Benny Andersson still searching for that feeling

Benny spoke to Svenska Dagbladet about the search for melodies he can really feel

Today’s Svenska Dagbladet carried an interview with Benny in which he mentions what it is like to still be hunting for the next melody, the new BAO Christmas album Tomten har åkt hem and gives his thoughts on ABBA The Museum opening in Stockholm next year.

After almost 50 years and nearly 400 million discs sold, he has not given up! Benny Andersson still spends several hours each day in search of music that has the right feel. The latest manifestation of that is BAO’s Christmas album Tomten har åkt hem.

The room in which the feelings arrive feels remarkably small. There is space for a grand piano, a desk, a few chairs and a ‘music machine’ – which consists of a cockpit-like Synclavier from the 1980s, a new computer and a floor to ceiling wall mounted rack housing studio equipment.

It’s not crowded but somehow it is expected that a man who wrote global smashes such as Dancing Queen and Super Trouper and who has sold more than 380 million records, would have a slightly larger space in which to work.

Nevertheless it is right here that Benny Andersson spends his working hours. Here he wrote Kristina från Duvemåla and BAO’s Swedish hits.

At the ‘music machine’ he wrote BAO’s new Christmas album and it is here where he is working right now on the music for Hjälp sökes, a musical to which the poet Kristina Lugn contributed the script, ABBA colleague Björn Ulvaeus is writing the lyrics and the show will be directed by Orionteatern’s Artistic Director Lars Rudolfsson.

I have noticed that BAO is becoming more and more important

A Christmas album was not something that Benny Andersson had planned to do, but it happened anyway. Not for Santa’s sake and not for kids either, but because of Franz Schubert’s Marsch militaire. Benny thinks the final CD is “pretty fun”.

BAO’s Christmas album

“Christmas records are really something you should perhaps not dabble in but because we have an orchestra that can play Schubert’s Military March as it should be, as it is written, I thought it would be fun to do it.” he says.

The disc is the sixth studio album by Benny Anderssons Orkester, perhaps the only ‘hobby orchestra” in Sweden that has had more than ten songs hit the Swedish charts.

“From the beginning I thought that it [BAO] would be an outlet for music that I write that does not fit in anywhere else…so that it is not just hanging in the air doing nothing or just sitting on my computer. But I have noticed that BAO is becoming more and more important” says Benny Andersson.

It requires that I play through a lot of junk to come up with something I want

Although Benny has written songs for almost 50 years, he devotes several hours each day to creating new music. It is painstaking work and Benny Andersson describes it as such.

“It takes time. It requires that I play through a lot of junk to come up with something I want. One would think that it is as easy as simply musically feeling a feeling and then you have what you are looking for but it’s not like that.”

Searching for the elusive musical feeling has been the same search throughout the years. The first time Benny Andersson recognised it was when he wrote the Hep Stars Sunny Girl, only his second song ever.

“I remember it so well because it’s exactly the same today as back then. I noticed when I sat down and tried to create a new song that there was something inside me that responded in a purely physical sense. I had contact with what I produced and it talked back to me.”

Discovering that feeling and the rush it provides,is the reason that Benny is still working. He says that the last time he really pushed and challenged himself was when he wrote the musical Kristina which received its world première in 1995.

After Kristina I do not feel that I have risked that much

“I generally keep myself within my own framework. Kristina however is broadly symphonic and that was a clear challenge I set myself I think. It makes it feel worthwhile, but it was probably the limit.” he said.

So when did you last take a risk musically?

“Then! After Kristina I do not feel that I have risked that much. I do not know if it’s some kind of laziness. Someone asked me if I had ever tried to write music that is not entirely tonal or melodic. It was a good question and the answer is ‘no’ because I do not think I can. I build my entire musical life around trying to get a feel for what I’m doing. The brain and body to get something out of what I play.”

We have not been a group since 1982

On ABBA The Museum…

“I always thought it was a bad idea. Maybe it’s just me who thinks this, but they could well wait until after we’re gone. As it is now, I think it is a good idea as part of a Swedish Hall of Fame. And where ABBA can be a part, perhaps a large part but being part of a whole seems more reasonable to me.”

On ABBA reuniting for Eurovision in 2013…

“No, we will not show up. We no longer exist. We have not been a group since 1982.”

On TV talent shows:

“I looked at ‘Idol’ once at the beginning because a buddy Klabbe was on the jury. I felt so incredibly bad about how they treated these people who get on there and so I decided I would not watch it anymore and I don’t.

“I do not like superficiality. Everyone is there to try to make an impression and they have no joy in real life as artists. It’s getting crowded with posers, there are very few who are interested in expressing something real in those contests.

“There are a lot of other people out there, great people who write music or lyrics. There is good Swedish music!”

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One Comment

  • Good interview,wish i`d heard the full session.I can appreciate what Benny says,about writing the music he wants,and like any great artist,it has to be right and meet his standards,i respect Benny for that. One reason I`m an Abba fan,as with The Beatles,Queen and a few others.
    They wrote and produced their own material,NOT covers of other peoples work,and when you can produce music like Abba`s..why the hell would you want to do covers any way.
    As for the BAO….if I understood Benny correctly,it was meant to be a `hobby` band. To be honest,that was never going to stay as a `hobby` band.
    I have only heard them play on `you tube`,and im trying to get a CD here in UK of theirs,not easy as most shops in UK say they only market in Europe. Funny….thought UK was in Europe….never mind.
    There will always be a market demand for Benny`s music….sorry Benny…but keep writting my friend.
    Finally, Abba as an entity may not exist,but its like saying The Beatles dont exist,and theres only 2 members still alive…..all $ of Abba are still with us. I`m happy to say that what ever the 4 members say,they created something that will still be around long after most of us arent.. And Abba still leave other bands looking silly by saying they have sold 50 million records…..hell of a gap between 50 and 350 million.

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