Interview with Agnetha

This interview is from the 40 minute TV special which was shown on December 18, 2004 by Swedish TV4. Agnetha is talking to Lasse Bengtsson. She didn't make any stipulations for the interview and the questions were not agreed upon in advance.

Special thanks to Christiane Brämer for the German translation!

(Om tårar vore guld)

Lasse: When I drove the other day I heard this song and also your other songs, hi Agnetha!

Agnetha: Hi Lasse.

L: And I thought - what beautiful songs did you write.

A: Yes, I did.

L: What about today?

A: There is a lot in here, inside me. (points towards her heart)

L: But today you don't write songs?

A: No, I don't write much these days.

L: Why not?

A: It's like everything went out of me during that time. I was very productive with my music and the lyrics and I got much inspiration by that.

L: But they are so sad, why?

A: I don't know. Later someone else wrote the lyrics. I became too critical.

L: You did?

A: Yes, I was very critical.

L: Have you always been critical towards yourself?

A: Yes, a lot, especially when I began to write my own lyrics. I don't like many of them any more. They are very naive.

L: But this spring you have released a new album after a long time.

A: Yes.

L: What do you think if you now listen to "If I thought..." ?

A: It's good.

L: What reasons did you have when you decided to release an album?

A: Well, it was quite a long process. It took two, three, four years until we began to realize my ideas and started with the recordings. I felt that I hadn't done everything yet and that I wanted to make a new album. I love those 60's songs and we had a lot of fun. It was a nostalgic trip for me and old forgotten songs came back to me. Those songs were so powerful to me and of course you remember events which happened in your life at that time.

L What makes a song powerful to you?

A: These songs came up when I was a teenager. You are very sensible towards such things.

L: How did you feel as a teenager?

A: Well, like all teenagers, I think. There were boys and dreams and I was already working. I began to sing in a dance orchestra at the age of 15 and we drove around and played a lot.

L: Do you remember your music related dreams and thoughts in those times? What were your musical aims?

A: In these days I only wanted to perform, because I felt that I had a voice and it was fun to see people dancing to our music. But later it was my ambition to perhaps make a record. My dream was to become a singer.

L: Why did you want that?

A: Well, probably it wasd because I had a voice, many told me that and then I knew how to write songs and sometimes to write lyrics and I felt this was my job.

L: But you were not shy in those days, weren't you?

A: I was very shy.

L: Really?

A: Yes, I still am. Probably because I don't feel good giving such an interview. That is not top on my list of wishes (laughs).

L: And you do it anyway?

A: Yes, I do. Maybe because I don't want to appear strange. If I do something new, I want to talk about it. But if someone gets too close to my private life, I begin to feel uneasy.

L: But what was the reason to break this isolation or to appear in public again?

A: I ws a little nervous. Because it was so many years ago, I didn't know if my voice was still there and in the beginning it was difficult with my voice, but very easy to build up microphone fear, because you're so close to it when you sing, every noise and every breath can be heard. A lot of technics are involved.

L: You are very demanding towards yourself?

A: Yes, I do.

L: Did they say that you should appear in public more often?

A: I made it very clear that I can do this and that, but I don't want to travel and appear on TV like in the past. This simply gets me down and it's too diffcult for me. I think everyone understood.

L: That's why you didn't do any public interviews and presse conferences?

A: Yes, it's just too much and I don't want to do that any more.

L: What gets you down so much?

A: Well, I don't know. It's all very stressing and very exciting. Of course I always want to give a good image of myself. But often it doesn't work out as planned. And the media do put a load onto the image. It often happens that a false image is given. Then I have to try to make it right and show how I really am. That's a lot of stress.

L: Do you think the media give a bad image of you?

A: Yes, I do. More or less. A lot of wrong things have been reported.

L: Do you have an example?

A: Well, what can I say... I have experienced a lot of things.

L: What was the worst?

A: I don't know what was worst. But one thing was when we returned from England, I travelled by bus because I'm afraid of flying. On this trip we had an accident. The bus turned over and I was thrown out of the window. There was a big story in the press. At that time I made a film with Gunnar Hellström, "Raskenstam". They wrote that I would be pregnant. Then they interviewed many doctors and wrote "May a foetus be injured if you have an accident?" But it was only in that movie where I played a pregnant woman. But that was taken for real and people believed I was really pregnant. And that are the false stories that people believe if they are presented with an image over and over again. They also wrote about me that I lock myself up and isolate me on the island. But I didn't. They made it up. It's not true.

L: If you feel so misunderstood, how would you describe yourself?

A (laughs): It's very difficult to tell for me. But I think I still am the person I always have been. Very native. Of course I also have my moods but I am a friedly person, normal. Curious for life and I don't like stress. I try to keep it very calm around me. It's not so easy these days. I am easily stressed and I'm an anxious person.

L: What are you worrying about?

A: Everything... (laughs) No, not everything, but I quickly get anxious in certain situations. I fear that something happens to someone, like that. I easily take things personal. I love animals. It's hard for me to see pictures of animals and children being abused. I can't stand this emotionally.

L: Yes, Vilma has understood that you really like animals. (Lasse's dog was present during the interview)

A: Yes, she is calm and lies here on the floor.

L: Yes, she likes you. But you don't like this Garbo talk, which I understand.

A: No, that's something I never said. But the media have made up this, well, I don't know why. Probably because I don't show myself so openly. I use to say I prefer being an original to a bad copy.

L: I am asking myself why you agreed to this interview. Because as I understand, it's not very easy for you.

A: No.

L: Tell me what happened.

A: I tried to be very consequent and I got many inquiries, not only from Sweden, also from abroad. I think it's much more difficult to give an interview in English if you don't speak the language properly. But that is my fault.

L: Do you think English is a problem?

A: Yes, it is. I don't want to talk in English any more. And what happens when I give an interview is that 9 - 10 others also want me.

L: How does a day in you life look like?

A: Well, these days are very quiet. I have fun being in fresh air. I take many walks. I spend a lot of time with my kids and I also have a grandchild and that's an incredible experience. Soon she will be four years old. That's an incredible happiness, really. They I read a bit and watch TV.

L: What do you read?

A: I don't read as many mooks as I should. But I do read newspapers and I like informative TV programmes and things where I can learn something.

L: Do you watch movies at the cinema and which kind of music do you like?

A: I don't watch that much TV but I go to the cinema sometimes. There is a small one here (laughs). It rarely happens that I go to the movies. It's quite a while since I have been there.

L: Did you see a film you can remember and that you liked?

A: No, but there are many I would love to see. I'm a bit late.

L: For example?

A: Like Moulin Rouge with Nicole Kidman. I'd like to see this one, but I haven't seen it yet.

L: Do you often visit Stockholm? Can you move freely and walk among other people there?

A: Oh yes, I do, absolutely. But of course sometimes people watch me.

L: What happens if you show up in public?

A: Not much. I notice that people react and recognize me. But mostly it's very nice. Sometimes someone comes close, when I'm in a restaurant, asking for an autograph. But that's no problem. Nothing to worry about.

L: Do you think it's unpleasant to be in public in a huge city?

A: No, not that much. It's a lot of fun to go shopping and meet people and I do that. I used to say it's nice when it's quiet and I thought there is too much noise in the city.

L: Are you noise sensitive?

A: Yes, very sensitive, especially if there are many noises at the same time. Then I am very stressed.

L: Where does that come from? Has it always been that way?

A: No it happens more often all the time. I can listen to very loud music, but I can't stand different noises. I'm very sensible then.

L: What do animals mean to you?

A: Animals? Animals mean a lot. They give you harmony and it's nice to have them around.

L: Do you have a special relationship to animals? Can you talk to them?

A: Yes, in some kind, I think I can. There is some understanding between us, because there are many horses in my area.

L: Do you understand what they say?

A (laughs): Well, this would be too much. I probably should say I could talk to horses because...

L: But mostly?

A: Mostly, yes. And I'm in a good position. It can be very nice going to the horses and talk to them a bit.

L: Is it difficult for you to make new contacts with friends?

A: Difficult? That's a hard question. Maybe. You never know what people think about you and maybe they have a wrong image of you. I don't have a strong need for a large group of friends. Maybe I'm more of a loner. I often compare myself to the bull Ferdinand sitting under the tree. So maybe it's a bit the same.

L: Are you now careful with strangers? We have read in the press about that.

A: Well, that's an unpleasant aspect of being famous. And I share this problem with a lot of people from all categories. So I got many letters from people giving me advice.

L: From all over the world?

A: Yes, you have to sort them out. You can't take this personally. Not all letters I get are nice. But it's important not to take this personally. But that you understand it's a person who doesn't feel well.

L: The man who stalked you, is he still after you?

A: I don't know if I can talk about that. I don't think I want to. I can't do it for security. So I want to stop.

L: Is it something that bothers you?

A: Yes, it does. You begin to quarrel in various situations. So you can suffer a lot and that often feels very unfair. It's a lot that comes with success.

L: Were your children involved in this?

A: No, I think, things went good. But of course it hasn't been so easy for them when they were smaller. Because we became a divorce family. They were very young. Just 5 and 1 year old. But that's a long time ago.

L: But when you look back, would you do things in a different way? All these dramas around you and the hysteria about Agnetha Fältskog all over.

A: Well, that's nothing I myself have caused or calculated, to appear mysteriously. That's an image which was made up, maybe not desireable. But that's not my thing to sit here and talk. But the older you get, the more you give of yourself.

L: How do you mean that?

A: You can talk about things you couldn't talk about in earlier times because you feel you want to share your life experiences. This may show you that I'm really not that mysterious or strange, I'm a normal person.

L: May we interpret this like Agnetha comes back into the public?

A: No, that won't happen (laughs).

L: How do you explain the ABBA phenomenon today?

A: It means incredibly much to all of us and of course I am very grateful that I could be a part of it and everything went so well. It was incredibly hard work in those 10 to 12 years and it went by so fast. If I had been able to do it a bit slower, I could have been going on for five years. That's the way I would have done it.

L: Taking it a bit slower, pulling it a bit longer?

A: Yes, exactly.

L: Was it too much for you?

A: Yes, it was very intensive.

L: What was most difficult?

A: The travelling.

L: Because of you fear of flying?

A: Yes.

L: Still?

A: Yes, I still have fear of flying. You could read this in the press as well. And this is the fear I was already talking about, that some catastrophe might happen or soemthing like that. I feel that. It's not that I don't have the ability to understand how safe flying is. It's my own insecurity when I'm sitting in there, that there is nothing I can do. And perhaps that is because I'm a person who wants to control everything.

L: You are? Do you want to have control over things?

A: Yes and it's difficult to let go of this. But I think I try to learn many things, distinguish. Maybe some day I will fly again, you never know.

L: When did you fly for the last time?

A: About 15 years ago, I think.

L: Are you sure?

A: Yes. Maybe 10.

L: So you never travelled abroad?

A: No, but you can travel by car.

L: But what was the most wonderful thing with ABBA? What ist your nicest memory?

A: There was a lot of joy. We all shared the excitement before going on stage and we all were very nervous. It felt good that the four of us shared this and coped with it. And if someone felt sick the other pushed him and did more on stage. Frida and I had different voices and although we competed on stage at the same time, we helped us singing.

L: Sometimes people talked about you and Frida being enemies. What about that?

A: No, this was again a thing of the media. Most of the time we agreed on most things. But being two different personalities it happens that we are irritated over the other one's qualities and we were different. We also had different lifes because we separated from our partners at different times. Björn and I divorced during the ABBA years and we kept on going. Then we had our small kids, just 5 and 1 years old and I longed back home to them all the time. And it was very difficult, we did what we did. But we weren't away all the time. We stayed at home for long periods to spend the time with the kids, which was a contrast from the luxury hotel rooms and tours back to the dishwashing and the kids at home.

L: Agnetha, is there a special moment which was especially nice?

A: Yes, when we won with Waterloo. That was really incredible.

L: Don't you miss that today?

A: No, I don't.

L: That was a clear answer.

A (laughs): No, I don't. But it's nice to look back on everything. Sometimes I really can't believe it. It feels like another life, like a different part of my life and that's how it is.

L: Was that the reason why ABBA split up?

A: It was, because we thought it was no fun any more. I know we were recording a LP at that time. It didn't feel like before any more. We were divorced, both couples, and it wasn't the same any more. But we went on after our divorces anyway.

L: But it wasn't as good after the divorces, do you mean that?

A: No, it wasn't.

L: What is the best song ABBA have ever recorded?

A: The best song? "The Winner Takes It All", I think.

L: Why?

A (laughs). It's so complete. It's got a good flow, from start to end and then I think the song is very good. I think the lyrics are excellent.

L: It's got quite a sad message.

A: Yes, it does. But I love to sing like that.

L: Yes?

A: Yes, I like to interpret such lyrics.

L: Did I get you right, you think that ABBA were better in the studio than on stage?

A: Yes, that's right. But again that's my self-criticism. I don't want to see us on stage. To me it's more fun to listen to us than to see us.

L: Are you still in contact with the others?

A: Yes, I do.

L: Björn?

A: Of course. He is my kid's daddy.

L: How often do you see each other?

A: You mean as a group?

L: No, Björn.

A: Well, I don't know. I don't keep records (laughs). But it happens more often since we have a grandchild.

L: Do you still earn money from ABBA?

A: Yes.

L: A lot?

A: Yes, enough for me for living. (laughs) and I profit from it.

L: Even if Björn and Benny earn the money as the songswriters, there is a regular income for the remainder of ABBA?

A: Yes. And we did our things, too. Frida has recorded singles, what do I say, solo albums like I did and so we earn our money as well.

L: What does money mean to you?

A: That's a very sensible subject. So I say what I always say: I don't want to talk about money, politics and religion. That's what I'm saying now as well (laughs).

L: Why is it such a sensible subject?

A: You have to give a good answer so that people believe what you're saying. Because it's one thing to be in a position to have money and someone else is in a position without having money. So you have to get into a position where money makes for a good balance. If you don't do that, is doesn't work. What am I trying to say?

L: You begin to get closer.

A (laughs): But I'm happy everything went so well. If I would say money means nothing to me, they wouldn't believe me and think I'm lying, because it does mean something. I live a life where I can buy anything I want, in contrary to a poor person. But you can be rich and poor in so many ways. It's not always a matter of money. But you can be rich because you have a rich life with so much experience. And I probably am such a person. Today I'm the same person as when I was young. I lived very economical with my mother and my father. When I grew up, I didn't have a room of my own. So I know how it feels not to be poor, but also not to have what you maybe would like to have.

L: What will happen with Agnetha Fältskog in the future?

A: Well, who knows? I don't. Sometimes I feel that this was probably the last album I did. But then I know how to be and to get new ideas and I know there are many who would like it if I wrote my own songs again.

L: Yes, the same goes for me. Will you do it?

A (laughs): No, I can't promise anything. I don't make promises anymore.

L: The book "As I Am" came out in 1996. The author has now announced to publish the material not used for the book. What do you think about that?

A: It would be terrible if she did that. But I don't know what's going on right now. But it is a terrible thing if she would publish that. If you work together on a book, you tell things in trust. We have worked on this book very intensively and talked about various meaningful things. And I told a lot that didn't belong in the book and will probaly released now.

L: Are you in contact with her to speak about that?

A: No and I don't want to. My lawyers will do that, unfortunately. That's the way it can happen.

L: Are you a happy person today?

A: These are no easy questions (smiles).

L: Not all of them are supposed to be easy.

A: Yes, I am happy with many things. That's how I can describe it for me. Is that enough?

L: Now you will read something for us. It's about the new year. Why did you choose this one?

A: Well, I found a little book and I didn't want to sing.

L: Unfortunately.

A: I will read something instead. I found a poem by Dan Andersson. It's called "The New Year" and it goes like this.
(She reads the poem)

L: How do you celebrate Christmas?

A: I will relax and spend the time with my loved ones and closest friends. I will probably eat Christmas ham and salmon.

L: Merry Christmas, Agnetha and thank you for agreeing on this interview.

A: The same to you and thank you for coming.

After the interview Lasse Bengtsson said that he totally forgot to ask her if there was a man playing a role in her life. He did it after the interview and Agnetha said:

A: I live my life as a single. But I do have many friends and there are many men among them.

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