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Exclusive interview with Michael Learns to Rock

Legendary Danish pop rock band Michael Learns to Rock is ready to softly rock Malaysian fans tonight and tomorrow night at the Mega Star Arena to mark their 25th year anniversary in the music industry.

The multi-platinum selling band which consist of member Jascha Richter, Mikkel Lentz and Kåre Wanscher – have always been known throughout Asia ever since the debut of their second album “Colours”.

Even though all of the members are now in their 50s, they have never stop playing or keep creating wonderful and romantic music for their dedicated fans from around the world.

Yesterday, TheHive.Asia managed to sit and chat with the band about their decades spawning career and how in the world did they manage to stay together for so long!

How does it feel to be back here in Malaysia?
Mikkel: It’s always nice to be back in KL. The first time we’re here was back in 1993 or 94, and that was the first time when we were in Asia together as a band. Then everything was very new, the impressions, the heat – everything was so different. But now it was like coming home.

We’re very attached to Malaysia. We can now walk around KL without a map. But not all over KL.

You’ve been travelling around together all this while. Are there any funny stories that you can tell us about your travels?
Kåre: There’s a few like when Mikkel fell off stage in Manila – that was quite funny. We have it on video so we can watch it and laugh over and over again. It was also very dangerous actually. Luckily, he got away without hurting himself. Those kinds of things are funny after you look back at what happened.

MLTR is one of the few bands that have stuck together for more than 20 years. How did you guys manage to stay together for so long?
Mikkel: We love music and we also like each other, it’s almost like we’re a family – like brothers. We know each other very well and spent a lot of time together. We have done that. I don’t think we really think much about it. It just feels right and of course the fans are the real reason that we’ve held on, and it’s really great – especially when you’ve been together for 25 years. It’s been a real privilege because in the music business there’s a lot of ups and downs, and some bands don’t make it in the long run, but we’re here and we have a lot of wonderful fans.

Kåre: You know we get several hundreds of messages every day, and people just tell us that they like our music and they want us to come and play in their countries. It gives us a lot of energy. When we sit at home and think about whether we should go on – Yes of course, we have to go on because people really want us to come, and that’s a big honour.

(L-R) Mikkel Lentz, Kåre Wanscher and Jascha Richter at Marini's on 57.

MLTR is also one of the few bands to have no scandals or bad rumours at all, how do you maintain your clean image?
Kåre: We just don’t tell people about what we do. It’s funny enough that we never really had any scandals because we don’t throw TVs out of windows and we don’t feel a need to do that. Also, we are not so rebellious and we don’t feel like we need to be in the front pages of the papers all the time.

Mikkel: I think that people will be disappointed if they see the lives we lived back home because we have family – we’re fathers. We go to the grocer, buy food and live very normal lives.

Jascha: Shhhhhh…

Mikkel: We cook for our kids every morning.

Kåre: We cook food for our wives too.

Mikkel: That is the wildest I can tell you. I think we’re just straight, normal guys. No extravaganza.

Kåre: I think most people in Denmark are more middle of the road than people in America or U.K. I don’t know, we have a mentality that’s different from many other people and we’re very happy about it. We’ve been living in Denmark, and we have a very good society where people grow up feeling safe and secure. There’s really no need to stand out so much from others

How do you usually stay connected to your fans?
Kåre: These days we use social media. Every day we use it to communicate with fans. It’s wonderful for a band like us to have fans from so many different countries. 10 years ago, it would be almost impossible for us to communicate with fans like how we do now. Everything is by letters and emails, so these (social media) are a really nice and convenient for us to see what’s been going on all over the world. We also sometimes get a lot of messages from a certain country and we will tell our promoters to try and see if we can have a show in that country.

If you guys had the chance to go back 25 years to change something about your band, what would it be?
Mikkel, Kåre: Our band’s name!

Mikkel: Back then, we took part in this competition – a live competition. And we only needed a name which we just randomly picked. Then we made our cassette tapes, we won the competition and then we became famous. It was too late to change the name, but actually, I like it now.

Jascha: There are many bands that have good names, but their music might not be very good. We have a bad name, but our music is kind of nice.

It seems that you have been focusing your career in the Asian market, what made you decide to do that?
Kåre: It was not a decision we made in the beginning. The songs just happen to become very popular in Asia. So, it was all due to the radio and people requesting our songs from the radio. Our first single “The Actor” was very popular here. After the second album was released, the success in Asia just grew and grew, and we could see that there was really something going on in Asia for us.

What do you think is the main elements of your music that have made it so successful in Asia?
Kåre: That is a good question. We think one of the reasons might be because our songs are easy to sing along with. It fits into the Asian tradition of singing at a karaoke and people love to sing a love song. Also, the lyrics are so easy to understand. So there are no other reasons, just lucky coincidence.

Mikkel: Also, in the 90s when we started, a lot of western bands didn’t really go through Asia. They concentrated on Europe, America and England. We’ve spent so much time in Asia, it’s like we’ve played ourselves into the hearts of our fans in Asia.

Among all of the famous hits that you have, which one would you say is your favourite?
Mikkel: “How Many Hours” is the song I really like, and “Someday”.

How is the song writing process like for MLTR? The lyrics or the melody comes first?
Jascha: The melody always comes first, only then the words. Actually I used to sing some languages that don’t exist and put it into the song to fit into the melody. After finishing the melody, I change the lyrics later to something more meaningful.

Mikkel: To something less meaningful. [Laughs]

Kåre: That makes more sense to me. [Laughs]

Jascha: We find some words that really work and that's nice to sing along with.

Jascha is the lead singer of MLTR.
With so many music genres evoling, will you guys still stick to the same musical style? Do you think that your music will be able to appeal to the younger generations?
Jascha: It depends; do you want us to change?

Mikkel: Actually there was a period in the 90s where we felt that we should try to sound fresher and new. Honestly, I don’t appreciate those songs compared to the ones that we wrote from our hearts. So I think that’s how we work; we work with our hearts and not just the brain. Also, that makes a lot of space for us to be creative and honest. It may be old fashioned, but I think it is the only way for us because we can’t be too upbeat though we have tried, it never sounds right for us.

Jascha: We can’t put our hands up in the air.

Mikkel: And actually we like modern music but we are not good at it. [Laughs]

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