Filmed: early December 2004
Location: Stockholm, Sweden (probably Ekerö)
Broadcast: Saturday 18 December 2004, 08:59, TV4, Sweden
Release status: Unreleased
Duration: 40 minutes
Shown in: Sweden
Agnetha was interviewed by Lasse Bengtsson for 40 minutes about not being a recluse; My Colouring Book; ABBA; Frida; and her life in general.
Lasse Bengstson had tried for four years to get Agnetha as a guest on his show. Agnetha did not know about the questions in advance, nor did she have any say in the editing of the programme.
It looks like a little trailer for the interview was shown in the days prior to its broadcast.
Lasse Bengtsson: ABBA is without comparison - one of the world's biggest groups, they have sold lots of records, almost 400 million. They broke through 30 years ago in Brighton with Waterloo. The interest in ABBA is huge and not least in Agnetha Fältskog who is the most reclusive of the stars. I have spoken with her on and off for four years and the other day I had a conversation with her, a longer conversation. Please note, she didn't see the questions in advance, she hasn't seen the editing until now.
Playing parts of Om tårar vore guld
LB: Well, Agnetha, as I was driving the other day and listened to this song and your other old songs. Hi by the way.
Agnetha Fältskog: Hi Lasse!
LB: Then I thought, what good songs you wrote.
AF: Yes, I did.
LB: Where is it these days?
AF: Somewhere in here, inside me and up here.
LB: But you don't compose anything now?
AF: No, I don't compose much these days.
LB: Why not?
AF: It's as if I got it all out of me during that time. I was very productive then, with my own music and lyrics. So there was a lot to get inspiration from then.
LB: But they're all so sad. Why are they so sad?
AF: Well, I don't know. Later on somebody else wrote the lyrics. I became too critical.
LB: Oh, you did?
AF: Yes, I was very critical.
LB: Have you always been critical of yourself?
AF: Yes, I have. Very much. Especially when it comes to my lyrics I think. There are very many that I'm not so fond of, lyrics that I think are very naïve.
LB: But then last Spring you released your first album in a long time.
Playing video snippet from If I Thought You'd Ever Change Your Mind
LB: What do you think of this one when you hear it now?
AF: It's good.
LB: How did you reason when you chose to come back again with an album?
AF: Well, it was quite a long process, it took two, three, four years from me getting the idea until we began recording. I felt that I didn't think I was all done yet, that I had to make some more music and record another album. I'm very fond of these 60's songs and it was a lot of fun, it was a nostalgic trip for me. And old songs that I had forgotten came back to me. These songs had made such an impression on me, it was like taking them out again. And of course you remember things that took place around that period in your life.
LB: What is it that makes a song make an impression on you?
AF: I think that these songs, they came along when I was in my teens and that is a very sensitive period when you're very open to impressions of what's happening.
LB: What were you like as a teenager?
AF: Well, I think I was like most teens. There were guys, there were dreams and by then I already worked a lot. I began to sing with a dance orchestra as a 15 year old and we traveled around playing dance music and I started doing that when I was 15.
Playing part of Utan dig
LB: Do you remember that time, what dreams and thoughts did you have about music then? What were your goals with your music in those days?
AF: In those days I probably just wanted to perform because I felt I had a voice and it was fun seeing that people liked dancing to our music. But my ambition later was to eventually get to make a record, to become a singer, it was my dream.
LB: Why did you want that?
AF: Well, it was probably in connection with feeling that I had a voice, many others told me that. And then I knew how to compose and write songs and even lyrics sometimes, so I felt that this was probably my job.
LB: But you weren't shy in those days, were you?
AF: I was very shy.
LB: You were?
AF: Yes, I still am today. It's probably a lot because of that I feel a bit anxious about doing an interview like this. It's not at the top of my wish list.
LB: Yeah, I've figured that out.
AF: Yes, exactly.
LB: But still you do it?
AF: Yes, still I do it. Probably because I don't want to seem strange when I have something new to present, then I also want to talk about it. It's when you get too close to my private life that it starts getting uncomfortable.
LB: But what was it like to break this isolation, you could say, or that you had retired and then step back into the limelight again. How did you think that was?
AF: I was a bit concerned in a way since it had been so many years so I didn't know if my voice would still be there, and it was difficult with my voice at the beginning and it's easy to build up a fear of the microphone as well, because you're so close to it when you sing that every noise and every breath can be heard. So there's a certain technique and a certain obstacle to overcome.
LB: Did you also feel that you had high demands on yourself then so.
AF: Then as well? Yes, I did.
LB: But somewhere it was demanded that you had to appear in public a bit in connection with this.
AF: No, there were never any demands. Instead I made it very clear by saying that I can do this and this, and I want to do this and that but I can't travel and appear on TV and work the same way I did in the past, because it simply wears me out. It's too difficult for me. So I think everyone has understood that.
LB: So that's why you didn't choose to give a lot of public interviews and hold a press conference and so on?
AF: Yes. Because it easily gets too much and I can't handle it these days.
LB: What is it that wears you out, in what way do you get worn out?
AF: Well, I don't know. There are too many nerves in a way. It's anxiety and I also want to present a good image of myself and so on. And then it doesn't always work out that way. And then media is still in charge of the image of myself and it many times it can be rough since that image isn't right. And then I feel like "God, now I have to try to correct it and show how I really am", and that's a lot of strain.
LB: Do you think that you're treated in a bad way by the media?
AF: Yes, I think so, on and off. And there's also been a lot that's incorrect and it gets exaggerated.
LB: Do you have an example?
AF: Well, what can I say. I've been through so much I think.
LB: What is the worst one?
AF: I don't really know which one is the worst. But one thing was when we were on our way home, from England and I was travelling in a bus because I didn't want to fly and there were a few of us. Then we got into an accident with the bus and the bus tipped over and I flew out through a window and it was a big story in the papers. And then it said. At the time I was making a film with Gunnar Hellström, Raskenstam, and it said that I was pregnant and then they interviewed some doctor and they wrote "Can a foetus be injured if you're in an accident like this?". But it was in the movie that I played a pregnant woman. But this was turned into reality so people were fooled to believe I was pregnant in real life. And it's incorrect stories like this which make people believe it if they're time after time presented with an image of someone. It's been written about me for example that I've locked myself in, isolated myself out on Ekerö, but I haven't. Instead they've created this image of me locking myself in since I'm not visible that often. But that is not the way it is.
LB: But since you think you're misunderstood, how would you describe yourself?
AF: Well, it's very difficult for me to say, but I think I'm very much the same person I've always been. Very down-to-earth. Of course I also have my flaws, but I'm a very nice person. Down-to-earth. Normal. Curious about life and I don't like stress. I try to keep it very quiet around me, as good as I can. It's not so easy nowadays. But I easily get stressed and I'm also a very anxious person.
LB: What are you worried about?
AF: Everything. No, not everything, but I easily get anxious in various situations. I'm afraid that something may happen to someone or something. I easily take things personally. I'm a huge animal lover. It's difficult for me to look at pictures of animals and children being mistreated, I can't deal with that emotionally.
LB: Well, Vilma notices that you are a real animal lover I have to say. (We assume Vilma is Lasse's dog)
AF: Yes, she's mellow as she lies there on the floor.
LB: She likes you. But this talk about Garbo, you don't like that either from what I understand.
AF: No, it's not something I have said, but once again it's something that the media has created because, well, why they have, I don't know. But it's probably a punishment because I don't show myself off enough. And then I usually say that I'm rather an original than a bad imitation.
LB: I wonder what happens when you agree to an interview, because from what I've understood, it's not completely uncomplicated for you.
LB: Tell me what happens.
AF: Well, I've tried to be very consistent and I receive a lot of requests, not only from Sweden but from abroad as well. And I think it's even more uncomfortable to give an interview in English and not have a good command of the language. But that is my own fault.
LB: Do you feel that English is a problem?
AF: Yes, it really is. My tongue really gets tied then. So I rather decline. And what happens is if I accept doing an interview during the years that have passed, then immediately 9-10 others want me.
LB: What is an average day in your life like?
AF: Well, these days it's pretty calm. I enjoy being outdoors, going for a lot of walks and I try to spend a lot of time with my children, I also have a grandchild and it's an incredible experience.
AF: She will soon turn four years old. So it's an incredible joy. Really. Then I read a bit and watch TV.
LB: What do you read?
AF: I don't read as many books as I used to, but I read newspapers and I like watching news programs and things where you learn something.
LB: Do you watch movies and what kind of music do you listen to?
AF: I don't watch TV very much, but once in a while I enjoy going to the movies. there's a small fly here. It wants to be here all the time. It's very, very rare that I go to the movies. It's been quite a while since last time actually.
LB: Have you seen a movie you remember and that you liked?
AF: No, but there are many that I would like to see, I'm a bit behind.
LB: For example?
AF: For example Moulin Rouge with Nicole Kidman, I would like to see that one, I still haven't.
LB: But what happens, do you ever go to Stockholm, can you walk around freely I wonder. Do you walk around among other people?
AF: Oh yes, I do. Absolutely. But of course I have to be observant sometimes.
LB: What happens when you appear in public?
AF: Really not that much. I notice that people react and recognize me but often it's very calm. Sometimes someone approaches me if I'm in a restaurant to ask for an autograph. But there are no problems. There's no commotion.
LB: But do you think it's uncomfortable to be out in public in a big city for example?
AF: No, not that much. But it's nothing I long for either, but it can be fun to go shopping sometimes and meet some people. And I also do that. But like I said earlier, I think it's nice when it's quiet and I think there's too much noise (in the city).
LB: Are you sensitive to sounds?
AF: Yes, I'm very sensitive. Especially if there's a lot of noise at the same time. Then I get incredibly stressed.
LB: Where does that come from? Has it always been like that?
AF: No, it's something that's been happening more and more. I can listen to music at quite a high volume, but I can't deal with a lot of sounds mixing together. I'm very sensitive towards that.
LB: What do animals mean to you?
AF: Animals? Animals mean a lot. They mean serenity and harmony and nice to be with.
LB: Do you have a special relation with animals? Can you talk with them?
AF: Yes, in a way I think I can. You have some kind of understanding for each other, because I live with a lot of horses in my surroundings.
LB: Can you hear what they say?
AF: Well, that may be too much. I probably shouldn't say I can speak with horses too because then there may be problems.
LB: But almost?
AF: But almost, yes. And if I'm in a certain kind of mood, it can be nice to go and talk a bit to the horses.
LB: I wonder, making friends for Agnetha Fältskog and creating new contacts, new., well, new friends, is that difficult?
AF: Difficult? That's a tough question. It might be. You never really know what people think about you and maybe they have preconceived notions about you. I don't really have a great need for having a large, large group of friends, instead I'm probably a bit of a loner in a way. I actually use to compare myself with Ferdinand The Bull sometimes, who sits by the oak tree. So it's probably a bit like that.
LB: Are you subjected now to strange people? We've read in the papers that it has happened to you.
AF: Well, it is also an unpleasant aspect of this occupation and this fame, that you have to put up with a lot, not only I, I know I share this problem with many different categories of work. So I receive very many letters and strange things from people who are a bit unwell.
LB: From all around the world?
AF: Yes. You have to screen them, you can't take it personally. Not all letters I receive are nice. But it's important to not take it personally, but that you understand that this is a person who's not feeling well.
LB: This man who stalked you, are you still subjected to him?
AF: I'm don't know if I can talk too much about it, I don't think I will. I can't due to security reasons. So I want to lay low.
LB: Is this something that's bothering you?
AF: Yes, it is. But it's like this, if you've been around for this long, then you get quite hardened in various situations, so you can take very much, you have to take a lot too. And it feels very unfair sometimes, that there's so much that comes along with success.
LB: Have your children been affected?
AF: No, I think that things have gone well. But of course, they've been small once, it was a bit rough for them, it was for all of us since we became a family of divorce. They were very young, they were only 5 and 1 year old. But that was a long time ago.
LB: But when you look back in the rear-view mirror, do you think that you should have done things in another way? That you shouldn't have withdrawn as much? Do you know what I mean? To not have this hysteria that's surrounding Agnetha Fältskog after all. That it's such a big thing that you're not visible very often.
AF: Well, at least it's not something that I have created deliberately or calculated, that I would have made myself very mysterious, instead it's an image which has been created due to, as you say, me not being very visible. But it's because it's actually not my thing to sit like this and talk. But then, the older you get, the more you let go/give of yourself in a way.
LB: In what way do you mean?
AF: Well, you may be able to talk about things that you couldn't before. Because it feels as if you also must be able to share your experiences in life. That maybe you can show that I'm really not as mysterious or strange, but I'm a completely normal person.
LB: Are we supposed to interpret this as some kind of return of a more public Agnetha?
AF: No, things aren't that well.
LB: How do you explain the phenomenon ABBA today? What do you think of the phenomenon ABBA?
AF: It has meant incredibly much to us all of course. And there I also feel an enormous gratitude for having been a part of it because things only went like this. And there was incredibly much work during the 10-12 years that we kept going. And it went very fast, so if I could have slowed it down a bit and continued for 5 more years, I would rather have done it that way.
LB: To take things a bit slower and stretched it out a bit longer?
AF: Yes, exactly.
LB: Was it that everything became too intense?
AF: Yes, it was very intense.
LB: What do you think was most difficult?
AF: It was the trips.
LB: Because you're afraid of flying.
AF: Yes, I'm still very afraid of flying. It is also something you've read a lot in the press, that I'm afraid of flying. And it's this inherent fear that I have, which I told you about earlier, that a catastrophe will happen or something like that. That's what I feel. It's not that I don't have the ability to understand how safe it is flying, but it's the insecurity within myself when I finally sit there. That there's nothing I can do about it. And maybe it's because I'm a bit of a controlling person.
LB: You are, you want to be in control of things?
AF: Yes. And it's difficult to let go of it. But I think that I'm in some way trying to learn to become a little bit different. Maybe I will fly one fine day, you never know.
LB: When did you fly last?
AF: It was probably 15 years ago, I think.
LB: Are you serious?
AF: Yes. Maybe 10.
LB: So you never travel abroad?
AF: No. But you can also travel by car.
LB: But what was the most fun thing about ABBA? Which is your single greatest memory? Because it wasn't just hard work, there was joy as well.
AF: There was lots of joy.
LB: But what was the most fun thing about ABBA? Which is your single greatest memory? Because it wasn't just hard work, there was joy as well.
AF: There was lots of joy. We all shared the heavy tension before going onto stage, and there were lots of nerves involved. It felt good that all four of us were sharing this, helping to bear the burden. And if one of us felt a bit ill the other one was pushing and doing more on stage. Frida and I had different registers, and concerning singing we helped each other, although we at the same time were competitors on stage.
LB: There were sometimes talk of a schism between you and Frida. Was that right?
AF: No, that's yet again a media thing. Most of the time we were very much in agreement. But, being different personalities, of course it happened that we got irritated upon each others qualities. And we *were* different. We also had different lives because we had recently separated. Björn and I separated during the years with ABBA and we even continued afterwards. Then we had our small children who only were 5 and 1 year old, so the whole time I had a guilty conscience that they were home. And it was quite tough and still having to do what we did. But, we were not away all of the time. We were at home quite long periods as well, to spend time with the children, which really made a contrast situation - to go from the luxury hotel suites and the fabulous touring life back home to the washing-up and the children.
AF: We also had different lives because we had recently separated. Björn and I separated during the years with ABBA and we even continued afterwards. Then we had our small children who only were 5 and 1 year old, so the whole
time I had a guilty conscience that they were home. And it was quite tough and still having to do what we did.
LB:Is there a particular moment, Agnetha, with ABBA that you feel like "this was really fun"?
AF: Yes, then I'll probably have to say that it was when we won with Waterloo. It was really incredible.
Plays Waterloo and show pictures
LB: But don't you miss getting that kick today?
AF: No, I don't.
LB: That was a definite answer.
AF: Yes. No, I don't. But it's really nice to look back upon it and sometimes I can't really comprehend it. It feels like another life, in a way a different part of my life and it really is. It is.
LB: But explain, what was the reason for ABBA breaking up?
AF: It was because we didn't think it was as fun anymore. I know that we were recording an LP then. It didn't feel like it had in the past, instead it was quite tough. And it was we were divorced, both couples, so it wasn't the same thing, but we continued even after our divorces.
LB: But it wasn't as good after the divorces you mean?
AF: No, it wasn't.
LB: What is the best song that ABBA made?
AF: The best song? I think The Winner Takes It All
AF: It is so complete, it has a good flow, from beginning to end. And then I think the song is very good. I think the lyrics are excellent.
LB: It has quite a tough message.
AF: Yes, it does. But I like to sing about that.
LB: You do?
AF: Yes, I like to interpret lyrics like that.
LB: But, as I understand, you thought ABBA were better in the recording studio than on stage.
AF: Yes, that's right. But that is, once again, the self-criticism. I don't like to see us perform on stage - I think it's much more fun to hear us than to see us.
LB: Do you keep in touch with the others nowadays?
AF: Yes, I do, a little. But we don't socialize.
AF: Yes, of course since he's the father of my children.
LB: How often do you see each other?
AF: Us in the group you mean?
LB: No, Björn.
AF: Well, I don't know, I don't really keep track of that. But it happens every now and then since we have a little grandchild.
LB: The money - do you still make money from ABBA?
AF: Yes, I do.
LB: A lot of money?
AF: Yes, enough for me to live on. But I do. Of course.
LB: Even if it's Björn and Benny who makes the big money as songwriters of course, but there is a steady income for the rest of you?
AF: Yes. And we have also done other things. Frida has also made singles, what am I saying, solo albums, and I have as well, so you make a little bit of money off that as well.
LB: What does money mean to you?
AF: It is such a sensitive issue. So it's almost as if I would like to say that I don't want to talk about money, I don't want to talk about politics and I don't want to talk about religion. So I'll say so.
LB: Why is it so sensitive?
AF: You have to give such a good answer that people believe in what you say. Because it's one thing to be in a position where you have money and another to be in a position where you don't. So you have to position yourself on a good level with the money so you don't, well, so it doesn't. what am I trying to say?
LB: You're beginning to approach this subject anyway.
AF: Yes. But I'm glad that everything has gone so well. And then if I were to say that the money doesn't matter, then everybody would realize that she's lying because of course it does. I'd rather live a life where I can buy the things I want instead of being a poor person. But you can be rich and poor in so many different ways. It doesn't always have to be about money either. But you can be rich because you have a rich life (a lot of experiences). And I'm probably such a person. I think that I as a person am the same today as I was when I was young. And I grew up under sparse living conditions with my mother and father. I didn't have my own room when I was young. So I know what it feels like growing up and not to be poor, but maybe not have what you want.
LB: What about the future? What will happen with Agnetha Fältskog in the future?
AF: Well, who knows? I don't know. Sometimes I feel that this was probably the last album I made. But then I know how I can be, and can get a new idea. And I know that there are many who think it would be great if I wrote my own songs again.
LB: Yes, I think so. Can't you do that now?
AF: No, I can't promise anything. I'm not going to make any more promises.
LB: This book, Som jag är, came out in 96. The author of this book has now said that she's considering auctioning material from your conversations and meetings that haven't been published before. What do you think about that?
AF: It would be terrible if she did, but I currently don't know what's going on. But it's a terrible crime if she would, because when you work on a book together, you tell things in confidence. And then the two of us really worked on this book, having meaningful conversations about various subjects. And then I wanted to be a part the editing, so I deleted lots that I didn't think should be a part of it. And it's probably that which will come out now.
LB: Have you been in touch with her regarding this?
AF: No, and I don't want to either. My advisors will have to. Unfortunately. That's how it can go.
LB: Are you a happy person nowadays?
AF: These aren't easy questions.
LB: They all shouldn't be easy.
AF: Yes, I'm happy with a lot of things. That's how I can formulate myself. Is that enough?
LB: Now you're going to read something before the new year, something you have chosen yourself. Tell me why you chose it.
AF: Well, I found a little book, so I thought that since I won't be singing anything.
AF: I will read something instead and then I found a poem by Dan Andersson. It's called Nyår (New Year). This is how it goes.
Du nyår som susar med vingar av glänsande snö
Som blandar med stigande soljus den bittraste vind
Och tänder med flammande rosor på jungfrulig kind
Och kramar än hårdare bröstet på den som ska dö
Jag hälsar dig nyår med vingar av glänsande snö
O giv att all världen till slut måtte bliva som då
När Herren ej ännu befallt någon gräns mellan vatten och land
När ännu ej djurögat stirrat mot rymderna blå
Och ännu en svagling ej rivits av tass eller hand
Och kärleken ännu ej kommit att locka och slå
O giv att all världen till slut måtte bliva som då
(I tried to translate this poem, but it doesn't really make sense since poems are very hard to translate. Claes' note)
You new year who sough with wings of glistening snow
Who mixes with ascending sunlight the most bitter wind
And lights with flaming roses on virginal cheek
And squeezes yet harder the chest of the one who will die
I greet you new year with wings of glistening snow
Oh give that the world finally must become like then
When the Lord yet hasn't ordered a border between water and land
When the animal's eye yet hasn't stared towards the blue space
And the weakling hasn't yet been scratched by paw or hand
And love still hasn't come to entice and beat
Oh give that the world finally must become like then
LB: How will you spend Christmas?
AF: I'm going to relax. Spend time with those nearest and dearest to me and probably eat some Christmas food.
LB: Merry Christmas, Agnetha, and thanks for agreeing to this.
AF: The same to you. Thanks for having me.
After the entire interview Lasse Bengtsson said:
Maybe some of you are wondering why I didn't ask the intriguing question whether she has a new man in her life - and the answer is that I forgot. But when I asked her afterwards, she answered, "I live my life as single, but I have many friends and acquaintances, and some of them are men."
A million thanks to Claes Davidsson and Tony Becker c/o ABBAMAIL (no longer online)
Thanks to Micke Hjernestam, Charles Pylad, Claes Davidsson, Jun Seo, Tony Becker, James O'Brien, Harry Ehler and Cliff Docherty all c/o ABBAMAIL (no longer online). Thanks also to Micke Andersson c/o ABBA Planet (no longer online) and Jan Bach.
YouTube links c/o JaniceHope