New a-ha world tour in 2018

Photo by Just Loomis

According to a-ha manager Harald Wiik, the band will be embarking on a new world tour in June 2018 – and this time fully electric. There will be 30-40 concerts in total.

“We’ll start in England in June and continue through Europe, before going to the USA and South America”, he tells VG today.

This may perhaps indicate plans to release a new studio album sometime in the spring/early summer next year?

The first date to be announced is Kongsberg Jazz Festival in Norway on 6 July next year, where a-ha will headline. The concert will be held at Kirketorget (Church Square), with a capacity of 12,000 people.

“Kongsberg will be fun because that’s where Morten is from. It’s also a very cool festival. They’ve kept it going for a long time and created something very special”.

Morten actually attended the Kongsberg Jazz Festival on Wednesday this week, to check out the area and hear current a-ha backing band member Morten Qvenild perform his commissioned piece “Area 51”. The local newspaper Laagendalsposten has posted a picture of him here.

Tickets for the Kongsberg concert go on sale tomorrow through Ticketmaster.

There will probably be two additional concerts in Norway as well, but Kongsberg will be the only one in the eastern part of the country.

“Laundromat” single release

Single cover

In the midst of everything going on with a-ha at Giske recently, Drabant Music released “Laundromat” as the fourth single off Waaktaar & Zoe’s World of Trouble album on 16 June. Available on iTunes, Spotify etc.

“Laundromat easily stands out as the best track on the album”, Norwegian music site Gaffa said in its review of World of Trouble earlier this year. “It is cheeky and sexy, and takes unexpected turns in its buildup.”

As with the previous three singles, “Laundromat” is also accompanied by a music video, which was released on 20 June and directed by Jason Brandenberg and Lauren Savoy.

This is the first video Lauren has done for the Waaktaar & Zoe project, while Jason Brandenberg also directed the video for “Tearful Girl”.

Drabant Music press release

MTV Unplugged – second night

According to fans who attended the second MTV Unplugged concert at Giske on Friday, it was even better and more relaxed than the first night. It was also longer; around 2,5 hours in total. This was partly because they played several songs multiple times. “Hunting High and Low” was played three times, while “The Living Daylights” and “Take On Me” were played twice.

Ingrid Helene Håvik was the only special guest on Friday, joining a-ha on “The Sun Always Shines on TV”. Lissie and Ian McCulloch both had other commitments, but a-ha still played “The Killing Moon” without McCulloch. Alison Moyet also did not appear on stage, as she had already recorded her duet with the band earlier in the day – a version of “Summer Moved On”.

Apparently some of the video screens behind the band malfunctioned on Friday night, but hopefully this will be possible to fix in the editing process, when footage from both nights (plus Alison’s Moyet performance) will be combined into the final version for MTV broadcast and Blu-ray/DVD.

On Saturday a-ha were back at Giske to do a photo shoot for the album cover with Just Loomis, who has been documenting the MTV Unplugged recording. Norwegian director Thomas Robsahm and his crew have also been at Giske, shooting material for the upcoming documentary film about a-ha, which is expected to premiere in 2019.

Video: a-ha walking on stage second night     Alison Moyet and a-ha
A shot from the editing room     a-ha and Lars Horntveth
Ian McCulloch at Giske     Morten and the catering team
a-ha.com: Day 1     a-ha.com: Day 2     Bypatrioten: En a-ha opplevelse

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.

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