Interview with Roine Stolt
DPRP’s John O’Boyle
Well it isn’t everyday one gets the chance to interview one of your favourite musicians, so I jumped at the chance when the opportunity arose. What followed was a discussion about the Banks of Eden, their hiatus, Felix Lehrmann, their recording techniques and possible plans for some special releases. So sit back and enjoy what Roine had to say…
John: Hi Roine, thank you for taking time out of your very hectic schedule to
speak to DPRP.
ROINE: You’re welcome.
John: It’s has been a five year hiatus for The Flower Kings, but as ever for the
individuals, it wasn’t a time of rest. So what made you decide that now was the
right time for the band to record / release Banks of Eden?
ROINE: I felt it was a good time to start again as we were hungry to play the old songs and even more important, to indulge in writing new songs. 5 years of other adventures did us good. Also it is possible that last years release of the DVD/Live CD “Tour Kaputt” reminded us a bit of the fun and what a great little band The Flower Kings is .
John: Was it planned to have this hiatus or did the band come to a juncture where it felt right to take time out, which allowed you guy’s time to pursue different projects?
ROINE: We felt it was important to take a break and recharge our batteries. We were going in and out of focus – on and on for years, making new albums and tours and after a while you’re just lost, without a clue as to WHY you keep doing it. I think it is extremely important to make music for the right reasons, and money, while important, shall not be the prime reason to go on. Now we are back, hungry to set the TFK wheels in motion again and there is so much fun ahead of us and so much new music to be written.
John: This album showcases the classic line-up, but I see there is a new addition to the band. What can you tell us about Felix Lehrmann?
ROINE: Felix is a 27 year old drummer from Berlin, Germany, coming from a family where his dad was/is a blues & rock guitarist. We were looking for someone who would kick ass – first looking into American drummers and we did have a few hi profile offers from US guys – but flying here from Berlin is all much more manageable. He is so much fun and a real powerhouse drummer. I think it took me about 5 minutes to realize that Felix is a very lighthearted and open personality and passionate about his playing, he knows well he is a driven professional drummer with great confidence. That’s one of the things we were looking for. Zoltan too was great in that respect, and I feel it sort of kick our collective butts to play much better and more powerful, where drummers like Jaime, Marcus or Erik were all very professional and super nice, but lacked a bit of that real rockin’ “kick-ass” quality and were more solid background players. I know Jonas need that challenge with drummers that kick his royal butt.
John: He must have found it daunting?
ROINE: Ah – you mean scary – being in TFK – as we’re known to consume drummers like we were the Spinal Tap of prog – Now, I have no idea why drummers come and go in TFK, but I can assure you that each and everyone of them have been terrific players. Maybe that’s also one of the answers to the revolving doors, that they’ve been so good so they’re swamped with other gigs and offers too and we just come to a point where we need 100% commitment to TFK.
John: Was it your intensions with this album to capture that warm, earthy feeling of the analogue days?
ROINE: Yes that’s the point we arrived at today – we look for a sound that is fuller and more in the line of the vinyl days. The studio we’ve chosen can provide all that .
John: I suppose that playing the music and recording it live gives you instant
feedback but one guesses it can be a very long process, especially when you are
recording twenty minute plus epics?
ROINE: We are just really relaxed in that studio, as we spend a lot of time in there and the equipment do indeed sound great and full. In writing and recording we have a formula that seems to work, but of course there is always new things we like to try. We always record live in the studio nowadays, it gives the music more muscle and an organic elasticity in the groove and the dynamics that is sorely missing in many modern prog bands production when they use sequencer and build it up around drum- machines. We want it to be like a really good live recording, but of course the old vintage equipment help us to sound less “digital” and on dimensional.
John: Do you prefer to record in this manner? Does it allow you more control?
ROINE: No – in fact it gives us less control – but it brings the music alive and if we cannot deliver the songs in a live take, then we shouldn’t call ourselves a real band. Technology has taken a turn for the worse in a way – because everything can be fixed in a recording. Metal bands now chop up the drums, cut the guitars to tiny slices and put it back in 100% total synchronicity. Impressive maybe, but cold as a fish. It’s slowly creeping into the prog music too and we want to take a stand against it. We take pride in being a great live band- we can actually play the music live with enough precision. And emotion I might add.
John: For me personally it feels like the music has more character, it has had that ability to breathe more as opposed to sounding clinically precise. Is this something that you agree with?
ROINE: I personally get bored very quickly with many of the newer prog bands products – because they sound overly clinical and fixed,stitched together by some prog Dr. Frankenstein. Maybe because I’m aware of all the gadgets that’ll help you play tight and sing in tune, of the modern day ProTools systems. I just find it boring and lifeless, it’ll strip all character off musicians and bands. I don’t wanna sound like others, I wanna sound like Roine to the max ! I want TFK to be unique & fun.
John: What can you tell us about the opening epic that is Numbers?
ROINE: The idea of the lyrics is that our world and our lives are ruled by numbers, as far as time, music, computers, economy, physics, astronomy,music, computers, economy, physics, astronomy,medicine,communication,logistics,infrastructures,war.etc. goes. Anything can be measured in increments, grades, profit, numbers, masses, improvements, scales, sales. Anything. Today the numbers seems more important than ever. Events that do not improve your wealth or status or raise your figures do not count. Silence and contemplation is out of stock, the world is hungry for monetary improvements, profit and results, more results, better results, higher numbers. So after all it seems God is alone……..We haven’t fully investigated going down that avenue for possible happiness.
John: The approach of the album is slightly darker in places than previous albums, but does find a happy balance that lies somewhere between the late 60’s Prog and the new generation of art rock?
ROINE: How can we not react to the unjust situation in the world, where millions are starving, while a small group of people own more and more. Mindless profiting is the new God. Great music is most of the time in connection with what’s happening in the world. We’d like to mirror that, even if in our own obscure poetic ways and we try not to hit people over the head with political propaganda. Economy and religion rule our world. We seek resonance in our music, we can’t sing about hobbits, Star Wars, or TV games.
John: Could you walk us through the Banks of Eden, track by track offering your thoughts?
ROINE: I leave that up to the listener, they’re capable of offering their own opinion and ideas about what it’s about etc. It’s a journey and we guide them but in music.
John: Who makes the final decision on the right take that ends up on the album?
ROINE: That’s always a collective band decision. We’re normally in total and 100% agreement about things like that.
John: Where do you take influence to write such lyrically commentary as, “I sit by the brook that sings your name, the voice of God and his perfect game, I still don’t know just where I’m at, I am on the road that lingers on to some place grand, worlds grow inside you, don’t you be afraid” from Rising the Imperial?
ROINE: That’s my reworking on an original Jonas Reingold lyric, I tried to push it in the direction of some sort of spiritual awakening, as we find ourselves looking for answers, learning more about ourselves each day. We marvel at the beauty and the complexity of nature and it’s laws.
John: What can you tell us about the albums intriguing artwork?
ROINE: It is made by Silas Toball, a Swiss artist that now resides in Arizona …..or New Mexico USA. We have worked with him on two of the Agents Of Mercy albums previously. He and his wife Angie house something called Duirwaigh (Doorway) that is a beautiful art portal where we find all our wildest dreams realized in art . I liked this artwork a lot and have kept an eye on it since a few years back. It goes well with TFK and Banks Of Eden.
John: One of the striking things about you is that you repeatedly have the knack of being able to write highly memorable songs. How do you approach your songwriting?
ROINE: I suppose it just comes naturally, we never bend backwards to try hard writing catchy songs or melodies, we simply write what we like. I like a nice balance between the complicated, the proggy and simple catchy melodic stuff that harkens back at 60’s pop or psychedelia. It is of course a personal opinion, but I find it a well balanced album and it has more powerful and proggier elements and in that respect I like it a lot. I’ve always felt The Flower Kings are best when we do the more serious symphonic and daring prog rather than the pop.prog, or fusion, but I still wanna keep a few good melodic elements and I wouldn’t mind seeing The Flower Kings becoming a slight bit heavier..
John: How do you approach your songwriting for The Flower Kings differently to
that of A.O.M?
ROINE: Not much really, it all starts with a melody or a riff. Maybe I try adjust the vocal lines a bit since in AoM there is Nad Sylvan and in TFK there is Hasse F.
John: How do you differential which band it would work best for?
ROINE: Normally I let the other band members decide that. It has always been a case of; songs who were dropped for AoM end up in TFK – or songs dropped for Transatlantic end up in TFK , or the other way around.
John: I’m curious as to whether there is much of your music in the vaults awaiting release or do you pretty much write enough material just for the said occasion, (something I suspect is not the case)?
ROINE: Oh – there is way too much in my vaults, there is just too little time, because music takes time and I don’t have enough of it to full develop all ideas or songs. I have a symphonic piece that’s been lying around for 5 years now and I sincerely hope to realize it soon.
John: Any plans for a Box set?
ROINE: Possibly yes, we’re talking to our record label about re-releases, remasters, remixes, old video concerts etc. Maybe it’ll come as a box for some of the albums and just plain remaster for others.
John: Just to step outside the box, so to speak, of all the bands / projects that you have involved in, which was the most fun?
ROINE: TFK , AoM and Transatlantic have all been great in their own right. The Transatlantic “Whirlwind Tour” was very special and something I hold dear in memory, as I suppose rest of the band do. It seems I’m just in a very amazing spot where I can play with 3 equally great bands. Never gets boring.
John: Who would you really like to work with in the future?
ROINE: There are many great artists out there, many I’d love to play with. Ultimately I suppose my top 5 would be Joni Mitchell, Jon Anderson, Paul McCartney, Jackson Browne and Derek Trucks.