Ace of Base's Ulf Ekberg saw the sign

When I was a kid, I was the class clown and a bit of a troll. When Ace of Base's The Sign was a hit, me and my mates made up this story that it was really a coded reference to the Swastika, and why are all of you listening to this shameful Nazi music? I ruined it for everyone. Looking back, it's a bit fuzzy—had there been a "legit" tabloid rumor at the time? Were we just riffing on the jaunty Aryan-ness of it all?

Either way, it turns out I wasn't far off. For founder Ulf Ekberg, life is indeed demanding, without understanding.



  1. My friend Bobby is from Memphis and in the 80s there was a lot of violence in the schools along racial lines.  Skinheads prevented him from suffering beat-downs at school so he joined them.  At home, his family were all Church of Christ tobacco farmers who I’m pretty sure had no objection to racism.

    So, that’s it, right?  Bobby’s a scumbag?  Guess again.  He walked the line and by the time I met him a few years later, he was trying to paint like his hero Basquiat and we both idolized countless black musicians.  In fact, he introduced me to the music of Shuggie Otis.  Back in Memphis now, he told me he gets the chills every time he has to pass the hotel where King was assassinated.  Had he not told me, there could be no way for me to guess that he was ever a skin.

    People do dumb shit and fall in with bad crowds when they’re young.  What matters more is what that adult does.  From how the article presents it, Ekberg regrets his association with a group that was part of his youth environment, and he has tried to be transparent and honest about it for the last twenty years.  There is nothing in the article that indicates he continued hating after he says he quit.

    Also, I’ll remind us that Ace of Base’s music used reggae rhythms nearly exclusively.  Make of that what you will.

    This is not news, it is old.  It is not important.  It is celebrity gossip about a guy everyone forgot about a long time ago.

      1. Well, whatever power a Euro-pop band that nobody’s thought about for 15 years has, you’ve spoken truth to it. And yeah, fair enough.

        But if you’re feeling a bit defensive on the ethics side of things, it’s because you chose not to mention that he’s been apologizing for this since 1997 (or earlier), consistently and pretty abjectly, from the sound of things. 

        If it’s okay with you, I’ll put the most recent iteration of that apology up for anyone who didn’t click through. Maybe I’m just being fooled by a particularly tricky quasi-neo-Nazi, but it sounds reasonably sincere to me. YMMV.

        “Thank you for the opportunity to respond. During the early 1990s I did dozens of interviews, all around the world, about the people I sometimes found myself surrounded by in the 1980s and how profoundly regretful I am now about associating with such individuals. Those interviews covered every aspect of my past as I strove to be an open book to anyone who asked. It has been twenty years now since I chose to come clean about my past, a decision I made on my own at that time and a decision I do not regret. Every angle of my past was covered there in those interviews. I did have a band called Commit Suicide but we did not write or perform the songs in question on this demo, and I have never been a member of the Swedish Democrats, however the teenage mistakes I did make in terms of my chosen ideas at the time were unfortunate and if I were to live through those days again I would have done things very differently! I’m truly deeply sorry for any hurt and disappointment this has caused for our fans and I want to be very clear that Ace of Base never shared any of these opinions and strongly oppose all extremist opinions on both the right and left wing.”

      2. Sure, only you’re not “making fun.” You’re earnestly reporting a 16-year-old story like you think it’s news.

        I’m looking forward to your incisive coverage of the IE/Netscape Browser Wars and the revolutionary world of Ultima Online.

          1. Did you mean to say “this blog is not earnest reportage” or am I missing your point?

    1. This is not news, it is old.  It is not important.  It is celebrity gossip about a guy everyone forgot about a long time ago.

      Nazis deserve to get chased around a bit in life, frankly

      1. Yes when people make a mistake and publicly say they are sorry they should be hounded until the end of their days.

    2. Are you fucking serious? You really believe that shit? I went to The Antenna and other shows at different venues in Memphis when I was younger than 18 (in the late 80s) and loser, ignorant trash, Nazi skins were around glowering at everybody outside the venues. This guy had to hang with Nazi skins to survive in Jr. High or whatever? I don’t believe that shit for a minute. I mean if he was a skinhead who grew a brain than bravo, but I don’t believe the rest for a second. Shameful excuses for ignorance.

      Also, I’ll remind us that Ace of Base’s music used reggae rhythms nearly exclusively. Make of that what you will.


    3. Also, I’ll remind us that Ace of Base’s music used reggae rhythms nearly exclusively.  Make of that what you will.

      Eternally popular Aryan supremacist anthem Tomorrow Belongs To Me is actually a show tune written by two Jews for an anti-fascist musical.  Use =/= tribute.

      1. Ah, but the kid who was singing it, and the people who joined in, were all Nazis, the point of the movie was probably lost on the Aryan Supremacists, if they knew what it was in the first place

    4. “Ekberg regrets his association with a group that was part of his youth environment…” Were Ace of Bass really that bad?

      1. YES! YES THEY ARE! We live underground. We speak with our hands. We wear the earplugs all our lives.

        PLEASE! You must listen! We cannot maintain the link for long… I will type as fast as I can.


        were fools, fools to let them play it over and over again these days! Sound was never meant to be
        this clear, this pure, this… accurate. For a few short days, we
        marveled. Then the… whispers… began.

        Were they Aramaic?
        Hyperborean? Some even more ancient tongue, first spoken by elder races
        under the red light of dying suns far from here? We do not know, but
        somehow, slowly… we began to UNDERSTAND.

        No, no, please! I
        don’t want to remember! YOU WILL NOT MAKE ME REMEMBER! I saw brave men
        claw their own eyes out… oh, god, the screaming… the mobs of feral
        children feasting on corpses, the shadows MOVING, the fires burning in
        the air! The CHANTING!


        We live underground. We speak with our hands. We wear the earplugs all our lives.

        Do not LISTEN!
        I am trying to send this message back to the year which was then called 1990. If it gets stuck in between, please pass it down to the origin, to Gothenburg! WE MUST STOP IT FRom sPreadeding we muddst! we live underground. Wes peak with our hands. We wear earplugs all our lives PLEASE! YOU MUST LISTEN!  Do not LISTEN TO THEIR TUNES!

  2. There’s a deleted/alternate scene from Reservoir Dogs where Steve Buscemi is talking about how this song was all about the first time she saw a big dick, and it “opened up her mind.” I have a copy, but it’s on Beta and half of it has some shitty skinimax porn taped over it.

  3. Geez, Rob. I know we don’t all get all of the celebrity gossip at the same time, but you might want to consider the source… an unsigned HuffPo article that in turn is based entirely on a post from one of Vice’s blogs, by a writer who seems more than a bit crap. (I will give Noisey this: you probably won’t see this NSFW bit of business just about anywhere else, I think.) Frankly, I’d rather have ten ex-skinheads than a single soft-headed twerp who doesn’t have the mental defenses to ward off any random conspiracy theory to come down the pike. 

      1. What about when legit Hitler was sent off 25 years ago, and the grounds for his disqualification was thoroughly investigated and confirmed 16 years ago?

  4. I remember when I was 13 and swastikas were naughty and cool.  So was 666, even though none of us knew squat about the Bible.  But 18 isn’t 13.

  5. This reminded me of a friend’s story about taking a packed Hiace taxi home down a terrifying pass after climbing Mount Kenya, and the only CD in the deck was an Ace of Base single on repeat.

  6. It does seem a bit stupid to take a principled stance against a one-time nazi who has seen the error of their ways, when there are so many unrepentant fascists out there. Admittedly, not so many nazi pop-stars, but I’m sure with a bit of journalistic endeavour you could unearth something. Oh, you’re just CTRL+Ving a Huffpo article, which is CTRL+Ving a…Vice article? Well, carry on fighting the good fight then, dude.

  7. Why is this suddenly news? Everyone knew about his skinhead past back in the 90’s when Ace of Base was actually current.

    1. An anti-aircraft group, just like the last pope…young men who hadn’t signed up for the military were dragooned into these units to haul ammunition. He’s hardly a war criminal for that. These units were under SS command because most of the members were teens and the SS had been running the Hitler Youth.


          > Further investigation reveals that there is no evidence that all Nazis disintegrated in puffs of smoke at the cessation of hostilities in 1945, as previously thought.

          > Scattering of Nazi smoke particles to the 4 winds greatly exaggerated.

      1. I can’t believe nobody has mentioned Guenter Grass yet; no discussion of former Nazis is complete without branding him hypocritical for spending his life writing and speaking about how much the Nazis sucked, when his 17 year-old self had been conscripted into the Waffen-SS.

  8. I don’t see any Nazi symbol signs in that video, but my gaydar definitely picked up more than a few blips.

  9. Legitimate news story, or super-sly attempt to brainworm people with early 90s pop drivel?

    1. Exactly. I’ve been singing this in my head since reading the headline, and I’m supposed to be writing code. It’s not helping.

    2. My daughters are addicted to ‘Pitch Perfect’, a movie in which that song is repeated ad nauseam, pretty well literally.

      I’ve had this song on permanent repeat in my head for the last month. I hoped to get through the day without it jarring my inner ear, but no, it had to come up in my feed.

      So many inadvertent nausea and vomit references in this comment. Oddly enough the song had that effect on at least one person in the movie. 

  10. Whaddya mean, “when you were a kid”? You still are something of a class clown and a troll, Rob, but that’s not a bad thing at all. :)

  11. As someone who lives in a land that used to be the original nazi state and that was later rebuilt with unrepentful ex-nazis in uncountalbe key positions of the government and of the administration, I can only smile at how the public joyfully pillorrizes a now repentful, once deranged teenager from a two-hit-wonder band. Same with Horst Tappert, better known as Derrick, who at the age of 19 was just a small pawn in a game whose main players mostly neither did nor ever will face justice. He and so many others are the ones whose severed heads are shown to the public so everyone can go home peacefully and assume that justice was done.

    1. Yeah, well. When I quoted that non-news, I did consider the implications for Horst Tappert: None. He’s been dead for 5 years, so any brouhaha over what he did 70 years ago will be quite irrelevant.

      (And I’m well aware that it’s probably only the lack of opportunity that kept me from optimizing my youthful stupidity.)

      I think there’s a wee bit of schadenfreude behind all the pearl-clutching; the man who was stodgy righteousness personified even though only acting it, had such a huge skeleton in his closet.

      1. Yeah, well, I guess Horst Tappert has a family who is all but pleased right now. It also remains questionable if a 19 year old who grew up in a criminal, brainwashing state is conscious of what he was embarking into. The state of Bavaria announced that they planned to revoke his status as an inspector honoris causae. This is laughable when you know that the entire post war police of the same state was built up with former nazis who had conciously taken part first hand in all the atrocities that we know. This is just as ridiculous as the affair around last year’s star singer at Bayreuth who got fired last minute because he had, at a certain point in his life, been a drummer in a WP band, an error committed in youthful stupidity which he now regretted thoroughly. At the same time, the whole event is about Richard Wagner who is probably the most prominent jew hater after Hitler himself and whose whole family, including members who are present at the event, were close fiends to Hitler. “Just arrest the usual suspects”, I guess.

    2. One also wonders if the neo-nazi issues in places like Germany and Italy would be as serious now, had Cold War paranoia operations like ‘Gladio’ not occurred. There are many ways in which one can deal with fascism effectively, but arming and organising them as a partisan force in case of Soviet invasion is not one of them.

  12. Seriously? If your goal is to fight fascism/nazism/etc, is attacking someone who most likely with all sincerity publicly apologized for his former delusions 2 decades ago? What kind of message is that sending to active nazis who are maybe thinking of leaving those groups? No matter if you realize your faults and become a better person, we´re gonna laugh and shame you for the rest of your life!!!

  13. I always assumed that “I saw the sign” was about a person who encountered the Yellow Sign and was now drifting slowly into Carcosa and the possession of the King in Yellow.  

    I mean, isn’t it obvious?

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