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#Dazed93: Ace of Base Read the Signs

Paving the way for Brit Brit and BSB, Ace of Base were pop's kickstarting quartet

Gothenburg's Ace Of Base – siblings Jonas, Malin and Jenny Berggren, alongside Ulf Ekberg – were one of the biggest bands of 1993 thanks to worldwide hits such as “The Sign” and the reggae-tinged anti-promiscuity anthem “All That She Wants”. Their debut album (released as Happy Nation in Europe and The Sign in the US) sold over 23 million copies worldwide. That success, coupled with their long-standing relationship with the late Swedish producer Denniz Pop, helped kickstart American pop's obsession with Scandinavian hitmakers, heralding the arrival of songwriters such as Max Martin and paving the way for the Backstreet Boys, ‘N Sync and Britney Spears (the latter would go on to cover “All That She Wants”). Ulf Ekberg reflects on the year that changed his life.

“If I could describe 1993 in one phrase it would be: mind-blowing chaos. It's difficult to describe something when you're travelling 300 days a year and every day you do about a hundred interviews and sometimes you're in three countries in 24 hours. The memories are stronger from September ‘92 when we broke in Denmark. We ended up at #2 on their charts and that was huge. It was in Denmark we did our first proper interviews because no one really cared about us in Sweden. Then the journalists started to find us and we got a European deal and ‘All That She Wants’ was the first single in Europe and it went to #1 everywhere.

When we heard about being #1 in America (with ‘The Sign’) we were in a car in the UK, super-tired, travelling to Newcastle to do a TV show, and the phone rang in the limousine and they said 'guys you're number one in America'. I woke up everyone else to tell them and we had one light beer each in the car and made a little toast and then we fell asleep again. That's how we celebrated being #1 in America. Looking back with perspective you can laugh about it, but it was so crazy. I'll compare it to Russian caviar – if I were to give you ten kilos of Russian caviar, you would not really appreciate the taste of it. It's fantastic, it's amazing, but you know what, you can't eat a kilo of Russian caviar. It was an overload and so we couldn't really relate to it. Then coming to America was like going to a new world for us – the limos were bigger and the private planes were bigger. It was like a fantasy land for us.

If I could describe 1993 in one phrase it would be: mind-blowing chaos

Our success opened up this Pandora's box and suddenly Swedish writers and producers were thinking about America. Swedish labels were useless because they could only think about Sweden, whereas this gave Swedish writers and producers the opportunity to work with American artists.

1993 obviously changed everything for us. It changed the way we were living. Mostly for the good, but it also lead into the catastrophic events of 1994 when Jenny was attacked by a crazy fan and her mother was stabbed. These things could have ended our career very rapidly. Suddenly we went from having all this freedom in a way, to it creating a prison for us.”