Michael Learns To Rock members Jascha Richter, Mikkel Lentz and Kare Wanscher are best known for their melodious hit singles that made them a hit sensation in Asia with songs like “Sleeping Child,” “25 Minutes,” “That’s Why You Go Away” and “The Actor” just to name a few. To the band, it has always been about the music; music that has sold over 11 million albums globally, songs that have logged more than 6 million paid / digital downloads and music videos viewed more than 50 million times on YouTube.
Today, 25 years later, the bright star of Michael Learns To Rock still shines bright. The band continues to record new music and tour new cities in Asia, where they are still a huge draw for fans.
In an interview, lead singer Richter humbly remarked, “Not 25 minutes, but 25 years have gone but not really disappeared. Thanks to all our fans who kept our band alive. Technology has changed the world… I don’t feel that anything really changed regarding our band. We are still three boys who enjoy playing music together.”
MNL Online spoke exclusively with Jascha Richter to discuss this important milestone and the band’s magic formula for success.
It’s so great to have Michael Learns To Rock back with “Silent Times”. I understand this is your first new song since “Anyway You Want It”. Can you please tell us the inspiration behind this new song, thematically and instrumentally?
This song is co-written by the English songwriter Wayne Hector, who wrote a bunch of international hit songs. I think the lyrics is quite dramatical and poetic, the melody is catchy and unpredictable, and the instrumentation is rudely simple. In example there is no background vocals, and no drum fills, and no guitar solo.
If you were to look back 25 years ago, you probably couldn’t have predicted the level of fulfillment and success that you guys are having today but can you still recall your journey and give us your predictions for yourself like what’s coming next, the state of music today, and the [music] industry as a whole?
I don’t think Michael Learns To Rock will exist until the end of time. I am personally having a hard time understanding the music of today. It is like the music has been diverted and streamlined at the same time. The big players are almost getting too big because of the nature of social media, so the same songs are played all the time all over the world, leaving smaller space for interesting new music. It is great to have instant access to all the music in the world, but at the same time, too much information doesn’t do anyone any good.
For 25 years, what has been the magic formula for success?
Never say never. Be unique. Work hard, but not too hard. Be patient, Be reliable. Grab opportunities from the air. Jump from opportunity to opportunity, and try to make everything a little bigger and better every time.
In your experience thus far, what is the best piece of advice in this business you actually followed? And one you didn’t follow, but now know for sure that you should have?
We soon found a manager, that was good for us. And soon we started to work with more experienced people in the business, and it was important to get a second view on our band. We did not know exactly what we wanted in the beginning. If you know what you want at an earlier stage of your career, you might go even further (or you might spilt up your band, because you don’t get what you want).
[ Laughs. ]
What Michael Learns To Rock song are you most proud of?
“The Actor,” because this is a special composition, and our very first hit song.
What song just never gets old to play for you? I’ll never get tired listening to “Sleeping Child,” “25 Minutes,” “Someday” and “It’s Gonna Make Sense”.
When we rehearse, all the songs is too old for us to enjoy 100%. But when we get on stage in front of our fans, the songs become 100% new and alive again.
What’s your current favorite album by another artist?
I don’t listen to albums anymore. But I enjoy listening to in example: “Classic” by MKTO, “Hero” by Family Of The Year, “A Sky Full Of Stars” by Coldplay, “Let Her Go” by Passenger and “Chandelier” by Sia.
My favorite modern artists are James Blunt, Enrique Iglesias, Maroon 5, Coldplay and Avicii.
What do you read or do for spiritual enlightenment or inspiration?
I can walk for three hours. Or bike.
How does it make you feel to know how much you have impacted people in such an endearing, meaningful way? Can you share some stories on how your music has touched and inspired people?
We always get so many nice comments on our Facebook page. From there we get at good picture of how much our songs have inspired people, and that makes us very proud.
Whether it be weird, funny or even scary maybe, what has been your most unforgettable interaction with a fan?
Today our fans are relaxed, though still very dedicated. We often meet and talk to fans. I remember I jumped down from the stage in Shanghai, and started to run towards the audience. The reaction was quite scary: They all started to run towards me, so I had to quickly run back to the stage again.
Many times we hear older generations comment on how younger generations sorta lack motivation, passion, drive or respect. Do you think there is any truth to this or is it all nostalgia?
I don’t think this is true, but am a worried about the stream of information everywhere, and that kids are spending hours and hours playing games. Are we all going to be some sort of robots in the future?
What recommendations would you make for those of us who are trying to maintain a balance between work, family, writing and performing, and personal time?
This is a very deep question, and the key to happiness is right here. I don’t know, I am still trying to work it out. [ Smiles. ] The main thing is not to drive yourself too hard. Many things, you really do not have to do, if it makes you tense.
Help yourself first, then you have the strength to help others.
If you spoke at a high-school commencement, what message would you convey?
I would have to think of something important to say. [ Smiles. ]
So when are you guys coming back to Manila?
Soon! This 2015 for sure!
Finally, what do you wish people think of when they hear “Michael Learns To Rock”?
A unique world of music, created with lots of love.
Words by Jayson E. Paor
Press Photos Courtesy of Warner Music Philippines
Update! Michael Learns to Rock returns for a one-night concert in Manila after seven years on September 19 at Smart Araneta Coliseum.