On Saturday 15 September, we did something new in presenting four individuals who have worked closely with a-ha and on solo tours in a Q&A session that lasted nearly 90 minutes. About 500 people filled the seats at Sentrum Scene and eagerly waited for the panel of guests to arrive:

Erik Ljunggren & Dan Sundhordvik – backing musicians for a-ha, Morten & Magne
James Maillardet – production manager for a-ha and Morten
Harald Wiik – business manager for a-ha and Morten

To break the ice, we played a short game with the audience, with the end result that two people won – and these two people are well known ‘super fans’ Evi and Tibolo. This presented a challenge in that all the prizes we had to give away were surely items they already had in their own collections! So we have promised to come up with something unique to give to them at a later date, and we know they will keep us honest and collect their prize at a future event 😉

Once the game was over, the four panelists took their seats at a table on the stage, and opened the floor to questions from the audience. At first the questions were slow in coming, but once the discussion got started, there was a steady stream of interesting questions and observations from the crowd. Some questions were directed to individuals on the panel, others were general questions that anyone could answer. Understandably, Harald and James wound up fielding a lot of the questions, but Erik and Dan had a lot of input as well.

Photo by Anastasia Kosehlko

A good number of questions were about how live setlists are chosen, and why certain singles are chosen, and so on. On the subject of ‘Burn Money Burn’ being chosen as a single, Harald had this to say:

“The album is a piece of work, that is sort of a statement. And when you’re done with that, that is the full creative process, and then somebody has to sell it, somebody has to present it to you guys, somebody has to make sure it gets heard. And that is where the record company comes in.”

“And it is no secret, you want to release something that you think will get played on the radio, that’s why you release a single. You don’t release a single because it is necessarily your favorite track. Because that could be like a nine-minute rock opera that no one will play on the radio. A single is a tool to get the other songs known. It’s as simple as that.”

Someone asked Erik and Dan what the hardest a-ha and Morten songs are to play:

Erik: “When I started playing with a-ha, I think ‘The Sun Always Shines on TV’ was the one that meant a lot to me, and I just really wanted to nail it, so I spent a lot of time getting it right. And now it is ‘Out of blue comes green’ I think because it is a quite complex arrangement.”

Dan: “For me the hardest song to play is ‘Los Angeles’ because I have a lot of things going on, I am playing guitar and keys and there are a lot of things to bring together. It took some time to get it right.”

The next question was the opposite – what songs are the easiest to play?

Erik: “Maybe…’Stay on these roads’.”

Dan: “The last song we played yesterday, ‘A kind of Christmas card’, it’s rather slow and easy to play.”

Another question from the crowd: “How much practicing do you do before the first gig on a tour?”

Erik: “Usually we rehearse for quite a while, just the three of us, the backing band. And Morten comes in when we are happy (smiles). This time, we rehearsed since Monday.”

James: “It’s usually sort of staggered, as the guys say. So Erik will do a lot of work first, then work with the other two musicians before Morten comes in. We kind of like to have everything ready before Morten joins the rehearsal, since when he gets there we spend a lot of time getting his sound and monitoring correct.”

“So those guys get ready, we bring Morten in, and then we start bringing in the crew as well, we bring in the monitor crew and introduce more of the equipment, so usually we get to a stage when, maybe as late as the morning before the first show of the tour, we try to do a full, what we call production rehearsal. It’s very much a staggered thing, we bring people in incrementally so that it is not a chaotic affair all at once.”

A question was asked about why Morten’s song ‘Undecided’ was not released worldwide:

Harald: “Once again, it really is in the balance of things. We like ‘Undecided’ as well, but when we tried to make the running order, we just couldn’t make it fit. The album sounded better with ten songs than eleven and so that one song had to go. It doesn’t mean we don’t like it, it just didn’t fit. That’s the artistic reason for it.”

“Then again, we have the record company to deal with. And sometimes they have some rules about where they can release stuff, some countries don’t want to release it, it’s not really our decision. I think every artist and management would like their records to be released worldwide and be on every digital platform there is. And also you have to make a priority on where you work – the biggest territories are where we spend our time. So unfortunately some areas get left out and that is not really our choice. It’s really hard to cover everything.”

There was much, much more covered during the convention, and we were pleased to hear from many guests that it was a major highlight of the weekend for them. We will try to continue to offer a session like this at future events for sure!

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