The history of Michael Learns To Rock
With global record sales of more than 8 million units since the debut in 1991, the history of MLTR contains not only the story of one of the biggest international successes ever to come out of Denmark, it's also the tale of how exceptions often confirm the rule. As opposed to so many other international names, the road to MLTR's success has never been paved with scandals, divorces, drugs, or even extreme images of life on the edge – It's strictly about music. It's about the formidable talent for writing fine pop songs, about the indisputable qualities contained in the songs, and above all the ability to cut through all the noise with material that has earned the group a faithful following and dazzling record sales.
MLTR's music has been described as a Scandinavian glow that meets the international pop song, something which has been refined through the years by artists such as The Beatles, The Eagles, Elton John and Billy Joel. It's precisely the perfect balance of the two elements described above that has been instrumental in forming the compelling sound of the band and won MLTR millions of fans around the globe
The whole saga begins quite modestly back in 1987 at a high school in Aarhus, Denmark. The singer and keyboard player Jascha Richter (b. 1963) forms a band with drummer Kåre Wanscher (b. 1969) and guitarist Mikkel Lentz (b. 1968) – a little café band. All three are huge music fans who were virtually fed the history of pop and rock with their mother's milk. They decide to create a more serious band after Jascha plays them a few songs he has written. In the spring of '88 Søren Madsen (b. 1967), who's otherwise a guitarist, agrees to sit in on bass during a rehearsal one evening. Michael Learns To Rock becomes a reality. The group debuts in Aarhus in May 1988 and later in the summer enters the city's annual talent contest. MLTR scores a resounding victory, and at the same time lands a manager, J.P. Andersen, who is a member of the jury. Andersen immediately falls for the talent radiating out of this sparkling young quartet.
The following two years bring an intensive period of concert touring. The group plays everywhere in Denmark, adds new and better songs to the repertoire, gets tighter and tighter as a band, fine tunes the precise harmonies that give the band its signature sound – and along the way, lands a solid record contract. With the Danish producers Jens Hofman and Oli Poulsen working the dials, MLTR spends several months in the studio preparing for the September 1991 debut of the album MICHAEL LEARNS TO ROCK . Among other tracks, the set contains the hit ballad THE ACTOR a song that in January 1992 secures MLTR the pole position on the Danish album-sales chart. The song travels much faster than the band, and without MLTR even being there, it tops the charts in Norway, Sweden, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines. The period marks hectic times for MLTR. In 1992 they frantically tour Denmark – where they are the hottest thing going – and a number of countries in the Far East where their presence is a follow-up force to smashing successes the debut album has already achieved. Along the way Jascha Richter writes songs for a second album that gets a rush release in October 1993 under the title COLOURS .
Once again, it's the knack for creating the classic ballad that generates success. SLEEPING CHILD is the title of the song that sparks MLTR-mania. In the course of the next 18 months, the frenzy launches the band on a journey to many parts of the world and generates album sales far beyond the one-million mark. COLOURS is released in most of Europe and throughout the Far East, while SLEEPING CHILD and the singles that follow, 25 MINUTES and OUT OF THE BLUE land MLTR top slots on countless hitlists and earns the lads innumerable gold and platinum records. Fans in Thailand go berserk when the band arrives in Bangkok in November to perform for 12,000 followers at the Phoebus Concert Hall. And as the jubilant finale to a golden year, MLTR is given the prestigious RSH Award in Germany and at the SEA Grammy Awards in Singapore the band is named “The Best Performing Act of the Year.”
The year 1995 sees the release of MLTR's third album, PLAYED ON PEPPER . The number of international territories MLTR has conquered grows, putting the band is on top-priority lists in faraway places such as Brazil, South Africa, The United Emirates Republic, and no fewer than 11 countries in the Far East. It goes without saying that Scandinavia is on the bandwagon along with other European countries, including Germany, Italy, France and Switzerland where the album is released. In October of the same year MLTR embarks on their biggest tour of the Far East -- with 25 shows in 10 countries – where new hits like THAT'S WHY (YOU GO AWAY) and SOMEDAY become pearls on the string of hits that make up the setlist. PLAYED ON PEPPER ends up selling more than 1.2 million units, while in efforts to curb pirate copying of MLTR material, the band releases the best-of album, PAINT MY LOVE . The album is released exclusively in the Far East. The title track – and the accompanying video which touches the edges of censorship laws in some territories – reinforces MLTR's enormous popularity and indisputably makes the band the biggest name in countries such as Korea, Thailand and Malaysia. Down by the opposite pole, MLTR's popularity explodes in South Africa. Following a hectic four-day promo tour in July 1997, the band lands at the top of the country's hitlists . PAINT MY LOVE sells a whopping 3.4 million units worldwide. MLTR is chosen as headliner for the Celebrate Hong Kong Concert on 6 July 1997, the climax to festivities marking the transfer of Hong Kong to China.
While promoting PAINT MY LOVE on the international highways, MLTR squeezes in some time to record a fourth studio album NOTHING TO LOSE . The set is released in September 1997 while MLTR still has a firm foothold atop hitlists in the Far East as well as South Africa. The rocker SOMETHING YOU SHOULD KNOW helps pave the way for yet another success by the band. NOTHING TO LOSE logs sales of more than one million units and when the band heads off in January 1998 for a tour of South Africa to play sell-outs in Johannesburg and Pretoria, the critics write: “This is as good (if not better) a band as any current big name group out of America or the UK.”
Nine turbulent years takes its toll on the four musicians who decide to take a break from each other and from the world of pop music. But shortly thereafter, in the autumn of 1998, Jascha Richter has some new songs written. The single STRANGE FOREIGN BEAUTY is chosen as the trump card for a new retrospective album released under the fitting title, GREATEST HITS. The set contains a selection of top hits from the four previous albums, but the tracks have either been remixed, re-recorded or fine tuned in some way or another. Upon the album's 1999 release, MLTR once again lands at the summit of the Danish hitlist and opens the ears of music fans in new, untapped areas such as Portugal. Another million seller is added to the band's discography, and the success was achieved without any promotional work done in MLTR's main markets in the Far East.
When MLTR begins initial work for studio album number five in the spring of 2000, Søren Madsen decides to leave the group to try his hand at a solo carrier. Richter, Lentz and Wanscher opt to continue as a trio and that summer they head for the studio. As it has been for previous albums, the band decides once again not to hire a costly international star producer, but allies itself with the incredibly talented Danish musician, arranger and producer Boe Larsen. Uniting with the band, he and MLTR find a new musical direction and set some new challenges for themselves. The outcome is BLUE NIGHT – MLTR in the year 2000. A dozen new, sharply-profiled quality pop songs. The new tracks are a fine extension of what is already an impressive repertoire that may be postmarked in Denmark, but surely demonstrate how the most remote corner of the world is no more than a good song away.
BLUE NIGHT becomes another huge success for MLTR – sales come close to the platinum level at home and score successfully on Asian hitlists as well as the group's new found market in Sweden. In 2001 the band sets out on a five-week-long tour with stops in Dubai, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and China. Just before the tour kicks off, the compilation 19 LOVE SONGS – including the not previously released track GHOST OF YOU -- is released in Southeast Asia. (Danish release 2002). Before setting off on the tour the boys agree they will take a long break upon completion of the tour. The break allows Richter, Lentz and Wanscher a chance to pursue individual projects, one of which leads to Richter's solo album PLANET BLUE .
At the start of 2003, the band members gather once again and begin to plan their sixth album ...