Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Veronica, December 1981: ABBA: it’s getting harder to come up with new ideas

This article appeared in Dutch magazine Veronica, shortly after the album The Visitors was released and featured a telephone interview with Björn about the new album and ABBA’s future plans.
Six months ago, there was some turbulence at the ABBA-front. Private developments were extensively discussed in various magazines and with regularity, rumours started to spread from Sweden that ABBA would call it a day. For instance, it was announced that ABBA would not be performing any longer. The new album was not making good process either. The delay was allegedly caused by a lack of inspiration on the part of Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, the two group members that are responsible for all of the group’s music.

On the occasion of the newly released ABBA-album ‘The Visitors’, Veronica gave Björn Ulvaeus a call in Sweden.

Veronica: We’ve had to wait for the new album longer than was intended initially...
Björn: “That’s true. We started composing in February and from then onwards we haven’t done anything else than writing new songs and recording. This lasted until November 15. The delay of the album has nothing to do with a lack of inspiration because that’s only five percent of the entire package. The remaining ninety-five percent consists of hard work, which means being very critical of your own work. A whole lot of songs ended up in the dust-bin because we definitely didn’t want to repeat ourselves. That’s why I think this album is the best product that ABBA has ever released. But then again, the time that we needed to reach this result turned out to be longer than we had expected. Don’t forget that it’s getting ever more difficult to come up with original ideas when you’ve recorded so much music already.”
Veronica: There has been a rumour that ABBA would only record music from now on and never tour again...
“Our group has been quoted inaccurately many times by the media lately. When we say that we don’t have any definite plans for a possible world tour at the moment, that doesn’t mean that we will never appear on stage again. Apparently, journalists take statements like this as an indissoluble absoluteness. For the time being, I’ll have to disappoint the ABBA-fans in Holland, but whenever we think it’s necessary to go on tour again, it will definitely happen.”
Veronica: Are Agnetha and Anni-Frid going to record solo albums?
Björn: “We have indeed talked about that. We are busy discussing it and it looks like we can tell you more at the beginning of next year. By that time, we hope to have elaborate ideas about this subject.”
Veronica: Do you and Benny have any plans to write songs for other artists and possibly produce them as well?
“We do have plans like that. Although it is actually too premature to talk about it. It’s the same with this matter, there will be more definite plans in January. So I can’t give you any artists’ names yet, although we do have an idea about the direction we will be heading.”
Veronica: When we talked to you in Rotterdam, right after the concert, you stated that it was one of your biggest wishes to achieve a breakthrough in countries such as China, Russia and South America at one point. How is that coming along?
Björn: “’Chiquitita’ has become an enormous hit in South America. Truly unbelievable. We were famous in an instant. Where Russia is concerned, I can tell you that we are selling a lot of records over there. And recently, I had a conversation with a journalist from The New China, a Chinese newspaper, and he told me that ABBA-records are available in that country as well. The difficulty is that they are very hard to obtain for people who are interested, so what happens? The albums end up on the black market where each copy is sold for large sums of money. All in all, the picture is rather distorted due to the limited distribution.”
Veronica: Did you take the American market into account on your new album?
“No, not at all. That would be a bit too far-fetched. We are making music the way we think it’s good and then you can only hope that the Americans will take ABBA to their hearts.”
Veronica: Do you have any regrets about the fact that ABBA never made it really big in America, while you did have a go at it with this tour, for instance...
“Don’t be mistaken, ABBA has sold a lot of records over there.”
Veronica: But you haven’t been able to achieve the status of superstars, like you have in Europe.
“That’s actually true, but you know what’s fortunate about that? (seriously) That I’m able to go to New York peacefully every once in a while and walk around without being recognized or bothered on the street.”

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