Friday, July 06, 2012

“We are really excited to learn that we already have lots of fans in Pakistan” - A chat with pop group A1


The ‘90s were a great time for boybands, and British-Norwegian pop group A1 were one of the many acts that emerged during this era and dominated the airwaves. After joining forces in 1998, Ben Adams, Mark Read, Christian Ingebrigtsen, and Paul Marazzi (who left the group in 2002) had a number of hits, including ‘Same Old Brand New You’, ‘Caught in the Middle’, and a cover of a-ha’s ‘Take on Me’. A hiatus followed Paul’s exit from the group, until the remaining trio reunited to once again continue their musical journey. Last year, the group collaborated with Pakistani pop singer Annie Khalid on the song ‘Just 3 Words’, which has now been released. The group was nice enough to chat with Us about their music, working with Annie, and their future plans. Here’s what they had to say:

Background and music

Us: How did you guys come together as a group?
Mark Read:
Christian came over from Norway and was living in Liverpool studying at the Paul McCartney Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA), when he was recommended to a top UK manager putting a new band together. He met up with the management and landed a place in the band. Myself and Ben were in a band previously, trying to break into the business at the ages of 19 and 16. We also met with the management and were invited to be a part of the band as well. The main focus was on songwriting and musicianship. Paul was chosen through an earlier audition process.

Us: Why did you decide to part ways? And what prompted you to get back together?
After five years of nonstop travelling and promoting, we felt it was time for a break, and what was originally intended to be a short break ended up being seven years. But the three of us remained active in the music business during those seven years, [working on] solo projects, songwriting, and producing for other artists.
We got back together because Christian was asked to perform some A1 songs on a big TV show in Norway, so he asked us to come along just for fun. It got such a great response that it sparked off a series of comeback concerts, new album, and tour, and it’s just snowballed from there.

Us: How would you describe your music?
Our music back in the day, was fresh energetic pop with a British sound to it, which reflected what was going on in the UK pop scene at that time, but over the years developed into a more universal, timeless sound with big international hits like ‘Caught in the Middle’. Now it’s very contemporary pop rock, but without being pigeonholed into one category as we each bring something very different to the writing process.

Us: Which of the songs in your catalogue do you feel would be the best introduction to your music (for listeners who aren’t familiar with your work)?
‘Caught in the Middle’, ‘Don’t Wanna Lose You Again’, ‘Waiting for Daylight’, ‘In Love and I Hate It’, and ‘The Life That Could Have Been’.

Us: How have you guys changed since you first started out in the music business, both as people and as musicians?
We’ve obviously grown a lot as people in the 14 to 15 years since we first appeared on the scene, with a lot more life experience to draw upon when writing new material. Plus we’ve gained so much experience as a live band and since reuniting our live shows have been on a completely different level; we’ve had some of if not our very best shows since coming back, particularly in Asia.

Us: And how has the industry changed?
It’s a totally different industry, which seems to be less dictated by record labels and more about social media and igniting your fan base by more innovative ways. When we were first around, there was no X-Factor, no illegal downloading, or even YouTube, so there’s a lot more competition, but you just have to adapt, and we’re more passionate now about what we’re doing than we’ve ever been.

Us: The concept of boybands has various negative connotations associated with it. How do you feel about that?
Ben Adams:
To be honest, we have never received negativity in that respects. Probably because we aren’t really a boyband in the traditional sense. Yes we all sing, but we also all play our instruments on stage in a band set up and write and produce pretty much everything. Same as Coldplay, The Script, The Beatles, and any other group of guys making music.

Collaboration with Annie Khalid

Us: How did the collaboration with Annie Khalid come about? How do you know Annie, and how did the idea of a collaboration come up?
We met Annie at a charity event in Oslo for the floods and hit it off straight away, so we originally set up a few writing days in London for her, but loved the vibe so much we wanted to do something more, so ‘Just 3 Words’ was born and we laid it down as a duet.

Us: How was the experience of working with her?
Annie is a great performer, great singer, and most importantly a really nice person to work with. We had a great time recording the track and recently did our first performance of it at the Norwegian Grammys which went down amazingly!

Us: Please tell us about the song ‘Just 3 Words’
‘Just 3 Words’ is a song about a single moment of somebody saying three words to someone that changes their lives. What are those three words? Listen to the track and all will be revealed! It’s not what you would first think!

Us: Can you please tell us about the writing and recording process of the song?
We recorded it at Planet A Studios in London and produced it at the same place. We have been writing and producing for some of the world’s biggest artists there since the studio started, and we’re all pretty excited to have had Annie there too to add to the list of big names!

Us: How has the reception to the single been so far?
Christian Ingebrigtsen:
The reaction has been overwhelmingly good!  Everyone who hears it seems to get excited and want to dance. Great feedback from our fans, as well as industry people so far.

Us: Is there going to be a video for the song?
There are plans for making a music video very soon.  More info will be announced through our Twitter and websites.


Us: What is your perception of Pakistan?
Our perception of Pakistan is that it is a country with a lot of people with a rich culture and great food! Getting to know Annie, we learn more and more about Pakistan, and we’re really excited to visit and experience it for ourselves.

Us: Have you ever been to Pakistan? Do you plan to visit the country or perform here anytime soon?
We haven’t been to Pakistan yet, but there are plans to visit with Annie to promote this single.  Again, more info about this will be released through our Twitter and websites as soon as we have concrete dates.

Us: What can we expect from A1 in the coming months? Is a new album in the works?
A1’s newest album, Waiting for Daylight, is only recently released in the Asian territories, so we will continue to promote that this year.  But we are simultaneously working on a new album, which will be out next year.

Us: Any message for the readers?
We are really excited to learn that we already have lots of fans in Pakistan, and we can’t wait to meet everyone and learn more about what we understand is a unique and wonderful country.

- Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 6th July, 2012

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