Morten and Magne on BBC Disclosure

Røstvik, Hauge, Harket, Furuholmen

Morten and Magne, along with professor Harald N. Røstvik and environmental activist Frederic Hauge, appeared in an episode of the current affairs series Disclosure that aired on BBC Scotland on 2 November.

In the episode, entitled “Electric Cars – Ready for the Charge?”, reporter Kevin Keane travels to Oslo to interview the four of them about Norway’s electric car revolution. In 2021 almost 65 percent of all new cars sold in Norway were fully electric.

As many will know, Morten and Magne joined Røstvik and Hauge in importing the first electric car to Norway in 1989 and then went on to campaign for special incentives to be introduced, eventually leading to Norway becoming the global leader in electric vehicle adoption.

The segment from Oslo was filmed in late September and has been uploaded to YouTube here. There is also an article about it on BBC.com.

Magne turns 60

Happy Birthday to Magne Furuholmen, who turns 60 on November 1st!

Happy Birthday!

In a recent interview with 80s80s Radio in Germany, Magne said that he’s been working on a personal project to mark the occasion:

“On the actual day I’m just gonna have a dinner with my wife and kids, and I’m not gonna do a big celebration actually.

I kind of had an idea that I wanted to choose 60 interesting people that I’ve met over my life and just have conversations with them, and write it down or record it and then have it transcribed for coming generations. Not public, but for my children and their children.

But I thought I’d do a bit of summing up of what did these relationships mean and why did we stay in touch over the years. And these are people from many different areas of my life, some are from the music industry, some are from the art world, some are from finance, some are just random friendships that happened along the way.

So for me the idea of having a big celebration – nah, I’m kind of done with that. I did that when I was 50, and I think that was enough.”

True North enters at #3 in Norway, #4 in Germany and #12 in the UK

Doing well in the charts

True North has entered the official Norwegian album chart at #3. This is the same first-week position as Cast In Steel seven years ago.

On the official German album chart True North enters at #4, which is also the same as Cast In Steel.

In the UK the album enters the official chart at #12 with 5109 copies sold in the first week, making it a-ha’s twelfth top 20 album in the UK (including compilations and live albums).

Other album chart entries so far include #5 in Switzerland, #8 in Austria, #8 in Belgium (Flanders), #11 in the Netherlands, #14 in Poland, #15 in Belgium (Wallonia), #35 in Portugal, #37 in Japan, #38 in France, #38 in Ireland, #46 in Spain and #72 in Italy. (Updated 03.11.22)

In addition, the “I’m In” single climbs to #7 on the Norwegian radio airplay chart in its eighth week, the highest position so far.

Magazine cover

On the promotional front, there have been a number of additional interviews over the last week.

Paul has spoken to the American music magazine The Big Takeover.

Morten was interviewed by BBC Radio Cornwall, the Spanish newspapers El Pais and ABC, the German Rolling Stone magazine and the Swedish news agency TT.

And Magne has been interviewed on BBC Radio Manchester (at 2:15:30 and 2:33:10) and Westsound FM in Scotland.

a-ha are also on the cover of the latest issue (#78) of Classic Pop magazine, which promises “the definitive interview with a-ha’s Morten, Magne and Paul who reveal all about their complex band dynamic and new album, True North”.

This is the third time they are on the cover of this UK magazine, following the June/July 2015 issue and the November 2017 issue.

For info on how to buy a copy, visit the Classic Pop website.

Excellent reviews for True North

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a-ha’s 11th studio album True North is released today, available on CD, vinyl, digitally and as a limited deluxe edition. Here is the official link to order/stream the album.

The True North film is also released digitally today, in HD and 4K resolution for rental and purchase. Or you can find it included on a USB-card inside the deluxe edition of the album.

And a new music video for “As If” has been posted on YouTube, taken from the True North film.

Press reviews so far have been overwhelmingly positive. Here is a selection of quotes:

Dagsavisen (Norway) – 5/6:
“40 years into their career a-ha are back with one of their finest albums. (…) Despite their long history, this is a band that stands out as highly relevant in 2022.”

Dagbladet (Norway) – 5/6:
“True North is an album that cements the band as unique songwriters and at the same time displays new sounds and solutions. Few bands with a 40-year career are able to do the same.”

NRK (Norway) – 5/6:
“Furuholmen and Waaktaar-Savoy have contributed six songs each. In a miraculous way they’ve managed to create a fully cohesive album that’s also full of variety. They master both nostalgia and the contemporary.”

Hymn (Sweden) – 7/10:
“If you are not touched by the band’s beautiful melancholy or by the divine singing, you have no heart. (…) I feel they have created an excellent album.”

Laut (Germany) – 5/5:
“(…) their best album since 1993. (…) An album split between forward-looking experimentation and nostalgia. A masterpiece that combines all their strengths.”

Rolling Stone (Germany) – 4/5:
“A late masterpiece from the Norwegian trio. (…) Adult pop has rarely been better defined, thanks in part to a distinctive but understated singer like Morten Harket.”

Albumism (USA) – 4,5/5:
“Thumbing their nose at preconceived notions around their identity has allowed Waaktaar-Savoy, Furuholmen and Harket to build a discography bursting with accomplished recordings. a-ha continue on in this tradition with True North, another gem in their pop crown – long may they reign.”

AllMusic – 3,5/5:
“It’s a grown-up pop record chock-full of beautifully written songs replete with musical reinvention, sonic evolution, and abundant creativity.”

New interviews include Morten being a guest on BBC Radio Devon and BBC Radio Bristol (at 1:20:30), Magne interviewed by Swedish music magazine Zero and appearing on BBC Radio WM and all three interviewed in the Daily Express.

Paul on True North: “I’m pleased with this album”

Photo by Jakob

UK newspaper The Sun had an interview with all three members of a-ha this weekend, ahead of the release of True North on 21 October. The album gets a 4/5 rating.

Even if Magne was the one who initiated the process of True North, Paul says he was fully onboard with the idea of recording a new album:

“I was all for it as it adds to the pool of songs that we have under our belts. How many bands have been making new music for the time we have?”

“I’m always writing but I have to pick from the stuff I’m working on which will fit Morten’s voice. And working with the Arctic Philharmonic Orchestra changed everything. It was a different approach and an intense working period of three weeks.”

“I’m pleased with this album as I’ve toyed with a 1970s, Brazilian sound I wouldn’t normally. I’m pleased with the expanded chords and rhythms on songs like Bumblebee and Hunter In The Hills”, Paul tells the newspaper.

Another article about True North and a-ha’s legacy has appeared in The New European, written by Greg Lansdowne.

Photo by Jakob

“I think, for me, some of the best songs I’ve ever written are on this album. There’s always good material from Paul, so even though they arenʼt necessarily coming from the same place in concept they kind of find their own way”, Magne says in the article.

“[True North] became, in the end, not what I expected, not what Paul expected, certainly not what Morten expected and probably not what Stian expected. But the conglomerate of it all is the end product… and I for one feel it was really worth doing it – I don’t regret it for a second and maybe that’s the future. That’s how we get things done.”

Morten says that recording the album live at Svømmehallen Scene in Bodø – a former public swimming pool now converted into a concert hall – was a challenge for him as a vocalist:

“It was difficult to record it that way, because we went for Bodø for its cinematic possibilities, but sonically it was a challenge. I didn’t listen to anything after we did it but I picked it up again recently and it sounded better than I expected.”

Photo by Jakob

Additionally, there’s an 8-page article about True North in the latest issue of UK magazine Retro Pop, also written by Greg Lansdowne – plus a 5/5 review of the new album:

“(…) on True North they sound more united than ever, with the trio holding their own against the stunning orchestration that conjures a soundscape and a world in which the album exists. (…) the result is a standout album in their catalogue and one that’s sure to be remembered as a masterpiece of their golden years.”

In the article, Magne says “Bluest of Blue” was probably the starting point of the project and that he considers “True North” to be a sister song to “Stay On These Roads”.

It also mentions that Morten is currently working on a new solo album:

“I am writing with Peter Kvint, from Sweden, and the musical aspect is either together with him or it’s just me. (…) I’m sitting on various types of demos, looking at which way to approach them, so I can’t say as of now [when it will come out].” Morten says.

In a Q&A session in connection with a True North film screening in London last month, Magne said he originally wanted True North to consist of four songs from each band member, but Morten declined as he was busy with his solo album.

Meanwhile in LA, Paul has also been busy working on new songs. He is rumored to be working on both a Waaktaar solo album and a new Savoy album. In the last couple of months he’s posted several video clips from the studio on Instagram:
Clip 1   Clip 2   Clip 3   Clip 4

According to the Retro Pop article a-ha will be “taking a backseat for the time being”, which will hopefully provide an opportunity for solo projects to be released.

On the visual art front, Magne has been busy with several solo exhibitions lately; “aizuri-e” at Hadeland Glassverk, “esper lucat” at Kunstverket Galleri and an exhibition at Eker Gård. Plus, he’s completed his sculpture “Askekallen” in Heggedal, a commissioned piece that has been installed in the middle of a roundabout.

To celebrate the release of True North there will be a screening of the film at Svømmehallen Scene in Bodø on 21 October, followed by a Q&A where Magne Furuholmen, director Stian Andersen and a-ha manager Harald Wiik will take part. Tickets for the event are free.

True North film reactions

The mountains of Northern Norway

Stian Andersen’s film a-ha: True North premiered on nearly 500 cinemas in 26 countries on Wednesday 15 September, including Norway, Germany, UK, Ireland, Brazil, USA, Canada and Australia. Followed by Israel (Sep 19), Japan (Sep 23) and France (Sep 24).

Combining the live performance at Svømmehallen in Bodø with nature footage, actors playing out scenes and spoken statements by the band members, a-ha: True North includes ten of the songs that will be on the upcoming album, only leaving out the last two tracks “Summer Rain” and “Oh My Word”.

“There’s no doubt that a-ha is a demanding band to work with, and they choose their creative teams on the highest international level. Therefore it’s obviously great to be asked to direct such a large film project. I do have the advantage of having worked with the band for many years and already know Morten, Magne and Paul well. I have to give props to a-ha for giving me more or less full creative freedom to follow my vision and make the film I believed in. (…) The most rewarding has been the opportunity to show the movie in cinemas across the world and see the fantastic feedback that we’ve been getting”, director Stian Andersen tells Kreativt Forum.

UK’s The Times (paywall) gives the film 4/5:
“The director, Stian Andersen, filmed the process, interviewed the band and mixed in some dreamy location footage. The results are sweetly engaging, and even occasionally mesmerising.”

NRK Filmpolitiet gives it 4/6:
“True North doesn’t come across like a straight-up concert film, which is not the inention either, but rather like a 72-minute music video for the new album, their first since Cast In Steel from 2015. The sound mix is so comfortable, spotless and precisely balanced that the songs sound like studio recordings, making it obvious that the performance you see isn’t necessarily the same as you hear.

Anyone who’s seen Thomas Robsahm’s excellent documentary a-ha: The Movie will know at least one of the band members was sceptical of making a new studio album due to the band’s challenging inner dynamics. Therefore True North may be a perfect compromise, namely a live recording further processed into something you may call a studio product.

Songs like “Hunter in the Hills”, “Forest for the Trees”, “Bluest of Blue” and “You Have What it Takes” prove that Morten, Paul and Magne still retain the fantastic pop sensibilities that have defined their career through four decades.”

While it gets 3/6 from Aftenposten (paywall):
“The music that fills the album (and the movie, with the exception of two songs) sounds after one screening like familiar, mid-tempo a-ha, but is definitely a bit more organic than on the pop-clinical and fairly cold “Cast In Steel”. (…) But cinematically the music unfortunately gets a bit lost amid all the dark, melancholic and at times dramatic images that director Stian Andersen wraps around it.”

Dagens Næringsliv (paywall):
“It’s beautiful and at times gripping, but after a large number of drone shots of heavy waves you start to get a feeling of having seen an Equinor-sponsored film about sustainability. (…) An element of being a commercial for Bodø as the European Capital of Culture in 2024 is also in my mind when leaving the cinema. It’s pretty corporate.”

Other reviews have appeared in Morgenbladet (paywall) and Gigwise.

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