Malaysia's a big reason for Michael Learns To Rock's 25-year survival

Malaysia's a big reason for Michael Learns To Rock's 25-year survival
It's not about the money – they do it ALL for you: (L-R) Mikkel Lentz, singer Jascha Richter and Kare Wanscher

Be prepared to feel old - Danish pop/soft rock act Michael Learns To Rock is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Some may be surprised how the act has stayed together all this time, or how the band has lasted so long on the back of a handful of songs like The Actor, Sleeping Child, Paint My Love and 25 Minutes. In fact, Michael hasn't had a hit since 1999.

But the act remains a popular attraction in Malaysia. So, to mark MLTR's milestone, Warner Music has released a "greatest hits" CD with "the complete singles" culled from a dozen albums - 25: The Complete Singles. In case you're wondering, there are 25 tracks in the album.

The Star spoke to MLTR guitarist Mikkel Lentz as he looked back on some of Michael's biggest moments.

Is it true that the Michael in the band's name refers to Michael Jackson?

That's true (laughs). Back in the 1980s, the music scene was all about the King Of Pop. So we thought it would be funny to name our band Michael Learns To Rock. It reminded us of bands like Johnny Hates Jazz and Frankie Goes To Hollywood. So it was also inspired by those bands.

What do you remember from your first show in Asia?

Kuala Lumpur is a nostalgic place for us. In 1994, KL was the first place we performed in (South-East) Asia. I didn't think that we were such a hit (in Malaysia) and that people knew our songs. I remember when we played - it was fantastic! That was when the dream came true.

What are three things that have kept the act together for 25 years?

The fans are a big factor. They have a big influence on our band. We look forward to meeting all of them again next year. Secondly, the three of us are good friends. We're like brothers. Thirdly, we love music. We feel privileged to be playing music after 25 years.

Tell us a story behind your favourite MLTR song.

My favourite is Someday, one of the first songs we did for Played On Pepper (in 1995). We produced it. It was very magical - it just grew and grew like a flower. I think it gets better with time. Whenever I listen to it, I still think of it as a flower.

The name separated in 2000, which led to an announcement that MLTR was quitting music. But that didn't last too long. What inspired you to get back into the business?

We were exhausted from touring and trying to be at 10 places at the same time. We were very busy, which was good, but because we have wives and children we realised that it was too much work. Then we lost a member (bassist Soren Madsen quit in 2000), so we had to rethink our position as a band.

One evening, we listened to a lot of our songs and reminisced about the time we had together. The next day, our manager called and said, "I know you guys just announced you quit, but there's a gig in Asia." We just said "Yeah!" and that was it (laughs).

Here's a playlist of popular MLTR songs in Malaysia. Enjoy!


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