Is Morten on The Masked Singer in the UK?

Viking on The Masked Singer, 2 January 2021

The a-ha fan community lit up last night, when a very familiar voice appeared on the UK version of The Masked Singer on ITV.

Dressed up as a viking, the person inside performed a haunting version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Songbird”. The video can be seen here.

The clues given were also a clear indication who might be inside the costume, as can be seen in a video posted here. “King’s rock” equals Kongsberg in Norwegian – the city where Morten was born. He played the role of The King in the Norwegian-dubbed version of the movie Mirror Mirror. And he has been a mentor on two seasons of The Voice in Norway.

Additionally, the viking said he also wears “another kind of armour”. All three members of a-ha have been appointed Knights First Class of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav.

In September 2009 Morten selected a number of his favourite songs for “Tracks of my years” on the Ken Bruce show on BBC Radio 2, and the first song he chose was Fleetwood Mac’s “Songbird”.

“Christine McVie is one of the singers that have had the most influence on me. She’s credited, obviously, for her voice, for her singing and songwriting. I just think she’s greater than that. It’s the tone of her voice, the way she uses it. I think she’s truly great”, Morten told Ken Bruce back then. Later that same month he performed “Songbird” at a solo concert in Norway.

The judges and studio audience on The Masked Singer liked what they heard, and Viking is through to the next round. He beat Seahorse, who turned out to be Mel B from the Spice Girls.

According to Deadline, the second season of The Masked Singer was shot over eight nights at Bovingdon Studios, north of London, in September 2020.

The show has also been a big hit in Norway recently, as Maskorama, where the influencer Herman Dahl was revealed to be inside the viking costume.

White Xmas Lies concert to be streamed

Magne at the piano in Oslo last year

Magne’s White Xmas Lies solo concert at Kulturkirken Jakob in Oslo last year will be streamed on Facebook on Boxing Day, 26 December at 5pm CET. He will also be chatting live with fans during the concert. Read all the details about the event on a-ha.com.

During the 11-song set on 4 December 2019 he was joined by the following musicians on stage; Karl Oluf Wennerberg, Even Ormestad, Morten Qvenild, Tini Flaat Mykland, Madeleine Ossum, Emilie Heldal Lidsheim, Ingvild Nesdal Sandnes and Dan Sunhordvik.

Although Magne was planning four additional White Xmas Lies concerts this year; London, Berlin and two dates in Oslo, they had to be put on hold because of the pandemic.

A preview of the concert video can be seen on Magne’s YouTube channel.

Update: Magne will also be posting some of his new demo recordings for us to hear on Instagram this Christmas. Listen to the first song “I’m In” here (21/12) and the second song “God is in the Details” here (26/12).

2021 tour probably rescheduled for 2022

It might be a while until this happens again

Last week saw the announcement that next month’s a-ha tour in Japan will be rescheduled again. Today, a-ha manager Harald Wiik tells VG that all the other dates planned for next year are also likely to be rescheduled.

“30-40 concerts were postponed to 2021. Unfortunately, I assume we’ll have to postpone everything once again, to 2022. It is unlikely that large concerts and festivals will be going ahead until the third or fourth quarter of 2021”, he says.

“I wish we could tour in 2021, but I don’t think that will be possible. In Norway alone there is estimated to be 1,3 million people in the risk group, who are the first who should be vaccinated. Even if most things goes according to plan, it’s hard to imagine a return to normality until late fall.”

VG asks Wiik if it will be at all possible to do a world tour on a similar large scale as was planned before the pandemic.

“I think it can be possible in 2022, but even that is uncertain. We’re planning to tour all over South America, plus the USA, which is facing big challenges, and there could also be new waves [of coronavirus] in Europe. We are, as everyone else, dependent on the situation to get under control, and we also have to do a specific risk assessment on behalf of our employees and not least our audiences”, Wiik says.

He also tells VG that the a-ha camp is currently working on both a feature film and a musical, in addition to the already finished documentary film. And a lot of new music is being written, although it remains to be seen how it will be used.

“a-ha can handle another tour postponement. But it hurts to see how our crew and backing musicians are struggling, who, in addition to our postponements, are also losing other tour opportunities.”

New interviews with Morten

Picture by JS

Morten has resurfaced to do a few interviews in connection with the release of the German edition of Ørjan Nilsson’s book, Heimkehr – Morten Harkets prägende Phase 1993-1998.

In conversation with Redaktions­Netzwerk Deutschland (RND) he’s asked about his interest in music as a child, his time on The Voice and his thoughts on what can be done to combat climate change.

He is also asked about the possibilities of another a-ha studio album. Here are a few quotes:

“RND: Will there be another a-ha album?

Morten: Personally I believe that you’ll hear more from our band. But it could also be that we’re done [with studio albums]. Both options are possible. At this point I only know that Magne is working on new songs and that I’m writing songs myself. I’m sure that Paul is also making music at the moment, but he’s stuck in California because of the corona pandemic and can’t travel anywhere else.

RND: But will these songs appear on a joint album?

Morten: In the end it may culminate in something that we’ll do together. But it’s also possible that the songs will be used for solo projects. I have already heard a couple of Magne’s new songs and they are really good. It could indeed become a-ha material, but we’ll have to see what happens. We’ve done a few tours in the last couple of years, but we haven’t actually been together in the studio for a while. Time flies by. It’s impressive to look back at how long we’ve been on the road.”

Morten has also been interviewed by the German fansite morten-harket.de. The audio interview is password-protected and available exclusively for those who have purchased the book.

By the way, I’m told those interested in reading the book in English can try purchasing the Kindle version of the German book, which adds the possibility of switching between German and English.

Songs from Morten’s 1998 collaboration with Boolaboss appear online

“The Secret” single cover

Back in 1998, Morten recorded six songs together with the Swedish/Irish drum ‘n’ bass duo Boolaboss, consisting of Walter Bäcklin and Mark O’Sullivan. The songs were called “The Secret”, “Giant Steps”, “Butterfly”, “My Star”, “This is a nothing” and “Things I”. Sonically, this was new and exciting territory for Morten and fans were eager to hear what it sounded like.

The first single “The Secret” was planned for release in February 1999, but was eventually cancelled due to Morten shifting his focus to a-ha and the recording of the Minor Earth | Major Sky album. In the end, none of the songs from the Boolaboss collaboration were released back then.

During work on Ørjan Nilsson’s book project Hjemkomst – Morten Harket 1993-1998, the recordings were rediscovered in Mark O’Sullivan’s archive. In February 2019, Morten and Mark met up again in Stockholm to discuss the possibility of finally releasing the songs.

“That was a really exciting collaboration, and it’s very unfortunate that nothing was ever released. I’ve been thinking about it many times since. The single, “The Secret”, was really cool”, Morten says in Hjemkomst.

Although an official release is still pending, Mark O’Sullivan has now posted three of the songs on his YouTube channel:
The Secret    My Star    This is a nothing

“Morten is an absolutely brilliant singer (…) The first song we recorded together was “The Secret”, which I wrote for my brother. It’s a very emotional song, and right away Morten understood what I was aiming for”, O’Sullivan told Swedish newspaper Expressen in October 1998.

A lot more info about the Boolaboss collaboration can be found in Ørjan Nilsson’s Norwegian book Hjemkomst – Morten Harket 1993-1998, which is now also available in German – as Heimkehr – Morten Harkets prägende Phase 1993-1998.

Magne writes short stories for Juleroser

Magazine cover

Magne makes his debut as a fiction writer in the 2020 issue of Norwegian Christmas magazine Juleroser, with a collection of short stories inspired by his own song “So Cold It’s Hard To Think” from last year’s White Xmas Lies album.

The stories are written in Norwegian and spread across eight pages, interspersed with accompanying song lyrics in English and illustrated by two woodcuts from the Stigma series. Written in Magne’s trademark all-lowercase font, the stories revolve around relationships, work experiences, John Lennon, living through the pandemic and other things.

The magazine also includes the lyrics for “A Wintry Silence”, reinterpreted and translated into Norwegian (nynorsk) by Brit Bildøen.

Magne was asked to contribute by Juleroser editor and singer Herborg Kråkevik:

“I heard a song that made a real impression on me, and then I read an interview with Magne where he talked about it. He didn’t quite call it an anti-Christmas song, but that it was about reclaiming Christmas from what it’s become. And Juleroser is intended to be an alternative to superficial things”, Herborg tells VG.

Magne and Herborg recently visited Lysebu Hotel in Oslo to promote the magazine and shoot some video clips.

Update (28/11): A video clip of the two of them performing “Vinterstilla” has now been posted on Facebook.

This is not the first time the two of them collaborate. Back in 1998, Magne and Kjetil Bjerkestrand composed the melody for the song “Ein Strek – Nokon Fargar”, which was performed by Herborg Kråkevik. It can be heard on YouTube.

Juleroser is published by Det Norske Samlaget and is available in stores across Norway now.

a-ha aiming for Portugal (again)

Festival ad

a-ha were supposed to perform at Rock in Rio Lisboa in Portugal this summer, but the festival had to be cancelled due to Covid-19.

The organizers are trying again next year, and a-ha have now once again been confirmed to be headlining together with Duran Duran on 26 June 2021.

This will be the very first time a-ha perform live in Portugal. The Rock in Rio spin-off festival in Lisbon has been held every other year since 2004, and is one of the largest of its kind in Europe, with an attendance of around 350,000 people.

Tickets are on sale now, while tickets already bought for this year’s festival are still valid for 2021.

A total of 38 a-ha concerts are currently planned for 2021.

New reissues and German book release

Purple vinyl reissue

A limited edition 30th anniversary reissue of East Of The Sun, West Of The Moon was released on 180g purple vinyl yesterday. This marks the first time the album is available on this format since the original 1990 vinyl release.

The East Of The Sun, West Of The Moon vinyl reissue can be ordered from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.de.

In connection with the reissue, Ørjan Nilsson has written a little piece for the Norwegian magazine Jazznytt, focusing on the man talking about “endless pain or endless pleasure” at the end of “(Seemingly) Nonstop July”. To find out more about him, Ørjan phoned up Paul in Los Angeles.

“I remember that day well. The song was recorded at Prince Street in Soho, in the middle of a heat wave. I was on the fifth floor with the window slightly open, when I heard this guy starting to yell out doomsday prophecies down on the street”, Paul says.

He hurried to point a microphone out the window.

German book cover

“The guy had great timing, as I didn’t need to edit the recording or move parts around afterwards. A one take wonder. He kept going for several minutes after the song had finished, with the same intensity, but the voice gradually became more distant as he disappeared down the street”, Paul tells Ørjan.

Meanwhile in Germany, Ørjan Nilsson’s 2019 book about Morten Harket’s solo career between 1993 – 1998, Hjemkomst, was published by Hannibal Verlag in a German version on Thursday, entitled Heimkehr.

The book has been translated into German by Daniela Stilzebach, who also translated Nilsson’s previous book Tears From a Stone. Heimkehr is available in a paperback edition, while the original Norwegian book came as a hardback edition with dust jacket.

Heimkehr is available from Amazon.de and Amazon.co.uk.

Våkenatt CD cover

This week also saw the announcement that Våkenatt, the second Bridges album from 1981, will be getting a wider release on vinyl, CD and digital on 20 November. The first single “Asleep” can be heard here.

Våkenatt was first released on green vinyl in a limited edition box set (900 numbered copies) by Rockheim Musical Archives in 2018, but will now get a worldwide release by Korova Records, which is a Warner Music imprint.

The vinyl and CD can be pre-ordered from thisisdig.com.

Magne and Queen Sonja open new exhibitions

Queen Sonja and Magne, 27 August 2020
(Screenshot from NRK)

Magne and Queen Sonja were at the Soli Brug Gallery yesterday, for a press preview of two new exhibitions that are opening today.

This time they are not exhibiting together, as in 2016, instead they each present a new solo exhibition. Magne’s is called Ornament, while the Queen’s is called Utsnitt. In total there are around 150 new pieces.

Magne has been an artistic mentor for Queen Sonja for a number of years now, and their joint projects have brought them to Denmark, Sweden and the USA. Last month they were on a trip to Northern Norway.

“We have travelled around together, and it’s really fun and inspiring for me to listen to him”, the Queen told the press yesterday.

“And it’s inspiring for me to see that it’s possible to have this level of energy when you’re past your fifties”, Magne (57) jokingly told the Queen (83).

“I was surprised to see how many new works she’s made, including a number of excellent graphic prints. So it’s great to see that she is continually coming up with new and interesting things.”

The Queen commends Magne on the new colourful works he’s got on display:

“I’m familiar with parts of Magne’s production, but this time I’ve noticed new and interesting details, including more use of colours. That’s something we’ve discussed, because he’s been more focused on a darker pallette.”

“The truth is rather that I used colours more sparsely when the Queen and I worked together in the past”, Magne replied. “Her use of colours has inspired me.”

See a selection of photos from the exhibitions on Soli Brug’s Facebook page here and here. The exhibitions are open from 28 August – 20 September.

Links:
Aftenposten: Dronningen og Magne Furuholmen inspirerer hverandre – åpner utstillinger sammen
NRK TV: Dronningen og Furuholmen stiller ut på Soli Brug

Magne interviewed on Viking TV

Magne on Viking TV, 18 August 2020

Magne was a guest on the online video channel viking.tv yesterday, where he was interviewed by the British photographer Alastair Miller.

The 47-minute interview – which is also available on YouTube – covered various topics, including the current a-ha tour, his working methods, the Imprints sculture park and more. Below are a few quotes.

On 2020 being a different year for the band:

“I think we cancelled 60 shows this year, due to the Covid situation. It was going to be a big worldwide tour with sellout concerts in LA. We were in Asia at the time, touring, when the lockdown happened. You know, everyone’s affected by this in different ways. We are fortunate in that we can push our concerts to whenever the situation allows. So I feel very privileged in that sense. But it’s become a very different year than we had planned.”

On writing new material for a-ha:

“Funnily enough, these days I’m back in the studio to see what it feels like to write something for a-ha. I wouldn’t hold my breath for it, but it’s something that may or may not happen.”

In conversation with Alastair Miller

On his current projects:

“Plans have changed, as we talked about earlier. This is a unique time, which is a time of reflection in many ways, if you’re in a position to do so. So for me it’s been quite a fertile time. I’m doing music projects, [although] some of them – concerts and stuff – have had to be cancelled. But I have exhibitions coming up, there’s a big retrospective coming up in a couple of years that we are preparing now.

And I’m also curating other artists, working on a very exciting project called REV Ocean, which is a huge research ship where 60 scientists will be focusing on oceanography. There’s artists involved, there’s art onboard. I’ve worked with a lady who’s employed by me, we’re curating the art onboard and we’re using young Norwegian artists. So I fall elegantly out of that category of course. And then there’s an ongoing dialogue with scientists and artists in residence onboard the ship, and possible exhibitions and networking into the international art world.

So there’s a lot of stuff going on, on both fronts, that are hugely exciting at this point in time. Other than that, I potter into my painting studio and my recording studio and I try to make something beautiful.”

Viking.tv is an online video channel, presented by the cruise line Viking. A selection of Magne’s artworks can be found onboard several of their cruise ships, including Viking Star, Viking Sky and Viking Orion.

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