So how did Michael Learns to Rock?

- Ricky Lo () - November 16, 2008 - 12:00am

Have you ever wondered how Michael learned to rock, or why this wholesome Danish group is so named?

I never did, not until I talked to drummer Kare Wanscher by telephone in an exclusive interview (he was calling from Copenhagen). (The two other members are Jascha Richter, keyboard player, and Mikkel Lentz, guitarist.)

According to a backgrounder furnished Conversations by MJM Productions, owned and managed by Edgardo T. Mangahas, which is producing the Michael Learns to Rock one-night-only concert at the Araneta Coliseum on Nov. 22, “MLTR’s music has been described as a Scandinavian glow that meets the international pop song, something whcih has been refined through the years by arists such as The Beatles, The Eagles, Elton John and Billy Joel” who, I learned during the interview, happen to be among the band’s musical influences, besides Michael Jackson.

MLTR has sold more than nine million records since its debut in 1991. But MLTR actually began taking off in 1987 at a high school in Aarhus, Denmark, where Jascha formed a little cafe band with Kare and Mikkel. They then decided to create a more serious band after Jascha played them a few songs he had written. They embarked on a tour first around Denmark and then in other countries. The rest is, you know...

At the height of their career, the MLTR guys consistently hit the charts with their albums, like their self-titled debut (1991), Colours (1993), Played On Pepper (1995), Nothing To Lose (1997) and Blue Night (2000), followed by the more recen t ones, Take Me To Your Heart (2004) and I Walk This Road Alone (2007).

On Nov. 22 at the Big Dome, MLTR will treat their fans to the same old songs — and more — such as 25 Minutes, The Actor, A Different Song, A Kiss in The Rain, African Queen, Angel Eyes, Blue Night and Breaking My Heart.

I wonder, who’s Michael?

(Laughs a bit) “Well, it’s a good question because I really don’t have an answer to that. We have no member called Michael. So you have to guess who Michael is.”

Do you mean to say that you don’t know who Michael is?

“I don’t know who he is. Hahahaha! Several years ago we were inspired by Michael Jackson, and maybe...”

Why did you call your group Michael Learns to Rock?

“I think basically because it was the most silly name we could come up with. So that was the main reason, really. And we also thought that rock music was what we would like to learn to play. We just picked the most silly name even if there’s no meaning to it. I’m sorry but there’s no real reason why we decided to call the band that.”

Didn’t you think of any other name?

“Not really because our singer, Jascha, made the first demo tape and then he wrote on it ‘Michael Learns to Rock.’ And then all of us said, ‘Yeah, that’s our name!’ So we never thought of changing that name.”

Unlike most bands, Michael Learns to Rock has a clean and wholesome image. No scandals, no drugs, no divorces. Very, very wholesome. How do you maintain that image?

“I don’t know but...you know, we are all very happy persons living in a very lovely country where we don’t really have big problems here. We don’t have crimes or poverty, and stuff like that. So we don’t have any need to sing it out. For us, what’s the most important thing is to be happy and to express that through our music.”

Wow, you’re very lucky! Not every country is like Denmark.

“Yes, I think so, too.”

So I guess that you are careful with the lyrics of your songs for the benefit not only of fans in your own country but in other countries as well, the Philippines included.

“We make music and we speak in an international language. We sing in English. We cater to people all over the world, no matter where they come from and disregarding race or religion and stuff like that. That’s the wonderful thing about music. That’s what we love to do and we have experienced so much love and understanding from people around the world. So we just try to express our feelings through music and we’ve been lucky that people are able to relate to our songs.”

You have a recurring message in your songs, which is about peace and happiness. You’re very positive.

“Thank you! Yes, we are, we are! As I said, we are happy and peaceful persons and we love to sing about it.”

Aside from Michael Jackson, who are your musical influences, role models?

“Our main influences were the artists who were popular in the ’70s and the ’80s, like the Bee Gees, the Beatles, Elton John, The Eagles and many others. All the bands that write good songs.”

Of course, all the members are happily married, with families of their own.

“Yes, all of us have our own families. We are all lucky that we have wonderful families. We have been together for many years, growing beautifully together.”

How many children do you have?

“Many! In total, the three of us members have 11 children. The children of Michael Learns to Rock. And they are all proud of what their fathers are doing. We are quite fortunate that we’ve been able to stick with our families for many years.”

Will your children be the second-generation Michael Learns to Rock?

“Exactly! There is so much talent to continue.”

How are you as a father?

“I try to be a loving father and I try to take care of my children and to raise them to be good people. I try to spend as much time with my children as possible, of course. I also try to bring them when our band goes on tour. For example, last year I brought my eldest son with me on the tour, so he’s starting to experience thelife that his father is living. I try to involve my children in my life, take them along and bring them out in the world so they can see beyond Denmark. I think it’s important for them to know that the world is big and people are the same wherever they live.”

In 2001, the three members parted for a while and you regrouped in 2003. What did you do away from each other?

“We all had other projects. Mikkel was making music for a lot of film and TV shows; he’s writing songs for other artists. I’m working as a lawyer in a law firm. I’m the one who takes care of all the conflicts and a lot of the business part of the band. Besides Michael Learns to Rock, we have a lot of other things to do. When we are not touring, we look after some other things.”

For 21 years, you are able to keep the group intact. How do you do it?

“Of course, I just think that we are able to listen to each other really. And we are able to accept the fact that we are different from each other. We try to let everybody has his word, and not to be too pushy if anybody wants to have a little break. We have to try all the time to adjust to each other. It’s just a matter of being aware of each other’s needs and to accept each other’s limitations. We are democratic with each other.”

Were you friends before you became a band?

“Before Michael Learns to Rock, we knew very little about each other. We became friends only when we became a band.”

In 2001, you were in the Philippines for a concert. What did you remember from that short visit?

“First of all, the Filipino audience is our favorite audience because the Filipinos are the best singers in the world, they are a very musical people. So everytime we perform in the Philippines, we love it when the audience sings along with us. I also remember that our show was held at the big venue at the same time when Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier were having ‘Thrilla in Manila.’ That was in the ’70s. I remember that trip very well. It was short but we enjoyed it a lot. We always love coming to the Philippines. We’ve been there many times. We have performed in Cebu, Cagayan de Oro and other cities in the country.”

This time around, what can we expect from your concert?

“We are playing all the songs that you know and songs from the new album we are releasing first in Europe and then in Asia. We are looking forward to meeting our fans again in ther Philippines.”

(Note: Tickets to the Michael Learns to Rock concert at the Big Dome are priced at P3,098 for VIP, P2,888 for Patron, P2,363 for Lower Box, P1,050 for Upper Box A, P525 for Upper Box B and P263 for General Admission. Call 911-5555.)

(E-mail reactions at rickylo@philstar.net.ph or at entphilstar@yahoo.com)

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with