The Flower Kings interview (Roine Stolt)

"I wouldn't imagine when we started the band that we could actually do this, we outlived the Beatles"

16/10/2013 @ 12:02
Roine Stolt is one of the hardest working musicians in the progressive rock scene, with many great records and endless hours of progressive music in his resume. We had the chance to have a very pleasant talk with him, talking about the new Flower Kings album called "Desolation Road", his plans with Transatlantic, his relationship with the other members, and the status of the prog scene in general.

The Flower KingsHello Roine, how are you?
I'm fine, thank you!

First of all, congratulations on your new album with The Flower Kings, it seems you're back for good after the hiatus. How do you feel about the release of this album?
Well, releasing a new album, you know, for you listening to the album or for those who are buying the album it's like, it just comes out and you listen to it as a finished product, while for us it's a long way, so  we started to record the backing tracks i think back in March, we had started writing the album at the end of last year, coming up with ideas for a new album. So it's a long long way and to be perfectly honest, i haven't listened much to it for a while (laughs), but the general feeling within the band is that it's a really good album, and we look forward to play it live also, because that's when it comes alive, when we actually play the songs live in front of an audience. Other than that, it's more like a construction you know, you're playing stuff, and you're adding things, you're trying to find a nice sequence for the songs, you're looking into the artwork and you're working with the record company about the release date, the promotion and stuff like that, so you know, it's a long process and it has sometimes very little to do with the actual music, so by the time we get to start rehearsing the songs and then go out and play on stage, that's what we live for, you know, to play the music.

The Flower Kings - Desolation RoseHaving only one nearly epic in length track, do you think it could be an album more easily adopted by a wider audience, after all those double albums? This is kind of a different move for you.
Well, actually for the last two albums, this one and the one before it, we cut down a little bit like many other bands, because you can feel a little tired with 80 minutes of music, because we always had lots of material and to us it seemed like that even the songs that weren't like the first choices they were still pretty good, so in the past we tried to put as much as possible, because if someone pays 20 euros for a cd i think we should give them as much as possible. But on the last two albums we have cut down a bit, and for those who buy the limited edition mediabook, they get two CDs anyway, but i mean the regular one, the one which the record company is sending out to journalists, it's about an hour or so?

Yeah, it's about an hour in length.
Yeah, compared to normally the 80 minutes or even the double albums where it's like two times 70 minutes, it's kind of insane really, so yeah, it's kind of a new move for us, and i don't know really, i kind of like the new approach, it's more concentrated and you need to be more focused to make every minute of the album important, so all and all, i think it's actually a good move.

The Flower KingsHow was the recording process behind "Desolation Rose"?Did you enjoy making a new record in such a short period of time?
Well, it may seem like a short period of time to people coming from the outside, but for the band i think over the years, apart from the break we took for four and a half years, the normal procedure for The Flower Kings would be to make an album, then go out and play maybe Europe, United States or Japan, and then come back and do another album. That seems to us a very natural and totally normal procedure, but for some bands or some fans it's like "how can you come up with an album so soon?" or some people even say that "oh, they're rushing out the new album again" and "why do they do it?" (laughs) or whatever, for us it's completely normal, and also taking into consideration that we are a band of musicians that do this for a living, i mean this is what we do, this is what we are spending our time doing and for some of the other progressive rock bands today, not counting bands like Yes or Jethro Tull who are doing it full time also, some of the other smaller prog bands, they're like four or five guys and they have daytime jobs, and then they make an album, go out to play some gigs and then they go back to their daytime jobs, then of course it's difficult to come up with music so fast. For us it's different. I mean for me normally, i come home from a longer tour, i may rest for a week or something like that but then i start working with something, so it's a completely normal and relaxed process for us, and i would say that there is always more material, i mean just looking at what i do and what i have as far as music, it's so much over the years, generating hours and hours of music that's never been released so i would say that there is no shortage of material, it's just a matter of finding the time. So for us a year between albums is fine and it's normal.

The Flower KingsSo does the quick return with a new album mean that The Flower Kings are going to be as productive as they were before?
Ah, well, i don't know really, it all depends on different things you know, and i'm also a member of other bands with Transatlantic and Agents Of Mercy, and we plan for the next year to do things with Transatlantic, so that means that i can't devote all my time or all the year to The Flower Kings, so of course there will be other things , and i don't really have plans for a couple of years, but you never know, it's about freedom and it's nice to have the freedom to do what you want, when you want to do it and also be a little bit spontaneous, so whatever happens, you know. If something would happen with The Flower Kings now and we're reaching a wider audience then maybe i would focus a little bit more on it, and try to do more touring, reaching other regions of the world, so i'd like to keep it a little bit open.

The Flower KingsIs there a tour planned yet? Are you ever going to play live in Greece?
Yes, we are actually planning to play in Europe in April and May, and then we'll see if it takes us to America, and then we have also invitations from Japan, so we'll see what happens really, but what we'll be doing first is planning the European tour, but i haven't seen it yet, i haven't got the dates from our booking agent yet, and unfortunately i haven't heard anything for you, we haven't heard anything about Greece. We'd love to! I mean we'd really love to play in Greece but it's all a matter of a promoter somewhere in Greece saying "Hey, can we book the band?", because we can't do much, we can't just take our bus and come to Greece and hope to play.

The Flower KingsYou are also playing at Progressive Nation At Sea with many great progressive bands, as well as Transatlantic, how do you feel about this different tour and playing with two different bands on the same bill?
Well, first of all, playing on a boat, i've never done that before so that will be a new experience, it's a big boat of course, so i'm sure it's going to be okay with everything, and it's interesting because there are many bands playing and the boat will be packed with lots of prog fans, so it's interesting for us to play for a new audience, and then of course for me playing with two bands, it will be some extra work. When i'm playing with Transatlantic we're playing a third set, so to speak, with former Yes singer Jon Anderson, we're going to play a couple of songs together with him, so i need to learn those Yes songs also, so for me, before going on the boat, i need to learn all the new Flower Kings songs, and i need to learn a few of the older songs we plan on playing, going all the way back to Flower Power and to Back in the World of Adventures and Startdust We Are, since it's our 20th anniversary next year, so that's what we plan to do, play some from the new album, some form Banks of Eden and some of the songs from like 10-15 years ago. Then i need of course to learn all the new Transatlantic material, and that's quite a bit of course (laughs) and then i need to learn the Yes songs, so yeah, i will keep busy learning all this you know.

That's a lot of work, for sure!
Yeah but i don't mind playing, because if i'm on a boat, the sun is out and the weather is nice, i don't mind being on a boat, but we're there to play, so i'd like to play as much as possible, that's fine.

Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings, Transatlantic, Agents Of Mercy)That will be a very interesting experience for sure. So how do you feel that nowadays Progressive Rock has become a little more popular and The Flower Kings are among the new pioneers of the sound?
Well, in 94 when we started, maybe 95 when we started playing live shows really, it was still very much underground,  and now we're seeing it coming up more and more, with more magazines, with more festivals, being accepted again, even by some of the mainstream media, and for us, we've been of course touring for a long time, many many years around the world, it's kind of amazing because i wouldn't imagine when we started the band that we could actually do this, you know, and for a long time, because okay, we released a couple of albums, we got interest from America, from other places in Europe like Germany, England, France, Italy, but i probably thought that, okay, they like the album and maybe we can go and play a few gigs and it will last for a year, or two or three, you know, but now it's as i said before 20 years for The Flower Kings, and look at the Beatles, they had a career of let's say maybe 8 years or 9 years or something like that, so, we outlived the Beatles, not quite as long as The Rolling Stones of course, but still...

Well, there is plenty of time left, so you never know! (laughs)
Yeah yeah, absolutely!(laughs). But i think it's fun, and as long as it's fun we'll just keep doing what we do, to record music and to release it and play shows wherever people want us to play, so that's our main goal.

The Flower KingsWhat's your opinion on the Swedish Prog scene including all these great bands, such as Beardfish, Ritual, Anekdoten etc?
Well, as i'm in Sweden, i probably take it for granted or it seems very natural to me, but i know that fans outside of Sweden and other parts of the world look at Sweden and say "how come you have all these bands?"  and from they beginning we had Anglagard or Anekdoten and Isildur's Bane, and Beardfish and Kaipa and all those bands, and to me it's really difficult to tell why is it Sweden that has so many bands. It probably has to do with the education system in Sweden, also maybe with the standard of living, because i would say by European standards we have a high standard of living, so parents have the chance to maybe buy their kids a guitar or a piano, or a synth or something, or a drumkit, and they can send them to music schools, we have lots of education when it comes to music and we've had record stores and lots of music available coming in from America and England and other places, so in Sweden as i remember even from the 70's there has been a tradition in music and progressive rock, jazz, fusion and metal, we have lots of heavy metal in Sweden, and even bands like Opeth who used to be metal now they're turning more towards progressive rock. So there's a very big music scene in Sweden, we also have a lot of festivals, and we have many international artists coming to Sweden playing in the big arenas, so we have lots of chances to get influenced by all those big stars. So i don't know, really, why all those bands pop up, but they're here, you know, and we're proud of what we have in Sweden.

TransatlanticThere is a new Transatlantic album coming up, is it ready yet? When is it going to be released?
The album actually has been recorded, and it's being mixed right now, the mix is supposed to be finished in a week from now, and then i think we will have it released by the end of January, i don't know the exact date, but it's the end of January, and i hope so because we're then starting a tour in USA and South America, and then coming to Europe a couple of weeks later, so i think it's a good thing if the album is out because fans haven't heard the songs and that could cause a bit of a problem i suppose. (laughs)

So did you work all together again to create the new material, or were Neal's ideas the driving force for the compositions?
No, i would say more than ever that we worked together, just meeting up with a few demos in the studio and we started throwing ideas, so Neal maybe throwed in some intro and then i came up with a riff, and then Pete came up with a vocal section, and Neal comes in with a vocal section, and then there's another Pete section, and we started to listen to demos again and try to pick something, or we started jamming, so it's a very creative process where everyone is involved, and even if Mike isn't writing any music or any lyrics, he contributes in his own way, by suggesting things, coming up with little bits and pieces of ideas, which is really important also for the band. So we have a working chemistry and it's quite different from the first album, because on the first album it was more like that i had my demos, and Neil had his demos and then we just played our songs, we played a Neal song, and we played a Roine song, while this time we're picking bits and pieces from each of the members.

Transatlantic"The Whirlwind" is considered a masterpiece by many fans, do you feel like the new album could be even better?
That's difficult to tell really, i like "The Whirlwind" very much, it's a great album, i'm probably too close to the music at the moment to tell, i need a couple of weeks just to rest before i hear the mixed album and form my opinion about it, but for sure there are lots and lots of interesting stuff on it, so i would say that maybe we're a little more experimental on this one, more dynamic and maybe a little bit more progressive, i don't know how to put it but maybe we are a little bit less mainstream on this album.

Do you plan on having Daniel again for the upcoming Transatlantic tour?
Yeah, we actually decided just this week that we're bringing Daniel along, so that is going to be great, and i had hopes that we would do it all the time, because to me it seems like a very natural solution because he's been playing with the band for two tours, he knows some of the old songs and he can contribute with outstanding vocals, he can play the guitar, he can play keyboards and is a really good percussion player too, i can't really think of anyone who would do a better job than him.

Have you ever considered making Daniel a permanent member of Transatlantic?
For me personally, i wouldn't mind really, i could see the benefits of having him as a permanent member, but i think the basic idea, at least for Mike and Neal is that we're good as a four piece and this is enough, we have enough chefs already in the band (laughs) as they say, so it's too much, but i don't know, if it was me who could decide i would probably try one album with Daniel involved in the writing process.

Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings, Transatlantic, Agents Of Mercy)How different is your role in Transatlantic compared to The Flower Kings?
Well, maybe not that much different, the difference is that Transatlantic is a four piece band where we share everything as far as all the touring and the economics and all that, while with The Flower Kings it's more like i pay the guys, i guarantee them money for the touring, so whatever happens they will always walk off a tour with money, sometimes i lose money but i pay them, you know, and i have a contract with Inside Out so i'm taking the risk with The Flower Kings and sometimes i lose money and sometimes i win money, so that's the difference, and also in The Flower Kings it seems like i'm the main writer so to speak, and i'm the creator of the ideas, like when we should tour, when we should make an album, i don't know maybe the other guys just expect it from me, it's not something i wished for, it's something like i have the ideas, i'm that kind of person, you know, my head is spinning all the time so i come up with ideas and i like to be creative, so whatever it is we do with the band, it's usually me who calls the other guys and say "hey guys, how about recording an album" or "how about trying to work with this kind of concept" or "how about trying this new studio" or "how about playing these new countries", that's my role with The Flower Kings. In Transatlantic, we're four guys fighting over when we should record (laughs), when we should play or who is going to be in the band or who is going to be the tour manager,  who is going to handle the economics, so it's a little bit different, if you put four-five different people together it's always going to be different, these guys are really different from The Flower Kings, but it's all okay, it seems that after a while you find your place and what you can actually contribute with in a band. For me with Transatlantic, of course, i write songs, i write lyrics, i come up with ideas i think probably i am the guy who by the time we come to this stage where we're mixing, i'm the guy who is coming up with the ideas of how to mix the album, what to add in terms of orchestral stuff, sound effects, those kind of things, and Mike seems to be the guy who  comes up with the song sequence, he likes to decides what song should start the album, which song should finish the album, what to call the album and stuff like that and i don't care much about that really, but i care about what the audience hears, you know, the mixing is really important, the sounds and orchestrations are important to me, as well as the lyrics. And Pete is very active when we're recording the basic tracks, and once he leaves the studio and goes back to England he doesn't say much really, he has his opinions but he's never tried to force his opinion on others, he's very open and he usually says "well, that's okay to me", "the mix sounds okay", "i'm okay with touring then" and stuff like that.

Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings, Transatlantic, Agents Of Mercy)Any other projects on the horizon?
No,not really, because now we're doing a couple of shows in Sweden with The Flower Kings in December, we're doing rehearsals before that, of course now we're working with promotion for the album, and also starting the mix of a new live album that will be released next year, and then of course there will be rehearsals for The Flower Kings and for Transatlantic and then we're starting the Transatlantic tour at the end of January. Once i get home from the Transatlantic tour in March, i will be home with my family for a couple of weeks and then i'm going out with The Flower Kings until summer, and then i think we may do a few festivals in the summer with Transatlantic. After that i don't know really, so we'll see what happens, i keep it open for now.

Do you have any message for your Greek fans?
Well, they have to bug their local promoter and try to get The Flower Kings to Greece, so we can play for them!

Thank you for your time, it was nice talking to you!
Thank you!

Nikos Katapidis