“The Problem Is Now We Obey Like Stupid Sheep” – An Interview with The Flower Kings’ Roine Stolt
The Flower Kings have been at the forefront of prog music for nearly twenty years, and frontman Roine Stolt has been part of the scene since the 70’s. Cutting his teeth in the band Kaipa, Stolt went on to form The Flower Kings in 1994 who released ten albums before going on a hiatus in 2008.
Last year saw them return with the acclaimed ‘Banks of Eden’, and just over a year later the follow up ‘Desolation Rose’ has appeared quite quickly… “Quickly? Really? Ha ha, we don’t think so” says Stolt. A dense and almost orchestral album, I was surprised when I read that despite the complex arrangements the album had been recorded on a reel to reel. When I asked him about it, Stolt revealed all wasn’t quite as the press release seemed…
ROINE: In fact we recorded to reel to reel, but then that feeds into a ProTools system. The reel to reel is because we wanted the warm sound of tape compression, it simply sounds better.
We tried to walk into the studio with less refined demos so there was more room for everyone to contribute. The studio itself had a reel to reel recorder, so we recorded very much like people did in the late 60’s and early 70’s, with all of the band playing in free tempo in the studio room. We feel we’re best when not controlled by metronomes or computers, we just play it live and organic. Then at the end we can take advantage of the editing facilities that ProTools and the computer world provides.
‘Desolation Rose’, like all the best prog records is based around a central concept. Is this something you have set in stone from the start or did you find the concept reshaped itself around the songs?
Well, “Desolation Rose” symbolizes a human race that has almost limitless possibilities, but seems hell-bent on destroying the environment and our inner harmony. The album started off being named after the song “Desolation Road”, and that is hinting at a very dangerous path the human race is upon at this very now.
We put profit and power before wellbeing and harmony in our souls, leading to more than half the world living without proper education and sometimes without food for the day, while the other half live in danger of eating itself to death and other unhealthy consumer addictions. We have money and we have freedom and we are spoilt, we have the gift of knowledge but we constantly violate it, and in perpetual outbursts of religious and monetary conflicts we pave the way for a true road to desolation.
We are under surveillance 24/7 and we’re slowly slipping away from controlling our own lives. We see these fascist tendencies come and go, yet another decade, yet another country, yet another regime. People trying to control and hold down others, there’s a camera in every corner, there’s a camera on every computer and now on the latest iPhone they read your fingerprint! When do we think it is enough?
In the end true freedom comes through revolution, and I fear that day, because it may be violent. But still, the “controllers” of the state are pretty much helpless without our consent of being controlled. In the big picture they are nothing, just a waste of greedy human flesh, if we say so. The problem now is that we obey like stupid sheep. I suppose we can narrow the concept down to politics, religion, mind control, environmental threats and spiritual search. Hey, that’s a lot already!
Prog rock seems to be enjoying somewhat of a renaissance at the moment with newer bands like Haken and The Safety Fire seeing a rise in popularity, what new bands do you feel are taking prog to the next level?
I don’t know really about taking it to the next level, but I really like District 97 from America, they’re in my “best new act” category. I also like Jolly quite a bit, and Von Herzen Brothers from Finland.
I’m sure there are many more that I’m not aware of yet, but I keep my antennas out for new things, and I like young new vibrant bands that have a groove, good melodies and great singers. I don’t care so much for the metal riffing math formula bands though, that feels pretty old already. But then that’s just my personal preference.
Next year sees the return of Progressive Nation, which will see you playing with The Flower Kings as well as prog supergroup Transatlantic, do you have any other touring plans for 2014?
Indeed we have! We have a Flower Kings tour coming up in 2014 with Daniel Gildenlow (sometime member of The Flower Kings, as well as Pain of Salvation) & some of the Pain of Salvation guys, and the interest from around the world seems bigger than ever! Later in the year we will go back to Japan and then hopefully tour USA.
Finally next year will also herald the 20th year of The Flower Kings and 2015 will be the 20th anniversary of the debut record ‘Back In The World Of Adventures’. Can we expect anything special to celebrate?
That is yet to be decided, but there is a multitude of ideas bursting… we will see what we’ll be able to put together.
So with The Flower Kings back on form and Stolt showing no signs of slowing down, it looks like the band is going to be around for some time yet!