Interview with a-ha at Giske

a-ha on stage at Giske this week.
Picture by Monica Strømdahl for Aftenposten.

Aftenposten has published a big article (subscribers only) about the MTV Unplugged concerts at Giske. Here’s a small summary.

The main focus of the story is how good this process has been for the band, and how they decided to stick together against a “common enemy” – producer Lars Horntveth.

“We have ended up joining forces in a weird way, in a battle against our “common enemy” Lars. Suddenly we’re a band again, suddenly we understand why we’re together, and we’re in agreement like never before. We’re usually always in disagreement, and that’s kinda how it’s supposed to be, but not this time. It’s almost touching”, Morten tells Aftenposten.

“Working with the three of them has been enjoyable and fun and very frustrating. I have been utterly pissed off at times, and so have they. After all, they’re not used to a stubborn bastard like me interfering like this, but it’s been very healthy. Deep down I think they like it, even if they have hated me at times”, Lars Horntveth says.

Paul, who suggested Horntveth as producer, is also very pleased with the process:

“It’s been incredibly inspiring just to sit in the same room and test out ideas on the fly. That’s when you see how much we’re capable of together. When outside elements are introduced, we immediately know when things feel right, and when things don’t work or doesn’t suit us.”

Magne joins in on the praise:

“This has been similar to how we used to work in the 80s, when we lived in the studio, in search of cool stuff. One is pushing things forward, one is holding back, while one is focused on himself. That’s been an important three-headed thing for a-ha, but this current process has given us an incredible team spirit and a creative exchange that we haven’t had in many years.”

Deciding where the MTV Unplugged recording would take place was not an easy task, a-ha manager Harald Wiik says:

“I wanted to build up a whole TV-studio near London, but the band didn’t want that. They wanted to go to the Amazon or the Brazilian city of Belém, but that proved to be too difficult. Then Magne figured we could do something “Norwegian”, inside a stave church, but it would be too small [for such a production]. Morten suggested we solve it by simply using the mannequins from the “The Sun Always Shines on TV”-video as our audience. Finally we ended up here at Giske, which is a completely unique place.”

The article also mentions plans for more a-ha concerts to be added next summer.

As for what this experience could mean for future a-ha collaborations, Paul says:

“Who knows. We’re still like planets spinning around each other, but right now we’re in the same orbit. I can’t remember the last time we had such a natural and easy way of working together.”

Setlist details from MTV Unplugged concert

Picture from MTV Germany on Instagram

a-ha played the first of two MTV Unplugged concerts at Øygardshallen (Giske Harbour Hall) on the island of Giske last night, in front of an audience of around 250 people. Here’s a picture of the band arriving.

The 21-song set included two new a-ha songs; “This is Our Home” (written by Magne) and “Break in the Clouds” (written by Paul), three songs that have rarely been played live; “This Alone is Love”, “Over the Treetops” and “Memorial Beach”, and surprisingly – one song from the Bridges album Fakkeltog (1980); “The Vacant” (jokingly renamed “Sox of the Fox”), but with Morten on vocals instead of Paul.

Additionally, they did a cover version of Echo & The Bunnymen’s 1984 hit “The Killing Moon” with special guest Ian McCulloch, who also joined them on “Scoundrel Days”. American singer Lissie Maurus guested on “I’ve Been Losing You”, while Norway’s own Ingrid Helene Håvik from Highasakite did the same on “The Sun Always Shines on TV”. Alison Moyet was not among the special guests last night, but she will join them on stage on Friday instead.

Mobile phones and other recording eqipment was strictly forbidden inside the venue, so we’ll have to wait for the live CD/DVD/Blu-ray release in October to hear what it sounded like. However, one of the fans attending posted a picture of the stage setlist on Instagram:

1. This is Our Home (New song by Magne)
2. Lifelines
3. I’ve Been Losing You (w/Lissie)
4. Analogue
5. The Sun Always Shines on TV (w/Ingrid Helene Håvik)
6. Break in the Clouds (New song by Paul)
7. Foot of the Mountain
8. Stay on These Roads
9. This Alone is Love
10. Over the Treetops
11. Forever Not Yours
12. Sox of the Fox (aka “The Vacant” by Bridges)
13. Scoundrel Days (w/Ian McCulloch)
14. The Killing Moon (Echo & The Bunnymen cover w/Ian McCulloch)
15. Summer Moved On
16. Memorial Beach
17. Living a Boy’s Adventure Tale
18. Manhattan Skyline
19. The Living Daylights
20. Hunting High and Low
– – – – – – – – – – – – –
21. Take on Me

Also, in keeping with the MTV theme, next year’s tour now seems to have been officially renamed from “An acoustic evening with a-ha” to “a-ha MTV Unplugged Tour 2018”. See a-ha.com tour page.

New book about Paul coming this fall

Paul Waaktaar-Savoy and author Ørjan Nilsson
(Photo by Ivar Kvaal)

October 2017 will see the release of the first book focused on Paul Waaktaar-Savoy’s music, life and career.

The book is called Tårer fra en stein (Tears from a stone) and has been written by Norwegian journalist Ørjan Nilsson, based on extensive interview sessions with Paul in New York, Berlin, Hamburg and Oslo over the last two years.

“I have listened to a-ha all my life, and I have long wanted to take a deeper look at Paul Waaktaar-Savoy, a man who usually doesn’t say too much”, Nilsson tells Dagsavisen.

“It took some time before he opened up, but he hasn’t held back on anything. He has answered any questions and talked about everything from religion, family and adolescence, to the inner conflicts in a-ha and his problems with social anxiety.”

According to a press release about the book, Paul opens up about “his work, mindset and music. About art, film and literature. About his adolescence in suburban Oslo in the 60s and 70s, his life in America over nearly 30 years, his successes and failures. About a-ha, Savoy and Bridges. About giant crowds in arenas and stadiums, about concerts in front of 50 people. About politics, The Doors and Gunvor Hofmo. About his wife Lauren. About Morten and Magne.”

Tårer fra en stein will be published by Falck Forlag, which has previously published books about Hunting High and Low and Scoundrel Days in its series of books about the 100 best Norwegian albums of all time. As part of the same series, Nilsson wrote a book about the Kings of Convenience album Quiet Is the New Loud in 2014.

Giske concerts to be part of MTV Unplugged

Universal Music Norway issued a press release today, confirming that a-ha’s acoustic concerts at Giske next week will be filmed and recorded as part of the long-running MTV Unplugged series.

The setlist will include hit songs, rarely-played album tracks, two brand new a-ha songs and a few cover versions.

A number of special guests will also join a-ha on stage; Alison Moyet, Ian McCulloch (Echo & The Bunnymen), Ingrid Håvik (Highasakite) and Lissie.

The concert will be broadcast on MTV this fall, and released on CD and DVD on 13 October.

After working on the acoustic set in Oslo since late March, rehearsals resumed at the Ocean Sound Recordings studio at Giske on 10 June. Check out the Instagram accounts of Karl Oluf Wennerberg, Lars Horntveth and Madeleine Ossum for exclusive pictures from the process.

And here’s a picture of Morten and violinist Madeleine Ossum at Giske on Monday, apparently.

a-ha to perform at Giske in June

a-ha performing for a small studio audience, September 2015

a-ha recently announced they will be playing two acoustic concerts at Øygardshallen on the island of Giske, Norway on 22 and 23 June, which will result in a live album and DVD to be released later this year.

Even though the ticket price was 4000 kr (£361) for one concert, or 6000 kr (£541) for both concerts, all 500 tickets were sold out within 30 minutes when the sale started yesterday. The vast majority of tickets were sold to fans outside of Norway.

“In total there were around 250 tickets available for each concert. Additionally the band has reserved a number of tickets for friends and family”, Terje Erstad at Ocean Sound Recordings told Sunnmørsposten on Monday.

“I totally understand that 4000 may seem a lot for one ticket, but there is a very high cost per person when you’re doing a big production like this for such a small group of people”, a-ha manager Harald Wiik explained to NRK.

a-ha will be joined by the following musicians for the Giske concerts: Karl Oluf Wennerberg, Even Ormestad, Morten Qvenild, Lars Horntveth, Tove Margrete Erikstad, Madeleine Ossum and Emilie Heldal Lidsheim.

Originally the plan was to do four concerts between 26 June – 30 June, but as Jaga Jazzist will be embarking on a US tour on 25 June, that wouldn’t work. Both Even Ormestad and Lars Horntveth are members of Jaga Jazzist.

‘Mountains of Time’ to be reissued in July

The new Mountains of Time album cover

Savoy’s third and most successfull album Mountains of Time from 1999 is set to be reissued by Apollon Records on 14 July, the label announced on its Facebook page today. The reissue will be available on CD, vinyl and digitally. There will also be limited edition T-shirts.

The Mountains of Time reissue was originally slated for release in May this year, with Reasons To Stay Indoors to follow in July, but both of them seem to have been pushed back a few months.

While the cover of last year’s Lackluster Me reissue was mostly similar to the original, this new reissue of Mountains of Time will feature a brand new cover. The cover image seems to interpret the album title quite literally, showing both mountains and an hourglass.

For more info on Savoy and Paul’s other side projects over the years, check out a new and detailed article written by Barry Page for The Electricity Club.

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