Last month, we asked fans to submit questions they’d like to ask Paul for a Q&A on a-ha.com – and the response was overwhelming! Thank you all for your thoughtful questions, and for your patience while Paul wrote up his responses 🙂
Below is Part II of the Q&A, we hope you enjoy it!
Here are a few questions for the Q&A with Paul Waaktaar-Savoy. Great initiative by the way!
– Who owns unreleased a-ha music? Will we get the possibility to hear the early mixes of “Minor Earth Major Sky” which, in terms of songwriting, is definitely one of the best album, but is probably not produced the right way? And demos, alternative mixes, live versions, etc. from every era of the band – like it was made for the two first records? It’s always nice to hear the genesis of the music that inspired your all life (and I was born in the early 90s).
– Concerning the lyrics, is there some literary ambition behind some of them? Are there writers that inspire(d) you, and to what extent? I’m thinking about the “I don’t believe it. I believe it” in “Slender Frame” … Very Beckettian in a way. Are there some “techniques” you tend to employ (cut-up, metaphorical use, character creation, etc.), or is it more direct in terms of inspiration? You are definitely one of the best lyric writers in pop-music, using the codes of the genre (verse, chorus) to make sense in some kind of repetition-changing meaning. I’d love to know more about this particular use of language of yours.
– Any plans for an album, under any name? Or would you prefer the one-by-one diffusion on Soundcloud, i-tunes or whatever? Each new release is an event for all your fans – each new listening increases the quality of the total of your work, illuminating it from new angles – for the multiple directions taken by an artist in time might be the best way to communicate with a public – “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”, regardless how good they always are in your case.
– Who is The Man in the park? This song (with many others by Savoy) has captured for me the essence of NYC.
– Any sources of inspiration in music (pop or whatever) these days?
– After a very complex songwriting, you seem to be aiming for something more direct in terms of melody/harmony these days. At the beginning of your career you said you were very inspired by Edvard Grieg, with his use of modal scales, making ambiguous distinctions between major and minor as we usually see it. I guess this is part of the feeling we can have while listening to a-ha/Savoy (and Waaktaar hopefully) records: there is not just a single thing captured, but a lot of feelings entangled (and Hamsun said he played “on a single string, but with an attempt to draw from that string hundreds of tones”). Is there something typically Norwegian in your work? Also linked to the idea of feelings entangled, I remember you said you tried various versions of the songs before choosing the definitive pace, pitch, arrangement, etc. Is it still part of the experiment?
– Are there plans for making organic live-music again?
– One thing very inspirational in a-ha’s music particularly, is the formal construction. Like in records such as “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” there were songs with very different parts, some king of “progressive-pop”, especially on “Memorial Beach” (my favourite from a-ha). Is it something typical of your way of working as a band? Won’t the solo work ever get in that direction? (Emmanuel Reymond)
There should be a lot of interesting demos and versions related to the “Minor Earth” album and I’m sure we’ll get around to assembling something around that one day. The live-shows we did at that time were largely based on the then current album vs. the more greatest hits type tours of the last years, so there should be a lot of stuff worth a listen.
Lyrics and music; You try not to be too aware of the techniques and methods you might be using because that’s not the frame of mind you want to be in. It’s like fumbling in the dark. Except in this instance, you’ll find nothing if you turn on the light.
The album concept seems to be a bit washed out these days, but that’s what I grew up with so I’ll always have that as the main focus. However, it is fun to release a track like “Manmade Lake” and get an immediate reaction. I definitely want to do more of that.
Man in the Park: Yes, very New York. That whole gallery of characters that you’d find. It was probably inspired by the many trips to Washington Square Park when we lived in Soho.
What have I listened to lately? Broken Bells, Courtney Barnett (Avant gardener), Phantagram, Beck, Foxygen, (San Francisco) Vampire Weekend (Step), Cults (You know what I know), The National, Dum Dum girls (Coming down), Washed out, Lykke li (Sadness is a blessing) Cage the Elephant, The Neighborhood (Female flattery), Deerhunter (previous album), The Limousines (Very Busy People), Foster the People (Coming of Age), Tame Impala, The Wombats, (jump into the fog), Tegen and Sarah (Goodbye goobye), Robert Delong (Global Concepts). Plus all the usual classic shit.
Oh wait, Arcade Fire “Here comes the nighttime” etc etc.
Complex songwriting: I have other versions of “Manmade Lake” that got pretty elaborate, but since that song was written around a simple guitar hook, I always tried to come around back to that. Though it’s simple sounding (which I like) it still has things like the bass resting on an F sharp in a G chord or then hitting an A at the beginning of a C chord …which are things I seem to gravitate towards.
I don’t really know a modal scale from a yodel wail. Punk rock was happening at the time I should have been learning these things. But that was so not cool back then so I didn’t hehe. But obsessing over the classic albums and being bombarded by classical music through my parents, I’m sure some things rubbed off on me anyway.
Progressive pop: Isn’t the mid section of “Manmade” sort of like that?
Hi Paul, it’s great to finally hear “new” music from you. I like the moods of “Manmade Lake”.
Will there be a another SAVOY or a full WAAKTAAR Album (hopefully) in the near future? (Enrico from Germany)
There is indeed a Savoy album in the works. We have lots of new songs recorded and we will finalize the album with our drummer, Frode, this summer. I also would like to release the whole Savoy catalogue on iTunes and Spotify as well as vinyl. So far, they’ve only been released on CD.
Over the years, there have been a number of movies about famous bands or music artists, retelling their story. Would you see it likely that one day it could happened to A-ha, having their own movie or perhaps a mini-series? Do you see yourself being involved in a creative process (either musically or story-wise) of such a project? Who would you imagine acting the parts of Morten, Magne and Paul? (Lars Chr. Gamborg)
Hei Lars. I don’t know if we took enough drugs to justify a whole movie, but I know there is a story in there somewhere. Can anyone else chip in with casting suggestions, please?
[From the editor: feel free to post your casting suggestions in the comments, this should be interesting! ;-)]
I always wonder how do you write your great songs:
I mean :
– do you write a song around just a word which came to your mind? or,
– do you have a theme, then you write around it?
– do your words flow? or,
– do you sometimes struggle to find words, then you use a thesaurus or a dictionary?
– from where your idea to embellish your songs is coming from? (as in: “here I stand and face the rain”)
– do you first write words then compose its music? or first music, then words?
Hey Suzana. I guess I look for a shape, a silhouette, a pattern to get me started. I jot down words that stand out to me .. just mind triggers. With “Here I stand and Face the rain” it was the words that seemed to suggest that particular rhythm, that 6/4 time. It gave certain words an odd accent that I liked. Nice as it is to find a good melody, so much of it is matching the right word to the right note.
By the way, the voice in the opening is not Morten’s, but a real monk.
1. From writing for a-ha, Savoy and other projects we now hear you as ” Waaktaar”… Has there been any conscious creative or musical changes going on?
2. We all know that there was a good creative tension with a-ha, what element do you miss from that tension?
3. What’s your favorite go to Mic and preamp for your vocals in the studio?
Hi Al, I just realized that I was sitting on a collection of songs that could be its own thing. It can be very liberating to put a different name on it and see what happens.
I like that phrase “..good creative tension” He he. Sometimes that tension got a little too good but yeah…it got things done.
Mic/pre-amps: Back in the day with Morten we used a Neumann U87 into a blue Focusrite.
– The cover image of ‘Manmade Lake’ is great. Who made this?
– What do you do recently? Do you go to the gig a lot?
– How is Augie? Is he interested in music like you? And how does he think about your songs?
Hello there. The beautiful cover image for ‘Manmade Lake’ is called “Reservoir Mountain” and it’s taken by Michelle Christiance…The design and awesome Waaktaar logo was made by Matt Grajcar….
Augie is very interested in music. We have very similar playlists going on our mobile devices. He plays a mean French horn on a regular basis and has been known to strum a guitar on occasion.
First of all I (and my mother, father, and sisters) would like to thank you for all of the truly beautiful music you have brought into this quite often sad and lonely world. Listening to your lyrics has helped us through many a trying time. What a great thing for you to do reaching out to people with this question and answer session! My question is…
I have heard it said that film directors have only a certain number of good films within them to make. Would you say the same is true for song writers/composers? Or is the pool of inspiration infinite for the latter? (Kathleen)
Hi Kathleen. It can get tricky over time, when you’ve taken so many different paths before in search of songs…it can be hard to find new ones. You also have to check yourself for disregarding ideas before they’ve even been given their due chance. A lot of time that throw-away middle-eight turns out to be your next big song. It’s always been an ebb and flow situation. You write a lot, then nothing for months. Many songwriters today build up the ‘track’ before working on melody and lyrics, but I’ve never really worked that way.
Hi to the family!!
Mr. Paul, Why the song “WAITING FOR HER” never been played live? Will You play it live someday? I Want More “DEMOS” of “EAST OF THE SUN WEST OF THE MOON” !! Come to BRAZIL! (Brian Oneal Rocha)
We should have! It’s such a sweet song.
I’m really interested to know your thoughts and experiences regarding singing your songs yourself or letting someone else sing them. Is it a delight for you hearing exceptional vocalists like Harket, Gnecco (and now perhaps Linnea Dale) bring the songs to life? Is it always easy to accept their interpretations? Or, in your heart of hearts, would you prefer to take care of the songs yourself? (Eva Jansson)
It’s a real treat to hear someone else sing them. In the early days, I was too uptight and wanted to hear them exactly as they were written, but nowadays I enjoy it when new things pop up in a performance.
Is there any chance A-ha is coming back again. even about 0,001%? Because really we love your songs. A-ha is absolutely the best of the world! Morten has a great voice but you are the genius composer Paul , creator of masterpieces. when you are together you become the best band of the world each one giving his best.
A question about your individual work is: Would you compose music like you composed during 25 years for a-ha in Synth Pop for yourself to sing?. Songs like the bandstand, living the boy’s adventure tale so on… in Synth Pop .. would you? or are you going to remain singing and playing in Pop rock? (Queiroz RLd)
I think you got the math right on that one:-)
It’s a long shot, but I’ll take it.
A lot of the songs I’ve intended for the Waaktaar album will have more of a programmed feel.
Ok, just two more questions for Pål.
1. In several interviews 09-10 you said in your opinion a-ha could have continued a couple of more years and do one more album. What are your thoughts and feelings toward that subject today, three years later?
2. If you had continued after “Foot of the mountain”, what direction do you think and/or wish a-ha had have taken musically, electronic or more organic? Are there influences of that direction in your own work after a-ha? (Eva Jansson)
The idea to end the band was forced. Not natural. It felt like a business decision to me.
Just someone’s bright idea.
We can still play, still sing, we still have tons of songs to record.
And we still have a huge loving audience!
Hi Paul, which of your Savoy albums have you most enjoyed recording and why? (Munroe Lewis)
It has to be “Mountains of Time”.
The songs kept coming. Recording it was easy. Lauren was pregnant. We were giddy and excited.
Paul, what was the first record/LP you ever bought? (Volker Lange)
It was “Hair” the musical. Amazing songs. Frank Mills, etc.
Will we ever have the pleasure to watch concert of Savoy in Brazil?
What do you like to do when not this compose songs?
I loved the new music, which will be this year a new album and a world tour?
Sorry my English, it’s very bad. (Cindy Trainor)
Hey Cindy. Your English is fine!
Other than music, I’m crazy about tennis. No. I’m serious!
I’ve played about five times a week this winter and in the summer: daily.
Tags: Interviews, Paul Waaktaar-Savoy