When Frida was promoting her 1996 album "Djupa Andetag" she did this fashion shoot and interview for Swedish magazine "Månadsjournalen". I find this to be a very good interview and the pictures, taken by photographer Denise Grünstein, are beautiful. I think you can tell that this reporter got to spend some time with Frida and met her more than just one time. Interesting what she has to say about Agnetha and also the relationship to her father. Enjoy, my friends:
I HAVE NO REGRETS
There are so much more than her voice that has matured with Anni-Frid Lyngstad, when she now is back after twelve years. Life has never been easy for the ABBA-princess, but she has gone through it.
- Talk naturally to each other, says the guy with the TV-camera.
- Ignore us, just sit there and talk." Anni-Frid Lyngstad is picking the sallad with her plastic fork. Anders Glenmark raises his water glass. The microphone is dingling a decimetre away, the silence feels complete, like in a recording studio, three men from the state television are observing them:
- Sit like that, a little more to the right, naturally, you hear?
- Talk now, it could be useful, talk now, there, to the left for the light for Frida, be natural.
Frida says something about that it must be fun for the philharmonics to play pop music. What can you say. The tone of the conversation is so positive:
- I had no idea you were so talented...
It's a very unnatural situation. But pretend closeness is part of promoting almost any product nowadays, even music. Swedish Television has followed Anni-Frid Lyngstad monthly to make a film to show when she releases her first album in twelve years. It will probably be great, shots from Mallorca where Frida has a luxurious house, the mild voice of Mark Levengood and so on. But anyone who is genuinally curious about the ABBA-singer, the international celebrity, the multimillionnaire and friend of the Swedish royal family Anni-Frid Lyngstad, married to prince Ruzzo Reuss for a decade or so, should choose to listen to the lyrics of her songs.
That's where she is. The music is written by Anders Glenmark, and the lyrics also and he is in charge of the production. But the feeling is Frida's:
- I have been dwelling on myself in these songs.
So despite the fact that Anders Glenmark, who is ten years younger and a man, has written the lyrics, this is what's behind it:
- I wanted to portray the mature woman I am. The fact that I still have a little girl inside me, that I allow myself to be young, but don't have to be 20 anymore, all at the same time.
No wonder Glenmark's wife said she didn't recognize her husband anymore. Among the eternal pop words always and never flows intoxicating minor chords and the dream of being the woman of your life, your loved one and your best friend. Among the caressing sounds that reminds you of outdoor dancing we will see what happens, may it be good, suddenly a dandelion appears that longs for the sun. An intense longing after closeness, I want more, a breath from your soul.
- You become more brave as you get older. It would be great if women my age can relate to this. It's 1996 now, I want time and room for both sex and sensuality.
It's almost twenty years since ABBA was at the height of their fame, so long ago that the group has had a revival and their records have been re-released. Recently, earlier this year, a bestselling British book was published, telling the "truth" about the differences and separations within ABBA.
Frida's attitude towards the media and the reporters is not divided. It's totally negative. The book is not worth anything more than a shrug of the shoulders, "just a concoction of the old gossip". And this interview for this magazine is of course a part of promoting the new album, just like the TV-film. Frida is out "doing press". The magazine has to be approved, just like the reporter, the photographer has to be the right one, clothes have be carefully picked, the copy has to be read, the pictures seen. Those are the conditions, I should have gotten used to it. For our first meeting I arrive with a surly face, but friendly, just to not ruin the job. I never get used to it. I feel like I'm forced to do it.
But how did Frida feel?
Who never got a positive reaction from the media (apart from her break through the night when Sweden changed their traffic rules and started driving on the right side of the road instead of the left in 1967. When the mother-of-two Anni-Frid Lystad-Fredriksson, 21, from Eskilstuna, (including the misspelling of her last name, sang on TV so well that the whole population forgot their worries about the new traffic rules). Whose professional ambitions were despised, whose world fame didn't sit well with the political situation in Sweden in the 70's, whose finances were something suspicious, whose success were laughed at, whose looks were watched like they were an issue of international importance, whose private life was sold in the form of colourfull eye candy?
Not to mention her relationship to Agnetha Fältskog.
- When we first met Agnetha was 17 years old. I was married and had two children - I got pregnant for the first time when I was 16. Five years age difference is enormous when you are that age - and besides that Agnetha and I had, and will always have, two completely different personalities. That does not mean that we don't like each other a lot. She has had her hardships as well. The famous animosity has never existed.
- How was it back then, when you were singing together?
- We pushed each other in a positive way. Anything you can do I can do better! Now, when I listen to what we did, I think our voices sound fantastic together. I have wanted us to make a record together for years, and Agnetha wants to do that too. But not yet. I have to wait until she feels ready.
But long lasting friendship does not make very good headlines.
Divorces, on the other hand, do. There was a day when Frida popped in to her local store in Lidingö to buy milk and was faced with the billboards announcing her and Benny Andersson's divorce. Frida left the milk and went home:
- That was the moment I decided I had to move abroad. I understood that I would be easy prey for the press. This spring I got to relive that feeling, good friends faxed me billboards saying that I and Ruzzo were divorcing. I felt sick. It physically hurt. For eleven years they had left me alone, now I was back in that position again. To be honest I wanted to tell the whole press and media to go to hell. I'm hurt. I really don't want to spend any time with that category of people.
From the archives I retrieve a typical article from Dagens Nyheter, published in 1977, where the culture reporter Ingemar Glanzelius is taking offence over "ABBA ignoring the idealistic dream of culture and aim straight for the capitalistic reality of our society". Glanzelius mean that ABBA "are making the most political music in our country". It is "Ring Ring (Bara Du Slog En Signal)" he is talking about.
Twenty years later it's funny but back then it was serious. During the years when Frida continued to be a celebrity because she is a celebrity, the distrust hasn't gone away at all.
Here starts the process for a wish of total control. The wish to be in control. The new album will only be released in Scandinavia, it is in Swedish, mostly because Frida wanted to avoid the international media circus:
- People like to gossip about others, I do to. But if you choose to make up lies for a living, you must lead a pretty empty life.
Before our second meeting Frida has called a mutual friend and the conversations between us flows much easier.
So finally both her and me stop acting like we were on a stage. It's now we talk about grandmother.
In every person's life there is a base that explains a lot of what comes later. In Frida's life it's her grandmother. It's from her she has made her race to the top. When media through the years have compared the former ABBA member's ability to manage their fortunes, Frida has always come out on top. Smart girl. Emotions drove her from Sweden, and it was important that the money came with her. They were, and are, the ticket to a completely different life than the one she shared with her grandmother. During the interview Frida says that she is a socialist. That surprises me. Afterwards she calls me up and says that she has looked up the word:
- And I'm not a socialist. But I have my roots in the working class, it has to do with my reality, I grew up in it. I know what it means to be poor and left behind. My race to the top has nothing to do with cottage and castle, but with self worth. I have made the transition from being a loser to some who has made a success of her life.
Frida's mother fell in love with a German soldier when she was a teenager i Norway during the war. She became one of the despised "German's girls" and on top of it she got pregnant. The man was married, and had children whom he went back to when the war was over. In the sorrow over his betrayal her mother didn't want to live anymore. She died when she was 19.
- My grandmother had already lost her husband, now she lost her daughter and was stuck with me. I wasn't even two years old when she left Norway to find a new life in Sweden. An incredibly strong woman. She found an apartmentbuilding where she became the caretaker so she didn't have to pay any rent, she grew potatoes and vegetables, kept everything tidy and made all my clothes. Frida smiles.
- Do you remember those sleeveless ribbed shirts? I really wanted one. But there was no chance she would buy me clothes as long as she could sew.
Now, with some distance to the past, Frida is able to see the pain in her granmother's life and she also realize that one way to express love is to take care of someone's basic needs. That wasn't as obvious as she was growing up. Her grandmother didn't express her affection and didn't hug or kiss her.
- We were two lonely people who were together, you could say. Even as a grown up I have the need to be completely alone at times. Especially when I need to heal from something bad, there has been some hard times in my life.
Is it starting to sound sad?
Well, let's change that then.
Frida may have had a rocky start in life, but it gave her strength. When the unknown, German father appeared during the most hectic ABBA years, suddenly interested in her, Frida was curious to meet him. Who wouldn't have been? After she had noticed some similarities, and after realizing that her father had known that his Norwegian girlfriend was pregnant, but still didn't reply to her letters, she decided the contact with her father was something she could do without.
- I'm rather with people who dont betray. Her voice is firm.
- I'm not easily impressed. I have found my place, and there noone can touch me.
I don't know how Frida is in private. Like the three other former members of ABBA she is surrounded by people who limit their comments about them to superlatives. Or they do as Michael B Tretow did in a TV-interview recently; make up a story about how ABBA drank 'gäddjuice' (pike juice). Gäddjuice? But it sounded true. The next day a reporter was really excited over the new, true ABBA story.
How many times during the years have people enjoyed themselves by spreading rumours. Though, in Frida's case, her description of herself is immovable, that's the word that comes to me. An incredible volition. The voice is pleasant, the tone is stern. The look in her eyes is friendly and she never looks away from you. She is not giving in.
Is it her attitude towards the media again? Her upbringing with her grandmother? Never exposed again? How much should an interview try to find the answers to these questions when Frida herself says that maybe it's all in her personality, from birth?
But as long as Frida can remember she always had a vision of a different life. Her singing voice was her chance, the ambition, limitless. The fact that she had children didn't stop her professional ambition. Everytime an opportunity came she took it:
- All fame cost, mine too. Today I have a loving relationship to both my grown up children. But there was a time when my daughter denied that I was her mother. I'm afraid the loneliness from my childhood with my grandmother was transferred to my children, I'm not a very physical person either. The only one I touch gladly, without hesitation is my husband.
To summarize, Frida's children got to see the bad sides of being famous.
- Suddenly some fans walked in through the door, and there stood my children. Not all of the fans are completely sane. That hurt me and it hurt my children. It has taken a long time, and many talks between us to heal our relations. Now,in hindsight, I can see the price of fame, but I don't regret what I did. Did?
- I always put myself first. All the time. That didn't change until I met my husband, Ruzzo. Once we had moved in together, I made my decision. For the first time in my life I would someone else's needs first. I devoted myself to him.
Ruzzo Reuss, a German prince, is a golf course architecht. Frida became his caddie, around the world and learned to play golf at the same time. Suddenly she was part of the royal circle who hunt and skii together. Since the 70s Ruzzo is a friend of the Swedish king and queen. And now, so is Frida. Their common interest in nature and children's well being has deepend their relationship and queen Silvia is, among other prominent people, a member of an international foundation, which Frida, in classic upper class style, is a member of:
- I think it's important to give something back when I have received so much.
Her involvement in Mentor Foundation for the prevention of substance abuse is not the only one. An article in a paper about the acid rain, in the early 80's, made Frida so upset she immediately joind the environmental foundation The Natural Step. In the legacy from her grandmother she is, as Frida herself calls it "extremely pedantic". The work consumed her. After founding and being the CEO of Artister För Miljö, she preferred her own foundation, Stiftelsen Anni-Frid Lyngstads Miljöfond, which for example support two summer camps that teaches children about ecology.
In the mid 80's, when Frida's interest in the environment still was new, I interviewed her for Expressen. We were at Skeppsholmen, where The Natural Step had its office. I liked her, she was unexpectedly serious. But what impressed me most was her hair colour. Wasn't she the one who introduced the unlikely colour "black tulip"? There she was, in total different light. She had changed class, that's how it felt. What used to be glass pearls were now real.
Even at home at her grandmother's she used a napkin to wipe her mouth. But:
- Where I started, that's where I belong. A part of me is still the little girl my grandmother led around the house showing me how house work was done.
Describe that girl:
- Always searching, often alone, never scared.
She would not have put it like that during the ABBA years. She says that ABBA belongs to her youth, there is so much more than here voice that has matured, gotten deeper.
- The big change came after the divorce from Benny. It was then I broke out of the little world. I was forced to change my life radically. The safety net was gone, I was alone.
The step out into the unknown killed the feeling of break up. The need to hide from the world would have come no matter where in the world she was. However, in London, it became possible. "My need for solitude" as Frida calls it has only grown stronger. It started when she read some of what the Indian philosopher Krishnamurti wrote when she was in the middle of the big ABBA era.
- I took his advice, I focused on one thing at a time. In the middle of the chaos I could sit down and completely devot myself to lifting a glass of water.
Nowadays Frida finds the solitude and calmness in Switzerland. The farm outside of Bern, the smell of cows. And of course the Alps.
- To go hiking the way I do nowadays is a way expose one self. You reach a narrow passage and it's literally a matter of life and death to get passed it. That situation is similar to what I have been through emotionally. It is such a liberating feeling to get passed it, if you have done it once you will be able to face your pain in a completely different way.
Her biggest spiritual experiences has always happend on mountains, like last year when she was hiking on Mount Kenya. On the morning of New Year's Day she was approaching 5000 metres. At the noon the group reached the difficult passages. Suddenly there was a sign:
Go careful friend, for here is high
Go daringly where eagles fly
Go eternally with Jesus nigh
- I cried, it was so big, I felt close to God, and the feeling of that allmightiness it lifts you.
And now she releases a CD.
- When I walked into the studio I remembered something Tina Turner said once, that the voice is hanging in there, just waiting for you. That's exactly how it felt.
LENA KATARINA SWANBERG