DPRPs Joris Donkel manages to tie down Tomas Bodin from his busy work schedule to talk about Tomas' work with The Flower Kings, his own releases and that of the infamous Swedish Family! Tomas gives the lowdown on his new release "I AM" due out in June this year and also lists his up and coming tour dates.
JORIS: Hello Tomas, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions!
You have a busy year behind you, "Adam & Eve" and the Swedish Family album "Vintage Prog" were released followed by a big Flower Kings tour and you started on your new solo album to mention just a few of your activities. Is such a full-filled year what you like best or would you prefer some more moments of rest without obligations?
TOMAS: I love my work and I’m still curious about how far music can take me. I guess the best situation is when I can relax about financial issues and just focus on the music.
Reminiscing on 2004 let's first focus on "Adam & Eve"; it's some time since it's been set loose on the world; are there any special observations that you've made in relation to this release and the attached tour (responses from others or reflections of your own)?
Well, I think we did concentrate too much on production. Somehow I can understand the criticism against that album even if I like it myself very much. There is a difference between how "Stardust We Are" is produced compared to "Adam & Eve". I would say that we have perhaps more hit-kind of melodies on "Stardust". Also I guess we use to be a little bit more “hungry” during that period.
Do you ever read reviews about the music you produce and do these sometimes influence you?
Hmm, good question! Of course, everyone releasing CDs will get affected by different reviews. More or less, every artist wants to be loved. So if you get killed you will absolutely take it to your heart in one way or another.
But there are cases when you just don’t give a damn. One review I had from a Czech webzine was so incredible nasty. The guy said that my “keys sounded like children being raped” and there was only one punishment suitable for a guy like me; Lashes in public. Also he said that the next guy thinking about bringing me into the studio should be shot! This is of course a reviewer with big problems. I really don’t know why he wrote things like that about my "Pinup Guru" album. My best guess is that he got turned on looking at the Pinup pictures but with frustration since he hadn’t stepped out of the closet. All I can do is laugh about it!
Still I can get upset when reviewers don’t know what they are talking about. One review sounded like “it sounds nice but I think it would have been better if Bodin had used real drums”. This is just stupid because Zoltan played like hell on that album. I have another example when the reviewer wasn’t capable of hearing the difference between a saxophone and a trumpet! In such case they shouldn’t write music reviews.
So apparently mostly only the negative and unfair reviews are stuck in your memory, but surely you also have read many truly objective and even flattering ones; don't these give you the feeling that you're doing something right?
Of course, 97% of all reviews are very good and I must say they give me motivation and energy to keep on working. And to answer a part from your first question, yes I can get inspiration from a review. I can change my way of thinking. So I would say it’s an interesting interaction between people.
Have you perhaps read the DPRP reviews on "Adam & Eve" and "Vintage Prog" and if so were you pleased with them?
I read them and I must say it is two very nice reviews. Thank you so much. Actually I laughed reading the SF review. In retrospect I must say that Swedish Family is a very funny idea. Believe it or not but there was this Norwegian journalist who actually believed he heard SF during the 70ies!
Personally I think your role in the Flower Kings is well integrated and very distinct, but still you're not directly the lead figure, sound-wise, in the group; this role was more claimed by Roine.
But in most symphonic and progressive groups the keys plays a key-role, just think of Tony Banks, without him there would be no Genesis sound, he’s unreplaceable; why is that different with you in The Flower Kings or do you experience this differently?
You say that Tony Banks is sound-wise the most important guy in Genesis. You say without him no Genesis. Now, if you ask the Peter Gabriel fans what do you think the answer will be?
What is sound? Pads, pianos, lyrics, distorted guitars or what? Could it be personality and originality? The sound of Led Zeppelin, is that the Plant voice or the Bonham lick? Deep Purple also has a sound and who is behind all that? Could sound be a person’s interaction with other band members? Could sound be ideas and solutions about arrangements?
I think my role in TFK is very much the sound. Still the sound of TFK is very much the result of six unique personalities.
I think all Peter Gabriel fans have to acknowledge the fact that Genesis continued pretty well, at first still also at a high artistic and musical level, without him!
But I was not only profiling my own opinion, I have heard more people saying the same. The purpose of my question was though mainly to determine your exact position and role within TFK.
Well, Genesis turned into another style. They started to sell more CDs but didn’t they loose direction? “I Can’t Dance” is perhaps not how the reader will remember Genesis? But I think you’re right talking about influences and yes Roine is a huge influence in Flower Kings. Still if you compare my role with Tony and in the same time claim that I don’t have that kind of role I have to disagree. Listen to "Flower Power", "Unfold the Future", "Space Revolver", "Stardust We Are" and you’ll find very much of my sound. What people perhaps don’t know is that even if Roine is the composer, you can find that I many times still have my royalty share in the arrangements. And the arrangements of today are very much the sound.
Past years it has been proven that it's 'hot' to do the orchestral thing; perform with a complete classical orchestra; Metallica did it, Yes, Kiss, Meatloaf and many more. Is that something we also might expect from The Flower Kings one day?
Hard to say, I guess it’s a matter of money. All the bands you’re mentioning are selling much, much more compared to TFK.
Another project in the same category would be doing an album of prog/sympho adaptations of classical themes; I think your musical skills are great enough to undertake that; ever considered that?
I have been thinking in terms like that. Still I’m not sure if this is what people want. In the end, music is one person performing and another person listening.
Well I for one am a listener and I would love it! Something else now; if, for instance in a parallel galaxy, you wouldn't be in The Flower Kings and could choose any band to play in, which one would you choose and why?
That would be my own band. I think I proudly can say that my new composition ‘I AM’ is equal to the very best material in The Flower Kings catalogue.
What are your personal feelings about Zoltan leaving the band; what were the reasons and don’t you have the feeling that you're breaking up a winning team?
Zoltan is a super gifted drummer when it comes to free improvised parts, a real world-class performer. However, I feel that he is not that person that holds other values like; keeping the tempo intact, start up a song in right tempo and remembering arrangements very high. Zoltan is mainly a jazz player not a prog drummer. So no I don’t feel we’re breaking up a winning team. Besides our new drummer Marcus is just as good as Zoltan.
Can you tell us more about the coming instrumental tour of (part of) The Flower Kings, how this came about and what we can expect of it?
I guess Roine, Jonas and I have always wanted to play more. Hasse Fröberg is committed to a daytime job and has difficulties in puzzling it all time-wise. Also when TFK started we used to play more instrumental music. Since we’ve now 3 singers in the band I guess the instrumental parts have to step aside.
A night with “The Brimstones” (details below) I think you can expect intimacy, humour and improvisation. We’ll play some songs from the past some oldies and some newbie’s.
Also instrumental versions of already known vocal songs?
That could be a good idea!!!! I’ll talk to them about it.
Now over to your solo escapades: The Swedish Family album "Vintage Prog" already saw the light of day some time ago and since then you've been very busy with other recording projects again, but do you have any reflections on this album and can we expect more of The Swedish Family; a tour or more albums?
Redar Gitsdorf and his friends from SF are talking about “The Lost Archives”. I don’t know if there is such an archive but it sure sounds interesting. Also we have got permission to play some old classic SF on the Brimstone tour.
There are several traditional folky influences on "Vintage Prog"; is that something you very much relate to and can we then expect more of it in the future or was it just a one-time thing?
I have a big love for this kind of melodies. (I believe TFK had a lot of it in the beginning.) Actually, I consider it as a natural part of the Swedish prog in general. Get more of it!
Being a keyboard player you have a wide range of keyboard instruments and sounds you can use; do you prefer to experiment with them as much as possible?
If you with ”experiment” mean sound-making the answer is yes!
I indeed meant exactly that, but does it not become always more difficult to discover really new sounds or does that come easy with you?
I love working with sounds. I even work for Clavia as a sound programmer. So go into a music shop, look for “Clavia Nordlead 3, in the preset library you’ll find sound with the suffix TB. Then you know who is behind!
Why is it, to your opinion, that most prog musicians have so many projects simultaneously going on? Are you all over-active people that have more ideas and energy than one group can absorb?
It’s all about money. Since prog isn’t the most profitable game you need to stress around in order to feed the cats.
But then again you (for this moment you're acting as the spokes person for all prog musicians) strangely enough mostly search the other projects in the same unprofitable prog sector, so that actually partly contradicts your statement!
We all have this anticipation against commercial stuff. So there is really no option here. It’s more like a curse! We are poor prog musicians and bound for this heavy duty. The big finger says; Make more prog! Make more prog!
And how is it with touring, financially seen, do you loose money doing them, break even or even manage to earn a buck with that as well?
Lately we have gone more into a financial + - 0 kind of touring mood.
Is there any special project you would like to do, but haven't found the time, opportunity or money to do it yet and if so which one?
I think it would be nice to be able to work fulltime, let’s say 2 years with a record. Sometimes I can feel that we have to push the music forward even if it’s a little bit immature.
Do you indeed think some of your music would have sounded significantly different if you had more time and a larger budget to make it?
Yes absolutely! The right way to make records today should be; first, make a demo, record drums and bass. Then you can start editing the song. You will now feel if there is a wrong tempo or if you need to cut away any parts. Take it as far as possible, it should almost sound like a real CD. Then you’ll start all over again. Record drums and the rest but this time in right tempo with the right arrangements. Alternative, you could do it the old way; rehearse with a band until you’re satisfied then you record it.
You have contacted Rick Wakeman in order to do some kind of collaboration, but he appeared to be too busy to make time for that. But what kind of project would you like to undertake with him?
I had some ideas about Rick playing on ‘I AM’. Now he’s such a great, great player so I think any project will be good!
Is Rick number 1 on your list of people you would like to collaborate with or who else is?
He is one person on that list. Another person could be Patrick Moraz. (or anyone from The Big Five)
The Big Five?
Banks, Emerson, Wakeman, Moraz and Jobson
You recently mentioned wanting to do some sort of 'keyboard battle' with someone; is that something we realistically can expect from you someday whomever it'll be with?
I really would like to do it …someday!
Would you ever join a so-called, perhaps keyboard based, 'supergroup'?
I am playing in a so called supergroup! He-he
What kind of music/bands you listen to yourself? What/who do you like of the current music scene?
I like very much of everything. I try not to get stuck into one style. I like bands like “Queens of the Stoneage”, “Korn”, “Darkness”
Surprisingly not really bands in the line of music you make yourself!
That comes with the mother’s milk! I also listen to every major composer in the business. Neil M, Planet X, Symphony X, Spocks, Tangent, Kaipa , Yes, Crimsone ……..
Who are you main influences as a musician?
The biggest influence in prog must be Roine.
I'd like to ask you to give a short response to the names of some of your colleagues that share your keyboard passion:
Tony Banks :
One of the ”Big Five”. Of course he have influenced so many so much. Sometimes I get angry when I hear that the musicians of Genesis weren’t too good players. Tony is brilliant.
Rick Wakeman :
Rick oh Rick, what can you say. Once again top five.
Oliver Wakeman :
I haven’t heard him so much. But I believe Oliver is a very good keyboardist.
Clive Nolan :
Well, Arena isn’t my cup of tea. Still I think Clive is very good.
Jon Lord :
Oh my Lord! He’s the man. No need for Leslie. He rox!
Jean-Michel Jarre :
I have heard Oxygen but is he still breathing? He-he
He indeed is and you really should listen to Aero, assuming you have a decent 5.1 DTS equipment. He completely re-recorded lots of older stuff again to establish an incredible surround sound using the latest techniques; I can tell you it blew my mind out!
Keith Emerson :
He’s got a good touch for piano imp.
Pär Lindh :
He wants to be like Keith
Erik Norlander :
Yann Tiersen :
French guy, does a lot of soundtracks, for instance for 'Amelie' and 'Goodbye Lenin'; uses loads of traditional folky tunes sometimes with minimal instrumentation (for instance just a child's piano or accordion). I think you would really like his stuff; try it once!
I will! Thanks mate
Mike Oldfield :
Jordan Rudess :
Even faster. But not so fast as Richard Andersson! He’s playing on the Karmakanic album in a typical Yngwie manner. Superfast but not my cup of tea!
Why is it do you think that the prog world is still mainly a men's world; do women perhaps miss some chromosome to make great prog and sympho music?
Or do prog miss a sex chromosome? I would say the most “appealish” album we have in prog is ELP´s “Love Beach”. He-he. I think we need to turn the prog music into more emotion. That will talk to the ladies.
Now you're very busy with your new solo project "I AM" which has already been described as 'a great big "rock opera" style piece that will probably come as a surprise to many old Bodin fans'.
We also already heard the new Flower Kings drummer Marcus Liliequist plays on it and that it'll be your first album with vocals. Please tell us some more about this new project/album?
This is my new baby. I have never ever been so devoted into a project more than this. "I AM" is a 63 minutes long song in three pieces. It’s a story about a man’s life. We will follow him from birth to death. I would say that the lyrics and the music have equal importance. I am influenced by Pink Floyd (The Wall), David Bowie (Ziggy time), Deep Purple, Jesus Christ Superstar, TFK, Crimson and Genesis.
It’s perhaps not the sunniest kind of story. I also think this album is demanding and somehow provocative. I have dealt with rather tough feelings but my main goal was to stay emotionally honest. I’m very curious about the reaction, especially from that Czech webzine! Here is the content.
Day by day
They’ll fight for me!
War is over
The Angel of dreams
Take me home|
The tree of knowledge
The path of decision I
The path of decision II
Close the deal
The path of decision III
The tube of reverse
|In the land of retrospect|
"Why/7 days at Kingdom’s Inn"
The halls of future
The path of light I
The path of light II
What was your inspiration for this project and why did you decide now to throw in vocals?
I have decided to use vocals because I nowadays have something to say! I need to say things! I have been quiet too long. That’s the simple facts.
Is there an autobiographical element in the story of 'I AM'?
You can find some pieces of a “true life story” in it! Still I have had the artistic freedom to twist and tweak the story into art.
What instruments and equipment have you pulled out of the closet for 'I AM'?
I have changed computer platform from a pretty slow PC into a super fast G5 Macintosh. I used the brand new Logic 7 program. In this amazing program you have almost anything you need for highly professional recordings. Rhodes, Hammond, Clavinets, Synthesisers and more. (Believe it or not but you have get a true Moog sound here as well as a grand piano) My outboard gear is pretty much the same, Nordlead 3, Nord Electro and samplers
Again you invited some friends and musicians to play on your new album, Rick Wakeman couldn't make it, but who did and what did they contribute?
Jocke JJ Marsh did come and contributed with a super heavy rock sound. He used a Marshall 50 top from ´69 together with a green back speaker. The guitar is a very old Gibson “Flying V”. My neighbours were amazed! Anyway he rocks! Anders Jansson has done a remarkable piece of work. His voice goes from a desperate Roger Waters (Vera, Vera what has become of you “The Wall”) to a super high pitched Mr Box from Uriah Heep. In between you’ll find a degenerated Lou Reed as well. Then there is my wife Pernilla. She is doing both “The tube of reverse” and the “Mother” character. My long time friend Helene came one day and sang like a soulful Kate Bush. Beautiful! Then of course Jonas on bass and our new drummer Marcus! Super!
When will it be released?
The "I AM" release is in June. But I hope I will be able to bring some copies with me for the US/Canada/Mexico tour.
"Vintage Prog" was released on your own Helicon house label, but "I AM" will be released again by InsideOut; what further purpose do you have with your own label Helicon house?
I don’t know. I have no big plans on developing HH into a major prog label. We’ll see in future.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with us or do you have some hot news that you can share with us?
Buy "I AM" because I do believe you will find something important in it.
That's almost an advertisement! You don't have any spectacular or at least exclusive news for us?
Flower Kings will make another DVD! Hysch-hysch and this time with..*¨^¨^’’¨* sorr…y’*¨’’ ‘¨I can’t get*’’’¨¨¨’’ thru….**¨¨’ahhhhhhhh ohhhhhh noooooooooo not that gigant**’’¨¨’¨’’’’’’’
Well, we seem to have lost the connection with Tomas, so time to sign off!
INTERVIEW FOR DPRP by JORIS DONKEL
Images provided by Tomas Bodin
Thursday, 31st March 2005 - Logo, Hamburg
Friday, 1st April 2005 - Lucky & Co, Rijssen : Support - Splinter
Saturday, 2nd April 2005 - Zoetermeer, De Boerderij : Support - Splinter
Monday, 4th April 2005 - Spirit of 66, Verviers
Tuesday, 5th April 2005 - Colos-Saal, Aschaffenburg
Wednesday, 6th April 2005 - Zeche-Carl, Essen : Support - Splinter
Friday, 8th April 2005 - Borderline, London, UK : Support - Magenta
Sunday, 10th April 2005 - Bergkeller, Reichenbach
Tomas Bodin - Official Website
The Flower Kings - Official Website
Inside Out Music
DPRPs Review of Tomas Bodin's Pinup Guru
DPRPs Review of Tomas Bodin's Sonic Boulevard
DPRPs Review of The Flower Kings - Adam and Eve
DPRPs Review of The Swedish Family - Vintage Prog