from the 80's, including our own, are the last thing
anybody needs", says a dead serious Magne Furuholmen.
"And nonetheless I'm happy that our comeback
was so successful", he laughs a moment later.
"When the idea of recording MINOR EARTH MAJOR
SKY (2000) came up, I hesitated at first. I just couldn't
imagine that I would enjoy being a pop musician again."
While Pal Waaktaar-Savoy with his band Savoy and singer
Morten Harket with his solo albums kept on the ball
in the music scene after A-HA split up, the keyboarder
of one of the most successful bands of the '80's had
already withdrawn in 1993 - right after the concerts
for the MEMORIAL BEACH album (1993). Instead he dedicated
himself almost exclusively to painting. However the
artist never completely let his musical talent whither
away by composing and releasing several soundtracks
under the pseudonym Timbersound.
The overwhelming success of the
2000 album, and especially the triumphant comeback
tour for enthusiastic fans, gave the initially only
carefully optimistic trio so much impetus that even
Furuholmen again succumbed to the spell of pop music.
"When we left the stage at the Sporthalle in
Hamburg after our first big performance in over six
years, it was an unbelievable feeling. For the first
time since A-HA existed, we did not just feel like
the means to an end of giving our fans a good time,
but finally we had a great time ourselves," Magne
remembers and is still enthusiastic. "The rest
of the tour was euphoria. The venues were sold out
almost every night, the audience loved us, our old
and most of all our new songs. We enjoyed it immensely.
All of a sudden I could hardly wait to finally start
writing genuine pop songs and arrived home more inspired
than I ever had before."
"Another great thing about
our reunion is that as a songwriter I have discovered
new talents and sides of myself. This way I not only
had more self-confidence in writing lyrics, but also
found a new writing partner during our work on LIFELINES
(2002). We've been together a long time and still
this was the first time that I collaborated with Morten
on composing. It was great to see that after all of
this time we could really still surprise each other
and that our different influences and preferences,
that had developed during the years we were apart,
complemented each other."
The trio took a new path for recording
the album. "We used to have a problem finding
the right producer," recalls Waaktaar-Savoy,
who has lived in Manhattan for years now. "The
people who wanted to work with us were only interested
because they liked what we had done in the past. The
ones that were our favorites and with whom we would
have liked to try out new things thought our old albums
were awful." Magne laughs:"There actually
was a time in which it really wasn't hip to like A-HA
and it was even less cool to work with us. That was
a dilemma from which we could fortunately free ourselves."
On the other hand, the band had
to deal with a new, and very pleasant, problem. "Lots
of the producers that we had taken under consideration
were very keen about the idea of working with us,"
adds Paul happily. "Also there was the one or
other sound person that approached us on their own
and whose previous work impressed us. We sent demos
of some songs to these people and got unbelievable
feedback. We heard so many interesting ideas for our
material that at some point we thought: why don't
we try them all out?"
Thus the album originated not only
in New York and Oslo, but equally in Stockholm and
London. It was produced by established names like
the team of Clive Langer & Alan Winstanley (Madness,
Elvis Costello, Morrissey) or Stephen Hague (New Order,
Blur, Pet Shop Boys), as well as up-and-coming new
names like the Swede Naid, whom Magne brought in.
He is considered to be the legitimate successor of
William Orbit as far as his reputation as one of the
hottest club producers goes. Furthermore Paul's personal
choice, the Tindersticks sound engineer Ian Caple,
as well as the Cardigans producer Tore Johansson,
were at the board to make the CD what it is: the perfect
and integral synthesis of well-known A-HA elements
with modern sounds and state-of-the-art studio technique.
It is obvious when hearing the compositions
on LIFELINES (2002) in all of their diversity that
the newly-found enthusiasm, together with the band's
current mania for work, has yielded ripe fruits. The
energy-loaded "Did Anyone Approach You"
or "You Wanted More", as well as the extremely
catchy and nonetheless sensitive single "Forever
Not Yours" show the group's more danceable side,
while the epic-like arrangement of the title track
is new proof of Morten's absolutely exceptional talent.
One can simply not get down to work with more emotion
than this. Whether it is the majestic "Time And
Again", "Afternoon High", influenced
by their idols The Beatles, the intensive ballad "Solace"
with its strings, the powerful rock track "Cannot
Hide" or "Turn The Lights Down" (Harket's
wonderful duet with Anneli Drecker): in the 21st year
of their existence A-HA are at the pinnacle of their
"All three of us did composing
and this time we had enough songs for at least two
good records," reports Paul. "Each of us
of course wanted to have his own compositions on the
CD and so we had to discuss it with each other for
a long time and really fought". In the end, nearly
20 tracks were chosen, many of these in turn with
very different producers. "That was expensive
and strenuous, " the blond musician admits. "But
this way we really have created a very multi-faceted
album. We surely will not work like this again, the
procedure was just too stressful. But for this time
around it was precisely the right way. And through
this experience we have been able to learn a lot for
our next album."
"We really wrestled with each
other about the songs and the various versions,"
adds Magne. "Sure I'm sad that a couple of my
tracks and ideas did not make their way onto LIFELINES,
but the other two guys feel the same way. At the end
of the day I'm extremely happy with the album and
realize that we made the right decisions. There just
isn't an easy way to go in this band: it's a constant
struggle. That partially drives us crazy and sometimes
leads to tension, but it always makes us give our
best." LIFELINES is the best example of this
A-Ha - History
With their very first single "Take
On Me" they wrote rock history and shaped the
charts like scarcely any other band of the 80's. After
an unprecedented comeback two years ago, not only
the fans from way-back-when, but also a whole generation
of new fans are now eagerly awaiting the new album.
The Norwegian trio A-HA is indisputably one of the
biggest phenomena in pop music.
At the ages of 10 and 12 respectively,
Magne Furuholmen and Paul Waaktaar-Savoy, in their
hometown of Asker (near Oslo), dreamed of following
in the footsteps of their idols, The Beatles. A little
later they actually did start making music, formed
their first school bands and together and separately
accumulated a lot of experience. Just as they were
coming of age, they met again in their first semi-professional
band. With Bridges, as the project was called, they
even released an album with their own compositions.
But Magne and Paul wanted more than just playing in
pubs and schools. So they asked the local vocal talent
Morten Harket to come to London with them to try his
luck at becoming a pop star. But he wasn't interested...
After half-a-year full of setbacks
and sacrifices in the British capital, the duo returned
home - disappointed, but not defeated. Back in Oslo
they tried everything to convince Harket to join them.
Due to their insistence - and not least because of
the duo's promising songs - he gave in. As a complete
group they moved back to England at last and found
a label there and their first fans. For the next twelve
years A-HA lived in London and their wildest dreams
After hearing it once, every radio
listener at the time recognized A-HA's first single
within seconds. The melody wasn't easy to whistle,
but bored its way deep into their ears. In the USA
the TV stations flipped out when they saw the revolutionary
video clip. MTV played the clip around the clock until
the nice band from Norway reached the "pole position"
of the Billboard charts. Following this success "Take
On Me" went on to become an international hit
in a very short time and A-HA's debut album HUNTING
HIGH AND LOW developed into a global mega-seller.
Only in their new home England, of all places, the
single didn't reach the top position and peaked in
November 1985 at #2. It was only with the next release,
"The Sun Always Shines On TV", with its
epic arrangement and record-breaking video, which
the British Isles laid at their feet.
The trio's overwhelming success
was continued with the next album SCOUNDREL DAYS,
which was already released in October 1986. Musically
and in regards to compositions the band took a considerable
step forward. New tracks like "Cry Wolf",
"Manhattan Skyline" and "I've Been
Losing You", which were less heavy on synthesizers
and mainly recorded with live musicians, had even
those critics singing their praise, who had had mixed
reactions to the first album.
Following the colossal success of
their first world tour, the producer of the James
Bond films invited A-HA to perform the theme song,
composed by Paul and the legendary soundtrack genius
John Barry, in the latest 007 adventure "The
Living Daylight". In 1988 STAY ON THESE ROADS
was released, presenting a more mature, but still
hit-making act. "The Blood That Moves The Body"
and "Touchy" effortlessly joined the parade
of songs written by Waaktaar-Savoy & Co, that
would still be popular years later.
With the grand Everly Brothers track
"Crying In The Rain", the band opened a
new album with a cover version for the first time.
EAST OF THE SUN, WEST OF THE MOON was another international
success in 1990 and advanced the band to new heights,
especially in South America. Shortly after the release
of the second single, "I Call Your Name",
the Norwegians played for over 200,000 ecstatic fans
as headliner for the "Rock In Rio" festival.
In 1991 with HEADLINES AND DEADLINES
the band released a collection of their biggest hits
to date. This included the brand-new track "Move
To Memphis" that re-appeared two years later
on the critically acclaimed MEMORIAL BEACH. Major
changes in the pop market, hot new sounds on radio
and TV like alternative rock, hip-hop and the worldwide
dance explosion lead to the album not achieving the
usual results, although it had lots of atmosphere
and included the beautiful singles "Dark Is The
Night For All" and "Angel In The Snow".
Harket, Waaktaar-Savoy and Furuholmen decided to put
A-HA on ice for the time being. They dedicated their
time to their families and their individual projects.
While Magne and Morten moved back to Norway, Paul
settled in New York.
At the Nobel Prize Award Presentation
on December 11, 1998, the musicians performed in Oslo
for the first time in over four years. They got along
very well with each other and, meeting in Paul's new
home, they decided to get together again. In 2000,
seven years after MEMORIAL BEACH, A-HA was finally
back with new songs. With MINOR EARTH MAJOR SKY the
band delivered a 13-track stroke of genius. As if
the years of absence had never been, gold and platinum
certifications and charts positions showered on the
singles "Summer Moved On", "Minor Earth
Major Sky" and "Velvet", as well as
for the album. Sold-out tours of Germany and Japan
were followed by triumphant headline slots at various
European festivals (e.g. the gigantic "Rock am
Ring"/"Rock am Park" shows in Germany)
in the summer of 2001. Their comeback was not only
a success, A-HA were back on top in one blow.
Inspired by this success the Norwegians
went even further with LIFELINES (2002). The advance
single "Forever Not Yours", with a modern
production by Stephen Hague (New Order, Blur, among
others) and a characteristically melancholy melody
is just a little taste of the freshest, and yet most
mature and multifaceted A-HA ever.