The most fantastic fairy-tale success story of the 90s is all about the Swedish Pop wonders Ace Of Base, the brothers-and-sisters team of Jenny, Jonas and Malin Berggren with their family friend Ulf Ekberg.
The Ace Of Base members
Jonas Petter Berggren was born March 21st, 1967 in Gothenburg. His parents Birgitta and Göran raised Jonas as well as Malin Sofia Katarina, known now as Linn, born October 31st, 1970 and Jenny Cecilia, born May 19th, 1972. Ulf Gunnar Ekberg was born on December 6th, 1970, his parents being Mats and Monika Ekberg. As his father was a tennis coach for some years, in charge of the national tennis team of Denmark also for some time, young Ulf travelled quite a lot and still speaks Danish nearly faultlessly. Growing up, Ulf became quite a scruffy youth and became involved in youth gangs in and around Gothenburg before meeting Jonas and changing his life completely, dedicating it afterwards to music and anti-violence causes. He now regrets certain facets of his past: "one of my closest friends was killed... I had to awaken and follow the help of family and friends, in order to change my ways - now, I am against violence and drug abuse" he declared in 1993. While the Berggrens have stayed in their native Gothenburg, Ulf moved to Marbella, Spain, but has recently relocated to London. The Berggrens grew up in a happy environment, and the family loved music and singing, and the children were encouraged to study classical music. Jenny and Linn took up the violin, but that did not last for very long. They also learned children and folk songs, some taught to them by their grandparents. Linn and Jenny went on to a school teacher education before Ace Of Base started to make it internationally.
Tech Noir, the proto-Ace Of Base
Ace Of Base started out under another name, Tech Noir, and was mainly a fast-paced high energy and Techno-oriented group whose heritage is apparent in later Ace Of Base tracks such as "Just Chaos" or "Hear Me Calling". They however changed style altogether, became Ace Of Base and invented their trademark Pop & Reggae grooves. Within a very short time, they moved from obscurity to international fame and recognition, with sales of their first album "Happy Nation" soaring at a cumulative 23 million album units sold across the Globe, their second offering "The Bridge" now at approx. 6 million units sold. On the basis of the exceptional performance of the first album, the Guinness Book of Records proclaimed Ace Of Base as the 'best-ever debut album artists'. Ace Of Base originate from the harbour city of Gothenburg, know affectionately as the Liverpool of the North, due to its industries, oil refineries and its thriving music scene akin to Liverpool. Just like in the UK for what concerns London and Liverpool, there is a distinct rivalry in Sweden between the capital city of Stockholm and the far-away Gothenburg - Ace Of Base were thus to experience a lack of interest in them, due to the lukewarm reception their material achieved in Stockholm's A&R circles. After having recorded an initial version of "Wheel Of Fortune" on a studio's down-time, the original record label they were signed to did not wish to pursue the recordings and the mixing of that track - hence, Ace Of Base decided to something atypical for a Swedish artist, namely contacting a Danish label and presenting "Wheel Of Fortune" to Mega in Copenhagen. Their reason for trying Mega was due to that label's release of the UK group The KLF, whom Ace Of Base were big fans of. The demo tape was received and generated an immediate buzz and interest at Mega, leading to a swift buy-out of the master tapes relating to "Wheel Of Fortune" and a deal with Mega.
Ace Of Base - the formative years
Jonas Berggren and Ulf Ekberg had met each other around Gothenburg, and decided to work together on a musical project. Ulf had been a scruffy youth for some time, hanging around with dubious gangs in town - several bad experiences, fights and the death of a friend however convinced Ulf to change life completely, opting for a career in music rather than becoming a street hoodlum. The two of them started dabbling with synths, rhythm boxes and samplers, applying their newly honed skills to Techno styles. They soon found themselves wanting vocals to complement their frenetic grooves and started looking out for suitable singers. Jonas and Ulf did however not come up with anything substantial for a time, and decided to recruit Jonas' two musically endowed sisters Jenny and Malin. Just like the rest of the Berggren family, Jenny and Malin had studied music at school and were members of the local church choir as well. They thus were drafted in as members in Ace Of Base that thus became a foursome. At first, they continued writing and recording demo Techno tracks but soon began experimenting with Reggae grooves, having been inspired by collaboration with a local Rap and Reggae outfit. This resulted in the aforementioned "Wheel Of Fortune". At that point, Ace Of Base had assembled a sizable quantity of synthesizers and associated recording hardware in the form of a rehearsal and recording facility housed in a rambling shack at the outskirts of Gothenburg, sharing the space with a car repair facility and a posse of computer nerds. Jonas and Ulf had a particular liking for vintage analoguesynths, used prominently in all of their subsequent recording sessions. They managed thus to forge an original sound and a style distinctly of their own, with the trademark Pop-Reggae leanings evidenced also in later recordings, such as the smash hits "All That She Wants", "The Sign", "Don't Turn Around" , a.o. At an early stage, the Swedish top producer Denniz Pop became interested in Ace Of Base - in fact, their demo tape cassette got stuck in Denniz's car player, and for some time it was the only source of recorded music available to Denniz while riding his car. He was then to produce their first international hit, "All That She Wants".
"Wheel Of Fortune" was released in Denmark twice, without achieving airplay or sales. Mega was however undeterred by this early setback, and decided to release it for the third time. The tide changed, and the debut single started to chart achieving a peak position at #2, only to be overtaken that same week by its follow-up, "All That She Wants", that streaked by installing itself at the #1 slot. Thus, that week, Ace Of Base got a taste of what was to come, achieving a simultaneous #1 and #2 that was to pave the way for more action in Scandinavia and the rest of the World. Within a short time, Norway was subdued while Sweden watched by the sideline. The Danes soon started considering Ace Of Base as 'adopted Danes', a fact reiterated by Ulf Ekberg's perfect command of Danish, due to a lengthy stay in Denmark as his father was the coach of the Danish national Tennis team. Before long, Sweden was also conquered and Ace Of Base and Mega started looking for an international release in earnest.
In the wake of their initial two successful singles, Ace Of Base recorded their debut album "Happy Nation", that started a veritable flood of #1s, Platinum Awards, in Scandinavia. The rest of the World at that point decided to remain distinctly unfazed and unimpressed, dismissing Ace Of Base as being merely a local phenomenon that could not possibly work in any other area of the World. All major record companies declined offers at first, rejecting the material as being 'too poppy'. Metronome Musik, a PolyGram company based in Hamburg, however decided to reconsider the whole matter and took a chance in signing Ace Of Base for an international deal covering Europe and the Far East with an option for the USA. The single "All That She Wants" was thus released in Germany, achieved a #1 chart position and paved the way for Platinum sales of the album "Happy Nation", that also achieved the coveted #1 slot. The remainder of Europe, with sensational results to follow, heavy MTV rotation and all of the hoopla associated with stardom followed up their successful chart record in Germany.
Despite their tremendous results in Europe, Ace Of Base were not seen fit for the USA for some time. Again, all major labels were of the opinion that Ace Of Base would not be subject to airplay in the USA, hence missing the most important vehicle for launching successful crossover singles. Mega kept however trying onwards, hoping to eventually be able to convince the Americans of Ace Of Base's potential and worth. A significant break-through occurred, as legendary A&R honcho and now Arista president Clive Davis got interested in Ace Of Base. It seems that he had travelled in Europe on his way to a vacation aboard a yacht sailing in the Mediterranean, and could not fail to notice the intensive MTV rotation of "All That She Wants", and its airplay on all radio stations in Europe. Thus, he called up Mega in Copenhagen to inquire as to the availability of the licensing rights for the USA and other American countries as well as Japan. Following the usually complicated negotiations needed to achieve a good deal for the USA, Mega was subsequently able to sign with Arista for the Americas and Japan. As massive imports of the European "Happy Nation" album had already started to pour into the States, it was jointly decided to record some additional tracks, to differentiate the US release from its European counterpart. The revised album took its title from one of the new tracks, "The Sign". To complicate matters further, the US album was released also in Europe, this time re-titled "Happy Nation - US Version" with yet another additional track not present on the US album "The Sign". "All That She Wants" was released as the initial single for the States, and became a huge hit for Ace Of Base, making it to #1 on the Billboard Sales Chart and promptly followed up by the album, that also achieved an incredible chart run including multiple Platinum and the prestigious #1 chart position.
The Ace Of Base team
After having made it to #1 in both the single and album category in the USA and with the massive success already achieved in Europe and elsewhere, it became clear that Ace Of Base were not just pretty faces. The two leading Ace Of Base composers Jonas Berggren and Ulf Ekberg were acclaimed as innovative composers and skilled producers and arrangers, ably assisted in the studio by the aforementioned DennizPoP, having on board also the production team T.O.E.C., PoP crony Douglas Carr, the producer duo Adebratt&Ekman and several re-mix teams, including David Morales.
The New Wave of Swedish Pop
Ace Of Base were in the wake of their success hailed as being the new big thing out of Sweden, a country that has achieved an incredible number of Pop Superstars over the years. They follow in the footsteps of earlier acts such as The Spotnicks, Blue Swede, Abba, Roxette and many more... Ace Of Base were also acclaimed for revitalizing the then somewhat stagnant Reggae genre, and were invited to celebrate Bob Marley's death anniversary memorial concert where they were to appear with a plethora of Reggae acts - this was an invitation Ace Of Base reluctantly had to decline due to other, clashing commitments. They were also the best-ranking Swedes in the USA and the only Scandinavian artist to enjoy a #1 album on the Billboard sales chart - actually, they made it three times to #1, as the album soared high on the strength of the singles released, thus going back into the Top Spot on the Billboard chart twice again after its initial feat. Their singles were subject to massive doses of airplay as well across the pond, winning the BMI million performances award twice, for "The Sign" and "All That She Wants".
While achieving sensational results in Europe and the USA, Ace Of Base created a stir in far-away territories, such as the Far East, South America, Australia, South Africa and Israel for example - in Malaysia, they were particularly successful in being awarded Octuple Platinum for the "Happy Nation - US Version" album. The European trade publication Music & Media, the compiler of the Euro Chart, announced that "All That She Wants" is the European #1 for the decade 1984-1994. No wonder that their home city of Gothenburg hailed the Ace Of Base members as Honorary Citizens, and invited the group to perform live at the 1995 World Games in Gothenburg. In France, the album went #1 for the third time, earning the prestigious award Disque de Diamant, for sales in excess of 1 million units. The musicians' magazine Keyboard USA also nominated Ace Of Base in the category 'best new synthesizer artist' while the engineer and producer magazine EQ USA ran an interview, detailing their production techniques. The massive success of Ace Of Base on the World stage and all the hoopla associated with fame and fortune left them quite unfazed. They had their share of false rumours concerning an impending group split that never materialized and queries as to Ulf's past. There were also some dramatic moments, as a deranged German female would-be fan trespassed the Berggren's home in the middle of the night, threatening Jenny, her mother and father with a huge and mean-looking machete. The Berggrens were however able to overpower the woman after a brief but bloody scruffle in Jenny's parents bedroom. Soon subdued, the woman was taken in custody by the police and ambulances came to rescue of Jenny's wounded mother. Notwithstanding these episodes, Jenny and Malin still regularly sing in the local church choir on Sundays and the whole Ace Of Base operation shuts down for a couple of weeks each Summer, as Jenny keeps her volunteer job, helping disabled children in a Swedish Summer camp. Preparing their next album At Mega, the demos needed for the preparation of the next Ace Of Base album were anxiously awaited - indeed, Jonas phoned up one day, stating that he had the bulk of his contributions ready and would turn up the next day at Mega's office to present them. He thus came, equipped with an acoustic guitar and proceeded to sing and explain the new songs live, rather than presenting the usual cassette demo. This harks back to the grand ole days of songwriters and goes to show that Ace Of Base are definitely not in a state of dependency of new-fangled synthesizer, sampler, and sequencing techniques and would certainly hold their own in an 'unplugged' situation. Ace Of Base went on to record their new material, at times using up to four studios simultaneously, with Jenny and Malin trekking back-and-forth in order to record their vocals. Their composition "Lucky Love" was premiered at the aforementioned Gothenburg World Games and broadcast all over the World by satellite. The album "The Bridge" also signaled a more prominent writer's role for Jenny and Malin, represented on the album with several own compositions. "Lucky Love" was followed up by the next singles "Beautiful Life" and "Never Gonna Say I'm Sorry" yielding more hits and pushing the album to a cumulative 6 million units at present. Ace Of Base went yet again back to promotional appearances all over the World, spending time also in South America and the Far East. In the meanwhile, both Ace Of Base albums were released in China, a first for a Scandinavian artist. The hits recorded by Ace Of Base became vehicles for other artists, in a variety of languages and cover versions and popular also for the Karaoke set. Their compositions have also shown and incredible longevity, enjoying airplay even in their chart aftermath while the release of the new album additionally signified a resurgence of sales for their first. At present, with countless Gold and Platinum awards to their name, the future of Ace Of Base looks bright as both Jonas and Ulf have grown significantly as composers, contributing songs to other artists besides Ace Of Base. The stature of Ace Of Base as "best-selling Scandinavian Artist" of the Nineties was recently reiterated, as Ace Of Base achieved their fourth World Music Award in a row, while cumulative album sales were up to 27 million units. Ace Of Base presented the Jenny Berggren composition "Ravine", with Jenny herself handling the lead vocal duties. They also became finally accepted in their home country of Sweden, as they were specifically invited by the Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden to perform at her birthday, celebrated on July 14th, 1997. Ace Of Base presented a 40-minute live concert for the Crown Princess and an audience of about 6,000 people on the summer resort island of Öland, Sweden.
A fan network on the World Wide Web
Ace Of Base have a remarkable fan following, despite their relatively low profile in the Media since the release of "The Bridge". More than 60 fan home pages are present on the 'net in the USA, with several chat rooms for fan interaction. There are also AOB sites in Europe, South America, Canada and Japan.
"Flowers" - third album
More than two years in the making, the third Ace Of Base album is now in its final completion phase and will show new facets of their talents. Jenny has grown significantly as a vocalist and is this time handling most of the lead vocals, with sister Linn taking a more supportive role within the band at present. Jonas and Ulf have also matured as composers and producers, as can easily be evidenced by their album contributions. The album harks back to quintessential Ace Of Base sounds in some cases but also pursues new avenues in Pop, like the retro-oriented track "Donnie" at a furious 70s pace, for example. A team of external producers was brought in to work with Jonas and Ulf on the tracks slated for the album, including luminaries such as Charles Fisher (The Savage Garden) and Stephen Hague (Pet Shop Boys) as well as resident Stockholm producer Douglas Carr, have all significantly contributed to the creation of "Flowers". Mixes for Fisher's tracks were done by either of Chris Lord-Alge in Los Angeles or David Leonard in Nashville. Two Danish producer teams have also worked on tracks for the third album, namely Johnny Jam & Delgado (Aqua) and Cutfather& Joe (many UK and US remixes). In Sweden, Ace Of Base also worked with the trusted team of Adebratt&Ekman and with producers Douglas Carr, John Amatiello and Stonestream. The end result sounds like a "grand tour of Pop music" of the past decades, with elements ranging from influences from the 50s to the 70s ("Cecilia", "Donnie"), to the latest electronica of "Tokyo Girl". As on their first album, Ace Of Base are including a cover version on their present album - this time the song covered is "Cruel Summer", a hit for Bananarama in the early 80s, and is available in two markedly different versions on the album. The new album also shows a change of direction. Many tracks widely use acoustic instruments, such as guitars and string sections. For the ultimate authenticity, some sessions were conducted at the famous Polar Studios in Stockholm where Abba used to record. While the bulk of the album songs were written by Jonas Berggren, Jenny contributed the beautiful "He Decides" while Ulf co-composed with John Ballard the tracks "I Pray" and "Don't Go Away".
Ace of Base 2008 Redefined!
Ace of Base is back on the international music scene, this time as trio consisting of Jenny and Jonas Berggren and Ulf Ekberg and a new on stage line up consisting of : Linnea Deb- vocals/backing vocals, Susanna Safsund- backing vocals/dancer, Anna Nilsson- backing vocals/dancer and Jakob Petren keyboard, backing vocals and guitar. A hugely successful and sold out try-out tour in Russia, The Baltics, Nordics and Kazachstan last year has shown that their following is as strong and young as ever! The completely revamped band are currently re-recording and remixing their past mega hits such as "The Sign", "All that she wants" and "Wheel of Fortune". With an all-new line-up, re-recorded songs, new management, a new web 2.0 site and a high tech vision on communication, user interaction and distribution of their music, Ace of Base is back on track and ready to rock the World! The new World tour will take them all over the World starting as of now and runs at least until the end of 2009. Check the tour dates here for Ace of Base concerts at a venue near you !
2010: Are back but in a new formula Ulf, Jonas and 2 new vocalists Clara and Julia who replaced Malin & Jenny. Jenny is preparing her new album and she launched the 2nd single "Here i am".
Jenny was left alone from this project on her twitter account explains: "My wish was to stay in the band to make music in the future. Someone told me fans think I quit and left the boys alone, but the story is not at all this. To say that I didn't agree to a fourth member is wrong. I even gave names if I would have gotten a green light of the things I needed." said Jenny
2010: Ace of Base release a new single called "All 4 U" and was fallowed in September by the new album "The Golden Ratio".
Jenny lead singer released her solo material "My Story" meanwhile the ex team finished a new single "All night long", a song that will be included on their future album.
26/04/2008 - Biography last updated Thu, October 28th 2010
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