. Her first solo project after the ABBA-successes. Musical firework that has seen the light of day in collaboration with the English producer Mike Chapman, among other things known from Blondie’s hit albums. He has seen to it that the volcano within the outwardly so cool blonde has erupted. Now that colleague Frida has cooled down a bit, Agnetha has paid a promotional visit to several European capitals. In front of the cameras she delivers craftsmanship. In between proceedings she moves like a cat in a strange warehouse. A tad presumptuous, she makes the most of her regained freedom as an individual; communication problems prevent her from feeling truly self-confident.

Agnetha hates to fly. Fear is a big part of that. That’s why she made the trip to the European capitals for the most part in a speedy limousine. Enjoying her freedom as much as possible. As an ‘ordinary’ tourist, she could for example go and see the sights of Amsterdam. Armed with a video camera: so that she’s able to view it again at home, in peace and quiet. She’s accompanied by ABBA manager Stig Anderson’s daughter and a muscular Viking, that is stationed outside the door of her dressing room. For the occasion, Agnetha has a new, slightly frivolous haircut. As if she has had two fingers in an electric socket. But she’s still beautiful. And insecure, whenever questions are fired at her. During the years, her verbal skills in English have hardly increased. Let alone in French. But everybody is happy that she is at least speaking, this incomprehensible, and often unjustly discarded as mindless, nightingale from the land of the Northern sun.

“I’d been toying with the idea of a solo album for years. After the American tour I discussed it with Stig. He preferred to wait a while longer. Not get in the way of ABBA. After the album ‘The Visitors’ I felt that the time was right. But first, I’ve made a movie, a nice project although I’m still a rookie in the movie world. Then I wrote down the names of a couple of favourite producers. Chapman was my first choice. I admire his approach: commercial but still with quality. I could have asked Benny and Björn. But then it would have turned into an ABBA-album again. I definitely wanted something different. Chapman had the time. Perhaps because of the cancellation of a Blondie project. I collaborated with the man perfectly. I want a commercial record of a high level that doesn’t sound like ABBA, I said to him. That wasn’t necessary. He already felt what I wanted. He is a man that understands his craft. But everybody knew that already.

I don’t live with a competitive feeling towards Frida. We’re still good friends. A possible rat race between the two of us is invented and played out by the media. Obviously we didn’t want to release our first solo albums simultaneously. That doesn’t make sense. But in the future it’s possible that we’ll be in the charts at the same time. When the novelty has worn off, we will not be dragged into our ABBA-past any longer. That takes some time. As a recording group, ABBA can still go on for years. But Stig will have to have very strong arguments to get me to tour again. For this solo album, I want to do some travelling. That’s for my own good. I now decide myself how much interviews I’m willing to do and whether or not I want to pose. With ABBA, I always had to participate on behalf of the joint interest. It’s fun to do a couple of TV-shows, but I prefer to stay in Sweden. Then I’m able to see my children every day.

For many artists, America is a matter of prestige. I don’t have that assertiveness. The one tour we did there was an ordeal already. That country is immensely big. It’s travelling and performing. I lose track of myself completely. The two hours on stage I’m truly happy. My enthusiasm is sincere, I love to sing. But I don’t care at all for the other commitments. At the time, I brought my children along, but that wasn’t the right solution either. I didn’t see them for more than one hour a day. Perhaps my state of mind will change when the children are independent. Just like it is with Frida. Without thinking twice, she can close the door behind her and go off. Her children will manage. Frida loves to travel. She wants to see everything, do everything. A tour can’t last long enough for her. She’s definitely not a homely type of person. In this business, that’s better. When I realized the problems of a supergroup, I was already so deeply involved that I couldn’t go back. Then you become the prisoner of your own success. It’s practically impossible to get away. Winding down, like we’re doing right now is the best solution. Just now, I have the feeling that I’m getting control of my life.

The stories about my possible collaboration on the series Dallas are made up. Brought to the fore because of my relationship with Gunnar Hellstrom. He has produced a couple of episodes of Dallas. We play in a movie together. He plays an elderly womanizer, a marriage fraud. I’m a naive country girl that ends up pregnant with his child. I could handle that part. Ten years ago, I was just as naive as the young woman I portray. If you knew everything beforehand... When ABBA took off, I had hardly been outside of Sweden. I was a national celebrity. Björn and Benny were much more mature. They had already achieved some success with their respective groups abroad. In Holland and Germany, among others. Stig was the driving force behind ABBA. He immediately said that we had to achieve our breakthrough with the Eurovision Song Contest. A realistic vision. Within three minutes, you get through to six hundred million people. And we succeeded too. Benny writes fantastic songs. He’s now working on a musical with Tim Rice. He’s looking for new challenges.
I’m happy about the development of promotional films. It enables an artist to show his or her product to the audience anywhere in the world without having to go there immediately. We made use of that a lot with ABBA. Our feature film was actually a long promotional film. My solo album will be accompanied by a couple of films as well. I will not get on a plane for every new single to fly to Paris or London. In Stockholm, I can pretty much move around without being bothered. I try to be a devoted mother. I’m not under any illusions about having a normal life. But on behalf of my children, I want to limit the damage.”

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