India learns to rock with MLTR

India learns to rock with MLTR

By ANUBHAV PARSHEERA | | 11 December, 2015
MLTR performing live.
The Danish pop-rock band, Michael Learns to Rock, or MLTR, became a worldwide musical sensation in the ’90s, selling millions of records and playing packed concert halls across the globe. The band members speak to Anubhav Parsheera about returning to India and creating music the old-school way.

Q. Twenty Five years is a long time for a band to remain together. Many groups have disbanded due to internal clashes or for several other reasons. What would you attribute your staying together to? Have you ever thought of disbanding? If so, why and when?
A. The reason for our staying together is our fans. Feeling the continuous support from fans around the world makes it impossible to just stop the party. We have also always had a lot of mutual respect among each other in the band, making it easier to deal with issues or clashes along the way, thinking more about the big picture than just smaller issues that might cause trouble. Furthermore we are not all big egos, and generally nice guys.
However, we did once decide to split up and said goodbye to each other over quite a few bottles of red wine. The next day the phone rang from Malaysia with an offer for a live concert and we immediately decided to “get back together”.

Q. You have toured India before as well, and are extremely popular in Asia. Do you think there’s any particular reason behind your popularity here?
A . I think that few bands have had the same impact on Asian and Indian fans. This is due to the way our music fits into the tradition of singing along to love songs, Karaoke etc. Also, our lyrics are easy to understand which in many Asian countries helps us since English is not their first language and they can understand what we are singing about. Another very important factor is the way the melodies are very strong and catchy.

Q. After the gig in Delhi, you’ll be performing in Goa, Dimapur and Guwahati. Half of your itinerary here is in the Northeast. And you have previously performed in Shillong as well. Do you have a soft spot for Northeast India. And if so, why ?
A. I think it is a coincidence that this tour brings us to Northeast India. We have been to Bangalore two times before and to Chennai once, so we did also visit the southern part of India. However, we loved playing in Shillong, so we look forward to seeing more of that part of India.


Q.You are known to extensively travel for your performances all over the world. Does that get tiring after a while? How many venues have you performed at over the years? A rough idea?
A. We still love travelling and that is a very important reason why we are still doing it. A rough idea about how many shows we have played will be between 500-800 shows.

Q. Electronic music or EDM is now a major force in the music industry. Do you see yourself veering off into a more electronic sound anytime in the future? Or will you stay true to your signature sound?
A. We have seen so many different styles come and go — and we have remained relevant to our fans. I guess we will always make the kind of music we love whatever that might be. Electronic music is very inspiring and also reflects in our music but I think MLTR will always sound like MLTR.

Q. Speaking of your signature sound, how would you define it?
A. Melodic pop-rock in a classic and timeless universe.

Q. You belong to an era when a song’s success was not measured by the number of YouTube views. What other changes in this regard have you observed over the years ?
A. The music business has changed so much over the years that it is hard to mention all the changes. First of all, we used to have something called record sales. When we started, the music was recorded on 2” tapes and released on LP and cassette tapes and everything was different. Except the fact that a good song has allways been a good song and will always be. So despite all the changes the music business is still the same — it’s all about the good song.

Q. What’s next for you career-wise? A new album in the works may be?
A. We have just released a new single — I’ll Wait For You — and will release more singles next year and plan to have an EP ready in February. Then we will see what comes. We also have a lot of touring scheduled for next year in China, Taiwan, Indonesia etc.

Q. From the current crop of musicians, be it bands or pop stars, is there anyone’s stuff you particularly enjoy?
A. Guys like Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith are great — and Bruno Mars, of course.

Q. Out of all the places you have performed over the world, is there any one concert that has stood out for you?
A. The concert in Shillong was very special and will always stand out as one of our favorites. We released a live album from that concert which I still enjoy listening to.

“The music business has changed so much over the years that it is hard to mention all the changes. First of all, we used to have something called record sales. When we started, the music was recorded on 2” tapes and released on LP and cassette tapes and everything was different. Except the fact that a good song has allways been a good song and will always be. So despite all the changes the music business is still the same — it’s all about the good song.”



Q. With the advent of technology, is it now easier for an artist to get famous. Would you say that the ease of making music today has created room for a lot of  mediocre stuff?
A. It has definitely become easier to get your music out there to people around the world. But still, your music has to stand the test against so much of other music out there. The competition today is much harder than years back, when only bands with a record deal could get their music out. Thus I think it has not become any easier to become known as an artist due to the new digital distribution methods. On the other side, the great thing about the new distribution methods is that anybody can have the chance, and if the music is good enough, even the poorest young kids in a small town can reach out to millions and make it in the music business — which was hardly possible years back.


Q. If MLTR were to form in 2015, do you think you would sound different?
A. No, I think we would sound exactly the same if we had grown up in 1970s and 1980s. Of course if we were 20 years old today we would definitely sound different and only god knows how.

Q. With the rise of so many solo artists, do you think the era of the boy band is over?
A. If you look at K-pop [Korean pop], there are tons of boy bands. Also I guess that One Direction are still around, so boy bands will hardly stop being formed. Boys will always want to make music.

Q. What was that exact moment when you realised that you had made it big?
A. I think it was entering the stage in Denmark in a sold out club right after the release of our first album, and the whole crowd was singing along to our songs. December 1991 it was.

Q. Your native language is Danish, yet you choose to sing in English. Have you recorded music in Danish as well?
A. We did try to record a few songs in Danish and luckily it didn’t sound too good, so we never released any of these.

Q. What are the musical influences that shaped you and your sound?
A.  All the pop and rock music from the 1970s and 1980s that we listened to when we were young such as ABBA, Supertramp etc.

Q. Are you familiar with any Indian artists, or with Bollywood music?
A. We hear a lot of Indian music when travelling and we love Bollywood films with all the great dancing scenes they feature. It’s just hard to remember all the names of the artists.

Q. Unlike various artists, you don’t seem to be in the news for anything other than your music. Is this to uphold a clean image that surrounds you and your music, or do you harbour a genuine dislike for controversy?
A. As persons we don’t have a need for controversy and we are very careful to keep our private life out of the media. We are proud that our music alone has been able to pave the way for our success and that MLTR being a well-know band is not due to media scandals or us acting as reality stars etc. Music is basically all that matters to MLTR and all we feel is relevant to talk about.

Q. What advice would you give to young musicians who are still trying to make it big?
A. My advice would be to not listen to advises. Do what you feel is right and listen to yourself. Only by doing that, you will find the right way for yourself.

After their performance in Gurgaon on Friday, the following is the schedule for the rest of their tour in India: December 13 in Guwahati, December 15 in Dimapur, December 17 in Kolkata and December 19 in Goa.

 

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