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A-ha - Ending on a high note

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Magne Furuholmen, keyboardist with Norwegian pop stars A-ha, tells Andrew Owen why the band is calling it a day after 25 years together.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_EXxMlIExpo

Magne Furuholmen, keyboardist with Norwegian pop stars A-ha, tells Andrew Owen why the band is calling it a day after 25 years together.

These days it seems the charts are awash with reformed acts from the 1980s.

So it's interesting to see that one of the biggest, Norway's A-ha, are going the other way.

On November 19 they will perform at Birmingham's LG Arena for the last time as part of their Ending on a High Note farewell tour.

After 25 years, 35 million album sales and nine studio albums, singer Morten Harket, guitarist Paul Waaktaar-Savoy and keyboard player Magne Furuholmen, have decided to bow out.

But, in these days of Phil Collins and Paul McCartney, A-ha are still comparatively young men. Their last album made the top five two years ago, they have influenced bands such as Coldplay and Keane, and they could easily have another 10 years of touring and belting out their greatest hits.

So why stop?

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"We've had had a fantastic 25-year run," says Furuholmen, down the line from some unspecified location, "And there's the feeling that there's time to do something else. And that the collaboration has reached its endpoint.

"You don't want to go on and become a caricature of yourself and end up disappointing the fans and yourself.

"I think it's right for us," he adds. "We are very different people within the band, we look at things quite differently, and we've managed despite that, or because of that, to go through and have a fantastic journey together that's lasted 25 years. And I'd much rather we had a break in the relationship than it fall apart by itself in five years' time, you never know. Everything comes to an end, the question is when."

So, are they no longer friends?

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"I think friendship is something that's quite hard to define when you're working together for 25 years," he says. "It's more like a marriage than a friendship, to be honest. Any kind of marriage that has a divorce is either amicable or hostile, and the smart thing to do is collaborate about the well-being of the family.

"I think to a certain degree friendships wither away," he adds. "It's more of a common fate, to be honest. I think, probably, friendship is something that we had when we were young, and then it became a working relationship, and then it became a life, it became a common fate.

"I think the friendship probably is the price we paid for the success, for the life of the band."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbG69SAZUKw

But it's a high price to pay for success, isn't it? "Not necessarily," says Furuholmen. "It depends on the friendships," he laughs, before adding: "It is a high price to pay, but I don't think it's something that you can necessarily regret. You find yourself just realising that this is what life became, and I think one of the healthy aspects of letting it go with a conscious decision is that you can actually give yourself the illusion that you can have a blank canvas at the age of 50 and start a different life, and I quite like that idea."

It must be pointed out that Furuholmen isn't moaning. He's proud of the band and what they have achieved, "it's a very rare situation to be in and I wouldn't trade it in for anything", but he's happy to walk away from it all. He has a parallel career in the visual arts and lives on an island off the coast of Oslo. Considering his main occupation, he seems like a remarkably level-headed man.

"We haven't done too shabbily," he agrees. They have stable personal lives and "our kids are functional kids. None of us picked up a drug habit or has been to rehab yet, so we still have a lot of exciting things to look forward to."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmCeHyW838g

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