Flower Kings is one of the bands that represent and lead the latest Sweden scene of progressive rock started in the 90's with bands like Anekdoten, Pår Lind Project, Anglagard, Sinkadus and Landberk. Considered by the critic as one of the top ten progressive bands of today in the world, Flower Kings is a band able to mix symphonic and progressive rock, jazz, psychedelic and electronic elements, Hendrix's playing, 60's rock and roll, The Beatles, hard rock and many other styles into one adding their own style, a fact that made the critics consider that Flower Kings owns the Holistic vision to make rock. On this interview the band give us their opinion about their music and style, show us their main influences and talk about the progressive scene of today and the equipment they use to play they're music.
How you came up with the name Flower Kings?
In 1993 I had the idea of recording a prog rock album and then, if reasonably successful with the album, to start a band. I wrote down a list of maybe 50 possible names for this fictive band. One of them was "Flower Kings". I liked the idea of a flower, as a symbol of growth, colour fullness, Peace, fertility etc.
Tell us a little bit about the bands history!
We did our very first gig at a local prog festival on August 20th 1994. It went fairly well so we kind of felt it was fun to continue doing live shows. We did get together for more recordings of following albums, Back In The World Of Adventures, Retropolis, Stardust We Are and Flower Power. We started to gain a very devoted following all around the world. It seems you cannot be a Flower Kings fan half hearted. People seem to wanna lay their hands on each and every CD we've done, once they've become a Flower Kings
You mix symphonic and progressive rock, jazz, psychedelic and electronic elements, Hendrix's playing, The Beatles, hard rock and many other styles into one and adding your own style, so many fans and critics had said that you have an Holistic vision to make rock. What do you think? Do you really have this Holistic vision?
Absolutely, we try mirror whatever there is in rock and modern music in general. We like so many styles ourselves so we need to incorporate it in our composing. It would feel very restricted just to play traditional 70's symphonic.
It is hard to make something new on rock music today, but your music offers something new, the chance to hear everything into one style, you are one of the few bands able to offer something different at the same time you recreate other styles. It's that true? What do you think?
There's always something interesting happening in the merging of styles. We are curious to find out what will be the result. We are not groundbreaking, for sure, but we try making 'new' music without doing it too complicated or awkward. We always like a good melody! Still we like a good experimental jam or a nice orchestral piece or church music. And rhythms are equally important.
At the other hand, people said that your are a great band, but you're just repeating what was made by other bands in the 60's and 70's. So, you don't have an own personality. What do you feel about it?
I think they are wrong and they are right, but I still don't care, I would ask who do really have a true unique personality? Well, I'd say just a few. But no one is completely an island, all of us are influenced more or less. Beatles was, Zappa was, Crimson was/is, Yes was, U2, Radiohead, David Bowie, Queen!!! They all were influenced by someone or something.
If someone put your music to another person who have never heard you before, that person may ask "What a 70's band is this?" and it's true, you have an incredible ability to recreate the music of 60's and 70's. How do you do that?
We just create the music we love ourselves, and fortunately it seems it includes the 60's and 70's music as well. But we try making a modern sounding recording, there's no use trying to make it sound lo-fi just for the sake of being hip!! we try to stay away from the most up to date trends as acid jazz, hip-hop, rap, techno, eurodisco, death metal, speed metal!! As they sadly fade and become out of fashion and suddenly you realize the emptiness in each style or the shortcomings in production.
Other people said that you are the rebirth of Yes. Do you see it the same way?
We all like Yes, more or less and I can see there is, or at least there used to be a similarity!! I guess we have been influenced, but also we have many other influences in common like classical music, The Beatles, Vanilla Fudge, Crosby Stills Nash and such vocal groups. We pick from the same sources.
It's very easy for your fans to see all the influences you have. But for Flower Kings, which are your main influences and favorites bands?
The Beatles, Led Zepplin, The Doors, Frank Zappa, Debussy, Bach, Miles Davis, Queen, Pink Floyd, Yes, Weather Report, Toto, Santana, Chick Corea, Jackson Brown, ELP,
Where do you see the differences between progressive and Symphonic rock?
Symphonic is more based around classic music and bombast, the progressive style is more open towards all musical styles including Jazz, electronic, ethno, heavy rock.
What do you think about the progressive rock of today?
There is a lot going on, it's really interesting and sometimes uplifting, all this energy invested in music. Go on all of you! It's getting better!!!
In the 90's progressive rock bands showed the world that they could make something different, creating a new style, but keeping the influences of bands from the 60's and 70's. What do you think? It's that true or today bands are still looking to the past?
Yes, unfortunately many of the bands try to recreate the 70's era Pink Floyd, Yes, Genesis!! It's sad, but also there are many new bands that try playing their own style! At least trying. Most of us are maybe a bit afraid of trying something complete new.
Your music is an integral concept with the art of your booklets. Why is it important to use the booklets as Part of the meaning of the music?
I've always liked a concept and what's more I like art, the booklets let me try out new strange worlds in the computer graphics. I like the listener to get into and join our "flowerkingdom" completely, a nice dream world, sort of a trip but without the drugs! Full of colours and surreal environments.
How you get the ideas for the cover artwork?
I just start playing around, then see what happens, maybe sometimes I have an idea or a concept before I start. But mostly I just improvise on a few themes. I like colours, I like the surreal.
Your music is charged it some kind of positive energy (like Yes), you can easily feel that energy that surrounds your music. How do you do that?
I think I try creating within the frames of some good energy! But basically I just play what I hear and try create something I like myself, something that give me a good feeling. The music you hear is the result of a lifelong learning process, we are not beginners you know. I've recorded around 150 records since 1975 as a session musician or producer.
Many people said that this positive energy is due to Metaphysics influences. It's that true? Do you use Metaphysic elements on your music?
Metaphysics??. Well, I don't know! All I know is what comes out of my head, the brain is King, but the heart is Queen! Other influences I do not know about! However, there may be influences from other dimensions! Who knows? Music is strange. It's a powerful tool. sometimes it comes to me like a bird sitting on my shoulder singing the melody or the words.
What was the key to make monster albums like Flower Power and Star Dust We Are?
Lots of ideas and good energy, we love our work, we love to make new songs, we love the creative process. And we have a good portion of skills gained over the years as professional musicians. We use it!!!! We dare to try new things far beyond what present Pink Floyd or Yes would do, because we haven't got that much to lose, but a lot to gain!!!
Can we expect to see you on tour? Or doing festivals?
We will do a American tour starting in mid-September and South America in beginning of December, Europe first week of November.
Jamie, your style sometimes remind of Allan White and sometimes the influences of King Crimson are very clear on your playing. What do you think? Which are your main in;fluences?
To be honest I haven't listened much at all to these guys, more than what Roine played to me maybe once. My influences are Jeff Porcaro of Toto, Stewart Copeland of Police, Vinnie Colaiuta of Sting, Mitch Mitchell of Jimi Hendrix Experience!!!
Today you are considered one of the top ten drummers on progressive genre. How do you feel about it?
Thanks, but I don't regard myself a prog drummer, I just happen to play in Flower Kings and they write progressive music that I get to play.
What part of Latin America do you come from?
Chile, Santiago, I moved to Europe in 1973.
Why don't you use more Latin percussion on your music?
Good question I'll think about it! Maybe in future, now we have Hasse Bruniusson playing all sorts of Percussion. Not Latin style at all, but more of a art percussion approach. He used to be in Samla Mammas Manna (a funny and great prog band from the 70's )
Who are the best drummers on progressive genre of all times?
As I mentioned earlier I really don't know as I haven't listened to prog, but I like Nick d'Vergilio of Spock's Beard!!! Vinnie Colaiuta of Zappa.
Do you have plans to use more electric drums on your next record?
I don't like it. Sorry,... Maybe in future as they get better, now they are too stiff not dynamic enough.
Roine, how do you mix different styles on your guitar playing?
I just start playing!! I'm not much for planning ahead!! I think I'm basically a blues player. Plus I try getting down some nice chord structures and textures. Also I like the guitar to sing,... to talk.
Your sound is very warm. What do you do to make you sound warm? What equipment do you use?
I use all different equipment, I have an old Gibson Les Paul Gold top 1952 for most leads. I also have an old Gibson ES 175 for rhythm guitars, I use my Ibanez pro line for touring. I have a Guild 6 string Jumbo acoustic and a Seagull 12-stringed acoustic that I use a lot. I have been using Marshall Jmp-1 tube preamp. Now I have Digitech tube preamp plus FX +pedals, a Mose Valve 2x70 watt stereo poweramp. 2 x Marshall 4x12" cabinets with vintage speakers. But my favorite amp nowadays is the Tech 21 "Trademark 60" combo from Tech 21 NYC. Plus my programmable PSA 1 from Tech 21 as well. These amps together are pure dynamite. These are heard on all guitar tracks on Flower Power and Space Revolver. I recorded Space Revolver with Neuman Microphone and Avalon Design preamps and Compressor / Equalizer. Monster cables. Vox and Morley Wha Wha 's. Huges & Kettner Rotosphere!!!
Your style is not as fast as many other guitar players of Progressive Rock of today, you are more melodic and into hard rock of the 70's. Are you planning to play more solos and ad more speed to your playing in the future?
No I don't think so. Too many players do it already, I'll stay within my style!!! The speed of playing is not interesting really, the feeling and the moods are most important. Most of all I'm a composer.
You sound is a little bit like Steve Howe, there is no doubt that your are influenced by him. Which other guitar players represent influences for you?
Peter Green of early Fleetwood Mac, Robin Trower, Bob Fripp, Pat Metheny, Frank Zappa, Gary Moore, Steve Lukather, B.B. King and Steve Howe... Steve Hackett...
What do you think of today guitar players like John Petrucci and Michael Romeo?
I like John Petrucci a lot, at least what I've heard so far. I haven't heard Michael Romeo! Sorry!
Many Sweden bands are conquering the world like Anekdoten, Pår Lind and Anglagard. What do you think of Sweden Progressive scene?
It's good and healthy, there are more bands like Ritual, Mats & Morgan, Isilurds Bane! But I think we need to improve further. We all need to get better and more daring!!!
What do you think about the bands that I mentioned before?
I like most Anekdoten, Mats & Morgan, Isildurs Bane!!! Samla Mammas Manna, Kenny Håkansson, Trettio Åriga Kriget, Hansson & Karlsson.
Do you know a band from Venezuela called Tempano? What do you think of them?
I got their new CD at Nearfest, I've listened a bit and I liked it.
What reasons take you to make the project Transatlantic along with other great musicians like Mike Portnoy and Pete Trewavas?
They asked me and I like their playing and writing. And I can make some good money out of it, honestly. We make a good and interesting team for prog rock lover. There is a goldmine of prog ideas in this band!!!
Tomas, tell us about your influences. Which are your favorites keyboard players?
Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson, Roger Kellaway, Patrick Moraz, and recently Jordan Rudess and the old jazz idols like Keith Jarrett and Jan Johansson.
You are one of the few keyboard players of the 90's generation that knows how to use and exchange keyboard equipment which is a great surprise for many fans. What equipment do you use?
Nordlead 3 (I'm a beta tester ), Nord Modular Synthesizer, AKAI S 5000 and EMU Samplers, Korg VK 7 drawbar organ, Hammond Organ+ leslie 255, Novation Supernova, Virus from Access, Roland JV 8000, Korg Prophecy, Waldorf Pulse analogue synthesizer, Studio Logic Piano keyboard, Roland Groove Box, MAM vocoder, Mackie 16 channel mixer. Lexicon reverbs & delays, TLA filters & EQ, Emagic Logic Audio, Sound Forge Acid, Yamaha digital Mixer.
What do you think of all this new keyboard players that use to play with only one keyboard module with a huge racks of pedals, having for result a flat and digital sound?
I like to create my own sounds. I find the pre-programmed factory sounds boring and very uninspiring. I prefer more vintage sounds plus really experimental FX and Synth textures. A lot of the digital sounds are too commonly used among heavy-prog bands. Sounding all the same.
What about your classical influences? Tell us about it.
Schostakoviz, Prokoffiev, Stravinski, Leonard Bernstein, Wagner, Mussorgsky, Debussy, Satie.
What's the key to exchange progressive and symphonic rock with psychedelic, electronic music and effects?
An open mind, lots of fantasy and a curiosity to explore new musical areas. And a lot of equipment!!!!!
What do you do to make your sound so warm?
I use a lot of analogue synths and we use vintage sounds like, Wurlizer, mellotron, hammond organ, Fender Rhodes piano, Vox organs + tube preamps and equalizers in the recording process.
When and how did you learn to play keyboards?
As a 4 year old, playing the piano. Later I was at music class at "Statens normalskola". I played in local bands and bought my first synthesizer a Korg Poly 6 1983. I met Roine in 1985 and since then I bought most of the new interesting synths as they enter the market. I've had them all!!!
Michael, how do you describe your style of playing?
Are you planning to use bass sticks on the future? What do you think of equipment like bass sticks, warr and touch guitars?
What equipment do you use?
Fender Jazz Bass, Ampeg Amps.
Which are your "bass heroes"?
Jaco Pastorius, Sting, Rutherford, Squire.........
Thanks a lot to Roine and his mates who gave us the possibility to do this interview. Hopefully we see them on the road soon and can talk to them personally.... Anyway, we'll keep you up-dated about the Swedish!