PORTRAIT. THE POPSTAR WHO DIED (1995)
Magne Furuholmen, the boy from Manglerud who dreamt of becoming
a world star and became it has come to hate the pop star life.
I got little by little distinct feelings of claustrophobia and agoraphobia
and became locked between the two states. It was a prison. It was
intense for good and bad and hellishly strange to be in opposition
with something you had created yourself. It grinds you down.
What was the worst time with a-ha?
I tackled touring activity poorly. I had two choices, one be a
sour puss or begin taking drugs..I couldn't handle the thought of
What was it like to stand in front of 200,000 people on stage
I felt it was totally absurd. I had no right to be there and tried
to forget it was me on stage.
But wasn't it what you had dreamed about?
We were focused on the Beatles model. Success shaped perfectly.
We tried to gain a position from where we could develop ourselves
and little prepared for the stigmatising we got as a pop band. Then
came the acheivement pressures we didn't anticipate. We have since
been blacklisted by the Record Company because we won't play the
game their way and are considered one of the most difficultest bands.
We can hardly be accused of adjusting the music to uphold a status
and it has bewildered a great many people. We were never pleased
trampling over the same stones and it was something underlying in
the band that we have had to correct gradually.
Pal and Morten have their solo careers and Magne has his art -
Furuholmen lets us know that it is something to help get a-ha on
their feet again. Since Magne himself compares them to The Beatles,
it is tempting to ask...
Are you likely to become a-ha's John Lennon?
That is a hopeless comparison.
What was life like on the inside?
It was a club built on success - an isolated jet set life with
an extended commitment, like living in a coccoon. I got physical
reactions with imaginary heart attacks, such that I thought I would
die. I became a hypochondriac, a typical sign of something in your
childhood that you didn't manage to absorb.
How did you live through that period?
I can merely speculate. I have always been remote and difficult
at times. It got accentuated and multiplied at times. I don't think
anyone gets to understand how intense the pressures were. I became
defensive and introverted and gave less of myself instead of more.
I believed we were on a voyage to do everything under the sun and
it was anything but when we began. Instead of being busy with creative
processes, we were too much a part of a machine, to such a degree
that I became a hindrance to the others in the band.
Why was that?
A huge seed of disagreement was the belief that a hit was a saving.
I had no belief in that method a long time ago so the motivation
only existed in the others in the band. (He says subdued) The correct
decision would've been for us to stop at an earlier time and go
into our thinking boxes. We tore each other apart. I've thought
that maybe I will continue with music, but in what way, I don't
ARTISTIC MACHOMAN IN MAJOR AND MINOR (1995)
we finally put to rest the myth about the retired popstar who flipped
a coin on his personality status once he discovered he could be
I have had a relation to painting and drawing since I was quite
small - music too. Both these forms of expression say the same to
me. When Pal and Morten and I worked and struggled in London, I
tried to earn a little money by selling some pictures. Looking back,
I see that they were somewhat naive. I was like a dog after learning,
sneaking into the Art Academy to see what they did there and looking
round all the galleries, becoming a permanent fixture in most.
Kjell Nupen became your designated teacher?
Yes, I have learned a lot from Kjell. I had certainly heard much
about him, knew that he had gained much success and was referred
to as an arrogant shit head. At the time I thought I was the same
myself, so it worked excellently. Kjell has taught me an incredible
amount about the technical sides of the field. We have found a style
based on mutual respect and truth and would never dream of misusing
the artistic trust.
You already had your first exhibition around six years ago?
Yes, it was in Stavanger and I debuted with Paintings. Then, more
and more galleries opened up to me. I wondered whether or not to
take myself seriously and set out, so I just did it!! I had to take
the leap. I knew I started with a handicap - a well known popstar
who will make a fuss of himself and pretend to be an artist .. Nevertheless,
I had to take the risk of getting massive criticism from the established
art environment, but I also knew that what I had done were honest
and sincere pieces of work of the standard I was at in 1989 and
I stood up for it. Obviously I was scared about not being taken
seriously, but fortunately I think I managed to arrange it so it
didn't appear like a gimmick on my part. Naturally, I got extra
publicity on the strength of a-ha, but serious art critics managed
to rise above such things. I got good critics and learned a lot.
I certainly had no formal art training. My forms of art range from
sketches, paintings, lithographs and etchings. Now I have my own
studio and will learn more about painting technique. To paint requires
a whole other peace and continuity than woodcuts. This exhibition
'Kutt' is the most complete I have made. I see all the pictures
in one room and they speak the same and give a collected expression
for the fundemental theme of the exhibition.
If you didn't have the economic security a-ha give you, would
you have became a pictoral artist anyway?
Yes, I am completely sure of that because I have had a relation
with this for so long. The music and pictures are a process for
me. I would also work with music - a-ha or no a-ha.
Are a-ha no longer a subject in your life?
Not necessarily. We are having a natural pause now. We have a
need to be ourselves - Pal, Magne and Morten, not the unit 'a-ha'.
We evolved ourselves all the time while we were identified as a-ha
and if we work together again, and I believe we will, then it will
defintiely be with a different expression than the one we had with
the old a-ha.
Was success tough?
Not many recall how hellishly long we worked before we gained any
success. I remember! It was tough! But, I learned a lot and grew
up fast - maybe too fast. Afterwards it all happened at a tremendous
speed where it was impossible to let all of it sink in. We travelled
the world, always in fifth gear. The touring life was exciting,
strenuous and fun, but obviously we felt the pressure all the time
- hit number two preferably to be as big as the first and so on
and it wore me down anyway. I reacted by being introverted and became
little by little considered cranky and arrogant. I thought I was.
Have you any unfulfiled dreams?
I have to think about that a bit.. umm.. I certainly have fulfilled
many, gradually.. the dream about succeeding with a-ha became a
reality, the dream of having my own exhibition has been fulfilled.
I have a beautiful wife and two great kids... err actually I don't
have any unfulfilled dreams at the moment, but dreams are one thing,
aims are another.
What will you be doing in ten years?
When I am 42?!! Then I will be sitting lonely and bitter in the
middle of my studio and feeling sorry for myself. (He laughs heartily)
I am quite sure I will do things with art and music and I am definitely
gonna spend more time with my kids. I am not going to be one of
these Fathers who regret all that they didn't do when it is too
late. I realise I am lucky to be able to do this and work at what
TALKS ABOUT NORWEGIAN MUSIC AND
Magne comments on the lack of creative ideas in today's Norwegian
pop music scene.
Magne believes none of these artists (Unni Wilhelmsen, Espen Lind
"Sway", and Mette Hartman) can get any recognition on the international
"In my opinion, these artists are not interesting enough. The same
goes for all Norwegian pop I hear. One exception is Seigmen. They
some good things in their band"
Everything can be controlled.
Magne explains: "Promotion people think everything can be controlled
by good marketing. This of course is not true. The problem is that
the artists on whom the focus is, usually have the least amount
of originality. They are like everybody/everything else"
Furuholmen also pronounces his mis-belief in the record company's
ability to pick the right artists.
"Both managers and record companies make too many mistakes and
pick the wrong people." "Most Norwegian artists think the world
is waiting for a Norwegian artist. That's not the way it is. The
thing is that nobody out there cares about what's happening in norway.
After the A-ha success a lot of people actually looked in norway's
direction, but they found nothing."
Timing About A-ha's breakthru he says the following: "The whole
thing, for sure, had something to do with timing. And with the video
to Take on Me, and its cartoon effects. But I think we also had
something special, and that we did the right thing when we went
for synth-based music, which was really "in" at the time."
Now, in addition to previous people who have been asked about this
matter, Magne Furuholmen doesn't promise an A-ha comeback, but is
ready for another a-ha experience.
"I could well make another record with A-ha now, but there are
no concrete plans." Magne explains.
"We talk often about it on each other's answering machines." "I
think that there are several aspects of A-ha that we still haven't
discovered. We aren't done yet. That's why we should do something
together again." says Furuholmen.
Morten Harket and Paul Waaktaar-Savoy have spoken to VG [Norwegian
newspaper] about a reunion, and they've thought of it as an option.
Furuholmen himself has focused on arts over the last couple of years.
For the last few weeks, he's been in Shanghai, China, where he has
sold 30-40 items of his work, consisting of wooden scultptures and