Alexander Rybak and Thomas Værnes tell about their close friendship in the paper issue of VG 06.07.2014
Author: Line Orfjell
Photos: Trond Solberg
Found by Ulli Cologne/Venche Mellemstrand. Translated by TessaLa. Revised by Anni Jowett.
Rybak and his best friend helped each other against the bullies at school
Keep in touch: It has been a busy time for Alexander lately. It’s therefore especially good to relax with his best friend at home on the couch. Tonight it’s video games and the World Championship in football on the program.
At elementary school Alexander Rybak was an outsider who was taunted and threatened with a beating. Back then his best friend Thomas was good to have around.
– It has been a bit busy lately, says Alexander Rybak (28). “A bit” is at best an understatement. In late June, he released the single “Into a Fantasy”, a song which is also heard in the Norwegian current animation movie “How to Train Your Dragon 2”. Such is the attention. Rybak’s schedule has been chock-full of premieres, red carpets and screaming fans. He has visited nine cities in five different countries in ten days. A few days at home in Oslo was therefore much awaited.
– Now I’ll just relax, and then there is hardly anything that is better than being with my best friend, says Alexander. It’s Thomas Wærnes (28) he is talking about. Usually it’s video games on the program when the two meet, but tonight it’s a World Cup match that will roll over Alexander’s enormous flat screen.
– Actually, I’m not particularly interested in football, Thomas admits. But it becomes something more interesting when Alexander and I watch it together.
The two buddies became familiar with each other in elementary school, when Alexander decided to “hang on” Thomas during a class trip. The clever tactic worked, and the boys from Nesodden were soon a duo.
– It was sort of just the two of us, says Alexander. For life in elementary school was not necessarily a bed of roses. Thomas and Alexander were nagged and teased by other students, perhaps because they were a little different than the rest of the gang. They “landed” on the side of the community.
– I am very happy about the time at school and I was never worried to go there. But it’s probably due to Thomas for that, says Rybak. The two best buddies helped each other when the bullies were on the warpath.
– I was really bullied, so I think Alexander saved me just as much as I saved him. Alexander was one I could go to, someone I trusted. Without him I had probably left school very early, says Thomas. When one of the bullies would beat up Alexander and was ready to pounce, Thomas stood in front of his best friend as a protective shield; “You have to get past me first,” he told the troublemaker. There was no fight for Alexander that day.
– I’ve never felt big enough to walk between some this way. But I tried to push Thomas in the right direction, away from the others, every time something was afoot, says Alexander.
Photo to the right:
Entertainer: Young Alexander Rybak showed talent for entertainment already at a young age. Here is a photo of him from a theatre performance in 3rd grade.
Photo to the left: When the school in Nesoddtangen went at the 17th of May parade, Alexander was one of those who got the honour to carry the little banner for the 3rd grade.
“Now you must take them tiger”, Thomas cheered just before Alexander climed onto the Eurovision stage. And that was exactly what Alexander did.
– It meant a lot to me to have Thomas behind me, he said. When the “Fairytale” success washed over Europe in the months that followed, Wærnes noticed that his best friend changed. Alexander received lots of attention, everyone knew who he was, and he was perhaps a little drawn into all this, says Thomas. One night, Thomas received an SMS from Alexander. That was just too much.
– I do not remember what was written, but it was terribly odd. “Now you need to sharpen up” I replied, says Thomas. Alexander took his buddy’s message into consideration. I’m glad he was so honest with me back then. It proves that we have a good friendship.
A slight let-down
Rybak believes that his best friend has shaped his personality.
– Today I have a very strong identity and Thomas has probably contributed to it. Besides, I’m not sure how much I would have succeeded if I had not had a real friend through childhood, he says. Now it’s over 20 years since they played video games together for the first time.
– It’s nice to think that we have managed to keep in touch all these years, says Alexander.
– And we have not let a single woman come between us, grins Thomas. But in 2010 the best friends collaborated with a song that explores precisely lady problems. Rybak was helped by Thomas Wærnes and two other buddies when he wrote “Fela Igjen.” Bardomsgjengen formed the Rap group “Opptur” (Upturn) and they all got allocated a different verse, while Alexander sang the chorus.
– So it was ironic that it all was a let-down. The reviewers slaughtered the song says Rybak.
Second verse expert
The reviewer’s crass formulations have not scared the best friends from writing music together. Thomas Wærnes is in fact both a rapper and a lyricist, and has contributed to several of his buddy’s songs, including “Suomi” and “Europe’s Skies”. And Thomas tasks are not random, according to the boss himself.
– I can often write a good first verse, but the song has to continue, so I ask Thomas to arrange the second verse, says Alexander. Now the duo are writing lyrics and melodies for Alexander’s upcoming children’s musical “Troll”. But before the musical work can start in full, Alexander has to do another promo tour. It’s not only Rybak’s music in “How to Train Your Dragon 2”, Alexander has also dubbed the Norwegian version of the animated film. Rybak gives voice to the lead character Hiccup and he is definitely not concerned about the long working hours ahead.
– This is huge for me and great fun.