One of the reporters who interviewed a-ha at the press conference in Bergen last week was Ørjan Nilsson from Bergensavisen (BA). Below are a few translated quotes from that interview. The original video can be seen at ba.no.
BA: Morten, you’re the one who’s been closest to the a-ha material during the last five years, as you played a selection of a-ha songs on your solo tour in 2012. What’s the biggest difference between playing a-ha songs with Paul and Magne and playing without them?
Morten: I might be tempted to say something funny here (laughs). No, but playing without them will never be a-ha for me, or anyone else. If I’m backed by another band on stage, that’s not a-ha. Not today and not tomorrow. That’s just how it is. At the same time, a-ha is a big part of my identity, so it isn’t necessarily wrong to play those songs [at solo concerts]. In certain settings it could be the right thing to do.
When I was planning my first solo tour [after a-ha split up] in 2012, there was a lot of pressure from promoters who wanted me to play a-ha songs, as they felt that the audience would expect that. I disagreed with them, as we had already toured a lot with a-ha [in the years prior]. It’s not like the fans don’t want to hear the a-ha songs, but when I go on a solo tour they’re coming to hear my solo material.
So that was a difficult decision to make, because it’s not wrong to play the songs per se, they are important songs to me. At the same time, there needs to be a solid identity to what you’re doing. So I let go of that on the next tour, with the Brother album, and that is the right thing to do. But exceptions may occur. There may be situations where it feels appropriate [to do a-ha songs].
BA: 2015 is quite an anniversary year for a-ha, in connection with Hunting High and Low and “Take On Me”. But you have also released new deluxe editions of Memorial Beach and East Of The Sun, West Of The Moon. What’s it been like to revisit that material, which fans don’t get to hear too often at concerts?
Magne: Well, I wouldn’t say that it’s something we have released, it’s rather Warner Brothers who have chosen to put together these reissues. But there aren’t too many albums that get such a treatment, so I’d have to say that I’m proud that they’re celebrating material that we did 30 years ago. And they’re not doing this just to be nice, it’s because they see that there’s still a lot of love for the band, around the world.
And of course a lot of demos and unreleased material has been added. For each new reissue, increasingly more obscure things are uncovered. I can imagine the 50th anniversary, when we begin to search the very bottom of our drawers for unreleased stuff (laughs). But it’s definitely an honour for us.
Morten: That is a dilemma for us as a band, though. I think all three of us would like to play other songs than just the most well-known. At the same time, people are going to a concert with certain expectations, and it would be wrong not to cater to that. But we would gladly have done a tour where we only play the more “hidden” songs. That would have been an exciting tour.
Paul: We have done deluxe editions before, and now we’re even releasing super deluxe editions (laughs). But I actually think it’s very cool, because a lot of those old demos, even if they aren’t that fancy, they contain the very core of a-ha – often more so than the finished versions.
BA: It’s been 28 years since your first concert in Bergen, at Bergenshallen on 1 February 1987. What do you remember from back then?
Morten: I’m drawing a complete blank here.
Magne: I can’t say that I remember much details.
Paul: I remember playing tennis before the concert.
Morten: You remember that?!
Paul: Yeah, I actually do (laughs).
Morten: You’re fucking weird.
Magne: So that was apparently the highlight for you – nailing that serve (laughs).