In May 1994 Swedish radio journalist Ulf Elfving got the chance to interview Frida in her home in Fribourg, Switzerland. At that time she was much more of a private person, she had only done a couple of appearances after her latest album "Shine". As always she is very open and speaks her mind. I find this interview very interesting and I hope you will too. The interview was aired on Friday 13 May 1994 on a radioshow called "Efter tre".
In the horizon we have the high alps with snow on top of them and closer, in front of us there are some green hills and valleys with small woods and a few houses scattered here and there. A very tranquil and calm view I would say. Don't you agree? asks Frida.
Oh yes, very relaxing. Have you changed as a person after a long and successfull career, a number of hectic years with ABBA, a couple of years living in London and Paris. And now you live here in the countryside. Are you a different human being now? I'm not a different human being, I'm myself here. Maybe I was a different person when I was living in those big cities, when I led a very hectic life within the frame of my success. Here I feel I have found the Frida that I really am. I have found strong harmony, another belief in myself and in life compared to the life I used to have. Is, and was, the popmusic industry an unnatural environment, which deforms people? Every environment that is limiting like the music industry actually is is naturally not a good place for you in the long run. Mainly because your outlook on "real" life becomes so limited. Naturally it's a difficult place to be in, because when you are in the middle of such a big career as we were after all, with a lot of pressure coming at you from everywhere. That leads to trying to close yourself in, so that you can have some kind of privacy resembling a normal life. When did you start to feel that you have had enough? It was a natural development, we never did decide that ABBA was going to end. It just happened, Björn and Benny really wanted to write musicals, and we were no longer two couples. And the fact that we had been working together for quite a long time, it was almost twelve years. You left the business, you left Sweden, you lived in London for some years. During those years we didn't hear anything from or about you. What where you doing? (laughs) I didn't do very much actually. There was a lot of of turbulence in my life. It was just after the divorce from Benny, I guess I wasn't feeling very well. I tried to search in my life what I wanted and should do. What I wanted to dedicate my life to. The kind of question we all have to ask ourselves every now and then. This period gave me the time to go on this quest and so I did for several years. I had a house in Mallorca during these years and I spent a lot of time there contemplating my life, how I felt, what I believed would be most important to me. Do you have any contact with the other three ABBA-members today? No more than the occassional meetings and then mainly with Benny and Björn. The reason we meet is that they are working in the same house in Stockholm as Görel (from Polar Music) who I still work with is, she is the one I have most contact with. So it happens that I meet Björn and Benny every now and then and we just exchange a few words. But we don't socialize, since I live in Switzerland and they still live in Sweden, so that's really not convenient.
We are sitting here in your magnificent house in Fribourg in Switzerland. What kind of life do you live here today? Yes, here I live a very calm and quiet and reserved life. I live together with my family and our dog and we love it. There were years in my life that were very hectic, I travelled alot during my career. So this life today feels like a reward for the tough tempo I once was a part of.
You have a competely different outlook on life now. Did that change immediately? I guess you could say that my life philosophy has a deeply religious foundation, if that's what you mean? Have you always beleived in God? Yes, I have, but not very actively during the career years, but as a child I was deeply religious, so I guess you can say that it has come full circle. I live with my faith again and I live close to the nature that I love so much. Do you go to church? No, I don't go to church, at least not very often. I don't need a temple to live with my faith, but I pray several times a day, that is part of my daily routine. Lots of people would love to hear you sing again. I have sung a couple of times after I retired. Yes, but why not a new album? That is an ongoing discussion. It varies a lot. Görel is trying to convince me. I'm really torn, some days I really want to do it and then there are other days when I say never again, I do not want to go through all that again. But it's not impossible that some day in the future I might do something with my singing again.
Here we are in your home, I have looked into another room and I saw a lot of gold records on the walls, some with "ABBA" on them and some with "FRIDA". And in that room there is only a few of all the ones you got. Do you know how many you have? (laughs) No, I really don't. I have never counted them.
Do you miss ABBA? No, I don't miss ABBA, it was a different kind of life which gave me such great joy, but now I live another type of life which brings me another kind of joy. Why, do you think, did ABBA become so successfull all over the world and why is the success coming back again now? I would assume that the timing was right, our music was good, the constellation of members were a good constellation. Stikkan Anderson, not to be forgotten, who ran ABBA like a business company in a very, very efficient and successfull way. And all the people who were involved around us. All of this combined is the reason it became such a huge success. The reason the music is getting popular again now can be due to the facts that there aren't very many good melodies right now. Maybe that's part of it. I guess there are lots of reasons.
Which is your favourite ABBA-memory? One really strong memory is when we arrived in Australia to do our tour there. At that time neither I nor the others had understood how big we were in Australia. From the airport in the city of Melbourne people were standing along the roads with placards and streamers to show us how much they liked us in Australia. Then we were greeted by the Mayor of Melbourne and we had to go out on the balcony, like royals to meet the cheering crowds and wave to them! It was a fantastic experience, especially since it wasn't anything we had expected. We didn't have any expectations at all really, and then we get this fantastic welcome it was totally unreal for us four Swedes. I remember it as a very touching moment, I started to cry, that's how deeply it affected me.
What has ABBA meant to you? It meant that I achieved the success I had been striving for ever since I was a child. It meant that I have become financially independent, which wasn't something I strived for, but it was a bonus after the success. And it has given me a freedom which I definitely wouldn't have had otherwise. Since ABBA has given me all of this it's natural that ABBA means a lot to me, there's no way to deny that.
We don't talk much about it nowadays, but during your career you met quite a lot of resistance against your music for long periods of time. Yes, we did. And apparantly it wasn't only in Sweden. I got a letter the other day from the ABBA Fan Club in Australia, where the chairman of the fanclub writes in the magazine, of which he sent me a copy, how good it is nowadays when you can be open about liking ABBA. Back in the 70's you couldn't if you were an ABBA-fan. You had to sneak around and hide your ABBA-records.
You had quite a lot of money, and I guess that made many people jealous? Yes, and I think that had a lot to do with it. Since the leftwing movement in Sweden during the 70's, who ruined a lot of things, not just the music scene. But let's not talk politics.
So ABBA were affected by political winds? Yes, I definitely think we were. And in the late 70's we were awarded Expressen's (Expressen = Swedish tabloid newspaper) Culture Prize. I accepted it with mixed emotions. On one hand I didn't want to accept it, but on the other it was a sign that we had finally been accepted. A small revenge? Yes, yes in a way I guess it felt like a revenge.
You have been called the smartest in ABBA. You sold your stocks in time and got out of the business with more money than any of the others. (laughs) No, I don't think it had anything to do with being smart. It was just timing. Benny and I got divorced and I wanted to leave the country due to the fact that I felt all the media were after me all the time. So when I decided to move I naturally went through my finances, that is something I always do very carefully. Then my selling of the stocks in the company happened to coincide when the prices were high. It was just pure coincidence.
In this era of reunions, don't you think ABBA should reuinte? At least for one time? No, I don't think so. I think time has passed by ABBA. Even though our music is popular again. Most of what we did was recorded in the 70's and it's now 1994. That's quite a lot of years.
Memories should remain memories? Yes, memories should remain memories. Something to look back to fondly. It can be pathetic when you get middleaged people together to recreate something that happened so long ago.
Do you still get fan mail? Oh yes, they still write to me and it's both good and not so good. I mean, I have retired from the public life so it becomes a constant reminder that I'm someone special in some people's eyes. Which is something I always have had problems coming to terms with. The idea that I should be so much more special than anyone else. I have never had the feeling of being "a star" ever, in any way. But when you are reminded that you mean a lot that's OK when it comes to your family and private relationships. But this whole thing with the fans is a stage I'm over in a way. It was something that came along with our success in the 70's. Back then the fans was a huge part of our success. Now it's not. So that is why I think it can be a bit intrusive.
In which ways do the fans contact you? Well, nowadays it's only via letter. All letters are very positive and they ask for an autographed picture. That's the "normal" kind of letter, quite harmless. But there has been terror with stalking via telephone, something I really can't accept since I think it's an invasion of my privacy. And, I have never said this before....: Everyone says how nice Frida is to her fans, but I do think that the fans can be a pain sometimes. When they try to "own" you. Many times you give a little of yourself and it only leads to them wanting more and more. And they adapt a sort of a snobbery and think that "they know Frida" and use that against other fans to get a better status in their group. I really find it difficult to accept it when people live their lives through others. It's totally unnatural to me.
So you have had many difficult moments with your fans? Yes, I have had that, I'm willing to admit to that. Especially since it's something you're not supposed to talk about. Your fans is something you're supposed to take care of at all cost. But, and I really want to point that out that there are so many wonderful and nice fans who has given me a lot, who has been humble and have been understanding about my situation. It's only the ones who don't have that understanding that makes it very unpleasant.
How is it here in Fribourg? Can you go to the market and do your shopping without getting noticed? Oh yes, absolutely and that's the wonderful thing in this country, I get left alone. People around know of course who I am, but it's in another way. They might think it's exciting that there's a former ABBA-member living here, but they show that by being very helpfull and accomodating. Not curious. And, besides, I have changed my looks a lot since the 70's. Back then I had long fiery red hair and now I look very normal, like any woman going to the market to do her shopping.
How do you see your future? Will you stay here and grow old and enjoy what has been and what is? Yes, especially enjoy what is. I welcome each day that comes to me. And I would definitely not mind getting older here. I think Switzerland is a fantastic, beautiful place to grow old.
So you don't want to go home to Sweden when you get older? I find it hard to answer that question. I'm so happy with my life here right now and I live together with my man who has connections to Sweden, but he has lived most part of his adult life abroad. "Wherever my husband goes - I will follow!" (she says in English and laughs) That's how it is? Yes, that's how it is - it's out of love!
Then I would like to thank you Frida for letting me into your home. What kind of music are you listening to nowadays? It was great having you here and let me point out that you are the first journalist, and probably the last, who ever will get access to my home. Talking of music, I try to keep up to date by asking Görel to send a bunch of Swedish CDs every now and then. Right now am I listening to Rebecka Törnkvist, who I think is very talented.