The Flower Kings

Back after 5 years and The Flower Kings are delivering some great & fascinating prog tunes... So interviewing the mastermind, guitarist, vocalist & composer, Roine Stolt, of one of the best prog rock bands of our time can be so fascinating like listening to their music. Read below this thought-provoking interview… especially if you wanna dive into the prog world…
The Flower Kings band pic

Hi Roine… It’s great to have The Flower Kings back after almost 5 years. Surely it was worth waiting as “Banks of Eden” is a wonderful album… we’ve added it in Grande Rock’s “Gems” category as well…
 
R: Thank you - yes we’re all excited about it too.
 
 
Although you took a five-year break from The Flower Kings… this time it was quite productive for you, right? You have all been active with Transatlantic, Karmakanic, Agents of Mercy & Hasse Fröberg and the Musical Companion. It’s like you were all in a composing orgasm… I bet the break did you good, right?
 
R: It was a very positive and productive break - as all comes down to inspiration and being creative - We were running out of steam around 2008 so it was crucial to take a break and recharge batteries. We were going on and on for years making new albums and playing tours and after a while we felt lost without a clue WHY we kept doing it. I think it is extremely important to make music for the right reason, 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, there is so much fun ahead of us and so much new music to be written.
 
 
Some say that due to that break you returned with one of the best albums of your career. Can you actually say so?
 
R: Ha, well it is indeed a great album, very much alive and kicking and we’re soon all spoilt superstars now selling millions! No, seriously we at least feel we arrive at a very good place once we started up the band again, sort of rejuvenated. It may be that the other guys are more humble today and value the membership in TFK as a true gift - as we can all see and feel there is some very special music magic in the 5 of us playing together. The Flower Kings have built up over the years to being a solid prog rock act with a legacy after 17 years and I think members of the band are more focused on TFK as their “main band” than individual careers today.
 
 
Why’s the title “Banks of Eden”? Are there many banks that Eden has left on planet Earth?
 
R: I came up with the title of the album - and I do on most albums. “Banks Of Eden” symbolize many things - it works in many ways - As a Monetary bank or in a mythical Eden, the cradle of life.
 
No one knows what or where Eden is/was but still we invest in the afterlife. We abide the rules and do good deeds. We’re thinking about arriving there in awe and astonishment at the riverbanks of Eden - will it be as we expect - or will it be at all - will it be like here - have we seen anything like it? Can we grasp it - is it like a dream - can we “withdraw” whatever we invested in the “banks” of Eden? Thinking about spiritual investments rather than monetary.

 
 
What did you have in mind as long as you got together to record/write this record? Was it a way back in the past that you wanted to follow?
 
R: We just wrote songs that we liked, we didn’t think much about if they were modern or not. I guess they are more in the realm of “classic rock”, meaning timeless. We have already established a unique sound, years ago, a sound that younger bands now try to copy, that doesn’t bother me, I just feel it is flattering. (i.n.: sure it is…)
 
 
There’s a statement on your site which says: “Banks Of Eden” was recorded with the band playing live in one room in Varispeed studio in January 2012, a recording much like in the old days of classic prog, before computers hit the market and this time with plenty of original60’s and 70’s recording equipment, for a true warm analogue vintage sound. Did you decide to record the old way to add that warmness to your sound that the most digital albums lack today?
 
R: Not really, we are just really relaxed in that studio as we spend a lot of time in there and the equipment does 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 groove and 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. (i.n.: yeap and the final result is astonishing as well…)
 
 
So, do you feel that you have succeeded in the thing you had in mind? Are you totally satisfied by the result? Who’s responsible for the production and the mastering?
 
R: We’re happy with the result. I did produce it, I mixed & mastered it too. So I guess I’m a control freak, or just an insane workaholic with grande visions. (i.n.: great job dude!)
 
 
There’s a new member, drummer, on board as well… the 27 -year - old Felix Lehrmann. How did you end up cooperating with a new drummer?
 
R: Because we’re the Spinal Tap of prog!!! Seriously I have no idea why drummers come and go in TFK, but I can assure you that each and every one 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 came to a point where we need 100% commitment to TFK.
 
This time we asked a drummer from Berlin, Germany named Felix Lehrmenn to join us and it is so much easier, it takes only one hour flying here from Berlin so it is all manageable. He is so much fun and a powerhouse drummer. I think it took me about 5 minutes to realize that Felix is 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. I know Jonas needs that challenge with drummers that kick his butt.

 
 
Tell us about the 4 bonus tracks that are included on the LTD digipack.
 
R: There are actually 4 bonus tracks. We just felt they stood out as “outside the concept”. So we wanted to keep the main album short and to the point, but since the bonus tax all are quite OK, or even good, we wanted to give it as bonus for those die hard TFK fans that wants “everything”. Plus we put a 22 min fun video interview from the studio on the bonus disc too.
 
 
How hard was it to decide which song would be featured on the standard edition and which one would be the bonus one?
 
R: Not at all - we were all very clear on what songs that needed to be on the main disc. I could possibly think of having “Illuminati” as a breather in the middle but we left it for the bonus disc to shine. (i.n.: yeap “Illuminati” should have been in the main CD…)
 
 
Personally, I think the bonus songs do not lack in any part… they are as enjoyable as the tunes of the standard edition.
 
R: True, We put in some work on those too, they may not be as adventurous as the main tracks but they’re good songs. If we give them away as bonus tracks we still feel they sound  be up to a certain standard.
 
 
You say that the opener, “Numbers” is a 26 minute centerpiece that displays a few new harder, darker and more angular sides of the band… which are those sides? Don’t you think that it is risky to open the album with the most complex song of the whole release?
 
R: It is indeed because if that collapse or do not float the boat for the fans or the critics we’re fried. But I trust my instincts and the usually lead me right. I felt strongly that “Numbers” was a track that proposed that FlowerKings were “hungry” again and full of progy goodness, taking risks etc.
 
The “angular” side I mention is some harmonic sequences that are maybe less melodic and build more on a groove or a feel. It’s not so pretty all over, we indulge in some more cinematic mood sequences.

 
 
I’ve also noticed that “Banks Of Eden” is a work that needs several listens and time generally so as to get into it. In our time, when everything is fast and hasty… aren’t you afraid that some may be lost in the way… and finally, never make it to get where you want to take them through your music?
 
R: It is a risk… but we cannot make records only to please the casual listener, we aim to be much more serious than that. If our music can’t stand up to classic albums by Yes, Genesis or Deep Purple, we should not call ourselves a serious prog band. We’re not a bar band that aim to please a beer-drinking crowd on a Friday night. We are serious about our music and that includes taking risks. We know that the music is demanding and the fans of Bon Jovi, Lady Gaga or White Stripes may not like us, but… so what?! (i.n.: hahaha... who can blame 'em though…)
 
 
Is this time-period harder than any other time before for progressive, experimental bands that can intrigue the listener through the tempo changes, the rhythms, the moods etc.?
 
R: No, I think it’s pretty constant. The listener is out there and we just need to reach them. I have a strong belief in a younger audience. I’m sure they can get as excited as I once was about bands like Weather Report, Yes, King Crimson, Refugee, UK, Genesis or Frank Zappa.
 
 
Have you planned to release any videos in the future?
 
R: No plans really, except for a live DVD of the tour we’re starting this fall, I imagine we will film one of the shows and by the end of tour we usually sound pretty tight and convincing. As for videos supporting the album… who knows, would love to do a surreal video for “Numbers”. Time is tight. (i.n.: that would have been quite intriguing…)
 
The Flower Kings band

There are some live dates, on your site, with three summer dates - June 8th (Sweden Rock Festival), July 8th - Loreley - Night Of The Prog Festival & Aug 18th Gothenburg - Slottsskogen Prog Fest. Then, from the early September till the 2nd of November (Helsinki Nostur). I bet that you enjoy the live shows as much as the studio time right?
 
R: Yes, we all love to play live… it’s the real deal. We have about 30 shows in Europe and hope to do as many in USA and rest of the world. Obviously we will pick quite a few from the new album, they are great fun to play. Then there will be old favorites, meaning songs that both the band and the fans enjoy to play/hear. We could of course search for songs that are more obscure but in the end everyone is just looking for a good time.
 
If I go see Paul McCartney I’d rather hear him play “The Long and Winding Road”, “Penny Lane”, “Let it Be” or “Live and Let Die” than any obscure song from his vast solo material. Guess we’re just blessed to have really interesting and emotional material to play, we do not rely on a couple of single hit tunes… we rely on a multitude of rock symphonies.

 
 
I’ve written: “Banks of Eden” is made of the material that all the great 70s prog rock albums were made of… in my review. What do you think of it?
 
R: If that means “inspiration” that’s all true. In fact my gut feel is that next TFK album will be a magnificent and extraordinary prog- album. The stars align and things just seems very right for us to do a classic and mind-bending album very soon, I personally think that we have our best album in front of us somewhere in the near future. (i.n.: very interesting statement… and yes that 70s material I’m referring to… is “inspiration”)
 
 
I also stated: “Banks of Eden” is one of those prog rock albums that get better with each play… and the more appreciation it receives will depend on the time spending listening to it… Do you agree with that?
 
R: Yes, it definitely takes time, just like classical music, you need to get to know the themes better to start loving them. An album like “Banks Of Eden” contains so many themes and riffs and so much lyrical content so it’s impossible to digest in just a few listens. But that’s the beauty, it’s manufactured to last longer and be a classic or “a friend” for years to come.
 
 
How do you see progressive rock music nowadays? We see a major backsliding… does the future actually lay in the past?
 
R: In Europe it is actually getting better, more festivals, more gigs, more web and magazine cover. It’s too early to tell if TFK record sales has dropped or upped during the hiatus, but judging from Transatlantic’s latest studio album, it seems there is plenty potential and TA sold as much or more of the latest CD than we did 10 years ago.
 
 
We see that labels and bands/musicians are suffering from people that only downloading and not buying. Even though there are some guys (like myself) that still buy music… that’s not enough for the music industry and the bands/musicians to survive nowadays… right? Will the CDs and LPs be left only for the romantics in the end? We are on a terminal point here. What the future will bring though?
 
R: I think the same can be said about books I guess, but I imagine many, like us, will still wanna buy a physical copy and get the extra goodies, booklets etc. With this release we do also release a double gatefold vinyl. It all looks and feels fabulous and sales are really good on that one, believe it or not. (i.n.: I do believe it… lots of fans are buying vinyl these days)
 
 
And some weird Questions now!! How did you come up with the name The Flower Kings back in the mid-90s?
 
R: Just making a list of names I liked, The Flower Kings was taken from a well-known botanist who lived in our hometown Uppsala, Sweden, his name was Carl von Linne  and he was nicknamed “The Flower King”. He travelled the world as a botanist in the mid-1700 and made a huge catalogue and named all the flowers with Latin names. So this guy was famous and the person who spread knowledge about flowers and their names in old times old world. I just thought he was a really cool guy.
 
 
What are those bands that stigmatized the progressive rock movement?
 
R: It depends what you mean by stigmata… I would say that ELP put a nail in the blimp with albums like “Love Beach” - but at the same time their first 4 albums are firkin’ fabulous. Yes lost their mojo on “Tormato” and Genesis on “Then There were Three”. Then Rick Wakeman who put prog on Ice - kind of bombastic and over the top perhaps but I enjoy the effort and the crazy ideas rick is a great guy. I think a few of the bands should have taken a break or a few years and came back rejuvenated and sober. A few whining music journalists just decided that Prog was antichrist and they killed it. (i.n.: everything that’s hard to understand is usually called the “Antichrist” during the centuries… by the people of “love” while they try to vanish it…)
 
 
If you could put together the best prog rock band in the world who would participate and why?
 
R: I’m thinking 70’s youthful energies here: Bill Bruford on Drums, Mike Rutherford on Bass, Patrick Moraz on Keyboards, Steve Hackett on Guitars, Allan Holdsworth on Guitars, Jon Anderson on Vocals, & Vangelis on Keyboards. (i.n.: an out of this world line-up!)
 
 
Is fiction part of reality… or reality is fiction’s flaw?
 
R: I have no idea, but dreams are crucial, it’s what pushing us onwards and upwards. We all love to think about alternate realities, to seek what is possible. The entire Hollywood industry is built upon dreams and our imagination and thoughts that go out on a limb.
 
 
Which is the record you wish you had written and why?
 
R: That would be The Beatles “White Album” perhaps, or Joni Mitchells “Travelogue”. But if I was a smart guy my cunning plan would be to write U2’s “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” just because it’s a firkin’ great album plus it sold millions. (i.n.: hehe... why not “Thriller” then?!)
 
 
What would you do if you were not afraid to fail?
 
R: Write or sing Opera perhaps, or offer my guitar services to Sir Paul McCartney perhaps. Maybe start a cool restaurant & club in NYC that focused on prog, fusion, jazz and world music. All with healthy organic food. (i.n.: I like the last idea better…)
 
 
How can computers affect and help music? Will there be humans playing musical instruments in the next decades?
 
R: Yes, definitely… The acoustic organic music will live on, but in the same time, there will be another realm with the house, club and techno music.
 
 
What are those things that you do not like in the music industry nowadays?
 
R: Stupidity, as always - and shortsighted businessmen. Also I’d appreciate a bit of silence-music is used and abused, overused. The good stuff is drowning in a flood of fabricated for profit shallow stuff, sung by people with no other motivation than being “famous”. (i.n.: that perspective has destroyed all good music…)
 
 
Were you obliged to give just one album to extraterrestrials that would represent the whole human music evolution, which album would it be and from which band/artist?
 
R: Maybe Mozart’s “Requiem”, or The Beatles the “Revolver” album. Or a collection of J.S.Bach’s most beautiful organ pieces.
 
 
You are standing in front of two transparent doors. Door number 1 leads to a huge garden full of naked models running, playing and kissing around while Door number 2 takes you to the Isles of the Blessed where you can interact with some great ancient philosophers and learn the deepest secrets of life, death and universe. Which one would you cross and why?
 
R: Easy… the philosophers door, no doubt. If you’d asked me 25 years ago I would probably had chosen the nude girls door but today I feel so much more excited to learn more and hungry for knowledge. Girls are in the past (ha ha) I’m a happy family man and father of two grown up boys, so I’ve contributed already to the betterment of this blue planet. (i.n.: can girls be left so easily in the past… they can blow up “philosophy” just in a heartbeat!)
 
 
Who is your favorite philosopher and why?
 
R: Have none, I revolve and I keep my eyes and ears open all directions.
 
 
Imagine that your wife is selling your whole album-collection just to buy an expensive ring for herself. How would you react?
 
R: No big deal, a record collection can be restored, a wife cannot...
 
 
Thank you very much for this wonderful interview Roine… Thx for the music... Please leave a note to Grande Rock readers… Take care!
 
R: Hey folks… Eat you greens and be kind… for kindness is the ultimate gift & the universe will reward you one way or the other…

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