It would be absolutely fair to say that ‘Take on Me’ by 80’s Norwegian band a-ha is up there on the top lists of the greatest synth pop songs of our time. A great pop song like that just seems to stay with you forever. The band’s first album ‘Hunting High and Low’ was a worldwide hit that had an everlasting appeal here in Australia. Prior to the band embarking on their world tour and hitting Aussie shores, I caught up with Mags Furhuholmen, a-ha’s keyboardist to chat about his ‘take on’ the bands success and the upcoming tour.
It’s great that a-ha are coming back to Australia after 34 years. Why has it been so long since your last visit?
We have missed Australia probably a lot more than Australia has missed us! Australia was the place where a-ha held our first ever live concerts – and we have always felt it was a crying shame that no agents would take the gamble on bringing us back again for more. Finally, we will be back where it all started!
When you toured Australia in 1986, you sold out numerous shows all over the country what are your memories of that tour?
This was during our first brush with worldwide fame, and so a bit of a blur, but to be on our first ever concert tour on the opposite side of the world to our native country was an apt metaphor for how our lives had been turned on their heads. It was a thrilling adventure to be there – amazing nature, friendly people and good food.
This is your first time touring New Zealand – is it exciting to play to audiences you’ve never performed to before? Have you ever visited New Zealand?
New Zealand will be a first. Never been, but it is a place I could imagine living in – like a southern hemisphere version of our homeland Norway.
Are you surprised at the longevity and legacy that the song and video ‘Take On Me’ has had? Do you have any favourite versions of ‘Take On Me’ performed by other artists?
It is surprising to see the song picked up by new and younger followers in today’s streaming world – it has definitely had ‘legs’, as our old manager used to say. My favourite version of the song is by Matt Hales / Aqualung, and was recorded for a season finale for Grey’s Anatomy.
What can fans expect at the shows?
This is very much a celebration of that first record ‘Hunting High And Low’, and a tribute to all who went out and bought it, thereby giving us a career doing what we loved the most.
On this tour you will be performing at four A Day On The Green events in beautiful wineries and outdoor locations around Australia – do you enjoy performing outdoors?
Very much so, particularly if wine-tasting can be a part of it!
After performing for nearly 4 decades, is there anything you do – either personally or musically – to keep the live performance feeling fresh?
Speaking for myself, I try to imagine myself as a part of the audience – coming to see a band from my youth, and what I would have liked. One of the tricks to avoid road-rage is to spend the time off stage well; write songs, make drawings, have experiences unique to wherever you are, like eating local food, checking out the local art scene etc.
You’ve collaborated with some of music’s biggest stars, and you have a lot of high-profile fans including Coldplay, Ian McCulloch, Alison Moyet, Robbie Williams and many more – why do you think your music has resonated with these artists?
Growing up, music mattered more to us than anything else, and we have tried to make music that matters. People love a hit, but I think the longevity comes from making music that touches people.
Australia and Norway might be at opposite ends of the earth but that’s how far a-ha had to travel back in 1986 to play their very first live concert. Returning to Australia in 2020 after 34 years the band are back to where it all started.
So don your aviators and power suits and get ready to boogie along to some synth pop treasures as a-ha take on Sirromet Winery at Mount Cotton on Sunday 1 March 2020 with Rick Astley, Pseudo Echo and I Know Leopard.
Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased here through Ticketmaster.
Image Credit: Just Loomis