- Michael Learns to Rock
Michael Learns to Rock
Michael Learns to Rock (MLTR) performing on 20 June 2010 at a store in Bangalore, India during a promotional tour (left to right: Jascha Richter, Kåre Wanscher & Mikkel Lentz).
Background information Also known as MLTR Origin Aarhus, Denmark Genres Pop, soft rock, rock, pop rock, alternative pop Years active 1988–present Labels EMI Records
MCA Records (US)
MLTR Music (Independent)
Website www.mltr.dk Members Jascha Richter
Past members Søren Madsen
Michael Learns to Rock (also known as MLTR) are a Danish pop-soft rock band that performs songs in English. Formed in 1988, the band has sold over 11 million records worldwide, mainly in Asia, and in addition, another 6 million or more paid downloads for their single "Take Me To Your Heart" which was awarded "Most downloaded single of the year 2006". They have produced seven studio albums as well as many live and greatest hits albums, and are currently recording their eighth studio album. MLTR have won many awards and have earned Gold and Platinum status for their records in many countries, as well as the "Gold Preis Award" from RSH, Germany and "The Best Performing Act of the Year" at the SEA Grammy Awards in Singapore. The band has attributed its success in Asia to a clean-living image and singing in English as a second language.
During the peak of their popularity, in the mid-90's, MLTR have been described by critics to be "as good (if not better) a band as any current big name group out of America or the UK.”
According to their record label releases, their sound is "the perfect balance of a Scandinavian glow and the international pop song that has been instrumental in forming the compelling sound of the band", though the lead singer and song writer Jascha Richter disagrees with this, maintaining that the music defies geographical categorization.
- 1 History
- 2 Touring
- 3 Musical style and influences
- 4 Discography
- 5 Awards and Certifications
- 6 References
- 7 External links
The beginnings (1988–1992)
In 1988, the singer-keyboardist Jascha Richter, intent upon putting together a band to perform songs composed by him, joined hands with his high-school friend and drummer Kåre Wanscher in Aarhus, Denmark. Realizing the handicaps of playing as a duo, they called in guitarist Mikkel Lentz, who was then playing rock music with his group the Rocking Studs. On March 15, 1988, which would turn out to be their first night of practice and while still needing a fourth musician, they asked Søren Madsen, another guitarist, to join in on bass. They quickly recorded a demo tape intended to be sent to the competition 'Rock Grand Prix' in their hometown Aarhus, and had to hurriedly come up with a name before posting it, resulting in Jascha inscribing the words 'Michael Learns to Rock' in pun. In an interview Richter admitted that it was named after Michael Jackson: "Yeah, it was like Johnny Hates Jazz and Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Sure, I've regretted calling ourselves this many times since, but we were successful so quickly we had to stick with it and over time I got used to it."
On May 22, 1988, the quartet debuted in Aarhus in the competition 'Rock Grand Prix' at the town's biggest venue, Ridehuset, ending up as one of the two winning teams. Soon after, in July 1988 the group entered and won the city's famed annual talent show.
A member of the contest jury, J.P. Andersen, who was impressed with the band's talent but somewhat annoyed at the latter's lack of professionalism, later became the band's manager. Michael Learns to Rock continued playing live and recording material in order to catch attention of Danish record labels, finally landing a record deal with the Danish label Medley in January 1989. However, the band would release their eponymous debut album, Michael Learns to Rock, only in September 1991, backed by the American record label Impact Records and with much of the album including the first American single, "My Blue Angel", mixed and produced by American producers Tony Peluso and Steve Barri.
Although not making any headway at all in America despite getting airplay for "My Blue Angel", a latter single (second in Denmark, the first being "I Still Carry On") from the album, "The Actor", topped the Danish chart and also did well in Norway, Sweden, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines. In January 1992, the album would top the Danish charts, followed soon after by success in Asia selling 25,000 copies and earning gold status in Indonesia alone.
International breakthrough (1993–1999)
Encouraged by the performance of their debut album, Michael Learns to Rock released their second album Colours in October 1993 which went along to sell over 1.1 million records. The album included the singles "Sleeping Child", "25 Minutes" and "Out of the Blue". The band also toured Asia for the first time and where at The Phoebus Concert Hall in Bangkok they would play to their largest audience until then of 12,000 people. The performance of this album coupled with the band's live performances resulted in the band receiving the The Best Performing Act of the Year award at SEA Grammy Awards in Singapore for the performance of 25 Minutes in 1994, followed by the Gold Preis from the German radio station RSH (Radio Schleswig-Holstein) in 1995 for radio hits such as Wild Women and 25 Minutes.
In August 1995, Michael Learns to Rock's third album Played on Pepper came out, also selling more than 1.2 million units,. Tracks on this album included "That's Why (You Go Away)" and "Someday". For the first time, the band recorded and produced the whole album by themselves. In order to promote the album, the group played 25 shows in 10 countries. Meanwhile, the release of this album also increased the band's presence in hitherto untapped markets like Brazil, South Africa, the UAE and 11 countries in the Far East, including Japan.
In order to capitalize on the success of Played on Pepper and to curb piracy, Michael Learns to Rock released the greatest hits album Paint My Love in October 1996, primarily in Asia, which sold 3.4 million copies. The band was also chosen as the headliner for the Celebrate Hong Kong concert on 6 July 1997, marking the transfer of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to China. The album would also top the charts in South Africa.
Meanwhile, their fourth studio album Nothing to Lose was released in September 1997, which again logged in sales of more than 1.1 million copies. In an incident that pointed towards Michael Learns to Rock's popularity in Asia, fake tickets had been sold to the tune of 20,000 numbers (more than twice the number that of the real ones sold) for a concert in Hanoi, Vietnam in December 1997 and while the concert was on, the people outside with the fake tickets tried to break their way in to the concert hall through the windows, ceilings and the doors, causing riot police to be summoned to take care of the situation  The band traveled to South Africa in January 1998, playing sell-out concerts at Johannesburg and Pretoria, consequently taking Nothing to Lose to the top of the charts in South Africa.
Soon after, Michael Learns to Rock's members took a break to spend time with their families and develop projects on their own or in collaboration with other artists. They also decided to rebrand the band under the simpler name of MLTR. During the lay-off, Richter wrote some new songs for the band, including Strange Foreign Beauty which was added to the 1999 greatest hits album Greatest Hits - Strange Foreign Beauty. In a process undertaken by MLTR for the first time, the song Strange Foreign Beauty was made by compiling the best details from recordings of ideas done individually by the four members. This album featured their previous hits, either remixed or refined in some way or the other by notable international producers including Chris Lord-Alge (for Someday, Something You Should Know etc.), Cutfather & Joe (for Sleeping Child) and Swedish producer Per Magnusson (for the MLTR top hit The Actor). This Greatest Hits album went to the top of the Danish sales charts (the second MLTR album after their debut album to have achieved this feat in Denmark), sold well in Sweden and Portugal, logging sales of nearly a million copies meanwhile.
Regrouping and new releases (2000–2006)
In 2000, Søren Madsen decided to leave the group, to embark on a solo career. The three remaining members set themselves the challenge of pursuing a sound different to that of their previous albums and produced the album Blue Night, which almost went platinum in Denmark and sold well in Asia, logging in sales over one million. The following year saw the release of the MLTR biography Something You Should Know, authored by Poul Martin-Bonde, along with a few previously unreleased recordings. The English translation of the book was called It Never Rains on Bali, a reference to an incident that took place during the band's 1995 Bali concert, where a no-rain forecast proved wrong and the unexpected rain indeed did stop the concert.
After the release of Blue Night, the band took a prolonged hiatus, with Jascha Richter branching out to work on his solo album Planet Blue. Jascha and the band later admitted that they even considered disbanding during this time. They ultimately decided against it, following the success of their greatest hits album releases, including 19 Love Songs / Love Ballads in 2002, which went #2  in home-country Denmark. By 2004, the band regrouped again departing from the name MLTR, and using their original name once again for their sixth album called Michael Learns to Rock, released in Asia as Take Me to Your Heart.
The album Take Me to Your Heart focused on the Asian market. The single "Take Me to Your Heart" was a remake of Jacky Cheung's "Goodbye Kiss" ("吻别"), and was popular in China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand and Taiwan. By the end of financial year 2006 alone, the single created a record of sorts when it sold over 6 million paid downloads and was awarded the "Most Downloaded Single Of The Year 2006". MLTR sang an English and Chinese duet of "Take Me to Your Heart" with Chinese singer Hu Yanbin at a 2005 New Year's Party in Guangzhou, China. The band also did a duet of the song with South Korean star Shin Hye-sung, of boy band Shinhwa. This album has been one of the major successes of MLTR in Asia, especially China.
Later career (2007–present)
In 2007, MLTR performed at the Formula1 in Shanghai and The 6th Golden Eagle Award Ceremony. Later in the year, MLTR released The Best of Michael Learns to Rock Live and in July toured Hong-Kong, Taiwan, Thailand and Malaysia. Elsewhere, this album was released as The Live Musical Adventures of Michael Learns to Rock / I Walk This Road Alone, and featured live recordings from their Take Me to Your Heart Asian Tour, mainly from the September 2005 concerts in India.
In November 2008, MLTR released their seventh studio album titled Eternity under their own independent label, MLTR Music, in association with the Danish label At:tack. Also, this album has the distinction of being the first MLTR album to be produced solely by Mikkel Lentz. The band mention on their website that the name is an indication of the fact that "the band plan to make music for as long as they still find joy in the process". Although the sales were slow (admittedly, according to the band), the second single from the album "Sweetest Surprise" reached No. 1 in Thailand within a few weeks of release. In the following year, another track "It's Gonna Make Sense" gained popularity in Asia after it was played as the farewell song on the Philippines reality TV show Pinoy Big Brother. The promotion of the album took MLTR on the Eternity South East Asia Tour, the response to which, the band declare, has led them to consider playing more concerts abroad, especially South East Asia.
Michael Learns to Rock completed touring their home-country Denmark, having played unplugged concerts in February and March 2010 with fair success. In June 2010, the band undertook a three-city promotional tour of India playing shows at Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore to promote the latest album "Eternity". More Unplugged shows followed in Denmark in late 2010. The band also did a short promotional tour of China and Macau from 27 September to 1 October 2010 for their upcoming China concerts in December 2010 and to give a preview of their Chinese Tour Compilation CD. This was followed up with their first ever international Unplugged concerts at Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou in December 2010. Also the track, Fairy Tale, an English cover version of a song originally performed by singer Li Jian, and later popularized by Hong Kong pop diva Faye Wong, was released in conjunction with the CD release. Following this, the band is scheduled to play another Unplugged tour in Denmark in spring 2011.
New studio album (2011)
In a blog, dated 13 April 2010 on the band's website, the band announced that they have started working on their next album. Recently, Michael Learns to Rock have been giving feelers about their next studio album on their official Facebook page. The yet unnamed album, was set to be released on 11 August 2011 in Europe and Denmark, with releases following in other territories around the same time, will now be released at a later date which will be announced by the band. In a teaser Facebook update, the band revealed the name of one of the tracks to be Ice Breaker. Elsewhere, in a note on his facebook page, Jascha Richter has revealed the name of another song, namely, Hanging On, from the forthcoming album.
As of September 2010, Michael Learns to Rock have played over 450 shows, including both large and small open-air & closed-hall stage concerts, TV appearances, unplugged and sing-back gigs, over a period of 22 years. In total, MLTR have played in at least 21 countries and territories which include Denmark, Indonesia, China, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, South Africa, Switzerland, UAE, Faroe Islands, Vietnam, Cambodia, Norway, South Korea, Sri Lanka and Sweden. They have also traveled to Hollywood for recording part of their debut album, to Spain, Finland and Germany to attend interviews, and to the UK to shoot a video. In Asia, MLTR are one of the few artists to have played more than once in a country and to have still sustained an audience turn-out comparable to that of their earlier appearances.
Michael Learns to Rock were also the first international act to have performed in Cambodia when they played a show (that was also televised live) in front of 700 fans in Cambodia’s national television studio in Phnom Penh in October 2005. The alternative version of their live album called The Live Musical Adventures of Michael Learns to Rock-I Walk This Road Alone features 14 live audio recordings mostly from their September 2005 show at Shillong, India, and a few video recordings from other live shows in Asia.
In various interviews, the band members have admitted that touring and the response from fans to their concerts, among other reasons, keep them together, in spite of the stresses associated with traveling. In a recent interview Mikkel Lentz said, "The reason we stay together is because it makes sense. Our fans come to our shows and we still enjoy playing and travelling, so why should we stop? There is also the pleasure of making music, even though sometimes things like television shows or interviews can become a little boring." Kåre Wanscher has also said in an interview that the highest points of their career have been when they were out touring Asia over the last few years.
MLTR toured China in December 2010, playing unplugged concerts. The 2011 spring leg of the Danish tour started on February 17, 2011 and ended on March 12, 2011 with MLTR playing gigs in most of the Danish cities and towns, many of which were sold out. MLTR then completed their first full-production concert tour after their extended unplugged stint by playing on April 22, 2011 at Penang, April 24, 2011 at Kuala Lumpur and April 30, 2011 at Kuantan in Malaysia.
The Summer tour commenced on August 11, 2011 with the band playing in Skanderborg, and later on August 12, 2011 at Aarhus and on August 13 at Aabenraa. The band was also set to visit Bangladesh for the first time ever to perform 2 concerts there, one in Dhaka on the 6th October and a second in Chittagong on the 9th October, but the concert dates have currently been postponed indefinitely.
The band has confirmed that it is playing on November 19, 2011 in Kathmandu, Nepal at the Tudikhel Ground, as the headliners of Nepal Rocks, a music festival organized by ODC Network to celebrate Nepal Tourism Year.
Musical style and influences
Michael Learns to Rock follow a basic verse-chorus song-form (which is typical of most pop songs) with lyrics comprising straight forward and short-length phrasing incorporating very basic sentence constructions. The verses consist of either one or two couplets and the chorus often contrasts the verse melodically, rhythmically, and harmonically, assuming a higher level of dynamics and activity. The essence of this style followed invariably by MLTR is evident from Jascha Richter's dead-pan response to a query in an interview as to what constituted the elements of a good song: "You got to have a chorus and a verse". Many songs incorporate a bridge section following the second chorus section (most notably, 25 Minutes, That's Why (You Go Away), Someday, Paint My Love, Blue Night etc.). Many songs also contain instrumental solos, more commonly, guitar (e.g. Someday, That's Why (You Go Away), How Many Hours, The Actor, Something You Should Know, Breaking My Heart, Watch Your Back etc.) and sometimes the keyboard (e.g. Messages), following the second chorus or following the bridge, in case the latter is present. Vocal harmonies also constitute a common feature of their songs.
Mikkel admits that they never really jam to come out with or develop upon a song and most of MLTR's songs are written and composed by Jascha Richter on the piano. According to Jascha, however, after he has written the song, Mikkel takes the ideas further and makes it into a final production. Mikkel Lentz insists that MLTR do not fit to any genre of music except for having a classic pop-sound. Further, he believes the secret behind MLTR's sustained music career is the non-conformance to any musical trends, "We never tried to follow trends. I think that's the reason we are still around. There's been trip hop, grunge, pop. We never fitted into these trends. What seems to be tough then is now our strength. They're just songs. The songs don't belong to a musical wave." 
Michael Learns to Rock have cited their influences to be Supertramp, Elton John, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, the Eagles, Billy Joel, ABBA, Bee Gees and 'all the bands that write good lyrics' (as Mikkel Lentz puts it tongue-in-cheek). Lentz, however, denies the influence of Michael Jackson on their music.
However, Jascha Richter reveals on his facebook page in response to a fan's query that Michael Jackson's music did influence their music, especially the latter's Bad album which was released in the year preceding MLTR's formation. Also, Jascha Richter has cited Talk Talk, a-ha and Eurythmics to be his influences. A-ha's international success, in spite of originating from the small Scandinavian country of Norway, instilled the self-belief in the MLTR members that even they, hailing from a similarly small Scandinavian country (Denmark), could carve out a career for themselves in international music.
Despite being branded simplistic, easy-listening and sometimes, down-right cheesy, banal or even naive by many, Michael Learns to Rock are adamant that these are the very qualities of their lyrics and music which have found favor with Asian music listeners.
- Michael Learns to Rock (1991)
- Colours (1993)
- Played on Pepper (1995)
- Paint My Love - Greatest Hits (1996)- Asia only
- Nothing to Lose (1997)
- MLTR - Greatest Hits/ Strange Foreign Beauty (1999)- Europe & South Africa only
- Blue Night (2000)
- Take Me to Your Heart/ Michael Learns to Rock (2004)
- Eternity (2008)
Awards and Certifications
1. "Gold Preis Award" from RSH, Germany.
2. "The Best Performing Act of the Year" in Singapore at SEA Grammy Awards
3. "Most Downloaded single of the year 2006 for their single" "Take me to your Heart"
4."The 2004 CD-Award" for the best selling International artist in China ever.
5.Certifications for the album Take Me to Your Heart/ Michael Learns to Rock
- (i)'Double platinum' in Denmark, Sweden, South Africa, Thailand
- (ii)'Platinum' in Indonesia, Taiwan, Malaysia, Hong Kong.
- (iii)'Gold' in Norway.
6.Certifications for the album Blue Night-2000
- (i)'Triple platinum' in Taiwan and Indonesia.
- (ii)'Double platinum' in Singapore, Denmark, India.
- (iii)'Platinum' in the Philippines, Korea and Hong Kong.
- (v) 'Gold' in Switzerland, United Arabian Emirates and South Africa.
7. Certifications for the album Nothing to Lose-(1997)
- (i)'Triple platinum' in Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines.
- (ii)'Double platinum' in India.
- (iii)'Platinum' in Denmark, Singapore, Thailand, South Africa, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, Korea, Hong Kong.
- (iv)Gold in Switzerland.
8. Certifications for album Played on Pepper-1995
- (i)'5 times platinum' in Thailand.
- (ii)'4 times platinum' in Malaysia.
- (iii)'Triple platinum' in Taiwan and Indonesia.
- (iv)'Double platinum' in Singapore, Denmark, India.
- (v)'Platinum' in the Philippines, Korea and Hong Kong.
- (vi)'Gold' in Switzerland, United Arabian Emirates, Japan and South Africa
9. Certifications for the album Colours-1993
- (i)'7 times platinum' in Thailand.
- (ii) '4 times platinum' in Indonesia, Singapore.
- (iii)'Triple platinum' in Malaysia.
- (iv)'Platinum' in the Philippines.
- (v) 'Gold' in Korea, India, Denmark and Germany.
10. Certifications for album "Michael Learns to Rock"- 1991
- (i)'Double platinum' in Denmark.
- (ii)'Platinum' in Indonesia.
- (iii)'Gold' in Norway.
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- Official website
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- Michael Learns to Rock on Facebook
- MLTR on You Tube
- MLTR on Last FM
- MLTR Universe - Fansite
Studio albums CompilationsPaint My Love · Greatest Hits - Strange Foreign Beauty · 19 Love Ballads/Love Songs Singles"The Actor" · "Wild Women" · "Sleeping Child" · "25 Minutes" · "Out of the Blue" · "Someday" · "That's Why (You Go Away)" · "How Many Hours" · "Animals" · "Nothing to Lose" · "Paint My Love" · "I'm Gonna Be Around" · "Blue Night" · "You Took My Heart Away" · "Take Me to Your Heart" · "Sweetest Surprise" Related articles
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