"The reigning kings of progressive rock," as advertised by their label Inside Out, have released a new album mysteriously titled "The Rainmaker". Such title alone is a question in itself, and the music on the CD says and keeps reserved so much that I was really eager to interview the band and find out some hidden meanings behind their works. The band's mastermind, guitarist and signer Roine Stolt, also of Transatlantic, turned out to be a brilliant interview subject. He is an extremely eloquent person, and even though it was the longest interview I've ever done, I still had to leave out a lot of questions due to lack of time. OK, here we go, Flower Kings vs. MetalKings.com
MetalKings.com: Hi Roine, what is the band doing at present?
Roine: You mean right now?
MetalKings.com: Well, these days, this week or something…
Roine: Ah, OK, I haven't checked with the other members. We're living in different towns, me and the keyboard player are living in one town, and the other guitar player and singer is living half an hour drive from here. And then we have the drummer and the bass player that are living in the south of Sweden. I don't talk to them every day. You know what I'm doing right now, talking with you, doing interviews. These days I've been mixing an album with the percussion player, Hasse Bruniussion, who is playing with the Flower Kings. He's been recording a solo album, lots of percussion and drumming, of course, but there's a lot of other interesting stuff, and I'm playing guitar and some bass guitar, and we're having a couple of other guys playing keyboards, synthesizers, sitar and lots of other instruments. I'm mixing it and we have two or three songs before it's finished. I know that the keyboard player of the Flower Kings (Tomas Bodin), he's recording his solo album. What else? I know that Jonas (Reingold), the bass player, he is recording another band in his home town, Malme, it's more like he's producing, he's not playing on that album. I don't know about the other guys. (laughs) I think they're resting or maybe one of the guys has a daytime job at the airport, so maybe he's there, working I guess, because we've been touring so much during this autumn, so I think that he has to be on his daytime job. The drummer (Zoltan Csorsz) is like a session musician, he's a jazz drummer also, so he's touring with different people all the time. He's been touring most of this autumn, but I don't know where exactly he is right now. It's like we're a band but we're not together all the time. We get together for tours and recording of albums and then we're living our separate lives with our families, of course. I think it's the geographic distance but at the same time I think that the band may not be together all of the time, all of the year, because most bands that are together that much break up sooner or later. I think that's what happened with The Beatles, for example.
MetalKings.com: OK, let's talk about your latest album, "The Rainmaker". Are you satisfied with the result of the recording? Did it turn out the way you wanted it to be?
Roine: I think it never turns out 100 percent the way I want it to be. Because I want it to be the most fantastic, gorgeous album that's ever been recorded (laughs), but it doesn't happen really, there's always something that you're not happy with, and when you go back and listen to it, it makes you think, "Oh, this could have been stronger, and this could have been better and this could have been different, and maybe we should have done this song instead of that song." That's the kind of person I am. I am a kind of perfectionist. I have a lot of criticism, mostly for myself, I guess (laughs), but also for other people, of course. Anyway, I'm quite happy with "The Rainmaker", I think it's a good album, it's one of the best Flower Kings albums in terms of songwriting and in terms of production. I think it's a very strong album.
MetalKings.com: Is it a concept album?
Roine: Oh no, it's not really.
MetalKings.com: Then can you comment on the title of the record? What does it mean? What did you want to say with it?
Roine: Oh, not much really. I think I'll leave it up to people to trigger their imagination, because if I say 'the rainmaker' people expect it to be something of a concept, that it has to mean something, and this figure on the cover of the record, and they're asking who is he, and then I have to disappoint them by saying that I don't have the slightest idea. It's just an image made up by the company that made the artwork. There's a company called Vivid Images in New York, they made this artwork, and their guy, he sent me a couple of images, and I picked up this one. It looks interesting, it's something to trigger people's imagination. And I don't want to destroy it by saying, "The Rainmaker is someone here, he's born in 1852, and he did this and this and that." If you think that it's Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hide, that's fine, and if you think that it's Gene Kelly singing in the rain, that's fine, and if you think it's me, that's fine. Peter Sellers in "Mr. Chance" is fine also, because I've heard all those explanations so far. Some people think that it looks a little bit dark, maybe hostile or threatening or something, someone says it's just blue on his mood, and someone even detected the place. I've been told that it's actually a place in New Orleans, in the United States. I don't really remember the name of the street, but it's a street, and then it's kind of manipulated in the computer with colors and this person is put in there. That's what we also try to do with our music, sometimes we create a fantasy building up images in terms of music, and sometimes we create a fantasy building up images graphically, with what is printed in the booklet. I think that it's most important that all this goes together well. If it was a Kylie Minogue album it would not be good, but for a band like Flower Kings or even Pink Floyd or maybe U2 it could work. That's the way we work with art and music.
MetalKings.com: The first track on the album, "Last Minute On Earth", starts with a very strange vocal part. Can you tell me what is that, how was it recorded and who did that?
Roine: I must say that I don't know who is singing. Nowadays we're working with samplers. A sampler is basically a digital recording, a portion of sound that you record into a machine, and then you can trigger this sound off on stage or in the studio. You can trigger it like it's one singer or it's a choir. We use it for different sounds, we use it for pianos and different synthesizer sounds or strings or marimba or something like that. This is also something that you can use for voices, and this was something that I picked up on a CD called "Vocal Planet". It is recordings from different parts of the world, on this CD you have small fragments of voices from Japan, China, Africa, South America, Canada, Europe, different parts of Europe and different parts of the world. When I was listening to it I heard the voice and I said, "Ah!" I guess it's a native American, Indian voice, North American Indian, but I'm not sure. It could be… I don't know… somewhere from Greenland or Asia. I don't know what is being sung and the purpose of the singing. If I'm lucky, it's actually someone praying for rain (laughs). That would be interesting, maybe I should ask people on the Internet to see if someone can find out what it means. But it was just a nice voice and a nice moody thing and I thought I would like to start the record with something that is catching your attention.
MetalKings.com: Yeah, it's surprises a lot. When you put on the record and hear something like this you go, "Wow!"
Roine: Yes, but I mean, just starting the record with a drum fill and then "ta-da-dam, ta-dam, ta-dam" (imitates a powerful guitar riff) is very typical. But if you start it with a voice like that it's captivating, you turn up the volume on your stereo player and then… Yeah, it's just interesting, that's why.
MetalKings.com: The Flower Kings now have the new drummer, his name is Zoltan, right? How did you find him and what happened to your previous drummer, Jaime?
Roine: Jaime played with the band from the beginning. He's a very good drummer and a very nice person, but it was obvious after a couple of recordings that he didn't really like this kind of music. He thinks it's OK, but there's a lot of other music that he prefers. So we realized that we had a drummer in this band and he was a good drummer and he played well, but he didn't really enjoy the music as much as the rest of the members. I think it comes to a point when you have to be realistic and say 'maybe this is not for me', and I think after some time he kind of grew out of the band and he felt that he was basically doing it for the money. I just called him up one day and I said, "how do you feel about being in the band?" We talked for maybe an hour and he explained his feelings about it, though I already knew them, and then I explained my feelings about it. I said, "I'd like to have someone drumming in the band that feels strongly about the music and can contribute to it new interesting ways of playing the drums. The way that it is now is more like you're playing drums and it sounds good, but it's not interesting enough, and it seems like we're asking for new interesting things all the time. Because of the fact that you're not into the music it's more like you're playing OK, but it's not the way that we want the band to go." We want the band to go in a different direction, more experimental, you know. Even on the stage it's a question of putting out lots of energy from the drums and if you're not really into the music it's more like you're sitting in a continental dance band or something. So I think it just came to the point where we both realized it and I said, "this is maybe the time to make a change." I think Jaime also felt that it's time to do something else and not be hanging in for the money. So we talked for an hour and then we decided to split. At that time I was already told about Zoltan, who is a friend of our bass player. They played together for the first time 10 years ago, when Zoltan was just 15 years old. They've been playing jazz music, because Zoltan is raised on jazz music. When he lived in Hungary as a kid he was taught to play the drums, and at that time he only played jazz. Then he was gradually growing into trying other types of music and playing with pop and rock groups also. I think Flower Kings was the first real band that he played with professionally as a rock musician. Before that it was just jazz music and jazz recordings and touring with jazz players. Anyway, he was a friend of Jonas, and Jonas recommended him and said, "maybe he's too jazz, but we can try him." We had an audition, it took about 10 minutes and we realized that it was perfect.
MetalKings.com: Have you heard about any progressive bands from Hungary? In this country progressive bands from Hungary were very famous about 20 years ago.
Roine: I think I knew one band called Omega.
MetalKings.com: Oh yeah, and what do you think of them?
Roine: I have to be honest, I know the name Omega and I think I've heard them, but I don't remember what it sounded like. I asked Zoltan about Omega and he said, "Oh yeah, yeah, I know, I know." I think he knew the lead singer or something. He said he visited the lead singer, because Zoltan was a bit famous in Hungary, he was so young and like a wonder kid who played drums. He played with American jazz musicians when they visited Hungary, and he was playing on television and he even had a TV program made about him. At that time he visited one of the guys from Omega, I think that it was the singer. So he said, "Yeah, I know him and he's a nice guy and these guys are very good." But I've never heard Omega as far as I remember. I think that's just a name that popped up, and I know they are from Hungary. Are they good?
MetalKings.com: I like them a lot. OK, let's talk about more line-up changes in the Flower Kings. Your bass player Jonas is also playing with Midnight Sun and Reingold and these bands are, as far as I know, completely different from what the Flower Kings are doing. Why did you decide to invite him? As far as I know, it's a totally different style of music.
Roine: Yeah, but at the time that we invited Jonas to Flower Kings, I haven't even heard Midnight Sun. I don't know if I was fully aware that he actually recorded heavy rock. I knew him as a jazz player. He's a kind of strange guy. He's kind of the extremes, I mean, playing in heavy rock bands and then his biggest influence is Jaco Pastorius. He's really into jazz and that's the way he sees himself, as a jazz bass player. But at the same time he has some kind of love for heavy metal music like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, that kind of heavy rock, and even Yngwie Malmsteen. I think I'm not the right person to be asked that question. It's only Jonas who can answer that. Maybe he's like me, if you look into my record collection, you can see so many different styles, everything from classical music and folk music to jazz and musicals and pop and rock and psychodelic and improvisation, almost anything that is good music. I think it's the same with Jonas, he likes good music, be it heavy rock or jazz, progressive or pop. We all love the Eagles, we love the Beatles, so it could be progressive or heavy… it doesn't matter really. I guess Jonas is just trying to fulfill his dreams - being a rock star and a jazz musician.
MetalKings.com: What is your brother Michael now doing?
Roine: Michael had a daytime job and that's why he left the band. We were starting to tour more extensively and at that point we had one tour in Japan coming up and shortly after that we had a tour in Europe coming up. I asked him, "Do you think it's OK now? Can you get away from your daytime job?" And he said, "Well, I don't know. I have to check." And then he came back to me and said, "Oh, this is going to be difficult, because I can promise now that I will do one of the tours, I can do either Japan or Europe." And I said, "We're going to tour Japan AND Europe. This is the problem." And he said, "Well, I fully understand and if it's OK with you I can do the Japan gigs and then you can find someone else, because it's not going to work for me, playing with the band and then being at my daytime job also." He's working within the music business anyway, he's working with music and showbiz, but it's not possible for him to tour with the band.
MetalKings.com: I've heard that you are planning to remix and re-release your first solo album, "The Flower King". Is that true?
Roine: That's true. I don't know from where you've heard it, but…
MetalKings.com: Somewhere on the Internet, I don't remember the source exactly.
Roine: Yes, news travel very fast on the Internet. That's true, I was thinking of doing it a while back, but then I was thinking, "Well, it's almost 10 years now since I started recording that album, so maybe I'll wait." There've been so many projects, with Transatlantic, the Flower Kings and also with a band that I was in in the 1970s called Kaipa. We have now done like a reunion album, and that took some time. Then I was involved in our percussion player's album, and I've also been involved in the solo album of Jonas, the bass player, it seems like everyone is doing his solo stuff (laughs). There's always something coming up. I've been promising people to play guitars on some tracks of their albums, there's some group in Venezuela, there's one in Belgium, there's one in America, there's one in Sweden. (laughs) There're always these projects and when I try to find the time to start a project like a remix of that album, it has to be a good remix and it has to be a nice packaging, like a deluxe packaging. I think it may be wise to wait until 2003, so it's like 10 years after I initially recorded "The Flower King". It seems like a good idea. Then I'll have the time to do a good job on the remix and also a good job on the packaging, maybe like doing a big booklet, it's more like a digipack or I don't know what it is called now, more like a book, 30 pages including lots of photos and maybe the story of the band and stuff like that in a very nice packaging.
MetalKings.com: Is the new Kaipa album already recorded?
Roine: Yes, it is.
MetalKings.com: When is it going to be released?
Roine: I think in February next year, we're just putting together the artwork for the album, it's mixed and it's mastered, so the music is ready. It's just the graphics, the artwork that we're putting together, and then it takes a couple of months to manufacture the record and give it to distributors and get it into the shops.
MetalKings.com: Which label is going to release it?
Roine: Inside Out.
MetalKings.com: Which is your favorite record that you did before the Flower Kings?
Roine: Oh… (a long pause) That's tricky… I don't know. I was looking at my discography and I realized I've been recording like 150 records. I hardly remember the names of some of them, but I guess… Oh Jesus… Maybe it's one of the Kaipa albums, the second one or the third one. Then I also did an album called "The Lonely Heartbeat" in 1989, the first CD that I recorded. There are some very good songs and some songs that are OK. It differs a lot in style, it's difficult to tell if it's pop or rock or something symphonic, it has a little bit of everything, really, and maybe that's the weak point of that album. But I think it still has its moments and I would say that in terms of production it's especially good, and I think that in terms of production it's "The Lonely Heartbeat".
MetalKings.com: Is it possible to get old Kaipa albums at present or are they out of print?
Roine: I think on LP it would be difficult, you can get them maybe in Japan, but it will cost lots of money. We don't have them here in Sweden, I think, I only have one or two copies myself. At that time I never realized that it's going to be gone. I could always get five or ten later, and suddenly it's all gone. (laughs) And suddenly the vinyl era is gone, and now people are paying lots of money for those vinyl records. There have been re-releases on CD by Musea, the French label. They have the first, second and third Kaipa albums.
MetalKings.com: Thanks for the information, I'll try to get them. Let's go back to the present. "The Rainmaker" has a limited 2CD edition. What is included in the second CD?
Roine: The second CD starts with a piece that is played entirely on synthesizers, it's a Wagner piece, something from the Ring of the Niebelung, and it's played entirely by Tomas Bodin on synthesizers. Then there is a song that Jonas composed, it's called "One Whole Half", I think. A funny name, but still that's what the song is called. It's a little bit different from the Flower Kings music, it's more like jazz fusion, an instrumental song. Then we have a couple of little pieces, one little piano piece by Tomas and a song from Tomas' upcoming solo album, it's not the entire song, but I think a couple of minutes from that song. It has Zoltan playing the drums, it's the only track that he's playing on the new album, the rest of it is Jaime playing the drums. And then we have a track that we recorded for an album called "Agent Supreme". It's a short vocal piece, more in the style of Sting, maybe, that's not typical Flower Kings, but I think that's the whole idea of having a limited edition with a bonus CD or bonus tracks to make something that is not just a bunch of regular Flower Kings songs. These songs are not on the regular album for one or another reason, I think that's because they're too far away from the Flower Kings style. But on a limited edition it could be interesting for the fans to hear the band playing something that is completely different.
MetalKings.com: When were those tracks recorded? During "The Rainmaker" sessions?
MetalKings.com: How long did it take you to record the album?
Roine: You mean the whole "Rainmaker" album? I think it took about three months. Not everyday, of course, but that's including some composing, because it's kind of integrated when you're composing your music in computer software. It's like you're composing and you're playing the keyboards maybe, and you do some drum programming and stuff, and maybe you do some vocals and guitars, and then we go in and do the real drums, bass guitar and stuff, but it's like you're already on your way, there's some work done already. The composing period was the end of January and beginning of February, for a couple of weeks. Then we started recording drums and we started recording all the guitars and vocals and percussion and bass and everything, keyboards. I think we worked from the end of January until April.
MetalKings.com: The reason why I'm asking is that Transatlantic records are done very quickly, the basic tracks are done in some 10 days, and the Flower Kings spend three months on recording an album. Which way of working in the studio do you prefer?
Roine: I would say I enjoy both methods. I would say it's a good feeling being together like we were in Transatlantic, the four of us being together in the studio. We rehearsed and we were trying to put together songs and developed stuff further in the studio. For a short period of time we were recording in Nashville, we did like 10 days or something, and then we of course did overdubbing, sending the tapes to England and to Sweden. Neal recorded at his house his overdubbing, Hammong organ, electric piano and synthesizers and vocals and stuff, and I was recording electric guitars and acoustic guitars and vocals and some mellotron stuff here in Sweden, so we completed the recording. It was the basic tracks that were done in 10 days, and then we spent some more time, each and every one of us. That's one way to record and I think it's OK. The other way is like Flower Kings. We are composing music and then building it up in the computer, like pre-production, and people are coming in to replace the drums with real drums and real bass guitars and guitars and vocals and stuff. That's another way of doing it, and I think both ways work for me. Working with a computer you can get it more precise, because you can try out and you have some more time to try out different… In the terms of composing I think it's better, because you have more time and you can try it out in many different ways in the computer, but if you're four guys in the studio, it's more like we have to come up with the result by the end of the day that has to be something on tape. Otherwise we're wasting money. A little bit more of the pressure when we're, you know, four people sitting in the studio and you have a pressure to come up with something. Sometimes I feel that with Transatlantic we deliver very good stuff, but sometimes it could be developed more, but we didn't have the time, that was the way we could do it at that time and if we had had more time maybe we could have done it different.
MetalKings.com: "Space Revolver" contained a couple of tracks that didn't make it onto the first Transatlantic record. Does "The Rainmaker" contain any songs that didn't make it onto the second Transatlantic record or are they all brand new and written especially for the Flower Kings?
Roine: No, it's more like when I write I write songs and then I bring a demo tape to Transatlantic and I bring a demo tape to Flower Kings sessions. On "Space Revolver" I think it was "Monster Within" and maybe "Slave To Money" and maybe something more that was intended for Transatlantic but I used it for Flower Kings. On "The Rainmaker" I used some stuff that was on my demo for Transatlantic, but I don't remember exactly. I know that things like "City Of Anges", or rather parts of it, were on my demo for Transatlantic and "Serious Dreamers" was on my demo for Transatlantic. Maybe parts of "Last Minute On Earth" were also on my demo, and "Elaine" was there for sure. It's just music, I don't feel strongly that it has to be on Flower Kings or Transatlantic, it's more like if people like it, and if they don't like it I use it for something else. (laughs). It's not a big deal really, it's more like sometimes when you do a demo, it's very obvious that it's a great song, but sometimes you have to listen to it more than once or twice, it takes a couple of listenings to realize that fully developed it can be a great song. That's what happened with some stuff that ended up on Flower Kings and it sounded really good and it became a couple of the strongest songs on Flower Kings albums. But for some reason the guys in Transatlantic didn't even bother to try these songs. Maybe I did a demo that did not sound exciting or something, I don't know. (laughs)
MetalKings.com: Are you planning to continue with Transatlantic? Will there be a third record?
Roine: I don't think that anyone can answer that question. I would suspect that as long as we sell records and people think that the music is good there's always a chance that we will make a third album. But I don't think that we'll make it next year, I would say, maybe the closest is end of next year, but more realistic in 2003. Because I know for sure that Mike is touring a lot with Dream Theater next year, and I know that they're playing Europe and the United States and maybe South America and Japan and Australia, so he will be busy next year anyway. I would suspect there's not much time for getting together to rehearse and record for Transatlantic next year. But I mean, you never know, we'll just leave it for now and then see what happens. I would suspect that if people buy this new record "Bridge Across Forever" and if people like it and we could make some good money out of it and the record company makes some good money, there will always be a discussion whether to do a third album, that seems reasonable, and as long as we can get along and be friends, I think, there's always a chance for a new album. I think that's the way it is for Transatlantic, you never know, we've been doing a tour now and maybe this is the only tour or maybe there will be another tour. We all have our daytime jobs in Spock's Beard, Marillion, Flower Kings and Dream Theater, that's the main bands, and Transatlantic is more like a side project.
MetalKings.com: You know, when I think of 'flower power' as a term, it brings to my mind associations with the hippie movement of the 1960s. What do you think of it?
Roine: Oh… (seems at loss) For me the album title "Flower Power" was more of the fact that the name of the band is Flower Kings, and it felt like that the music we had for that album was quite powerful in different ways. Not powerful in the sense of heavy rock, but more like powerful music in terms of music and lyrics. So "Flower Power" in this sense means maybe not the hippie idea of 'flower power', it's more like 'a powerful album by the Flower Kings'. But at the same time, there's always underlying meanings, different meanings of a title like that, so for me 'flower power' came from a time when music was happening, music was going in different interesting directions, both into more jamming and psychodelic stuff and sometimes into jazz mixing with classical, mixing with blues, mixing with Latin, mixing with electronics. Having been there at that time, I think it was a very important time for rock music in the late 1960s - 1967, 1968, 1969. Some of the most important rock records were made in that time. They paved the way for new music that came later. I look upon the term 'flower power' and I mean all the hippie movement and everything, I mean love and peace and everything, everything but the drugs, I'm not into drugs really, so that's a negative part of it. But apart from that I think that values from the 'flower power' and the hippie era are OK by me. That's the way I see it.
MetalKings.com: What do your children think about the music you compose with Flower Kings and Transatlantic?
Roine: (cracks) I don't think they're crazy about it. They are like most kids, they like pop music and the boy groups like Take That and Five, you know, maybe Michael Jackson or maybe U2 or maybe the bands that they see on television. They're small and they haven't really developed their musical tastes yet, I mean, they're taking in whatever they see and they think some groups look cool or they have a hit they can sing along with. I'm here if they want to look into different kinds of music, I have a big record collection and I can let them hear different music, jazz or classical or different rock music. I don't wanna push them into something, I think they have to discover it by themselves. When and if the time comes, there's a lot of interesting music to be heard. But I think it's up to them to decide when it's time.
MetalKings.com: The next question is going to be very traditional. Is there any chance that you will come to play in Russia with Flower Kings or Transatlantic or any other project?
Roine: Oh! That question is almost impossible to answer. I would say there's always a chance. That's the question that people sometimes ask, and I say what I usually say, "It's up to someone in Russia to offer us a concert or a series of concerts. But we need to have certain record sales before we go to places like Russia." I think it's possible, it's absolutely possible. We haven't played Poland and we hope to play… With Flower Kings we have played Japan and most of the countries in Europe, we have played South America, lots of countries in South America, as well as the USA and Canada. We have not played Australia yet and we have not played Africa. (laughs) But we like to go and play in different places, so Russia would definitely be interesting in the future, but there has to be someone, a promoter, you know, that can take on the band to organize a tour in Russia and pay the money that is needed to the band. That's the kind of things that we have to look into. (laughs) But sure, it's always interesting to play in new places and different places.
MetalKings.com: OK, our time is running out, and here comes the last question. Is there anything that you would like to say to your Russian fans?
Roine: Oh, I don't know… Do we have any? It's funny because I got an acquaintance in Washington that has a CD that was like a bootleg of "Back In The World Of Adventures". So it seems to be that there are fans, for at least there are bootleg records circulating there. It's the same thing in South America, you cannot do much about it, that's just the way it is.
MetalKings.com: If there are people who buy bootlegs there are always people who know your music.
Roine: Yes, yes. Hopefully they will buy the regular albums also in the future. What should I say to the Russian audience? I don't know. I don't have much to say. I just hope they enjoy the music and keep their interest in the Flower Kings and maybe check out other projects like Transatlantic and even Kaipa. I hope that we can come to Russia and play one day.
MetalKings.com: OK, it was very nice talking with you. Thank you for the interview and good luck with the Flower Kings and Transatlantic!
Roine: Thank you.
Roman The Maniac, MetalKings.com
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