New a-ha album and tour: Cast In Steel

a-ha at today's press conference in Berlin

a-ha at today’s press conference in Berlin

a-ha will release a brand new studio album called Cast In Steel on 4 September 2015.
They will also do an international tour next year, in support of the album.

This was announced at a press conference at the Norwegian Embassy in Berlin today, which was streamed live on several Norwegian news sites.

After a photo session, Morten, Magne and Paul sat down with writer Tom Bromley to discuss the new album. Bromley started by quoting some lyrics from one of the new songs called “Open Face”: “It’s been some time since we’ve spoken / guess you’re wondering how I’ve been”.

“The songs I’ve heard so far are fantastic”, Bromley said of the new material.

"The making of our album has so far been such an uplifting experience", Paul says.

Paul: “The making of our album has so far been such an uplifting experience”.

Paul: “There are so many ways to make music now, you can make a very professional product on just a computer or whatever. For me it was very important to step away from that and make everything handmade. There is nothing on this album that is from a drum library or a preset, everything is made from scratch.”

Some of the work on Cast In Steel so far has involved an old collaborator from the 80s, British producer Alan Tarney:

Paul: “He did the first three albums. I just always felt that he really understood our thing, you know. We did a show at Royal Albert Hall and I invited him for that. He sat next to my parents and said: ‘I’m the one they used to quarrell with in the 80s’. He knows us from before we were us. So it’s kinda cool to go back to him. You can set back the time and make it a little more naive again. It’s all about just the song, how that chorus hits and how Morten sounds in it. He’s got a lot of knowledge about music. He’s just got that no-nonsense feel that I like and respect a lot. So it’s been great to be in contact with him again, and I hope he can be a part of this album.”

Magne: "It is a really unexpected pleasure to be writing songs for Morten’s voice again".

Magne: “It is a really unexpected pleasure to be writing songs for Morten’s voice again”.

Magne: “It may be worth interjecting that Paul is the one who’s been working with Alan. We’ve worked in very different ways, which is not something that’s new to us. We have made quite a few albums like this, where we are based in different places, working on our own material – but with a-ha as the overriding factor. I think the main difference now is that Morten, through his work over the last few years, has found a center for his creativity – mainly in Stockholm, I would say. So we’ve had three camps shaping an album, where the left hand hasn’t really known what the right hand has been doing – which isn’t new, but has been embraced slightly different this time. I think there are colours and differences on this album that may not necessarily fall into that warm, handmade version. I certainly have to own up to using some presets and drum machines on this one! But I think to a certain degree, it’s the type of album we can make at this point. Part of the reality is that we live very different and separate lives. But a-ha is a legacy that we have together, it’s a common fate. And we can run as far away from it as we want to, but it’s always there. Every day you’re reminded of it.”

Morten: "I knew sitting down with Paul and Magne, that this would be a real genuine effort".

Morten: “I knew sitting down with Paul and Magne, that this would be a real genuine effort”.

Morten: “As you may understand, the album, Cast In Steel, is being molded today – as we speak. We don’t know exactly how it’s going to turn out either. There’s a lot of songs to look into, and productions and directions to sort of taste your way through. So it’s very much still in the mold. But it’s also taking shape. We know very well what we’re sitting on, but we’re curious where it’s going to land.”

Morten: “To walk on stage at Rock in Rio and not do anything new, feels very wrong. It doesn’t mean that we’ll use it as a stage to present a lot of new material. But not to have anything that is *now*, feels just wrong.”

In addition to Rock in Rio, a-ha will also be embarking on an international tour next year, in support of the new album.

Paul: “I’m really hoping we can introduce a lot of the new stuff into the set. We have released maybe 30 singles, but we have to carve space for the new stuff as well.”

Fifteen tour dates in Germany, Austria and Swizerland in April 2016 were announced today, with pre-sales starting this Friday. But the band will be touring South America before that, according to Paul.

The whole press conference can be viewed again at tv2.no.

And read the full press release about the comeback on the re-designed a-ha.com.

a-ha’s own thoughts on the reunion

Morten in Stockholm, Magne in Edinburgh and Paul in New York. Photographed for Dagbladet Magasinet, March 2015.

Morten in Stockholm, Magne in Edinburgh and Paul in New York.
Photographed for Dagbladet Magasinet, March 2015.

Here are a few more selected quotes from yesterday’s 10-page Dagbladet article, in which the members of a-ha talk about their surprising reunion:

Morten: “It’s always interesting to hear what Paul has come up with. There were no thoughts of an a-ha reunion at the back of our minds, it was just his songs, my vocals, whatever. The idea was simple. We wanted to build a collection of songs, for possible use here or there. It would have been much harder to explain why I *wouldn’t* have agreed to something like that.”

Paul: “It’s like we were right back in the cabin at Nærsnes, where it all began [in 1982]. ‘Here’s a tune, you wanna lay down some vocals?’ Back to square one.”

Morten: “We could talk a lot about the reasons behind the reunion, but for me it’s actually very simple. I simply feel like doing it.”

Paul: “Everything has been turned on its head in this business. A comeback is something you’re quite simply expected to do. When we say that we’ve disbanded, they’ll go: ‘Sure, but when are you getting back together?'”.

Magne: “The prospect of Rio made me want to join. I’m not particularly looking forward to being on stage in Rio, but I’m looking forward to having done it. The concert will be a celebration of both a-ha and Rock in Rio. I would have been OK with doing just one concert, but once I had made up my mind, I was 100 percent committed. Suddenly I was writing songs with Morten’s voice in mind. It’s fun to be thinking ‘what can I contribute to a-ha in 2015?’. I never thought I would be in that position again.”

Paul: “Re-entering the stage at Rock in Rio, that will be quite a steep learning curve. But I hope we can use it to showcase different sides of the band, and that we’re able to surprise both the fans and ourselves.”

Paul: “I’m the one who didn’t want to end the band in the first place. But now I’m very happy that it turned out the way it did. As a travelling musician you’re not always where you should be. Now I’ve had a few years with more time on my hands, which means I’ve been able to be there for Augie.”

Morten: “On a purely social level, it would probably have been good for us to just go on the road and celebrate with old material. But that’s not something we’re very good at. We need to create new material. But this time it has to happen in a way that we’re comfortable with, like a good opportunity in our lives.”

Magne: “I’m interested to see if this triggers me to do something I wouldn’t have done otherwise. And it does. It’s creatively rewarding, and I’m thankful for that. Thank you, a-ha, for locking your jaws around my leg one more time.”

Paul: “If we’re not able to return with good material, that’s unfortunate of course. But I haven’t thought much about that possibility, because in my head it was never over.”

The whole article is available at dagbladet.no (subscribers only).

It’s official: a-ha are reuniting!

They are back again - and not just in Rio! (Photo by Jakob)

They are back again – and not just in Rio!
(Photo by Jakob)

Although the Berlin press conference isn’t until Wednesday, the big news is already out: the members of a-ha have signed a new deal which commits them to at least two years of new a-ha activities.

Jan Omdahl has done an extensive 10-page comeback interview with the band, which is printed in Dagbladet‘s weekend magazine today.

“I believed and wanted a-ha to be a finished chapter. But it’s possible to change your mind. I said it was over, but I was wrong”, Magne says in the interview.

It all started with Paul testing out a few of his songs together with Morten, just to see if some of it could be used in various settings. But it turned into something more.

“When Morten and Paul started talking about working together again, I had three options: refusing it altogether, let them do it without me, or join them. Refusing to join them didn’t feel right”, Magne says.

The three of them are currently working on new a-ha material. One of the new songs is called “Mythomania” and was written by Magne.

“I feel I have a few killer songs ready, that could potentially turn into a really good album. But there are always a few adjustments made when we get together. (…) All of us like to be a bit bossy, so we must try to end up in a position where we don’t ruin things for ourselves”, Paul says.

In addition to recording a lot of new material with Morten recently, Paul has also written and recorded at least 50-60 songs in the last few years.

“Me and Lauren have a new Savoy album almost ready, while my own solo album is all finished. I have also written and produced an album with Jimmy Gnecco’s daughter, Zoe, which I’m hoping will be relased later this year.”

a-ha to make announcement at Berlin press conference

Back in December 2014, a-ha announced the Rock in Rio concert. Now they have more to tell us...

Back in December 2014, a-ha announced the Rock in Rio concert. Now they have more to tell us…

The German music site musikexpress.de reports that a-ha will hold a press conference at the Norwegian Embassy in Berlin next Wednesday, March 25th, to make a major announcement.

a-ha’s record company Universal and their media partners ProSiebenSat.1 Group have invited the press to the event, using the tagline “A-ha has something to say”.

Update: rollingstone.de is speculating that a-ha may announce a new album and tour at the press conference. The German concert promoter Peter Rieger is apparently also involved in staging the event, where the band will be speaking about “the past, present and future”.

a-ha have previously held two press conferences at the Norwegian Embassy in Berlin. In 2002, to present the Lifelines album, and in 2009, to present the Foot of the Mountain album.

‘Apparatjik World’ book now available

Book cover

Book cover

The long-awaited Apparatjik World book has now started shipping from Norwegian online bookstores. It was supposed to be published on January 15th, but was apparently delayed a few weeks.

The 352-page softcover book features lots of photos from a variety of Apparatjik projects over the years; Everybody is a Composer, Pupparatjik, The Apparatjik Suite, Everybody is a Pixel, Roskilde, A Greener Youniverse, Rudolph the Chrome-nosed Reindeer, Sound of Silence and much more. It also includes many of the Q&As and graphics that have been available online.

Apparatjik World can be ordered from haugenbok.no, bokkilden.no and tanum.no.

Update: The book is now also available on amazon.co.uk.

Magne attends Bent Sølves Orkester exhibition opening at Rockheim

Magne at Rockheim, January 29th (Screenshot from NRK Midtnytt)

Magne at Rockheim, January 29th
(Screenshot from NRK Midtnytt)

Magne attended the opening of a new exhibition at the Rockheim pop and rock museum in Trondheim yesterday. The exhibition, which he has helped put together, tells the story of his father Kåre Furuholmen’s dance orchestra Bent Sølves Orkester.

The six-piece orchestra, named Bent Sølves after Magne’s favorite teddybear, was formed in Oslo in June 1967.

With Kåre Furuholmen on trumpet, the orchestra toured extensively around Norway, including residencies at hotels and showboats. They also appeared regularly on television.

Disaster struck on 1 May 1969, when on their way to a gig in Sweden, their plane crashed near Drammen. The pilot and all the five musicians onboard died. Only their saxophonist survived, as he had decided to drive instead.

Kåre Furuholmen on stage in 1968

Kåre Furuholmen on stage in 1968

“I have vivid memories of him practicing his trumpet, but a lot of the other memories I have of him are family stories that have been told so often they become memories”, Magne told Adresseavisen yesterday (subscribers only).

“The first time I met Morten Harket, we walked home together after a party. It was a long walk, and when we had talked about the important stuff – what music we liked – we needed to find other topics of conversation. What our parents were doing, things like that. I told him that my father died in a plane crash in 1969. Morten remained completely silent for a while, before he told me that he was an eyewitness to the plane crash in Drammen. Together with his parents he was so close by that he saw the plane hit the ground. That’s quite a special coincidence”, Magne said.

Magne has previously talked about his father in an Aftenposten article in 2008 and the NRK documentary Dance for Daddy – a portrait of Magne Furuholmen in 2011.

More info about the exhibition can be found at rockheim.no. Update: There was also a short TV report from the opening on NRK Midtnytt on February 2nd.

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