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A-HA (MAGNE FURUHOLMEN) INTERVIEW [2006]

IS IT GOOD TO BE BACK IN THE UK? YOU’VE HAD SOME GOOD TIMES HERE BUT THERE WERE ALSO SOME VERY HARD TIMES IN THE PAST WEREN’T THERE?

Well those are really the best times in hindsight! That was a period of the band being very very close and we took our first baby-steps as a group in in those basements in Sydenham and the fact that we lived in those places, I think think that when you look back at it that was the time… the alchemy was in that period of time, not that you miss them or that you’d necessarily want to go back but you do look back kindly on those times as time goes by. The UK was out home and London has been an incredibly important part of A-Ha’s vision and dream and this is where it all came to fruition in the end… so yeah, not being able to come back has felt a little bit like not being welcomed home sort of thing, and it’s great to be here now that everything is going on and we’re feeling the love! It’s good, it’s really good……

I ASKED VISITORS TO MY WEBSITE TO SUBMIT QUESTIONS FOR THE BAND SO IT MEANS THAT I’VE GOT ALL MY OWN QUESTIONS AND LOADS OF QUESTIONS FROM THEM AS WELL. THERE’S SOME PRETTY SCARY FANS OUT THERE, SOME PEOPLE THAT MAYBE LIKE A-HA A BIT TOO MUCH…

Oh well… I don’t think it’s possible to like something too much, it’s how you express it that gets scary!

SO, THE ANALOGUE ALBUM MUST HAVE BEEN FINISHED EARLY LAST YEAR AND YOU’VE HAD SOME TIME TO LIVE WITH IT, TO STAND BACK FROM IT AND ALSO TAKE IT ON THE ROAD… HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT IT NOW?

It feels pretty good. The songs pretty easily made it into the live set, pretty effortlessly actually and that’s always a good sign, that the new stuff sounds good when you’re playing it. I don’t know, when we finished the album it did seem to me like one of those times when I felt, yeah I really want to go in and record another one straight away, and I was on a good roll there…

Looking back at it, I do think that of the ‘comeback’ stuff – the material we have put out since we got back together – it’s the first one where the talents of the three of us are no longer necessarily pointing in opposite or different directions… you can sort of discern the three voices in the choir, perhaps more clearly than on the old stuff and this comes from the period of time that we were apart and kind of individualised our working methods. We write and record differently to before and now it’s each man to his own, and on a couple of occasions the song is even finished before anyone else gets to hear it, and that’s fine with me… it’s not how I originally saw it but it’s something I’ve learned to live with and accept and work with and I think this album really succeeds in tying that together, a little bit due to aligning ambitions but also due to people like Martin and Flood working on the record, being very conscious of keeping the band united and playing on the strengths of the band and not letting us just drift off into different areas.

I’m happy with the record, some of the moments on the record… I think it has always been the case with A-Ha that we have touched on some great things on all the records but there isn’t that one defining record in my view that is like the greatest piece of work. People always ask me which is my favourite record and I think that ‘Scoundrel Days’ is really the one you mention when you talk about making something cohesive, but I think this one – for me – I can certainly say that in terms of the input I’ve put into it, this is the best that I could do and the best I’ve done…

WHICH IS HOW IT SHOULD BE SURELY?

Yeah but it’s still out there… that one defining A-Ha record and it’s that irritation makes you want to go and record again. There’s always been good songs and good moments on all the records but never that one complete record…

IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?

We are too headstrong as individuals, you know, there’s not one dominating voice in the band and I think it must be easier if you have a band where just one person is the creative centre and it’s easier to make a record then… there’s too much ambition wanting to go into the record, I don’t know…maybe it will seem different in ten years time but for me we’re closer with this one that we were with the last one, and that’s inspiring, that’s something I like to think is a good sign!

WELL FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH I THINK IT’S THE BEST A-HA ALBUM SO FAR… IT’S DONE THAT THING OF BEING FAMILIAR AS WELL AS CHALLENGING… THE FIRST TIME I HEARD THE SINGLE ‘ANALOGUE’ IT WAS ON THE RADIO AND i REALLY LIKED IT, AND i SORT OF KNEW WHO IT WAS BUT i COULDN’T PUT MY FINGER ON IT AND WHEN i FOUND OUT IT WAS YOU I WAS SURPRISED AND NOT SURPRISED EQUALLY WHICH IS A PRETTY GOOD TRICK I THINK…

I don’t know if that’s something you can orchestrate, I don’t know if it’s better if it’s not willed to strongly and just kind of happens. We have worked with people who have done that and even on this album Martin would say ‘oh that’s so A-Ha, that’s such an A-Ha moment’ and we always resist that to a certain degree because we don’t want to be caricatures of anything… we don’t want to mimic anyone else but we certainly don’t want to go in to make “another A-Ha album”, we’re interested in pushing it and it’s always the material that decides where you go… the record company are always asking for that big A-Ha single and we just go, you know, these are the songs, this is what we are doing now and you just need to live with that. But like you said, I would always rather people wonder what it is rather than have people say ‘oh yes, another A-Ha record’… I don’t know, I’m more interested in the stuff we haven’t done than the stuff we have done!

DOES THAT MAKE EVERYTHING FRUSTRATING, SITTING HERE NOW TALKING ABOUT SOMETHING THAT IS DONE, WHEN YOU’VE GOT ALL THIS NEW STUFF INSIDE WAITING FOR A TIME TO COME OUT?

No… it’s difficult to explain something that is meant to be felt, that’s not actually me saying that, it’s a quote from Frank Black of The Pixies in a book I just read but I think it’s a good one… you can describe music as much as you want but unless you hear it it’s not going to make sense to you, so I think really you can only talk about what you have done and you can’t really say anything about the stuff you haven’t done.

Sometimes it offers chances for rare moments of self-insight you know, when you think about it and talk about it but I don’t think we’ve ever been that good at really selling a record – I think we’ve been better at making them than selling them, but I think we were perceived as a band who were very good at selling them and we were very frustrated about that… for me the beauty of coming back, is that before the media and the critics and the industry would have one image of the band and we’d have another and it takes time for these two images to start to overlap and marry up and right now I would be more at peace with myself if I retired from the music industry having made the transition, made these problems tie together and the way that people look at our band and our work now is different to the way it was in the eighties so you do feel that every new thing you do is a little bit to do with restoration of your history…

YOU HAVE A NEW RECORD LABEL ON BOARD THIS TIME AROUND – HAS THAT AFFECTED THINGS GREATLY?

Hugely. I think our previous record label, as good as they were, I think that we were just too much hassle and we had too much history, plus we were signed to America and nobody felt a real commitment, nobody felt like it was their project… there was just too much luggage, we were really unhappy towards the beginning of the nineties and we were resisting any attempt to… I guess we were just at odds with the record company because I guess they looked at the success as something positive and we looked at it like something we wanted to leave behind so we were on a crash course with that… we were drinking beer and growing beards and long hair and hanging out in this whole kind of American midwest and doing different kinds of stuff which is what we were into at the time!

I guess that now this is a kind of honeymoon period with Universal and they have been great and as I said they’ve kind of given us a second wind here… dedication, you can’t buy that and it just reminds you that it’s all about people liking music and championing it, on every level not just a major label or an indie band but nothing can be taken for granted and that goes for high quality stuff and that goes for shite – some people make stuff that I don’t like and some will do anything to get high in the charts and that’s fine you know, but it feels good when you’re out there and you’ve made something that people believe in…

DID HAVING THE NEW LABEL IN PLACE AND THIS RENEWED SENSE OF COMMITMENT MAKE A DIFFERENCE TO TO THE MAKING OF ANALOGUE DO YOU THINK?

That’s a strange thing because I think you have the same high expectations every time. Every time I’ve made a record I’ve always felt ‘gotta get this out there gotta get this out’ and this is a tough thing because unless you have a career that’s a non-stop string of perfect hits you’re going to have ups and downs over a twenty year period – I defy anyone not to! You have to learn to live with the let-down of certain parts of your work not catching people’s attention, not catching the imagination of people and you come through the other side stronger because of it and in the end you have to decide for yourself why you’re in this game and what you’re doing this for and I think you see that very clearly after a while and I think you come to terms with the fact that not everything can just be taken for granted. I think that when your first single goes to number one in twenty countries and sells millions of copies and you’re just a kid whose really trying not to completely lose your footing and you’re struggling just to stay upright,… you take it all for granted, you get a Grammy nomination, you get eight MTV Awards the first year you’re out there and you don’t know what the fuck it all means… if we got that now we’d be appreciative of it in a different way and if you don’t get it then that’s OK too because you’re doing it for the love of the material an dbecause you really believe in what you’re doing…

HOW MUCH DO YOU CONNECT WITH YOURSELF AS YOU WERE BACK THEN? WHEN YOU SEE OLD FOOTAGE OR WHATEVER?

Yeah… I see a very scared rabbit, caught-in-the-headlights, person, who is compensating for the sheer panic of it all by you know, being very… over the top and outgoing. Our biggest flaw as a band in the early eighti – if there was such thing as a flaw – our biggest problem area if you like is that we are polite, polite people brought up in a society where politness works, but it doesn’t work so well in this business… you get caught in situations where you are the one who has to say ‘Fuck this, I’m not going to stand here like and idiot and have my picture taken’…somebody says smile and you smile and you feel like an idiot but you still do it. That’s the thing where our upbring came into conflict with how we felt and in the end if that gap becomes too wide then you start to rebel against your own creation and that’s what we did, we started to bring it down and try to detroy it… you get out and get a new life and let somebody else do it…

THE BIGGEST QUESTION FROM FANS EMAILING ME HAS TO BE THIS ONE… WHEN WILL YOU BE COMING TO TOUR IN MY COUNTRY AND THEY MUST COME FROM TWENTY-FIVE COUNTRIES… AUSTRALIA, THE USA, CHILE, PERU, CHINA…

Funnily enough we are going to Chile, we are going to South America to play a festival down there but we have put a lot of plans on the back burner for the moment just to be available for if the record does well here… if the record does well we will be touring more over here and we will be looking into doing something fairly soon and then we’ll see… we’re going to Africa for some charity events and to play a concert down there but there’s not that much live stuff on the horizon planned. I think we’re just kind of riding the wave at the moment and enjoying the enthusiasm that surrounds the record here…

AND MY FINAL QUESTION IS ABOUT AMERICA… A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE EMAILED ME HAVE SAID THAT WITH THE LAST TWO ALBUMS NOT EVEN BEING RELEASED IN THE USA, WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN WITH ANALOGUE THERE?

We had pretty much the same reaction in America this time as we;ve had for all our recent records… ‘oh the band has ben and gone, it means nothing in America’… it’s sad but it’s something you just have to deal with. I don’t know, I think it willdepend a little bit on how things go here, but the fact of it is that we don’t have a record deal in America at the moment so what can we do? We could go over there in a van and start over but do we really want to be doing that?

PRESUMABLY THERE’S NO PLANS FOR ANY AMERCIAN TOURS? I KNOW THERE WAS ONE SHOW LAST YEAR IN NEW YORK…

Well there was a plan to tour around that time and we know that there’s an audience out there and we are desperate to go out there and play but we also have to be realistic about the way the industry works – unless there’s somebody willing to back it up with a record release we’re just pissing in the wind… it seems to me that the only way to get anywhere in America is on a tourist visa

I don’t know, I hope so but we’ll just see… the UK came on board with this record so maybe the US a few months later… but we had a great time playing there last year!

JANUARY 2006

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