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Mittwoch 21 Februar 2024

Fan Q&A with Paul Waaktaar-Savoy - Part 1

Savoy's newest album "Under" was released on February 2! If you haven't heard it yet, check it out here:

New music from the guys always prompts curiosity from the fans, so we asked Paul if he would do a fan Q&A - and as usual, he agreed immediately! Paul is always generous with his time for these Q&As, so it won't surprise any of you to find out that he answered dozens of your questions; so many, in fact, that we've broken the Q&A into two parts.

Read part one of the Q&A here, and the second part will follow soon!


Q: Thank you for releasing a new album for us fans. As you know, many a-ha and Savoy fans are of an era that the CD platform was popular. Do you think a CD release can be made possible? Most of our Savoy collections are strictly CD. (Dino Mallas)

A:Hi Dino
Yes, CDs are available to order at the usual link:


Q: What sorts of personal revelations or elements of your life do you think come through in your writing in the songs from Under? (Annika Maakestad)

A: I use whatever I have available to come up with new songs. A title, a situation, something overheard, a nice chord combination….And a lot of times whatever triggers the start of a song ends up going in a different direction than I first anticipated. The personal stuff always trickles through though…can’t get rid of it :-)


Q: Did you always envision Savoy having the level of success it has today or did you have a different image/goal in mind when the band was formed? In other words, has the band taken the path you expected it to take? (Annika Maakestad)

A:Hi Annika.
SAVOY was never part of my original master plan. It was only after Memorial Beach...while working up songs for the its’ follow up, that I found out that M&M were prioritizing other projects instead, so I started thinking about alternative ways I could keep releasing music.

First I sent out some feelers to other well known artists that I liked but they were busy doing their own thing, and later I put in ads in a couple of uk/us music papers but nothing came of it...didn’t feel right, Lauren from the start was insisting I should sing it myself: she always like the demos, the raw versions anyhow.

So that’s how it went in the end. But I managed to talk her into being a part of the band.

And Fred Engh of WEA Norway suggested I should get in touch with drummer Frode Unneland, who he couldn’t praise enough.

Together we worked up 11 songs which Lauren presented (I was too much of a chicken) to A&R guy Andrew Wickham in London who thankfully loved it and signed us to WB Records...we were called something else back then but Andy insisted...'it will have to be ..Savoy!!' And so it was.

Having worked damn hard on making a-ha a successful band, with 7 nonstop years of relentless promotion and touring, Savoy went to the other extreme with little focus on any of that.

We usually did a round of interviews, a short tour and then straight on to working on the next album right after that.

I also tried to keep the a-ha connection hidden in the beginning, but that proved naive.


Q: Will the movie 'True North' go to DVD or Blu-Ray release? (John Keenan)

A: Yes, a-ha are in the process of making sure all the albums are available on all the platforms in extended deluxe versions, and I’m sure there will be vinyl/CD’s available at times too.


Q: Are there any plans for a-ha's 'Analogue' album going to vinyl and the other Savoy albums going to vinyl? (John Keenan)

Q: With SAVOY we have remastered the back-catalogue of albums yet to be digitally released which we’ll get to after 'Under'.
Vinyl & CD could happen too.
We’ll also be going back to the master tapes for hi-res versions of all our videos and documentaries so they can be added to our YouTube Savoy channel.


Q: Will there be any 7” singles from the new album, maybe a gig or 2 here in the UK too? (Barnaby Strong)

A: Hi Barnaby.
Not sure about 7” singles.
I blame the record company...oh wait, that’s us!
If we get any offers for gigs, we’ll consider them.


Q: I'd like to know if it was difficult to choose the songs for the album and if you had a guideline for the atmosphere of the album?
Also, do you plan to write a song in French one day? (Laurita Ravene)

A:Hi Laurita.
Yes, it was a bit tricky. We had other songs in the works too that would’ve been nice to include, but at the same time I wanted to keep the album nice and tight and focused.
And let each song be themselves.
I like it when all the arrangements and parts are well-defined and thought out, but at the same time feels like you just stumbled upon them while you were playing.


Q: What song did you enjoy producing the most and what is your favorite song from the album 'Under'? (Mar Ferreira)

A: 'Lonesome Alone' was the last song we finished and it didn’t give us any trouble at all so I enjoyed it a lot :-)
It’s one of those songs were the lyrics guide the melody.
Since we start the album with 'Lonely Surfer', this one felt like a nice choice to bookend it.

My favorite song on the album might be the title track.
The contrast between the verse and chorus...
The groove and chord changes...

Q: Will we hear about new future projects from a-ha too? (Mar Ferreira)

A: If they’re happening, you’ll hear about them.
It’s always an ebb and flow type of thing with a-ha. We drift apart. We drift together.


Q: Been a fan of your songwriting for decades. I’m curious to know your process. Do you write on acoustic guitar then flesh out and produce the song? Or do you write on keys then record and produce? Maybe you just write as you record and build the track as you go? (Tye Murphy)

A: Hi Tye.
Most of the time it’s on acoustic guitar or piano. Because they’re always available and instant: booting up or plugging in or finding sounds etc.
Almost separate from the music, I’m constantly looking for words and lines that can turn into something.
If the lyric doesn’t grab me, I rarely love the song in the end.


Q: Rumour has it that you have a solo album which has been worked on for several years. If true, are there plans to release it? Please say yes! (Ruth Ramplin)

A: Hi Ruth.
Yes, I do and it’s on the way.
It will released later this year.
At this point it can venture off in different directions but I’m pretty happy with the material.


Q: Will there be another Waaktaar & Zoe album? (Graham Monks)

A: Hi Graham.
I would love to.
I had a great time recording that album with Zoe (who’s such a cool person with a fab voice and great instincts)...and I think there are some good tunes on it. I wish more ears would give it a listen.
Hint hint...


Q: I’m really loving your new music, what kinds of music do you listen to now? (Kristy Meredith)

A: Thank you, Kristy.
The only cool new music I come across these days are via my son who listens to a lot, both old and new...and I tend to like everything he sends me.
It can be film music by Johnny Greenwood one day and The Brian Jones Massacre the next etc etc.


Q: A simple but most important question - since the album sounds so promising, will there will be any gigs following by Savoy - in Europe? (Karla Schneider-Dörken)

A: Hi Karla.
Would’ve loved to do some shows.
Lauren is just about the only person that I know who hasn’t had COVID, and she has no plans to get that complicates things a bit.


Q: Hey Paul, this is Olli from Germany...great work again, so far ;-) I like your voice so much and my first question is, why Morten and Magne did not ask you to sing more (I love the end of 'What There Is' with your voice, only one example)...and do you miss working with a-ha? Now, you can work as you like, with no "fighting". I know, it sounds a little bit crazy, but it would be nice to hear a whole album with "your" a-ha songs only with your voice and sound. So, I wish you a great release and succes with Savoy and of course, I would like to hear more from a-ha, the soundtrack of my life. (Ollie)

A: Hi Ollie. It was always a treat to write for Morten’s voice and to hear the songs that way, so rare was the occasions where I felt it was not working too well.
But as I’ve mentioned before:
If I sing it, I notice the words over the melody.
When he sings it: the melody really comes alive, while the words take a more backseat role.

I could need a new set of ears though by now:

But there are a-ha songs that I’ve written that I feel were somewhat shortchanged the way they were recorded, due to band politics and bad management, and I would love to have another crack at those.


Q: Hi Paul - I've heard a rumour that Mark Hollis (of Talk Talk) and yourself were once going to work together on an album...can you confirm or deny this, and please give us some backstory if it's true? (Simon Bright)

A: Hi Simon.
Yes, as I mentioned earlier I did send out some letters to artists I liked before starting SAVOY and he was the first on the list.
He had a wonderful way of shaping/molding the words to fit the melody. I received a nice letter back from him and I can’t remember exactly what it said but he was in a middle of something’s got to be here in a box somewhere.
On the last tour the Australian promoters suggested another band to join us from the same era; I picked Talk Talk from the list provided (not that they would’ve been interested) but M&M picked Rick Astley.
Very sad to hear about Mark Hollis passing the following year.


Q: From very early on (I am thinking ‘Lily Mars’, ‘And you tell me’ and ‘Go to sleep’ among others), an important part of your songwriting (music- and lyrics-wise) has been informed by nursery rhymes, lullabies and children's refrains. More recently, songs like ‘Cast in Steel’ and ‘Digital River’ convey that specific energy too. Simple tunes, fitted for humming and whistling, but with grown-up lyrics dealing with time, loss of innocence and destruction making them all the more poignant. That nursery rhyme-quality was, of course, a huge part of the DNA in the pop music of the 60s, but important songwriters like Thom Yorke and Damon Albarn picked up the thread since then (and that is certainly one of the qualities you share with Magne too, from ‘Looking for whales’ to ‘Bluest of blue’). Is this child-like quality something that you are directly addressing in your work? Does it feel somewhat essential to connect to that part of being human that needs singing melodies to lull themselves in the dark? (Emmanuel Reymond)

A:Hi Emmanuel.
Well spotted 👍
The use of contrasts in music and lyrics is something that always seem to make sense.

Some beautiful notes next to jarring ones...going to minor key when everyone expects the major. Anything! Something! With melodies that comes across like a nursery rhyme or has a more of a innocent thing about them, it’s a bit like giving your canvas a strong base color before you start painting: it affects everything else you add on top.
I’m starting to sound like Bob Ross here...


Q: ‘As if’ is a really touching song, whose lyrics also fit nicely into a tradition that goes back to Mallarmé’s 1897 poem ‘A throw of the dice’. Skies, stars, seas, heavens, mysteries, and its famous central pages structured by the phrase ‘as if’ (click here) Jean Tardieu ended his own poem ‘As if’ (written in the 50s and described as a ‘variation on the Mallarmean locution’) with the words: “as if I was there forever!” Is it a conscious dialogue on your side, or just a happy coincidence? Any other literary reference that would have made sense to you while writing this song? (Emmanuel Reymond)

A: Hi Emmanuel.
Oh that’s interesting.
I have to check that out.
How do you say 'As If' in French?
Probably sounds amazing :-)
As I wrote the song, the only words that popped into my head was the title at the beginning of each phrase and the ‘I’ll empty out a lake with a spoon’ line.
It took a really long time to write the actual lyrics and I tried quite a few different versions. I’m happy what I ended up with.


Q: In the songwriting process does the birth of a song generally start with a title/theme, lyrics, or a melody? (Mark Mitchell)

A: Hi Mark
On this album it was:

Lonely Surfer: the chords
Station: lyrics
Digital River: title/ groove
Pure as driven snow: melody
Life & times of a wannabe: guitar hook
Under: verse chords and melody
Coming down: melody
Camden Palace Chronicles: can’t remember
X marks the spot: the verse melody
Lonesome Alone : the bluesy chorus


Q: Are there any plans to release the first Bridges album Fakkeltog remastered? (Elena)

A: Hi Elana
Bridges bass player Viggo Bondi has been planning for it the last 4 decades but the rest of us are still lagging behind.
That album was recorded on such lofi equipment...I’m not sure re-mastering would make much of a difference sonically.


Q: Hi Pål! I've been an a-ha fan for almost a year. My question is: whether Savoy or a-ha will go on tour again. Warm greetings from Germany. (Selina Riebe)

A: Hi Selina
Wow, a full year huh?!?
That’s a lot :-) With touring we’re looking into how we can do this.


Q: Song titles are always good material to dream upon when you have not listened to the proper music yet. Under features a bunch of nice ones that make me particularly eager to hear more. It also confirms that a recurring thread in your recent work seems to be the play on idioms – ‘Forest for the trees’, ‘Oh my word’, ‘Pure as driven snow’ and ‘X marks the spot’ being obvious examples of that. But, in some ways, the heartfelt ‘Start the simulator’ was already a successful attempt at saying something deeply personal through used and impersonal language. How much do you consider songwriting as a way to breathe new life into commonplaces and clichés? (Samya Dahech)

A: Hi Samya
Song titles are such a big focus for me. The worst feeling I have is when I’ve written a song that I think is decent but I just can’t find a title to match it.


Q: Some of your best work (I am thinking things as different as ‘October’, ‘You’ll end up crying’, ‘Locust’ and ‘Hunter in the hills’) manage to sound obvious and mysterious at once. This is a balance difficult to achieve. Are you looking for a form of mundane quirkiness when you write? How does it feel when you achieve it?(Samya Dahech)

A: I like titles that sounds like it could be for a movie or a book.
Something that pops an image in your head when you read it.
And the actual sound of the words are also important.
With Living Daylighs..just reading those words gave me the melody.


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