Readers who grew up in the 90’s (like yours truly) would clearly remember the rise and fall of The Boyband: love-song-belting, fangirl-generating male singing groups that took the world by storm. One of the more memorable lineups was the hugely successful A1, originally comprising members Mark Read, Ben Adams, Christian Ingebrigtsen and Paul Marazzi. After their subsequent split in 2002 following Marazzi’s departure from the band, the individual members embarked on various career paths and musical efforts; but finally, in 2009, the remaining trio announced a comeback, with new studio album Waiting For Daylight releasing in Norway in October 2010. Since then A1 has continued to tour worldwide, and on February 28, 2012, just last Tuesday night, together with fellow boyband Blue and Jeff Timmons of 98 Degrees, they filled the Singapore Indoor Stadium with tunes both familiar and fresh, to the delight of the thousands of Singaporean longtime fans.
The day after the concert, I got the (enviable?) opportunity of speaking with frontman/vocalist Ben Adams in a roundtable interview at the Axis Bar and Lounge in Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Adams was a real joy to interview, full of enthusiasm and easy banter, with a nice bit of shameless self-promotion thrown into the mix, expressing his hilarious friendly outrage when he found out that two out of the three of us interviewers had not heard Waiting For Daylight nor attended the previous night’s show.
When asked about what he, Read and Ingebrigtsen had been doing in the years between 2002 and the reunion of the band, the cheeky reply came immediately: “I’ve just been playing PlayStation!” Still, Adams was quick to assure us that they’d “always still been doing music even if it hasn’t been A1”. He also mentioned his “strange” experience on reality show Celebrity Big Brother in 2009. “It was weird! It was kinda fun with some of the people in there, because I love Austin Powers, and Mini Me was there with me, and that was weird, but it was great!”
Naturally, given the length of time that A1 have been on hiatus, one topic of conversation that came up was about growing up, or rather, growing older. “You’ve been known for your ‘pretty boy’ image in the past,” one interviewer asked, “Now that you’re older, what kind of image are you going for?” To which Adams had a suspiciously ready answer… “UGLY GIRL. That’s what I’m going for! Pretty boy to ugly girl!” Much to our amusement, he then proceeded to recount an anecdote of actually being ID’ed when he went to buy a pack of cigarettes for a friend (the minimum age is sixteen). “I’m thirty! I was dancing around the shop!”
Speaking of stories and experiences, Adams regaled us with memories of some crazy fan encounters, and of aww-inducing generosity from fans “especially in Japan”, for some reason. “People following us all over the world on planes and minivans for every show… and I think the craziest thing was when a fan came up to me, and we’d seen her loads of different places, and she’d been following us everywhere, and we’re like, Oh great, what’s your favourite song on the album? and she’s like, Oh I don’t have your album. I spent all my money following you around! … That was interesting.” Well, judging from the reception they’ve got since their reunion, I don’t think they’ll have any shortage of such dedicated fans now that they’re back!
More questions and answers from the roundtable interview:
How are you finding Singapore?
I’m finding it amazing, you know I think when we were on our way here, ‘cause it’s been ten years since we’ve been here, we didn’t know if anyone would remember us really, so a bit of worry… then obviously seeing everyone at the show last night, people waiting for us at the airport, hotel and stuff, it’s incredible! Amazing, people really do remember us, and also seem to love the new stuff.
How is touring and sharing the stage with Blue and Jeff Timmons?
It’s been really fun. Ten years ago we’d done shows with Blue and 98 Degrees as well, so we’ve known each other for a long time. We all do very different shows. We don’t do any of the boyband dancing with backing tracks anymore, we brought a whole live band and play everything totally live, so we do very different shows, and I think it works out well.
What was it like, back together after seven years, standing on the stage like that after so long?
It was brilliant, I mean it wasn’t really a planned thing for us to get back together, we did one TV show over in Norway, and the reaction was so good that Universal wanted us to make an album, and then we went on to do sixteen sold-out concerts over in Europe. And it was just magic really; doing all our solo projects was really fun, but I think we all felt that we could have more fun together. It’s like when you watch a movie, you don’t really want to watch it alone, you want to watch it with someone, so things like last night at the concert, to be able to look over to Mark and Christian and go “wow, we’re doing this!”, it’s amazing, it’s much more fun.
Have you faced any difficulties during the comeback?
Not yet! Thank goodness. Some bands, it doesn’t work, and we’ve been really fortunate that everywhere we’ve been, people seem really responsive and really receptive, especially to the new music. And I think that’s because a lot of bands that try and get back together, they always used to rely on songwriters to give them the songs, and so perhaps when they’re coming back they’re not given the best songs, the best songs are given to the artists that are very big at the time. Whereas we always wrote our songs, we’ve written the new album ourselves, so we can just recreate ourselves, we don’t need anybody else!
What inspired you back then and what inspires you now?
…It’s a tricky thing. You gotta remember that the old fans that used to love us back in the day, they’ve all grown up too. So we don’t really have to think about trying to cater for them back in the day, we just do the music that we love to do. We all keep up to date, we’re inspired by loads of different stuff, music today, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, all of our favourite artists coming back, like Christian’s is Bruce Springsteen, Mark’s is still the Beatles… so I think it’s important to keep an eye on what’s going on and the trends of music, but still keep it A1 clearly, we don’t want to copy other people.
Any plans to release another album?
Yeah, sure! We’re always writing… I think as a songwriter you always think that your last song that you’ve written is the best one, so we’ve got lots of new best songs that we want to release, but we’ve got to obviously take it one step at a time. We’re very proud of Waiting For Daylight so we have to make sure that that gets its own life… You know the last time, we were so busy and we didn’t actually get to enjoy any of the success or any of the places that we were and stuff, so before we started this time, we were like “okay, if were gonna do this again, let’s take our time, let’s enjoy what we’re doing”, you know? Of course let’s be busy and stuff, but let’s not be too busy.
What message do you have for your fans in Singapore?
Thank you for your support, fantastic to be back here, hope you’re enjoying the new album. If you don’t have it, go get it! And we can’t wait to come back and do more concerts.