In October last year a-ha announced that they will separate for good with the end of their big world tour in December. In August there will be a last career retrospective with the release of "a-ha 25" and that's it. At the moment a-ha are on their last promo tour in Hamburg and Munich. Pål Waaktaar-Savoy sat down in Munich to answer some questions and provide information on the time with a-ha.
* Paul, please explain us the difference of a-ha in the 80s, the 90s and today.
Um, well, in the 80s we began as an electronic band, a band that had this electronic background. The songwriting was yet quite different and not so simple. The process and the focus was put more on the sounds.The first two albums were influenced by that very strongly and went into this direction. We as a-ha were also impressed by all this electronic stuff. It's interesting when you look at this time. Especially the time when a-ha were still not met with great interest. We played the music just for us and just looked what happened. As the 90s began, we were not so unknown anymore and we began to tour more and more. If you are an electronic band and go on tour, then the whole concept is so very rigid and every show basically is the same. We wanted to step away from that and to become a more organic band. The albums in the middle of our career were created into that direction. In the 2000s years we then began to mix everything.
* What can fans expect on your farewell tour?
Yeah, it's never easy when you select the songs for such an important tour and to come up with a concept for it. We thought that a time trip through the a-ha history would fit very well. Now you get everything, from our last recorded songs to the first single. It will be a bit of every album and we try to bring a good mix on stage.
* Will you change the setlist every night and can we expect some surprises?
Yes, there will be some surprises or changes. However, one should not forget that this depends on many important factors and of which some are determinated. In the middle we have an acoustic part and then there is the time for surprises. With such a big production and all the light the scope is fairly limited. Also there are a lot of people involved, so one can not spontaneously change something. So we take this liberty within the acoustic part. But I think that the fans will get their money's worth and the other part of the show is not entirely uninteresting (laughs).
* Why is "Take On Me" actually always the last song?
Um, yes, right now it is. But of course that wasn't the case on every tour. However, since it became the final song, it increasingly developed and now it's just like a good tradition.
* When was "Butterfly Butterfly (The Last Hurrah)" originated and what's the story behind it?
Um, we have been asked by our label - Warner Bros. - if this compilation album "a-ha 25" can be published and whether we have had an yet unreleased song. In the past we have already made some special songs, i.e. for the James Bond movie or "Summer Move On". To write such a song for me a very special pressure. Something that really gets the blood boiling. To write one final song and record it isn't quite my thing. I'd rather record a complete album which would then end everything completely. You know, now "Butterfly" is the only song to say goodbye with. Well, the song itself is containing everything going through my head regarding that special occasion.
* Who had the idea for the video?
The video is a cool one. We asked Steve Barron, who after all made our first video - and a few others, six or seven - if he could not help us. Meanwhile, he doesn't really do that anymore, only movies. He listened to the song and loved it immediately and was then ready to make the video with us. We then shot the video in London two weeks ago and yes, it has come out really cool.
* Paul, what was for you the most unforgettable moment of your career?
Oh dear, this is a difficult question, because there really are so many and all are so different. I.e., I remember the day when we were invited by Warner Bros. and signed there. We were sitting there with all the big bosses from America, which for us was very funny. A very different, unforgettable moment for me was when we played in front of 200,000 people in Rio. That was just 'Woah'. Also sitting in a large limousine and to have the first number one and just wondering about what's happening around us was totally unbelievable. There are so many things and we would need a few years to mention all of them.
* What song is the most underrated one, in your opinion?
Well, there are many. Often there are songs where you think yourself, this could be the big thing and then something happens in the production and then it doesn't become a single. On the first album for me, for example, "Living A Boy's Adventure Tale" was totally underestimated. As for "Scoundrel Days", um, well, I don't know... because everything is such a personal thing and depends on the personal taste. This is really hard and sometimes it only depends on the production. At some point, we simply must accept the fact that a song perhaps won't be a single, even if it is hard.
* Which a-ha album is the most important for you and why?
Phew, that's also a difficult question. I now could simply say that all of them are, what might be correct in one way but wouldn't answer the core of the question. The albums themselves probably are not as important to me because I more remember the process of writing them. This is my world and I still remember how this or that song was written. I actually think more about each individual song and the special moment and not so much an album. Um, but if I would have to name one album, it probably would be our first album. Why? Simply because it was the first one and with which it all began for us. It also could have went completely different. I am also very happy that we have made such things like "Memorial Beach" . The record perhaps hasn't sold that much but it is important to me and I'm proud of it. There are such different things on it and I'm so glad we made this album. This album just got so many colors and I simply like it.
* Is there an a-ha song which you don't like at all?
Oh yes, oh yes (laughs). Um, sometimes it is so, that you write a song that and it perhaps is not the most important song in the world for yourself, but someone else who hears it is totally inspired by it. So that song means an awful lot to someone else but basically nothing to myself. But that is so personal, I should just keep the names for me. Sometimes when I tell that I do not like this or that song from us, the opposite then says that this song actually is their favorite a-ha song.
* Once the a-ha chapter is closed for good, what will you miss and what not?
At the moment it just feels nice thinking that from December 5th I will be totally open to new things and have my freedom. There will be no more meetings where you have to discuss certain things. Yes, that really is some freedom you're going to win through it. I am sure that I will think about it differently again next year. What I will miss is the touring. Just standing on the stage and playing the show is a very special feeling and if you also see that people like what we're doing, that's great. I will miss it very much.
* What are you going to do after the last a-ha concert?
Good question. What will I do? I'll just go back to New York.
When was it clear to you that with a-ha everything is said? And what were the main reasons for it?
* Do you know the songs? That we have said everything in terms of the songs?
The songs and with a-ha in general.Basically, when have you realized that the a-ha chapter is closed?
I think, after "Foot Of The Mountain" we got to that point.
* And what were the reasons for it?
Oh you know, when you're in a band, there are so many different opinions and stuff that affect the creative things. We do this now for 25 years and I think that really everything is said and one simply should not get to the point where you only repeat yourself.
* What happens after the a-ha era? Are you going to see each other again and maybe work together again?
I hope so. I just hope that we will have the opportunity to work together again.
* What do you actually think about the Internet? Is that good or bad for bands these days?
That's a good question and you can debate about it endlessly. I still remember how the CDs came alive and yes, now we have the internet and the music business has changed completely. Probably no one has expected it in these dimensions. Today, it is also easy to make music. It is possible to make it available everywhere. Also the whole studio process has become easier. The sales obviously shrunk a lot. But as with any change, one can say that this has good and bad sides.
* Are there any plans for a DVD release? Maybe even from the last concert?
Yes, I think we will be filming some shows. We will also re-publish the first albums and then there's a lot of bonus material on it and then also the compilation CD will be released, then there will be videos on Blu-Ray - it's still a lot to happen. And yes, we will film something. And then there also will be a DVD or whatever.
* What are your plans with Savoy? ? Will there be new songs or even a tour?
Yes, I think we will make some of the things we haven't done so far.I'm writing new stuff, maybe I will also start a new band. But I think we will record a new Savoy album.
* How do your personal plans look like? How and where do you see yourself as a musician in ten years?
I will always write and work on songs. Even when there's a longer period where nothing is published, I will continue to work on songs. I want to keep it that way. I'm doing this since I'm 9 years old. I hope that I still have his drive in ten years, but I'm actually not really worried about that.
* Paul, thank you for the interview and wish you all the best for the future and have fun with and at the last a-ha concerts!
I have to thank you!
(traduction depuis l'allemand par Sandra du WOTM forum)