The nearby Øygardshallen Giske Harbour Hall turned out to be the perfect venue to stage their two first ever acoustic shows: They simply had to lay cables from A to B and then were able to use the studio at Ocean Sound Recordings to capture the shows perfectly. We needed someone who would boldly question everything that we stood for as a band — someone who could stand up to us. We were discussing many different places to play these special shows — among them Manaus in the Amazon jungle, Berlin, London and New York. During the last run-through on the day before the first night the band took things extremely seriously. We may argue about a lot of things, but we are also a band that has very close ties. Having performed two triumphant concerts together, the three band mates climbed into three separate vehicles and headed off into the sunlit night. In the land of the midnight sun, the clocks tick slightly different than they do elsewhere.
Playing all these songs now in their acoustic versions is like returning to their origins. But everybody in the audience had a feeling that a-ha had now just opened a brand new chapter in their unparalleled career. The other half is that the idea of a-ha playing their vast catalogue of world hits stripped down to their very essence is indeed a promising endeavor. This turned out to be a very healthy approach for the three of us, because going acoustic also had the taste of a new project. At the end of the day it was the Ocean Sound Recordings studio in Giske that made the difference. His music always felt particularly resonant in our ears growing up.
Alongside the likes of Duran Duran and Yello, in 1985 a-ha were worldwide pioneers who immediately understood the power of the music video as both a narrative and commercial tool. Furthermore, a total of four guest stars served as duet partners for Morten Harket. Lars deserves the credit for bringing the band closer together than we have been for a very long time. This is especially true during the summer solstice, when the sun hardly sets at all, bathing the small Norwegian island of Giske — where a-ha played their first ever two acoustic concerts — in an eerie twilight. With such strong figures and influences defining what it is to be a Norwegian, it becomes part of what you are. Like every other band that has been successful on a worldwide scale for over three decades, a-ha have had their share of problems, split-ups and re-unifications.
We feel connected to all that, which is why we thought returning home for this project was a very natural step. As a creative person it is almost easier to tap into this nordic mindest from a distance. Of course it led to shouting matches. Coming from destinations all over the world, for them getting to Giske meant embarking on a plane to Oslo and from there to Ålesund. Discussions between Morten and the group as well as with the recording engineers dealt with the tiniest details of sound, cohesiveness and attitude.
And of course we hated it! We should do this again — sitting and recording in the same room together for a couple of weeks or months and see what comes out as a result. This was exactly what we had asked of him. . We knew that we could rehearse undisturbed in an extremely good sounding facility. I say this as a compliment, by the way.
Our darker, melancholic streak definitely harks back to these early influences. I especially like what happened when we took a fresh look at Take on me, which went from being an uptempo syntheziser-driven popsong to a much more melancholic, yearning ballad in this slowed down arrangement, it shows with much more clarity how the song at its core is not some standalone upbeat track, but belongs squarely inside our catalogue alongside more thoughtful, darker songs like scoundrel days etc. But we also needed it! And of course there is Edvard Grieg, who took a lot of inspiration directly from folk music. Songs were started, stopped and deconstructed. .
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