Mirror Magazine

Learning to rock
What is the history behind Michael Learns To Rock? What has their journey been like so far? How do they handle their busy touring schedules? Marisa De Silva and Ishani Ranasinghe speak to the group to find out more
As our patient wait for Michael Learns To Rock (MLTR) turned to impatience due to the flight delay, we had little option but to let our imaginations run wild! With the entrance of each tourist, we imagined them to be MLTR in disguise, having taken another route out of the airport etc. As our anticipation levels rose to new heights, we finally saw a glimpse of blonde hair, “Yes they’re finally here!” we thought. The doors opened, and there emerged MLTR? Far from it. Out walked an elderly foreigner with his family, shocked to have cameras and photographers ready to catch his every move. So now, we have one tourist who’s probably thinking “Whoa! Sri Lankans sure know how to welcome visitors to their country.”

After much confusion and speculation, in walked the members of the ‘real’ MLTR. Although, they bore smiling faces, their 16-hour long flight would surely have taken its toll on the band. However, in reply to how their flight had been and what they felt about touring Sri Lanka, Jascha Richter, their lead singer said, “It was a pleasant flight” and they were, “very excited about performing here.”

Accompanied by a female bass guitarist Eda, MLTR strode out of the airport, amidst throngs of curious onlookers, straight into their waiting car. As they waved to us and we were about to leave ourselves, we realised that one of them (Kåre Wanscher) had been left behind. Walking over to keep him company, we found him quite at ease with being stranded. “Yeah, they seemed to have forgotten me,” he said with a doleful look, and almost immediately his ‘wheels’ arrived and he too was whisked away!

Come evening time at the Taj, where they were staying, we rushed them through their coffee for a photo shoot and then proceeded on to the press conference and our exclusive interview with them. Why Michael Learns To Rock, considering there is no Michael in their band? “Ah, it’s just a silly name we came up with when we were in high school. It doesn’t really mean anything in particular,” said Kåre, laughing. It had been the first name to come up, when they were trying out names for their band, he added. When asked if it had any relationship to Michael Jackson, they said, “Yeah maybe, because we’re all huge fans of his.”

As for pre-conceived notions about our country, Mikkel Lentz said, “We were told that it was a lot like India and as we’ve performed there, we had quite a good idea of what Sri Lanka may be like.” Now that they’re here, Mikkel felt that the main difference between the two countries was that, certain parts of India seemed more confusing than here.

Excited about being back on the road, Kåre added that they had not toured Asia in a few years. “We got a lot of fan mail from our Asian fans asking us to come perform in the region,” said Jascha adding that they’d tried touring Sri Lanka many times, but something had always got in their way. “The wind, ocean and outdoors seem very exotic,” enthused Jascha.

On the topic of piracy Kåre explained both sides of the coin. On one hand, when fans buy pirated copies, neither the recording companies nor the artistes make any money out of it and that makes it difficult for bands to tour, etc. On the other hand though, he realised that most of their fans could not afford to buy original albums. Yet in a way, by not buying originals they’re hurting themselves, because then bands wouldn’t be able to tour around the world, he said.

Jascha is the songwriter in the group. Every time Jascha writes a song, says Kåre, “It’s very slow,” finishes off Jascha. Even if it seems fast when we go through it, and eventually record it, the songs turn out slow, says Kåre smiling.

As for their albums, the making of their album ‘Played On Pepper’ seems to have been very special to them, as it was the first album they had worked on without any producers. They had put in a lot of time and effort into making this album, said Kåre.

When they first started out, they used to get together in Kåre’s basement to practice and had used his CD loud speakers as amplifiers, they reminisced. The immense success MLTR has back home is quite strange, said Jascha, mainly because rock music is the most popular music in Denmark, even among bands that sing in Danish. So it’s been quite a feat as they were one of the first bands to perform in English in Denmark and eventually became one of the biggest names to come out of Denmark.

“We’re influenced by all the types of music we hear but stick to ballads because that’s what we’re best at and that’s what we’re most popular for,” said Kåre. When making their songs, they try to find the things that they all have in common and take it from there, Kåre maintained. They believe that most often they find that ballads are the result of their common preference.

Since the departure of their fourth band member of ten years, in 2000, they’ve been using various bass guitarists if and when the need arises. Eda is their present bass guitarist who has been working with the band for about a year now and it seems to be working out quite well, they said.

Talking about the inspiration behind “Sleeping Child”, Jascha said that it is a mix between a peace song and a children’s song. It was dedicated to his daughter who was just two years old at the time, he added.

“We never tour with our families,” said Mikkel adding, “It’s not very family friendly because we’re working all the time.” As for whether touring or working in a studio was their preferred option, they say they like touring as they get quite a kick out of seeing all their fans around the world, said Mikkel. However, creatively, a studio is more effective as its closed area makes it a more conducive atmosphere for making music, but both experiences are brilliant in their own way, he added.

“Many young bands sounding like MLTR, have popped up back home and it’s quite a compliment to us to know that we’ve inspired young talent in some way” said Kåre, modestly. “Try not to simply follow a trend for the sake of it,” said Mikkel adding encouragingly, “Stick with what you’re good at!”

Being the first on their touring itinerary we hope that the Lankans gave them a kick-start. The Danes came, they saw and they conquered the hearts of fans across the island with their wit, charm and down-to-earthness! MLTR fans can expect a Christmas single titled “Upon a Christmas Night” that they just finished recording before they left home!


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