INTERVIEW: Looking back at their legacy, Magne Furuholmen now fully embraces a-ha as a pop band

Reta Lee
Editor-in-Chief, Lifestyle
Magne Furuholmen, Morten Harket, Paul Waaktaar-Savoy of a-ha. (PHOTO: Warner Music)

UPDATE: Warner Music Singapore announced on 28 February 2020 that a-ha’s concert Hunting High And Low Live In Singapore, which was scheduled on 21 March 2020 at Turf Club@Kranji, has been cancelled due to concerns over the Covid-19 virus. Customers who have made purchases to the show will have their purchase refunded in full via SISTIC. 

SINGAPORE — Indisputably, a-ha is the best band to come out of the ‘80s, whose hits “Take On Me”, “Hunting High and Low” and “The Sun Always Shines on TV,” are among favourite go-to karaoke songs which you can (still) sing along to. Formed in Oslo, Norway, in 1982, members Paul Waaktaar-Savoy (guitars), Magne Furuholmen (keyboards, guitars) and Morten Harket (vocals) garnered global success throughout the ‘80s and continue to find success in the ‘90s and today.

But the band had its ups and downs; despite recording and publishing six studio albums, the band called it quits in 2009, sending fans into a frenzy as they attended their idols’ last leg of their ‘Ending On A High Note Tour’. The break-up was also partly due to frustration that the band could not shake off the stereotype that followed the band; the success of “Take On Me” shaped the band’s future as a pop band, and even after the members experimented with different sounds, their later tracks did not garner the success they were looking for. U2's Adam Clayton summed up that moment well, describing a-ha as "a rather misunderstood band. They were looked upon as a group for teenage girls, but in reality they were a very creative band."

Of course, as time goes, not all artists can rest on their laurels, and in 2015 it was decided that the band should get together again. The band went on to release 10 studio albums, several compilations and four live albums. An amazing feat, for a band that has a rich legacy to boast of. 

As a-ha look to perform in Singapore this 21 March at Turf Club @ Kranji as part of their ‘Hunting High and Low Tour’, Yahoo Lifestyle SEA spoke to Magne (Mags) Furuholmen about what fans can expect from the show.


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Magne (Mags) Furuholmen. (PHOTO: Warner Music)

So Mags, tell us where you are now, and what you've been up to the last 24 hours?

Dragging my ass down a mountain and into my painting studio.

Healthy! This will be the band's first ever stop in Singapore. What are your initial impressions of the city?

Very organised and clean. 

What can fans expect out of your tour?

Well, it is only one show, and we are centring the performance around our first album, Hunting High and Low. Other than that, wait and see. 

We guess that not many people know you're a knight! What are your impressions of fans (like us) who just found out?

Haha… I don’t know if you expect me to come out jousting!

Ed: Jousting is a martial game between two horsemen wielding wooden lances, while riding a horse.

Do you prefer London in the ‘80s or the London now, and why?

London in the ‘80s was pure excitement for us, but I still love it today. It will always be a home I left (behind).

After all these years, does the term 'success' differ for you now?

Success is to solve a problem and be happy with the result.

Do you fully embrace a-ha as a pop band?

I think so - if you are talking about our legacy. (Pauses) Much more now than in the early days.

Why did you call a break in the ‘90s?

I called a break in 1993 from exhaustion and because I wanted to move back to Norway and be there for Heidi and my first child Thomas for more than periods in-between.

The second time, in 2010, Morten and I agreed with our management that stopping a-ha was the best option available to us; so I feel like I have re-joined twice because the others wanted it, than having quit the band twice, to be honest. 

YouTube listed “Take On Me” as the No.2 most viewed music video in the ‘80s. What's your response to that? (Guns N Roses' “Sweet Child of Mine” is #1, Cyndi Lauper's “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” is #3)

So... we are first of the losers? Seriously, it is pretty impressive how this video has stood the test of time.

And let’s face it, as a video, it is way superior to the others you’ve mentioned.

If “Take On Me” is our go-to karaoke song, what's yours? Or do you even karaoke?

My go-to song is “How Am I Supposed To Live Without You”. Don’t ask!

Ed: The song is sung by Michael Bolton.

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