if you’ve heard “Alejandro” (and who hasn’t), then you know that Lady Gaga is a huge fan of Ace of Base. Katy Perry has expressed her love for the Swedish quartet too, but they are only two of the millions of fans who will be ecstatic to hear the first new studio album by Ace of Base in eight years, “The Golden Ratio.” The first single of the album is “All for you”.
“We are extremely honored to have two of the biggest and most creative artists in the world saying those nice things about us,” says Ulf Ekberg, who founded Ace of Base with Jonas Berggren. “I listen to Lady Gaga and Katy Perry and find myself in turn being inspired by them. In many ways their singles ‘Just Dance’ and ‘I Kissed A Girl’ opened up radio for pop and dance again. We did a little of that in the early ’90s in the U.S., so it’s amazing they are inspired by us and we’ve come back.”
“The Golden Ratio” is the end result of three years of work in the studio for Ulf and Jonas. Their main challenge was to find what the Ace of Base sound would be in the second decade of the 21st century. After a year of experimenting, they realized they wanted to embrace and preserve the original Ace of Base sound and make it contemporary at the same time.
“I bought my first Kraftwerk album when I was eight,” says Ulf. “Our music came from that and the first new wave of Depeche Mode, OMD, Human League and Eurythmics. We asked ourselves how would we sound now if we did exactly the music that we love, so we experimented with analog synthesizers, Pendell basses and live drums. Of course, we have matured a little bit, so we wanted to present that side of us as well and do some songs with only live instruments and show a more mature side of our songwriting. So take music from the early ’80s, mix it with Ace of Base from the early ’90s and bring it up to 2010 – that was the challenge and it took the first two years spending every day in the studio mixing, fixing, changing and producing before we started to feel that we were on the right path.”
Jonas and Ulf had another challenge: to find two new female vocalists. Jonas’ sisters, Malin and Jenny, were charter members of Ace of Base. But Malin didn’t want to continue and Jenny wanted to focus on a solo album.
“We did a very discreet search because we wanted to find the two best girls for the band without calling a lot of attention to it,” says Ulf. Martin Dodd, who signed Ace of Base to the Danish label Mega in 1991 and who was a close associate to the famed Cheiron Studios in Stockholm with Max Martin and Denniz PoP, suggested Julia Williamson. “She came to our studio, and when she opened her mouth and sang the first tune, it took us one second to realize she was exactly what we needed for our new songs,” says Ulf. “We still needed to find someone with a different style of voice for other songs so we continued to look.” Filling in as a judge on the Swedish version of “Idol,” Ulf met Clara Hagman, a finalist who had been eliminated before she made the top 10. “She was breathtaking, and when she sang ‘Warwick Avenue,’ I fell in love with her voice,” says Ulf. “I was afraid she would win ‘Idol’ and not be available to us but fortunately she didn’t!”
By December 2009, “The Golden Ratio” was complete – or so Jonas and Ulf thought. “We wrote ‘All for you” to bridge the dance world of 2010 to our hit ‘Beautiful Life.’ It was one of the first songs we recorded with Clara, who joined the group some time after Julia,” Ulf explains. “We were so inspired by ‘All for you´ that we went into the studio and recorded another song, ‘The Golden Ratio,’ which became the title track.”
“All for you” is set to join the list of Ace of Base classics that includes “All That She Wants,” “The Sign” and “Don’t Turn Around.” Those best-selling singles and all the Ace of Base history that followed wouldn’t have happened if Jonas and Ulf had not met just over 25 years ago in Gothenburg, on the West Coast of Sweden. Ulf was two years younger, a big difference when you are a teenager. But they shared a love of music and became friends, traveling to Stockholm and cities in the South of Sweden as well as Copenhagen to see their favorite bands.
They formed separate groups themselves and didn’t work together until they shared a rehearsal studio and decided to form a synth band as a side project. A reggae band playing four rooms away in the studio influenced their sound. With Jonas’ sisters on board, they called themselves Tech Noir after a disco in the film “The Terminator,” until they discovered another Swedish band using the name.
Ulf was watching MTV on New Year’s Day and saw Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades.” He played around with the name, thinking there were four people in their band and the studio was their base. “We were the ‘four aces’ in the studio and we all thought ‘Ace of Base’ sounded great.”
Their first album, “Happy Nation,” had sold six million copies before being released in the U.S. as “The Sign,” where it sold 10 million copies. After the American success, the album sold another eight million around the world, making Ace of Base’s first release one of the most successful debuts in history.
Ace of Base released three more studio albums: “The Bridge,” “Flowers” (retitled “Cruel Summer” in the U.S.) and “Da Capo,” then went silent. A one-year break stretched to three years. Ulf and Jonas were certain that was the end of Ace of Base, until they received an invitation in 2005 to do 20 shows with Donna Summer in Antwerp, Belgium. They played with a 150-person classical orchestra for the “Night of the Proms” series, with 18,000 people in the audience every night. “We really felt like we had been missing this,” says Ulf, and by 2007, he and Jonas were back in the studio, ready to begin again. And now, the result – the pop smash “All for you” and the forthcoming full-length album, “The Golden Ratio.”