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
DB: How did you form Flower Kings? Were you all friends
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
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.
I'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
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
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