Saturday’s third Melodifestivalen semi-final is almost upon us. But in the days running up to the show, much of the focus in Sweden has been on the participation of Mustasch — and for all the wrong reasons.
Ralf Gyllenhammar’s sexual harassment conviction
In 2018, the band’s frontman Ralf Gyllenhammar was convicted for a sexual harassment incident which occurred in the summer of 2017. The “Bed On Fire” singer is said to have made multiple comments on a woman’s appearance while filming a commercial. At one point, he pushed a beer bottle between her breasts. Gyllenhammar claimed not to recall the incident but said it sounded like “something he could do in a playful way”. The District Court rejected his statement, sentencing him to SEK 10,000 in daily fines. In May 2019, Mustasch printed t-shirts with the band’s logo emblazoned over a beer bottle pressed between a woman’s breasts.
Victim appeals for SVT to remove Mustasch from Melfest
The now 28-year-old victim “Isabell” has appealed for SVT to remove Mustasch from Melodifestivalen. She emailed the broadcaster when the group was first announced for the contest. In an email, seen by Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, Isabell writes: “The pressure was a sexist, abusive and sexually alluding one, and at my expense. I can not go into more than that… [Ralf] does not have to be on stage in the middle of prime time among young women in the television team who may not dare to speak out against him…I want to spare them from it”. Aftonbladet reports that another 40 people had reached out to SVT regarding Mustasch’s participation by Thursday.
SVT response to calls for Mustasch to be removed from Melodifestivalen
In response to Isabell’s initial email, SVT wrote: “I fully understand that you are upset. This is a topic that touches and engages. What Melodifestivalen and its editorial staff have landed in is that once you have served your sentence, you are welcome to compete in Melodifestivalen”.
When questioned on the matter by Aftonbladet, Mello producer Karin Gunnarsson replied: “I can not answer for how [Isabell] feels, but to be exposed to crime, regardless of character must be very difficult. Ralf has apologized and the verdict has fallen, so … they are in the Melodifestivalen the whole group, it’s not just Ralf as a person”. She adds that the t-shirts were inappropriate and that SVT has zero-tolerance for sexual harassment and abusive behaviour.
Mustasch issue an apology
On Wednesday, the band took part in a particularly uncomfortable interview with Aftonbladet. Gyllenhammar describes the sexual harassment and the t-shirts as “a wrong decision”, saying he should have known better. On Isabell’s effort to warn other women in the Melfest team, he says: “It sounds very strange, I think. We’re not a bit dangerous”. The band’s guitarist Mats “Stam” Johansson says that the t-shirts were “a stupid thing, it was not meant as a mockery at all, of course not”. Journalist Tobbe Ek continued with his line of questioning, not giving up when the band wanted to move on. Eventually, the interview came to a halt when a record company representative triggered SVT’s social distancing alarm. You can watch the interview here.
As the controversy continued to build, Mustasch released a video statement of their own on Facebook.
“Due to what has been written about me and the band Mustasch in the last 24 hours, we want to make a clarification. I have been convicted of an incident that occurred in 2017. I have paid a daily fine and then I also apologized to the person in question and now I take the opportunity to do it again. Sorry, sorry, it was not meant to offend or harass. Furthermore, the whole band Mustasch takes responsibility for this completely disgusting idiotic shirt that we had printed. It was in our range for a short time but has been removed for a very long time and we regret bitterly and deeply that we even printed this damn t-shirt. In summary, we have learned a lot from this and we continue to learn and from now on the band Mustasch focuses on hard rock, joy, party, what we are absolutely best at. Thank you and sorry.