The Flower KingsThe Flower Kings are pollinating the prog rock scene
By Naughty Mickie
 
I'm a dabbler when it comes to progressive rock. I'll admit that most of the time I feel as if I'm on the outside looking in, but every now and again a group in the genre grabs me and Flower Kings is one such band. Based in Sweden, they consist of vocalist/ guitarist Roine Stolt, keyboardist Tomas Bodin, guitarist Hasse Froberg, bassist Jonas Reingold, drummers Zoltan Csorsz and Hasse Bruniusson and unofficial member saxophonist Ulf Wallander.
 
I caught them live last summer at CalProg in Whittier, an annual progressive rock festival that draws fans from around the world. At that time, Flower Kings were supporting their effort "Adam & Eve'' (InsideOut Music America/Insideout) and gave an outstanding performance.
 
Just prior to their show, I had an opportunity to interview Stolt. He began his musical career by playing bass and then switched to guitar. At age 17, he joined the band Kaipa and was signed to Decca Records. He went on to Fantasia, which was with MNW Records and Warner. In addition to Flower Kings, he is also in the popular group Transatlantic. Due to time changes and unmatching schedules, we conducted our interview via e-mail.
 
DB:  How did you form Flower Kings? Were you all friends or...
 
RS: When I started The Flower Kings in 1995 I had just released a CD that I called "The Flower King'' that got great reviews and some unexpected attention, so I felt encouraged and thought it was the right time to try take the music the the stage also. It was the first time I've played something as adventurous since my days with Kaipa 1975-1980.
 
I called my keyboard friend Tomas Bodin to see if he felt like playing a bit of prog and he was delighted. Micael Stolt my younger brother filled the bass spot and my new friend Jaime Salazar, with whom I've been playing in a bluesy metal female vocal band at that point joined on drums, so the fundaments for the band was laid down .
 
I think we all enjoyed playing music as freely and adventurous after many years in the pop and mainstream rock field. I had been working as a studio guitarist and producer for most of the '80s and I've done around 250 records up til today, all different kinds of music. For me it was time to do something else and prog rock was something I was longing to do. This musical freedom also gave us the chance to improvise on stage and here we soon hired the eccentric Hasse Bruniusson on percussion.
 
DB: Did you grow up in a musical family?
 
RS: Well sort of, as my mother played piano and I enjoyed her playing a lot and her little brother was a great jazz pianist. Dad had a guitar but never learned to play, I later learned on that very guitar so it was a blessing I suppose.
 
Most of all, they were very supportive of my playing and strange as it may seem they never tried to keep me away from playing rock even if they surely must have known that there was a lot of drugs circulating in rock circuits at the time. I think they simply trusted me. Rightly so.
 
DB: When did you start playing music?
 
RS: I learned the first chords on a guitar when I was 13 from a friend, after that I just learnt from records. I kept playing records over and over and learnt from people like Peter Green (Fleetwood Mac), Robin Trower (Procol Harum), Carlos Santana, George Wadenius (Blood Sweart&Tears), Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa or Richie Blackmore.
 
I never learnt to read or write music ``properly'' and regretted it later but after a while I've discovered that some type of musical education can be a limitation, as sometimes people with education seem to be a bit narrow-minded and unfree when it comes to break new ground or improvise. I've been blessed with a gift to ``see'' music very detailed and in a way I'm a perfectionist, I know exactly what I like and not.
 
DB: I know you were in a band by age 17, but did you complete any higher education?
 
RS: No not really, I dropped out of school at the age of 17 to start play with my first professional band in 1974, Kaipa. We did 3 albums for the DECCA label and toured extensively and did both live radio and TV. It was a marvelous time for a young boy with rock dreams and I learnt an awful lot .
 
 I didn't make much money at the time but I did stay afloat and I had a great time and came in contact with lots of great players.
 
DB: Did you work any unusual jobs to support yourself or was a musical career (sessions artist, etc.) sufficient?
 
RS: In 1974 I had a ``daytime job'' for about 6 months, taking care of children after school but I did quit as the music and touring took too much time. That's the only ``decent'' job I had in my lifetime,  I mean I've never looked back and I don't regret not having education as I regard myself self-educated by reading watching and learning from others and observing the world .
 
Over the years I have developed a strong sense of  what I want with my life and my music and I've been lucky to have had the chance to actually live off my playing, my writing and my production skills.
 
DB:  What do you handle for your company, Foxtrot Music? Does it cater to any specific genres or bands?
 
RS: Foxtrot Music used to be a small independent company focusing on a handful Swedish artist that didn't sell that well really but had a lot of airplay on Swedish radio So I was making some good money out of that but after Flower Kings took off I just had to cut down and concentrate on Flower Kings so I signed with Inside Out Music after about a year of thinking over their offer. That left me more time for the music .
 
DB: When you're not involved with music, what kind of hobbies do you  have?
 
RS: I like to cook and I'm quite good at it , I prefer Italian style food.
 
The Flower KingsI've become a cineaste lately, I've probably gathered around 500 DVDs lately and I get lots of joy out of watching movies really.   My favorite genre is probably drama or things based on reality or relations between people or comedy, I'm not a big fan of thrillers or criminal stories. However I can enjoy the occasional ``Lord Of The Rings'' or ``Harry Potter'' or things like Spielberg's ``Minority Report." I'm a big fan of Tim Burton movies, I think some of Spielberg's stuff is really good, ``Shindler's List,'' ``Artificial Intelligence," "The Color Purple.''  Well frankly I think Spielberg is probably up there with Walt Disney,  one of the greatest of our time.
 
Alfred Hitchcock is unbeatable and Roman Polanski is really good, I was impressed by his ``The Pianist.'' Lately, I like various others too, I felt things like ``Moulan Rouge'' was real good and inventive and things like JP Junet's ``City of Lost Children'' and that surreal stuff is great. ``The Mothman Prophecy,'' ``The Insider,'' ``The Fisher King,'' ``Midnight Express,'' are other great ones.
 
A laugh is something I need every now and then when it get hectic and Black Adder and anything from Monte Python is also always good to cheer you up, Spinal Tap not to forget .......
 
DB:  Stolt lives in Uppsala, Sweden with his sons, John Sebastian and Peter Gabriel, and his life partner (their mother) Lilian. What do you enjoy doing with your family?
 
RS: Go to a nice warm place and do some snorkeling or just relax or have a nice meal and some wine in the sun. We've been to Mexico, Costa Rica, Aruba, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Malaysia etc. ... Some snorkeling has been fantastic.
 
DB: Are your sons musical?
 
RS: I hope so, I can't say yet really, my oldest one plays the drums quite OK and my youngest just bought a electric bass with money he saved. 
 
I guess they have a fairly normal interest in music, but interesting enough have turned away from pop and rap lately and instead become interested in bands like Cream, Deep Purple, Jefferson Airplane, The Animals, Buffalo Springfield, The Doors and other '70s stuff, very strange but ...interesting turn .
 
DB: What kind of prog-rock scene is there in Sweden?
 
RS: Not much on a commercial level really but we have lots of great bands working ``underground'' like Ritual, Anekdoten, Mats& Morgan, Flying Food Circus, Opeth, Meshuggah,  Karmakanic, The Flesh Quartet.
 
There is a really good jazz scene also but some of  the bands have a hard time surviving .
 
For Flower Kings there is at the most one minor tour a year that we can undertake in Sweden, rest of the year we work outside of Sweden also as our record company is based in Germany .
 
DB: Is the Internet a valuable tool for the band?
 
RS: I think it is valuable to any band these days, but especially for bands with a more specialized audience, bands regarded as marginal or too adventurous for the main market. They can record and promote their music on the Internet and it keeps new, fresh, groundbreaking music alive (until they get signed and someone turn them into confetti.)
 
Today the mainstream market is in a quite terrible state, real good and extremely talented writers like Joni Mitchell simply stop making music because the music biz is too stupid and focused on people with a cool new image or a hot look rather than something to say.
 
I see all these new bands playing live on TV at Jay Leno for instance, bands that have had one hit and are supposed to be ``so great,'' but all I see is insecure kids with little real talent, or pathetic ``lookers'' with their mind set to be hip or cool and sorry if the music wasn't great ........
 
People like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, Yes, Police, Don Henley or U2 have probably not even got a contract if they were new and try being signed today. The talent leaves the ship, that goes for the people in recording biz positions too, and we'd be left here with the accountants and the lawyers and people who don't give a shit about honest music.  We need the new Ahmet Ertgun and the David Geffens, we need people who love music and can see real talent to bring excitement (and sales) back in album music.
 
DB: Besides Cal Prog what future plans does the band have-- touring, a new release, etc.?
 
RS: We're actually doing a small tour in great theaters and bigger clubs all together, Pittsburgh, New Jersey, Lowell, Montreal, Quebec City, Tampa etc. and after that we'll go home and work on a few new recording projects, I'll work on my blues album.
 
I'll be back in California in September to work with Doane Perry of Jethro Tull and Vince DiCola and a few other interesting people in the band Thread.
 
Flower Kings start the recording of a new CD in November, but before that we're gonna record a second DVD, with some of our shorter most popular songs and we try to include in depth interviews etc. But everyone in the band is so creative and there's always something cooking, we even have a offspring called ``Circus Brimstone'' that play instrumental music and we're touring Japan and Central America in December.
 
DB: Is there anything I haven't asked that we should discuss? Or is there something you would like to talk about?
 
RS:  Well there is surely a lot I'd like to talk about but for now I think this is good . Thanks for listening. Roine.
 
DaBelly thanks Roine for sharing and encourages everyone to take a minute to visit him and the Flower Kings at www.flowerkings.se

Return to DaBelly