THEY were a huge part of many people's lives in the 1980s. Three Norwegians who took on and conquered the world with their infectious pop tunes.

We might not have admitted it at the time, but A-ha were also a big part of mine and my brother's lives. They still are, especially in the case of my brother, who has dedicated an entire arm to the animation from the iconic single, Take On Me.

You can imagine then my excitement when asked if I would like to interview the band ahead of revealing they were to play Darlington's Northern Echo Arena next year.

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The interview with Magne Furuholmen - he of the keyboards - comes as the band, who also feature Morten Harket and Pal Waaktaar, release their latest album, MTV Unplugged - Summer Solstice.

Unlike any other they have done, it features stripped back versions of their greatest hits, plus some surprise collaborations.

"It seemed to us to be one of those charmed moments where we didn't feel like just making another album," says Furuholmen. "We disbanded for a while thinking it was permanent and then came back to it and this seemed like the perfect project to us.

"It actually turned out to be exactly that. We have been able to retake possession of the songs that we have been performing for 30 years. It turned out to be a very creative process and a very interesting retrospective action. It brought the band together in a way that we hadn't foreseen."

It's true, as fans we expect songs to be played in a certain way. Some times deviation doesn't go down well.

"When you have massive hits they kind of no longer belong to you. They belong to the audience. In a sense you are performing the audience's songs to them," says Furuholmen.

"There is a certain way that the song has been known and that very easily puts you in a situation where you have to perform a song that way because that is the expectancy. There is a feeling for any successful artist that you have to play that song.

"So it has been interesting to take them back down to the bare essentials. Some of the songs in the live context would be used to engage the audience in communal singing or whatever. When you take it all down and you actually look at the song, yes it was done that way and it was quite successful, but what if we do it a totally different way? I think the more iconic the record the more interesting it is to do.

"They become polar opposites. We did that With Take On Me. It wasn't just a case of wanting to use an acoustic guitar and a piano and that's it, we really tried to attack it anew and that gave us back a sense of ownership."

While A-ha's major success was in the 80s, they have maintained their popularity throughout the intervening years, scoring numerous hits across the world. Unlike bands that come back on a wave of nostalgia they have continued to make new music.

"Maybe people should break up more," says Furuholmen when asked where the desire to be creative comes from. "We often joke about it. But to a certain degree it is healthy to not just go with your flow and become complacent. In the breaks we have done more creative work, but in other contexts. In my case its my practice as a visual artist or film music, producing, writing. It gives you more tools when you come back together, a different framework of references and experiences to work from."

A-ha's rise to stardom was meteoric, but Furuholmen says they never became victims of that success.

"On a personal level, it is remarkable how little we have changed. The issues we have are still the same, the strengths and the weaknesses we have are still the same. We have kept remarkably true to our selves in that regard, for good and bad," he says. "We always saw success as a way of spreading our music. We didn't see it as a way out of a life situation that we were unhappy with. We never went in to become celebrated pop stars.

"When it happens it changes you, there is always a high risk of rampant narcissism for any person who finds themselves surrounded by people who say 'yes' to your every demand or need. The band has only ever got excited over new material and new songs and the creative process, being able to formulate something with music as the language. That is the driving force in the band. A healthy dose of stubbornness helps as well, the fact that every time you have something new you feel it deserves the same attention as everything else we have done."

Unsurprisingly, the band has not played Darlington before, but Furuholmen says they are very much looking forward to it.

"Rain or shine we are looking forward to it," he says. "It's kind of a different take for us as well, to bring the bigger productions to areas that we have not been before. It's always exciting."

  • The A-ha UK 2018 tour comes to The Northern Echo Arena in Darlington on Sunday, June 17, 2018. Tickets are priced at £45 plus booking fee for General Admission and £65, plus booking fee for Golden Circle.
  • They go on sale on Friday, November 17 from 9am via www.a-ha.com, www.ticketmaster.co.uk or www.lhgtickets.com. All tickets are standing. Children under 16 may be asked for ID and must be accompanied by an adult.