Kare Wanscher, drummer of Danish band, Michael Learns To Rock, gives us a lowdown of what the band has in store for its India tour.
The album Eternity, that you guys are here to promote, released over two years ago. What took you so long?
(Chuckles) We’ve been thinking the same thing ourselves! It’s been far too long. The album is not all that new, we just needed an excuse to come. It’s been about time.
Critics felt that Eternity catered to your Asian fan base. Is that true?
To be honest, we never really plan how an album should sound. We go into the studio, and record the way we like. It’s never a deliberate effort. It’s... (pauses)... more like a coincidence, you could say, that we share the same taste in music with our audience (laughs).
You guys returned to the studio four years after your last album. Was it difficult to get back into the groove?
It wasn’t that difficult, because this time, we started our own record label and we had complete artistic freedom to record what we wanted. It was a changed way of working, where only the three of us had to decide everything.
There was no interference. We had felt that we were ready to do the whole thing on our own, because we were learning the ropes all these years. And luckily, we succeeded. We had a great time recording this album!
What did you add to this album that record labels didn’t earlier permit you to?
We’ve included songs that we had recorded earlier, but had never released them, because of various reasons. So it was nostalgic working with our old material. And it was a great feeling, (chuckles) because there was no one to say, ‘No’!
The title track in the album is an instrumental one. Did you include that for the same reason?
(Chuckles) Yeah, we did that because we had the freedom to. Usually, we play instrumental music before a show to get into the groove. This time, we thought of putting it in an album, because we had composed it already, and because we could!
Are you planning to sign up other artistes on your music label too?
Hopefully! We’ve been in the industry for 20 years, and now we know all there is to know about the music business. This album is just the beginning to show that we are ready to stand up on our own feet. If all goes well, we’ll sign other artistes too.
Didn’t Soren Madsen’s exit affect the band much?
Umm... it affected us in the way that we needed another bass player (chuckles).
Seriously though, it was a big blow for us. But we decided not to bring in another permanent bass player to replace him. We were too close at that time to be able to include a new person, and now, we think it was a great new decision. We learnt how to continue very fast.
What memories do you have from your last performance in India five years ago?
Oh, we have lots of memories! It was an unforgettable tour. The three shows were great, especially the last one in Shillong in the North East. It was amazing because the stadium was filled with 30,000 people and it had started raining!
But people were still so happy that they were singing and dancing. In fact, as you may know, we even recorded that album and released a live concert album from the show.
You played some unplugged concerts in Denmark earlier this year. Would you be playing some acoustic stuff here as well?
Yeah, we played unplugged for the first time this year. It was a new thing for us to try. We wanted to take it all the way down to the base, with just one guitar and one piano and keep it small and simple.
It turned out to be a great success in Denmark and we hope to play acoustic in India sometime as well. But not this time! This time, it’s another kind of show — we are coming for a promotional showcase.
So what’s your playlist going to be like in India?
We haven’t decided the entire playlist yet, but we would be playing from our new album, and of course, we’ll also be playing some of the good old songs, that people like and expect us to play.
You guys have collaborated with quite a few Asian singers. Why haven’t you worked with an Indian musician yet?
Actually, we did a duet with a guy called Shaan last time we were here for a concert. He was on stage with us.
But you are right, we definitely need to do something with an Indian artiste on an album, so we could bring out the essence of the Indian culture through our music. I know there are many great and talented singers in India, but there’s not much Indian music in Denmark, so I can’t name any (chuckles).
Being a drummer, you must have heard of the tabla?
Oh yes! Tabla music is great! I really enjoy it. I also know about the sitar — everyone knows Ravi Shankar.
So I am familiar with your music, but it’s just that we haven’t been able to collaborate with someone yet. Maybe if someone asks us this time, with a little bit of research and preparation, we may be able to record something.
Ever thought of writing a song on India? You’ve written one on Bali...
Ah... yes, why not? Our songs are inspired by the places we’ve been to. And there is so much to see and do in India.
Unfortunately, we don’t have much time this trip, but we’d love to write a song about this country someday.
What are you all up to next? Can we expect a solo album from you?
(Chuckles) Well, we’ll just have to wait and see about that. But as far as the band is concerned, we do have an album coming up, which should release at the end of this year, or early next year.
It’s going to be classic MLTR with love ballads and pop music, just like we’ve always composed. We don’t feel like changing, we like getting better in what we do. Perfection is important for us.
In these 20 years, what would you say have been your highest and lowest points?
I think the lowest point was definitely at the very beginning. We were new, completely inexperienced, and it took us a lot of time to get where we are. The highest was definitely when we were out touring Asia over the last few years, including